It was a weekend trip, just like any other. It began with three friends with a strong bond setting out on an adventure to pay visit to another friend who no longer resided within striking distance. This friend lived in a land divided by both a border and a time zone. The purpose of this trip was to reinvigorate that bond that had connected all four of these friends with the spirit of their salad days, when weekend road-trips were routine and the body was willing. Now, so much planning was involved that one might as well draft a contract and have it notarized.
In the trio was Chase, a bright fellow and man of science; Craig, upbeat and primed for excitement; and then myself, Sam, thoughtful and analytical. We were on our way to visit our friend Frank. Frank was studious and philosophical. He had informed us that the weekend would be fulfilling to both mind and body, with exposure to the piecemeal culture of the land. Since this idea was leaked into the ether, it mutated and matured into a set date and something we had all been looking forward to. Not only an escape from our jobs and home lives, but from the trappings of our adult selves. This was an opportunity to break through the hardened shell that formed around our bodies, which, while was protecting us from the dangers of our environments, also weakened us. We feel complacent. This isn’t a masculinity or existential crisis of any sort. This is more an acceptance that comes with growing up, settling into the adulthood that comes crashing down upon one’s post-college life. The realization that you have to present yourself in a certain way so that no one is able to discredit you, or discount you, because you are reliable. And eventually, with all the practice that comes from wearing the disguise and pantomime, you get better at playing the part and suddenly, the disguise fits. It is no longer a charade.
We departed from Craig’s place at a later hour than we had anticipated through no delays but our own. If anything, it would have been better if we had just chosen to forgo leaving that night and instead opted to head out in the morning. But hubris and excitement swelled our brains beyond normal capacity, leaving little room for rational thought. This is what prospering to the neighboring state will do to you. It clouds your mind with a drunk-like haze, inspiring impulsive behaviors that will result in sore consequences.
The drive itself was perfectly fine. No problems of any sort, just some minor traffic on the way past the city but after that, smoothest of sailing on a clear night with an empty sky. Given the time of departure, the length of the trip, and the loss of an hour, we agreed that it would be in no good sense to keep Frank up all night waiting for our arrival. Plus, the need to check into the hotel would cause us to have to drive a little out of the way only to double back. If it were earlier, then there would have been no problem, but again, we were already passing into the dead of early morning so it was far more logical to just skip Frank’s altogether and make headway to the hotel.
We exited the highway and went looking for the hotel. We should have taken the course of events as an omen, for we had great difficulty finding it. First, we took a wrong turn off the exit, and when we got ourselves in the right direction, we apparently drove well past the hotel’s location. We came to find it tucked away off the main road, obscured by a cluster of apartment buildings, a gas station, and some dilapidated store fronts. We pulled into the lot and parked by the main entrance. Upon exit, we felt the sticky summer night kiss our skin with a tender moistness that felt more sinister than sweet. It churned our stomachs and left us with a sour taste in our mouths.
“I’m getting shakes, man,” spoke Chase. “Serious vibes of I don’t know what but where the hell did you find this place?”
“I think you might have answered your own question,” Craig said pointedly, but not to scold Chase for his nervousness but to imply to all that he felt the same way as well.
“Gents,” I spoke up to defend my choice in lodging, “it is fine. We’re not staying here more than the weekend and it isn’t as though we’re going to lock ourselves up the whole time in the hotel. There’s plenty of adventures to be had with Frank and none of them involved being crammed into a confined space, unless he has that planned.”
In the background of the tepid summer night, with a scarcity of clouds streaking along a starless sky, and the lack of businesses open past normal operating hours, gave way to a perceived desolation of the area. This was a squat residential location adjacent to a highway. Likely, its presence chased away many of the town’s inhabitants who would prefer not have to adapt to living in a noisy and congested environment, air sick with smog and exhaust. I don’t fault them for leaving, but it brings a hint of despair to see a town reduced to its bones with little flesh and muscle to flex. A lack of power to sustain itself.
This part of town was typical of any other that were settled along interstate exits with stretches of service stations, convenience stores, and dive bars running parallel to the main roads. Nothing really all that unusual or out of place. Just… worn down. Worn out. Beyond tired. Ready for the grave. I had seen plenty of towns like this. They were all the same. Indistinguishable and haunted.
Entering the lobby of the hotel, we were greeted with air that was somehow more stifling than the air outside. Perhaps this part of the hotel wasn’t air conditioned or maybe we were entering the first level of hell. Either way, it did not at all feel very welcoming. I told Chase and Craig to hold back while I went to the front desk to check in. The rug was damp and squished lightly with each step. The glow of the lights cast everything in an ancient yellow staining. I reached the front desk and placed my hands on the counter only to be greeted by a phantom stickiness, as though there was a fine layer of grime that had adhered itself to the top and could never be removed no matter what you used. Bleach, fire, nuclear blasts. The clerk behind the counter was a short round man, age unknown but he had likely seen plenty of things, many a traveler barging through the doors and collapsing at his feet begging for a room. Despite his weathered features his expression was warm and earnest, like any good agent of customer service. “Hello friend, how can I help you?” He had a slight croak in his voice, like gravel rolling over in a barrel, but his pitch was a tad higher than you’d think.
“Evening, yes, uh… I have booked a room for two nights. It is already paid for.”
“Hmm, yes. May I see your ID?”
“Yes, yes. Just a second… Here you go.”
“Hmm hmm, yes. And, how many people will be staying?”
“Oh, well three for tonight but not the whole weekend. We arrived later than expected. We were supposed to drop somebody off elsewhere but…”
“Hmm. Okay. There will be an extra charge. $15 for the night. Normally I charge $30 but I’ll make an exception. Hmm, yes.”
“$15? Uh, okay.”
“Will you play cash or credit?”
“Uh, credit. Give me a second… Okay, here you are.”
“Hmm. Thank you, yes.”
“Do you have any rollaway beds?”
“Hmm, no. No. No rollaway beds. Just the one bed.”
“One bed, eh? Okay. That won’t be too bad.”
After about a minute or so of the clerk taking down my information, processing the charge, and activating the key card, he handed all these items back to me along with a print-out for me to sign.
“Hmm, okay, yes, thank you. Your room is 102, down at the end of the hall on the left. Now, when you put the card in the slot, turn the knob up to open.”
“Okay, thank you.”
“If you need anything let me know, hmm. Yes. Thank you. Good night.”
“Good night.” I waved and pocketed the key card and went to rejoin my friends. “Well, it looks like we were charged for your stay, Chase. But just $15 so we’ll work out an arrangement. Cover a meal and we’ll call it even.”
“That works. So, will there be a rollaway bed?”
“No, no rollaway which is strange because I swear on the booking site it said that there would be a rollaway available upon request.”
“But there will be a breakfast, right?”
“That’s what it said, too. We’ll see how much of that holds true.”
We went back to the car to grab our items, which weren’t much. About two bags per person, easy to carry in and out of the car to the room in one trip. Since our room was at the end of the hall, it appeared to be adjacent to the side entrance and I pointed the group in that direction.
We approached the first door and saw that there was no lock where one would normally see a lock on an exterior door to a hotel. We reasoned that maybe the other door will have the lock.
The thought behind this of course is the expectation that guest safety and security is an important matter to any hotel and that they would not want to be held liable in any event that harm falls upon a guest. To be able to say that they provided for every measure that they could easily afford in order to prevent criminal activity being perpetrated against both building and guest? I suppose that this establishment had a lax attitude towards such tenets of commerce. We realized this when we were able to pass through each side door without use of the key card. “I’m sure this won’t be any sort of omen, guys.”
“Well, with this kind of luck… Let’s just get in our room.”
I went to slide the card into the slot on to unlock the door. On the first try, I slid it in and waited a second before turning the knob up and pushing. Nothing. The door would not budge. At first, we thought it to be stuck but then Craig pointed out that the light on the lock was turning red. “You sure you’re putting it in the right way?”
“I thought I was.” I examined the back of the card and the front to confirm that I was. “I don’t think this was properly activated. I’m going to see the clerk. Sit tight, won’t be long.” I trekked down the hallway. I could sense the air was thicker here, probably due to poor ventilation. But there was something else. It felt like the hallway was tilted at on an angle and the floor was sinking below me. It could have been real or just an exhausted brain playing tricks on me.
I reached the front desk and signaled again for the clerk. He drifted over, as though he was floating. “Hmm, yes friend?”
“Uh, the keycard. It isn’t working.”
“Hmm, I told you that you have to lift the knob… up!” He said this not with scorn or anger but with a friendly abruptness in his voice, like a teacher who was growing tired of having to repeat instructions to the same student dozens of times over. I handed the card over to him. “Well, I did that but the light on the lock turns red.”
“Hmm…” The fake smile dropped from his face. I had apparently been rude in a way I was not aware. Somehow, I offended him by confronting him with accurate information that despite his instructions, the door would not magically open all because the card was not properly activated and linked to that particular room. I should have seen it as an omen. I was not meant to enter this room, I was not supposed to be here and in that room. I should have left the card on the table and just walked out. Instead, like some fool, I watched the clerk place the card back in the reader and re-activate it. As he was about to hand it back to me, he pulled it back towards him. Clutched it to his chest. “Hmm… I will come with you and see if this works.”
“That… will be fine.” I swallowed hard on my impatience. I was becoming impatient so quickly because I was tired and I felt something gnawing at me and I couldn’t place what it was and where it was coming from. It was like a psychic drill boring into my soul with a rusty bit and it was tearing away at my being. With a weariness, I followed the clerk down the hall back to the room. We were greeted by Chase and Craig, who had been examining their surroundings and looked quite… petrified. The clerk inserted the card and the lock turned green. He then turned the knob up as mentioned numerous times and the door finally opened, albeit with some force on the part of the clerk to budge the door loose from the grip of the frame. Again, another sign that maybe we should not be here.
The clerk, satisfied that we could now gain entry, handed back the card to me hoping I too was finally satisfied. “Hmm. Here you go. Thank you. If you need anything else, just call the front desk. I’ll be available. Thank you. Good night.”
“Yes. Thank you. Good night.” He sauntered off back to the lobby and out of our lives at least for the night. Now with the card working and door open, we collected our things and passed through the door. As soon as we entered the room, I struck by a sudden sense of weightlessness and felt as though I was floating, or at least that part of me was trying to float away but my feet were somehow anchored to the ground. I wrote it off as nothing more than the combination of the late hour, the long drive, and the humidity.
My head had been full of so many outrageous and wild thoughts that could have been easily attributed to those factors that I did my best to close my eyes and dismiss them. It was late, I was tired. I wanted to crawl into the bed and get some rest. I wanted to sleep and forget what I had thought, what I had already experienced, to wipe my mind clear and start fresh in the morning. But then someone flipped on the light to the room and all those notions popped and shattered like an empty bottle falling to the pavement of a dark alleyway, not unlike the several we had driven past before we could find this hotel, which was seated at the center of a suburban labyrinth. And now we were standing in the prize for having solved the maze. A pallid room with drab features, sparse décor, and a solitary bed. It felt more like a hospital room than hospitable. Like this is the last room you rest in before passing on. The condition of the room itself felt like a few degrees above squalor though at least livable. It couldn’t be all bad. There was a television. “Hasn’t anyone ever wanted to stay in a place where drugs, sex, and death have occurred? Likely all in the same night?”
“That’s a harsh judgment, Chase. Harsh, but fair, I suppose. I don’t think it looks all bad. I mean, it isn’t all good, but… Well, we have a couch.” I dropped my things on the couch and could feel all the dust and mite shit burst forth and further pollute the air. “Okay, nobody sit on that. Oh… my head. My head feels like it is suspended in viscous liquid. I think it is time to turn in.”
“Yes. Sleep. Sleep will do us good. Did anyone let Frank know we’re in town?”
“Yes, Craig. I sent him a message while Sam was dealing with the clerk. Told him we’re at the hotel and we will see him in the morning, around seven or so.”
“Good. Well, the bed appears large enough for us to pile in. Sorry I couldn’t find anything more accommodating for three.”
“You really had to cheap out on this, eh?”
“Since we’re not planning to be here all the time this weekend, yes. It made sense to just go with the cheapest that wasn’t too far out of our way.”
“I guess we could have done worse. Would you look at this window?” Craig was staring out the window, which didn’t have much of a view, just of a vacant lawn and the adjacent building. But it wasn’t the view outside the window that caught his attention as well as ours, it was the window itself. Smeared with ungodly white stains and the appearance of grease smudged over the surface. It looked as though things were trapped inside the glass and the only thing that appeared to keep it “locked” was a flimsy bit of wood positioned between one panel and the wall. Why even the force of a gentle breeze could snap that in two.
“It looks like glazed semen. It is frosted with jizz out of time,” I remarked.
“Like every porno film from the seventies were shot here all in one night. One sweaty, oily, crusty night. You can still smell its musk.” Chase inhaled deeply and then choked on the latent fumes of a dingy era.
Without hesitation, I pulled the curtain closed. “I think it would be best to not think about this. And while we’re at it, kill the lights. My eyes are developing a sensitivity. Is it warm in here? I think it’s warm. I’m going to fiddle with the air conditioning, cool it off in here so we can sleep well.” As I bent down to look at the AC and turn it on, the phone began to ring. Not any of our cell phones, but the actual room phone.
“Chase? Did you give Frank our room number?”
“No. I don’t think I even gave him the name of the hotel or anything.”
“That’s… that’s what I thought.” I was beginning to feel unnerved. Between the exhaustion, the uncooperative lock, the filthy window, and the stuffy air of the room, I was beginning to feel my mind and body weaken. I was losing all grip on my constitution. I felt wiped out, as though I was suddenly succumbing to some bodily illness, save for feeling any chills or aches. And now the phone was ringing without explanation, inciting alarm. “I’m not sure… don’t answer it.”
“Why? It could be a wrong number. They might have misdialed.” Chase picked up the phone, snapped it to his ear and spoke into the receiver. “Hello?” After what amounted to only a couple of seconds, he placed the phone back in the cradle. “No answer.”
“No one, so, see? Wrong number. No worries.”
“Are you okay, Sam?”
“I think I’m just… really tired. More tired than I thought I was. Please, do turn off the light. I think I’m getting a headache. A migraine.”
“No, it’s okay. I don’t mean to be short with anyone. Everything just feels off to me. I feel off.”
“It has been a long day and it’s late. Don’t worry,” said Craig, offering comfort. Chase went to the hallway and shut off the lights, but he turned on the bathroom light, which really didn’t bother my eyes at all. Everyone shuffled about the now cramped room, such small space in which to confide growing smaller. We rummaged through our bags, looking for clothes for the night, and anything else we might have needed such as a toothbrush or a phone charger or whatever anyone needed for their nightly rituals, the little things you do before you feel like you can properly go to sleep.
We crawled into the bed, with Craig on the side by the window, me on the side to the door and Chase in the middle. We had brought spare pillows and covers so we’d all be comfortable and not have to struggle and fight for our share of material through the night. Of course, from the feel of it, we might be kicking off layer after layer for while the AC was on, it felt like there was no change in the air. In fact, in my mind at least, it felt like it was getting warmer.
Everyone was in their place and settled in for the night. We were in for a short night’s sleep but at least we could finally get some rest.
I found myself struggling to stay perfectly asleep, waking up every so often and feeling quite uncomfortable from the stifling heat. It was still quite warm in the room and the collar of my shirt was absorbing my sweat. I had not yet reached the point where I would need to pull it off, but I thought maybe in another hour I would. I pulled my blanket down so I could cool off and stop baking under the covers. Looking into the dark room with my night vision, I could see that all the flaws of the room vanished. It looked quite normal. The light from the bathroom was still on. The pain in my head had subsided and whatever exhaustion I had was waning. I closed my eyes in attempt to slip back into whatever comfort of sleep I could afford with little time left in the night.
As I slept, I saw things. Deep inside my brain, things emerging and writhing in the night. Little creeping thoughts of things I never knew took residence in my mind. And here they were. Alive and realized. What they were I couldn’t tell but the feelings they evoked were powerful. Strong and repulsive. A wave of anxiety washed over me. I had never felt anxiety such as this before, from the strange things in the night which I could not identify but they filled me with terror. I knew to be frightened by them and yet I could do nothing to defend myself. I was paralyzed by the terror, seized in its grasp, a weak lump. The darkness twitched. Honest, I could sense everything in the room lightly tremor, like a train was rolling by but everything was silent save for the sputtering AC, which by this point in the night had finally begun to pump the room full of chilled air.
Wanting to take back my agency, I willed myself to wake up and open my eyes. When I did, I saw a figure standing at the foot of the bed. It had the shape and appearance of a man but I could not make out his features in the darkness of the room, and the light from the bathroom was not bright enough to reach this area so I had to rely on my wonky night vision. I was startled but I lied very still and did not make any sounds. I stared at the figure for a good while thinking that maybe he doesn’t see me and notice I’m awake. Or maybe he does and he’s just waiting for me to make a move. I notice he doesn’t move. He stood still, motionless in the unsettling night, like a gravestone.
With a pained scratch in my throat, I spoke in a whisper to the figure. “Yes? What do you want? Do you wish us harm? Do you want money? Who are you? How did you get in here? What do you want?”
No answer. No movement.
“My wallet is in a bag by the couch. I can tell you which one, please just take the cash. There’s eighty dollars. Take that and leave, we won’t report any of this.”
Still no answer and still no movement. I sat up. I was growing impatient. Can you believe such a thing? I was growing impatient by the presence of a strange man who refused to animate himself to acknowledge my pleas with him, my insistence that he rob us without consequence. I was willing to beg him to do so just so that I could experience relief at the sight of kinesthetics! “Sir! I ask you please! Tell us why you are in here?” My words were loud beyond whisper. I was speaking at full volume, enough to stir Chase and Craig from their slumber. “I ask again, why are you here? If you’re looking for money, I told you that I have plenty to offer as long as you take it and leave immediately! No harm, no foul!”
Chase turned over and rose from his ret. “What’s going on? Sam? What are you doing? Who are you talking to?” His words were slurred and his tone was dripped in mild confusion. Even with Chase and soon Craig awake and semi-alert, I never took my eyes of the man, the strange man cloaked in shadows, who stood firm as a statue at the end of the bed. Slowly, I slid myself out of the bed. His gaze followed my movements. He was interested in me. I stood up and held my arms out at sides and then motioned towards the couch. “Now… I’m going to take a few steps to the couch. My bag is just behind it, in the corner here. My wallet is in the back pocket of my pants, which are rolled up in the bag. I’m going to bring the bag out and empty it right here in front of you. Then I’ll get my wallet and had you over the eighty dollars. Once you have that, you can leave and this will all be over. We’ll never a speak a word of this as long as you are willing to take the money and spare us.”
There was no response. I don’t even think he blinked once in the time that I spoke and now that I was in a spot in the room where the light from the bathroom provided a little more luminescence, I still could no fully make out his features other than his eyes. Even as mine adjusted to the darkness, I still could not distinguish him. It all very well could be a figment of my imagination, just another symptom of the madness that was overcoming me from the influence of this room. That very well could have been the truth of it all and that I was sick with something and I would have believed that if not for an odd thing that occurred to finally confirm the truth for me. The strange man spoke.
His words, which he spoke in a breathless voice were “I come in a room looking for something. I see three men in a bed and I think maybe I can have a good time.”
I kept still. “If we give you money, will you leave?”
Chase spoke up. “Sam? Sam? What’s going on?”
“This man, this intruder, wants to defile us! I say, in the interest of our safety and a willingness to move on, we give him all the cash we have on hand so he can leave. So he leaves and we can get on with our lives.”
“Sam? What are you saying? What are you doing?”
“Nothing, Chase. Nothing. I’m just going for my bag to get my wallet. You guys, do the same. Get your wallets, get all the cash you have.” I stepped ever so carefully towards the couch, as though the floor was littered with shards of glass and thumb tacks. I reached for my bag. “Okay, I have my bag in my hands and I’m going to bring to the bed and empty it. Okay?” The strange man said nothing, returning to silence. Chase spoke up “Sam, what are you doing? Sam?!” When Chase proffered his query, I decided to make a move. I took two steps toward the bed, holding the bag out in front of me. Careful, small steps. Baby steps towards the bed. Then, I shouted at Chase “GET YOUR MONEY!” and threw the bag full force at the figure. He must have ducked because I heard it make contact with the television, knocking it back against the wall. With the distraction I lunged at him. Once I felt my body collide with his, I wrestled him towards the bed, hoping subdue him with all my weight on top of him and pin him between me and the mattress. This prove greatly difficult. He resisted mightily, as though he were still his normal statue-like self. I was able to turn him around to face the bed and with a swift movement, I slid my right leg between his and swept his right leg out from under him, forcing him down to one knee. He bent forward just enough for me to shove all of myself behind him, getting my knees behind his and lift him up. Once we were on the bed, I jumped up once and brought both of knees down, driving them square into his back. In a small flash of sadism, I was hoping to damage his spine.
Now, what happened next happened in a sonic blur of violence. The room burned a hot white and my eyes stung from the distorted lens that was now affixed to them. My ears swelled up from the rushing blood and I could hear nothing, all sounds muffled. It was like I was under water but my movement, my movement was quick, lightning bolt fast. I could feel me bringing breaking blows down upon the strange man. The sickening smacks of flesh against flesh, every one of them kissing my skin with stings. As I was damned to relent, the pleasure electric and almost sexual, there was small noise circling round in my ears, burrowing itself into my skull. It was the screams of my friends, pleading me to stop. I would not. Not until I knew for sure that this man was good and dead. Something was in me. Something took over and I was no longer me. This thing was me. This violent apparition that now took residence in my body. It would not relent for I was damned.
I stopped fighting. I remained still. The blood in my ears receded and all that left was a ringing among the silence of the room. The ill quiet that filled the air and made me sick. The blinding light faded from the room and normal vision was restored. I was breathing heavily, expelling air out of my lungs with great force, sucking in all the foul air. I coughed harshly, flecks of spit flying and dribbling down my chin. I noticed I wasn’t blinking. To be so acutely aware of such a tiny detail like that could be the result of a heightened rush of adrenaline perhaps. My heart pounded madly, pumping away with fury and my blood rushing through my veins, I could feel my pulse as though something was ready to burst out of my neck. I couldn’t calm myself. The sight before me was settled carnage; a tranquil madness. Before me on the bed laid not one but two bodies and neither one looked like the strange man who I had been battling. No, I knew these bodies. They were the bodies of my friends. They were the bodies of Craig and Chase. I took a few steps back and pivoted on my heel, scanning the room for any sight of the strange man but there was no trace of him to be found. As though he had disappeared as suddenly as he appeared. Such a foolish thought I fed to myself but I swallowed it. Their limbs were contorted in unnatural positions, as though they had been broken and pulled from out of their sockets. There was much blood and it had seeped through the sheets and likely into the mattress.
I took a moment to meditate. I closed my eyes and clasped my hands together in some form of desperate prayer, I felt lightheaded. I thought I was beginning to come down from the rush of the fight, but this felt different. It felt more like a disembodied sensation. I was suspended in liquid and floating. More like drowning but never sinking any further to the bottom. I fell to my knees and vomited something like tar. It smelled of gasoline and it steamed. It was a heap of bile that I rejected from my gut and I felt all the weight sucked out of me. Light as a feather and my mind was blank. A great light flashed before my eyes and in the snap of fingers, my mind was filled with strange visions of ruins and Grecian statues. Stone women missing limbs and faces. Tall pillars where men crouch atop with the world resting upon their shoulders. Brick walls forming a gateway where just beyond lays a path that leads to a river. I saw these things and I knew. I knew everything. I knew what had to be done.
I straightened out the bodies of Craig and Chase, lining them side by side. Looking upon them, I felt no sorrow and this lack of emotion should have startled me but it didn’t. I saw their bodies and could only think of how to best wrap them up to conceal their bodies, how to exert leverage to lift and carry them out to the car, and finally disposing of them. It was business now. Nothing more. I did notice that as I was moving their bodies, they felt quite light to me. I didn’t want to succumb to any sort of hubris wherein if this adrenaline finally does whereof, I’m stuck trying to carry two bodies in one sheet and it becomes far too much, so I wrapped them separately and brought them out one at a time to the car. Thankfully with our room being right by the back exit, away from plain view, I had no worry about being seen. Each trip did not take me long. I easily carried them out slung over my arms, looking a grotesque crossing of the threshold with a corpse bride. I carefully placed their bodies across the backseat, low and out of sight from the windows. Given that it was night, I don’t think that there was likely a chance of anyone catching a glimpse into the car. I took one last examination of myself. There was blood on me, enough to cause alarm but it didn’t bother me.
I got into the car and started the engine. When I did this, another flash appeared before me and more visions filled my head. Visions again of the statues and the gate, the path and the river, and now a road. Lights, signs, markings. Now I knew where to go. The light vanished and I pulled out of the lot.
The drive didn’t feel long at all, even though I had never driven these roads before. I could feel where the roads were leading, how much closer I was to the destination. I sensed it all. I never moved, the road and the scenery merely mutated to where I needed to be at this precise moment, like in a movie.
I pulled into the park and decided to drive off the paved roads, onto the grounds. No need to follow any sort of order at this stage in the game. Before me, I could see the shapes of statues standing in the shadows, just like the ones that appeared in my visions. I parked the car close by, over by a cluster of trees. The night was pitch black and the dim embers of distant stars pock-marked sky. Twinkling little sprinkles. The moon was out but I paid no mind to the shape, whether it was in wax or wane. It was humid. The air kissed your skin and stained you with its stickiness. It was stifling and uncomfortable, but now was not the time for comfort. There were corpses to dispose of and my mind to tend to afterwards.
With surprising ease, I slid the corpses out of the car and over towards the location of the statues, dragging both along behind me with each hand. My eyes were adjusting to the night and I was looking for the brick gateway. Recalling what came to me back in the hotel, I tried to mentally form a map based on the position of myself relative to the statues and other ruins. Instinctively, I turned left when passing by one that was both limbless and decapitated. There, just past the row of other ruins stood the brick gateway. Mere feet away, I would pass through this and abandon this reality forever. I would be free to while away in my own madness. Once I pass through, there is no looking back upon this realm, no return. I leave it and lay to rest myself with my fate and decision, as one lays with reservations about their station in existence. I held my breath and walked through and I felt nothing and it was wonderful.
Past the gateway, it was all woods. Thick and bunched together. I could see a path that would no doubt lead me deep into the woods. I felt something compel me to take this path and to bring the bodies. Down in the heart, I would find a place, a clearing, and this is where I would rest.
There was a great stinging pain in my arms from dragging the bodies. I pushed ahead trying to pay no mind to the strain. The sweat that was at first a steady beading was now a flood, streaming down my face and staining my clothes which clung close to my body. My eyes were growing tired as the fibers of my muscles grew tight and then would pop and explode with hot pain. I was forging along, trampling over fallen branches and dead growth; stomping through mud that sought to grab my feet and pull me down. But I could feel that I was drawing closer to where I was supposed to go. I stayed the course. The path I followed twisted and curved along, from my perspective, a decline down from the top of the woods towards a shallow valley. I had to mind the corpses so that they didn’t start rolling away from me and then I’d have to give chase after them. Though, if that was to be the case, they’d reach the end before me and I could finally be free of those albatrosses. It did make the walk much easier that I didn’t have to pull so hard on them, but my body still hurt much the same.
I could see the end. The density of trees began to taper. I could hear a soft bubbling. Water. There was a river. Waters of salvation, redemption. Sanity. Cleanse me. The rush of water splashing against rocks and trees, eroding soil. Eroding all sins of nature. I found myself standing at the river bed now. I was done. I let go of the sheets that concealed the bodies of my dead friends. Their crude burial shrouds. Not even a burial. I would leave them by the river side, under the majestic awning of the trees. I was tired. My body craved rest, my soul craved peace, and my mind craved dreaming for all eternity. I could feel the cool bath of the water from where I stood, drenched in sweat and caked in dirt and blood. A filthy heathen ready to repent. I licked my lips and began my slow march into the river. The chill of the waters felt soothing against my hot skin. I kept walking forward, wading further from the shore and towards the middle, feeling the riverbed drop deeper and deeper from the surface. I closed my eyes one last time and felt at home.