12th April 1989 (1/2)

Deliverance

I’ve learned that sometimes it’s very difficult to let things go. It doesn’t matter if it’s something real, like a person, or something unreal, like an idea, or a desire. And even those are interchangeable.

I’m not the voice of authority on letting things go, but I have experienced enough to understand when it is healthy to. That might not always be easy, because it takes time to develop the willpower to withdraw from what binds us. I repeat, and I emphasise, this could be anything—and this could happen to anyone.


I was sat out on the porch, somewhere close to freedom.

If I closed my eyes, it would have been impossibly difficult to open them again.

If I closed my eyes, I could imagine myself, trapped in a maelstrom of obsession.

I was sat out on the porch. That’s when they arrived.

The Date (2/3)

May 3rd, 2003

A few hours later, Ford had taken his seat across from Selena. They had parked up in Midtown, and after a short walk, located a new Italian bistro advertising authentic flavours and original recipes. The prices seemed fair and it wasn’t too busy, either.

“You know,” Ford said, starting on his soda, “I never really wanted to teach kids. I’ve always found them to test my patience. In class, or even at recess, you don’t really get a chance to sit down and think. Some of my colleagues actually believe they’re teaching young adults, and true, some of the things the kids say can be funny, or witty, but never insightful. And even then, the odds of one of them pulling out some smart ass remark is a certainty when they outnumber me, 24 to 1.”

Selena smiled, and her eyes surveyed the room, but her attention remained focused on Ford. “I’m glad we could do this,” she said.

“Me too, but what do you mean?”

“I mean what I say.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I feel like I’ve known you for a lot longer. It’s hard to get a decent date in this area.”

Ford inclined his head to the ceiling fan, his arms stretched out over the table. “I need to get out, just, God knows how I’m going to do it.”

“You should really loosen up.”

“I’m trying.”

He noticed then a small insect scrambling up the sleeve of his shirt. He indicated the thing to Selena, before flicking it off like a well-practiced field goal.

Selena kept on smiling.

She smiles a lot, Ford thought, for a police officer. “A woman of the law,” he mumbled. “Selena. Tell me, how did you get into all that?”

“Into police work? It was my childhood dream.”

“Just like that?”

She nodded. “Yes, and it’s exactly what I asked for. I like following rules, I don’t mind the paperwork, and in some ways, it keeps me fit.”

“What else?”

“Well sometimes you get involved in disappearances, kidnappings, gunfights.”

“I bet only half of that is true.”

“We’ll see.”

Ford realised then just how different Selena was to himself. She probably knows, he thought. She probably knows already that this isn’t going to go anywhere. So she must be in it for the sex.

“How about you?” Selena said.

Ford cleared his throat. “Jesus, where to start?”

“Did you say you went to college?”

“Right. So after college, I became a substitute. Math and whatever else schools needed. Emphasis on the need, because it wasn’t exactly hard to get into. You have some young guy enjoying his freshman year in the real world, and he can look hungry for pretty much anything. Anyway, I had to earn a living, and I thought Penn was for me, so I tried out all the different schools.”

“OK. So you graduated and subbed for a while. What then?”

“I came out here just after 2000, to be back with my mom. She was dying, then. Me and my sis took on joint care.”

Selena stirred the straw in her beer. “What does your sister do?”

“She’s always been here, living and working. A few years older than me.”

“I mean, what does she do?”

“Oh, well, nothing much. I think she was unemployed a few years ago. But now she works for one of the big cellphone companies. I can’t remember which. SBC?”

“You honestly don’t know?”

Ford shrugged. “We don’t talk about work much.”

“I see. So your mother, then?”

“Yeah, when she died, I moved up to Reno. To settle down, or move on.”

A young waitress with a birthmark on her face brought their orders over. The food looked good enough to justify the wait. Pizza, well-stacked, with tanned, fluffy crusts. Potato wedges. An assortment of condiments. None of it particularly Italian.

Selena took precise bites around her first slice of pizza, before working a potato wedge into a big jar of ketchup.

She stopped to talk after finishing her soda. “Aren’t you open?”

“There’s nothing to hide,” Ford said. “I wouldn’t say I’ve had an interesting life.”

“True. What do you think of the world?”

“The world has no mysteries.”

They continued to eat. Some of the wedges were crispy, but an unfortunate selection hadn’t been cooked through, and slipped about in the mouth like wet pellets of soap.

“The world has no mysteries?” Selena said. “Well, I’ve got some examples.”

Newspaper Article — 15th June 1988

Pianist Recovered to Hospital

A series of musical performances at the Castle Observatory came to a tragic end yesterday evening. Famed pianist Frederic Ernst collapsed of a suspected panic attack during an encore of La Gouttière, his award winning composition.

Visitors described their horror as Mr Ernst plunged into the front row of spectator seats, after rising from his piano without any apparent difficulty. Those positioned farther away could not at first understand why the performance was interrupted in such a bizarre fashion.

Fellow musician Carine Bouliere, who has medical training, rushed to Mr Ernst’s aid.

“I didn’t stop to think,” Bouliere said. “I was out of my seat as soon as he stopped playing. When he turned to the crowd with a strange look upon his face—that’s when I knew.”

Ms Bouliere blamed pressure for the pianist’s collapse.

The 64-year old, who served during the Allied Invasion of Normandy, has not performed publicly since 1983.

Ms Bouliere and staff took care of Mr Ernst until an ambulance arrived. Mr Ernst’s partner, Jasmine Kleer, left in a separate vehicle without making comment.

10th April 1989

Time to kill

I’ve taken some more time off in order to do some sleuthing.

I can’t lie. I do feel guilty, not least because I’m now pretending to be sick, but that I still haven’t told anyone about the bones. I was always told to respect the dead, as if I would ever have some nerve to disturb them. But here I am, holding on to the disjointed skeletons of at least two former inhabitants of this world. No evil has befallen me. Nothing has happened, at all, in fact, apart from those stupid nightmares. And even then…

Today, I visited the library. I used their computer archives to pull information from the regional newspapers. This took me right up to evening, but I have learned some things. Apparently, there have been no significant disappearances in this area since January 1981. At least, no missing persons cases that haven’t been resolved. And even those were benign. Tourists getting lost in the forestry, or climbing too high up on crags. We haven’t even had a bank robbery.

What am I do to? I’m not going to be alone forever. When they arrive, I’ll need to have answers.

Or, I suppose, I could simply hide everything away.

The Date (1/3)

May 3rd, 2003

That evening, on his drive home, Ford stopped off at the grocery store to pick up some essentials. He was due to meet Selena for a second date, and, if as he suspected, she was interested in going back to his apartment, he would need to stock up on toilet roll, wine, and food.

He walked the aisles as he always had after the first few weeks back at work, in something of a stupor, not really knowing where to begin or end.

The toilet roll came first.

Choosing the wine was difficult, until he found the only corked red with a suitably deep punt in the bottom of the bottle. Someone had once told him that deep punts are the mark of a good quality wine. Ford suspected this was pure conjecture, though it never encouraged him enough to go somewhere and look it up.

As for food, they would be eating out. But in case of breakfast, he grabbed a case of eggs, some bacon, orange juice and bread.

Field Quotes

#1

“You can’t spell well-fed without kebab.”

7th April 1989

I had been processed

For the past week or so I have been plagued by nightmares. I am in no doubt that it is to do with the bones. My body shudders uncontrollably at the thought.

However, the nightmares seem to go as follows. I am in the darkness of the cave by the fjord, put to work by my own volition. I labour to pull endless folds of earth from the walls. My hands are numb, clotted with mud, and I can hardly tell one motion from the next as I scramble ever deeper. I push so hard that my vision becomes blurry. It is too late for me to realise that I am being consumed by some strange, ungodly force. The mud binds itself around my limbs, enclosing my torso, and eventually my face. I cannot breathe, but I persist, well beyond normality.

This is when I wake up. But, on one occasion, I made it through to the other side. I emerged from a different cave, leading out to the same fjord, to the same faraway view. I collapsed to my knees, and brought up my hands. They were skeletal. It seemed that the earth, like some violent machine, had stripped away my flesh.