Chapter: Finding the Path

Entry: Jul 6, 2007

"Consider, for instance, the realm of Philosophy. The ancient Greeks didn't consider someone 'educated' until well into their fifties, after following decades of rigorous training. What would those scholars say about our persistent lack of inner dialogue in modern times?"

– Dr. Amanda Fitzpatrick, Anthropologist

Days, weeks, months, all spiraled and coalesced into a miasma of conflicting signals and directions. Kyle awoke, confused an inexplicably dizzy, at a time long before the sun dared breach the darkness. In the sigil of memories lost, molded into shapeless phantoms, the spectre of Mr. Spizer hung still, menacing and cross.

That too, silenced itself, blown asunder like a wisp of lingering smoke.

It seemed Tammond Dale drank his fears and magnified them a thousand-fold. Alone in his room, there was no fear of death or monsters craving some bleak revenge. But Kyle knew otherwise. Those monsters were there, snaking between each grain of wood in the floor-joists, every spotty shadow spilled by the moonlight through his single bay-window. Were he so inclined, he could reach into any of those yawning voids, and withdraw sorrow or defeat—tangible things he'd come to understand.

This town, the stench and foulness of it, finally sparked an ember in his oblivious mind, sticking like a vicious thorn, a hangnail torn halfway across his cuticle, blood gushing from innocuous and common maladies such as blinking.

And yet, paradoxically, he felt safe within this looming maelstrom of curses and withering dreams, an impartial observer—meet the press: Kyle Cemtes, don't scuff the boots, folks. Some places, observers aren't wanted, activities weren't meant to be exposed or thwarted, and he'd found possibly the worst of the lot.

Tammond Dale. The first word was pure nonsense, possibly an explorer's name or a laughable misspelling, but the second? A long valley, in this case, protected by the shape of Craig's Hill, that place young couples went to push the boundaries of their youth, or others explored as a breathtaking vantage over the sleepy town. To Kyle, it was a jumble. He'd been plagued by nightmares since the first night in Tammond Dale, after unpacking his few boxes and filling his room with various toys, wind-up robots, books, and graphic novels—comics to everyone else.

All of it common. All of it mundane; expected from the most jaded streetwise punk, to distant, far-flung yokels stealing flashy magazines from trash at the local market, or flesh-magazines between their parents' mattress. Everybody did it. Every boy knew: this was youth, and nothing else.

Kyle was no better, or any worse, in this regard. His room was typical, boring even, from the perspective of anyone his age. Everyone had junk they wanted to share, some useless trash they'd picked up while exploring the ruins of an abandoned house or stolen from an improperly secured storage shed. Everyone had his or her personal treasure, meant to be shared, but like vacation photos, ultimately scorned; we all know, our antique doorknob from a gen-u-ine 1842 farmhouse was better.

Except Kyle had a real treasure, sitting on his table, scattered among a half-finished paper on Ostara, a hasty note begging Mr. Spizer to reconsider, and more than a few crusty dinner-plates, was a book older than any 1842 doorknob. Kyle didn't quite know what to make of it, but he possessed the diary of an actual resident of Old Town, complete with dreary summaries of commonplace experiences, and heartbreaking laments, some of which chilled his very soul and prompted ham-fisted tears.

Buried like a coffin, hidden under countless sheaves of paper, forgotten as the meaning of life, it moldered. Had Kyle accidentally tripped and lost the diary among the dust-bunnies lurking in the blackness between the floor and his bed, that may have ended everything before it started. But like any gracious providence, Dr. Spizer's assignment, one he rejected out of hand, prompted his memory.

Dr. Z, a real doctor, a Ph.D even, told him never to enter Adriana's house, though no other explanation was offered. Mr. Spizer, a jealous has-been, subtly demanded otherwise. Kyle could never produce a five-page essay, paper, or even chicken-scratches, based on the dubious history of Easter. So, who to believe? Who to trust? Could he really help a hopeless History student surpass months of terrible performance? Should he risk failing a class to avoid the rigors of researching an adopted pagan ritual?

Kyle wanted to shout, "No!" to all counts, but that was impossible. The wide, thin book, slumbering beneath Kyle's aborted attempts at a cohesive essay, drew in his emotions, latched into his mind. Subconsciously, he knew it rested there, awaiting analysis; yet the disturbing effigies twisting this lost Dale into a haunted dreamscape, full of Elder gods and seething madness, were ravenously opposed to everything that diary embodied. Why didn't anyone else feel uncomfortable, thoughts heavy with stress and suspicion?

If Kyle were of age, twenty-one if a day, he knew he'd drown his clamoring neurons in Maker's Mark whiskey, Glenfiddich scotch, or his father's favorite Wild Turkey bourbon, if only to addle his mind and escape the incessant scrabbling against his will. Awake or asleep, even after memories of dreams scatter to inaccessible realms beyond, those terrifying visions burned themselves into his psyche forever. Few remember their dreams, but nobody really forgets them, either. The worst parts were the elements scorched into his future, vague shapes and colors only decipherable while he slept.

Parts Rue, and beings irreducibly evil, sought Kyle's undoing. So far, they'd failed, and failed miserably, to mitigate the threat he represented. And even as they vied for control, he spied the square mound of Arin's diary under his imprecise papers, and immediately pushed through misdirecting and fragmented memories of that bound manuscript. He knew it obscured some damning clue, beyond the death of her parents, past the cracked bones of her sister, encoded within her suicide pact—the one that failed.

Then there was his own journal. The one he tried to chronicle details sickening and weird, esoteric and poignant. When was the last time he actually read it, instead of tearing it open and attacking with a chewed pen? Last week? Last month? Slow down, kid, you'll break something. Probably never. Journals were meant to be read later, years later when the rigors of age triggered nostalgia. Kyle was still very much a young man, writing more out of habit than with any intent to actually read the inane and possibly embarrassing drivel.

Things were different now, though. Everything felt false, fake, a waxy film slowly suffocating him and warping his perceptions. His journal, target of remembered dreams for these past few days, may reveal a path of escape.

If he could read it. He remembered writing in haste, barely holding the pen properly, scribbling even in the dark as if hounded by Cerberus.

Yeah, well nobody's perfect. He went over to his desk and pulled out its solitary drawer, and examined the battered and dog-eared thing. Yeah, that's encouraging. Well, it didn't matter. The essay wasn't going anywhere, and it wasn't quite bedtime; might as well kill time until drooping eyelids and nodding head forced him again into dreaded torpor.

For now, it was better to read, than to dream.

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