It appears I have been waylaid by my yearly bout of bronchitis. Aside from trying to work a full forty hours outside and failing, I have spent the past two weeks quarantined in my room sounding like I belong in a Tuberculosis Ward. I’m antsy and on cold drugs, covered in vapor rub, and ready for a fight. (I did go to the clinic; oddly enough I was not prescribed steroids this time. I’m afraid I am fueled by my inner rage.) I’ve decided to channel this insanity into something productive and revisited the memoir that I spent so much time on last winter. Reopening old wounds about being a third shift gas station cashier. I have posted the first four chapters and am currently churning my way through and finalizing more. I’m also considering starting up a Patreon for my efforts to finally get it published, for at this point it has been about a damned decade in the making. I have been missing work lately and this month is proving to be rather expensive: tis’ the season for paying the bills and all. Why not try it? I decided you know what they say, Step Three: Profit.
I posted another story.
This is my only day off for I’ve been pulling about sixty hours for the past three weeks. As a result, my room is trashed, littered with clothes, and coffee mugs. I’m afraid I have ants on my writing desk. I wish I could pay someone to clean and do laundry while I sleep. Instead I did manage to get some work clothes washed for round four and wrote the teaser chapter for the next book. That is what I call time management.
Welcome to Boilertown
The room she found herself in was similar to the one in the house in Abernathy Avenue. She had no idea how she made it back upstairs for the last thing she remembered was staring at the splintered wood of the entrance to the coal chamber in the cellar. She looked around the dining room, it was still the same front room, it had the same shape and dimension but it looked bigger and more spacious. There was no furniture, and no vast collections adorned the shelves. The floor was covered with plush throws, ornately woven carpets, and plump tasseled pillows. Instead of a vast number of shelves, tapestries covered the walls. “How?” she paused and asked the air as if coming out of a dream.
“That is exactly what I want to know.”
She spun around and found Grander standing there, his face a mix of shock and puzzlement. “No one comes in from the outside.”
“Huh?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge asked, unsure of what to say next. “Bracken?” she asked remembering he was the reason she was there in the first place; her nightmares.
“Who? What? Now tell me! Where did you come from?” There was desperation in his voice. “As I said before no one comes from the outside.”
“I came from-“she paused for a second and faced Max Grander, who seemed to look equally young and old at the same time and was currently not making any sense. Suddenly this was all too much for her to handle. She wanted to think of something to say, but nothing came out. So she just shut her mouth and turned around. “I came from my bed,” she resolved and that is where I am going to go. Good night.” She said and pushed past him.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Grander raised a warning hand and stepped in her direction barring her path.
“It is different here,” Grander said, his voice exasperated as if he was tired of explaining this to her. Time and space are different here, you know. I wouldn’t run off because I might not ever find you, whoever, or however you got here.”
“Maximillian Grander, it is me!”
“Don’t you Maximillian Grander me. I have no idea what that is.”
“I don’t have time for this, I’m going to bed.” The Spiritualist slipped past the confused looking Max Grander that denied being who he is. He protested but moved aside nonetheless, figuring she would soon find out on her own. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge turned the corner of the room and placed a hand upon the railing and was about to take the first step. Instead she paused and looked up, and up, and up, as the painted black stairs stretched before her. There must have been hundreds if not thousands, a veritable stairway to heaven, or somewhere else, for the upstairs of the manor was no longer in site.
“See,” not Grander said as he appeared behind her.
The Spiritualist jumped in spite of herself and for a second swore she was still dreaming. She spun around and sat down on the first stair. Her bedroom and back to some semblance of sanity seemed so far away. “What? Where are we?” She asked her voice was hopeless.
“I don’t know what this place is called exactly.” Grander’s voice and face were grim set as he answered her. “But I refer to it as Boilertown.”
“What?” She couldn’t help but ask again as she stood back up and looked around at the bottom of the stairs, and to her utter befuddlement she saw that the adjoining rooms of the kitchen and the parlor might as well have been miles apart from each other. It was also the first time she realized that the dastardly cat that led her there in the first place was nowhere to be seen. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Mr. Grander?” She turned around to face him.
“Why do you keep calling me that?” he was greatly puzzled at his new house guest. “How did you get here?”
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge shook her head looking as if she made up her mind. The room that she was in held true to its dimensions, the front door was in view. That is where she planned to make her exit. She wondered why she hadn’t have done so earlier. “I’m leavening now.”
“I’m afraid you’re not.” He shook his head; his voice didn’t sound threatening there was more of a heavy truth to his words. ”You can’t leave this place. I’ve tried.”
The Spiritualist chose to ignore his warning. She was beginning to wonder what had happened in her previous life for her to end up in the accursed manor on Abernathy Avenue in the first place and what she had done to deserve it.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” He said and shook his head for he already knew what was going to happen as his new and confused surprise house guest made a mad dash for the front door. He tried his best to reason with her. But he also knew she would find out soon enough, and the truth would be unbearable. He watched her visage shrink in the distance that spanned before him. He took a step forward following her, keeping a steady pace, for now he had a journey to make.
“Oh no,” she wheezed as she as she burst into a full on sprint. “Not again,” she didn’t know far she gotten but the front door wasn’t moving anywhere. It should have only taken her a few swift steps to reach her destination but it felt like she ran a mile already. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge hated running, it was the worst. She wheezed again gasping with the strain, she could feel her face growing as red as her hair. She forced legs to push her faster. The door was still within sight but it was if she was sprinting in place. With a final burst of will she propelled herself forward. She groaned and closed her eyes as she felt her feet lift off the ground as she catapulted to the exit. Just as she thought she could fly no further she landed and the tips her fingers touched the wood molding of the door and the heavy leaden fabric of the curtains. She opened her eyes to see that she had made it. But her exhausted celebration was short lived as she madly grabbed for the door knob to find it was not there. She only grasped air. She got a closer look to see that there wasn’t one. “NO,” she said and repeated as she patted down every surface. “No, no, no, no, no.” The Spiritualist threw back the heavy leaden gray curtain revealing a plate-glass window. She remembered the curtains were lacy and wispy and the glass not being as thick nor tinted a putrefying green color. She squinted out the window and then her eyes went wide.
The front porch with the crumbling bricks, wobbly railing, and rotten roof that she remembered were all but obliterated. So was the ground around the house. It was craggy and full of holes as if it had been blasted. Then she realized as the glass wasn’t tinted at all. The air was filled with a heavy haze that contained swirls of yellows, browns, greens, and reds. The Spiritualist could not put a finger on the color for did not know if a name for it even existed. Her eyes grew wider as she stared in horror as the cloud of heavy murk dissipated slightly as it wafted by and she saw forms shifting about in the rubble ridden world. “What,” she asked herself and then amended, “who?” for she saw that there were people outside the house. “What are they doing out there?” she asked shocked as she turned around to see to see the man that wasn’t Grander was still some distance away. She didn’t want to look back out the window but she couldn’t peel herself away. “How are they even alive?” She asked herself for they looked deader than anything, with flesh that sloughed off exposing bare bones that seemed to glow under the odd irradiated light. She could see the empty eye sockets as they continued to blindly go about their business. There were too many to count before the cloud cover once again took over. She heard a whistle ring out from sky above that grew incrementally louder as something descended at a deafening speed. The house rumbled under the weight of the sound, outside the sky lit up in a blinding light. “No!” she saw in horror and spun around as a flaming rock plummeted to the ground. The house shook violently upon impact obliterating everything outside. She turned away from the door and shut her eyes and covered her ears, still seeing the flash as it pulverized the people outside. When she opened them again, the man that claimed to not be Grander, but definitely did look like him approached her. His face looked grave. “I’m afraid there is no more outside,” he said. His was voice steady for he did not run like she did. He slung back the curtain, and she was thankful for the dust and rock filled haze that once again descended, obliterating the view. “That was close,” he stated as he looked around grateful that the manor still stood erect.
The Spiritualist did not want to look out there ever again. So she turned against it and sank to the floor with her back sliding down against the door. “How?” She asked herself as another dark conclusion came to her, what if she really was awake. What if this was her life now? “Oh no,” She muttered and looked up at him with her eyebrows in a knot.
He glanced down at her in a grim grin in agreement to her sentiment.
“This is another nightmare, it has to be.” She stood up again once she managed to pull herself together. The Spiritualist put her arms up, brought her fingers together and delivered a vicious pinch to Max Grander’s forearms.
“Owww,” he squirmed and reeled under her grasp. “Why are you doing that!?” his voice was shocked as he managed to squirm free as he rubbed and patted the aggravated skin to try to soothe it.
With her finger still held together she brought them up to her face to study them. His skin felt real enough. She lowered her left hand to about waist high and crooked her elbow in and gave her own forearm a hard pinch. Digging her fingernails into her skin, she bit her lip and whimpered before letting go choosing to hug her waist instead. “What? How? Where?” All the questions came on at once and she once again felt the floor rise up to meet her.
Not Max Grander dropped down beside her. His voice was sympathetic. “I’m afraid you’re not dreaming and I don’t recall how long I have been there.”
“What is this place? What happened here? And who are you?” She remembered the autonomous people she had seen outside, toiling away, despite the fact that they were burning. “Who are those people?” Then she asked the most important question as she looked him in the eyes. “What did you do?”
“What did I do? I survived. I woke up like
this, appeared out of nowhere much like you. A ‘friend’ brought me here before
he left me to go downstairs. I don’t know how long it has been since then. Time
doesn’t exist anymore. I’m afraid it is even collapsing in on itself at this
point. All I know is I’ve been here by myself, well sort of by myself, for a
very long time.”
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge realized her mouth was hanging open; it was a lot of information to digest. “If you’re not Grander, then who are you?”
“I am called LeMerde.”
“Le-Who? That’s French for-“
“The Shit, I know.” He got back up, and offered a hand for the Spiritualist to do the same. She reluctantly accepted, and pulled herself up to stand beside him. Grander, LeMerde, she mentally corrected herself, brought a sweeping hand to the dining room and motioned dramatically outward to the rest of the house, declaring himself lord of his territory. “And this is all mine.”
“I thought you said that time was collapsing in on itself, how come everything is spread so far apart? Shouldn’t it be closer together?”
LeMerde shook his head, “it’s more like the water peeling back before a tsunami and I’m afraid the wave will crash here soon enough.” He let slip a small mad chuckle as he delivered the grave news. “Welcome to Boilertown.”
“Wait,” a thought dawned on the Spiritualist as she remembered the how of his tale of woe. “You were brought here by a ‘friend’ you said. Did he have long dark hair, tall, gaunt, and really super pale? Did he say his name was Bracken by any chance?”
“He didn’t quite look like that,” LeMerde tried to remember the face he tried so hard to forget. “No, he didn’t call himself Bracken then. His name is LeMorte.”
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge thought about retiring to the floor again for she knew what that word meant as well. “I know where he is. He is downstairs.” She said slowly.
“I could have told you that, I saw him walk down those stairs and never come back up.”
“There is a machine down there in the cellar, somewhere, with a million orbs powered by a million souls. It is a contraption called The Consciousness. He has hooked himself up to it; he has been down there the entire time.”
LeMerde looked at the floor again as well as he could peer miles beneath the earth’s surface. “How do you know all of this?” he returned The Spiritualist’s gaze.
“I have just woken up from nightmares about all of this.” She shook her head and looked at the door to the cellar stairs. “I’m pretty sure I came from the coal chamber down there. How I ended up here is beyond me. If we are going to survive that is where we have to go.”
He turned toward the cellar door. The words were grave ones indeed. He was afraid she’d say something like that and he said as much. “Fine, okay.” He said after a spell for the downstairs frightened him. It defied all laws of reality, he had ventured down there once before and nearly made it back out with his life. He felt makeshift bandages on his chest and arms that hid beneath his shirt, they covered gruesome claw marks he was pretty sure were festering at this point. “We’ll go down to the cellar, but we have to be prepared. We have to be armed.”
“Armed?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge asked.
“There is someone I would like you to meet.”
I have been writing like a fiend these past few weeks and as a result, I have nearly filled two handwritten notebooks, transcribed them onto a computer, and reached the end of The Happy Valley. There are a few chapters in the middle that need to be flushed out and then I go through the entire thing from the beginning in the painful process of editing it. To make matters worse I have managed to tie this story in with the previous iteration: The Boilertown Saga. I may have opened myself up to writing another book, and possibly a third. Dear Gods, help me, what have I done and will it ever end?
In the meantime for the month of May, it is the busy season in the cemetery. In preparation for Memorial Day we can work as many overtime hours as we can handle and I really want to buy a car. I don’t know how much more writing I can accomplish during this time. Originally, I wasn’t planning on posting much more of this story for things have gone off the deep end. Fair warning, this chapter is a bit “spoilerly” so to speak. A lot has gone down in a short amount of time. I have begun to have slight trepidation about the story line, for how convoluted and weird is too convoluted and weird and is such a thing even possible?
The Happy Valley: Mother Millipede
The Spiritualist stood just inside the doorway of one of the largest unused rooms in the decommissioned church. All of the furniture and statuary were gone a long time ago for the place hadn’t been used as such for a quarter or more of a century. “I thought you were behind me,” she heard Bracken behind her, his voice worried and felt his grip on her arm as he tried to lead her out of the house. With her free hand Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge brought a finger up to her lips silencing him. “She’s sleeping,” she pulled her arm free and pointed. Bracken followed her finger. To his horror he saw the massive Mother Millipede curled up in the center of the room. Between each segment was a pair of legs that clutched an egg. Words failed Bracken as a low whistle escaped his lips for there must have been a million eggs and twice as many legs. Unwound, the thing must have been at least a fifty sixty feet and every bit as vengeful while caring for her young.
“We have to get out of here,” Bracken urged once more.
“I said shhhhhh,” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge vehemently shushed him as she stood staring transfixed. “You don’t want to wake her.” She’s right, he thought. The two of them tensed as they watched the legs clutching the eggs twitch in a ripple. The Spiritualist and the former ghost witnessed firsthand what those eggs became. Metamorphosing from larvae to segmented death with gnashing mandibles.
“We need to get out here,” Bracken said for a third time. “I can’t stress this enough.”
“We need to burn the place down,” she answered resolutely.
“What? Deeds’s house?” Bracken mouthed, even though he knew that she was also right about that.
“What if this isn’t the first clutch of eggs and who knows how many more will be released into the world? We have to act fast before The Mother wakes the babies. Too much time has already been spent talking about it.” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge added credence to his thoughts. “If Deeds was here with us, she’d say the same thing.” The Spiritualist answered in absentia for her absent friend, “she’d probably ask what are we waiting for?” Bracken caught a glint in her eye reminiscent of the firelight that had yet to happen.
Octavia Anton Deeds was busy walking the proverbial walk of shame in the custody of The Twins through downtown Knowlton’s Corner. They had her cuffed and flanked on either side. She trudged along slowing her pace on purpose, staring at the ground, and nearly tripping over her own feet. They did feel weird to her, with the extra skin growing between the toes, much like her fingers. Deeds swore for she knew she had done something dumb. It was the third time that one of The Twins had stepped on her heel, “come on,” they reprimanded her and one of them nudged her with a knee to the back of the leg. Deeds stumbled a couple of steps and almost brought them down with her. She wasn’t injured or anything, she just wasn’t ready to go just yet. For the first time in a long time she was happy, “playing river pirate” while Knowlton’s Corner burned. All of her nightmares of drowning had ceased, she was able to utilize her new abilities, and she even befriended a bog witch. Most of all it was the freedom she missed. The Twins had come like they said they would and she had to answer for her transgressions. She did still did not understand what their role in all of this was, nor did she particularly care to at that moment. She had a feeling that it might have something to do with the coal chamber on Abernathy Avenue. “Will you please stop doing that?” they replied in unison and she felt another quick jab to the back of her leg with a knee. She stepped up her pace for moment for they too close for comfort.
“You could just shoot me with that gun of yours. You could carry me?” Deeds begrudgingly mumbled for it sounded like a better idea the more she thought about it. “Please?” she asked in earnest.
“Keep walking,” They answered.
“Or I could just play dead and you don’t have to shoot me?” Just as Deeds said that she stopped, loosened up her joints, and started to go boneless. They both gripped her restrained wrists and yanked up hard before her legs gave out taking the two of them with her. That was her plan until her arms were pulled at an odd angle and she jerked herself back to feet. “Owww,” she muttered as she shook off her failure and brought her head up just in time to see Maximilian Grander up and about out of the house on the other side of the street some distance off. He was heading towards them in the opposite direction hunched over and walking backwards. “What?” she muttered confused as she watched him draw closer and she saw that he was dragging someone. He looked every bit suspicious as he craned his neck around in every direction to see if anyone was there to catch him in whatever heinous deed he had committed. He was close enough for Deeds to see that it was heinous indeed. The head of the body he dragged behind him lolled to the side at a drastic angle. It was apparent the victim had been garroted and nearly decapitated. Deeds got a better look at the deceased; her confusion grew to shock when she realized it was Maximilian Grander himself. She stopped short and stared in befuddlement, once again getting her heel stepped on by the Twins. Grander stopped dragging his murdered doppelganger when he realized that he had been seen. He almost dropped the body and stood up in shock as he turned to face the folks on the other side of the street. His welcoming grin was more like a grimace as he nodded nonchalantly at The Twins, who reciprocated the awkward greeting feigning their own innocence. “Grander?” Deeds forced his name out. He looked confused as if he didn’t know who or what she was talking about. “Max Grander?” There was a bit more uncertainty in her voice the second time she said his name. He shook his head at her, signifying that the subject was dropped and bent down to adjust his grip on the dead Grander’s armpits as he cradled the body in the crook of his elbows and kept on dragging. Deeds stood there blinking rapidly for a second and looked askance over each shoulder at The Twins. Something clicked into place. “He did not know me at all. Is the real Max Grander the dead one?” Deeds drew the dark conclusion not exactly knowing how she got to that point for none of this had made sense for an awfully long time. “Wait,” she paused and turned around to look the pair dead in their faces. “You two are the same person?”
They each nodded once, “same person, different parallel,” That One answered.
“There used to be third.” This One added slyly.
“But we don’t talk about the third,” They said in unison.
“Huh, This One, That One, and The Other One.” Deeds muttered as she mused for a minute, before she had more time to process everything she was herded further down the street.
Bracken stomped down hard on the grub and he cringed as it squished and the gooey innards splattered over his boot and up his black pant leg. The mess barely had time to register as he swung his leg up and brought his foot down on the next one, and the one after that. He lost count because there were so many. He switched feet so both of them could shoulder the blow as they exploded under his boot heels. The massive Mother Millipede had woken up. She unfurled with a piercing screech and released her clutch of young from her legs, as soon as the eggs hit the floor they hatched and all the larvae wiggled and crawled and it was only a matter of time before they too curled up and twitched and a million more millipedes molted. No longer concerned with keeping quiet, The Spiritualist screamed back at The Mother’s face. “We need to leave!” Bracken shouted over the din as around him all the babies stopped their wriggling. Not only were they about to be released into the world but Deed’s house was set to burn. In their mad search to find a way to torch the place, they found a stockpile of incendiary fluid in one of the closets as if it was there just in case the occurrence should arise. “NOW!” Bracken roared.
“DIE!” The Spiritualist shrieked one last time with blood-lust in her voice. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge turned on her heels just as The Mother reared up on hundreds of thousands of hind legs. She paused to ignite the makeshift torch of rolled up papers that the adolescent millipede had kicked from under Deeds’s boarded door of her bedroom. With the torch lit she made sure to hit every wet surface on her way out and Bracken did the same as they tore out toward the outside. He waited in front of the blasted front door, shielding his eyes from the smoke and rising heat as he made sure they weren’t being followed. The Spiritualist circled around the perimeter to all the wet windowsills and boarded doors making sure she sealed all the possible exits in a great wall of fire. She met back at Bracken just as The Mother screeched and so did all of her young which had barely begun to sprout legs. He turned his gaze towards her. She looked exalted as her exuberant eyes reflected in the firelight as she paused to try to catch her breath. He found himself wondering who she really was and what happened to her in the coal chamber. She wasn’t the same Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge that emerged no more than fifteen minutes later. Before them the stained-glass windows broke and fire and smoke belched out. A flaming baby millipede squiggled out and died upon hitting the ground. It was followed by a few more siblings who tried to make their escape. Bracken was ready with his boot but they also died upon impact. The final screams of The Mother were still heard inside as well as a great thrashing and crashing as the roof collapsed. “Yeah, you better be dying!” The Spiritualist hollered and punched the air triumphantly; her voice was manic with rage at the dying cries of The Mother. Bracken brought his head down and almost gagged as he looked at his boots and trouser legs for they were covered in the milky white pulp of countless millipede babies. He too hoped that the fire that raged inside what used to be the house of Octavia Anton Deeds killed the creature and all her young. There was something about the way that Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge was acting that made him pause. She looked back at Bracken when she noticed that he was staring at her. She smiled back but he could see that it was forced. There was something behind her eyes that she wasn’t ready to let out just yet. He had a feeling it would be growing there until she did.
The air hung heavy with an acrid smoke of a charred chitinous exoskeleton, Bracken coughed into the crook of his elbow and squinted as he watched her draw closer to him. “Hey,” she said as she approached, tears streaming from her excited eyes as The Spiritualist gripped Bracken’s hand in both of hers. “We did it, we killed them all.” She paused for a second, lending an ear toward Deeds’s place, she could no longer the cries of the apocalyptic arthropod. “Let’s get out here.”
“And go where?” For the moment, the former ghost was at a loss for what to do next. The smoke was getting to him.
“The Post,” The Spiritualist answered as if she knew the answer to some great cosmic question. “I’m sure Deeds will show up there if she hasn’t already.” She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze and led him out of the front yard and back into the heart of Knowlton’s Corner.
Over this past week I grew a wild hair that I must rework The Happy Valley from the beginning. I have found that it is an arduous process and I am only a couple of chapters into it. In the meantime, here are some more photos of the cemetery. I wasn’t lying about them taking up so much space my phone.
Well, today I emerged from my winter writer nest and went back to the old day job, which happens to be in a cemetery. I’ll try my damnedest to keep up with the writing this work season. There will, however, be photos – a lot of photos. (My phone is so full of them that it doesn’t want to work as a phone any more.)
I promised my family I’d make them a wall calendar of our August vacation in the Adirondacks. Needless to say, I am running behind schedule so the starting month for the calendar is going to be March. I am currently up to my eyeballs going through thousands of photos. These are a few of my favorites. I’m also not ruining any surprises here, for this year’s theme features candid family photos.
So I lied, that wasn’t the last few pages in my notebook. Since I am in the same straits as described in this part of the story at the moment it only seemed apropos that I should write something about it instead. I currently find myself desperately trying to make sense of my bedlam ridden bedroom. Also much like the story, I might even have a drink later and avoid the whole disaster, who knows. Actually, I am making progress and I hope to continue to do so.
The Happy Valley: A Wish for Good Fortune
Deeds walked home with her head bent forward and hugging her middle lightly. Paying no mind to the rain that pelted the back of her neck, she wandered the rarely tread cobblestone alleyways between the houses and the streets lost inside her own head. Knowlton’s Corner was dead this late at night but she really did not want to be seen by the public; not after the last time she made an appearance on the streets. Before she knew it she was home, a deserted looking old stone church on the outskirts of town. She stopped walking and cautiously regarded her house from the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street.
It loomed above her, a blocky Greek Revival with Corinthian columns rising skyward. It was long abandoned and had fallen into considerable disrepair which was why she bought it for such a price. She was lucky to own any property at all these days, given the market. But she didn’t feel lucky. Not even the contractors, real-estate agents, and brokers wanted to touch it as they circled the city blocks like sharks snatching up rundown properties and turning them over at a great profit. She had drawn the conclusion that she didn’t want anything to do that godforsaken place either. Not tonight anyway, she thought, not knowing exactly how long she had been standing outside staring at it.
She could picture the rain pouring in from the rotting gutters and leaky roof. She could imagine her living quarters, small and unkempt, her life contained in the only room deemed habitable enough in the whole building. After the past few days she knew that everything she owned was strewn into considerable disarray. Her room was a mess, her life was a mess, and she was fairly certain it was only going to get worse. Even if she did clean and reorganize everything, it would only get trashed again in a matter of seconds. Not tonight anyway, she repeated, and sighed at the thought of getting her life back together. Deeds drew the conclusion that she did not want to deal with it. She raised her eyebrows and looked into the rain as if beseeching the leaking sky for answers, even though she knew she would not find any there. They wouldn’t be in her house, for that matter, and definitely not in a that accursed manor on Abernathy Avenue. Perhaps a bar, she thought as she turned and walked off to find her answers in the bottom of a beer glass. Deed’s decided that she’d even have one for the good fortune of her new friends. They were going to need it.
It is past my bedtime and I should be asleep for I have to get up for work in the morning. Instead, I just transcribed the last handwritten pages my notebook and the chilling conclusion of Part One of The Happy Valley. There is still the rest of the book to translate and transcribe and a rough draft of about twenty chapters that should be whittled to down to about ten, and that is just part one. I decided at work today that I want to call the genre Quasi-Autobiographical Semi-Historic Doom Fiction. ( I also wrote this paragraph at 12:30 am two days ago, which is late for me.)
ARE YOU FINISHED?
“Are there any spirits in the house?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge called aloud after Deeds went down for an inopportune nap on the couch in the parlor. Once roused from his delirium and realizing the state of his attire, the man who introduced himself as Maximilian Grander bolted up to his bedroom and slammed the door behind him. The spiritualist was, incidentally, left alone downstairs with a ghost. Whether she actually saw him or not was another story. It had all happened so fast and she was fairly certain that she had been dying at the time. “Are there any spirits present?” She repeated aloud, “let yourself be known.” It was then Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge realized she didn’t actually know how to summon a ghost. She was just good at reading people and putting on a show. “Umm,” she looked down at the floor and nudged a book with the toe of her shoe. It was one of many in a large pile that had cascaded off of the upended shelf. Around her, the manor was quiet. Although quiet wasn’t the right word, she thought, as an impenetrable stillness settled. “Give me a sign?” She regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. For all she knew it could be that awful cat that answers. Is it even still in the house? She wondered, last time she saw the bestial thing it had been dashed upon the floor and laid there unmoving aside from the occasional twitch. She hoped it had chosen to hide somewhere and nurse its wounds and was not currently stalking her. It was then she heard a rustling in the other room. “Snake,” she whispered and cringed, appalled at her utterance. The noise was followed by a ringing in her ears, which at first caused her to swat her at cheek as the intensity grew. “I don’t think Bracken is here,“ Max Grander said as he strode up behind her. The noise went away. “Or if he was even here in the first place; he might have been my imagination. I’m sorry I haven’t been myself as of late. I assure you I am on the mend. Thank you for that,” He bowed his head and gripped her hand in both of his in a show of utter devotion.
“I’m not too sure I had anything to do with that,” she pulled her hand away wondering if she should give herself credit, did she really free Grander of his torment?
“Please, you’re Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge famed psychic medium, renowned spiritualist, piercer of the –“
“I’m aware. It’s just-“she paused for a moment wondering what to say next. “How is your ear?”
“I’d rather not talk about it,” he reached a tentative hand to the bandage wrapped around his head. “You know, I have heard about you. I’m a bit of an occultist, you see, and a collector.” He motioned a broad hand around the overturned room.
“I do see.”
“I have relics from many lost religions and secret societies.”
“Maybe they should have remained lost and secret,” a wet voice growled from behind him.
“Oh Gods!” Grander exclaimed as he turned to face Deeds. “You’re covered in sweat.”
“That’s not sweat.”
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge balked as Deeds approached, “are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Deeds grumbled as she pushed past them on her way to the kitchen, leaving behind a trail of soggy footprints. “Do you have any coffee, or tea, or anything?”
Grander followed the rattling, and slamming of the cupboard doors as Deeds rummaged for a tea kettle. “What are you doing in my kitchen? “He asked as he grabbed the kettle from her and set it on the table.
“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m making tea. Look, we’ve all had a rough time here lately; I thought some tea would be nice, okay?”
Evelyn folded her arms and leaned into the kitchen doorway, “tea, does sound nice, actually, while you explain to us what the hell is going on here.”
“I’ll explain to you what is going on here,” she spun around to face her picking the kettle back up along the way, “It’s-“ Deeds had every intention to say more but instead she gasped as she aspirated on her own saliva sending her into a coughing fit.
“Are you okay? You don’t look okay,” Grander took the kettle away from her again lest she dropped it.
“Yeaas,” Deeds wheezed and took a seat at the table, “I’ll tell you what’s going on,” she said when she gathered enough breaths to do so then she inhaled an extra time and held it. Evelyn edged in closer and Grander made the motion that he was waiting for her to continue. “It’s the same thing that I’ve been telling you all along!” she exhaled her breath in the form of a shout. “But no one ever listens to me!” She hit the table with the palms of her hands, “Everyone just looks at me like I’m crazy!” She yelled causing the spiritualist and the collector to take a step back. Upon realizing what she had done, Deeds clamped her mouth shut and gazed down at her hands before meeting the questioning stare of the others in the room. “I do realize that did sound crazy.”
“You think?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge and Maximilian Grander said simultaneously.
Octavia Deeds held up her hands in recognition, leaving wet prints on the surface of the table.
The spiritualist shrugged and took the teapot, filled it with water and set on the stove. Tea really was a good idea. She had felt a presence at her back and silently prayed it wasn’t the cat. “What now?” She asked.
Deeds let her hands fall to her lap and studied them for a second. “You know what?” she replied finally looking up as the others looked onward expectantly.
“No, I don’t know what,” Grander huffed, “and don’t you tell me that you don’t know either.” He had enough and he said as much. “I’ve been terribly ill for the past few days, seeing things, horrible things. I’ve talked to ghosts, well just the one. I witnessed the world end more times than I would like to admit, well twice. But that is more than what I’d prefer. I’ve been raving mad, running around in a bathrobe- sorry about that.” He turned to Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge his cheeks red with modesty and the spiritualist mumbled an acceptance to his apology. “I’ve been in and out of consciousness so often; I can’t tell what is real anymore-“his composure slipped and his words trailed off but he gathered himself to continue. “Something took ahold of me, it was evil and ancient, and oh so powerful… I feel so violated, I just, I just don’t… know anymore.”
“Are you finished?” Deeds asked regarding Grander as he fought to find his words.
“Yes, continue,” he nodded.
“I was going to say, you’re right. I don’t know. I really don’t know what is going on, or what is going to happen next. What I do know is that I did all that I came here to do. Granted, I failed miserably, but I did my best. The spores have spread because of your indiscretion in the basement, Mr. Grander,“ she shot him an accusatory look.
“I wasn’t in my right mind.”
“A great chaos has been unleashed in the fair town of Knowlton’s Corner and things are only going to get worse from here. If there is any consolation, Ms. Bainbridge, Mr. Grander, is that it is out of my hands. It is out of your hands and your hands. It is out of everybody’s hands. There is nothing left to do but to give up.” She looked back down at her own hands again and slapped them upon her lap bracing herself to stand up, “which is exactly what I’m going to do. You know what? Forget the tea,” she said as she stood up just as the kettle started to scream. “I don’t even know why I’m here anymore. I’m going home.”
“But –but-“the spiritualist turned the stove off as the kettle pitched higher and moved it away from the burner. “What about the cat?” She whispered the word as if she didn’t want the infernal beast to hear.
“Yeah, what about the cat?” Max Grander touched the bandage on his head and cringed. “It has gotten the taste of human flesh, my human flesh.”
“What about the ghost?” Ms. Bainbridge asked, “What did you say his name was?”
“Bracken,” Deeds and Grander answered concurrently.
“Well, what about Bracken? What about the basement? What is going to happen?”
“You’re the psychic,” Deeds replied as she exited the kitchen. “Good luck?” She stopped and spun to offer them hopeful words of encouragement, “I’m going home.” Octavia Anton Deeds turned back around and exited the house on Abernathy Avenue leaving the spiritualist and the collector to stare at each other in a stunned silence.
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge rolled her eyes far back into her head and tilted her chin upward, tuning into a different frequency. “You have,” she said her words drawn out and far away as she gripped the hotel bar table with splayed fingers. Then she dropped her head as well as the charade and looked Deeds dead in the eye, “something seriously wrong with you.”
“Don’t we all?” Deeds spit out at the medium looking dead serious.
Evelyn shook her head; she really didn’t have time for this. Lately, there had been a crazed fan in every town she’d been through. Why did she think Knowlton’s Corner would be any different? What kind of name is that? She wondered. She had a bad feeling about this place as soon as she crossed into the city limits.
“You feel it too, don’t you?” Deeds asked as if she picked up on her signal. “Everything looks smooth and slow on the surface, but down below a dangerous undertow rages. Right now it grips our ankles tight dragging us along on one hell of a bumpy ride.”
“That is not exactly how I’d put it,” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge paused and jutted out her bottom jaw, and shook her head. She really did not have the time for this and she said as much. “Look, it is getting late. I have to get going, and the sooner I get on the road and out of this town the better.” She stood up, leaving the rest of the glass of wine behind. She wasn’t that thirsty anyway. “Excuse me, I have to go.”
Deeds looked up from her side of the table, but made no move to stop the spiritualist’s departure. “How have you been sleeping Ms. Bainbridge?” She asked calmly to her back.
Evelyn swore as she realized she had only made it one step before she stopped in her tracks.
“How long has it been since you’ve had a solid night’s sleep? Do the dreams terrorize you every night like they do me?”
Don’t turn around, don’t turn around, don’t turn around, Ms. Bainbridge repeated in her mind. “I’ve been sleeping quiet well, thank you,” she said civilly but her tone was nowhere near polite. She forced herself to take another step. The rest will come easy, she thought, her eyes focused on the door.
“It’s been eight years for me, Evelyn.”
Don’t turn around. Do not engage. “It’s Ms. Bainbridge,” She said tersely.
“Running away isn’t going to help you, Ms. Bainbridge. Believe me, I’ve tried.”
The spiritualist swore under her breath as she couldn’t help but turn around and face Deeds as she still sat at the table. Octavia Anton Deeds looked like train wreck disguised as a human being. There was an underlying unquiet behind the eyes. Even though she had bathed and a put on clean clothes for a public appearance she still looked grey around the edges and green around the gills. Her wide mouth was drawn down in a frown as she chose her next words wisely. “They always find you.”
“Who?” she muttered flustered.
“There you go with the Timeless Ones, again.” She interrupted. “And no I don’t need to see that damned relic,” she added upon seeing Deeds reach into that ratty bag of hers. Creepy snake-lady, she said under her breath. That thing gave her the heebie-jeebies.
Deeds struggled for a second trying to find a new approach; she reached across the table for cocktail napkin and deftly pulled a pen out of her bag instead. “There is a house here in town,” She said scrawling down the address and sliding it across the table towards the direction of the psychic. “There is a hole in the world in the basement. It is growing every day and soon it will be big enough to let Them through. The Timeless Ones are here to finish what They have started. There are mushrooms growing in the cellar, they-“
“Well, that explains it,” Evelyn huffed.
“The owner of the house is desperately ill.”
“Then take him to the doctor.”
“There is a cat that is not a cat,” She blurted out knowing she was losing her. She should just stop talking, Deeds thought, and just walk away. “There is also a ghost and he’s pissed off because he’s been through this once already!” She paused unsure if what she was going to say next was a wise choice or not, but she didn’t have time for thinking. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge was mentally out the door. She could see it in her eyes. “You’ve heard about what happened this morning, right? The carnage along the canal? That was me, I did that.”
The medium felt her mouth hang open and her blood pool at her feet. Every instinct told her run and leave Knowlton’s Corner and leave this lunatic Deeds behind for good. “Then you need to be locked up.”
“It gets worse as each night passes. I need your help, Evelyn, I can’t do it alone and I’m terrified of what comes next.”
“Good luck with that. I’m leaving. Why wait until tomorrow? The farther I am away from you the better.”
Deeds looked dejected, “why won’t you help me? It is your job isn’t it? ‘Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge famed psychic medium, renowned spiritualist, piercer of the veil and seer into other worlds; recount past lives and speak with loved ones lost.’ How can you pass something like this up?”
She felt her skin flush and the tips of her ears grow red with anger before she knew it Ms. Bainbridge bore down on Deeds as she slapped her hands on the table in front of her and brought her head down and her eyes perfectly level with Deed’s unsettling gaze. Her voice dropped dangerously low, “because I do theater!” For one horrible second she silently prayed that she didn’t say that too loud for if word got out that it was all a ruse. Part of her was relieved that it was out in the open. It had been a secret she kept locked away and never once uttered aloud, not even to her own self. “I’m telling you, it’s all an act,” she brought her head in even closer trying to avoid Deed’s wide set and weary watery gray eyes. “I can’t see spirits,” she whispered. “I can’t really speak to your love ones lost, recount past lives or pierce the veil and gaze into other worlds. Every single person that comes to one of my show is just so desperate to believe in something. I give them what they need, closure.”
“What about you, don’t you believe in something?” Octavia Deeds asked as if unfazed by her big revelation. “Do you want to find closure?”
“No,” she said resolutely and brought herself back up to her full height. “I don’t.” She turned around without another word.
Deeds sighed in resignation for she knew she lost her. She was going to have to finish this alone. Despite the fact the Spiritualist had admitted that it was all an act, that didn’t matter; she still knew she needed her. “You’re not going to help me aren’t you?”
“No, I’m not,” she said shortly and made her way to the door.
Deeds sank into the back of the chair becoming boneless as she watched her leave. “What is the point?” she muttered aloud. She was beginning to wonder if maybe she was turning into one of the religious zealots she was hearing so much about lately; seeming so desperately normal and willfully ignorant but obscenely repressed with a growing and hardening pit of depravity until one day a poisoned fruit springs forth. If only she could be so lucky she thought and her eyes wandered to the forgotten glass of wine at the table. It has been so long since she had known the truth. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge was probably long gone by now. She didn’t blame her at all. Deed’s remembered being that naïve once, actually thinking she could get away. She held up the glass in a silent toast, wishing her the best of luck as she finished the wine for her. She replayed the words they exchanged in her mind. What she had thought was persuasion just sounded crazy. Maybe she should be locked up, she thought and gulped and cringed. She had no head for wine.
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge stared at her hotel bed. Freshly made, it looked inviting enough. Graced with clean and pressed linens without a crease upon them and topped with a downy duvet and fluffed pillows. She ran her fingers along the along the soft supple surface but she could not bring herself to climb inside and find the comforting embrace of sleep.
“How have you been sleeping Ms. Bainbridge?” The grim words of Octavia Deeds echoed in her head. “How long has it been since you’ve had a solid night’s sleep? Don’t the dreams terrorize you every night like they do me?” Her voice sounded so calm yet cut right through her. She couldn’t help but turn around, how had she known?
She had told Deeds that she had been sleeping just fine and she hoped that she saved enough face for that had been an outright lie. It had only been three days since the night terrors began but it still gripped her subconscious in a tight unyielding embrace. She remembered waking up choking and clawing at her own throat as she forced the air that wouldn’t come into her lungs. Around her the shadows grew solid, there were so many of them, she was surrounded and they clouded her vision. Every dark spot was a soul and she was drowning in a sea of them. They came from all walks of life, spanning every generation through time, and they all wanted something from her. Their demands turned into a dull roar. She could not make an each individual voice out but they all carried a lilting urgency. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t speak back because they had taken her breath away.
The renowned spiritualist tore her gaze away from the bed and looked down at her body; she imagined the red welts beneath her clothes burning cold. Marks from where the souls had touched her. It had felt that real. She had started off in theater, everything since its inception had been an act. She couldn’t really speak to spirits, but it was as if the dam had burst and they rushed at her. The next night had been more of the same and so had the night after that.
“It’s been eight years for me, Evelyn.” The words of Octavia Anton Deeds echoed through her head again.
“Eight years,” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge muttered aloud and repeated, “eight years.” Absently, she stared off and unwittingly sat down upon the bed. The dark now frightened her, and every speck of shadow was an unfulfilled soul. She refused to sleep with the lights off, “this isn’t going away, is it?” She muttered drawing the grim conclusion as she felt her head sink down into the plush pillows.