Band stickers, college parking passes, crumpled bits of fast food wrappers… ‘Good.’
I was relieved.
“One more minute and I woulda left without you.” The driver joked.
“It’s not as bad as it seems…by the looks of the cars…they’re just students…who probably rented the place cause it was dirt cheap.”
“Not a bad place to get loaded either.” The driver chuckled as we pulled away down the tree lined dirt road and back out onto a country highway.
“How many more stops?”
“More stops than my bladder can take…”
As I returned from the corner station with a coffee in hand I found that Rick, the driver, had already returned from the restroom and was cursing profusely.
“What’s wrong now…” I sighed, the problems on this muggy July day were as incessant as the hum of cicadas.
“Just got a call from dispatch. Looks like that package we couldn’t find for the last address was on Sam’s truck.”
I sighed again.
“This means that we’ll be going back to that Deliverance/Amyttiville shack come evening time.”
“Well, hey…look on the bright side maybe it’s some college cutie renting that place…maybe a redhead…maybe I’ll get her number…maybe she has friends….so we both win…”
Rick snorted derisively. “You’re dreamin’…I still say that place was voodoo…methlab shit…those ‘college cars’ were probably stolen and if not…then it’s a buncha dweebs playin videogames and getting drunk on Pabst.”
“You’re such a pessimist.”
“And you’re goin to be a PISSamist if you keep drinkin that…” He said. “I ain’t got time for any more bathroom breaks either.”
“I’ve been up since three AM. It’s the only thing keeping me going.”
“Speakin of goin…” The engine roared to life and we were back on the route.
The remaining four hours were exhausting. As a helper it was my job to run the packages to the door. We normally rode along on days when volume was too high for the drivers to handle alone. Which meant we were doing a second job on top of loading the trucks in the morning.
As we met Sam’s truck in the twilight I realized that I was mildly delirious. Stuck in that zone between sleeping and waking that happens when you’ve been up too long. The kind where your inner world is louder than reality. Where every action you perform is done on autopilot through muscle memories.
Along with the missing package we took on twenty others…adding five new stops to our route. This happened so we could relieve Sam who didn’t have a helper that day.
“Please tell me that we’re gonna hit the spooky place before it gets completely dark.”
Rick smirked sadistically. “Nope. It’s gonna be deadlast.”
“It’s just the way the route is.”
“Who’s the pessimist now?”
As I briskly made my way to each remaining door I kept a tally.
One for the condo, two for the townhouse, three for the McMansion, four for the apartment, by the time I got to the fifth stop my apprehension had grown to a ridiculous degree. I tried to write it off as a result of sleep deprivation. But, I couldn’t. There really had been something weird about that place.
“Ready to lose anal integrity?” Rick quipped as he hummed the deliverance theme.
“Eh, fuck you.”
“I’m not the one about to be fucked here.” He chuckled.
“I’m bettin ya it’s fine. That there’s gonna be some hipster hottie smokin American Spirits and I’m gonna come up all sweaty and manly and be like I got a package for ya maam. And then I’m gonna score. He he he yea score….” I trailed off into a Beavis and Butthead impersonation.
“That’s a really C grade porno my friend.”
“At least it’s not gay like your rapey redneck fetish.”
“I’m just being realistic.” He said as we pulled onto that recently familiar country highway that was a few dark tree lined miles away from that lonesome dirt road.
The sound of the cicadas was deafening in the woods. It didn’t subside even slightly as the wheels of our monstrous square homage to commerce turned up soft dirt.
If you’ve ever seen us on the road you know that we drive with the doors open. Especially in the summer. That’s because there is no air conditioning. Yet right now despite the heat I wanted nothing more than for those doors, however flimsy they may be, to be firmly shut. I didn’t like the way the woods pressed in on either side.
“This time I’m givin you a minute…scratch that forty five seconds…or I’m leaving without you.” Rick said.
“More pussy for me.” I said mustering up my courage. Which was something I desperately needed to traverse the absurdly large expanse of land, thorns, and fencing that seperated the crude driveway from the crumbling house.
“Pussy don’t live where the lights ain’t on.” Rick called as I ventured into the darkness.
He was right. I didn’t see any lights at all in any of the windows. A slight chill ran up my spine.
‘Well,’ I reasoned with myself. ‘It is a Friday night. Maybe they’re out.’
“Shit.” I muttered under my breath. ‘It’s a Thursday.’
Then suddenly I felt ridiculous. What were the actual chances of something happening. This was a registered address and killing a delivery guy would be too stupid even for the thickest rednecks.
The chill returned ever so slightly when the shapes of the cars came into view. Why were the lights off if everyone was here? But I shook it off. Maybe they carpooled with friends. Maybe they were nightshift guys. Lotsa college kids work security guard gigs.
The fact that they’d need their car to get to this hypothetical gig didn’t matter to my little pep talk. I felt a fresh burst of courage. Enough to get the package through the screen door into the porch area but not enough to knock.
Besides, it was around eight thirty now, if they were nightshift guys they might still be sleeping…or just getting up…in the latter case interrupting their ‘morning routine’ for a late package seemed rude.
I noticed that the packages I’d left earlier were gone which for some reason unnerved me. Spooking me enough to really hate how loud that screen door creaked. But as I stepped into the woods and smelled wafting hints of honeysuckle I was hit with a fresh wave of confidence. What the hell was I afraid of?
Sure at five foot ten inches I wasn’t the biggest guy but I’d always been athletic. I was pretty strong and if that proved insufficient then – my track days meant I was definitely quick enough to outpace any loony boomstick wieldin inbreds lookin for love.
I surveyed the stars twinkling through the tree branches. It was nice out here.
I was roused from my reverie by a buzz in my pocket. My phone which was still set to vibrate from my previous shift had alerted me of a message. I turned down the screen brightness before opening the text.
“tired..wanna go home..plus its creepy AF out here…im serious hurry up or im leavin…”
I smiled in the dark. I was feelin bold. He was bluffin there was no way he’d leave. That coffee had indeed caught up with me. I needed to piss. This was the perfect place to do it. Even though the darkness meant I could take a leak pretty much where I stood good breeding told me to venture a bit into the wood.
Besides I wanted to drag this wee errand out as long as possible. I knew how isolated he felt sitting in that truck surrounded by all these trees. A mischievous grin flashed across my face.
“eh..go…im chattin with this hottie…” I said sending along a pic of my ex on her porch swing a million evenings ago. One that I still had cause I’m a sentimental dweeb. My toolbaggery proved fruitful as the picture was somewhat believable for the current surroundings.
“nice google image ya fukin virgin…now get your ass in this truck…or you’re gonna hitchike”
I was so amused that I didn’t notice how far I’d walked. This gave me pause but did not unnerve me. I unzipped.
As I finished taking the biggest leak of my life fear began to creep back in. Something was wrong.
I just stood there with my fly undone trying to figure out why it was that I felt so creeped out. Then it hit me. There were no more cicadas. Their incessant hum had ceased.
It was very quiet now.
‘Well, I did just trek through here and unleash a river.’ I chuckled to myself
My attempt at bravado through inner monologue was shattered by a loud buzz. Something that in that tense moment felt like a hot lead weight against my thigh. I extracted the phone.
“hurry the fuck up…you’re starting to piss me off..”
Just as I finished reading the message I heard a loud crunch.
I froze. Standing dumbly with my phone clutched in my hand.
Crunch…crunch…it was very rhythmic…and did I hear labored breathing?
It was then that I realized that I was holding my damn phone like a fucking beacon. I thrust it in my pocket with lightning speed.
It was definitely the sound of something walking a few yards away.
Fortunately it wasn’t heading in my direction. And the distance between me and whoever it was was enough to avoid utter panic. Unfortunately it was heading in the direction of the house. Which coupled with the rhythm definitely ruled out the idea of a deer.
I crouched down and scurried as noiselessly as possible to the shelter of some nearby shrubs.
I could definitely hear breathing. I felt the phone buzz again. I shook my head. No time for messages now.
There was something odd about the breathing. It sounded forced and something else.
The phone buzzed again. I ignored it.
I cupped my hands round my ears and regulated my breathing so I could hear past the sound of my heart.
Yeah…it was definitely very faint but very forced breathing…and in between the breaths …I heard the word..he…help.
Jesus. I looked at the phone. Rick was exploding with rage.
I dimmed the screen as low as it would dim and typed out...”i think someone is in trouble”
The incessant buzzing of the phone subsided for nearly a minute… “What”
“i was takin a leak..someones out here…they sound hurt”
“i ain’t got time to convince ya…stop messaging me for a while…or wait…” I put the phone on silent
I just sat there in those shrubs. I sat and listened.
I sat and listened to nothing. It took me a while to fully grasp the strangeness of the situation. I looked up to see that the tops of the trees were swaying yet I could hear no creaking of wood. I snapped my fingers as subtly as I could. Nothing.
Then suddenly the normal noises of a wood returned. Well almost, the cicadas were still quiet, but I could at least hear the wind.
I could hear the wind and something else.
It sounded a lot like dragging. After the dragging I heard a sound that made my blood run cold. It was a grunt. The kind of grunt you make when lifting something heavy. Followed by the sound of heavy plodding footsteps.
They were heading towards the house. I was rooted to the spot.
‘Should I follow?’
‘Can I even make it back to the truck.’
I waited till the footsteps were a respectable distance and opened my phone.
The expected rage from Rick was missing.
‘Shit..did he leave…did he actually leave…?’
“rick somethin weirds happenin out here…i think we should call the cops..im headedyour way…”
I waited a few minutes. Nothing .
“stop messing with me.”
The minutes felt like hours.
Slowly, tentatively I flanked my way around the perimeter of the creepy ass yard, and back towards the truck.
Back towards the truck that was leaving….
“O fuck.” I barely modulated my shout into a murmur as I realized the predicament I was still in.
“rick ya bastard…get back here.” I texted.
It wasn’t for another quarter hour till I saw anythin.
“fukin told ya gonna teach u the hard way not to fuk around.”
“im not I swear. We need to call the cops.”
“o yea call em yourself cause im callin your bluff”
“i don’t know the address what’s the address”
“413 fuck u drive”
“im fucki serious”
The barrage of messages that I sent after he gave the sarcastic address were of no avail.
I wasn’t sure what to do. The most reasonable thing would be to head towards the road and try to hitch a ride. Or call 911 and see if they could triangulate my phones GPS.
But the road was lonely and I imagined all sorts of things emerging from the wood to drag me back into the depths. It was a risk that wasn’t necessarily worth the reward of the rare car that found its way this deep into the boonies.
As for calling the cops, in the time that it took, all the sound I would make…
‘Well, maybe if I ran across the road and called from the trees on the other side.’
Slowly, I made my way towards it. The road was bright in the moonlight. I didn’t savor exposing myself by crossing it. But I guess I had to.
I was halfway across when a blinding light flashed all around me. I was momentarily stunned. So stunned in fact that I collapsed to my knees. There was that silence again, and as the world went from bright white, to bright grey, and gradually normalized…above the silent swaying of the trees…I saw a strange swirl…like a dark halo…in the clouds above where I was pretty sure that house stood.
I hastily completed my journey across the road. Having secreted myself in the densest shrubs I could I extracted my phone.
The phone was dead. Completely out of commission, the messaging app sat frozen, none of the buttons did anything. I couldn’t even turn it off.
I pulled out the battery.
“What the fuck!” I whisper shouted. The phone stayed on. Displaying the same frozen app.
I sat in a daze.
There were really two options at this point. Follow the road via the woods towards the interstate, a journey of many miles, hoping that the phone would start working. Or sit here and hope the phone would start working.
‘Maybe Rick is just pulling my leg.’
He might come back.
‘He might not.’
As all these thoughts swirled round my panicked brain they were slowly replaced by a different emotion. I was becoming curious. Just what in the hell was going on here?
That break in the clouds was so perfectly circular, that magenta swirl, the light, I had to know.
I recrossed the road and began creeping my way towards the house.
Surprised by my lack of fear I paused a football fields length or so from the cursed yard.
‘Is this wise?’
I really didn’t care. At this point I was committed to finding out just what the fuck was going on.
The house was as dark and silent as ever. I noted that the magenta swirl was indeed right above it wreathed in an inky black halo that parted nocturnal clouds.
My hand shook as I reached towards the knob. Turning it as quietly as I could I realized it was locked. I began circling the house looking for open windows. I found none.
I shook my head. I’d tried the backdoor first. It didn’t have a damned screened in porch.
I knew full well that the front door did. I stood staring at the screen door. The impossible loud creaky screen door and shook my head.
As my head was shaking I noticed something that I’d somehow missed earlier. There was another door. A cellar door. A cellar door that was thrust open horizontally.
‘Fuck that…’ I said. But my feet didn’t listen.
I crept to the side and cautiously peered over the edge. It was too dark to see anything except a first step.
‘Fortune favors the bold.’
Is the thought that I locked my focus on to dispel the dizzying feeling of my foot coming in contact with that first step.
I was so fucking glad it didn’t creak.
I felt panic rush through me again as I realized the step was stone. I don’t know why this unnerved me till I realized how out of place it was for a root cellar to have broad stone steps.
It didn’t smell like a root cellar either. There was no earthiness in the unseasonably cool air that wafted past my senses. The steps were large. Each footfall seeming to sink me fathoms further into the very bowels of the earth.
There was no light save what little chanced to fall from the strange sky above. Dim as it was I could just barely make out a landing. It was just a few more steps to the bottom.
I began to fiddle with my phone hoping for more than the frozen screen to guide me. Alas, it was still out of commission. No flashlight.
I turned my head to look behind me just in time to see the cellar doors blot out the stars with a loud thud.
It was so dark. The last time I’d seen this kind of dark was in the caves of Kentucky.
Panic coursed from ventricle to vein. Giving up all attempts at stealth my boots thundered up the steps. Their distant echoes alerting me of the absurd recesses that lay behind me.
I heaved against the heavy wood. It did not budge.
At a loss I slunk down on a step.
‘Did they know I was here?’
‘Did they notice the glow of my phone?’
‘Did they think I was a thief. Just trying to trap me. Maybe they’re normal, maybe all this is just my imagination, they’re going to find out I’m just a delivery guy…and it’ll all be fine.’
The memory of that dragging in the wood, the blasted sky, and the immense dimensions of this prison, all these combined to smother what faint hope had arisen.
As if to drive the final nail into the proverbial coffin of my predicament I heard a voice. A disturbingly pleasant female voice filter through from above.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you…curiosity killed the cat.”
The smooth soothing almost sing song delivery jared unpleasantly with the words and situation. It filled me with more dread than the dragging.
“It’s rude not to answer a question.” Said the voice with a touch more edge.
“It’s even more rude to answer a question with a question.” This time the voice was followed by a feminine chuckle.
I didn’t respond.
Whoever it was sighed deeply. “O but you’re so young. Can’t expect too much from you lot, can I?”
“I’m not going to hurt you, I’m not a thief, I’m a delivery man, let me out.”
The woman laughed. “You poor dear, I didn’t know companies these days were so zealous. Is breaking and entering now considered a convenience courtesy?”
Her jokes were making me dizzy. Already having worked a twelve hour shift. I was beyond thirsty and tired.
As if reading my mind she said, “Your silence is very rude. Also, do you always talk to your hosts with your back turned.”
I didn’t even realize that I’d been speaking in the direction of the depths. As she spoke I became aware of the scent of honeysuckle. It was much stronger than it had been in the wood. Making me realize how out of season it was.
It was her scent. But, I’d smelled it during the dragging. She could not be responsible for that grunt.
“My name is Masha Tool. What is yours cold shoulder?”
“Peter.” I answered slowly turning my head in the direction of the voice.
It all made sense now. How her voice could be so clear through the thick wood doors. How I could smell her. A small aperture had been opened to the left of where the doors sealed.
Peering down at me was a beautiful face painted with a delicate smile. The serenity of her gaze was unsettling. The moonlight danced a jig on the deep steel of grey blue iris. On the uppermost step sat a tin cup.
“As I said, I am your host, and I make sure my guests are attended to.”
“Boys.” She giggled coquettishly blowing me a kiss.
“Don’t flatter yourself. I was just wondering how such a frail girl could shut these doors.” I said regaining my acerbic wit.
“Och.” She said feigning an injured look.
As she tilted her head to chuckle I noted the long dark locks that cascaded round bare shoulders.
“That was my father’s doing. My brothers and he don’t share my amusement at your trespassing. The cup is from me. I am very much your host. Please do not spurn my hospitality.” The latter statement was again tinged with that uncharacteristic sternness.
I picked up and sniffed.
“Smart. I knew it would be sin to let you go to waste. That’s why it’s water. Here.” An elegant hand reached through the aperture. “Give it here, Peter.”
I handed her the cup and watched her take a sip. Then another.
She returned the cup. Our fingers brushed her skin was smooth as silk. The contact sent shivers of pleasure throughout my frame.
I watched her as I drank what to my great relief and perhaps salvation was good old water. She was absolutely entrancing. Yet something was off. There was a tinge of sadness about her eyes that hinted at a peculiar melancholy. A melancholy as deep and heavy as the North Sea.
“Now young man. I see that you have a fine strong body. It would be a great pity for it to perish.”
I felt a chill at the way she said young. At the portent of these words not even her considerable charms could stay the anticipation of doom. The maddening reality of this bizarre situation settled on my chest with the weight of a freight train.
“Young man? You’re younger than me toots.”
She laughed. “O so you are a gentleman after all. I’m flattered, child.”
“That’s a really funny game you’re playing lady. Now let me out and maybe I’ll take you on a date.”
“Game? Yes, I’m so glad you see it that way.”
I was confused.
“There are seven ways to exit besides this door.” She said delicately tapping on the wood.
“I was never really good at mazes…” I began.
She pressed her finger to her lips.
“This I had to coax from my father. He is very strict you know. Consider yourself lucky to play.”
I was officially creeped out again.
“Some are up, some are down, some are in, some are out, but do be careful, lest you shout.”
I cocked an eyebrow at this word salad.
“Your suspicious nature shows you to be a clever lad. I’m sure you’ll muddle through.”
I heard something drop and the aperture slid shut giving me the barest chance to catch her wink.
There isn’t really an adequate way to describe how I felt. I didn’t even have the moxy to bang against the door. I just sat there in this odd subterranean limbo. I sat and felt very tired and very small.
After an eternity of self pity I stirred. I guess the water had kicked in. It was also cool down here. This being a welcome contrast to the day of working in the heat. I began feeling my way around trying to get a sense of the dimensions.
Not only were the steps as tall as my knees, they were to my astonishment several dozen strides in length. The walls of my prison were far from narrow.
They felt smooth under my fingers. I was in a man made cave. Who built this monstrosity? How? Why? Why here? When…
You really should get moving.
I heard the woman’s voice. Well, heard isn’t entirely accurate. Since my ears didn’t do the hearing. Somehow she was in my head.
For the sake of all that’s holy do pay attention.
Did you not hear me drop the lamp…
‘Well, pardon me for being confused but I’m not accustomed to talking with voices in my head.’
Don’t you worry. I’m going to have to put the machine back before father notices it gone. So I won’t be in your head for long.
Never you mind that. Get the lamp and get moving.
They’re not pretty.
I didn’t like the suggestion that I wasn’t alone. Making my way to where I’d heard the object drop I found myself in possession of a very odd lantern.
Tap it twice.
It wasn’t just the lantern that lit up. The whole tunnel was awash in an odd blue daylight. The walls in the entryway round the stairs were smooth but beyond – reaching into disappearing depths were baroque frescoes and cuneiform etchings.
I wouldn’t throw too much of a party. They see sound.
‘They?’ I repeated.
No time for explanations I’m afraid. Be fast, be quiet, and be smart.
There was no answer. After fifteen minutes without voices in my head I guessed that I was alone again.
The blueish light was surreal and cast no shadows. As I walked forward through my probable tomb the cuneiform, and the frescoes, gave way to vast bas reliefs depicting bizarre overlapping geometric patterns.
The way these curvilinear fractals were arranged boggled the eye. And what boggled the eye, doubly boggled the mind. There was no way to just look at the thing. The constant shifts in point of reference caused a sort of vertigo.
I averted my gaze to keep from getting sick. Losing fluid was a possible death sentence. I just kept walking.
I walked for so long that no ancient bric-a-brac, no long dead cityscape, could fascinate me. The terrain was absolutely flat and the air absolutely still for what felt like miles.
This did change. After eternities, the ground began to incline and soon after this shift I reached the first corner I’d seen.
I was less interested in this corner than the ladder propped against a curved recess where the walls would have formed a 90 degree angle. I gazed upward and saw the ladder disappear into a well like opening that reached further than my eye could see.
My heart pulsed with hope. But that’s all it was, a pulse. Confusion and bewilderment replaced triumph as the logic of the thing mocked my reason.
‘That doesn’t make any fucking sense.’ The floor hadn’t sloped downward for more than few hundred paces. And my initial descent via stairs couldn’t have been more than thirty feet. So how was this ladder reaching up to illimitable heights? I hadn’t seen any towers in the woods.
I looked at the new corner for context. It wasn’t much help, being more or less identical to the one from which I’d just come.
Up seemed like the right answer. I mean why wouldn’t it be? So I placed a hand on a rung and instantly jerked it back. It wasn’t pain. It was surprise. The rungs were heated. Providing a stark contrast to the cool subterranean air.
After the surprise subsided I again placed my hands on the brass colored rungs. At least I guessed it was brass since the bluish light confused chromatic perception. The sheen of the thing seemed brassy.
I climbed and climbed. My shoulders burned with effort, my back screamed, and my calves cramped. It must have been a good quarter hour and still no end in sight.
‘Up.’ Where else? It had to be the right answer and so I kept climbing.
I kept climbing. Rung after blasted rung until I heard the scuttling.
‘Yep. That’s scuttling…definitely scuttling.’
It was scuttling downward.
“Fuck this..” I murmured frantically launching a hasty retreat.
Fresh pains assaulted my frame. The return engaged a completely new set of muscles that rubbed against their recently engaged neighbors with insistent pleas for mercy.
My brain was having none of it. Manual override. I was NOPING right away from whatever the hell was coming down.
I was unbelievably nauseous and thirsty. The contents of the tin cup couldn’t keep me hydrated through this eldritch Crossfit session.
‘They aren’t pretty.’ I remembered the woman say. I really didn’t want to find out how ‘not pretty’ they were.
All sorts of demonic critters filled my imagination vying for the identity of ‘They.’ The terror of this simple word is profound.
Finally, mercifully I struck the floor with an over-eager step that nearly shattered my ankle.
“Fuck…” I groaned through gritted teeth as I crawled away from the ladder. Scampering with as much haste and stealth as my overtaxed strength could still afford.
It was impossible to hide and I dared not face the thing in the dark. So I moved back as far as I could and waited.
I didn’t have to wait for long.
My god, the thing came down headfirst.
That is if you could call it a head. An eyeless bulb dotted with pulsing indentations froze me to the ground. The appendage was followed by bizarre gecko like limbs. It was disgusting to watch the serpent body thud dully on the ground.
I breathed a sigh of relief as the legs and arms sinuously scuttled salamander fashion towards the new corner.
The relief didn’t last long as I realized I’d have to follow it. The ladder was too tall and there could be more of the things up there. At least in the broad tunnels there was a chance of escape.
I considered the volume of my footsteps.
‘They see sound.’
I couldn’t identify any sense organs on the thing, no eye, no nose, no ears, just those indentations. If anything could look like it saw sound. That was probably it. I didn’t want to take any chances.
‘Be fast, be quiet, be smart.’
Right. Fast and quiet I could do. I wasn’t so sure about the smart part. I mean how could you be smart in a situation like this. There is nothing intelligible about a nightmare.
I moved through that blue world with my boots tied over my neck. Moved as swift as my besocked feet would carry me. Not long after I was presented with yet another decision.
There was an enormous cave whose height the blue light could not illumine. The furthest wall was obscured by shadow. In the center stood a spiral staircase. Disappearing upward with the light and down into a hole.
‘Some are up, some are down, some are in, some are out, but do be careful, lest you shout.’ I remembered the pretty woman’s instruction as my mind boggled with a reinvigorated sense of the madness of the current situation.
Here beneath the soil of Dixie lay untold miles of impossible masonry. Sure the cave was probably natural but the cave’s dimensions and that damned ladder…
Who was she? Who were they? What was that light in the sky? That dragging? That critter? Nothing made sense.
So I decided to go down instead of up. Maybe this crazy dreamscape was one big game of Opposite Day. Since I’d gone down the exit should be leading back up.
‘But, not if it’s opposite day.’ I grinned at the potential childishness of the logic behind this challenge.
After inspecting the ladder for signs of that freak I again scanned the room. Amid the stalactites and stalagmites there was a strange mist that pulsed with deep blue electric currents.
‘A mini lightning storm just off the ground…’
But I hadn’t been shocked or even felt any static.
Yeah, I figured I’d better get a move on. Not only was it an instruction it was a need. I had to have water soon. I had to have sleep.
I was so heavy, so tired, I could collapse at any moment. Who knows what sort of demon would punish me for the luxury of a nap.
Down I went.
Earth and clay pervaded my senses as I spiraled into the depths. I was by now very thirsty again. The promise of the dampening air raised hopes that there might be some kinda underground river nearby.
I descended for longer than I’d climbed the ladder. It was dizzying. The constant twirl of the spiral. After half an hour a hypnotic effect began to set in.
I floated through strange scenes in a state of semi-sleep. Garden cities in the midst of bone dry desert. Dances of transparent people comprised of star dust that reflected my own memories and memories that I felt connected to but could in no way be mine.
Then at the mark of nearly an hour I was roused by the scent of honeysuckles.
‘Was she close by?’
A few hundred more steps and I found myself in a fabulously furnished apartment. Rugs ornate with tantalizing geometries hung on mahogany walls and covered marble floors. The atmosphere was downright oriental.
There were pillows and divans atop one of which was the gracious figure of my host. She beckoned to me. I stumbled awkwardly as my feet familiarize themselves with level ground.
Once I was in earshot. Something I thought an odd necessity for a person who could transmit herself into my head. Once I was in earshot her sweet melodic voice instructed.
“First you drink.”
There just below her delicate feet was a low table with a crystal cup and golden bowl of dates. I didn’t hesitate for even an instance and drank deeply.
She smiled a smile almost as perfectly sweet and delicately balanced as this wine.
“Lay there.” She pointed at a set of pillows just across her line of sight.
“It’s creepy to watch people sleep lady.”
Her lighthearted laughter filled me with strange shivering pleasure.
“So you have remembered my riddle. You know where to go?”
There was an approving nod.
“Go distant go deep.”
“Yes, yes that’s all this innuendo is very sexy… but first off…I’m a terrible lay, too many neuroses… so why don’t you just tell me who you are and what the hell is going on?”
“Does a beekeeper lust for her bees?”
“Oh, I’m a bee am I. Well, I certainly feel buzzed. What’s in that drink…yea…I see the sorta dame ya are..I’m nothin but a dildo to you. You kinky freak.”
“Oh, would you just shut up and sleep child!” She said throwing some sort of silver powder in my eyes.
I went distant. I went deep.
Though I don’t really recall much. Not much that makes sense anyway.
The strongest impression I have is in a sense of realization that follows me everywhere I go. That and glimpses of hanging gardens, and Masha Tool, and pinecones. I see her accused falsely and chased from the city.
I see her become a bride of Cain just outside of Nod. This is the Bible belt so why wouldn’t I infuse my native myths? Except I’ve never heard the phonetic collection that forms the word I uttered when I awoke with two confused college aged strangers in an abandoned warehouse.
On second thought it’s more like a name than a word…
It infuses everything with the scent of honeysuckle and a sense of teasing deja vu. I do not know Sarah or Todd, but I’ve come to know them in the decade since we regained consciousness at the old textiles mill.
Our odd amnesia and dreams has made us fast friends despite differences in age and personality. The two anthropology undergraduates have a strange feeling of gratitude to me. The origin of which neither they or I can place.
It expresses itself in many odd gestures such as inviting me to a dig in Iraq.
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