With each stride towards Bogspekti Drive the two boys take another gap opens up in the canopy, letting in yet another pale shaft of silver moonlight to lend form to their dark surroundings. Lurking shadows reveal as bushes, looming figures shed their humanity and become trees, scuttling creatures settle down and embody rocks, yet the wood does not lose its air of mystery. This is partly due to the unanimous turning off of flashlights between both Albey and Keaton and partly due to the deviously infrequent reminders that these humans are not alone on tonight’s walk. For minutes on end the silty crunch of shoes rearranging loose dirt accompanied by the unrestrained singing of the chirping crickets will dominate the boys’ perceptions, and then an owl will hoot in the distance. A branch will break somewhere, as if a flying squirrel went to leap and underestimated its own strength, or maybe a soft pulse of wind will disturb Albey’s hair from above as a bat tests how close to the strange bipeds it can fly. They don’t talk much during the short walk back, this pair bipeds, rather sharing a comfortable sort of silence that arises between two old friends whose connection transcends the illusion of time. That’s par for the course growing up in a small town with more trees than wheels on the roads – Albey knows everything about Keaton Quinn and Keaton Quinn knows everything about Albey. Everything except the force Albey is containing within his camera case, that is, but that story will break before the turn of the hour.
Come to think of it, there’s something Albey doesn’t know about Keaton Quinn these days as well. Well, two somethings – one, what the ‘man is doing with himself these days, and two…
“So uh, what’s up with that Kay and Kay thing?”
Keaton grins despite himself, then rests a hand on Albey’s right shoulder. “Better to let Karl explain that one, Albey. I don’t understand it any more than you do.” He takes his hand back and holsters it in his pocket. “Honestly, I don’t know if Karl even understands it.”
Sensing an impending collision with a branch he cannot clearly see, Albey ducks mid-stride. A leaf pets his head, then he stands up. “Very well. So what’s new, brother? If Harry has the fire going when we get back, I won’t have seen you in like, two years.”
“Yeah ‘man, it’s been a long while. I’ve been getting by, you know: sleeping indoors and eatin’ food from stores, as somebody hopefully once said. Just kind’a doin’ my thing.”
“Yeah? That’s good to hear,” Albey smiles, more for himself than for Keaton. “Still making those epic tunes?”
“Every now and again,” he chuckles. “Not like we used to, though.”
“No trips to The Commons, then?” Albey asks, leaning over to bop his shoulder into Keaton’s.
“No Bob, not for me,” Keaton says, closing his eyes to shake his head no even though they walk under the cover of darkness. “I mean, we all kind of stopped that stuff when high school started. You’re the one who kept it going, Albey the Poet.”
“Albey the Mad Poet, my friend.”
“Oh, Albey’s Mad now?” Keaton asks, bopping Albey back when he’s least expecting it.
“Decidedly,” followed by a satisfied little snicker. “But I distinctly remember The Triad getting together and taking a trip at least once a year during high school. And there was the last adventure the night before I left, can’t forget that.”
“Most definitely not,” Keaton agrees. “That’s the night The Triad climbed to the top room of Jericho Tower and stood against the might of the Rotting Ents’ army, as I’m sure you remember yourself.”
Nodding, “I do indeed, although I’m still not sure how Albey was able to escape with his life.”
Albey and Keaton walk right through The Waiting Room without noticing they’ve done so. It only occurs to them where they are when the ghostly moonlight guarding the end of the leafy tunnel through the Bogspekti Park acre of wood makes itself present down the way.
“I think it was thanks to Iuqon and Ram’rl,” Keaton concludes as their feet tap the asphalt. “All three of them have power/ But comes at long last the hour/ Where The Commons proves the stronger.”
“So go Poet, flee the Tower/ There’s no need to cower/ Perhaps only you truly belong here,” Albey says, carrying the torch. “I think you’re right, Keaton. Iuqon and Ram’rl stayed and fought, they gave Albey the chance to continue along his path through that magickly eternal wood.” They’re back at the cars now. Albey opens the driver-side door of his and plucks something out of the little cubby hole near the handle, then pockets it as he bumps the door closed. “Albey did go back to the Tower, though.”
“Did he, now?” Keaton asks, amused.
“Indeed he did, and what Albey saw amazed him. They did it, the field of white roses around Jericho Tower was blacker than night, dusted with the burned remains of the Rotting Ents. Jericho Tower was totally black, too, like the linchpin The Dirtbiker used to attach his gadget-carts to the end of his modded exhaust pipe.”
“Still uses,” as they enter the tunnel once more. “You know just as well as I that that wily bastard didn’t let himself get captured by the Rotting Ents before The Triad could roast ‘em. Not in a million years.”
“Got me there. He’s probably riding up and down The Dirtbiker’s Trail with a chipper cart right this second looking for Rotting Ents to mulch.” Albey allows himself a nostalgic sigh. “I really miss all that, ‘man. Tee’acHe’Cee is the easily highlight of my life. ‘Twas the peak, period, hands down. I doubt anything is ever going to top that crazy stuff we used to make up.”
“Oh sure it will,” as they cross through The Waiting Room, again failing to notice their doing so. “It’s a shame we never wrote any of it down, though. You could have used it in college, y’know? Could have really made something out of it. Who knows, maybe Karl and I could have kept doing it right along with you, too. Who’s to say Iuqon and Ram’rl didn’t survive the battle?”
“Oh right, that reminds me. I got sidetracked before,” Albey says. His shoe gets stuck on a rock sticking out of the trail for a second, but he corrects before he can trip up. “Albey went back to Jericho Tower and climbed the spiral staircase all the way to the room at the top. Iuqon and Ram’rl were both still there, Keaton, but their bodies were unrecognizable.”
“Ooh, that’s rough.”
“Ram’rl was burnt to a crisp, on account of Iuqon’s fire magick, and Iuqon, well… his face was gone. Sorry, ‘man. Still had his hair and his ears and whatnot, but whatever made the Ents rot evidently got to Iuqon’s head and uh… and ate his face to the bone. Polished him off like a shoe-shine.”
“It did always bother him that the Ents were the ones to succumb to the Plague of Decay. It figures that he fell to it in the end.”
“Yeah… wait, did they call it that? The Plague of Decay? ” Albey asks, trying to remember if he came up with that.
“Yeah, Iuqon did. He was studying it, among other things, but he kept all his research secret from the other two.” Keaton shrugs. His hands stay in his pockets. “Anyway, so why’d Albey go Mad?”
“Seeing the aftermath of the final battle played a role. Burying the bodies did as well – he heard their voices in his head for a long time after he returned them to The Hillside. They eventually faded away, but… yeah. After he performed the burial ritual Albey just walked off into the forest headed north and kept on going. He lost track of time after the first braud strate, lost track of his sanity a braud strate after that.” Albey inadvertently kicks a small stone down the trail, only realizing he did so by the sound of it bouncing off a rock. They’re quite close now; the canopy is a solid mass and even with the night vision going full steam ahead, neither of the boys can see six inches in front of them. “And thus concluded the tale of The Hillside Commons. All things must end… it’s a shame it had to end the way it did, though.”
“A shame indeed,” Keaton admits. “Wait, what about Gobon?”
Albey stops walking. A step later, so does Keaton. “Gobon? What are you talking about?”
“You know, Gobon the In’Fluence? The Triad met him on the trail leading to Jericho Tower, he tried to change their minds about going. Wanted them all to follow him down a different path, one paved in golden bricks.”
“Wow, I forgot all about him,” Albey says, then laughs sheepishly. “You know what would be great? If he was behind the Plague of Decay all along. Operating from the shadows, biding his time until he could reveal himself to The Triad without jeopardizing his Plaguing of The Hillside Commons.”
The sound of cloudy dusk shrouding a windswept field fills the nighttime forest. Neither Albey nor Keaton say a word, they couldn’t speak if they tried. Something seems to be possessing them, forcing them to take in the majesty of it all.
Then, “Yeah, that really would be great. You should do it, Albey.”
“What do you mean?” Albey asks as they get walking again.
“I mean you should do it. You’re a writer; write down the story. Or just continue where you left off, make the ending the beginning. Hell, you could even change stuff around if you wanted. It’s just a story we made up as kids, after all. You never know what could happen with something like that; intellectual property is the only property that can’t be taken away from you, and the story of The Hillside Commons is definitely worth sharing.”
“It doesn’t belong to me though, Que. It belongs to us: you, me, and Carl. None of it ever would have come to me if you guys didn’t start with the music when we were younger. All I did was rhyme words together to the beat of your tunes. I’m more of a rhymer than a writer, honestly, and I’d feel bad doing it without you guys.”
Keaton pfft s for the first time tonight. “I don’t know about all that, ‘man. You literally created an entire world for us to live in; the rhymes were just the butter on the bread. Just talking about it now, I kind of prefer the newer stuff.”
“The newer stuff?” Albey asks cautiously. This conversation is not the one Albey thought he’d be having tonight, but compared to the alternative, that’s not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
“Yeah, what you just told me. The stuff that went down after the Battle at Jericho Tower. It’s all about the story, comrade. The need to rhyme each line probably even held the story back, if you think about it.”
“Oh, uh… yeah. Maybe. I don’t know, Albey the Mad Poet wouldn’t be a Poet if he didn’t rhyme. It’s part of who he is, y’know?”
“I suppose… or maybe the rhymes were just what he made. Like Iuqon, for example; during the final battle he conjured black flames hot enough to disintegrate steel, but he didn’t consider himself a force of destruction. He was just a… what’d we call them? Creatures. He was just a creature doing the best he could.” They listen to the crickets sing. “Well, anyway, you probably made even better stuff in college. Art isn’t the only thing to evolve, right? The artists got’a evolve too. Speakin’a’which, what brings you back in town, ‘man? This is a great surprise.”
And just when Albey thought he was in the clear, too. “Oh uh, you know, just… actually, I’ll tell you later. After we’ve had a few with the other guys, so I don’t have to repeat it and whatnot. Cool?”
“Yeah ‘man, that’s cool.” A soft orange glow heats the crown of tree trunks around the clearing up ahead. “Cool’cool’cool.”
Hello Commons, this has been the fourth subchapter of the first chapter of Untitled Bigfoot Project, a novel about a writer who writes a novel about bigfoot.
Untitled Bigfoot Project is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Untitled Bigfoot Project is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Untitled Bigfoot Project and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here.
Be well Commons~