We were young and eager to get to the party, which was 100 miles away, but we had a fast car and high spirits. We were stoked to go to our first college bash. We had made plans to meet our friend, who told us about the fun frat event. Along the way, we joked and toked, or toked and joked. By that time, we weren’t sure which came first. Then somehow, we took a wrong turn. And another wrong turn. Until we decided to just screw it, and stick to our own party.
I see you’ve gotten to the last written page, Mr. Lang. If you go to the back of the journal, I inserted the ripped part of the page there.
“Dec. 24: . . . home for Christmas. I p . ; l ls n I a e l p . . . “
It is difficult to make out the rest of his scribbles. I see you can’t decipher them either, Mr. Lang. That’s all I have for you, sir. So, if there’s anything else . . . Please let me walk you out. You know we have a beautiful place here; we don’t really see too many people come out this way. Thanks for visiting. Okay, good-bye . . .
Mr. Lang looks like he’s headed out in the same direction as our Mr. McCue. Perhaps he too will find his place in our valley. I’ve been here many years now since I’ve been given the post of Overseer. I take good care of my residents. I feed them well. In time, they will be ready to spread out and take over more of this world.
“Dec. 23: I’m freaking out. Nothing appears normal here. I’ve lost track of time. The sky always looks dim and heavy. How can that be? What’s become of day and night? It doesn’t get bright or pitch black. It’s as if there’s a dirty film over the place. My legs feel like they walked many miles, but I keep seeing my car directly ahead. Is the car following me? I can’t figure things out. I’m tired, but I can’t fall asleep. I haven’t slept since I woke up hours ago, but it must have been a whole day because I can feel my chin’s five o’clock shadow.
And what’s with these trees? Some are twisty or bent to the ground, while others are completely straight. They don’t feel right either. There’s some kind of slime coming out of the squat looking ones. I’m also starting to hear something like a cross between murmurs and light rustling. For some reason, my nose is also picking up smells that kind of makes me want to throw up. My mind seems to be playing tricks. I’m writing what I can so I can read it later to see if I’m making any sense, although my eyes aren’t helping. They seem to getting progressively bad. Am I becoming myopic? I’m thirsty and hungry but my body can’t seem to stop from walking around. I’ve actually tied my legs to a tree stump so I will stop walking. I can barely write.
I just want to be . . . “
To be continued
“Dec. 22: I’m so mad. I can’t believe I slept through the night. I lost so much good driving time! What the hell? I set my smartphone’s alarm, but it didn’t go off. Soon after I woke up, I started driving, but I can’t seem to find my bearing. There’s no reception; my radio just spews out static. My smartphone’s good for shite. And my once-trusty compass keeps spinning around in circles as its hand goes round and round. So it’s no good here either. Weird.
I got out of the car to see if I can find anyone. Strange how silent it is out here. No wildlife sounds of any kind, or even the distant drone of a jet airplane. All I see is long stretches of dirt road with odd-looking trees. Never seen the likes of them. I tried to take a picture with my smartphone, but it’s a dud. I’m going to hike around to look for some kind of a bird’s eye view.”
Deep in the woods of Pine Valley somewhere in the northeast part of the new country is where shadows rule the isolated acres of trees. Only a few have ventured there. Among them was a poor soul by the name of Kevin McCue; he took a wrong turn as he drove on the long, winding, mind numbing drive up toward the hills. His destination was supposed to be a cozy cabin in a small town called Spruce, to celebrate Christmas with his young family. Instead, he made a detour that fateful day.
Later on, his journal was found near the Zipcar he drove. The rented Honda Civic was in a ditch. Yet there was no sign of Mr. McCue anywhere. As caretaker and Sheriff of Pine Valley, I pored over the journal to find a clue of his demise. And right now I don’t feel optimistic.
Peruse the journal entries for yourself, Mr. Lang, so you can confirm what you need to with his grieving wife. Please make yourself comfortable and read, while I pour you a cup of tea.
“Dec. 21: I’m excited to see my baby Nicole and my beautiful wife, Penny. I told Penny this is the last long distance trip I’ll take for the next two years. I’m going to be home more often so Nicole will know she’s got a daddy. I’ve been driving for eight solid hours and I’m getting tired. The weather has been surprisingly mild up here in the hills. I’ve decided to stop in Pine Valley to take a quick nap and then resume driving. My head is starting to feel light, so I’m going to stop writing for now and get me some sleep.”
You have restless legs, Felix recalls his doctor saying, as he finds himself walking around in his underwear in the middle of a busy street.
I have to be dreaming, Felix thinks because people seem to ignore him. He sees a woman approach him with a rictus that is supposed to pass off as a smile, but not quite successfully.
“Are you lost, dear? My husband used to fade out and wander off too. God rest his soul.” She takes his arm and guides him down the street. “Let me take you to my place; it’s just a short walk down to get you reoriented.”
Definitely a dream, Felix decides, as he plays along and allows the woman to help him. When he sees an uneven, worn looking building with missing bricks on its façade and a couple of windows with fine cracks like spider webs, he’s confident it’s all a dream. How can a lady who carries a Gucci purse and wears fine leather shoes live here?
But the woman acts like she’s right at home when she opens the door and leads him inside. The bright interior and clean spartan lines of the furniture cements his belief it’s all a dream. She leaves him thinking and reappears with a glistening cold glass of milk. “Here, you look thirsty to me.”
Felix drinks it quickly, not really tasting anything. He suddenly feels drowsy and again assures himself it’s only a dream, as he finds himself on a bed. His lids are weighing down.
He wakes, not knowing how much time has passed, and sees he’s now chained in bed, underwear removed. The same woman hovers nearby with the same thin smile. “You’re still dreaming, dear.”
Between love and lust
Like drifting on the ocean
He’s lost without her.