Candescent Clarity

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His heartbeat thundered painfully in his ear, mixing with the strange whispers that came and went like a terrible breeze between rotting trees.  He swore that he could feel spit spewing from empty space next to him as the strange language dripped into his ears.

Ko’se lano makora kojani noss’e

He shivered so hard he thought his back might spasm.

Robert knew that his wife would never make it off the planet, like most of those on Earth. There were only so many shuttles that were capable of escaping the gravity-well.  Not nearly enough.  They never made enough.  A terrible case-study of financial Darwinism.

He heard the airlock open, a whooshing creak accompanied by shouts and boots thumping into the passenger cabin.  Voices other than the ones from the darkness trickled through the flimsy plastic door to the suitcase compartment he crammed himself into.  A thin line of light gave him the air he needed to breathe and allowed him to hear his soon-to-be captors.

“Well, looks like Brillby finally offed himself.  Poor bastard.” A gruff chuckle.

“Have some respect, Clark.  The man lost more than most.” A reverent voice said.

“Hey — I said ‘poor bastard’.  Just… keeping it light.” Clark grumbled.  Slow, heavy footsteps.

“Jackson, what do you think?”  Silence.  Boots thumped around, and he heard the steel click of a rifle loading a bullet into its chamber.

“There will be no need for that, Clark.  Robert and I know each other.”  Robert felt frost spread within his gut.

Who is Jackson?  I don’t know anyone named —

The compartment clicked open and light flooded fiery fluorescence into his retinas.  Squinting, he saw the familiar sight of a gun barrel leveled at his face.  A man’s eyes came into focus, eyes dark as coal looking furiously at him.  A large hand came from the side and pushed the gun barrel down.

“God, Clark.  You still can’t listen.  You want to be stuck on sewage duty again?”  The older voice chided like an irritated father.

“No, sir.” Clark still stared at Robert with hateful daggers, unblinking.  He backed away, and allowed the older man to step forward and stare at Robert.  A shock of white hair on top of his head was contained by a small black beanie, a large and regal white beard covered his face and went down to the center of his chest.  The bluest eyes Robert had ever seen.  Like clear ice over a frozen lake.  He had seen this man somewhere before.  Somewhere.  But where?

“Robert, get on out of there.  Out of the shadows.”  Robert sheepishly climbed down with the awkward movements of an older, out of shape man.  A foot down onto the chair below – with hands still in the luggage hold – he began to slip and the artificial gravity caused him to fall — but Jackson caught him.  Strong despite his age and taller than he expected, Robert was set down onto his feet by Jackson holding him under his arms.  Like a parent sets up a toddler.  He felt the blood rush to his face.  Recovering quickly, Robert spoke:

“You said you knew me.  Explain.” The men erupted in laughter around him.

“This one has balls, lieutenant.”  Lee giggled.

“Leave us.” Jackson whispered.  The two guards exchanged glances.

“Sir?” They both said together.  Jackson remained silent, simply looking at them from the corner of his eyes.  They both looked at each other and shrugged in unison, walking toward the airlock.

“We’ll be right outside, sir.”  Jackson waved his left hand at them, his right on his sidearm.

“I know why you’re here, Robert.  Do you?”  Jackson asked as he stared unblinking with wolf-eyes.  Robert replied with silence and a stare.

“I finessed my way into this universe.  I followed you from outside your real home, back on Sedgebrook Drive.  You fell through quite the rabbit hole.  Again.  Do you know what’s happening yet?”

“What are you talking about?  Sedgebrook?  I lived outside of the city, within view of the Great Elevator.  What do you mean, ‘this universe’?  Who are you!?”  Robert said.

The older man shook his head.

“When you think of your wife, what memories do you see?”  Robert’s heart skipped a beat.  Those strange memories of a different timeline flashed again into his vision as he conjured the image of Linda’s face.  Something was horribly wrong.

“I… I don’t know what’s happening to me.  These memories aren’t –”

“Those are your true memories, Robert.  Each time you slip between worlds, they become harder to see.  Given enough time, they will vanish completely.  You have to focus, focus on your love.  That’s the only thing that they don’t understand.”

A thunderous explosion shook the Gwaden, and they both lost their footing and fell into seats across the aisle from each other.  They locked eyes and Jackson stood remarkably fast for someone his age.  He leaned over Robert and put his left thumb in the middle of his forehead with a soft force and his right thumb into the skin over his heart.  An electric current rushed through Robert, and memories he had forgotten about rushed back to him in an instant.  The cold forest.  The sands of post-war America.  The lights flickered and died inside the shuttle as another explosion rocked the Gwaden, and the red glow of emergency lights filled the cabin.  Whispers violently hissed, forcing fear to flow into Robert’s body.  A fear laced with anger.  He remembered everything now.

But for how long?

“They hate me, Robert.  I try to save the souls they keep.  You are not alone in this game.  Millions of people over the course of human history have become trapped in their game, replaced by the elites of their malevolent society…”

A blast rocked the ship, cracking a hole in the hull of the Gwaden.  Air began to rush out of the docking bay, and he could hear the screams of Lee and Clark as they were sucked into the vacuum of space.  The artificial gravity created by rotation was stopped as the frigate lost power, and Jackson skillfully glided over to the airlock and pounded his fist on the emergency seal to force the door shut.

“They are going to kill us both, Robert.  Fill your mind with thoughts of your wife, and your life.  Maybe they will be strong enough to –”

Another explosion rocked the ship and there was the monstrous sound of steel being ripped apart, violently tossing the shuttle out into space.  Crashing and tumbling, Robert was bounced around inside the cabin along with Jackson.  He protected his head the best he could, and pissed himself only a little bit.

“Dream of her to escape, Robert.  You must dream of  -”

A stray slug of iron tore into the shuttle, tearing it in half like a wet paper bag.  Robert’s eyes dilated from fear.  Remembering the first time he was knocked out by the vacuum of space, he could not help but let fear wash over him.  There were no happy thoughts to be had.  Clutching at his throat, his lungs burned as the air was pulled out of them.  He felt his eyes bulge, and begin to pop.

Stars looked on, devoid of emotion.  They had seen this all before.

And they would see it all again.

 


 

A washcloth woke him, icy on his steaming head.  Comforting.  Soft.  A skillful hand dabbed his fevered skull with the caring touch of a mother.  Almost settling back into the pillow, Robert began to sit upright and pain shot through his body, driving him back into the bed.  His legs were like hard, dead rubber.  Forcing his eyes open, the natural light made him squint.

“Hush now, don’t try to move.  I found you in the dark wood.  You should know better than to go there.  Bandits love to ambush travellers.  You had nothing but the clothes on your back when I found you.”  Robert’s eyes had adjusted and focused on the elderly woman who was tending to him.  The corners of her mouth were tilted ever so slightly upward, the tiniest smile.

“Where -” A cough thundered from his chest, labored.  He felt exhausted and weak. “Where am I?”

Who am I? 

This thought he kept to himself.  Robert knew his name, but his mind was a terrible mixture of shadows and fog.  He was scared, and tired.  So tired.

“You are far from home, ser.  Human land is a week’s ride from here, with a fast horse.  And we don’t have any of those left.” The woman sighed.  Something about the sighs of the elderly make one feel an existential despair, and it weighed on Robert’s fragile psyche.  Tears began to form under his eyes.

“Shhh.  There, there…  Don’t worry.  You have surely heard tales of Elven hospitality?”

 

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The Celestial Elder

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Jason Gathers looked back at the colonies being pulled into Earth’s gravity as he began to prime the small craft for a long burn.  Fire spread around the O’ Neill cylinders like fearsome flowers, orange mingling with yellow and red with a terrible fury.  The screams of millions of people burning alive went unheard as his engine spun up, and he felt a heavy sorrow grow inside his chest.

“I wish she could have seen this with me.  Who knew that revenge could be beautiful?”  Jason softly slurred to himself.  “Her hair was the same color when the sun shined just right.”  He felt a small pride that he had turned a group of exploited slave laborers into an efficient task force.  Each of their charges detonated at the right time, at all the right places.  The Earth’s gravity did the rest.

“They were good men…”  He whispered to the memory of his wife. “Friends, even.  But we all made sacrifices for this cause.”  As his engine kicked into gear and the long burn began, the charges he had secretly placed on their vessels exploded and destroyed all evidence of their involvement.  Shadows watched, pleased with the dark fruits of their labor.  Their suggestions in this universe have climaxed to this result.  A beacon he had dropped into orbit began an automatic broadcast on all channels, which had previously been completely jammed.

“People of Earth.  Escape while you can.  We are here to bring a new age to humanity.  We are here to show you that Earth is too small and too fragile a basket to put all of our eggs in.  We have played in this cradle for too long, and despite our advances the Earth cannot thrive under the weight of all of us.  Look above you, now.  See the terror the Republic and the Consortium have created.  They are destroying the colonies, and their sloppy work creates more destruction for the people on Earth, while they hide comfortably in their shelters.  They do not care for those in space.  We are expendable to them.  Rise up, and leave now.  We need your help to achieve humanity’s destiny, to spread our civilization to the stars.  Come, join us and prosper together in space.  Or stay, and die.”


Robert cried, his imagination showing him images of chaos in the major cities.  People fighting over each other to leave Earth.  Soldiers struggling to keep control and to keep their fingers from their triggers.  His wife alone in a crowd, trying to herd a group of small children.  There was almost no way for them to get out in time.  Not with an entire city trying to evacuate.  Hope was translucent, faint as a whisper in a thunderstorm.  If the colonies roaring into the atmosphere did not create the panic, then that broadcast that just played over the intercom certainly would.

In the cockpit, Jason’s accomplice cried too.  He was frustrated with his cause, knowing now that the people they condemned to die on Earth were mostly innocent.  There was no way to contact command and to call off Axis’ descent.  It probably had too much momentum anyway.  It could not be stopped.  Something else was bothering him.  Racking his brain, he could not remember why Jason ordered him to kidnap Robert James Lowman.  He couldn’t even remember the orders.  The shadows stared through him with smug, obsidian smiles.  They knew why.  Confused and isolated with his guilt, he programmed the autopilot to take Robert to the hidden fleet behind Axis, and sat back in his seat.  He stared at the blockade of ships in front of him that ignored this shuttle, turning to face the ancient celestial demon that doomed their home world.   Flashes erupted silently as he coasted above their firing solution.

“Useless.” He mouthed silently and put the small, silenced gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.  His body recoiled, and floated up.  Blood and brain vibrated strangely in zero gravity as the shadows laughed, dancing along with the crimson bubbles.  Whispers filled the cabin as the man’s dead body floated and dreamed of another universe.  Whispers from shadows that were always watching in pleasure.

Robert had moved ahead to the front of the craft to take Omar’s body and give it some semblance of respect by covering his dead face with his coat and placing it in a seat.  Robert could hear the raspy conversation, and stifling his tears he drifted toward the cockpit to investigate.  He gasped when he opened the door, seeing the corpse floating in the same moment as the whispers went silent.

“I must be going fucking crazy.” Robert muttered to himself.  He put himself in the pilot’s seat after softly pushing the corpse down and behind the chair.  Robert had no sorrow for this terrorist, regardless of his situation.  The only thoughts he could think were of Linda, horrified on the planet’s surface as humanity’s impending doom coasted toward them.  Remembering some basic flight controls, he began to flip switches and tried to move the yoke.  It was stuck in its programming, and he was unable to move the controls.  A notice flashed on the instrument panel:

PLEASE ENTER THE PASSWORD TO ACCESS FLIGHT CONTROL.

‘Password’ did not work.  ‘Guest’ did not work.  Robert slammed his fist in frustration on the flashing screen, which also did not work.  To the pleasure of the darkness, he was trapped in this thing on its way to the last place he wanted to be.  He pushed himself back into the cabin, searching for the escape pods in the back.  Their doors had been welded shut.  Probably a preemptive move by the terrorist to stop any escape.  Without options, Robert glided to the seats on the right, resigned to gazing down at the tracers within the barrage of hot steel.  Suddenly the front of the asteroid appeared underneath the shuttle, and he could see that the U.E.R.’s attack was barely whittling away at the surface.  The explosions were probably gigantic,  but the sheer size of the asteroid made it useless.

“Useless”, Robert muttered angrily.  He stared down at his elder, the massive stone rolling beneath him.  Pockmarked with craters, the ancient drifted underneath the craft for what felt like ages.  He tried to look off to see the edge, but the immense rock stretched out to blend with the darkness of space.  There were abandoned structures that dotted the landscape, old mining bases probably.  Finally the end of the space boulder appeared, and he could see mammoth thrusters that were darkened and cold.  Without realizing it, Robert had been crying this whole time, tears filling the space around his face.  He was startled into a scream as the V.I.’s voice broke the silence:

“Please buckle your seat-belts and prepare to dock.  We have arrived at our programmed destination.  Thank you for flying with The Consortium, where your comfort is our priority.”

Docking clamps loudly clamped onto the side, shockingly fast after this announcement.  He looked out the window and he could see dozens of ships surrounding the shuttle.  They were older transport craft, dirty and outdated looking.  There were massive guns on each of them, and he knew that they must have been jury-rigged to become a fighting force.  He saw the space around him disappearing as the shuttle was brought into a docking bay of a much larger ship.  Steel and chrome shined beneath the lighting inside as he saw the name of the craft painted high above the deck and the walkways.  The U.E.R.’s Gwaden.  The old ship thought to have been lost over 20 years ago on a deep-space patrol now closed around him.

The shuttle’s movement ceased with an iron screech as Robert’s heart pounded in his chest.  Who knows what these rebels would do to him?  They would probably think he killed the pilot.  He floated up and hid in an overhead compartment, not able to stop tears welling up in his eyes.  He was completely hidden, but he was not alone.  His fear was with him.  The shadows were with him, keeping him company.  And he could hear their gleeful whispers.  He squeezed his eyes shut, forcing himself to fill his mind with his wife’s beautiful face.

Linda…

Suddenly he was seeing flashes of her in places they had never been.  Like lightning illuminating a darkened art gallery.  A beach at night somewhere, walking from a strange automobile that hadn’t been relevant for generations.  The same car at a 20th century drive-in theater.

What are these memories?  

He had no time to think more, as he heard the airlock start to open with a hiss and the creaking of metal.

tales of a travelling salesman final

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The Faucets

So, we all know cats are pretty weird. My cat is definitely no exception. Her name is Mrs. Gibbles, and she is probably one of the weirdest I have ever met. She loves to get to the sinks as I try to wash my hands or start the bath so that she can get the absolute freshest water possible. She will stare at the faucets in wonder as the water starts to come out, like it is some magical thing beyond understanding. It’s not uncommon for me to go home after working all day to find her in a cat-trance, staring at the faucets in one room or another. She will look at me as I make fun of her strange obsession, meowing needily.

“More water, Dad!” If she had her way, she would be a watterlogged piggy.

Recently, she has been acting even stranger around the faucets. She’s been refraining from drinking the water, unless I put it in her bowl. But she still stares, and it has been all she does for a week now. Extremely unusual and out of cat-character. She sometimes even makes a racket while I watch TV or clean the house, swatting at the steel and chrome and meowing incessantly. Sometimes I thought that she was attacking a roach or something! She would hiss and go into crazy-mode, running around the house at maximum velocity with her fuzzy white gut swinging back and forth only to charge back into the bathtub and attack at the faucet. I would try to surprise her, to see what she was up to, but whenever I did she was just staring in wonder at the glistening steel. The same look she has when she stares off into the spaces in-between atoms, gazing at ghosts.

Bored and with some extra money, I decided to set up some cameras. I thought maybe I could get some prime footage and get onto America’s Funniest Videos or something along those lines. Maybe just make my folks laugh. That would have been enough. But I don’t know what to do with these tapes now. I’ve begun moving out because of these tapes. I stay in a hotel with my Mrs. Gibbles, only packing during the day.

The footage started as usual. Just her looking out the window as I drive away, then immediately she plodded over to the bathroom. The camera in there was at a downward angle, looking from a corner where the ceiling meets the walls. She sat on the edge of the tub, away from the faucet. Staring. Nothing remarkable happened for a while, and she crawled into the far end of the tub laying down where she could stare at the faucet. Very very boring. But then I began to see some movement at the chrome, and I was unable to understand how the water suddenly began to run when I realized it wasn’t water.

Slowly, over the course of several minutes I saw a purple finger stretch from the faucet. Unmistakably a finger. There was a long nail, black on the tip, cracked and moldy. It felt around the tip of the spigot and Mrs. Gibbles began to hunt it. She crept toward it, and suddenly slid to attack, swatting and hissing at it. No audio, but this was the thing that she would always do. Smack, smack, smack and the finger disappeared. She stared up into the faucet, cutely sniffing at what I knew to be impossible.

Then the finger crept up from the drain below her, bits of my wife’s long black hair entangling it, but then I saw it was unlike a finger because it was much too long and it had no knuckles. More like a tentacle than a finger. It poked at her with an intelligent curiosity, startling her tail into a big poof, coaxing her to attack again. Playing. It disappeared, and as she investigated the drain, it reached from above and tickled the back of her head.

She leaned into it like she leaned into my rubs. I vomited.

I googled some information on my address. A young girl had been drowned in the tub by her mother when she was only 6.

 

 

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Infinite Ice

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The stare of stars from eons ago gave a passing glance to the tiny craft drifting slowly away from Persephone Station.  Veiled by the darkness and coasting through space, it went unnoticed on the radar of the large U.E.R. frigates that formed a mechanical canyon around it.  Drifting and rotating slowly.  Just like a bullet that was stuck in time.

“Even if a member of the crew looked out a window, they might not even notice this thing.”  Jason Gathers half-chuckled as he took a small swig from the bottle.  Nose burning from the scent, a tiny bit trickled from the corners of his mouth and bubbled in the small cabin around him, twitching and trembling tiny little amoebas of alcohol.  Silence purred.

“Wish I could at least listen to music, this is going to take a while.”  He gobbled up the bubbling bits of whiskey from all around him, and Jason reminded himself of a dog he used to have.  Junior giggled endlessly watching the dog chase after the bubbles that Jason blew for the pup to chase.  After papa taught him how, Jason Junior loved blowing the bubbles himself.  New liquid appeared in the small compartment as he stared out the window at the stern steel sides of the massive warships.

These bubbles came from his eyes, translucent and reflecting the lights that littered the sides of the frigates.  Thousands of portholes stared at Jason.  He stared back.  Thinking.  His wife used to tell him that he thought too much.  After what happened on the mining base, she never spoke about it again.  She never spoke about anything.  Tears constantly flowed from her hazel eyes as she stared off in silence.  She gazed at the spaces in-between atoms.  A half-trained doctor that the workers had access to made some vague diagnosis:

“She’s traumatized, Jason.  There’s not a lot I can really do for her besides some kind of therapy, and I don’t have the time…” The Doc motioned behind him – like a ringleader in a circus – to the lines of tiny dirty cots behind him in the cave that was his clinic.  Coughs mixed with wheezing breaths and the barely audible sound of mice chirping to each other from the shadows.

“There’s not enough meds to go around to fight this flu, and the accidents keep piling up.  I’m doing the best I can.  I’m sorry.”  Jason stared back at the Doc.  His eyes must have been hollow looking, tired.  He sure felt tired.

“Look, Jason…” The Doc put his arm carefully around the shell of a man, and walked him out of the cave clinic and into the main cavern.  Even through his shirt, the Doc could feel that he was cold.  Stalactites poked down threateningly.  They seemed larger than usual.  At least it didn’t smell like gangrene out here, Jason thought absentmindedly.

“Just try and talk to her.  I know it’s hard… All of us cried for you.  Just like we cried for the Willow family, and for the Karns.  I’ll tell you the same thing that I told them: Talk, be with each other, be there for each other, and for god’s sake – keep working.  Idle hands do the devil’s work, they say.  Sure wish they’d give the guards more real work to do.  I hear they get fed well.  I bet they could mine if they tried…”  He trailed off awkwardly.

Jason stared at Doc’s face.  He was trying hard, but Jason’s mind hardly retained any of what he said.  His wife was essentially catatonic.  She had one sick day left from work, but if she didn’t show up for her shifts then they would put her out the airlock.  Just like the old lady Karn, after her sons were killed for insubordination.  Jason forced a smile.  The doctor forced a smile back and disappeared back into his clinic.

More tears were bubbled around Jason in the cabin of the craft.  His hand was playing with the grip of his sidearm absentmindedly, and he took his hand away to swat his stray tears.  Only a few more minutes before he would be able to kick the engine on, and get back to Axis.

An old proverb of sorts crossed his mind: “Revenge is a dish best served cold”.  Space was very cold.  He saw his wife’s streaming tears turn to ice in an instant as the air whipped out of the airlock.   Tiny bits of ice spiraling into infinity.

 

 


 

 

“I’ll never get sick of this view, R.J.  It makes you feel small, every single time.  It’s humbling.”  Omar was looking over Robert’s shoulder at the Earth’s sphere below them.  A beautiful orb hurtling through space.  The moon could be seen hovering over the opposite side of the blue and green glow below.

“I wonder how long ago that weird shrine-thing was placed there on Luna.  Do you ever think of that?”

“Not really, Omar.  I’m actually crunching some numbers in my head.  Do you have the recent market price for yttrium?  I think it spiked again because of the U.E.R.’s increase in ship production.”

“Sure.  I probably have it in my folder here.”  He started ruffling through his papers and Robert thought about other polite ways to tell him to shut up.  He needed silence to think every time before a negotiation.  “Robert-time”, his wife called it lovingly.  She always knew to just give him some chamomile tea and to go watch the TV in the other room.  God, he loved her.  And he was lucky enough to be loved back.

“Here, R.J.  This is that memo they sent out the other… What the fuck?”

Robert looked to Omar, irritated.  His eyes were wide and locked straight ahead.  Robert followed his gaze to the door to the pilot’s cabin, which was ajar.  Dark blobs came tumbling and fluttering out, the strange dance of liquid in zero gravity.

Omar unbuckled his seat belt and pushed off his chair, drifting quickly to the front.  Steadying himself quietly on  another cushioned chair, he slowly reached out and poked one of the dark blobs and Robert watched as the liquid trembled away from him.  Looking at his finger, the color drained from his face.  He looked at Robert and mouthed:

“Blood”.

The sound of a heart thumping filled Robert’s ears.  He and Omar stared at each other, each wondering what to do.  All the while the blood tumbled through the air between them.  Robert grabbed his suitcase, and he looked up to see a man wearing a pilot uniform holding a large knife to Omar’s throat.  A skinny, long blade.

“I take it this one’s name isn’t ‘Robert’, is it?” The man sneered through gritted teeth.  Robert reached his hand up and out to Omar’s horrified face.  A vain gesture.  The blade pressed tighter against his throat for a moment, drawing blood.  Robert continued to stare in silence, unable to respond to the terrible question.

In one swift motion, the man flicked the knife back, pushed Omar to his knees with a hand and a quick kick, and stabbed straight down into the back of the neck.  After a spasm, Omar’s dark eyes rolled back into his head.  The man grinned as the limp body was pushed onto the ground, and bounced softly back up.  Floating face-down as if possessed.  In shock, Robert could only feel a numbed surprise at how little blood came out.

“You’re coming with me, Robert — or should I say R.J.?” The sinister sneer was almost cartoonish in proportion to his face.  R.J. felt cold, only his friends called him that.  How could he know?  Robert’s face was an open book.

“We know more than you might think.  We have people in the Republic government, in the Consortium…” The man chuckled as he drew a small silenced gun and pointed it at Robert.

“We are everywhere.”

 

 

tales of a travelling salesman final

 

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The Stone

Day 1

Never kept a journal before, decided to start because my Grandfather died, the man who raised me. He died on the old farm that his Grandfather bought all those years ago. Our family broke and tended to this land for generations, growing all manner of crops. But now that Grandfather is gone, its all mine now. No problem really, its what I’ve been bred for. Plus there’s plenty of help from the farmhands. But there was one responsibility that had been hidden from me, out on the far corner of our property. The one small barn that was a fraction the size of the main ones, hardly more than a tool shed. I was never allowed in there. Not until I found his note, with the key.

Life after life, we pass this down. A duty passed from father to son.

Go to that shed, you will learn how.

I thought it was the weirdest damn thing I ever read. And I’ve read a lot for a farmer. So I thought I would go out to the shed and see what all this fuss was about. I was never really curious about it, to be honest. The building was just an old run down-looking thing with some old wood rotting away. Sitting in the middle of a field you would have to walk across to get to it. Not a pleasant walk either because that sun gets hot. But I went out anyway, taking the pupper along with me. But when we got closer to it, the old coot started acting strange. Barking like mad, that dog refused to cross the field to the hut. So I sent him on back and kept going. Dog never spooked easy, but who knows what dogs think about anyway.
But one really strange thing was the squirrels. There were 3 sitting outside of the building and facing it, un-moving. I thought they were dead because they were so still! Normal squirrels would be long gone by the time I walked up. But they just sat like they were frozen solid. I shouted and they turned and looked at me, and for a long time too. And I looked back at them real awkward-like. Then suddenly they went their way, scurrying about all normal. Strange as hell. Kind of got a chill from that but I brushed it off and opened the door.
The place was mostly empty, but there was a big ol’ rock sitting in the middle. That’s all. No grass around it either, just a dirt floor. Dark as night in there, the odd place actually was sealed up pretty tight i guess. No light came in. But… there was something about that stone. It was sleek, once I took a good look at it. Real nice to look at. Real pleasing to the eye, something about the smoothness of it. It was black. A deep black. I got this really weird feeling that came over me as I looked at it, and I started looking around, looking for how I was gonna learn how to take care of this damn thing. For what do do with it. But there was nothing else in that place. Nothing but that sweet-looking rock. Pointless thing though, no idea why they would keep it here. But it was so nice to look at! Maybe it was some sort of family shrine. It was light before I went in there, but it was dark outside somehow, I must have lost track of time. So I came back in to write this. That’s why I felt like I needed to write this down for someone, because there was something wrong with how time passed in there. Better get to bed, gotta do a literal ton of work tomorrow.

 

Day 4

 

I keep going out to keep the dirt in the shed the way it is, picking up any weeds that might have sprouted up and taking the rake to it so the dirt looks real nice around that stone. I don’t know what I am supposed to do out here, but for my Grandfather I would do anything. I felt compelled to just keep things nice like the way I found them. I mean that thing really demanded my attention. His tombstone is on the other end of the property, but there is something about this place that makes me feel closer to him, and my late father. I know they all took care of this place and kept it the way it was, so I must too. Besides, it was nice and cool in there, the air slightly drafty somehow despite it being shut up in the dark. Even the lantern I used never seemed to get warm. I cleaned the door as much as I could on the inside, and the walls too.

I polished the rock for the first time yesterday, and it was extremely satisfying to wipe the soft cloth over its smooth surface. Even bought some nice cloth to use for it, out of respect I guess. It deserves more than just an old rag. It deserves more. I made it shine, even in that dark! Every once in a while I see some squirrels trying to get in to see it, so I shoo’d them away as usual. Weird little critters. Last night I couldn’t sleep though, I kept thinking about those curves on that strange stone, that altar! There was something about polishing it that was amazingly satisfying, like scratching an itch that you cant get to without exhausting effort. I could not shake the thought that I missed a spot! I tossed and turned, could not get comfortable to save my damn life. Frustrating really. My folks always raised me to be thorough, and my Grammy always told me “if you do a job, do it right!” So naturally I got up in the moonlight, threw my boots on, and got on out there to clean it. Man its a sight to behold, this night it seemed even darker than black, like it was swallowing light around it. Thats how good I polished it. Can almost feel it thanking me. Feels warm sometimes too. THe more attention it gets the better it looks so I have to make sure to keep checking on it to keep it all nice for my family. Maybe one day my kids can take care of it too. When I was done, it was morning. So I came in and decided to just eat and stay up and get the days work done.

Day 11

 

Something weird was happening, and I just noticed it today. THeres dirt all around the shed now, a perfect circle going about 10 feet away from the structure itself. Some sort of wood rot spreading to the plants, or some science stuff. Should go away soon enough. But while it was thhere, I defcided to start just raking it again like I do to the inside, gotta keep the ground fresh! Makes it look amazing, the smooth cuts into the earth. THe patterns.s. Dream about them sometimes too. I feel like I need to rake in a certain way and I do, and it looks strange but… right somehow. But that rock is just getting nicer and nicer. I wish I could share it with the world, but somethign tells me to keep it a secret. For now. Sometimes when I am out there polishing it, I hear some squirrels outside trying to get into it, I feel like they know that theres something interesting in here. THey go away though. But I keep polishing. Sometimes I stay out there all day, and just hire another fellow to help the guys down in the fields. My responsibiliy is here now, just like my Grandfather’s was. But I never noticed him coming out here to take care of it like this. Maybe he did it at night, when we all slept. He never liked wasting time. I(‘m sure he knew this Stone needs attention, and as much as it can get. Whenever I am away from the Stone, I feel like it is calling out to me, telling me to come take care of it to make sure no dust settles on it. I have to go to it, even when I am at the store getting goods, I feel drawn back to it.

 

Day 20

Whispers.

 

 
I hear them sometimes when i am away from it, but always when I am around it. Comforting me. I feel like it is my Grandfather and those before me, but I cant quite hear them. Whenever I polish the Stone they are the loudest but only slightly above a whisper. They do not come from the Stone, but from the air it seems. From the constant draft in that place, swirling. It’s soothing to me, like I’m back sitting on the porch with Grandfather. And I do not feel that hollow pain when I am there. I cannot understand what they sa y but something tells me that I must keep cleaning. I must keep the stone pristine so that I can hear more and understand itwhat they are trying to tell me. I must. I h a v e to. There something for me to know, something that only I can discover, It needs me to take care of it it needs me to listen and be ther for it so thats why I decided to hire another full time manager to take my place. Sure it hits the budget a bit but we can take it besides I have to take care of this old thing out here in the field. Only I can. I dont know why but the whispers are not scary to me, I can hear them now tickling me, almost makes me want to giggle. Wait, The Stone. More whispers?, calling at their dependable friend. it is time again, it needs some more loving. It needs to be darker.

 

Day 25

 

So clean, so tended to. Like an impeccable zen garden. But this morning was amiss. I must ha dve left the door open, becaduse I could see it open from far off whispering to me telling me to take care of it. I look inside and among the whispers and the dirt surrounding the Stone was a circle of squirrels all looking up at the Stone like little minuature druids, identical each other all frozen stand still like statues worshipping maybe.. or perhaps the stone opened the door because it wanted more attention. It was stronger now. Good. I shoo’d them off, but with that they only backed up a bit enough for me to clean so it was enough I listened to the whispers well and they let me take care of that beautiful black smooth Stone throbbing with darkness. I felt a hum from within almost like a purr I swear thats how good I clean it. Ill keep cleaning until it purrs again because that felt so good and so satisfying like when a kitten purrs and you want to hold it closer because its s o sooothing and nice and comforting to me like it fills a hole that I never knew that I had. The hole my Gr an d father left perhaps. the dirt outside was bigger now so it took almost constant care but I dont mind I have the time I have the guts to take care of all this. The tree nearest to it died so it could make room for more dirt. Pulled it out with my truck to make room for more dirt. Sent all the men home, no t hi ng to tend to no more. Combed it over the spot real nice so it looks like nothing was ever there, nothing but the pattern, zig-zagged into squares. Hope Grandfather is proud of me they never got it to be like this to make such sounds and emit such feelings. How did I never know this art was here? doesnt matter I know its here now and I will tend to it, alone. Gotta keep it safe from others, who knows what other people would think?: what would it want if others saw it and didnt want to admire and respect it? ? why would they do that I have no clue but no risk will be taken. No one can see it but me. And the squirrels too they know they understand what the rock is. I know what it is. It is so old, and so lonely. It needs more and more care forever, and its ok I will always be here.

 

Day 46

 

It Rumbles each day now, and the dirts swell and fill the farm!! I had other workers destroy the fields and raze the trees and leave nothjing but the topsoil! Perfectly tilled like a giant zen garden Glorious in the light, the Great Rock now stands open without that stupid barn around it. No idea why they kept it there, the old fools. How could they not know that it needed to be f re e? Something weird about keeping it hid? it NEEDS to be free it yearns to be free and it needs all the room it can to grow. It needs the dirt. It rumbles each day now, echoing into the home. It wants me to get rid of the house too. No matter. I will live by it with a tent and a small mess. The whispers are constant, comforting me god I love them. Its amazingly Black, that Great Rock. Even with the sun on it there is no issue with it being darker than dark. It absorbs the light around it with ease and on a s u per sunny day the light diffuses by it making shadows leap into the sky sometimes, jabs back at the sky vibrating around it waves of shadows emanating off in such a beautfiul way. GOd theres nothing like it why did my folks keep somethign so awe-inspiring hidden? The squirrels even come in numbers around it, surrounding friends who had died in solemn reverence to their Elder. I keep polishing it and making sure that there is no dust on it. Not one grain. It ne e ds to breathe. The earth rumbles and I know it is connected to this stone, this ancient thing, and that the earth knows that I tend to this place. This paradise. An old responsibility I have, that I will always do. The rumblings grow so loud now!! Amazing. It knows I am wasting time with this journal. THe earth shakes!! Its beautiful and horrifying and humbling and I am its servant, it needs me to grow stronger.

 

The Day

 

The Ground rumbles with anxiety, I can see the trees on hills offf in the distance quivering with the reverberations from the grouund. I think I am mad, because the landscape is qu iveringd and waving like waves on an ocean sometime, I kept polishing and the rumbling gets so LOUDthat it fills the air, the birds in flew off long ago, and up and high in the sky circling, all of them, a cloud. But there was no sound of life but the life within the land here that i have nutured and cared for this primeval being I know now that It was my duty my destiny to care for and be here for the Stone of the world, the Stone that stuck from the earth that shakes every minute now of every day. I cannot stay much longer I think or I could be swallowed up byh the planet

 

The squirrels have all died, their skeletons sucked up by the dirt they died on, disappearing into the dust, i cleaned it more, but the rumbling has become so violent that I couldnot stay so crying i left, I could not become like those tiny rodents so loyal to the forgotten One here in this place.

I walked to my truck and drove it off onto another hill where I could see this event and now that I was farther away I know that I have done something.. unnatural.. and wwrong. The whispers were loud enough that I could hear that they were Words that should not be spoken, Words forbidden by time and forgotten on purpose. They were gleeful now… As I watch the earth buckle and pulse, something rising up out of the ground where my family farm once stood pulling itself out and I want to keep typing but id ont think I can anymore there’s some darkness coming from the planet, a massive pulsing earthen hell pushing its way from the crust and breaking free from the plates where it had been kept a secret. I see it’s hand, the size of a hill. I know I will die.. I’m sorry. I have ruined it all, and I was not smart enough to stop myself. The whispers are laughing now, softly in my mind. Taunting. They know that the ancient One has finally been freed, some primordial Titan that ancient magicks had sealed away or ancient tribes buried in the dirt or God or the gods themselves had pushed back down into the crust. It should have stayed forgotten.

Its free now, dear God. It sees me. Im sorr

barn