Category Archives: Journal Entry

The last brigadeiro

I’m having tea on the roof imagining the city burn. I’m enraged about how the younger generation can’t see the stranded Junk until it’s pointed out; how the generation beyond that can’t see it even then.

Then it hits me, a memory of a conversation I once had. Someone telling me that the young just haven’t had time to remember who they are yet.

It rattles me. I can’t place that memory. I don’t know who was talking. But it feels real enough. I think she had a point there. We have to grow into the memory of our surroundings.

Koan for the Weak

I am being haunted by a terrible vision—although it feels familiar to these bones, I don’t trust myself the talent to convey it. I feel as if I am on the verge of a discovery that will ring in the long awaited Re-establishment, but the image and meaning are transitory: just as the words begin to form they’re swept away in a tempest of ash. It is my duty to forewarn the Communitas, but I am unable to mold the message.

I spent a great number of days crafting a plan to circumvent that terrible phantom. I resolved to consult the remains of the Archives of the Common History that I had liberated from that Degenerate Duke one frenzied spring evening. I cringed at the thought—I hadn’t ventured into the corridors of this monstrous ship since being warned off my explorations—going back into the lower decks was a distressing thought, but I must find a way to make the illusionary whole. I must snatch reality from fog. I must make the diaspora understand what is at stake.

I gathered my courage and sat off in search of the hold. At length I found my way to the trunks which I hadn’t set eye upon since that whirling escape from the heart of that Mad Empire. Pursued by the cackling howls of the Minions for nearly a fortnight, I fought my way through untamed forests and immense cities. Everyone I met along the way was as crazed and monstrous as the Duke himself; Mr. Freud built for himself a sick land. I tried to blend in, tried to hide in plain sight. I tried to disguise my discomfort, but at every turn I was unmasked as a heretic.

I made it aboard this renegade steamer with but my life and what remained of a once great archive. That was a lifetime ago. A life that I can barely take account of—save for brief flashes of bloody lips, either laughing or snarling, which I cannot tell. Save for a tumbling goblet of red wine. A bejeweled hand dangling from a decadent throne. Tattered velvet over broken glass. A winding road. And disgrace. Madness. Escape and Freedom. A freedom which would later be reveled to be anything but. Allow me this singular weakness, and forgive me it as the disheveled rambling of the downtrodden—I cannot help but wonder if the Duke was right.

From the darkness of the tramp steamer’s hold I was seized by another memory. My most favored recollection, the only one I trust. This is the only event of which I am sure: We met. After an extended period of misgivings and second-guesses, we met. We met in the Great Library—with its formidable walls that radiate darkness in the same mysterious manner that you radiate joy. You couldn’t have known this at the time—but in hindsight, I have come to realize you did suspect—I sought you out. I conjured you from the darkness. There, amongst the stacks, and nooks, and endless shelves, I created you. From nothing more than my own dreadful desire and need, I willed you into that translucent vault. I sought to make amends for my terrible actions—and in return received if not forgiveness, then remission. The terrible weight that had been with me all that time suddenly crumbled, and what remained was easily sloughed off. As things go, it was sometime later before I realized that in my uncertain agitation I had failed to complete my mission. I failed to let it be known that even if we should never meet again the world feels less lonely knowing you’re in it.

These memories are meaningless of course. And I’m unsure of the validity of the better part of them. But they fuel my commitment. If I could escape, or even only imagine escaping the Empire; if I could conjure an old friend from the deep; then surely I can find something to abide my understanding—some document that transcends my inability to catch a shadow. Just as I summoned you, I will summon a proclarative map. There must be one—In the long history of the ‘gentsia, someone must have documented this Tormentor. My plan is simply: I shall will into existence a map that will make firm my vision; which will allow me to share it with my gentle comrades.

Aye, but it has been a most terrible night filled with memories to horrific to recollect, and memories too joyful to accept. I must rest and regain my strength before I tackle those trunks.

I spent a great number of days crafting a plan to circumvent that terrible phantom. I resolved to consult the remains of the Archives of the Common History that I had liberated from that Degenerate Duke one frenzied spring evening. I cringed at the thought—I hadn’t ventured into the corridors of this monstrous ship since being warned off my explorations—going back into the lower decks was a distressing thought, but I must find a way to make the illusionary whole. I must snatch reality from fog. I must make the diaspora understand what is at stake.

I gathered my courage and sat off in search of the hold. At length I found my way to the trunks which I hadn’t set eye upon since that whirling escape from the heart of that Mad Empire. Pursued by the cackling howls of the Minions for nearly a fortnight, I fought my way through untamed forests and immense cities. Everyone I met along the way was as crazed and monstrous as the Duke himself; Mr. Freud built for himself a sick land. I tried to blend in, tried to hide in plain sight. I tried to disguise my discomfort, but at every turn I was unmasked as a heretic.

I made it aboard this renegade steamer with but my life and what remained of a once great archive. That was a lifetime ago. A life that I can barely take account of—save for brief flashes of bloody lips, either laughing or snarling, which I cannot tell. Save for a tumbling goblet of red wine. A bejeweled hand dangling from a decadent throne. Tattered velvet over broken glass. A winding road. And disgrace. Madness. Escape and Freedom. A freedom which would later be reveled to be anything but. Allow me this singular weakness, and forgive me it as the disheveled rambling of the downtrodden—I cannot help but wonder if the Duke was right.

From the darkness of the tramp steamer’s hold I was seized by another memory. My most favored recollection, the only one I trust. This is the only event of which I am sure: We met. After an extended period of misgivings and second-guesses, we met. We met in the Great Library—with its formidable walls that radiate darkness in the same mysterious manner that you radiate joy. You couldn’t have known this at the time—but in hindsight, I have come to realize you did suspect—I sought you out. I conjured you from the darkness. There, amongst the stacks, and nooks, and endless shelves, I created you. From nothing more than my own dreadful desire and need, I willed you into that translucent vault. I sought to make amends for my terrible actions—and in return received if not forgiveness, then remission. The terrible weight that had been with me all that time suddenly crumbled, and what remained was easily sloughed off. As things go, it was sometime later before I realized that in my uncertain agitation I had failed to complete my mission. I failed to let it be known that even if we should never meet again the world feels less lonely knowing you’re in it.

These memories are meaningless of course. And I’m unsure of the validity of the better part of them. But they fuel my commitment. If I could escape, or even only imagine escaping the Empire; if I could conjure an old friend from the deep; then surely I can find something to abide my understanding—some document that transcends my inability to catch a shadow. Just as I summoned you, I will summon a proclarative map. There must be one—In the long history of the ‘gentsia, someone must have documented this Tormentor. My plan is simply: I shall will into existence a map that will make firm my vision; which will allow me to share it with my gentle comrades.

Aye, but it has been a most terrible night filled with memories to horrific to recollect, and memories too joyful to accept. I must rest and regain my strength before I tackle those trunks.

Temporal behavior of consumption and asset return

There are those that say the world has always been like this. They say there has always been ancient ships stranded in the middle of cities. That ash has always fallen from the sky. They claim we have always been on the verge of population collapse. I know they’re wrong.

I know they’re wrong because there was a time before I became the Maintainer. A time in which I would have never taken such liberties at my job. A time in which the only sound to keep me company through harsh days wasn’t the beating of my own heart.

I know they’re wrong because I care for historical documents and none of them mention stranded ships, or ash filled skies. But they are full of stories of vast populated cities, of people, of lives, and struggles for meaning.

There was a time that when flipping bits I wouldn’t have substituted my own for those that refused to come back to life. A time in which I shouldn’t have snuck out box after box of absurdist documents for which to build a fortress against isolation. A time in which I would never have considered fighting with ancient disease rattled technology as an escapist adventure.

Flaming Dragon

There’s a sand dune in the middle of the largest habitable environ of an urban area. A desolate Chinese Junk is stranded on the dune. If you watch it long enough you can tell that the Junk lists and sways. I’ve been watching it for years, and for years I’ve expected that any day now it would tip over and spill its secrets. I like to imagine I’ll bear witness to the secrets as they tumble and roll. Late last century I started making annual pilgrimages to the dune, but I never make headway. It seems to always sit on the horizon no matter how hard I pedal. It constantly remains just out of reach.

The wind, though, sends out bits of treasure from the Junk’s hold. If you’re vigilant and if you train yourself to expect it, you can stumble across strange and fascinating bits of ephemera—rabbit shaped rings, and bits of metal shaped by fire and wind.

I have a friend that takes these odd bits and fashions them into the bowls and ferrules of pipes. My favorite is made from the driftwood that I discovered on one of my pilgrimages. It was late one fall as the weather was cooling down enough to attempt another trip. Somewhere between Oak Cliff and the dune is a dead zone of dry rot and rock. I might not have noticed the pile of driftwood had I not face-planted when a hidden branch lodged between the spokes of my front wheel.

I dug around and found a good-sized piece and jammed it into my pack. I had to turn back, the dune was no closer and with a bent front wheel it would have been impossible. Danny fashioned his Flaming Dragon pipe with the driftwood and the remains of a warrior madden’s bracelet that I had gathered on a previous journey. It’s a hefty oom paul design. The steam makes an elegant s curve into the bowl which suddenly flares out and intersects itself in licks of stylized flame. Diminishing scales are crawl up from the bottom of the bowl. The ferrule is wrapped with the golden bracelet which is inlaid with a black ball bearing.

The wind delivers treasure. If you look.

Betwixt and between: the popularization of the interstitial

The Maintainer’s dad walked out and I hastily explained that I was wrapped up in thought and that I couldn’t parse more than one information stream of the same modality at once. He looks at me suspiciously—I recognize that look, it was that boy, I’m concerned that you’re on drugs look.

I speed up and ask if he doesn’t think in words. It’s like reading two books at the same time. Have you ever tried to read two books at once? What happens?

“You get confused.”

“Exactly, that’s why I can’t tell you how dreadful the weather is.”

“Well…you’re betwixt and between realities, and I just came out here to see if you wanted oatmeal.”

Lonely Night

With a subtle click of a deadbolt lock sliding free, the door swung open into the foyer. A figure silhouetted by a flash of lightning filled the doorframe. Raindrops splashed across the threshold onto to reddish-brown tile. Black thick-soled boots entered the house spreading more water on the floor. In one fluid motion the figure entered and shut the door behind him. He removed his saturated coat and placed it on the rack with practiced ease. For a moment he stood there to perceive the surroundings. Dathan, satisfied that he is alone, ran his right hand through his too damp hair, brushing it away from his forehead.

He stepped left into the darkness of the sitting room. He navigated the darkness past a chair and a table. Several more steps and he reached into the darkness where his fingers found a shelf. His hand found a familiar shape and fumbled upwards until he reached a small knob. A deft twitch of his fingers sparked light and the lamp revealed this small world. A cursory glance of the room and he cut a path across to a small island bar. He moved behind the bar and opened the left cabinet door. Within the cabinet were three short glasses resting upside down. He selected the one furthest right and nearest him. Dathan held it toward the light and inspected the inside. He set the glass atop the bar and opened the right door, simultaneously closing the left door with his knee. From the right cabinet he pulled a greenish bottle filled with scotch. This bottle he did not inspect. He merely removed the cap and with a steady pour filled half the glass. Not through with it, he set the bottle on the bar. Picking up the glass, he downed half it’s contents in one quick drink.

Dathan surveyed the room while he contemplated the glass in his hand. To his left and furthest from the door in which entered was a desk and chair. Behind the desk was a large picture window from which the street outside could be seen. Over the window were drawn heavy red drapes. The drapes had not been opened in a very long time. The far side of the room was occupied by a modest bookshelf filled with dusty volumes that Dathan might never read. At the right side of the shelf, midway from the floor was a lamp. Dathan couldn’t remember from where it came. A bit to the right and in front of the shelf was a chair and a table where someone, if one were so inclined, might enjoy a cup of tea while doing some light reading. The only other piece of furniture was the cabinet bar behind which Dathan stood. In Dathan’s mind, it was the only functional furniture in the room.

Dathan clenched his left hand into a fist as a memory of what would happen next splashed through his mind. The telephone rang. Dathan set the glass down heavily on the bar. He moved to the desk and stared at the phone. It was a dull pea-green hard plastic rotary phone. At the fourth ring, Dathan stood and wondered if he should even bother answering it as he has done over a hundred times before. He cut the sixth ring short and put the handle to his ear. He said nothing and the phone gave only a faint hum. This happens every time, as it has done over a hundred times before, except this time will be different. This time there is a voice.

“Dathan,” a woman said faintly, “you must,” getting louder, “let me go.” The call ended with a sharp click and then silence. No dial tone nor busy signal, just silence. Dathan moved to replace the hook on the cradle but then simply let it fall from his hand.

A dam had broken in Dathan’s mind. Five words ricocheted through his brain shattering his reason. Those words last spoken by his wife before she died. Annabelle had never lived long enough to see a phone, much less call him on one., but he was certain that was her voice delivering salvation.

Two truths became clear to Dathan: First, he was no longer trapped in this time and place and second, that Phillip Neuman must die.

Deeper Fears

Epigraph

A rare moment when Seth shows a bit of introspection

Main Content

The dream always starts the same way, with the day I almost died. I’m riding a bicycle. It is an old 10-speed, with the U-shaped handle bars and a narrow seat. I am on the sidewalk going down a steep hill towards a busy intersection. I know I should slow down, but my momentum coupled with the wind in my face is too exhilarating.

As I near the intersection, I grasp the hand brakes a moment before I would jump off the curb and into the street. Only the brakes don’t catch the way they are supposed to. Oh, how I hated to change the tires on my bike. I was never very good at reattaching the brakes. I had the hardest time getting the brake pads into the proper position.

This is where the dream differs from the actual events of that day. Instead of swerving into a hard right turn and falling to the ground inches from the street, the bike leapt off the curb into the path of an oncoming bus. I hear the blare of the bus horn right as I impact with the front of the bus. There is no impact.

I find myself standing on the bus next to the driver. He is calmly looking forward. His eyes never leave the road. I look down the aisle and see dozens of people sitting calmly in their seats. I make my way down the aisle to find a seat. As I pass each row of seats, I notice that something isn’t right. The people on the bus are wrong in some way that should be obvious, but I can’t put my finger on what it is.

I’m halfway down the aisle, trying to keep my balance, as the bus sways with the motion of the road. I look down at a person sitting alone on the right side of the bus. He is wearing a dirty brown coat and a strange hat. The hat draws my attention. It is brown and dirty like his coat and it is also tattered and worn through in a couple of places. The hat looks as though it has seen many miles.

Then the man in the hat looks up at me. He has piercing blue eyes that look wild with madness. His face is covered in unkempt facial hair. He opens his mouth and my blood turns to ice for fear of what he will say. “Tick,” he declares. I try to look away. I must get further down the aisle. “Tock,” he commands. I’m pulling myself along by grabbing the seat backs.

I find an empty seat at the second to the last row on the buses left side. I throw my ass into the seat and slide against the window. I look at where the man in the hat sits. I’m relieved he is not looking at me. Then I hear it. Faint, but unmistakable. “Tick.” I’m filled with dread, knowing what comes next. “Tock.”

That’s when it dawns on me. I realize what is wrong with the people on the bus. They are all dead. Each and everyone is a corpse. No one is talking, or reading, listening to music, looking out the window. Nothing. Not a single sign of life in any of them. Just that one man, if he is really a man. “Tick,” much louder now. I know I have to get off this bus. “Tock!” I must find a way out.

I’m looking out the window and I see up ahead. I see myself riding my 10-speed down that steep hill. I see the impending collision as it is about to occur. I see myself grasp the brakes and swerve just as the bus should have hit me. I see this other me escape death by less than an inch. Had I been able to reach my arm out the window I could have touched myself as the bus went by. I watch as my other self shrinks in the distance. I hear my own maniacal laughter from far away.

Why am I on this bus when I know I was never hit by it. If I’m on the bus, who is in my body. Why are they laughing. “Tick,” is whispered directly into my ear. I cringe as I turn toward the voice. The man in the hat is standing in the aisle, crouched down with his arms spread, elbows resting on the seat backs. The smell of body odor, dirt and something like rotting meat emanates from him like waves of radiation. I feel like I’m dying from exposure to him. “Tock.”

I want to lash out at him, to kick and punch, but I can’t bare the thought of actually touching him. He leans in close to me and I squeeze against the wall. He opens his mouth. I hear a sound like the buzzing of flies and maggots squirming. I expect to hear him utter that mantra of madness. “Time catches everyone, eventually.” He moved in closer. “Tick.”

Without fail, I wake up screaming from this dream, as I have every time I’ve had it over the last 13 years. I had the dream every night for several weeks after that day I almost got creamed by that bus. My parents, David and June, took me to see a psychiatrist when they noticed I stopped sleeping. Things got better for a time. Then, even the therapy and the drugs couldn’t keep the dream away. The dream didn’t return as repetitious as those first few weeks. I have it maybe once every couple weeks, but it hasn’t left me completely.

I think about that day. I think it may have been my last day of real happiness. Of course, I think of the dream often, also. I wonder if I’m somehow different than I was before that day, if maybe I lost something vital as that bus nearly ended my life. I wonder if maybe it was my soul that didn’t escape the path of that bus.

“Tock.”

Mr. Freud’s Minions

I remain stuck in this sorrowful sea. I may have been a bit hasty in burning my bridges with our Great and Wonderful Captain. Landfall seemed imminent—I could feel the firm and motionless ground beneath me, the gravity of stillness was already wrapping its tethers around my bones. That was but a passing fantasy. We remain tussled in this torment. My less than generous side longs to accuse Our Fair Captain of sabotaging my dream—be it out of anger or disgust—but I’m sure she wants rid of me as much as I want to be free from this eternal gloom.

That’s not why I write this passage though.

I take this unbargained for time to scribble down my thoughts, as scattered as they are, to prepare you of the inevitable—and if it has already came to pass then as a record of the events leading up to my dreadful understanding.

It is perhaps idealistic of me to believe that at some point these words will prove meaningful to someone. But vain hope is all I have to cling to, for in my current situation meaning is difficult to secure.

Bide these words as a warning, a malediction, or a prayer.

Through forces out of control, out of balance, and stronger than imagination itself our lives, our world, existence itself, are in danger. How I have come upon this knowledge will remain a mystery, even to me. My memory is fleeting and my mind is tattered and worn. My life is a series of potentialities—a series of futures spawning and fanning-out across an infinite ocean crashing upon an immovable shore.

My world, as best as I can determine, spun out of control one year ago when I had the despicable honor of meeting The Venerable Mr. Freud. He took an automatic shine to me—why I do not know, and I dare not recall. With wine and promises of enrichment and understanding he lured me into his Grasp. Due to my weakness, or greed, or restlessness, I did not question. Mr. Freud and his Minions had wrapped me so completely in their spell that I could not glimpse behind the veil that hid the true majesty of the shadowy world they inhabit.

When it first dawned on me the world had changed without my noticing, it was already far too late. Perhaps it’s not to late for others to learn from my multitude of mistakes.

So here I am. Confined to a rickety wrack of a ship sailing for the New World. From this vantage point I cannot be sure if I’m escaping, being exiled or excommunicated. And likewise I don’t know if I’m seeking solace, redemption, or revenge.

It is my calling and my unique displeasure to do whatever is within my limited power to make sure that these crazed cacklings of madmen do not manifest their evil upon this earth.

But this journey has already taken from me more than I wish I could give and has left in return nothing but bitterness and disregard for myself and my fellow man. If there is truth to be found all I know is it is not in this confinement that I have found myself withering in. It is my sincere and only hope that sitting my boots upon solid ground will steady my mind and calm my soul.