Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Author, Chapter Forty-Four: The Page

July 25

“What? Bullshit!” Stuart threw a piece of popcorn at the television.

“He looked out to me,” Jeff said, without thinking.

Stuart looked at him with a smirk. “And you're the fuckin' expert now, are you?”

The television showed a replay and the red-socked and cleated foot of the St. Louis Cardinal clearly did not manage to reach second base on time.

Neither man said anything about it.

Then Stuart spoke. “Shut up,” he said, belligerently, although he grinned afterwards.

Jeff went into the kitchen for refills. He looked out the window over the sink with the same caution he had for the past two days. They hadn't spoken about the snow. Jeff had come upstairs in the evening, treading lightly on the stairs as if nature might hear him coming, and there was still snow on the ground and on the porch, but it was melting away. Even that had been something of a comfort.

He chalked it up to something like Thorsen, or Stuart's admission that he thought about suicide. Just another elephant in a room that was gradually becoming quite crowded with pachyderms.

But, to be fair, they hadn't spoken much since it had snowed at all. Stuart had kept drinking bourbon and eating chili, and Jeff had kept cooking, reading and writing. And now they were watching baseball.

“Oh my God! Fuck you!” he heard Stuart yell from the other room. “Get in here, you gotta see this!”

Eventually pizza was ordered and consumed and Stuart got a bit more obnoxious as he began to feel the beer he had been drinking since before noon. When the game drew to an end, the doomed Cardinals finally succumbing and letting the Astros put them out of their misery.

Stuart got up and took a very loud piss in the small bathroom. He tended to leave the door slightly ajar when he did this, with his typical carelessness, but Jeff had long since stopped noticing.

“You gonna write tonight?” he asked, coming out of the bathroom.

Jeff arched his head over the back of the couch to look back at the writer. “Yeah, I was planning on it.”

“You wanna just bring your laptop up here, work at the table with me?”

Jeff would have swore that if such a circumstance ever came up, he would have taken it without question. But now that the opportunity was here, that wasn't true. The idea made him nervous, just like sharing the book did, and he realized it was part of the same pattern of superstition that had made Stuart twitchy about doing something as insignificant as using a computer instead of a keyboard. He didn't want to fall prey to such an idea, an idea that was, really small and petty and frightened.

“Hell, yeah,” Jeff heard himself say, before he could reconsider. “Thank you.”

So, an hour later, the two men were hunched over the relative laptops. Jeff writing in long, slow slogs, Stuart writing with his trademark rapidfire bursts wrapped around thoughtful pauses.

Jeff had thought it might be different, but he wasn't sure why. The new location became something he didn't think about at all, once he focused on his own book, and he was listening to music, as he usually did, so the stop and start of Stuart's typing was a distant sound, like city construction several blocks away. If were honest, with all the other ridiculous shit that had been going on, he had assumed that the power of the two of them writing together in the same small space would have caused the table to float into the air or something. It was not a truth he was keen to admit, but it was there, he realized.

After he finished a particularly involved conversation, and reached almost 120 pages, he saw proudly, Jeff noticed that Stuart was standing over him. He pulled out his earbuds.


“I'm getting a drink, you need one?”

Jeff's mouth was dry and when he looked at the clock on his computer he realized that he had been sitting here, focused, for more than an hour.

“Some water would be great, thanks.” He couldn't remember the last time the author had served him. “What's this,” he asked, noticing a piece of paper next to his laptop.

“Something you should read. Something I meant to show you a while ago.”

“Is it yours?”

“As much as anything I write here is mine, I suppose,” Stuart said, returning and placing Jeff's water on the table. “But yes, I wrote it.”

The paper was yellowed with age and crinkled as if someone had thought about destroying it or balling it up, or as if it had been lost in the back of a drawer for years.

These stones are more than ten thousand years old. Their origins have been lost to history. Those who know of them, and there are not many, argue they were placed by aliens or lost civilizations, the lost tribes of Israel, druids, forgotten First Peoples. Perhaps the Earth herself grew them, as an expression, as a weapon, as a defense. Regardless, these stones, older than memory, older than recorded time, still remain and still have memories of their own. Curiously, although perfectly visible, they remain largely unnoticed in the modern world.

Each stone has a name, a personality, a value, and each feeds into the stones near it.

The natural world understands and fears this power. Simpler beings such as animals and plants fear them or revere them, moving away or moving toward.

Humans also feel the power of the stones in different ways. Some draw from them, others run from them, shunning them or condemning them.

Perhaps they are the American equivalent of ley lines, which form conduits of power throughout the European continent, forming the basis of main roads and the axis upon which important buildings, such as churches and houses of government, are placed. Sometimes these decisions, a road here, a cathedral here, are conscious, but most often these decisions are only obvious to those who understand and observe the power of the ley lines.

They were used for worship once, yes, and human sacrifice, although this is more because their powers are unknown than because they require blood shed.

It is recorded that in their presence headaches and toothaches may be generated or cured. Cancers form or fall.

These stones, like those at Stonehenge and on Easter Island reflect pagan beliefs, faiths that go...

Jeff looked up. “Is that it?”

Stuart nodded. “It's all I found.”

Jeff looked from the document back to the writer. “What the hell, Vic?”

“I wrote it a long time ago. I don't remember when, one of my first summers out here. It came out as a chapter of...Ash or Watching, I don't know. Obviously it didn't fit, didn't make any sense for the book, but it was pretty obvious that I was writing about the posts in my goddamn yard. The ones on the beach, too.” Stuart sat down across from Jeff with a sigh. “Keep something in mind for me, though, okay kid? I write fiction. The shit that comes through me onto paper at this place is all lies. Its lies with a ring of truth, or else people wouldn't care about it, but it's still bullshit. It's made up.”

“You can't really believe that. What about that H.P. Lovecraft crap?”

“I said we were subject to the same insanity, that we were tapped into the same thing, not that we were fucking prophets, Jeff. Two men telling similar lies just means they have similar stories to tell, not that they are tapped into some kind of intergalactic truth. Don't be foolish.”

“Foolish?” Jeff said, his voice getting louder and higher. He slapped his hand down on the table, held up the old piece of paper. “Are you really going to try to tell me you don't think there's any truth in here at all? That it might not explain the shit that goes on here?”

Stuart was looking at his hands. “No, Jeff, it really might. But so what? Does your laptop work better when you know what a megawatt or a kilobyte is?”

Jeff opened and closed his mouth several times, ready to start talking and then abandoning the idea. “Where the rest of it?”

“I don't know.”

“I don't believe you.”

Stuart looked up at Jeff. “I don't blame you. I don't know why you would.”

“All the shit I've seen out here and accepted because that's just the way it is, because it's the way you do it. But someone died out here, Vic, and I can't believe you don't have the same thoughts that I do, that Thorsen offed himself, that fucking Mac did the same thing, because of these goddamn posts.”

“Of course they did.”

“So you deliberately bring someone out here every summer and put them in harm's way, just so you can write your precious fucking novels.”

“No, Jeff. It's only the truly gifted people that are really affected by this place. That's why Mac got the job. He wasn't gifted. But clearly he had some buried talent somewhere, and the posts devoured it and gave him back bile. And Thorsen? Well it was his time anyway. Maybe it wasn't his idea to kill himself, but did you see him? Have you read what he wrote recently? He didn't have anything left and he fucking knew it. So yes, he acted on something that was already there with a little help and then it snowed which means shit is going to keep ramping up until this is finished.”

“What, it dies down when it's finished?”

“Unless I start another one, yes, it'll start to ebb.”

Jeff stood up, unplugging his laptop to take it with him.

“You told me you felt trapped here sometimes, like you want to come back here and you're afraid to do it at the same time. And you're such a bastard about it that every year you bring some poor sap like me out here and throw him under the fucking train while you're at it.” He held up the paper in the other hand. “But this? You could use this. Maybe you could find out a way to free yourself, so that if you wanted you could stop being all talk about how I shouldn't sell myself up the river and how I should retire when I want to and how you're stuck in the same old patterns, you could sit down and try to write this again, write the rest of it, and maybe figure out a way to set yourself free.”

“I'm not so far gone that I didn't think of that as well, Jeff,” Stuart said, looking up at the younger man, his eyes glistening in the light over head. “But it's too late for that. I know that, don't ask me why, I just do. It could be that when I wrote that, if I'd have realized what was going on instead of just being so insanely grateful to be rich and successful, maybe back then I could have escaped. Maybe. But now? Now I'm stuck. They're thousands of years old, Jeff, and they'll be here long after I am. And there's nothing you can do about that, I'm afraid.”

“Good night,” Jeff said coldly, and went down the stairs to his room. He wouldn't be able to write anymore tonight, and he sure as hell didn't feel like reading one of his books now. He opted to watch a movie, which turned into two and a half, before he was able to fall asleep.

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