13 september 2005
Apparently one of the search engines has satellite maps now, and I was able to track down where we’d been the night before. I had difficulty finding the quarry, or whatever it was, where we saw the standing stones; but I did manage to retrace our steps enough to find the strange field. There was what appeared to be a service road running alongside the railroad at one end of the field, on the side opposite the lights, but what caught my attention were the two large black circles in the grain next to the service road.
I grabbed a notebook and wrote down the coordinates so I could find it again, and went to meet up with Rick and Charles. We cruised around, hung out at the park, basically just killed the day, until Jackie got off work. When we picked her up, I told them what I’d found, and they wanted to see for themselves. We went back to the house and I found the location again. The field, however, looked normal, or at least only slightly altered, with no sign of the marks.
“Are you sure it was here?” Rick asked.
“Yes! They were right there! Look, it even looks a little...off, in the picture.”
“I’m not seeing it.” We argued for a few minutes until I offered to just drive us there so we could check. Having nothing better to do, everyone else agreed, and we piled back into my car and headed out. It took about forty-five minutes, with us stopping for drinks on the way, before we got back to the field. It was after dark, and the fall fog was laying thick on the road. Thick enough that we actually missed the service road and had to turn around and head back. Once we found it, however, we pulled in slowly and watched out the side for any opening in the grain. It didn’t take long before we saw a dark space on the passenger side, and I pulled over.
“Shit, man,” Charles whined. “I dunno about this.”
“You’re gonna do this now?” Rick asked.
“I’m just...it looks pretty dark. Did anyone bring a flashlight?”
“I think I have one in the glove compartment,” I offered, looking to Jackie. She sighed and opened it, pulling out a small maglite. “Yeah, here we go.”
“Great. What do the rest of us use?”
“Are you guys always so prepared for these things?” Jackie asked.
“No, no,” I said, opening my door, “usually we’re also drunk.”
“How you’ve managed to pull this shit off for so long is beyond me. Matteson, you keep your distance.” With that, she stepped out of the car and pulled something out of her pocket. Holding it tight in her hand, she whispered something, and then blew on it. It was then I could see it was a crystal, and it was now glowing like some kind of torch.
“You gotta teach me how to do that!” Rick said, sidling up to her.
“You don’t have half the will for magic.”
“She’s not wrong,” Charles said, hugging close to her. I pushed the button on my flashlight a couple times, then smacked it until it turned on. When I caught up to the others, they were standing in the middle of a perfect circle, probably about thirty feet across, which had been burned into the field.
“So they...have a fire pit?” Rick offered. “Maybe they burn garbage here?”
“There’s no garbage here. Usually there’d be remnants of something.”
“Maybe they burned, I dunno, paper? Only?”
“Why would they have two of them?” I asked, pointing my flashlight at one side of the circle where it overlapped briefly with another, equally large and equally empty circle.
“Do you guys think this was aliens?” Charles asked. We all turned to look at him, and then Rick began to pinch the bridge of his nose. Jackie lowered her crystal and knelt down to touch the ground.
“No,” Jackie said, flatly. “There was magic here. I can feel it.”
“Would that be better?!” Rick yelled, throwing his arms in the air. “Would you sleep better at night thinking there were alien wizards visiting our farms?”
“At least they’d leave when they’re done,” Charles muttered.
“Can you tell us anything else about it?” I asked Jackie.
“No. Not really. It feels...the magic was recently performed, but it was very, very ancient magic.”
“Awesome. Love ancient magic. Nothing sinister about ancient magic burning giant holes in fields and then having them vanish from satellite pictures. You guys wanna see where this road leads? Maybe it’s related”
“Can I vote no?” Charles asked.
“You can vote whatever you want, but I’m driving.” He groaned and followed me back to the car alongside the others. Once Jackie’s light was out and the car was started, we pulled off into the fog. Once again, the radio went dead. We drove for a few minutes, slowly watching for anything else of note, until we came to a paved road. Ahead, the service road seemed to vanish into a garage. As there seemed little more to find that way, I turned and we followed the paved road around in a wide loop, riding along the edge of the farm, until we got back to where we’d entered the service road. I stopped and looked, and we saw the service road head off in the other direction.
“Please do!” Rick countered, leaning forward and patting my shoulder. I looked to Jackie.
“I’m off tomorrow,” she said with a shrug. I smiled and cut the wheel to head off down the dirt path.
12 September 2005
Rick, Charles, Jackie, and I were playing Rock Band at the house and talking about something better to do. Nothing good was happening at the local bars, there were no shows scheduled for the night, and none of us were due to be in early for any reason. We were an hour and a half in before Rick mentioned a lake he'd heard about down in Lawrence County that used to be a quarry. It wasn't safe to swim in, of course, but none of us had ever seen a quarry lake and decided looking for it was better than sitting around. Well, most of us decided that.
"This sounds like a terrible idea," Jackie said, putting on her jacket. "Someone is going to die."
"And yet, you're getting ready to go," I replied, tying my boots.
"Excuse me, I would remind you that I'm the hot girl that makes it to the end of the movie, and you're the token black guy." I put my hand to my chest in mock offense.
"Token?! This story is clearly about me."
"Yes, you're both very important people of color," Rick said, crossing his arms by the door, "can we go now?" As we all made our way to the car, Jackie leaned over to me.
"Why are all your friends white, anyway?" she whispered.
"Black folks have enough trouble with dead white people," I whispered back. "It's very hard to find any that want to go looking for them." She snorted and tried to stifle a laugh, and we all loaded into Alpha and set off.
We stopped in West Middlesex for smokes, drinks, and snacks, then turned down 551 and tried to make sense of Rick's vague, half-remembered directions. When that shallow well ran dry, I decided to just start looking for places where a quarry might be. By this time it was dark, and there was a light fog rolling in, so we took it slower on the unlit side roads to look for anything interesting. We were wandering for a little while before I noticed we were driving alongside a low ridge with a fence over it, that went on a good ways. I stopped and pointed it out, and we decided to try and find an entrance.
We followed the fence until it cut abruptly into the trees, but there was no road to take the same turn. I had to go on a bit further to find a road that went in that direction, then look for anything that may lead back to the fence. We finally found an abandoned dirt road, and I took it. As soon as I turned onto the road, the radio cut out, and I started fiddling with the volume to see what was going on with it. As we rounded a curve with low branches hanging over the road, we found ourselves confronted by two standing stones. I stopped the car and pulled my hand back from the radio as we all looked the stones over.
They were dark, probably ten feet tall and five feet wide, each with a red spiral engraved into it near the top. There were no other markings, no words or signs or anything to tell us what that spiral was supposed to mean. We discussed the possibility that it was some kind of corporate logo, but had to admit that those are usually paired with more information. There was no fence between the stones, but there was also no visibility as the fog was much thicker ahead than it was around us. With Charles balking and Jackie suggesting she was very uncomfortable going forward, I hesitantly agreed to turn around and head back.
Unfortunately, by this point we weren't entirely sure how to actually get back, and ended up driving around aimlessly for a little while longer until we spotted an access road next to some train tracks. Out of curiosity we turned down the road, and found ourselves quickly surrounded by a corn field. There were a couple openings in the grain near the beginning of the path, but it was too dark to see anything in them, and we kept on going. When we reached another road, we turned off and drove around to the front of the field where a large farmhouse stood. It looked empty, with broken Halloween decorations hanging in the trees and a single illuminated cross in the back yard. There were tombstones, not decorative ones but clearly real, near the cross, and a rusted and half-collapsed swing set nearby. It was clearly the house that went with the field, we'd all seen enough farms to recognize that, but the corn was perfectly maintained while the house didn't look like anyone had been there for decades and there was no sign of farm equipment. We stopped and stared at the house, and the radio kicked back on. The volume was all the way up, and the local rock station was just getting to the chorus for Metallica's "Enter Sandman."
I punched the gas as Jackie turned the volume down. Charles screamed. We found our way home, debating the whole way about whether or not to go back and check out that house or possibly the site of the standing stones. We hadn't come to a decision before I dropped the guys off at their places.
"You're going to do it, aren't you?" Jackie asked as we pulled up to the house.
"Yeah. You in?" She sat for a moment, then sighed.
"Tell me tomorrow what you have planned. I'll think about it."
10 August 2005
"You do this every day, huh?" Jackie asked over the music. "Two months, and I don't think I've seen you miss it more than once." I was beating up on the heavy punching bag hanging in the basement, and she was laying on my weight bench, reading.
"Mostly every day, yeah. Though people don't tend to hang out down here while I do."
"I can't imagine Lori would miss it on days she's here. Not if you always do it shirtless."
"She...doesn't like the idea that I hit things," I said, taking a step back and grabbing my water bottle. She hummed and nodded.
"I honestly hadn't taken you for a fitness nut when you were in Chicago."
"I'm not into fitness. I'm into fighting. It was something very important to my dad, and he made sure it was important to me."
"Well, mostly because of Grandpa, you know. Just in case he ever showed up at the house or something, we had to be ready. But given that I can touch spirits and they can touch me, he was pretty concerned about my well-being."
"Is this grandpa of yours really so bad?" I waved my hand for her to move, and she slid her legs off the side of the bench and sat up. I sat down next to her.
"He...I don't know, really. I've never met him. But the stories I've heard paint quite the picture. He's a nephil, son of a human woman and river spirit, and believes he's entitled to a better life than mere mortals. Apparently he's very willing to cause all kinds of problems, including murder, to get what he wants."
"But why you guys?"
"Dad says it's partly because he was a disappointment. You know, someone whose identity is built on power, who values power above all else, might have problems with his only child having no power at all."
"Your dad isn't like you?"
"No. But then, on top of that, my dad has taken it upon himself to oppose his dad, you know, the idea that if you know who the monster is you don't just let someone else handle it. That it's a family affair."
"So your dad made a very powerful enemy by opposing his father, and now you get to deal with it? I mean, not for much longer, right? How old is this guy?"
"Oh, he's about 100 now, but remember that he's a nephil. He doesn't age like normal humans. He might look younger than my dad, for all I know."
"So he shows up, and what? You just punch him a lot?"
"And kick. I think the biggest thing is that he relies on his power, and I take that option away from him. Dad told me that if either of us had a real chance of stopping him, it would be me, because I can actually stand up to him in ways he can't." I took a drink of my water and we both sat in silence for a minute, staring off into space.
"Well. I need to get ready for work, but if there's some way I can help with this family affair, let me know, okay?" I nodded and she left, and I returned to my routine.
4 July 2005
Lori, Beth, and Bob were getting back to normal, but clearly still in mourning. I was running through ideas on how to cheer them up while Jackie and I were going through my books the other day, and suggested hosting a cookout for the Fourth of July. When I suggested it, Jackie put her book down and rested her hand on my shoulder.
"John," she said, then waited until I was looking at her. "Listen, I don't know what it's like for you, but you need to understand that for most of us, death is permanent."
"No, I get that, I just--"
"Do you? I mean, you've clearly been trying to comfort Lori through a difficult loss, and that's great, but you just seem like you expect it to go faster than it really should. They have had to grapple with saying goodbye to their close friend for the last time, and under particularly difficult circumstances. There are no ghosts in their daily experience, no conversations they can have with those they've lost. Death is the end." I set my book down and stared at it for a little while.
"Not everyone sticks around, you know," I finally said. "They have to have a reason. Otherwise, it's just...echoes, scraps, little bits of them laying around in the aether. My...I've lost people, too."
"We don't even get that, you know. Those memories, those echoes, those little pieces of them in the metaphysical realm. We have only what's in our own heads, and the objects they leave behind. It's not the same."
"So you think the cookout is a bad idea?"
"No, no, not really. It's just, make sure you're mindful of where they are while you do it, okay? It'll be nice for things to feel normal, but some cookout isn't going to fix things. And if this Mark was fond of the holiday, it may be extra difficult for them. Just...be careful, yeah?" I nodded, and we went back to what we were doing.
We did end up hosting the cookout today, and it went really well. Lori, Bob, and Beth all seemed to appreciate it, and I tried to give them space when they needed it. Rick insisted on working the grill, which was fine for burgers and hot dogs, but I made certain I knew exactly how the barbecue chicken was seasoned and cooked. The whole band was there, and we ended up playing a few songs when it was getting dark. It was fun, and by the end everyone seemed to leave in a good mood. Lori kept a little distance from Jackie, but she stayed over for the first time in weeks. I really think things are starting to turn around for all of us.
15 June 2005
"I just think you need to give her a chance," I said, before lighting my cigarette. Lori and I were laying on Alpha's hood, looking up at the stars. It had been almost a week since Jackie moved in, and Lori had barely spent even ten minutes at the house the whole time.
"I'm not comfortable with her," she answered, rolling off my chest and laying on her back beside me. "I mean, you have this attractive woman move in with you, you don't even tell me about it until it's all settled and she's practically on the plane, and you guys have this history--" I scoffed.
"What history? I've known her, in person, two weeks now."
"Yeah well it was a hell of a week, wasn't it? Cavorting about Chicago, doing all that ghost hunting you love so much--which I can't exactly help you with, you know--and then you almost fucked her, and then you did sleep with her, which you swear was nothing, but really? I'm supposed to just be okay with her having this kind of access to you?"
"Okay, so, the worst of that was a ghost using her body, and neither of us was actually into it."
"Not like that, anyway. How do you know she wouldn't have been otherwise?"
"What's that matter? There was no otherwise!"
"But there is now, Matteson!" She rolled onto her side, propping her head up with her elbow. "Don't you get it? She wants to be close to you, and now she's sleeping right across the hall from you, and she says she has this magic which scares the hell out of me and the only thing standing between her and anything she may want from you is me!"
"She's not after me or you, babe. Look, just, try to give her a chance, please? Talk to her? You guys might get along if you give it a shot." She sighed.
"Why is this so important to you?"
"I made a promise."
"To watch out for this ghost?" I nodded. "And you haven't seen any evidence of her?"
"No, at least nothing I know how to work with. My books on hauntings and possession went missing a little while ago."
"She's not going anywhere any time soon, is she?"
"I have no idea." She slid over and laid her head on my chest, looking up at the stars again.
"Okay. I'll try, if only because I don't want her to stick around longer than me." I chuckled and stroked her hair gently as a wisp of a cloud slowly drifted across the moon.
The blog of John Matteson.