[Fiction] Journal Entry 3
March 15, 2016. Late morning.
Weird day so far.
I got up with the sunrise, as has become my custom, and shuffled downstairs to the kitchen. I put on some coffee and connected my phone to the wireless speaker Jackie’d left on top of the microwave. I let the coffee percolate to Ray Charles’ Mess Around, unpacking the remainder of our dishes and mugs and storing them in the walnut cupboards in the process. We might actually keep those. The dark wood is alluring and the kitchen is spacious. The window looks out onto the front of the house, facing south, across our front porch to the head of the driveway. I sipped in silence as I surveyed Jackie’s dark blue Subaru and the rented van we’d gotten for the move. We’d need to return it soon, and I’d have to finally get a car.
The first thing I noticed was the lack of disturbance in the mud at the edge of the graveled drive, which relaxed me quite a bit. My attention was forced away, though, as my stomach growled at my sleuthing. Jackie had made the miles-long trek to Wal-Mart yesterday, so I popped a bagel in the toaster, set the timer for a few minutes, and continued my appraisal out the window. I surveyed the grounds for anything that could point toward who or what was screaming last night. The porch was bare: its faded, white face a blank canvas ready for an Adirondack chair or tasteful hammock. The three, wide steps which led down to the stepping-stone walkway to the driveway were equally barren. It was then I noticed a splash of color, out of place among the naturally mottled hues of early March.
Setting my cup down, I took the stairs two at a time, donning my slippers once back in the bedroom. I grabbed a hoodie and a beanie on my way out, Jackie’s even breathing behind me indicative of her burden-less slumber. I quietly but quickly made my way down the stairs, undid the chain, slid back the bolt, and pulled the heavy storm door open, pushing past the screen door and onto my new porch.
My eyes immediately locked onto the small, reddish-black splotch on the last stone, furthest from me and closest to the driveway. No prints or even a disturbed blade of grass indicated anything had come or went in the night.
I stepped carefully across the flat slabs, arriving at the last, crouching. The pool of liquid looked serene, glossy in the feeble morning daylight. It lacked the coppery odor of blood, but probing with a stick found it gelatinous and thick in a deeply unsettling way. Like silly putty, almost, it seemed to leave no trace of wetness or absorption, merely laying atop the stone as a singular mass. It reminded me very much of a blood clot one might see in a tissue after blowing a bloody nose, and was the same, dark color. I snapped a few photos with my Samsung, and returned to the house.
When Jackie came down a while later, I showed her the photos on my phone, and she hustled upstairs to put on some pants. Her naked butt looked good in her hurry, my Knicks t-shirt her only concealment. She came back down in some sweatpants and shoes, and I led her to the spot.
The splotch, of course, was gone.
We puzzled over its disappearance. I’ve chalked it up to evaporation — it got warm pretty quick this morning, it makes sense to me it would have dried up. Or maybe an animal came along and lapped it up, a bird or a rabbit. I haven’t noticed any robins or squirrels or anything, but it’s possible. I’m still not sure at all what it was, but I wager it was animal vomit of some kind. Maybe one of the critters has tuberculosis or something, an animal version of consumption. Either way, not much to worry about, just a rather intriguing morning given our weird experience last night. The local fauna are giving us all we can handle I guess. It’s almost 10:30 now, so I’m about to head off to town to grab some floodlights and paint. I’ll stop by the neighbors’ house on the way home.
Cable guy in the driveway now. Write later.
About 6:00 PM
After our morning surprise, things were pretty steady today. I left off with my departure so let’s start there. I think it’s important to nail down the geography of the place though, so let me try my hand at explaining exactly where the hell we live:
So our house sits at the end of a long driveway, off a county road, CR 9, that runs from East to West, and we’re on the western edge of town. We’re nestled at the mouth of a valley formed by two peaks on the West side, so we’re pretty much right at the base of both mountains. The northern one is Sundance Hill, named for Sundance Hill Road that branches off CR 9 to the west of us, and goes basically up to heaven. In the winter, the Subaru would need chains to make it very far at all up the hill. I’ll have to get a 4x4 when we do get a new car, just to be safe. The only reason I care is because we do have some neighbors who live on the mountain and if we’re to really settle in here it’s probably in our best interest to make friends, which might require some winter expeditions.
Just south of Sundance is the more heavily forested Weiser’s Peak, which sits right along CR 9 and is the closer of the two to our home. CR 9 goes about halfway up the mountain before sloping down its southwestern edge, headed off away from us to Buffalo and beyond. Nobody lives on the hill, but according to our realtor, they used to. Apparently the ground wasn’t suitable for foundation-laying, and back in the ‘50’s some families were forced down off the mountain after a gas explosion. She didn’t offer specifics.
When I left my driveway this morning, I headed east, leaving the twin mounds of earth behind me as I made my way into town. Grosvenor’s Corners is quaint, just a few blocks of typical small-town businesses: a diner, another diner, a liquor store, another liquor store, a library, a gas station, and so on. There was a cute little book store on the road into town I made note of, and the cable company was situated on the East side of town, past the small high school. All told, the little hamlet was home to about 600 people.
I grabbed some floodlights and a few motion-sensing units from the hardware store, and shot the shit with the guy about some paint samples. I bought some materials to help us lay the groundwork, including some scrapers and primer, but decided to just take the samples back so Jackie could get a look at them before we committed. We’re looking at different whites and blues, light colors for the interiors. The outside of the house will be a beast, we haven’t even discussed it yet, but we’ll probably stick with white.
I ran by the diner and was surprised to find it mostly empty. A skeletal old man in a ragged tweed suit was sitting in a booth by himself in the far back of the place. His eyes were glossy, and I couldn’t tell if he was asleep or what. I introduced myself to the counterman, the owner-slash-frycook, Larry. I sipped another coffee, making two for the day, and asked him about the town and its inhabitants. He seemed distant, not very talkative. Must not be too fond of newcomers. I left him, said goodbye, and set out for home.
On the way back up Old Nine, as the locals call it, I spotted our nearest neighbors’ rusty mailbox at the food of an upward-sloping driveway. It looked like shit and I really didn’t want to, but before I knew it the Subaru had wheezed its way to the top of the incline, which leveled out into a gently winding drive. The dirt road ended in a small clearing of dirt and gravel, wedged between a large, yellow farmhouse, and an equally large, red barn-garage thing. There were no other vehicles in the driveway.
I parked and cut the engine, sitting in silence for a minute or two. Something didn’t feel right about the place, but I got out anyway. My faded black sneakers crunched the pebbles of the driveway as I circled around the front of the car and clambered up the short flight of steps onto the narrow front porch. The screen door before me hung off one hinge, and the screen itself was frayed in numerous places. The greenish door beneath had a drape pulled across the dusty, circular window, and when I knocked the glass rattled as if in a storm.
I slid my hands into my pockets and stepped back, foot propped on the screen door, set to smile once greeted. After another minute or so, I knocked again, harder. No answer.
Oh well, I figure I just caught them while they were out. It was a Saturday after all, so they were probably off running errands. I turned to go, when something caught my eye. A few feet along the porch a window, caked in dirt, was cracked open a few inches. The blinds were drawn inside, but it was the sill outside that drew me in. On the pane and dribbling down the side of the house was a blackish, viscous fluid, almost definitely the substance I found on the walkway this morning, but older, dry. Whatever poor thing was bleeding to death out here was bleeding on everyone’s house, at least.
A little surprised by my discovery, I stepped off the porch and back to the car, stopping to turn one last time as I did so. I still felt uneasy. Unsure of what it was that had me on edge, I got back in the car. Directly ahead, the wide barn door stood ajar. It had been closed when I pulled up.
I got back out of the car and cupped my hands around my mouth,
“Hey, neighbor! Anyone home? Just wanted to introduce myself, we just moved in up the street! I’m Shep’s nephew!” I waited a few moments, getting no response.
Had the door actually been open when I pulled up? Had someone snuck out while my back was to the barn? I still don’t know. But something had changed, subtly. The air felt heavier, and I swore I could hear a faint hum ringing in my ears. The closer I got to the barn door, the more pronounced it got. I don’t think it was a real sound, more like the air before a lightning storm — charged up, active somehow. Maybe I’m getting sick.
I didn’t want to trespass, so I gave one last, “I’ll stop by some other time!” Just in case, and drove off again.
Shortly after I got home, Scott arrived with the truck. We spent the day unpacking and are almost totally moved in now. I just showered and Jackie’s making dinner, it smells good. We have internet now, which is nice given that the cell services has all but disappeared. We had perfect service yesterday and we can barely maintain a signal for twenty minutes now. Maybe we’ll have to get the cable guy back out here and upgrade our package to include a landline. Maybe the satellites are just out of wack.
Tomorrow is a nice rest day, but Monday I’ll have to get car shopping. The nearest car dealership is like forty miles away, so that may be an all-day thing. I still need to get a quote for the driveway, and I’ll call the garbage man tomorrow too. Depending how I feel in the morning, I also want to see a doctor about that ringing in my ears.
Jackie’s calling — dinner’s ready. Pork chops!