May 22, 2010

Under the gables (10/10 end)

   I know not how long I stayed thus. The conditions of my confinement stretched each second well beyond its breaking point. The darkness was stifling, but bearable in contrast with the things behind the door, their constant malicious demented laughter, and the eerie far-off fluting that seems to accompany them like a noxious cloud.

   My fear stemmed from far more than the imminence of my physical demise... Truly, what shattered my courage to the core was the inexplicable nature of these things. These creatures were blatantly impossible. They existed in defiance of the laws of nature and reason, and that triggered within me an almost atavistic abhorrence, a primal loathing for that which should not exist.

   I started to wonder if fear had pushed me into the realm hysteric delusions when I realized that amidst the sounds of dull thumping against the trap door, the evil cackling laughter, and the infernal far off fluting music, I could hear whispers. At first I couldn't make much out, but the darkness and the enclosed space acted like a lens, magnifying the sound.

   I could make out five or six different hoarse and bizarrely breathless voices all whispering in different languages. I recognized a few, such as English, German, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, French. There were also many I didn't recognize, but that I imagined to be long deceased tongues. Slowly they were all replaced by a dreadful language that sounded like cockroaches creeping through my ears and crawling into my brain. I have no rational explanation for it, but I am certain that language was never meant for human mouths or minds…

   This torture went on for what felt like hundreds of revolutions of the earth around the sun. My world had shrunk to a small dark and musty space polluted by the noisome horrors that lay just outside of it. Verily, I know not how long I stayed thus; surely no more than a few hours. Each passing second slowly tautened my nerves… I almost laughed in fear when, gleaming as if lit from within with a hellish dirty yellow light, a pair of eyes opened in the darkness before me.

“I hear you failed to use my present,” a familiar voice filled with uncanny echoes said conversationally.
It was Petoh Talrayn! I could not explain it, but somehow he was there…
“You would have made a fine addition to my instruments… Instead you gave it to one my creatures. No matter. You will join us next time.”
“Wh-What are they?”
“They are creations of mine… They are the echoes of music I made many a millennia ago. They are foolish creatures who believe that they are no longer my instruments. Instruments I have come to collect… Speaking of which, it is time.” The glowing eyes closed and the fading voice said “We shall meet again...”

   There was complete silence outside the trap door, and I was approaching it to lay my ear against it when I was thundered by sound… For want of a better word I shall qualify it as music. It seemed torn from the fundamental fabric of the matter around me, from the very atoms of my body. A music like the wrenching of a mind gone mad, an orchestra of delirium that could outdo any of Dante’s worst nightmares. The soul deafening sound all but unhinged my being, yet a small part of me recognized what I was hearing. It was to the noxious music accompanying the creatures as the sun is to a flame. My hands mindlessly tore at the bolt with the reckless abandon of an animal in flight, anything to distance myself from the madness I recognized as composing the core of this otherworldly insanity, this masquerade of music.

   My recollections get hazy at this point… I must have exited the house, for my next memory is of Talrayn dressed in the splendor of the old Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. He was walking away in the direction of the mountains. Flying around him, in a manner akin to that of dogs capering about their master were seven flying heads, just one more than the number of houses in Ipswich. They were preceded by what can only be described as a curtain of darkness in which I would swear I saw galaxies dying…

   I regained consciousness in the middle of the path leading to the house and fled… I have been fleeing since. When I went back to my apartment to gather some of my belongings -my typewriter, and my mattress money- I found a note from the police requesting my presence on the matter of the disappearance of one Randolph Marley. Naturally, I ignored this. I knew what had happened.

   I have since been on the run by day and locked in brightly light rooms by night, trying to piece together what I witnessed. I have read the Book of Eibon, the De Vermis Mysteriis, and the Miskatonic University’s copy of the dread tome Necronomicon. I have identified Talrayn. He has gone by many names through the history of mankind… And in the words of men, the closest there is to a true name for him is Nyarlathotep…

   He, or it perhaps might be more appropriate, is an eldritch being from a world far removed from ours. He came to our planet in its infancy and has walked among us since, reveling in the twisting of minds and bodies for purposes known only unto him… And this… This is what awaits me in the dark. Yes, he is coming for me. And someday, maybe tomorrow, maybe in a few months or in a few years… he will come for you.

May 20, 2010

Under the gables (9/10)

   Going through the forest was out of the question… For one thing I had only the vaguest idea of my orientation which I derived for the sun, for another, I had no idea how many of those things there might be lurking in there. Sure, I would hear the former Mrs. Nanaac coming, and the worst she could do was whistle at me… but I was also sure that there had been more than one of those creatures last night, and the memory of the hand sized bites in a deer’s corpse was uncomfortably fresh in my mind. No, the forest was out…

   I briefly toyed with idea of escaping over the lake, but lacked any means of conveyance that would permit such a manner of escape. I grinned grimly at the thought of myself on the water on top of an unhinged door, paddling with cast iron frying pan while being chased by floating heads trying to bite me. How utterly absurd! I had to fight the temptation to tell myself there had to be a rational explanation for all this. If there was, it was completely outside the sphere of my understanding. Perhaps this acceptance was my first willing step down the way to madness.

   No, it seemed at the time that the best path was for me to seek succor in one of the neighboring houses. I had learned a measure of caution from my recent misadventures and I gripped the fire poker’s handle for reassurance. I discretely walked towards the closest house… and spotted an old man doing something in front of it. I observed him from behind the trunk of pine tree. At first glance, he seemed like a nice enough old man, whistling a vaguely familiar tune while he worked, but two things struck me as odd.

   First of all, what was he doing? It looked like he was putting storm shutters up on his house… Something in the economy of movement and speed with which he did this conveyed a sense of regular practice. I hadn’t heard of any storms and it certainly didn’t feel like one was coming... And if there wasn’t, why bother? With the sweltering Georgia weather, the heat inside would be unbearable...

   And secondly, considering how hot it was, I wondered why he was wearing a kerchief around his neck. My skin prickled as I recalled the markings around the corpse’s neck. The whistling had stopped and the old man had paused in his work. He seemed to be peering myopically around him… I wondered what he was doing, and then I realized, with a shiver down my spine, that he was sniffing the air; somehow he had scented me! Perhaps not, I thought to myself, for he soon resumed his work… but he whistled no longer. He quickly finished and reentered his house. Once he had, I crept away as quickly and quietly as I could.

   I took a quick look at the other houses from as great a distance as I could manage and noticed that they had all been boarded up as if for a storm... I ran back to Mrs. Nanaac’s house and a quick search revealed what I was looking for. I got to work boarding up the house. I had decided I had no choice but to barricade myself in for the night. Through the trees the sun was a dying ember. I wasn’t sure what would happen when it finally set, but I felt certain that I shouldn’t be caught outside when it did. Finally, I had finished. I was inside and I had blocked all the entrances. I had readied the empty and dusty root cellar as fallback shelter should I need one. I had ransacked the kitchen and found a big rusty knife, which I put on the on the table in front of me next to the poker. I felt as ready as I could be and not second too soon!

   It started with the abnormal fluting music I had heard the night before, which was soon followed by the shrill cackling laughter. It seemed to coming from all sides of the house, and it was accompanied by thudding sounds, they were testing my fortifications... The banging got louder and I was suddenly not so sure of myself. Grabbing the knife and the poker I hastily retreated into the cellar, pulled the trap door above me and slotted in the heavy wooden cross bolt.

   The inhuman noises were muted in the cellar until I heard the sound of crashing wood and glass: they had made it in and nothing but several inches of sturdy oak and iron separated them from me!

May 19, 2010

Under the gables (8/10)

Was I awake?
I had been having the strangest dream…
I wondered why that damn alarm clock wouldn’t stop ringing?
I dreamt people were shouting at me not to drink a witch’s brew, they must have been pounding on the inside of my skull too…

My mind’s eye opened a crack to check if I was still asleep.
There was a dull throbbing ache in the back of my head and a vile taste in my mouth that I decided were most decidedly real. I pulled myself up over the cusp of oblivion and rubbed my eyes gingerly in an ineffectual effort to ease the pain. I quickly came to the conclusion that part of it came from lying slumped against a chair in an unnatural position. As I slowly rightened my body and opened my eyes I became certain that I was indeed awake. How long had I been out? A quick glance out the window showed me that it was late in the afternoon and that several hours had passed. 

I decided that I felt up to the challenge of quelling the invasive noise that had awoken me, felt around for the culprit and realized with alarm that there was no alarm clock. I experienced a moment's disorientation before realizing where I was. I irritably wondered what that incessant shrill sound was.

Now what? There was a wry smile on my face as I thought, a bit bitterly perhaps, that my dream voices never tell me what I should do, just what I shouldn’t have done. After-the-fact backseat drivers…

Now what? I gave the door a try… It was unlatched… So far so good. I cautiously made my way to the main room and grabbed a steel poker from the chimney. The heft of the cold metal was oddly reassuring. I wondered where the old woman had gone... The front door unlocked. I took me all of two seconds to decide that running off through the woods would serve me no purpose. I shrugged and went to investigate where the sound was coming from.

I rounded the corner of the house and approached a small windowless woodshed from which the noise seemed to be coming. In addition to the frantic tooting, I could now hear quite a commotion coming from within. I cracked the door open to peer inside and then I saw something nasty in the woodshed. In the gloom, I had espied a headless corpse lying on the ground... when a tremendous force suddenly pushed against the door and knocked me back onto my fundament.

I know how unbelievable this will sound, but from within the woodshed emerged a flying head! It seemed to be burning in the sunlight and its rolling eyes seemed crazed and panicked…

I had discovered the source of the sound that had woken me! As it streaked past into the darkness of the woods I saw the whistle Talrayn had given me... It was somehow fused to the creature's lips, a seamless merging of skin and bone!

I glanced at the headless body of Mrs. Nanaac and saw that the neck had not been cut as I had first thought: it was a grotesque rounded stub like that of a person who has lost a limb. Her high necked collar had come unbuttoned and I could see that the base of her wrinkled neck was ringed with curious red birthmarks, like odd symbols in some mysterious and evil tongue… Yes, there was no mistaking it, as mad as it may sound I am now certain that it had been bodiless things that had chased me through the woods and into the lake that morning.

I pondered the mystery of the whistle. What would have happened had I tried bringing it to my lips? Would the same have happened to me? I had no idea… Nor did I know what to do next. Was there any help to be found in Chiwsip? Was there anything I could do? The sun was already hanging low in the west… I would have to decide quickly.

May 18, 2010

Under the gables (7/10)

“And who might you be? Good lord, you’re filthy. Come inside and get cleaned up.” This was clearly an order, not a question.
I bridled at being bossed around but felt too tired both emotionally and physically to argue the issue.
“Hello ma’am, my name is Jamie Carter… Did you see where the man who was here a second ago went?”
“Young lady, there ain’t nobody out here but yourself.” She said sternly as she gingerly took me by the elbow and led me inside.

   The inside was clean but strangely barren and utterly devoid of any modern convenience. The furniture was sparse and there was a complete absence of decorations. The over all effect of the interior reminded me of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. As the old woman led me to small room she presented herself as Mrs. Nanaac, a widower who had “been round these parts since a goodly long time before you were born, missy.” She left me alone in the room to warm some water on the wood-burning stove and to get me a small glass of something to warm me up “I know likker’s a sin, but I keep some around fer medicinal purposes.” I was pondering the events of the past few days when what I finally pinpointed what Mrs. Naanac’s interior had reminded me of: it reminded of the uneasy artificiality and blandness that had I felt when I visited model homes for a piece I wrote a few years back.

   That was when the old lady returned with a tray bearing a basin and a ewer of steaming water and a small glass of green liquid.
“Alright, you have a nip o’spirits, and tend to your washing up.”
“Thank you ma’am. Um, I don’t suppose you or any of your neighbors would happen to have a telephone?”
“A what? I reckon you oughta ask ole Mr. Jebediah about that as soon as you're rested up.”

   I shrugged and took a sip from the glass, it tasted like moonshine mixed with herbs and paint thinner. Not bad on the whole. I had another sip but quickly sat down feeling dizzy, the old woman was staring fixedly at me. I could feel myself begin to drift asleep, but before passing out, I saw the woman approach and sniff me in a manner not unakin to that of a dog looking for a scent. I could hear the old woman was mumbling to herself about night time not coming soon enough as she rifled my clothes, stopping every now and then to sniff what she was doing, I dimly heard her screech in triumph and she pulled the whistle from the pocket I had hid it in. My last thought before blacking out was to wonder if dying was the last thing I was going to do.

May 14, 2010

We interupt our regularly scheduled program for

A blatant filler!
Apologies to you readers...
There is a very good reason for the delay...

It isn't just laziness and prioritizing quality time with someone special (oh and work too I suppose)...
Actually that IS just it. : p

And to top it off, I'm going off for the weekend (no internet land!).
Scandalous, I know.

Sorry to leave you all hanging!
Under the gables will come to an end next week. 

Yep I said it and in so doing I have hung Damocles' sword above my head.

In the meantime I grabbed some music from a recent jam session and stuck holiday pictures in to make a video.
"Must placate the readers, must placate the readers..."

My lover, a friend, and I in the basement.
They are good amateur musicians... I can't really keep up, but at least I can deal with the recording and edit.

In case you were wondering, they were both on steel string guitars, I was on flute and percussion.

Sorry for the noise in the recording:
one mike for three people and taxed low end gear.

May 13, 2010

Internal conflict blogfest

An awakening... My own... I can’t see anything. The darkness is almost tangible. The darkness IS tangible! I can feel it weighing on my entire body like a disgusting shroud, draping my being with a weighty wave of mounting fear. The fear jolts me into movement and I try to sit up, but fail as my head painfully strikes a ceiling that is inexplicably just inches away from my face. I reach out and a quick exploration of my surroundings reveals the awful truth: there are walls all around me, invisibly close to me in the darkness. Too close! I long for movement but those damnable walls restrict me. I can’t even bend my legs or turn over… A wave of panic crests and sweeps away the tattered pieces of my reason. I want to move! I’m going blind! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I writhe frantically slamming myself against the walls as well as the cramped space allows me to. How long was I in the grip of this unreasoned madness? I cannot say…. Maybe minutes… Maybe days… I don’t know. But at present I have exhausted the madness… The panic is still there, hiding under my skin, waiting for I know not what. The heat of madness in my blood has turned to icy terror as I comprehend the meaning of the dull sounds I obtain as I strike at the walls and ceiling. It’s obvious and the only reason I didn’t realize it earlier was because it was too horrible to contemplate… I’ve been buried! I am buried alive!

Panic engulfs me once again and the walls of my coffin shriek hideously, an unending wail of horror coming at me from all sides… The primal sound in the blind darkness is mine. I drown in it, it wrings my soul, and throttles my being with deafening sound that is only made possible by the horror of the absolute silence slithering around me in this tiny space. I imagine it constricting in the darkness of my coffin. The air has become hard to breathe, as if it had been changed to poisoned water that would fill my lungs and silence me… This space in which I am confined wants to crush and devour me!

There is no escape!


Soul wrenching terror crushes my reason once again: there is no escape! I have ripped and torn my nails clawing at the panel above me and now I strike at it with my fists… Again and again, I strike out, harder, always harder… Time has gone the way of reason. There is nothing but the blows against the obstacle above me and the terror that is consuming me. My blows sound muted and dull, unless I’m no longer battering the ceiling and that sound is the beating of my heart. I no longer know… A cracking sound? Was that the sound of my heart breaking at long last?

The desperate energy that fills me has deadened my senses. I feel no difference in the target of my blows. I only realize that I have broken trough my coffin when a light and volatile substance comes pouring through the hole, entering my eyes, mouth, and nose. The unbreathable air of the coffin disappears. I jam my damaged and broken fingers into the breach. I don’t feel the cruel shards as the shred my hands. This invasive powdery dirt feels vile against my skin as I grope upwards through it pushing past strange oblong stones. My being has become a white scream… My thoughts are ruled by the imperious visceral need to flee, go upwards, to climb, to continue my nameless ascension with no other objective than to escape myself, to escape the fear and the madness that inhabit me. Finally I reach the surface…

An awakening… My own… I can’t see anything.

I open my eyes to a bronze colored sky streaked with green and purple will-o’-the- wisps. I sit and look around seeing nothing but an endless ash colored wasteland as far I can see in all directions. I feel no wind on my face but surely there is a breeze, for I see ash clouds twirl and form into phantasmagoric shapes all around me…

Have I been forgotten in the grand scheme of things?
I know you can see me…
I know you can hear me!
I’m still here! I’M STILL HERE!
A small world within
An ash filled urn on a marble tablet
A locked and hopelessly rusted crypt door

Un éveil. Le mien. Je ne perçois rien. L'obscurité est presque tangible, elle est tangible je la ressens tandis qu'elle me recouvre comme un détestable linceul ayant les attributs d'une lourde couverture d'effroi. Je sursaute et mon front butte douloureusement contre une des parois inexplicables qui se trouve à quelques centimètres de mon visage. Je m'aperçois que les parois me cernent de toutes parts, de très prés, invisiblement trop prés dans l'obscurité. Je voudrais bouger, mais ces mêmes parois détestables m'en empêchent. Je ne peux peu même pas plier les jambes, ni me retourner... la panique m'emporte, je veux bouger, je deviens aveugle! Je ne sens plus mes membres! J'étouffe! J'étouffe! Je me débats, je me cogne contre les parois autant que ma mobilité réduite le permet. Longtemps ma frénésie dura, peut-être quelques minutes peut-être des jours, je ne sais plus... mais je suis épuisé maintenant. La panique est encore présente, mais elle est désormais tapie sous ma peau en attente de je ne sais quoi, en échange une froide terreur me coule dans les veines lorsque je réalise que tous les coups que je frappe aux parois rendent des sons pleins. L'évidence me frappe, je comprends... Je suis enterré! Enterré vivant!

La marrée de panique revient et un effroyable cri d'horreur jaillit de toute part autour de moi, un cri qui est mien dont le bruit m’enveloppe, m’enserre et m’étrangle dans un assourdissement que seul l’horreur du silence absolu serpentant autour de moi permet. J'imagine que le cercueil effectue, dans l'obscurité autour de moi, des mouvements de constriction. L’air devient irrespirable, comme mu en une eau assassine qui voudrait m’emplire les poumons en me noyant ! L’espace clos où je me vois réduit veut me broyer et me digérer !

Il n’y a pas d’issue !
Il n’y a pas d’issue !

La marée de panique monte, ma pensée raisonnée veut s’effacer devant elle : il n’y a pas d’issue ! Mes ongles se sont déchirés à griffer la surface de la paroi au-dessus de moi, alors je la frappe à nouveau de mes poings.. Encore et encore, je frappe, toujours plus fort… Le temps s’étant effacé avec la raison il n’y que les coups et la terreur qui me consume. Mes coups ont un son mat et assourdi, a moins que je ne frappes plus et que ce ne sont là que les battements de mon cœur, je ne sais plus… Un craquement ? Est-ce mon cœur qui cède enfin?
L’énergie désespérée qui me possède me rend insensible. Je ne sens pas la différence de texture de la matière que mes mains travaillent. Je ne réalise avoir percé mon cercueil que lorsque la terre légère et volatile m’aveugle et m’étouffe en s’introduisant par tout les orifices de mon visage. Elle pénètre mes poumons et l’air irrespirable de l’espace clos disparaît. J’enfonce mes doigts poisseux de sang dans la brèche. Je ne ressens pas les échardes qui s’enfoncent cruellement dans la chair de mes mains et qui lacère mes doigts. L’oppression que procure le poids de cette terre poudreuse pleine d’étranges pierres oblongues contre ma peau est innommable. Je me noie dans le silence d’un hurlement blanc. Mes pensées se coagulent autour du besoin impérieux de fuir, de monter, de grimper, de poursuivre l’ascension anonyme, sans but autre que de m’éloigner de moi même, de la peur et de la folie qui me guette. Enfin, j’atteins la surface.

Un éveil. Le mien. Je ne perçois rien.

J’ouvre les yeux et j’observe un ciel cuivré strié de feux follets verts et violets. IL n’y a autrou de moi qu’une vaste étendue de cendres à perte de vue. Je ne sens pas de vent sur mon visage, pourtant les nuages de cendres tourbillonnent en adoptants des formes fantasmagoriques...

Ai-je été oublié dans le bon déroulement de l’univers ?
Je sais que vous me voyez ...
Je sais que vous pouvez m’entendre !
Je suis là ! Je suis encore là !
Une urne pleine de cendre posée sur une tablette en marbre.
La porte complètement rouillée d’une crypte.

May 12, 2010

Under the gables (6/10)

   I don’t know what I had expected from Chiwsip but I was disappointed: it wasn’t really a town at all… No wonder it wasn’t on the map. As far as I could see, it was merely a loose cluster of half a dozen large old town houses surrounded by trees on three sides and by the lake on the fourth. I couldn’t figure out why such large town houses would be built in such a remote and isolated area. I was pondering this as we walked towards the nearest house when I realised that Talrayn had stopped a few steps back.

   He looked at me intently with an unreadable expression on his fine featured face.
"This is where we part ways." he declared with a smirk.
"What? Where are you going?"
"As I said, I have an instrument to retrieve and business to attend to."
"Um... So what should I do now?" I asked uncertainly.

   This question seemed to amuse him tremendously, and there was something almost menacing in his soft laughter.

"That is entirely up to you, but I may help you depending on how you answer my question... What is it you want the most?”

   I was tempted to answer something flip but the gravity of demeanour and something in the uncanny gleaming of his dark eyes made me rethink that course of action, made me seriously consider his seemingly random question.

“I think… I want the whole story. I want to know the truth.”

   He laughed his soft unsettling laugh again, and something in the way light played on his features made his face seem older, less delicate and somehow more regal.

“You amuse me… I want you to take this.”

   With a prestidigitator’s flourish he produced a small cream coloured cylinder, which he held out dangling from a loop of string. I took it reflexively and looked down to examine the object. It was whistle. One built from ivory or perhaps bone… It was curiously warm to the touch and engraved with a complex pattern that made your eyes hurt if you stared at it. When I looked up he was gone. Glancing around produced no trace of him.

   As if on cue, the front door of the nearest house opened. A somber faced old woman who seemed to have gotten her fashion sense from the 19th century walked out…

Painting by Sandor Bihari

May 11, 2010

Under the gables (5/10)

Stump - by Alexander Batura

   Judging from the sun, I had been walking for a couple of hours along a small foot path that followed the lake’s edge which eventually widened into a muddy beach of sorts when I came upon a tree stump. There sat an incongruously well dressed man in an elegant and obviously tailor made yet some how dated looking pinstripe suit. At first the bangs of his Cleopatra haircut hid his face as he stared fixedly at the waters. I coughed politely to draw his attention and he turned towards me revealing the fine features of his swarthy face. He seemed to be a remarkably handsome man, saved from being pretty only by his slender yet athletic build and by something aloof in his expression.

“I am lord Talrayn… Though I suppose that would mean nothing to you.” He announced with a shrug and the suggestion of a frown. “My name is Petoh Talrayn, you may address me as Mr. Talrayn, or… I suppose, as Peter, if that makes you more comfortable, though it won’t matter soon enough” he added with an odd little half-smile.

   His clothes, his manner of speech, his presence, all seemed surreal… I stood before him, mud caked, bedraggled, shivering as dawn light evaporated the mist in the air around me and slowly dried my clothes, yet he seemed entirely unphazed by my appearance.

“You’ll be looking for the houses, they’re up the path a ways. I’ll guide you, as I’m headed there myself.” he said as he stood up and left without waiting for me to answer.

   I can’t say why but something about him had set off my journalistic intuition; there was a real story here, a big time once in a life time scoop, none of this old house stuff. There was something peculiar about that man and I was going to get the story. I thought to myself that I’d be damned if I let it slip away, weird or no, and hurried after him, mud flaking off of my clothes…

“Thanks for helping me…” I said, “My name is Jamie Carter”
“Yes… it is, isn’t it.” He didn’t seem especially interested in this bit of information.
“I think I was attacked by wolves yesterday night. Have you heard anything about wolf attacks in this area Mr. Talrayn?” I regretted having lost my bag with my notebook.
“There are no wolves in this area...” he stated and continued without segue, “I am a musician of sorts, and I left an instrument here on my last stay. I am here to retrieve it.”
“Earlier you said it soon wouldn’t matter what I called you, what exactly did you mean by that?”
“Human lives are like lines of color and sound, they intersect for varying periods of time, and the tone and hue changes with every meeting.”

   I took a deep breath… I had interviewed some slippery numbers in my time but this disjointed conversation was getting on my nerves. I had been a rising star journalist before cracking wise at the wrong person and finding my career nipped in the bud. This was my ticket back to the big time, but I needed to figure out how to punch it in. I needed to get out of the lost pet beat if it killed me.

“Mr.Talrayn, you said you were a musician, what instrument do you play? Are you famous? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of you.”
   At that last bit he stopped and looked at me squarely for the first time. Something flashed in his dark eyes, anger perhaps. I realized that though at first I had judged him to be in his mid-twenties there was something about his eyes that made want to revise my estimate... Revise my estimate and cringe.

   Although his tone was cool and courteous, his answer felt sharp and biting:
“You have definitely heard of me before, and my music is certainly not foreign to you. I’d expect someone in your profession to remember these things. What instrument do I play you ask? My instrument is life!”
Easy, easy, I didn’t want to offend the guy. Be slick. Be cool. Flatter him. I thought to myself. “That’s very deep Mr. Talrayn, very zen. Mastering one’s life to create art.”

   This seemed to amuse him and he smiled his enigmatic half-smile, something about it expressed mirth or mockery maybe… I was not usually prone to reading into people's facial expressions, but there was something about this man that was… unusually expressive. It was oddly attractive and off putting at the same time. Then it struck me, what did he mean by someone in my profession? I hadn’t told him what my profession was…

“We’re reaching Chiwsip.” He said, interrupting my line of thought, and sure enough up ahead, I could see the gabled roof of an old fashioned house amidst the trees.

May 10, 2010

Under the gables (4/10)

   Branches whipped at my face as I ran through them. I’m pretty sure I hit some trunks in my blind flight through the darkness. The unnatural laughter seemed to float around me dogging my every step. I have no idea how long I ran, but it felt like hours… Something large and uneven abruptly interrupted my flight. I tripped and fell forward expecting to crack my skull on a tree or a rock… but instead, I was blinded by the pale dawn’s light reflecting off the waters below me. Before I hit the water I glanced squinting over my shoulder and glimpsed a flying white shape darting back into the darkness of the trees. Then came the shock and the splash Blue Ridge lake’s cold waters. I quickly swam to the surface and although I saw no trace of what I had glimpsed, I heard the unearthly sound of pained and frustrated keening fading in the distance. As I shivered with shock, exhaustion, and cold I wondered what I should do next. I swam to shore and pulled my self up onto the muddy bank using a tree’s root…

   And gagged at the sight of that which had accidentally saved my life, for though I had no idea what it was that had chased me, I was convinced it was dangerous and I had before me the proof of its lethality: I had tripped on the mangled corpse of a white tailed deer. I guessed that this was the source of the death scream I heard during the night… I fought down my revulsion at the sight of the gore and blood and approached the carcass with the idea of trying to identify the cause of its demise. Granted I had no experience as a forensics, but I thought it safe to assume that the big still bleeding palm sized bites that had been taken out of the body to have been the cause of death. It took me moment to identify what those bite marks reminded me of, piranha bites, but ten times bigger… I wondered what could possibly have done this. I struck upon the idea that it had been wolves that had chased me and that the eerie laughter I had heard was the product of my overworked imagination twisting the howling of wolves into something much stranger. I managed to almost completely convince myself with this rational fabrication. After all, nothing else made sense.

   Knowing that the houses I was supposed to find were on the banks of the lake I figured that if I kept to the lake to my left I would eventually come onto one of them, and there I could ask for help.

Dawn at the loch in Galloway Forest Park

May 9, 2010

Under the gables (3/10)

    I had walked several miles and the path had insidiously narrowed until I came to the sudden realization that it had become little more than an indistinct track. I wondered if the barber had led me astray? I discarded those thoughts as counter productive, irrational even. I doggedly stuck to the path, making haste trying to beat the swiftly deepening gloom around me to my destination. It was a race I was doomed to loose: the trees that bordered the path seemed to block the diminishing rays of the setting sun. Soon enough, I found that I had lost the path. I gritted my teeth to keep from as I stumbled in the pitch black forest worrying about falling into the lake that had to be somewhere nearby. I knew for a fact that there should have been stars and a sliver of moon above the trees to guide me on my way, but the leaves let no light in and locked me in oppressive blindness. Figuring I could only worsen my situation by wandering blind, I decided that the best course of action was for me to find a relatively comfortable tree to sleep against. I tripped a few times but quickly groped my way to an appropriate tree. Sitting against its trunk with my arms tucked into my jacket to fight off the chill, I let weariness overtake me.

    I slept thus for a few hours. I’m not sure what woke me, the crick in my neck, the pine needles pricking me through my pants, or something else altogether. I realized that the darkness I had experienced earlier must have been due to clouds because I could make out vague outlines of trees in the darkness. Everything was eerily quiet. Then, the death scream of some animal I couldn’t identify cut through the silence. I thought to myself that surely there were no predators in this forest large enough to threaten me, surely that was but the sound of a fox or a badger catching some small unfortunate furry mammal; but for all my reasoning, the sound had awakened a primal apprehension within me, or perhaps it was some sort of intuition. The scream seemed to have come from some ways off, and though I figured I was in no danger, I felt that I would not be able to fall asleep again.

   I was debating whether I should try to take advantage of the semi-darkness to find the path when I first heard it, the strange far off sound of piping notes… probably from some manner of flute-like instrument. The music was played in a scale I did not recognize, and though weird it was certainly, in its own peculiar way, beautiful. Where there’s music, there’s a musician, I thought to myself. I ran in the direction I judged the music to be coming from but soon discovered that it made no difference in which direction I ran: the music seemed to be coming from all around me. A trick of acoustics, the sounds echoing off of the trees, I told myself. I briefly considered calling out, but again some primal sense made me think better of it. Then the music stopped… There was utter silence for a few minutes and I imagined that the gloom deepened. I heard faint rustling in the trees above… More than the wind could account for surely, besides I felt no wind cooling the nervous sweat upon my face. Suddenly I was surrounded by the shrill sound of demented laughter. The shadows were filled with it, and it seemed to me that the laughter brimmed with inhuman malice. Gripped with fear I ran, ran blindly from the sounds that pursued me.

May 8, 2010

Under the gables (2/10)

   Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself… Perhaps I should begin my tale from the beginning so that you can better judge for yourself the course of events that have brought me to my conclusions.

   The Marietta based rag I worked for didn’t really have the means to send journalists out; and before that day, I had never heard of their doing it. When I came in that morning, there was a note on my desk telling me to see Harley, the editor in chief, in his office immediately. Harley was a strange 43 year old man that nobody liked, possibly because of the obvious contempt in which he held everyone and everything or possibly because of the unsettling feeling one got from spending more than a few minutes in his company. As I walked into his office I immediately suspected something was up because he smiled as I came in.

“How would you like to go out and do special report?”
“Hello to you too! Maybe... what’s it about?” I asked guardedly.
“I doesn’t matter…” he said mildly, “…if you don’t go I’ll fire you.”
“I guess I’m going then, are you going to tell me where or do I have to guess?” I said struggling to be polite.
“You’re going to Chiwsip, my old home town in Fannin county. I was going to give you 100 bucks for bus, lodging, and food money, but since I don’t like you, here’s fifty. I want you to go there and write a piece about the gabled houses; the ones they built after they got rid of the redskins back in 1832. You got three days, if that report isn't on my desk by Thursday don't bother coming back. Now get out of here.”

   He slammed a fifty dollar bill on his desk and stared fixedly at me. I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of response he expected of me, so I shrugged, took the bill, and turned around to leave. As I made my way to the door, I could still feel he gaze boring into my back and just as I was about to close the door to his office, I’m pretty sure I heard him laugh unpleasantly and mutter “Have fun.”

   Although I wasn’t particularly pleased with the prospect of going out in the boonies for a couple days, my professional conscience would let me do no less than the task I had been assigned to do. I bought a roadmap at Walgreen’s and set out. I started by hitching a ride from Marietta to Ellijay in the back of a pickup truck delivering flowers. From Ellijay a newly wed couple heading for Blairsville Airport to start their honeymoon took me to Blue Ridge, the Fannin county seat.

   It was at this point I realized that Chiwsip wasn’t on my map. So I decided I should ask a local for directions, but I found most of the homes to have been boarded up, I knocked on the doors of those few that weren’t, but got no answer. I walked up West Main Street and found all the places of business to be closed with not a soul in sight. I then walked down East Main Street, yes this was really a two street town, and I spotted a strange white cylinder, as I approached it I realized it was a barber pole whose colors had faded and cracked beyond recognition.

   The pole stood in front of a decaying barber shop that I entered. After a cursory look around I found the barber sleeping under a yellowing newspaper that was at least as old I was. I politely coughed to try and wake the barber, and then tried saying “Excuse me?” more and more loudly, but the barber would not be roused. Finally I wondered if the man were alive so I lifted the news paper, maybe to see if there was a pulse, but the moment I touched the paper barber leapt up from his stool scattering yellowed pages of newspaper.

   It was as if some the man had been a freakish bald automaton that had suddenly been switched on. The man stood with his back to the wall and an expression of fear on his face as he frantically glanced left and right with rheumy bloodshot black-rimmed eyes. I realized he was very old, ancient even, with wrinkled parchment skin stretched tight on his skull… He made a strangely bird like figure as he stood there with his back to the wall, all prominent nose, bald head, gangly decrepit limbs, and frightened glances. He eventually took in that there was no one else there but me and he seemed to calm down somewhat. When I thought he had settled down enough I asked him for directions to Chiwsip, but he just shook his head as he pointed to his ears.

   He reached under a counter and grabbed a pair of bifocals which he promptly put on his nose and that magnified his eyes eerily. He then pulled a piece of slate and a bit of chalk from a drawer which he handed to me. “How do I get to Chiwsip??” I wrote. He vigorously shook his head as he read my question. I underlined my question a few times and added “I have to go there!” He shrugged and wrote in an arthritis shaken hand that wouldn't want near my head with a pair of scissors, “10 miles east, on dirt road leading out of town. Bad place! Don’t go there!” I put his reaction down to some form of senile dementia, shrugged it off, thanked him, and left. He stood at the shop window and stared at me as I walked away. Soon I was walking on the deserted dirt path he had pointed out, hoping that I’d find a motel or something before sunset.

"The old barber pole"
From Bleu Chocolate

May 7, 2010

Under the gables (1/10)

   There are pools of deep darkness on this earth. Places untouched by light since times immemorial. Perhaps I once mocked in disbelief those who spoke of what I called the fruit of disturbed fanciful minds. They who told of the darkness being inhabited by things, ancient things, things from another place for which we have no name. It is debated amidst the scientific community whether childhood fear of darkness is a natural instinct or a form of psycho-pathology requiring treatment. I now know the former to be true. The fear of darkness is a survival instinct, an atavism if you will, that has been handed down since cavemen first realized that there were depths to their caves that should, under no circumstances, ever be plumbed.

   You wonder how I know of what I speak? Against my better judgment, I will tell you my tale. Yet be warned, I have not slept at all in two weeks and you too may well lose your sleep if you insist hearing what I have discovered. You are decided? So be it. I feel that someone should know about it. Perhaps doubt what I have come to take for truth and then reassure me by proving my insanity. Regardless of my desires, I know I have not yet lost my mind…  and if I am loosing it now, it is only because of what I know.

   I am, or rather as I should say it, was at the time a reporter for a modest local newspaper in Marietta Georgia. I was doing research for an article about some gabled roof houses built on the banks of Blue ridge lake sometime in the nineteenth century. When I first reached the small town I was informed that there were no hotels but that I could rent a room in one of the very houses I had been sent to write about. I took this to be a stroke of luck, but in retrospect, I realize it was the first step on the road that has led me to question my understanding of the world that surrounds us.

May 6, 2010

Tasalagi Tale (9/9 end)

"Yes those were bad times, the worst... and not only for our people. A few of our people (999 people so the legend has it) had managed to hide yet again in the bosom of the earth. They took to the earth in these mountains sharing food with the bears, the birds, and the deer. Some also hid with friendly whites, my great grandmother was amongst those. Eventually legal loopholes were found so that they could stay and eventually they formed the Qualla reservation. Those people were the great great grandparent's of most of the people on our reservation nowadays. That's how they got the opportunity live through one civil war and two world wars. We had little cause to meddle in the white man's wars but we were forced to take a side in the civil war, and we chose to get involved in the world wars. As is our way, we distinguished ourselves greatly in any battle we fought and many of our brothers returned from wars greatly honored."

Not adding another word as was his wont, he concluded by blowing a smoke ring that vanished in the night breezes. He then extinguished his pipe and proceeded to roll up in his sleeping bag and fell fast asleep. Billy and I on the other hand had a hard time doing so that night. This had been a hard history lesson, but one that would serve us well.

The fire had died down to embers and dawn was just a few hours away when the two kids finally fell asleep.

May 5, 2010

Tasalagi Tale (8/9)

   He sadly nodded his weather-worn sunburnt face and pulled the rock he had been sitting on closer to the fire, as if he needed the comfort of warmth to continue... which he did after taking a deep breath.

   "In 1828, not even a year after the founding of our so called official constitution, white men found the yellow metal on our lands. And so the foretelling was made true. This brought about the darkest time our people have ever known. In the following months and years the white men made many laws saying that our people didn't exist, that our ancient ways meant nothing, and that our homeland would be taken from us until none was left, until all we had was taken  (among those, the Indian removal bill 28 May 1830, or the enactment of 1802 compact which summarily stripped native Americans of and titles of land ownership). Yes, these laws were made only to steal the earth we dwelt on and the cursed yellow metal within it. The fighting began again, but we no longer had as many warriors as once we did. Mainly it was the white men repeatedly attacking us who did the fighting. Then came the evil year of 1835.

   The white man's greed tainted some tribal brothers, and they were lulled with lies, promises and their own foolishness so that they signed in the name of our people, whom they did not represent, a treaty (treaty of new echota) that said our people would abandon our lands for other lands far away. Those traitors got their just deserts but it was too late and the nu'-n-na' da'-ul tsu'-ni (trail where we cried aka "The Trail of Tears") was set into motion. A couple hundred were left willingly, and  all of the others paid their treason with their lives. On the trail of tears for they found sickness and disease dogged their every step. Most stayed, still unbelieving that that anyone could just take away their homes. In 1838, General Winfield Scott was ordered into action. His actions were much like other things that occurred a hundred years later in the stream of history, things that shocked white men so. They tore families, women, children away from their lands, homes, meals... whatever they were doing when the white soldiers came unannounced and unexpected. Then, they pushed our dispossessed people away from all their belongings at knife and gunpoint. Often white looters were so close behind the soldiers that while our people were being led away with only the clothes on their backs they could see the smoke rise from their homes and farms as they burned. Those looters even desecrated our tombs.

   The soldiers herded us all towards the forts and piled people into tiny cold rooms, there were so many of us that they had to stay standing. They would wait there until the soldiers decided to force them on the journey to the western lands (Oklahoma Reserve). There was terrible sickness and suffering in the forts and during the journey. Many families were broken and children lost their parents. My own great-grandfather died on the trail of tears. A quarter of our people died (4000 is the current estimation) that year on that journey and many more died later in the western lands."

   He sighed and pulled out his pipe and smoked moodily. Billy and I were on the verge of tears, we were huddled up together under the same blanket and we gazed into the fire that was slowly consuming the logs it had been fed. There were only night sounds and the crackle of the fire to be heard until Blackhair resumed his narration.

"Shadow of the owl" by John Guthrie

May 4, 2010

Tasalagi Tale (7/9)

   "Then the white man came (probable first contact 1539 De Soto), things changed. Quickly, they started breaking our people's spirit and our ancient ways: eventually our brothers in the west walked another path than ours. They built fences, made treaties and deals they didn't keep, poisoned us with war and whiskey. We fought many battles for the white man for we still believed in his lies and his friendship. We defeated the Shawnees for them (1756), but then they turned on us and attacked us. Longknife Montgomery attacked villages by surprise like a coward and burned them, then torched the fields and the orchards after killing all of our people (1760). Thus died the village of little Keowee and many many of the lower towns. This brought fire into our hearts and showed us the white man's true face. Many brothers gathered and defeated longknife Montgomery as he headed for the middle and upper towns and we made him run away like the coward he was."

   "Next came long knife Grant (1761) with our enemies the Chickasaws and the Catawbas, we fought bravely but they were too many and too well equipped. The middletowns burned, the lands we cared for burned, many brothers were killed and our horses stolen. We had to hide in the upper towns and go back to our old ways for food and clothes because there was no more trade. These were hard times but worse were yet to come. Many small battles were fought and war lingered. But then a great number of white fighters with long guns came from all around us (a concerted attack supported by all the surrounding states) following many white leaders (1776). We fought with much courage and did many great deeds were done in vain. They burned and killed and stole almost everything. Some us managed to flee here: into the Smokies. We had spread from the sacred mountains and we had returned there in utter defeat. We could fight no more and so signed a peace treaty but the whites continued to attack us and their diseases appeared among us (chicken pox, flu...). We signed many treaties (13) with no meaning other than the white man would take more land (within the 13 treaties there were 16 occurrences of this), and the war went on for many years (until 1798 approximately). It was during this time that some our people decided to go west towards the Rockies."

   "Then came a time of relative peace, our people grew and we adapted our ways to that of the whites and became farmers. Our youngsters began to believe and hope again, but the elders knew that the clouds had only parted for a short time. In eighteen-fifteen a young man of our people found the cursed yellow metal and it is said that he had a vision of the pain would bring his people and so cursed it and hid it deep in the mountains. Many good things were done in the following years. We had a government and a constitution (1827) for our people. Hicks and John Ross spoke with the white men for us. This new government little to us in our hearts for we had had a true government for many ages before, but the white couldn't hear its words. I think it was foolish, our true government couldn't speak to the white men and our official government could but its word fell upon dead white ears. It was at this time that Seloquay (a.k.a. George Guess) made the talking leaf (written lang. with 85 letters approved by the chiefs in 1821) for the a-ni'-tsa-la'-gi (plural of Cherokee)."

May 3, 2010

Tasalagi Tale (6/9)

   "When I was a boy this is what the old men told me (traditional Cherokee beginning, similar to our "once upon a time"). Long long ago, but long after Yowa  gave us life. Our ancestors came up from under the earth in the cold lands far far to the northwest. Too many of us lived there, and the earth suffered from feeding us all. To lighten the burden on the land Yowa ordered the sun to lead those willing to another place. Our ancestors were those who choose to leave the land under the earth at the call of the mighty sun who promised to guide us to a better place.

   After a long and hard journey, we followed the sun to this place but the moon-eyed people already lived here. They were a people who had foresworn the sun and all those who lived by it. This made the sun very angry, and in its fury, the sun tried to blind them with daylight. This failed because the moon-eyed poeple were clever and had understood that that light would hurt them. So they woke only with the moon and slept through day. When they discovered our ancestors sleeping in the night, they attacked us. We were not yet as strong as we would be, and the attacked using surprise but our hearts were brave and full of light so we pushed them away from this land and made it ours.

   Long did we live there and our people who would become the a-ni'-yun-wi-ya' ("principal people", it is what the Cherokee called themselves until they adopted a name other tribes used, chilokee which means people of other language.) were a great and strong people, and lived with much land. So much that our nation had seven tribes inside it and spread over the land. There was a-ni'-tsi-s-kwa the bird people, a-ni'-ka-wî' the deer people, a-ni'-wa'-yah the wolf people, a-ni'-ga-to'-ge-wî' the wild potato people, a-ni'-wo'-di the paint people, a-ni'-sa'-ho-ni the blue people, a-ni'-gi-lô-hi' the long haired people.

   Seven is a sacred number. The seven tribes each had their tongues and their legends and stories that they would share when the tribes would meet for councils or in the fall for the trade and festival. It was time of prosperity. Our people were happy and lived with the great spirits. So it was for many many long and good years.  But then came the winds of change..."

May 2, 2010

Tasalagi Tale (5/9)

   Those mountains were something else... Sharp dark stone and earth covered with truly ancient forests of trees that probably remembered times before men, or at least heard of such times from immediate relatives. Thousands of crystalline creeks whispered their way through those ancient trees. At the time, Billy and I had no idea that those lands were part of the ancestral Cherokee lands, where the ancestors of the tribe had once lived before the arrival of the white men. It was the elder Blackhair (whose hair, ironically, had been completely white for as long as anyone could remember) who taught us about the history of his people and the land that nurtured them.

   He would sometimes accompany us into the mountains and tell us stories of the distant past or of recent times. It was always a special treat when he came with us. And on such occasions, we would choose a nice clearing secluded by trees with a creek nearby to set up camp. We would invariably leave him the honor of first lighting the camp fire. It was a tradition. He'd wink and say in that incredible deep gravelly accented voice of his "I think it's time for the ancient Indian magic for lighting fires." He would wave his hands mystically over the prepared wood and tinder and suddenly... pull his zippo from his pants pocket and light the tinder to our delight. This never failed to make us laugh and the joke never got old, even now just thinking about it makes me grin.

   On one such a night, the magically lit fire burned merry and bright and the winking stars peeked through our roof of leaves; instead of telling us an ancient legend as was his wont, Elder Blackhair told us the long sad tale of the Cherokees. This is what he told us that night...

Cheating... This is a picture I took in California recently.

May 1, 2010

Tasalagi Tale (4/9)

    While the parents were having the previously described coffee (which my mother deemed miraculous), Billy and I were out and about on the reservation. It was mostly located in the northern corner of Georgia, but also overlapped into North Carolina and Tennessee. It lay on top of a low plateau at the foot of the Rocky 's so that on one side you could go up into the Smoky mountains and on the other you could look down on the peach state (a.k.a. Georgia). People on the reservation would joke about how that was one way of getting white people to look up to them. Rumor had it that on clear days, people with exceptional eyesight could see the sun glint off the golden dome of the capitol in Atlanta... Though I tried, I never did see it. Not that it mattered because the view was was stunning, and you could see the road wind down the plateau, off into the green lands and orchards towards the nearby small towns, and away into infinity.

  Of course, at the time, neither Billy nor I were much interested in beautiful vistas, but the mountains strongly appealed to our youthful adventurous spirits... well especially to mine. I eventually managed to subtly sledgehammer some of my enthusiasm into Billy. It took some doing because up until then he had been an all-American kid: drinking coke, playing little league, watching bad science fiction flicks at the movies, and collecting baseball cards. He hadn't taken much of an interest in his Cherokee history yet, nor in the great outdoors. I, on the other hand, had grown up with my mom's native-American bedtime stories, which had sparked my fascination for Cherokee legends, and Indian crafts in general. I had learned to work leather and to make bows and arrows before even learning to ride a bike. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Our parent's became good friends over that coffee, and it turned out that Billy and I went to the same school. We started to hang out together, to do sleepovers, and we gradually became best friends. We would usually stay at his place during the weekends so that we could go off to spend a night or two in the mountains.

Uncredited picture from the national Smoky mountain park website.
Yes, it really is that gorgeous.