A plasmic demon in the form of a roaring fire dances and jives three feet above the circle of rocks which was built with the intention of containing such a blaze. Harry and Karl are sat in the “northern” and “western” chairs, both of them nursing half-empty bottles, neither of them wearing anything on their feet. Carl’s eyes rise from the fire to check out the incoming rustling as Albey and Keaton make their approach, but Harry’s do not. Harry knows what the noise is, there’s no need to stare.
“Woah, killer fire, Harry,” Albey compliments as he returns to his “southern” seat. Keaton almost asks Carl to get up so he can have his spot back, but then he doesn’t, instead taking the “eastern” chair.
The crackling of the campfire wages war against the chirping of the crickets. A stalemate is reached.
“Thanks, buddy,” Harry finally brings himself to say. “Sparked it literally half a minute after you guys left. Hope the walk was worth missing the flare-up.”
“’Twas indeed,” Albey confirms, placing the camera case back on his lap. “And I think in a minute you’ll agree with me.” He unbuckles the buckles and pinches one of the two zippers between his fingers, but then hesitates. “Wait.”
“What’s up?” asks at least two, possibly three voices.
“Beer?” Albey wonders, placing the camera case on the ground.
Harry and Carl raise their bottles. “Beer.”
Albey and Keaton both stand. Albey sits Quinn back down with a pat on the shoulder as he walks by to ransack the cooler. With the fire burning with such a ferocity, Albey finally gets the opportunity to check out this legendary camping spot Harry and the boys, ‘Kay and Kay, for some reason,’ built in the autumn after he left for college. He is not disappointed, but rather honored – the stones encircling the camping spot are mostly purple and pink puddingstones, a supreme choice in ambiance; there are tremendous decorations hanging from the trees; some deco plates, some glass etchings; there’s a painting bound in what seems to be an antique wooden frame depicting a field of blood red roses punctuated with a dark tower standing regally in the middle, a truly grand homage to Stephen King’s unfuck’wit’able magnum opus; behind and slightly beside Sir Harrington’s chair is a metal patio table upon which sits everybody’s stuff (meaning Harry’s backpack) and below which two pairs of shoes are sheltered; the fact that Kay and Kay felt it not only appropriate but suitable to name this place The Hillside Commons makes Albey feel warm on the inside in a way alcohol could never hope to accomplish, but that doesn’t stop him from jacking two bottles out of the cooler, which he closes with his dirty shoe.
Flames dance on the labels of the brown bottles as Albey hands one off to Keaton. “Wait, these are hard apple ciders?”
“Yeah,” Harry says, raising his bottle up even higher. “Beers.”
“Shit, I’ll drink to that.” Albey, without plopping down in his chair, twists the cap off his bottle and holds it out well over the scorch zone above the tips of the flickering flames. Harry, Keaton, and Carl stand up simultaneously, and Albey looks each of them in the eyes before saying, “It’s good to be here tonight, guys. Thank you for having me. Cheers.”
“Cheers,” tinks Harry.
“Yeah, cheers guys,” tinks Keaton, adding, “I’m glad we could all come out tonight, this is great.”
“Cheers,” tink s Carl.
All four of the boys tip their heads back and feel the spiked cider slither down their throats. Carl, whose bottle is now empty, burps and tosses his carcass casually into the pit. It shatters on impact, rousing a primal guffaw from the depths of Carl’s being. Keaton and Albey both sit down. Harry remains standing as he muscles through a chug, then he plants his feet firmly and unleashes a belch proper enough to make his ears pop.
“Woo!” as he stretches his arms above his head. “Karl, you want another one? I’m getting another one.”
“I do want another one.”
“I’m’a get you another one.”
Harry gets Carl another one. Carl waits for Harry to sit back down before opening the cider and beginning his guzzle.
“So, moment of truth here, Albey. Why did you need to go back to your car and miss me lighting this tight-ass fire?”
In answer, Albey plops his camera case in its rightful place on his lap and pulls the zipper. Looking into Harry’s eyes with a daring kind of craziness, he hinges the top back and begins spelunking hectically through the plushy compartments within. He takes out first a DSLR camera which he slings around his neck, then a lens for the camera, which he installs, then what looks like an eyeglass case but thicker and more pill-shaped, and lastly a small metallic cylinder about the size of a stack of nineteen golden dollars. Maintaining the loco eye contact, Albey then uninstalls the camera lens, places it back into the case, places the camera back into the case, and zips the case shut. Setting the pill thing and the cylinder on his chair, Albey returns to the kickin’ metal patio table, drops off his camera case for the rest of the night, and comes back to his seat with anticipation falling out of his pockets like dusty balls of lint.
“I’m assuming you’re going to answer my question at some point, Albey,” Harry says, then drowns his pettiness in three fluid ounces of hard apple cider.
“I am,” hums Albey. He unzips the pill-lookin’ thing and a brick wall of the dankest, skunkiest weed smell to ever grace the olfactory bulb of one Harrington Bogspekti nearly topples the poor ‘man out of his brown plastic seat.
“Yoooooo,” Carl says with squinted eyes, damn near dropping his hard cider into the dirt. “You’re shitting me.”
“No, sir,” Albey says, sounding pleased. He looks over at Keaton, who’s shaking his head with a big ol’ smile on his face, and levels a wink at him. “Boys, Albey went off to college a few years ago and he’s never been the same since.”
“Yeah, I’ll say,” Harry mumbles, taking another girthy swig. “You really smoke that shit these days?”
“I have been known to indulge a little bit, yes,” Albey says as he unpacks his pill thing. Fortunately there isn’t much in there, just a bowl and a bag’a nugg’, and his knees provide an ample work station.
Under the watchful eyes of K and K and the willful ambivalence of Harry, Albey empties the nugg’s into his palm and tosses the bag in the direction of the fire in the manner that one would fling a ninja star. It lands directly in the center of the smoking pit and melts into noxious goop without hesitation before combusting in a flash of blue and green flames. With his other hand, Albey takes the cap off the cylinder – a small herb grinder, but not by any means the smallest one they sold in the on-campus dispensary back at Louberg U – plugs half the weed into it, grinds it down into the stickiest flakes this side of the Mississippi River, then rinses and repeats for the rest of the stash. The catch chamber is overflowing when he screws the grinder part off, but that’s hardly the world’s biggest problem.
“Now, would you fine folks care to partake in the holy sacrament with your boy?”
“Fuck yeah,” Carl says from the edge of his seat.
“Lit. How about you, Keaton?”
“Yeah, why not? After all, Sidney Blake doesn’t come back to town every day.”
“My ‘man.” He looks at Harry. Harry is focused on the fire again. “How about you, Har’?”
“Nah.” He gulps down at least half of what remains in his bottle. “Maybe I’ll change my mind, I don’t know. Not go’n’a stop you from smoking the shit, though.” He gestures arbitrarily towards his guests with his chin. “If everyone wants to.”
“Mighty kind of you, chief.”
Albey takes up a pinch of weed, rolls it into a tight little ball, and drops it into the bowl. He then takes up a more generous pinch, sniffs it whilst shaking his leg like a petted dog, and stuffs it in on top of the stopper ball. After carefully packing the mass down with the fatter of the two joints in his middle finger, Albey repeats the cycle until kush is leaking out over the glassy rim of the pipe’s tarry bowl. Then, just for shits and giggles, he unscrews the slender kief chamber from the bottom of the grinder, uses the scoop he made with a crushed metal bit from a pencil eraser he gnawed off one day during some remedial class to harvest a bushel of THC powder, and dumps the load all over the bowlpack, not spilling so much as a single speck. The piece, a fat spoon pipe with a bowl deeper than a hole to China called The Peace Piece, is now ready for action.
“All right, who wants greens?”
“I don’t know what the hell greens are, but I’ll fuckin’ take ‘em!” Carl says, standing up and reaching his grubby little hands towards Albey.
Albey smilingly hands The Peace Piece to Carl, who takes it with both hands as if it was a precious jewel or a baby kitten, perhaps. “It’s the first hit of a packed bowl. Stoner culture is lost on you, Carl.”
“Hey, ain’t no cultural appropriation comin’ from me, thank you very little,” Carl says to his chair as he walks back and sits down. “Got a light, mayn?”
“Yop,” Albey says, fishing the lighter out of his pocket and casting it to Carl. Addressing Harry, “That’s why I needed to go back to the car before, by the way. Forgot the lighter in there.”
“How’d you manage that? Smoking on the road?”
Albey shrugs. “Yeah, a little. Not constantly, though. It helps me stay awake; long road trips put me right the fuck to sleep.”
“Boy, I feel it,” Carl says before bringing the spotless mouthpiece to his lips. He flicks the lighter, brings the gassy flame up to the bowl, and pulls hard. The weed crackles and pops ever so slightly as the raw happiness transitions from herbal to smokeous form and enters Carl’s lungs, burning the back of his throat in a way that almost feels too good to be legal. He keeps toking with the lighter lit, soaking the pack in butane-flavored excrement, and only stops when a coughing fit worthy of a lung cancer diagnosis hops in through the passenger window and shoves him out of the car altogether. Albey can’t help but giggle to himself as Carl flails back and forth, waving his hands around in the air, covering his face with his hands, covering only his mouth, clutching his belly. Harrington kills his beer and gets himself a third by the time Carl is done being a bitch.
“Holey shyt, dood,” Carl says in a voice that does not belong to Carl. “What the fuck am I smoking right now?”
“It’s called Hippie Crippler, and it might be the greatest goddamn weed I’ve ever smoked. Even better than Forbidden Fruit, which is purple all the way to its core. It’s only hitting you so hard because you torched the living hell out of it with the lighter, dude. Whole bowl’s probably a lump of charcoal at this point.”
Expecting a snarky rebuttal Albey looks at Carl with expectations beaming out of his eyes. Carl looks back at Albey, but he doesn’t quite see Albey. He’s not sure what he’s seeing; in fact, Carl isn’t sure he’s seeing at all. Matt’a’fact, Carl Markson isn’t even sure what seeing is right now. He’s not sure of much else, either, only the fact that he is currently in possession of the most sacred of holy sacraments, and that he’s obliged to pay forward the glorious blessing he has received on this lovely wooded night.
“Nah, pass that bad boy to your homie on the left. Everybody goes counterclockwise when they smoke, I’m not about it.”
Carl takes a meaty forty-two seconds to process this, then rotates his pointer finger in a circle to figure out which way the hands on a clock spin, then attempts to pass the bowl to Harry. Harry does not let Carl pass the bowl to him.
“Fine, just give it here,” Albey concedes, taking The Peace Piece and poking it right in the bowl. To his adoration Carl rimmed it, and at least two-thirds of the weed (and the kief, oh the glorious kief!! ) went untorched by the white lighter’s flame. “You don’t mind going last, do you Keaton?”
Keaton stares at Albey for a second, then looks at Carl – the boy is hopelessly lost in the dance of the flame – then looks back at Albey. “It’s a circle, dude. If I’m last, I’m first.”
“That’s the spirit! Carl, throw me the lighter.”
Carl immediately drops the lighter. It falls to the ground between his feet, which Albey notices are vehemently dirty when he crouches down to pick the lighter up. As soon as the smoke begins to flow, the thought of Carl’s feet is so gone from the domain of Albey’s mind that he may as well have never noticed them at all.
The Peace Piece is passed to Keaton, who smokes it calmly and without coughing, then back to Albey. He tries to hand it over to Carl but the dude’s already half a toke away from talking to the plants, so he opts to keep the circle between himself and Keaton for now. When the bowl is ashy and cashed, Albey ejects the hunk of charcoal and ashes into the firepit, where it assimilates as if it’s been part of the conflagration all along. It is at this point that Harry finally gives in and requests smoke, to which Albey happily obliges.
“Yeah, it’s not too bad,” Harry compliments between his third and fourth consecutive hits. “I mean, I’ve definitely smoked better – one time I got a pound of Forbidden Fruit for two’eighty and I killed it in a month.”
“Two’eighty?!” Albey flabbergasts loudly. “Where in the fuck did you get a pound for that cheap, dude??”
Harry smirks the shit-eatingest of smirks. “Oh, you know. I know a guy. Who knows a guy. Who knows a few guys. It’s a whole web, kind of like Quinn’s fuckin’ social circle in this town. Kid’s practically the mayor, for Christ’s sake.”
Keaton shrugs, holding a satisfied smile. This is such a wonderful night in Logger’s Pond.
“Ahh, so you’re a social butterfly now, Keaton? That’s rad.” Albey takes the bowl from Harry’s offering hands and tokes deeply. “You said you’re just kind’a doing your thing before, what’s that mean?”
“Y’know. A little a’this, a little a’that,” Keaton says, his eyes not once leaving the fire. “I get around where I need to go, help folks out. Try to stop them from paying me. Fail at that task and that task only. I don’t have a regular job or anything, but I’m doing all right.”
“Word, good shit ‘man.” Another toke, he keeps to the shallow end this time. “How about you, Carl? What’s–… oh wait, actually, before I even ask that, what’s up with the whole Kay and Kay thing? Your name starts with a Cee, if I’m not completely retarded right now.”
“It did… once,” Karl answers with fire dancing in the darkness of his dilated pupils. “But it starts with a Kay now. Kay and Kay, it’s kooler that way. Kooler with a Kay.”
He says nothing more.
“Word, well that answers that. What are you doin’ for work these days, buddy?”
“Got myself a gig coaching at eSs’Oh’Bee High School. I’m so good that they swap me between different sports all the time, sometimes more than once a day.”
“Really? Yo, that’s actually kind of awesome, dude! Inspiring the youth, leading the wave of the future. That’s stupendous, Karl.”
“Yeah, hours are nice too. Sometimes I show up at two’thirty and leave by four.” Karl nods rapidly to himself seven times. “Good job. It’s a good job.”
Fighting the urge to laugh at Karl’s intoxication is no simple task, but Albey manages. “I’m actually thrilled for you, buddy. You probably see my dad all the time, too.”
“Yeah… him and Principal Torez are always yuckin’ it up about last weekend’s golf match.” Karl brings his knees up to his chin and wraps them with his arms. “I’m’a golf wit’ ‘em one’a’these days.”
“You fucking suck at golf, Karl,” Harry reminds him. “Remember the one time we went? You broke two of my clubs over your knee and crashed the golf cart into a pond.”
“I thought it could floa–”
“Well it couldn’t,” clears the air so the fire can speak its piece.
Albey shoots another clump of ashen charcoal into the firepit which, along with the fellas, is approaching sleepiness. It vanishes into the molten scarlet caldera. “Well listen, I’m glad you guys are out there getting it. Does me good to hear that my boys are running this town.” He rolls another stopper ball and plucks the last full pinch of herb remaining in the grinder. “How about you, Harry? What’a’you have movin’?”
Smugness embodied in a facial expression colorized by hopping flames and creeping shadows. “Well Albey, I run this town.”
Albey’s eyebrows hover.
“Well, my dad does. In the time you were gone he did quite a bit of investing, the old man’s got his hands in the pockets of practically every business operating off Mane Road. I think he’s trying to unify them, even came up with a slogan for the shit – There’s no I in Mane!”
“Oh shit, that’s wild.” Carefully, making sure not to waste a flake, Albey uses his scoop to dump the rest of the weed into the bowl. “But what do you do? Like, on the day-to-day.”
Sir Bogspekti blinks thrice in rapid succession, then expels a lot of effort curling his lips into a smile. “I have a gig over at the library.”
“Logger’s Pond has a library outside of the school?”
“Sure does. Now,” crossing one leg over the other as he leans back. “I’m surprised you didn’t see it, it’s right before the turn into Bogspekti Park.”
The pot smoke feels soothingly warm inside Albey’s lungs, it just feels right. “It was pretty dark on the drive in, I must’ve passed right by it. My bad, dude. I’ll definitely check it out tomorrow.”
“No rush,” Harry ensures him, lacing his fingers and bringing the bundle behind his head. “I usually stay in my office all day anyway, I don’t mingle with the patrons very much.”
“Damn, you have an office in the library, too?” Albey asks, passing the bowl and lighter over the fire to Harry. “Oh shit, that was supposed to go to Karl.”
“Karl isn’t here right now,” Karl says, hugging his knees against his chest. “Please leave a message after the beep.”
“Welp. So whuh–”
Silence for a moment. It gets broken to shards by an ecstatic and unrestrained giggle from Keaton.
“So what do you do in your office, ‘man? C’m’on, spill it. I feel like I’m chasing a weasel around a mulberry bush.”
Rubbing the stubbly patches of brown on his cheeks, Harry says, “I know, sorry. I’m just monkeying around, I uh, I’m the head honcho of this li’l’ town’s first and only official local newspaper, the LogPond Gazette. New issues come out every Thursday. I have a couple writers and editors and whatnot, but I always go over the thing myself and make my own adjustments before it goes to print. I even write some of the articles, if the story is juicy enough.” He smokes three hits and passes the bowl to Keaton. “You’re a writer too, right Albey? It’s funny how we wound up doing the same exact thing, even though I never bothered with college. We should collaborate sometime.”
Albey smirks with half of his mouth. “I’d be down. I wouldn’t say we do exactly the same thing, though.”
Three blinks of two eyelids in one second. “No? So you’re telling me you don’t type shit on a computer all day?”
The Peace Piece continues its cyclical journey. “Nope! I should, but I’m hella lazy.” A hit taken. “That’s a joke.” A hit given back, a bowl emptied. “But what I’m getting at is there’s a difference between what we write. Yeah, we both sit in front of a computer and press buttons like a couple deaf-mute monkeys, but the results are apples compared to oranges.”
Harry nonverbally commands Albey to continue this queer train of thought, as it’s not yet reached the station.
“Like, I went to school to write poetry. I write lines that rhyme no matter the time, the kind of shit that makes you want to drop a dime, buy some thyme, tar of pine, a spool of fishing line, and uh… I feel like you get my point.” A zipper zipped, a bowl rests peacefully. “Creative writing is different than journalism.”
“Probably felt that way before you made your point,” Harry says, straightening his back out with the energy of a grizzly bear standing up on two legs. “I guess I get what you’re saying. It would probably be pretty hard to find a spot for uh, for your kind of writing in the Gazette, anyway.” Another one of those effortful smiles. “Forget I asked.”
“Oh, no, I didn’t mean… ah, just forget it. You’re a busy dude, you probably don’t have the time.”
“Probably not,” as his arms fold. “So what about you, Albey? Back in the woods for the first time since you left, I’d be a fool to assume you have nothing going for yourself. Spill it, what brings you back to our little patch of Eden? Just visiting, I’m sure.”
“Well uh…” Albey says, playing the bongos with his thighs. “Don’t be too sure…”
Eyebrows fly high over widening eyes, well above a smile Harry doesn’t even know is there. “Say again?”
“I uh… well.” Albey sighs. What’s the point, who gives a fuck what these guys think? They’re good ol’ boys, they won’t make him regret dropping the drawbridge. “Well, to be honest with you guys, I uh… I’m in the process of moving back home now. Like uh… like, right now.” A questioning silence with a lot of eye contact. Nobody’s watching the fire anymore. “Like, after we put the fire out later and walk back, I will complete the process.” He kicks the dirt. “Um… my last semester didn’t go too great for me.”
“No?” Harrington asks in a way that, were everybody sober, would come off as intrinsically suspect. “Why uh, why not, buddy?”
Were Albey not looking at his feet he would see the petty smirk Harry has plastered across his face as if he repaired a hole with it, but he is so he doesn’t.
“I don’t really know. Well, I guess I do know, or at least I’m pretty sure. Uh, so most students at Louberg yoU for their first two years will take four general-education classes and one introductory-level class for their major each semester. That’s the curriculum for the first two years, fifteen standard classes and five that go towards your major. Being… I don’t know what I was being, but I took all my general eds in the first three semesters and then all the classes for my major in the fourth, so I could totally immerse myself before taking the full dive, you feel me?”
“Yeah, I feel you,” Harry assures him. K and K don’t speak, they’re listening too intently.
“So yeah, I had uh, five poetry classes, and they just kind of… they kicked the shit out of me. My grade point average dropped faster than the level of fucks in my fuckit bucket after syllabus week came and went.” Albey is quiet for a moment. “One class was especially horrid, it was called Appreciation of Poetry and the professor was this grisly and miserable flat-faced fat fuck who told us many and many’a story about how his old friends would always disagree with his opinions so he stopped being friends with them. He was atrocious, the class was absolutely asinine, and the tests were beyond impossible. I think I was the only student who actually failed the class, but I talked to a bunch of the other kids and they all said they got Dees. The rest of the classes weren’t even that bad to be honest, I just had Appreciation of Poetry first thing in the morning twice a week and it slaughtered the rest of the semester for me. Couldn’t manage any higher than a Dee-minus in anything I was doing, and I’m pretty sure I only got that high of a mark because the professors all wanted to sleep with me.”
“Well that don’t sound awful,” Harry says, and he’s legitimately trying here, too.
“The professors were all men.”
For the first time tonight Albey stares deeply into the fire, so deep he gets lost in the flickering blaze. Harry gets up and fetches himself another beer, pops it open on the walk back. He gulps the appley brew down one noisy glug after another, then releases a burp to shake the treetops. Albey doesn’t even hear it, he’s stranded among the melted glass lining the bottom of the pit.
Keaton pulls him back up to tepid ground with, “Well look ‘man, that’s a tough break. But at least you’re home now, you had something to fall back on. And you can still be a poet, right? I mean, honestly, I don’t think you need to pass a class taught by some dipshit with no poetry career in order to appreciate that which you create.”
“Yeah, I know. The professors weren’t all bad, either. Like, some of them were actual writers, but the rotten apples spoiled the bunch, as the saying goes. I don’ow. I just feel like I wasted a bunch of time I’m never going to get back.”
“Maybe you did, but maybe you didn’t. Who knows, maybe you needed it to happen so you could come back home to Logger’s Pond and write the Tee’acHe’Cee book.”
“Yo, you’re go’n’a write a book about The Commons?!” Karl blurts, proving to everybody he still lingers with the living.
“You’re writing a book about my campsite?” Harrington does not demand but does not quite ask, either. Each word comes out far drier than the last.
“Hold up, I never said I was go’n’a write it,” Albey reminds Keaton. “But if I was, no, it wouldn’t be about your campsite, Harry. I know it was a while ago now, but do you remember that night before I went to college when we all chilled and made up that little story about the Battle at Jericho Tower? Kay and Kay were making music and I was speaking in rhymes?
“Not particularly,” is trailed by a girthy two-gulp swig. “But sure, let’s say I do. Continue.”
“Well Karl and Keaton and I would get together to do that pretty often when we were younger, we each had our own characters and they’d go on adventures through an endless forest called The Hillside Commons. Technically the forest itself didn’t have a name–”
“And technically we called the hillside campground where they built The Lodge they all lived in The Hillside Commons,” Keaton says, picking up the thread just to drop it again.
“Yeah, technically… well, technically a whole lot of names were thrown around back then. But yeah, we had a whole fictional world with an overarching story we used to play around with. On the walk back from my car Keaton and I were talking about it and he said I should use the story to write a book, but I don’t know.” He shrugs. It is a shrug full of self-pity. “I’m a poet, not a novelist. I wouldn’t even know how to start, let alone carry the story through to the end. Novels are a lot of pages long, it’s intimidating as all hell.”
“Huh,” Harry nods, mouth crimped into an approving horseshoe. “Well hey, whatever man. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. You definitely should come by the library sometime, I’ll give you a tour. It would be kind’a dope to have a local author hanging around, y’know? Good for the public image. Give the youngin’s someone to look up to.”
“Yeah ‘man, sure,” Albey commits noncommittally. “I’ll probably come by during the week or something.”
“Yeah, you probably would,” Harry agrees. “The place is closed on the weekends, buckaroo. Not for me or my newsies, of course, but for everybody else.”
“Gotcha,” Albey says with a few slow nods. “Yeah, for sure during the week, then.”
“Yeah, man…” Harry says as the conversation begins to shrivel up and die. “So uh, so why’d you end up taking that poetry class? There are websites that have ratings for college professors and the classes they teach, right? You had to have at least some semblance of an idea of what you were getting into, no?”
“Nope. I mean yeah, those websites are a thing, I never bothered with ‘em, though. You need the credits no matter how egregious the process of earning them may be. But as far as that class goes, I was actually going to take a fiction writing class instead, but there was only one slot open when I got around to picking my poison, and my roommate – dude was beyond obsessed with fiction writing, like, he’s the type of dude who reads every one of Stephen King’s books once every year, on top of a library’s worth of other shit in the meantime – uh, he was a year below me and he really, really wanted to take the class. So I let him.” Another shrug. “Is what it is. I’m’a be straight with y’all, I don’t really want to talk about my college experience anymore, I uh… are there any beers left?”
“Nope,” Harry quickly says before draining the rest of his bottle. “Just kil’t the last one, my man.”
“Oh… well shit.”
Four crossed human twentysomethings sit in a square around a deepish pit which harbors a cache of dwindling flames and cooling embers in the middle of an artificial clearing somewhere in a fenced-in forest during the peak of a dark and increasingly chilly night. Not four minutes and twenty seconds pass before Albey asks, “So uh, how long y’all want to stay out here?”
“Not too long,” Harry says, his legs announcing their standing up with a scatterblast of busted air bubbles. “I’m getting pretty tired, and I’m pretty sure Karl’s knocked out over there.”
“Nah’I’m, nah dude, nah,” Karl says to his lap as his eyes struggle to flutter. “Nah’I’m’guhd.”
“Is he all right?”
“Yeah he’s fine,” Keaton says as he picks up his chair. “Dude gets real tired when he’s intoxicated. Hop up ‘man, I’ll take your chair.”
Albey hops up. Keaton collects his chair, then Harry’s, then Harry tilts Karl’s chair over and slides it out from under him before handing it off to Keaton. Albey watches all this with a goofy yet exhausted smile on his face, then remembers that he has to pack up his camera bag. As he does so, Harry empties the icy water out of the cooler and directly into the pit. A phantom of tactile smoke bursts into the air with a vengeance, smothering what light still swims in this ocean of wood, rock, and dirt with the blackness of the deep sea as it rises into the canopy above.
The smoke begins to blow away as Karl is picking himself up off the ground, and by the time Albey follows the three members of Pact out of The Hillside Commons, all that’s left of the campfire is ashes. Eventually, they’ll blow away too.
Hello Commons, this has been the fifth 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 OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~