WINNIPEG – A local librarian’s attempt to jump on the Google Docs-based “escape room” trend was revealed to be a shallow front to distribute his poetry portfolio.
As the pandemic forced local nightlife spots to temporarily shutter, point-and-click Google Docs-based “escape rooms” became a popular date night activity for quarantining couples. John and Mikey Callahan decided to give one a try. But it soon became apparent that their selection, advertised as a Star Wars-themed riddler posted by their local public library, was perhaps not exactly what they had in mind… though it was still “interesting” and “totally made you think.”
“You read ‘unlock my heart/free my wanderlust soul’ and think ‘okay, so maybe this guy’s going through it a little, but there’s some escape-adjacent words in there,’” John said with a shrug. “Then you realize oh shit, this document is called ‘the iambic pentameter room,’ all of our hints have been in haiku format, and this clue just called music ‘the food of love.’ Either way, it was something different, and that technically meets the dictionary definition of fun.’”
It soon became apparent that what the couple initially mistook as riddles with a clear solution were actually a loosely connected series of mixed metaphors, overused aphorisms, and a particularly biting acrostic directed at someone named Jennifer. One “puzzle,” a poem called Dog in the shape of a dog, read “when an angry dog/blocks your path/ in life/ you should pet it!” before brute-forcing the application into full-screen mode and refusing to let players leave until they gave the author a compliment.
“I wasn’t really expecting an escape room that hijacked my computer until I could explain the difference between a simile and a metaphor,” explained Mikey Callahan, shortly after enthusing how exciting it was to speak to someone new on the phone. “But at least it was different. I love The Office, but if John puts it on one more time, that weird little harmonica song will become the soundtrack to our murder/suicide.”
The author of the “escape room,” Librarian Travis Jackson, is surprised by the positive feedback – and is taking it as a cue to release more.
“Initially it was a troll, because the only thing people hate more than poetry is amateur poetry they’re forced to read,” Travis enthused. “I mean, my syllable counts were all over the place, and my use of pathetic fallacy was, well, pathetic. But these are unprecedented times and people thirst for, as I say in Unwed Mystery, ‘the freeing slap of some fresh fucking content.’”
Most impressively, Jackson’s work has even inspired a copycat.
“When this is all over, I’m gonna write a poetry escape room of my own,” Said John Callahan. “The tone, the style, the verve – it’s perfect. It’s how I’m gonna ask Mikey for a divorce.”