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Dream Journal

July 1st

The falling dream again.

 

July 8th

A flock of roaches took the shape of a man in a trenchcoat and begged me to extend them a line of credit. They would not leave, not even after I threatened them with fire and the lash.

 

July 10th

My brother’s death. In this one I arrived in time to hold him in my arms as he drew his last breath. I am never earlier than that. I suppose part of me will go on blaming myself for it.

 

July 15th

The lake dream again. I’ve decided to give up bathing. The thought of being submerged in anything makes my skin crawl.

 

July 20th

A series of dreams where I woke up and checked behind the door. Each dream ended the second I touched the knob. Each new dream started a second after that.

 

July 27th

Phillips started stocking the violet pastilles again. I dreamed the round I bought was porcelain and an unchecked bite broke my molars. Phillips refuses to special order anything for me.

 

August 1st

I was descending a ladder into the sewers. I did not dream of entering them, and I never reached the bottom. Simply descended, rung after rung. My arms began to shake and my hands tired, but I could not stop myself descending. I think my reasoning was that I had to hit bottom eventually. When I woke, my shoulders were sore from my sleeping position.

 

August 3rd

That girl, Bettina Kane, I had a crush on in grade school. Her skin broken out in spider bites, her hair a nightmare web. She slavered as she told me she was ready to elope. Her mouth was a jagged hole of blackness.

 

August 7th

I was in Phillips’ store, and the lot of them were trying to convince me my name was Bachmann. I’ve never even known a Bachmann. Could this have something to do with my indecisiveness on the new art exhibit?

 

August 10th

I took a long, cold walk to the edge of town. There I stopped and stared at a rock no different than the one either side of it. Then I dreamed the long walk back; every footfall, every dull breath. I had to check my sheets to make sure I hadn’t tracked in dirt.

 

August 13th

I did not get to sleep until after 1 am. My alarm somehow defaulted to the chime it came installed with, and the song crept into my dreams. It was part of a piano recital I could not leave. I woke at 6 and could not lay down again. I cannot nap.

 

August 16th

In-between dreams I have a black expanse of nothingness. I like it less than even the worst dream.

 

August 19th

Dreamed I walked to Phillips’ store and bought a pack of saltines and a new pen nib. Woke up to a half-eaten cracker on my pillow. I don’t know what to believe anymore.

 

August 20th

Phillips swears I came by. He also swears my appearance has changed. In my dreams last night I wore a hat as I hunted my doppelganger through the city.

 

August 23rd

My brother died again. He had miraculously resurrected and while out looking for me, he fell from a building. I did not cry in my dream, but my pillow was damp with saltwater this morning.

 

August 24th

Phillips claimed I ate his last round of Gruyere. I think he’s just trying to offload his odds and ends and blame me. I did not dream last night. I don’t even like Gruyere.

 

August 30th

The lake dream again. This time there was no land. I tread water and let the chill steal the feeling from my body. Maybe I’ll die soon.

 

September 2nd

I did it again. It wasn’t until Phillips called me Bachmann that I realized I was in a dream. This morning I have a new pack of cigarettes and some mints he swears he sold me. I will tie my ankle to the bed and get to the bottom of this.

 

September 3rd

My brother came and untied my foot. He explained that it was my job to wander out into the world because I was the last member of our family left alive. Sleep was immaterial. My ankle was still tied when I woke.

 

September 8th

I had a dream of being cognizant through my own funeral. It was very much like an interminable headache.

 

September 14th

I dreamed I sat down at this very desk and wrote all these pages, all these entries, one after one. This morning I turn each crisp page spotted with my handwriting and I just wonder. I can’t prove it one way or the other, can I?

 

September 21st

After weeks of no dreams, Bachmann came. He looked like me, but he was not me. He thanked me for holding this place for him, but now it was my time to go. I denied his agency after seeing how he cast a distorted reflection in my mirror. I took up this journal to write, and he stares at me as I inscribe these pages. We shall see who bends first.

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The Devil Whale

In Lingit it is called the T’oohchx’é. Pacific northwestern fisherman call it “the devil whale.” It may just be a melanistic Orca lacking the white markings of its brethren, if it exists at all. And it has terrorized a patch of the arctic sea all through recorded history.

The village of [Seal-upon-the-rock] gathered on the ice. When we rose with the sun, we found them at the edge of the floe. A song came that was too terrible to hear. Our men fell to the ground and plugged their ears, for the song compelled their feet to the water. One by one the others flung themselves forward into a hole that formed in the water. When the last child was gone, the hole closed and we saw that it was a mouth. The song fell silent and the beast at the edge sank into the water once more. We did not take our boats that way anymore.

—unnamed elder, Oral History of the Arctic

The first possible sighting of such a beast was well before 500 BCE, if the oral history of the Tlingit people is to be believed. According to the Xunaa Ḵáawu people, the devil whale was part of the world before raven stole daylight. In those days a great fish swam in the sky and ate whatever fit into its mouth, which included unfortunate villages. When daylight was brought to the people, the fish fell to the water with a great tail of fire and could never rise to the sky again. The beast was far more fearsome than the polar bear or even other whales, so unpredictable was its behavior. Several Tlingit settlements have been discovered over the centuries since European contact, preserved nearly intact by permafrost, abandoned as if the villagers had stood up in the middle of their day and walked off. Corresponding oral history points the finger at the devil whale luring said villages to their doom. As of yet, no scientific explanation for the disappearances has been found.

…soon we were yawing against the wind, the great beastie caught hold of our chain and pulld us in[…] she looked as another wale til she opened her mouth which split most the length of the bodie. Half our ship was down the gullet before we could scream.

—Eustace Gabb, surviving crewmember of the Meritus

With the explorer’s age in full swing and whale oil in high demand, it seems only natural that the next accounts come from the survivors of shipwrecks. While stories of krakens and monster fish were the common feed of broadsheets, tales of “the devil whale” gained a distinction among the collectors of seafaring legends. The SS Jeanne-Marie was chasing a pod of Right whales off the coast of modern-day Yakutat when they noted a heretofore-unseen behavior in the pod. The whales began a frenzied circulation around the ship, churning the water into a torrent which spun the ship clockwise. The calves, once confined to the protected center of their family’s formation, began colliding in panic. A noise the sailors initially attributed to the crack of a glacier calving rose in height and pitch until “…[the whales] floated as lifeless on the surface.” An adult female and three calves were sucked beneath the surface by a whirlpool. The whales remained insensate for a period of half an hour after the incident, at which point the crew reinstated efforts to harvest the remaining pod. As they cut into the skin of an adult female, the rest of the pod woke from their stunned state and began attacking the ship, leading to a 2-meter hole in the starboard hull. The crew ceased their harvesting efforts and attempted emergency repairs, eventually abandoning the ship for the longboats.

I watched it chase a calf it had separated from the pod for the better part of an hour. At one point the calf beached itself in an attempt to reach a barachois, but it wound up being pulled back by this dark mass. I never got a good look at it, but it was faster than any whale of that size should be. Finally, the calf got too tired to run anymore and it got sucked beneath the surface.

—anonymous Kayaker

The marine biology skiff Uriah Heep was trawling the greater Juneau bay when the underwater microphone picked up the song of a pod of Pilot whales. At approximately 35:00 hours, the  recording equipment registered an anomaly: a frequency of 45.6 hertz, well below that of the blue whale. Over the course of ten minutes, the frequency rose until it equaled that of the Pilot whales, overlaying and mimicking the pod’s song. The boat’s radar at this point picked up a solid object traveling directly towards the pod, rivaling in size a humpback or right whale. The whale songs mingled and reached a fever pitch at the same moment the object overtook one of the lead whales. At some point the mass disappeared from the radar and the whale song continued, minus two voices.

…[the boat] circled the bay for two days. Two! At one point I sent up a flare but no one saw it. My provisions ran low, but I kept trying. That thing was far too large, it could swamp either of my lifeboats easily. Finally I got ahold of someone within radio distance and that was the aerial rescue. I think it knew I was leaving, it tried to tip the boat before the pilot reached me. If it was a whale I never saw it breach.

—James la Pierre, yachtsman.

The deep-sea exploration vessel Newton was observing polyp formation on the bed of the Arctic sea when it found a heretofore unmapped crevice in the sea bed. Sensors registered a temperature hike of 30-40 degrees at the mouth of the crevice. The explorer circumscribed the opening, trying to parse whether the temperature indicated a volcanic vent. At a certain point in the journey, the Newton’s light hit an illuminated sphere roughly the size of a soccer ball. The Newton sat attempting to discern whether it was simply a bioluminescent patch of bacteria or something else when a black material slid over the sphere from either direction, met in the middle, and then retracted. Before the crew could truly parse the nature of this movement, the vessel was upset by a sudden current and just barely managed to avoid crashing upon the nearby sea floor. After the sediment settled, the Newton was unable to find the crevice again.

My cousin lived out by himself in a shack. That day I wanted to visit with him for a few hours. I found him out standing on the shoal. There was this whine like I had tinnitus. George didn’t look back at me, just put his arms out and dropped. I ran to where I’d seen him, but there was no body on the waves. The sound stopped.

—Mary Bedard

The fishing village of Temper’s Point in the upper part of the Alexander archipelago was celebrating their Sesquicentennial in December of 2013 when half the village populace(roughly 47 people) went missing around the waterfront. A background noise akin to the more famous Taos hum has been detected periodically since the event.

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Tender Resignation

Dear Michael,

I am writing to tell you I’ve decided to cease being your copywriter. Our relationship has spanned four years and three continents, but with this last batch of writing I must say enough is enough. I truly regret this step, but feel it necessary in light of your recent personal changes. Please do not take this resignation as an end to our friendship or a cessation of my warm feelings for you. I very much do care for your well being still. It is this concern that leads me to end our professional relationship.

I feel I must explain the change in my disposition, because it must seem very abrupt and frivolous from your end. Certainly, it is abrupt. Abrupt as the recent change in your writings, Michael. I was never given very much work in the way of simple errors. You have minded your grammar like a Latin scholar, and for that I was always grateful. But the sudden downturn in your language is quite frightening, Michael. It feels as though your mind has begun fraying at the seams. You must tell me, in all confidence as your friend, whether this is related to some foreign substance you’re abusing. When you go from writing phrases like this:

Purple grow the lilacs on the sweet down-wind of the river banks.

To

Yattering madly like a spindle(?) piercing the chattering brook[…] ripped, ripped apart from time and surface and all knowledge accrued by man…

You understand my concern, don’t you? It’s barely a sentence, much less a coherent thought. You did not detail your adventures in full, but I fear you may have run afoul of some less-than-savory types in your travels.

My concern lies also with your personal safety. I know it sounds ridiculous coming from a homebody such as myself, but trawling the Arabian desert for a nameless city that may never have existed seems too much risk for too little gain. You tell me of Iram of the pillars and lost Sarnath, but what I see is baseless superstition. Star charts and scraps of myth are no replacement for sturdy boots and a good company of men. I have no wish to scold you like a mother, but you do give me reason for grief. I believe your risk also bleeds over to me. You were the one who had me fetch that blasted Din of Cicadas or whatever they call it from the academic library. You had me translate passages and send them out to you. You were the one who got me removed from the dean’s list at the school library after decades of loyal service. You had to have known, Michael, the dreadful reputation of that book even if I did not.

And on the subject of dreadful, I must say my stomach can no longer take any of your bloody descriptions. The sacrifice and befoulment of a dog, the fate of your camel, the pilloried thief, all these are just too much. Your readers are interested in the grit and dust of the trail, do you think they need to hear how your guide’s feet split open with black cankers after walking unshod on the “parched ground”? Do you think men at their gentlemen’s clubs want to hear the bloodcurdling history of reptilian ur-men over their morning coffee? Why such focus on the ailment of your friend Mahmoud, who swole and split like a puff-ball in punishment for showing you a certain trail? They are truly terrible events, and my heart bleeds for you, but they are entirely inappropriate for your usual format and far more suited to the pulps.

And on that note, I must ask whether there is any truth to what you write. You tell me:

The blasted thing curled above Price’s men, yawning through so many wretched mouths like an abomination dredged up from the deepest depths of the sea. The men slept on unaware as the monster unfurled in the night wind, sending so many tendrils to tap and sup from their unconscious bodies until the men were drained into sacklike ruins. Oh but the true terror comes not from that night, but the next morning when Price returned to see his men and one by one the husks called out to him by name

Michael, I must ask this as your friend and editor—how do you know this if you were not there? You claim Price destroyed by the wraiths of his own men, how did you learn of this scene, then? And how can you so clearly envision the activity of the nameless city-dwellers, those reptilian beasts of such unkind intellect, how can you see them crawling about the city when they have been dead for eons? I worry for your health, my friend. Either you have become a prodigious liar in your travels or the heat has addled your brain. I do not believe a facetless ruby can show you such visions, that mystic humbug is something a fakir would sell for the price of a watch.

I really request that you entertain my concerns, Michael, even if only for a moment. Your mental state worries me, when you produce such scenes as this:

Corpse-down, gathered through many wretched midnight excursions, padded the altar made of brass feathers and noxious amber ornaments. The priest passed the lamp flame over his hand once, twice, and it was then I realized that his flesh was not bandaged but that his very flesh was swaddled. Nimbly as a factory girl, he reached out and plucked Burrows’ eyes from their sockets, replacing them with a shiny serpentine stone each.

And this:

The moonlight took on an infections quality. I could feel my skin roil beneath it, as if the very touch of the light itself were changing me. The hole in the sky seemed to laugh at my eye’s feeble attempts to make sense of the where and how of it. Now that the priest had shed his robes I could see his true form was that of the hideous things that crawled endlessly from low doorways and stairs at impossible angles. From my bound position I could only watch as Price’s life fluid formed a river that flowed upwards from the basin, up into the Stygian depths of that hole which was no longer a hole but a kind of un-moon…

I worry as your friend and as a fellow professional. Such graphic scenes flow from only the most perverse of imagination. You, from a good family and solid education, should not be penning these scenes. I do not need to hear about the flensing of your left foot, the removal of your ears, nor the grueling attempt at tattooing your back. I do not appreciate being told you are at death’s door, saying you leave these pages as your last will and testament as you are too weak to hike back to the nearest outpost. It is a cruel fiction to spin, Michael, as you must have survived long enough to post these pages to me. A note is all I ask, an inclusion in your thoughts however dark they may be, telling me you are well.

I must close with a complaint that seems minor in the face of other worries, and it is this: the figure you had shipped to me is disturbing. I set it on the piano and now the cat refuses to go near it. I have looked the figure up in Makepiece’s Guide to Egyptology, and no such creature exists in their pantheon. The green stone it is fashioned from must be some lead derivative, for being too near it gives me dreadful headaches.

Please return, Michael, to civilization and me. Cease these fancies and collect your artifact. I will no longer entertain your follies, but I will provide a bed and a hot cup of tea should you ever be in my city.

Yrs,

Terrence Q. Chase

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A Series of Museum Samples, Labeled Accordingly

Box #: 2376

Contains: Homo interstella

Description:  Species adapted to life in the vacuum of space.

Distinguishing features: Relatively fragile skeleton. Expanded ribcage for increased lung capacity. Skull capacity of 1600cc. Abdominal implants to aid in the voiding of waste.

Added notes: Only intact specimen, the rest lost after orbit decay.

 

Box #: 8446

Contains: Homo proelius

Description: Species specifically engineered to serve as soldiers of war. Possessing an unusually dense skeleton, fast-twitch muscles, and a metabolism 4.8X higher that of Homo erectus.

Distinguishing features: Abnormally enlarged canines. Rapid maturation rate. Sagittal crest, indicating jaw strength equal to a common Pan troglodytes. Vestigial genitalia.

Added notes: Average lifespan of 6-8 years.

 

Box #: 5610000

Contains: Homo radiensis

Description: The skeleton of a species that chose to inhabit the surface contaminated with nuclear fallout.

Distinguishing features: Degraded skeletal structure due to the metabolism of radioactive agents. Jawbone has dissolved from  body processing Strontium-90 as calcium. Skin covered with carcinomas and sunless “Chernobyl” tan.

Added notes: Specimen emits 2.6 Sv of radiation at all times, box must be lead-lined.

 

Box#: 100078684

Contains: Homo cardifferi

Description: Specimen taken from a failed colony at Cardiff.

Distinguishing features: Due to a genetic bottleneck, specimen is possessed of several recessive genetic traits as well as an enlarged heart and other physical ailments. Skeletal structure indicates the specimen was unable to walk or sit upright due to crippling arthritis.

Added notes: Specimen was four years of age.

 

Box #: 42X1034

Contains: Homo bovinus

Description: Species specifically designed to serve as supplemental food source.

Distinguishing features: Shortened limb growth. Abundance of fatty glands and outsize sexual organs. Implanted rumen to aid in the digestion of a vegetation-heavy diet. C-curve of the spine, indicating the specimen was quadrupedal.

Added notes: Brain shows signs of heavy protein starvation, limiting neural activity.

 

Box #: 86X1090

Contains: Homo kelvinus

Description: an attempt by scientist Homer Kelvin to repopulate the earth through genetic manipulation.

Distinguishing features: none.

Added notes: All specimens genetically identical to Dr. Kelvin.

 

Box #: [number is scratched out]

Contains: Homo aeturnus

Description: The last, the ultimate human being. Man, so warped by his own hand, sought to engineer the architect of the end. A specimen that would live a span of indeterminate longevity, created for the sole task of categorizing his fallen brethren.

Distinguishing features: Lack of genital structure. Cells infinitely capable of producing telomerase, escaping the Hayflick limit. A skull capacity of 2800cc.

Added notes: The box is empty.

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Scenes from an Unaired TV Show

The reality television show Roughin’ It was meant to follow a typical fish-out-of-water format, as various c-list celebrities attempted to live on a ranch according to frontier restrictions. 1200 hours of raw footage, roughly equating to 10 episodes, was shot before the network pulled the plug. Due to the near-total death of the cast, the footage was shelved indefinitely following criminal proceedings. Repeated viewing of the footage has allowed investigators to construct a rough timeline from the inciting incident to the final episode.

 

Incident #1

[exterior. The cast had gathered for the day’s challenge: assemble an ancient wash-mangle and do laundry. Celebrity chef A_____ and actress J_____ are conversing as they sort through machine parts. P_____, contestant from a previous year’s reality show, is sitting on an overturned trough attempting to roll his own cigarette.]

A:—and I mean, it’s not that I, like, hate it—

J: —no, you don’t really know enough to hate it—

A: —right. It’s just that I haven’t had a good experience so far and I need, like, a manual or something—

[P_____ drops his rolling papers and swears.]

A: *laughs* gonna have to bleep that one.

J: *joins in the laughter.

[K___, a transplant from a reality show about vintage cars, approaches the two women]

K: Okay, so we’ve got, like, thirteen moving parts, and then we’ve got this gizmo—

J: Oh. Hey. [She is looking somewhere off camera.]

[K stands up and follows her line of vision. He appears to follow the approach of another person with his gaze. K nods affably.]

K: Oh, hey [inaudible].

 

This footage is notable as containing the first appearance of what is most likely a shared delusion of another contestant. The cast would continually refer to a figure that did not appear on camera as if it had been part of the cast from the beginning. No microphone, whether it be worn by a cast member or fixed to a tripod, was able to pick up a name. The figure’s appearance marked a dramatic and ultimately violent turn to events, as cast members began acting upon orders not issued by the network but by said figure.

 

Incident #2

[The “cow pie toss.” Actors were encouraged to toss “cow pies” fashioned from wet clay as far as they could. The winner, predetermined by the network, would win a phone call home and a sports drink. Y___, a runner-up in a national singing contest, was the predesignated winner. The event director was coaching her on her performance in the contest.]

Director: Okay, now I really want you to play up the smell of these things, okay?

[Y___ makes a noncommittal noise and tosses some hair behind her shoulder.]

Director: Like, really—pretend it’s doggy doo.

Y: So are cow pies, like, poop? I never knew *director speaks, rendering the rest of her sentence inaudible.*

Director: Look, honey, I just want a lot of “yucks” from you, okay?

Y: Should I take off my heels?

Director: No, leave ‘em on. It’s better—it’s good for the show, okay?

[the director turns to instruct P_____ on something. Y___ relaxes slightly, shifting in her stance. Y___ stays in neutral position for 23 seconds before appearing to notice the approach of an unseen figure. She mouths “hi” and holds an inaudible conversation with her back turned to the camera. The Director calls for all cast to take up their positions. Y___ appears to finish her conversation, smiling and nodding. As soon as “action” is called, Y___ trips P_____ and presses his head into the mud.]

Director: Stop! Stop! Are you crazy?

Y: I know what I’m doing, jeez.

Director: Let him up, he’s—man are you okay?

P: *coughing* What the fuck, Y___?

[Y___ shrugs.]

Director: Look, sweetie, improv is not your strong suit. So just stick to the outline, okay?

[Y___ shrugs again.]

Director: okay, are we all on the same page? Action!

[Y___ promptly repeats her previous actions, this time crawling on P_____’s back to press his face into the mud.]

Director: Cut! Cut!

 

The cast began to deviate from studio-issued orders on events. Due to the hectic nature of the shooting season, the bulk of the footage was shot by stationary cameras hidden in various points around the ranch while live crews were called in only for supervised events. Behaviors that might have called for an early end to the show went undetected, perhaps facilitating the breakdown of order within the group.

 

Incident #4

[“Campfire” segments were shot as a sort of break between scripted activities. Cast were allowed to set up the camera as long as they made sure they were all visible in-frame. Cast members T___ and R__ were seen to have a budding relationship spark and encouraged to play it up during shooting hours. During this campfire segment, T___ and R__ sat off to one side, sharing a blanket.]

P: *holding a stick and digging into the fire* …and I just wonder if it’s all worth it, sometimes.

K: You can’t think that, man. Like, if everyone thought like that, like, no one would get anything done, ever, you know?

[T___ and R__  simultaneously look to a point off camera. They hold their gazes for ten seconds. The couple then turn back to one another, blank of all expression. They hold a rapid-fire conversation that does not slow or stop once for the entire segment. Their body microphones pick up no audio.]

A: So, what, I have to just keep chugging along, just because I need to?

K: Well, yeah. You have to think of it like—

[K___ suddenly undergoes what appears to be a seizure. He drops his ams to his sides and makes a buzzing intonation in his throat. Drool can be seen escaping his open mouth. His face is tilted roughly up to the night sky. During this period, A_____ and P_____ behave as if nothing remarkable is happening. The entire event lasts three minutes.]

K:—holistically, like, we’re all connected, you know?

[Conversation resumes as if the pause did not happen. In the background, T___ and R__ sit facing one another, mouths hung open, for the rest of the footage.]

 

Incident #5

[The cast was instructed to milk a cow. Instead, after conferring with the unseen figure, they slaughtered the cow and skinned the body. The cast continued to act as if nothing was out of the ordinary, assuming the playful nature they used for scripted events. J_____ picked up a femur and pretended to play it like a flute. T___ and R__  began a splash fight with cow viscera. Once the cowhide was completely removed and put into a barrel to tan, the cast stood still and faced the open doorway of the barn, uttering the same low intonation. This went on for an hour.]

 

The cast’s behavior became increasingly erratic. However, because they did not shed their on-camera personas, they largely escaped detection by the live crews. One noticeable shift was that P_____ became a whipping boy of sorts. Everything that went wrong was jokingly blamed on him. Other cast members would frequently point to him and make a throat-slashing gesture, which he would return with a thumbs-up. The filming crew did not think this odd. P_____ had been set up as a martyr from the planning stage: his departure in the mid-season finale was meant to be a ratings boost. However, crew found the cast’s increasingly sadistic treatment of P_____ disturbing.

 

Incident #6

[A simple relay race, played with lumps of coal. Y___ can be seen horsing around with T___ as  R__, confined to another team, looks on with a slight frown. P_____, back to them, turns around and accidentally knocks a piece of coal out of Y___’s hand.]

P: Whoops! *chuckles*

Y: Boy, looks like you better eat what you spill, P_____!

[P_____ laughs as he gets to his hands and knees. The director can be heard shouting as P_____ cracks the lump of coal with his teeth. The cameraman zooms in long enough to catch a small amount of blood trickling from his mouth before the director calls cut.]

 

Incident #7

[The cast’s assignment is to draw a map of the surrounding area. Instead, they gather at a granite formation and hold an extended conversation with the unseen figure. Having discarded their body microphones, the only evidence of this occurrence is a camera set up on the barn roof to capture establishing shots. The cast returns after three hours. The paper that was suppose to be marked with the map instead holds a 27-point star. The cast insists that it is a map of the area.]

 

Incident #8

[A gaffer is setting up for a scene. K___ is lounging off to the side, holding an idle conversation. The gaffer is apparently only half-listening during this exchange.]

K: …and it’s just like, it’s always been there, you know?

Gaffer: Mmm.

K: Like, east and west, those are just human determinations, you know? The only real direction is inside.

[The gaffer puts a length of tape down and scatters straw over it.]

K: I could die tomorrow and I wouldn’t really be dead. Just shed another layer. I want to eat the dead skin from the outside of me, give me life for my new rebirth.

[The gaffer checks off points from a clipboard.]

K: P_____’s the one. He will open the way for the rest of us. I’d like to sup his misery and call it wine. The only way out is inside. The only way inside is through. Like [inaudible] said. Got to cut, cut, cut away the fat.

Gaffer: *finally appears to tune back into the conversation* Wait, what?I

 

The cast’s erratic behavior finally began garnering attention. The director called a meeting and informed the cast that they must behave in line with the contracts they signed with the studio. The cast greeted this with puzzlement, claiming they had been. P_____, despite having to get medical attention for injuries sustained during the coal-eating incident, denied any wrongdoing.

 

Incident #9

[R__ and J_____ are preparing a dinner of shoo-fly pie and boiled potatoes. R__ is kneading dough. J_____ peels potatoes while speaking at great length in a monotone.]

J: They lived here 12,000 years ago, when man was still sucking at the teat of summer. Slipped their skins every solstice and made wild. Descartes was wrong. There is no sun, there is only the illusion of light reflected in the moon. Man is a peach in the eye of god. God is a leaf in the eye of [inaudible]. 12,000 years is nothing to the stone. Man is carved from his own excrement. Life is a face laughing at the mirror. When I die it shall be to plant my own future. I will slip my own skin and slither into eternity. *she drops her peeler into the boiling pot and reaches in to grab it without hesitating or flinching. After retrieving it, she shows no sign of pain despite her skin visibly reddening on camera.*

R: I want to be sliced like a pear. My blood a gown. My entrails the crown.

J: *puts a hand on her shoulder* Time is the flight of a dead sparrow.

[the two women finish dinner without further comment.]

 

Due to increasing disquiet with the cast, network handlers were dispatched to supervise the remainder of the shoot. They arrived to find the ranch empty.

 

Investigating the surrounding area, they found the cast at the nearby granite formation. The cow hide they had tanned had been cut into a single strip of rawhide, which was then used to mark a 27-point star over the whole formaton. After setting up a stationary camera, the cast then ritualistically sacrificed P_____, who continued to smile and laugh during the entire process. The footage past the point where they began flensing his torso distorts almost irretrievably, repeated viewings have only been able to pick out several images. R__ stabbing J_____. K___and T___ painting an intricate symbol on the granite in blood. Y___, bare breasted and seizing in what appears to be religious ecstasy. P_____’s skin, hung up on a crude framework, flapping in a sudden breeze.The entirety of the cast staring at a single spot in the camera lens.

 

The cast was found dead, having attempted to flense their own skin off. The only survivor, oddly enough, was  P_____. The actor was flown to a nearby hospital where he was put into a medically-induced coma. His body lingers on, despite repeated rejection of tissue donations. His family is currently fighting a legal battle to withdraw life support.

 

This footage was compiled as evidence and promptly shelved after the trial. Do not reproduce.

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Vanishing in Paradise

Marine Queen cruise lines no longer offer singles discount packages.

In April of 1983, Beverly Hannigan boarded the St. Marie, crown jewel of the MQ cruise ships. She was taking part in a promotion that had been advertised at her local mall for single women age 30-50. Her last recorded whereabouts were at the ship’s pharmacy, where she bought a small bottle of Midol and a pack of travel tissues. At approximately 15:00 hours, the ship made a scheduled stop at a small island off Trinidad. Beverly was spotted on the gangplank. When the ship departed six hours later, Beverly was not on board.

During the eighties, Marine Queen cruise ships would run regular singles discount promotions every year. Ships running the promotion had the “get lei’d” board: passengers were given small plastic leis and encouraged to loop them over a peg on the board if they were interested in being matched up on the ship. The leis were not issued to male passengers.

Marla Davis checked onto the Marine Queen 2 to be close to her grandchildren. She allowed herself to be classified as single in order to obtain the discount.

Her grandchildren were frolicking in the pool when the ship announced a singles-only stop on a nearby island, promising romantic sights and a chance to mingle. While Marla Davis, a widow of thirty years, was not interested in romance, she had tired of the ship’s scenery.

The island they moored at was approximately 80km off the coast of Venezuela. The ship did not announce its name. Marla partook in a guided tour of the island’s interior, which involved hiking up to the island’s dormant volcano. She took note of various couples breaking away from the tour and walking to the lowlands, between large shrubs that grew in otherwise bare volcanic soil. After a few hours, the guide called for a return to the ship. Out of concern for her fellow passengers, Marla looked behind the group as they hiked down the mountain to see if they left any stragglers.

The bushes were retreating down the slope.

Marla attempted to bring it to the attention of the tour guide, but was brushed off. The group that boarded the ship was fewer in number than the one that had disembarked onto the island. When she brought it up to a ship official, they assured her that many people leave the cruise ship by choice and would find alternative transport back to the United States. When pressed for names, the officials refused on the ground of customer confidentiality. The island at the coordinates described by Ms. Davis is currently designated as “uninhabited”  by the Venezuelan government.

Statistics for cruise ship disappearances are hard to quantify. The cruise lines have a vested interest in not releasing information that would make the company look bad. Often this leads to tragedy, as authorities are notified long past the point where they could have prevented an incident. In one such case, businessman Justin Borland lost his footing and fell from the deck of the Paradiso. He was not wearing a life vest. Fellow passengers witnessed the fall, but the ship’s guard could not be coaxed to the deck until Borland was already a speck on the horizon. Rather than send a longboat to the rescue, ship’s authorities assured the passengers they would call the coast guard. Which they did. Sixteen hours after the fact. The cruise line which operates the Paradiso denies this account, alleging that Borland was drunk and already beneath the waves when the ship’s security responded.

Shawn and Viola di Martino were not on a singles cruise. Their travel agent booked them on the Triton for their fifth anniversary. While on board, they made friends with a young woman named Stephanie Moore, who was there as the caretaker of her great-aunt. On July 3rd, 1987, Viola di Martino went missing.

The boat had not moored anywhere recently, so her husband assumed she had gotten lost on the way to the pool. However, when he questioned the pool staff they were not only unhelpful but belligerent as questioning went on. They alleged Viola had never been on-deck and had probably lied about where she was going. When Shawn produced testimony from other passengers that had seen her on that very deck, they accused him of not being her husband at all, but an obsessed stalker. Shawn gave up on the pool staff and contacted ship security. They assured him that Viola was probably just off on her own, and suggested he go back to their cabin and wait. Shawn refused. Viola was diabetic, he explained, and long overdue for her insulin shot.

It was around this point that Stephanie Moore told her aunt that she was going to the bathroom. The aunt spent the rest of the night unattended when Stephanie did not return. Ship security found her sobbing alone in her room, having soiled herself during the night. As she was suffering from mild dementia, she thought Stephanie had left her alone to punish her.

After six sleepless hours, the ship’s security called Shawn di Martino to the medical center. They hastily explained that they had mistaken Viola for another passenger and had detained her for drunk and disorderly behavior. In the interim, Viola had slipped into a diabetic coma. There were unexplained restraint marks on her wrists and ankles. The ship’s staff told Shawn he had no legal recourse and dropped the couple off at the nearest port. Despite attaining emergency medical treatment, Viola never regained consciousness. Stephanie Moore has not been seen since.

In 1990, the Marine Queen cruise line was brought into a class-action suit by the passengers of the Fruite Royale, alleging major hygiene lapses among other accusations. 208 of the 500 passengers had contracted herpes through unknown means, though a pot of Chicken Marbella contained traces of the disease. The cruise line attempted to settle out of court, but withdrew the offer at the last minute. The company was forced to volunteer 3 of its fifteen cruise ships for inspection, but did not pay any restitution to the passengers as per the ruling. The three ships passed inspection.

In September of 1992, Calvin Wallis and a friend were vacationing in Barbados when they were approached by a white woman. She bore signs of recent abuse and walked with a limp. She was improperly dressed for such a cool night, and both men described her makeup as garish.

The woman identified herself as Beverly Hannigan and begged the two men to help her. Before she could tell them more, two men came up from the bungalows lining the beach and collected her, dismissing her claims as the rambling of a drug addict. They shepherded her off the beach. Though Calvin went to Barbadian police, nothing more has come of it.

The Marine Queen cruise line operates to this day and has expanded its fleet from fifteen to twenty ships.

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The Borges Enigma

Torque, Or the Kingdom of Luceria and the Search for the Absolute Center, does not exist. Purported to be a lost work of the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges, it is not cited in any catalogue and has never been beheld firsthand by any living source. The sole reference to this work comes from a review by one Chandler Robert Means, who left the typed review on his desk and then promptly disappeared. Means was the book reviewer for Damned Yankee, a now-defunct New York publication. The review spans over two thousand words, nearly four times the allotted wordspace for Means’ column. Why he chose to review the book so expansively, and the nature behind the review’s subject, are lost to time. His coworkers did not observe Means entering or exiting the building, and took the overlong review of a fictitious book as a creative resignation letter.

The contents of the review are thus: Means summarizes the career of Borges, noting a fondness of his earlier works but chastising the wordiness of this book. Torque is written as being nearly 2500 pages. Borges, it should be noted, was primarily a writer of short fiction. Means spares a few words for the cover design, chiding the “low-rent Aubrey Beardsley” that covered the book with an irritating floral scroll.

The summary of the book runs thusly:

Torque, or the main narrative of the book, follows Sigmund Frey on a voyage aboard the fastest known ship in the universe. He is undertaking a journey to Torque, a planet supposedly in the exact center of the universe. Sigmund takes time out to muse on the meaning and origin of his own name in Nordic myth as well as the concept of the hero’s journey, both recurring subjects of Borges. After an altercation with a meteor that appears to bear the face of an old man, Sigmund takes up a novel he found on the ship. Thus begins the second plot of the novel:

The book Sigmund reads concerns the kingdom of Luceria, and the exploits of a knight also named Sigmund. The kingdom has entered into an era of unprecedented peace, and so there has been little room for spiritual growth. The minstrels of the court run dry of material. Historians are reduced to re-recording accounts that have already been committed to print. The king of Luceria charges Sigmund with finding the exact center of the kingdom, alleging that this will bring the glory so lacking in his reign. Sigmund is ambivalent, but relents after he meets with the king’s daughter, a woman so beautiful she must remain veiled at all times. She promises Sigmund her hand if he completes the task, and so he agrees. The next day he rides along the beam of his compass, ignoring roads and thoroughfares to travel in a straight line. After changing horses twice, he reaches a crumbling ruin occupied by an old man. The old man claims the ruins were the first castle of Luceria, and he the first king of Luceria. The princess is not the king’s daughter, but the old man’s, stolen during his defeat. When Sigmund asks after the center of the kingdom, the old man leads him to an iron door which he unlocks with a key that is shaped like a sword.

Through the door he finds yet another country, this one shining brighter than Luceria. Sigmund examines the portal and finds that things that should rightly exist on the other side of the door, such as the wall of the castle, do not. The old man tells him that the country is the “inner” Luceria, and that if he is to find the center, he must ride through. Seeing little other choice, Sigmund does. He follows his compass in a straight line until he comes to another door, which opens to reveal another impossible country. He does this innumerable times, and slowly comes to realize two things: that Luceria bears the same root as the name Lucifer, and that he is in fact in hell, dispatched by Satan in the guise of the king’s beautiful daughter.

Sigmund Frey reflects on the book’s parallel to his own situation, realizing that his own quest is likewise doomed to failure. For if the universe is truly infinite, consisting of an infinite number of circles, then every point is the center of the universe. He also muses on the possibility that the book was included as an act of sabotage, intended to demoralize him from his journey’s goal.

The nesting of narratives, the meta-narrative, and the geometry of infinity are all favorite subjects of Borges. But no record of the novel exists anywhere but in the review.

Means ends the unusually lengthy review with a complaint that the book ends abruptly, without so much as a philosophical conclusion, let alone a satisfying narrative climax.

The existence of the review as a fond tribute to the author is ponderable. Borges himself was known to review books that did not exist, and his use of the meta-narrative to show fiction’s effect on real life and vice-versa is well observed. The plot appears to borrow heavily from several of his more well-known short stories, the most glaring of which is The Library of Babylon and its description of infinity as a circle. But the question remains why Means would choose such a subject for his last review. What was his intent? Where did he go? And what was his ultimate fate?

Means was never seen again. The review currently rests in the collection of one Reginald Lucero, the former owner of the Damned Yankee. Never appearing in print, the review serves only as Means’ epitaph, one last enigma for an enigmatic man.

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A Portrait of the Leith Family

[John Alan Leith. Silver gelatin print, taken by a Zeiss Ikon camera. Leith poses with five business associates, cigar held up to his mouth. Leith does not look directly at the camera, but at a focal point to the left]

John Leith made his fortune in oil. He quickly became known for his business tactics of sinking a massive amount of money into a well and then selling it at what appeared to be the zenith of its production. Buyers would be astonished to find that not only were the wells tapped out, but that the yields had been inflated on paper.

Leith was a fixture at gentleman’s clubs and social events. He bragged of touring the world and going on frequent safaris, though his escapades were easily debunked due to his complete lack of geographical knowledge. When Leith built Montbello, the 120-room house in the Catskills, he populated it with hunting trophies he purchased overseas.

[The Ladies’ Auxiliary, group photo. Silver gelatin print, taken by a Kodak “brownie” camera. Margaret Cornelia Van Allan stands seventh from the right, third row. She is wearing an empire-waist gown with a frilled lace collar capped by a pearl pin, and her hair is loosely marcelled. Margaret does not smile at the camera, only squints as if caught between expressions.]

Margaret Leith was almost 30 years her husband’s junior. The decade between their union and the birth of their first son led to gossip about her inability to produce an heir. Whispers abounded about Leith’s infidelity, unspeakable illnesses caught in his youth rendering him sterile, or even Margaret’s own illness. Whatever the cause, Margaret produced only two children and then retired from motherhood, choosing instead to busy herself with various goodwill societies. When John Leith died in 1954 of a stroke, he left her several business debts that ate into what little personal wealth she had left. Margaret set up a trust with an oddly vague purpose: “to maintain the household.” The named trustee was Abigail Reyes.

[A candid moment: Margaret Leith, mouth open, hand pointing to a place somewhere out of the frame. Abigail Reyes, in a white headscarf and maid outfit, is nearly invisible due to the poor exposure of the film. A penciled message on back proclaims this photo the work of John Alan Leith, jr. This is the only known photo of Reyes.]

Abigail Reyes had been born in a small village outside of Manila. Her parents sold her to the Leith household with the understanding that she would get an American education. Abigail never set foot back in the Philippines, never learned English above a sixth-grade level. Associates of the prickly Margaret vouched that the maid was the closest thing she had to a friend. Indeed, something deeper seemed to bind them together. Even after dismissing most of the house staff due to lack of funds, Margaret retained Abigail at cost. Reyes would outlive most of the Leith family, dying in 1989 in a hospice.

[Black and white, tinted by hand. Taken with an Argoflex. John Alan Leith and son both shoulder rifles that would never be fired. John jr wears a coonskin cap and a rawhide jacket two sizes too large for him. Beneath a smattering of freckles, his smile is cocky.]

John jr. always expected to come into wealth on the day he reached adulthood. It was often said that he was the biggest casualty of John sr’s lies, for he was the only family member who believed them. After an idyllic youth filled with surprise gifts and long holidays, John jr. found that his 18-year vacation was funded by his father raiding the inheritance set up by his maternal grandfather. Dreams of living the high life in Monte Carlo and other such exotic locations evaporated, and John jr. found himself living at home well past thirty. After several ill-advised business ventures, John jr. died running his cherry-red mustang into an embankment. His death was ruled a traffic accident, though absence of brake marks belied that.

[The first color print, taken with a handheld Kodak. Maretta Jane Leith sits atop a Shetland pony in jumping gear. Maretta sticks her tongue out at the photographer. The buttons on her red hunting jacket are unbuttoned.]

It was always said that what little love remained in Margaret Leith was squeezed out in her second birth. Maretta was a rebellious second child. Ignored by a father who favored his only son, and shunned by a mother who palmed her off on a revolving series of nannies, Maretta was the most ambitious of the Leiths. From an early age she set her hopes on Olympic competition. Her father indulged her by building a show-jumping arena and purchasing a number of horses for her. However, her career was cut short by a pelvic fracture at fifteen. Like her brother, Maretta turned her hand to a series of unsuccessful bids to reclaim the Leith fortune, increasingly stymied by her mother spending all available cash for the upkeep of the Montbello house. Ironically enough, Maretta had purchased IBM stocks that, had she not died of cirrhosis of the liver at 45, might have replenished all her money and more.

[Montbello. Taken by a professional photographer for a magazine spread that never materialized, the photograph captures the house in its most endearing light. The architecture is based on French chateau style, with extensive manicured lawns and a carriage house just visible beyond the side of the house.]

Montbello’s future was uncertain. Margaret Leith had outlived both of her children, but not her husband’s debt. After Margaret was given a city funeral at the Leith family plot, Abigail Reyes retired to live a life of quiet anonymity in the Los Angeles suburbs. After her departure, she left a cryptic note reading, “all this and no more.”

Executors of the Leith estate found little of value in the late John sr’s paperwork. Forged checks, doctored bank balances, and a birth certificate of Margaret Helen Leith, a stillborn from the early days of their marriage. The furnishings and architecture of the house, save for a few repairs, still held value. An estate sale was in the works. However, two hurdles remained before the sale could be complete. The first was more minor: the house had an odor that would not go away no matter how they cleaned. The second was an architectural error: one room had a wall far thicker than normal. It was the maid’s quarters.

Examination of the wall found a loose patch of wallpaper. When peeled up, it disclosed not bare wall, but a door.

[Taken by a police camera. The wide shot completely discloses the metal cot and crude toilet structure in the corner of the room. The ceiling, glimpsed in the upper-right corner, is abnormally low. The cot holds a woman. She has been shackled at her wrists to the bed and wears a crude rope harness. Her unkempt hair and long fingernails speak to a long-term imprisonment. Though she has been dead for some time, the  drawn nature of her flesh tells that she died not from any illness, but dehydration. She wears a pinafore in a child’s size, one that barely fits her stunted frame. Closing the neck is Margaret Leith’s pearl pin.]

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The Plainview Fiasco

April 1, 1991. Hundreds descend onto Plainview, Nebraska for a musical show that would rival Woodstock. Indie acts like Moxy Fruvous, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur jr. would take the stage alongside classic favorites The Misfits and Neil Young. The venue was a hog farm 20 miles from the center of town. Rather than a stage, the performance area was marked out on bare ground. People trampled over fields and cut across fences to swarm the stage.

The projected start of the concert was high noon. At two o’clock, the crowd became restless. A nervous young roadie came to the microphone set up in the middle of the field to reassure the crowd that the first act had hit traffic and would be a while longer. Three pm came and went. Beach balls were passed around atop the concert-goers heads. What scarce shade existed became monopolized. The young man took the microphone a third and fourth time to reassure the crowd that the first act was not long for the wait. Four o’clock came.

…and nothing happened.

The Plainview fiasco was the brainchild of Brett “Boomer” Howard and Todd Bauer, the DJ’s behind Lincoln’s“Boomer and Bauer Flower Power Hour.” Despondent over the state of current music, the DJs began a running joke of what the worst concert ever would be. The acts were comprised of everything they hated in modern music, peppered with the sacred cows of yesteryear. The venue would be worse than Woodstock. No food or water vendors. No public bathrooms. No law enforcement. And, most importantly, no musical acts.

Despite several police investigations, authorities were never able to determine who lit the first flare. As five o’clock ticked on, the bored crowd became restless. The backstage area, which was basically a series of sheets hung on a frame, showed no sign of movement. There were grumblings in the crowd about setting fire to the sheets, to hurry out the musicians. Someone produced flares from an automobile emergency kit and lit one.

An important thing to remember about farming any kind of livestock is that it produces vast amounts of waste product that is difficult to dispose of sanitarily. As was common at the time, hog waste on the farm was stored in a “lagoon,” a plastic-lined structure over two stories tall that could hold thousands of gallons of waste.

An important thing to remember about storing pig waste is that it tends to produce pockets of highly flammable methane.

The first flare was tossed onto the stage. A roadie(really one of the crew members of the Boomer and Bauer show) hastily retrieved it before it could set the sheets on fire. As a more senior member of staff took stage to appease the crowd, a second flare whizzed over his head. The crowd began rioting in earnest. Those who brought chairs threw them, those who had lighters lit them. And somewhere during the melee a third lit flare made its way into the lagoon.

The resulting explosion deafened anyone within a 20-meter range. The explosion did not kill anybody. However, it did set the waste on fire. And as the concert-goers rioted, gallons of burning pig offal rained down on the people below.

When discussing concerts in disaster terms, Altamont, Woodstock ‘99, and Riverport are often held up as the epitome of misfortune. However, all of these are examples of very human error. The Plainview riot stands apart for the sheer bizarre nature of its disaster.

Second- and third-degree burns along with inhalation of waste fumes comprised the bulk of the medical emergencies from the concert. The fumes from stored pig waste are so noxious that many a fallen itinerant worker has survived drowning only to be overcome by the mixture of methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide lingering at surface height. Strains of Bifidobacterium found in the pig waste complicated even the most mundane of injuries. Once rioting in disappointment, now the concert goers fled to escape the fiery waste raining down on them.

Perhaps the biggest key players in the fiasco, Boomer and Bauer, were in scarce supply that day. The crew confirmed their presence backstage, giggling at every new disappointment. Bauer had been drafting a new announcement that the bathrooms were indefinitely closed when the explosion occurred. The security staff attempted to get them to safety, only to lose them in the melee. Whether they were recognized as the authors of all the misfortune or just unfortunate victims of circumstance, we can say definitively that the radio show hosts were present for at least the first half of the riot. A crew member-cum-roadie recalls seeing Boomer swallowed up by the mass of panicking people. As the waste silo burned, the spell broke and the attendees scattered, trampling the farm in all directions in a bid for freedom. A few found the road and sought medical attention. Some found the feeder pond and attempted to wash off the fecal matter, leading the EPA to condemn the water as undrinkable. A third faction ran deeper into the farm, towards the facilities.

Numerous theories, of course, abound concerning the whereabouts of Brett Howard and Todd Bauer. Most revolve around their wish not to be sued for the prank. Stripping off their clothes and fleeing with the concert-goers may have been a logical choice. And, in the panicked dark, they might have broken contact with each other and gotten lost.

What were they thinking, stranded amidst the chaos they had caused? Were they still laughing? Or were they silent with the fear that they might be recognized? When they could not locate the radio station’s vehicles in the dark, did they flee sensibly to the road? Or were they packed into the throng headed to the farm’s interior?

The facts as they stand: the crowd that blundered further into the farm split into two crowds. One followed the retaining fence and found the barn where 234 fully grown American Yorkshire pigs slept. The other went away, to another waste silo. There was a mass of trampled footprints on the ground around one, and a single, muddy step on the maintenance ladder. That’s all.

The town of Plainview has tried its best to forget the concert. The emergence of Woodstock ‘94 three years later helped bury the unflattering memory. Swinton’s hog farm, where the concert almost took place, has since been zoned for residential housing. And Brett Howard and Todd Bauer have not been seen in public since that night.

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The Climbing Diary of Paul Tassel

On August 12, three amateur mountaineers attempted ascent of K2’s notorious north ridge. What follows is a series of excepts from the diary of Paul Tassel, the only party member to survive long enough to make contact with society again.

 

[Note: the pages leading up to the ascent itself have been omitted for brevity’s sake]

Aug. 12

Cheated base weight by leaving the stove, packing a single-wall tent. Dane says I’m playing a fool’s game, but the extra pounds mean a lot. Dave’s already struggling in the snow, and we didn’t get an alpine start so he’s probably having a harder time than he needs to.

Later

Fuck. Cache is torn open. Something got at it. Dave says it’s a Lynx, but I don’t think they’re around here. We stocked up as best we could. So much for less weight. I took the water. Dave’s low in the powder already.

Aug. 13

Iceman found.

Aug. 14.

I can’t believe it. I can look over the pictures and I still can’t believe I was so close to a piece of history. We found a fucking mummy! This is just fucking magic. This is why I got into climbing.

I didn’t even know they made mummies around here. He’s a little less dignified than the Egyptian mummies, all he has is this furry pouch that makes it look like he has fluffy grey pubes. Dane nearly died laughing.

I wonder who he was, why they left him up here to die. His skull’s split and his face looks like he’s screaming in fear, maybe we’ve got the world’s oldest cold case file (ha) He must’ve been somebody important, I heard they only tattooed the important people. In the places where he isn’t yellow leather, he’s dark blue. I can’t imagine all the needle-pricks that went into making that. I feel almost bad for posing with him like he’s a cardboard cutout, but when the hell are we ever going to get a chance like this again? We planted a flag by him, promised we’d be back for him later. Don’t worry, iceman. One way or another, you’re getting off this mountain.

Aug. 15

We left the iceman and ascended. Dave even waved bye to it, I think he was the one who posed him like he was scratching his balls. Thank god those pictures aren’t on Dane’s Nikon or we’d have every scientist in the world after us.

Good start. The pack’s nice and hard.

Aug. 16

Good weather. We’re late in the season, but we made up for it.

Aug. 17

We haven’t seen the ropes yet. Dave didn’t want to use someone else’s system, wanted to man his way over the mountain I guess. We rightly convinced him it would be suicide.

We should have seen them by now.  

Aug. 18

no

Later

We found him again. It’s impossible. But there he is. The red flag we planted. The cache we left at his feet.

Dane is looking at the route map those Canadians gave us. Dave’s just kicking snow. Goddamn, how did this even happen? Did we double back somehow?

Aug. 19

We tried descending. I got so dizzy I thought I was going to fall down. Couldn’t tell down from up, anyway. Dane puked on himself because he didn’t know which way to heave. We stopped trying.

Aug. 23

We’re back. The wrapper I ripped is still ripped, in the same place.I threw it away, watched the wind take it.

Aug. 24

We tried descending. Vertigo. Went back up.

Aug. 27

We’re back. The wrapper I ripped is still ripped, in the same place. Someone must be fucking with us.

Sept. 1

It’s my sister’s birthday today. We’re back at the fucking cache. I hope she’s eating better than us.

Sept. 3

We’re back. WHERE ARE THE FUCKING ROPES?

Later

I didn’t know he was going to do it. This diary will be proof. I didn’t think Dave was that angry. Me and Dane were in our tents and we heard Dave shout. The iceman didn’t make a noise when Dave rolled him off the mountain, but he made his mark. On Dave. Dane’s treating it now. Looks nasty. Serves him right. We’re all angry, but that dude was a chunk of history.

Sept. 10

We made it we made it, jesus christ we made it. I didn’t want to write anything just incase.

Dave’s not doing too well. Thought it was AMS until I saw his hand. Dane’s globbing on the neosporin but we really need to get him to a hospital.

It’s not like we’re doing any better. We passed the cache by without taking anything. We’ve been climbing for days on dwindling supplies. God, I hope we summit soon.

Sept. 11

The second we hit Eagle’s Nest a storm blew up. Dave’s incoherent. We’re all bunking in the same tent to try to keep him warm, but you can see it in his eyes. He’s almost gone. We needed the time we’ll lose to this storm.

Sept. 12

Dave keeps asking me if I have any marshmallows left. I think he thinks we’re back on Mt. Josephine. My 15th birthday. I never asked for presents, I always wanted to go places. I take back my birthday request. As a special gift to me, can my best friend not fucking die?

Sept. 13

oh jesus god no

Later

i can’t

Later

Dave stood up for the first time in days. His hand was swollen to the size of his foot. He started laughing, saying “I can’t believe it’s over. The sun feels so good on my skin.” God. It was still coming down in droves. Dave ran out before we could grab him, goddamn hands were so cold I could barely open them, shed his coat and a pair of pants as he did. He tore the zipper and ran out. Laughing. God, he was laughing. What am I going to tell his mom?

Later

The storm died down an hour after it took Dave. Of fucking course. Dane went left and I went right. Dave was so crazy he probably went right over the edge, but I wasn’t going to say it. We needed to look.

I wasn’t gone that long when Dane bowled me over, scared to shit. I asked what he was running from. He told me he’d found some rocks he couldn’t stop staring at, didn’t know why he couldn’t. After a minute he realized that someone was lying on the rocks. Someone the exact same color and texture of the rocks, lying perfectly still. He was so scared I couldn’t get anything else out of him. God, don’t take him away too.

Sept. 14

Neither of us will admit it, but we’ve stopped looking for Dave. Dane said it was best to go on, if we tried to go down we’d just get dizzy again. I’m more afraid of finding Dave’s body, but I didn’t say that.

Sept. 16

why didn’t we tie ourselves together why didn’t i tie us together you’d think after we lost dave i would’ve thought that but i’m an idiot.

Later

God, I have to put this down. I don’t know if anyone but me will read this diary, ever, but I have to put down what happened. Maybe people will think I went nuts and killed both my friends. Trust me, if I had done that, the next person on my kill list is holding the pencil.

He was right in front of me. He was putting up our ski poles to make a support system. Safety first. I was just checking the fisherman’s knot on my pack i swear i only looked away for a second and he screamed god i’ve never heard him scream like that and he was gone but the scream just went on and on

Later

Okay, I can finish this. I went to the edge. The vertigo was back, but I went to my hands and knees and went all the way up to it. I didn’t care if i fell too, i had to see if i could see him. If the scream was anything to go by, he fell for half an hour. I don’t know how that’s possible. It isn’t possible. None of this is.

I’m alone.

Sept. 19

I can’t see the point anymore. I can’t bring their bodies back to their families. I can’t bring closure.

Sept. 27

It’s my fault. It was my birthday. “Let’s go climbing,” I said, “somewhere hard.” Asshole. God.

October? 3?

On my 18th, we went to Moose Mountain. Didn’t plan. Didn’t tell the folks. Just threw some things in the car and left in the middle of the night. I remember [personal anecdote omitted by request of the deceased’s family.]

And I was the one who got hurt. They carried me down the mountain, got ice for my ankle at the Hardee’s. Why couldn’t that happen this time? It’s my fault. It’s all my fault.

October 10 15 20?

White. White. [note: the following 2 pages contained nothing but the word “white” repeated ad nauseum.]

Undated entry

I’m going up. It’s all I can do.

Undated entry

My fingers are black.

Undated entry

I think the world is a snowglobe and god’s shake shaking it up.

Undated entry

am i up or down? walking? a level path to the sky. on either side a drop to hell

Undated entry

not hungry. cold. not cold. numb. not numb. dumb. dumb dumb dumb.

Undated entry

Wh ere ism y ic ema nf rie nd???

Undated entry

i saw them. hoods. the mountain finally fucking came out to kill me. i scream as long as dana did.

 

[Paul Tassel died shortly after this final entry. The only information on the climb comes from this journal, as the digital camera was presumably lost along with Dana Holt’s body. Neither Dana nor David’s bodies have been sighted by subsequent climbers. The “iceman” mummy has not been recovered.]

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