The first sensation was confusion. The second was thirst. Jim had never been that thirsty. He was ungainly on his feet and had to grip the closet door to keep from rejoining the floor.
He swung it open and found everything normal. There were no cosmic abysses, orbs, or goblin swarms. There was nothing but the balmy light of a Kentucky summer percolating through the window.
‘What sorta stuff have those hicks been sprinklin in my whiskey?’
But this thought was impossible. His face was raw and gritty. He wiped at it and gasped at the stream of reddish sediment that action produced. The sand was all too tangible, all too real. He plodded kitchenward, out the bedroom door, propelled by the gravity of crumbling denial.
Jim descended the stairs like a drunk and stuck his head under the faucet. After a sort of microcosmic phylogeny of lapping water like a beast, he regained enough humanity to shoot a hand for a large tin cup.
After three brimfulls he filled a fourth and sat on the cool marble floor with his back against the freezer. Yes, the floor was cool. And Jim was cold. No, this wouldn’t do.
All his bones ached as he stumbled onto the porch, down its steps, and into the meadow. The warmth of the sun was pleasant and he sank down making a mat of the tall grasses. He lay on this organic stretcher long enough to begin to feel the first effects of sunburn.
Sitting up Jim noted that the rings were still all there. He recalled all the strangeness. It was an insane reality he could no longer deny. Though traces of rationalization still lingered the insinct for survival overwhelmed them.
Supernatural or not, he must at least keep whatever was going on at bay. Right now his best bet, insane as it was, would be to use Dutch’s trick.
Realizing it would be an arduous task he decided to breakfast. Chasing away the soporific effects of a hearty meal with a large coffee he set about the business of checmical warfare.
His first idea was to make a Clorox trail to the hole by the stump. He was amazed old Lizzy hadn’t fallen into the trap when she’d come there to greive. He patted the grass to make certain the hollowness beneath the veneer was indeed present. He was very much satisfied that it was, and laid a bit of Seng on the mossy side of the stump, for good measure.
Next he laid out tins of the alleged goblin booze in all cardinal directions of the wood. He poured trails that circled in figure eights. He poured trails that led to water. He poured trails that led to cliff edges.
Maybe risking the injury of one of these critters was unwise but Jim was too annoyed by the alien nuisance to care.
The whole ordeal took up a quarter of the day. It was late afternoon that he placed the now considerably lighter and empty Clorox barrel in the center of the odd granite formation.
Once he returned home, had a late lunch and whiskey, he found that he was too tired to read the letter that was so perfectly balanced on the couch’s arm.
Though there was the sense of time slipping away. Though Jim’s sleepward brain was producing images of skeletons, galaxies, and hourglasses; he could not help but sink into yet another deep slumber.
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