Chapter: Swallowed Whole

Entry: May 11, 2007

He follows so tenaciously,
he's there at every turn.
I only want to get away,
before I'm left to burn.

– Adriana Calloway

A dream, an image, each works its way into Kyle's brain as he sits waiting for some response from Jason aside from "Bring your flashlight, Scrub." Yeah, thanks asshole.

But raw carelessness isn't easy to ignore, and Kyle himself is far too worked-up to notice anything especially suspicious. Considering the surroundings, why not? A few broken desks, maybe an overturned memory or two, maybe a moldy book, who could ask, who would care?

Kyle didn't much care for sentimentality. Arin's story was definitely provoking, and had he time, he might even spend hours searching his soul for meaning among the dross, but for now, it only meant one simple thing: Jason found something. Now, the matter of worth of this mysterious find was still undetermined, but Kyle still roused himself with a coughing sigh, stirring up dust with each breath and movement. Damn place needs a maid. Maybe I'll send Mom down here, if Dad can spare her for a few weeks while this place gets nice and cleaned-up. Make a right archeological dig out of this worthless dump. Yeah, screw Dr. Z. Aside from the book, the place could burn down; nothing else of value could possibly exist in the tumbled refuse, not even for scavengers.

"Hey, fuck you!" he yells, hoping Jason can feel the sincerity in his voice. "I've had enough of your shit, man. I've got my flashlight, and I'll be down in a minute. Can't a guy read for a second without being disturbed?"

More mumbling. Seems like Jason heard him, and didn't much care for Kyle's summary. Of course, Kyle was already trumping across the creaky floor, uncaring for whatever he disturbed while forging through dust and worse, to the long forgotten stairway into an even more esoteric basement. And who puts a basement in an 1880's schoolhouse? Did they even have boilers back then? Jesus, I wish Dr. Z was here to explain some of this shit. But Jason was calling again, and that meant only one thing: he had to stomp down the rickety and impossibly weak stair-supports as he descended into the oddly brilliant dank.

"Hey kid, never thought I'd see ya again!"

"Stow it, jerkwad. I wuz readin'. What's so important?"

"Thanks for the gratitude, kid," said Jason, gesturing toward a somewhat unlikely corner of the pungent, drippy muck secluded beneath the stairway itself. "I think I found sumthin'. Not sure what, 'xactly, but it's sumthin'."

Kyle waved his beam idly toward Jason's voice. "Wha?" he wondered. "There isn't anything down here, you pirate. No treasure, no gold. What do you think this is, some kind of scavenger mission? Jesus. I got a book. Dr. Z will give us a camera for this; we can come back later. What the hell do you want?"

But Jason looked earnest, shined his own light into the dim for emphasis. "That," he said, "is what I mean." His diffused ember shined on a somewhat misshapen crossbeam, set into a wide, circular handle, which itself marked a door—of sorts.

Kyle almost backed away in terror. It wasn't merely a door, and it wasn't from his dreams, or memories, or anything recent or feasibly cogent. It was... shaped like nothing Kyle could identify. An hourglass? Embossed into a rather confusing illustration of revolting agony, as only Hell could describe? Kyle suppressed an urge to vomit, averting his gaze before coughing a question, "What the Hell is that?"

Jason looked confused. "What? That? I dunno. Pretty gross, huh?"

Gross was an understatement. Kyle grew up everywhere, seen everything. Bums on the street had presented him with dead pigeons, entrails falling loosely from their battered bodies, claiming to offer morsels for mere pennies on the dollar. A great bargain, sir! Even when walking down the street in seclusion, Kyle fended off these advances as Frank taught him: "Tell 'em your time-machine is full. Doesn't need any more fuel." Seemed likely enough. Crazy people weren't discriminating.

But this? Kyle backed away again, almost falling into a heap as he tripped over a long discarded two-by-four scattered by time and memory. It's a damned eye! "Who shapes a door like an Eye Manny? Who?"

"I dunno. Some creepy bastards, I'd guess. I been tryin' to open it, but no matter what I do, the damn thing just sits there. I poked it," he gestured with his finger, toward the retina with a sharp stabbing motion, and shrugged. "Nothing happened. Man, if anyone poked me innna eye, I'd punch 'em in the face!"

Kyle didn't doubt it. He also knew, somehow knew beyond any doubt, that the door Jason tried to open, admitted only specific souls. He couldn't explain it, and considering the circumstances, wasn't sure he wanted to try, but that door was something he understood, something he could grasp in his mind and answer. "I can open it," he said simply.

"Ok, Mr. Magic. Go ahead." Manny stepped back, sweeping low like a whipped slave, letting Kyle wander to the confusing spectacle, assuming, not unreasonably, that Kyle was making up shit, pulling his leg. Go ahead, Hot Shot. I dare ya.

Kyle went ahead. No poking, he just sat and assessed the scene, glaring back at the disembodied eye as it stared back into the inky nothingness broken only partially by their frenzied sweeps of light. He knew the answer, could feel it, as if his life depended on knowing what that eye meant. And yet, he was lost. Jason already poked it—the obvious solution—and yielded nothing, not even a truncated blink. It obviously wouldn't react to immature prodding, or even overt investigation. Something else was afoot, and Kyle, though he sensed the eye waited silently for his insight, paced helpless before the overwhelming scene.

"Shit!" he groaned. "This doesn't make any sense. You said you found something important, Manny!"

he chastised.

"What?" Jason responded, wounded pride seething. "Doesn't it look even a little suspicious, kid? An eye down here? An Eye?" he emphasized the last, ensuring no communication lost, no implication unheard. "Just what do you think this is, Kid? A carnival? That ain't right. A friggin' eye under a staircase. Tell me that don't go somewhere."

Yeah, it goes somewhere, Kyle thought, but I don't, and you don't, want to go there.

Another non-sequitur, and he couldn't explain. Hell, nobody could. He sighed, "Fine. Gimme a sec, wouldya?"

He didn't have to search long, and though possibly even contrived by legions, battalions of roaring simulacrum, Kyle relented. "C'mhere," he said. "Look."

Jason peered inquisitively at the unblinking eye. "What?" he asked.

Kyle rolled his eyes, isn't it obvious? "Look, I said!"

Manny looked. He shrugged. He didn't get it.

"God! You call me dense for not getting your curse bullshit. Look damn it!" he yelled. It's obvious, why doesn't he see it!?

"Kid, I don't know what you're gettin' at, but I just see the eye I poked before I got you down here."

Kyle growled and threw his arm toward the eye. "God damn, you're stupid!" he barked. "Look, over there." This time, his right arm rose toward the opposite side of the broken basement. Beyond the fallen timbers, past the masses of discarded bricks and dangerous pylons supporting the structure above them, lay another eye. The second, unlike the first, was closed, and presented two rather obvious latches both above and below, attached to invisible eyelids, practically begging for intervention.

Jason smirked, "I'll take the big one."

"Go ahead, dumbass," Kyle allowed. "If a beam fries somebody, it might as well be you."

"Yeah, thanks Scruff." Jason didn't care. Their path was obvious, and certainly guided, by the levers situated within the remote facade. Kyle had again, solved the puzzle while remaining oblivious to its meaning. Two eyes staring at themselves, one closed, one open? Jason didn't require a degree in psychology or anthropology to determine they were activating a trap. Then again, he didn't much care: the trap, obvious and sanguine, felt safe. Maybe something was meant to kill them later, but the eye was just an introduction. Jason could understand such a macabre necessity, though he mocked the scenario wordlessly.

"C'mon, I want to see where this thing goes," Kyle offered. He'd already situated himself at the lower eyelid, heaving down with all his strength, essentially throwing his entire weight into the bargain. Of course it didn't budge. Not until Jason wandered over and heaved upward, bracing his feet against the oddly solid dirt floor, shoulder pressed into the flat handle. He felt it struggling against Kyle's efforts, and his own, but such merely served an obligation. It would fall, and then, they'd have their adventure.

Just as God, or whomever, intended. Jason couldn't wait. Kyle groaned, tired and annoyed. He couldn't wait either, but his patience had faded considerably. Jason would steer this craft for now, he'd already found a diary and didn't care about anything else. As far as he was concerned, any further treasures were merely icing on an increasingly austere cake.

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