Although there are a grand many differences between hiking during the day and hiking during the night, one factor remains the same: the journey out is always much faster than the journey in. Harry, then Karl, then Keaton, and then Albey walk out of the woods and into the pale glow of the waxing gibbous moon before the smell of smoke and ash leaves their noses. They gather at the foot of Harry’s driveway in a small huddle, Harry acting as master of ceremonies.
“All right, my friends. I think we’ve had a successful night at The Commons tonight, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Most definitely,” Karl agrees. Keaton seconds it.
“Yeah, that was a lot of fun, guys.” Hands are shaken one at a time. “Thank you all for tonight, seriously.”
“Anytime, Albey,” Harry says. “Well, what I mean to say is that it could be anytime.”
“Could it be?” Albey questions with caution.
“Indeed it could,” Harry affirms him. “All you have to do is join the club, bucc.”
Albey looks to his old friends but they’re both looking at their feet. Looking dead tired, too. “Y’all have a Hillside Commons club?”
“It’s more of a friend group with benefits, so to speak, but we don’t fuck each other or anything. We–… I call it Pact, but it’s pretty much just my inner circle. There is a small blood oath involved, but it’s only a little prick in the palm and a handshake. Hell, you already did the practice run, I just got’a get the needle from my house. You could drive me up right now, won’t take but a few minutes.”
Albey looks to his old friends again and gets the feeling that their exhaustion isn’t the only thing anchoring their eyes to the pavement.
“Uhhhm… yeah, no offense Harry but I’m go’n’a pass on that.”
A beat is skipped. “You sure?”
“Yeah. Hard pass, ‘man. The blood oath is a little much for me. We can just hang out without doing all that, yeah?”
Harry’s hands disappear into his pockets. “Yeah man, sure.”
“Word.” The fellas – Pact and Albey, that is – stand in their little huddle for a few seconds longer before Albey remembers that the sun is probably going to start rising soon, if it’s not doing so already. “Well all right, ‘twas a successful night at The Commons indeed.” He turns and starts towards his car, throwing, “I got’a get home, my folks left the porch unlocked, meaning they’re probably still up waiting for me. I’ll talk to y’all soon, drive safe! Hope y’all sleep well!”
“Yeah, you too Albey!” isn’t specifically said by any of Pact, but the sentiment is exchanged regardless. As he’s backing up and swinging his car around, Albey watches Harry and Karl climb up and up and up into the latter’s lifted pickup before hugging their way around the mailbox and disappearing up Harry’s driveway. Keaton gets into his minivan and starts her up but he doesn’t go anywhere yet, probably because the heat’s gushing frigid air. The temperature control system was always shoddy in that hunk of junk, but Albey would be lying if he said they didn’t have some great times riding it around town back in the day. The carmine glow of Keaton’s back lights is left behind as Albey follows the Drive around a loose curve and heads back towards Mane Road.
The fence keeping the majority of Logger’s Pond out of Bogspekti Park, an unnecessarily ten-foot-tall wrought iron piece of hard labor topped with skewers mean enough to make kebabs out of oblivious doves, comes together at the turnoff point at the bottom of Bogspekti Drive with a gilded gate that reaches another nine feet closer to the clouds in the center. This gate was left open when Albey pulled in, as Harry told his father to tell the guard to keep it that way for Albey, but now it’s closed up tight and it doesn’t look like a charging rhinoceros could break it down, even if the last of the species didn’t go extinct however many years ago. Albey’s foot embraces the brake pedal as he inches closer and closer to the gate, fueled by the assumption that the Bogspektis installed a sensor in the road so they wouldn’t have to pay some random human to sit here all night and wait for nothing to happen, but yet the gate does not open. He comes to a stop about fifty feet away from the gate, which seems like a lot until the fact that each gate is a whole lot’a feet long is considered. Albey sits there in the road for a couple of minutes, tapping out a tone-deaf rhythm on his steering wheel before he gets bored and decides to inch a bit closer.
Then another bit closer.
Then a–… is that… “What the fuck?”
There seems to be a ‘man standing on the other side of the gate. Albey can’t tell for sure – it’s been a long, long time since he’s cleaned his headlights and they’re about as dull as Karl was after taking that bowl to the face – but he’d be damned if he didn’t see some kind of gray bipedal form standing there with its arms outstretched to either side of its body, fingers locked around the bars of the gate. Closer and closer Albey creeps in the safety of his vehicle, only stopping when the foggy headlights reveal that the figure is indeed a ‘man – that’s ‘man as short for human – and a male one at that, judging from the large thing dangling low between its unclothed legs. Its entire body seems to be a sickly pale color and its face probably isn’t great to look at, considering its present location and the time of day (or night, rather), but Albey’s not quite close enough to confirm that. His hands fall off the steering wheel and clatter to his lap in astonishment.
“What the fuck is this guy doing? I’m tryna get home, ‘man…”
The two stand off like this for twenty seconds before Albey gets tired of wanking around like he has nowhere to be. He lays on the horn, sounding off with a long blare before switching up the style and beating out no less than eighteen rapid-fire honks, the last of which lingers on for eight and a half seconds. This affects no change in the gripper’o’th’gate, so Albey steels himself and taps on the gas pedal, rolling his car forward five feet.
The night guard, watching this play out on a grainy monitor in a spacious room underneath the tiny booth next to the road that’s been long obscured by the forest’s tendency towards overgrowth, hears a soft ding limp out of the speaker wired to the sensor the Bogspektis installed beneath the road. He hits the big red button on the control panel which opens the gate, then leans back and prepares his eyes to feast on whatever’s going to happen next.
Albey watches the gilded gates slowly swing open and is amazed when the gatekeeper doesn’t immediately let go, instead allowing the gate to stretch its arms until its feet lift off the ground. It yelps out in pain, releasing its grip and toppling down to the road. Albey rolls his car another five feet forward, but the crumpled pale creature does not make a move.
The windshield catches Albey’s hot sigh and fogs up a bit. Albey cures this with the defrosters, then says, “All right, I mean it this time. We’re going.” Dust flies when Albey stomps the pedal into the filthy carpet beneath his steering wheel.
The lumpy pale gatekeeping creature thing – in this moment of intoxication-fueled haziness, the guy is more thing than ‘man as far as Albey is concerned – terrified by the scream of the 2009 Ford Focus version of a burnout, leaps up in a flurry of flailing limbs and takes off left down Mane Road headed towards the farms and County Road 115, which is very fortunate, as Albey needs to turn right onto Mane Road in order to get home.
“Out of sight, out of mind, and only clocks have the time,” comes tumbling out of Albey’s mouth. He sighs.
Now rolling at a zesty twenty-three miles per hour, Albey bangs a right onto barren Mane Road and zones right the hell out as muscle memory takes over and the small fragment of his will that hides in the subconscious half of his brain guides him all the way to the end of Mane Road. He doesn’t see a single one of the dozens of back-lit signs crowning the shops and other buildings which line the hub of his hometown, nor does he care to see them. In truth there’s only one thing Albey cares to see in this moment, and that’s one half of a gram out of the two ounces of Hippie Crippler hanging out in the big jar Albey hid at the center of his clean clothing bag, the very one he’s digging out now. He was tempted to hide the contraband in the dirty clothing bag, just in case he was pulled over on the one day the K-9 unit is allowed to leave its kennel, but the thought of carrying a dead police dog on his consciousness was far too much to deal with so he resisted the stanky allure and kept his jar in the clean.
Mane Road continues on for about a quarter of a mile after the last of Logger’s Pond’s shops until it abruptly ends with a dirt parking lot meant for hikers on the left side of the street. Across from this dirty parking lot is a patch of wilderness so dense as to be impossible to maneuver through even during the day, even when equipped with a rusty machete; there is a hole in these trees just like in the trees across from Harry’s driveway, except instead of a hiking trail, a road paves the way through the patch of deciduous jungle. This particular backwoods road, ‘The apotheosis of all backwoods roads, one might say,’ is called Sawblade Lane. Albey’s parents – by extension Albey himself, especially now that he’s dropped out of college like a proper success story – make their home in one of the three houses whose driveways branch off from the roundabout at the bottom of Sawblade Lane. Between the ass and the mouth of Sawblade Lane are no less than three miles of intestinal asphalt which winds and doubles back on itself enough to hardly cover a two-mile stretch of land, and as for why the end of the road was called the bottom a few lines ago, there is a three-hundred-foot drop in elevation between the center of the planter in the middle of the roundabout at the end of Sawblade and the parking lot at the end of Mane. The slope is incredulously gradual, so gradual as to deceive anybody driving down the road into thinking it’s flat, and Albey has no memory of the drop whatsoever as he rolls closer and closer to his ultimate destination.
As secluded and boastfully backwoods as Sawblade Lane is, there is a single redeeming quality about it – the forest which engulfs it, while impenetrably dense along Mane Road, thins out considerably as the road sinks down into the Earth. This Albey does notice, and he knows there’s a reason for it too, but he can’t quite remember what that reason is at the moment. It’s 2:22 in the morning, after all, and his brain isn’t operating anywhere close to full capacity; all he knows is that his parents’ house sits in what is effectively a meadow with three trees total on the (allegedly) three-acre property, two of which stand sentry on either side of the driveway.
According to the
suggestions rules of the road, one is meant to keep right when entering a roundabout so one may exit on the right and not plow into any unsuspecting drivers, but as it is 2:23 in the morning at the present moment, there are no other drivers on the Lane, suspecting or not. Albey turns left into the roundabout then immediately turns left into his parent’s driveway, feeling like he’s traveling through a gateway as the trees welcome him on either side.
The Blake family’s property is arranged in the shape of a stout uppercase letter T – one “acre” to set them back from Sawblade Lane and two “acres” side-by-side to enjoy the woodscape – and the house stands all the way at the back of the horizontal bar. There’s about twentyish feet of backyard between the forest (which, down at the bottom of Sawblade Lane is an actual forest, not a sticksy jungle) and the lowest step of the staircase leading up to the screened-in porch out back. Holding his jar in one hand, his journal under his arm, and his pill thing in his left hand (with the grinder stuffed uncomfortably into his tight back pocket), Albey climbs these stairs on his toes and silently lets himself into the back porch. He can’t see much at all, as it’s almost 2:30 in the morning for crying out loud, but he does see the white wicker chair with the atrociously patterned cushion on it, and he makes an effort to muffle the noise when he allows himself to fall and be caught by that very cushion with the atrocious pattern, as to not wake his slumbering folks who are, in fact, slumbering. He can’t remember what the pattern looks like, only that it hurts to look at, but that’s fine. Albey won’t be looking at it tonight anyway, he has far better things to look at; in any case, soon enough he’ll be looking at his eyelids and literally nothing else.
Sat comfortably, Albey grinds a nugg’.
One last bowl is packed and turned to ashes. Albey, standing on the top step, ejects the gray mass from the bowl and promptly turns around to go back inside, failing to notice how the ashes blow away as soon as the wind catches them. What he does notice, though, is a hard pounding in his chest and the tightening of his awareness when something – something large, ladies’n’germs, this is not no masked trash bandit or clever fox fiending for a hare to eat – moves through the forest riding a cacophony of rustled leaves and broken branches in the direction of the Blake family household. Unlike the bourgeoisie Bogspekti Park, Sawblade Lane boasts no spiked wrought iron fence nor a giant gilded gate; there is nothing between the denizens of the black forest and the all too human dwellers of the artificial caverns built within it, and given his current disposition, Albey doesn’t like that one bit. Thinking fast, the stoned poet locks the flimsy wooden screen door by putting the point of the metal hook hanging off the door through the little metal hoop screwed into the door’s frame, but for some reason that doesn’t seem quite sturdy enough.
With his sweaty hand gripping the doorknob into his parents’ house, Albey forces himself to stop, take a deep breath, and lower his shoulders back down.
“I need to chill, there is nothing out there. Nothing that’s going to hurt me, anyway. Probably just some raccoon that heard me pull into the driveway hoping I had some scraps to toss. Like, seriously, what am I even afraid of right now? Fucking bigfoot or some shit? Come on, Albey, you’re a man now. Grow up.”
Albey decides to stop berating himself so he can tune back into the world around him. The crickets are rubbing their legs together with enough friction to spark a flame, but there doesn’t seem to be anything out there in search of smoke. With the taste of ashes on his tongue, Albey slowly turns the doorknob, walks toe-to-heel into his parents’ slumbering abode, and lets the door shut quietly behind him. The fact that he left his clean clothing out in the car doesn’t occur to Albey until he’s back in his old bedroom, but that actually works well for the Mad Poet, it’s veritable fuel for the fire he’s compelled to start before he strips down and throws himself unto the mercy of his old blankets and pillow.
Taking care to quietly spin the wheely legs across the floor, Albey pulls his chair out from under the undersized computer desk of his youth and sits down, opening his journal to the next blank page. He picks out a pen with no cap from his pencil holder, a white coffee mug with a rendition of the eyeballed paperclip of Microsoft Office infamy printed on it, and begins to smear his bottomless black ink in straight lines and bent curves top-center on the virgin page. The symbols he scrawls – the letters A, u, g followed by the letters t, h, e followed by the letters T, h, i, r, d – have no inherent meaning outside the human mind, but they sure are pretty to look at, and Albey is just high enough to stare at them for a few moments, moments which are as precious as they are timeless, in admiration of the utter beauty that is modern American hieroglyphics. Then, when the pool of drool threatens to spill over his drooping bottom lip, Albey blinks himself into a reasonable state of awareness and begins to journal.
Hello Commons, this has been the last 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~