The Waste Lands
Madness, lunacy, impotency of the human mind; insanity has many names and comes in many forms, each one as special and unique as the snowflakes due to fall from the sky in just a few months. No two schizotypes are truly alike in their delusions, not really; for a ‘man to claim they hear the whispers of angels of broken halo and demons of feathery wing suggesting they should go ahead and kill themselves and everyone around them – hell, to see those whispering demons is one thing, but to have those sightings confirmed by another ‘man? To walk up to somebody and have them describe the monsters living under your bed down to the despicably dirty ivory shade of the horns sprouting from their heads? That’s something else entirely.
A piercing shriek underlines the howl of the late summer winds bustling through the packed forest encasing Sawblade Lane. Albey chooses to ignore it. After all, he might not be hearing it in the first place.
When logic goes out the window like a ripe puff of pot smoke it’s all too easy for a ‘man struggling to stand with one foot on the ground to assume his other foot – the one chewed off and swallowed by the demons as punishment for not burning the world like they command – is simply resting on another shard of reality altogether. The spirit realm, the astral plane, All-World – call it whatever you may, it all functions out to the same thing: that mysterious place which exists where you do not, the archway held together by what Stephen King calls Keystone Earth, the real world… but does that mean the other worlds aren’t real? Or are they just… thinner? Or perhaps dim would be the correct term?
The wind is beginning to die down, but Albey can still hear the shrieking. But it’s not a shrieking, is it? Hard to tell. Mayhap it’s just the ringing in Albey’s ears. His ears always ring when he smokes too much pot.
The eight volumes of the Dark Tower story, along with the three trillion other stories Stephen King has written over the course of his brilliantly literate life, are just that: stories. They aren’t real, they hold no bearing on reality. The life of Sidney Blake is not linked to them whatsoever, Stephen King did not prophesize Albey’s life by writing an incredible fiction series – Albey’s favorite fiction series of all time, a line of books that jumped right out to him when he was dragged to the library in middle school, a time when the suggestion that he read a book for fun came off as an insult to not only his integrity as a ‘man but also to his coolness – but yet…
“But yet what? ” Albey asks himself as his Charlie the Choo-Choo of thought leaps off the rails and crashes through the four walls of the box he tries not to think inside of. “Of course it seems like shit’s lining up, dude. You’re more or less completely isolated in the woods with nothing to do but smoke weed and read, and after smoking said weed constantly for years, you threw yourself out of wack by cutting it out cold turkey – you didn’t even have the decency to go cool turkey like Eddie and his junkie-ass brother recommended – then you suddenly overdosed after turning the final page of the books you were reading. Now I get to deal with it. I’m not the gunslinger, my family does not represent the three doors on the coast of the Western Sea, and…”
Albey stops walking then and slowly turns around. Nothing but trees, some of them dead, most of them dying. Not a soul, lost or found, in sight. Riding the air like the wind before it stopped blowing is a cacophony of police sirens tearing up Sawblade Lane.
“And it feels like I’m walking in the waste lands,” Albey admits defeatedly. “College ended, and the world moved on. The wheel of ka turns and turns and now it’s coming to roll me into the dirt.”
Could they really be coming for Albey? Sure, he smoked weed out in the open, but lots of folks around here do that. They must, there’s jack shit else to do in this stagnant shithole of a town, and it’s not like weed is a problem drug. It’s legal in damn near half of the country, what’s the point in wasting police resources and taxpayer money on jailing kids with an affinity for the devil-grass?
“Power,” he mumbles with fresh angst under his breath. “It’s all about power, all about control… they have none over their own lives, so they exert it upon the lives of others.” Heart racing. A sick tingling in his legs, in his hands. Eyes darting about, ears finely tuned to the ringing, a splitting headache from dehydration. There was no water bottle in the car, and Albey’s all dried out like a piece of venison jerky. “Not me, motherfuckers. You can tow my sedan, you can sweep my home and steal my stash, but you’ll never take me alive.”
Albey puts his back to Sawblade Lane and begins to sprint down the narrow game trail, ducking under half the low-growing branches and taking a facial lashing from the rest. A trail of tears dots the path behind him.
“You’ll never put me in a cage, you fuckin’ bastards!” he screams, but maybe he shouldn’t have. Maybe he should have conserved what little breath he had left and invested it into running, but he didn’t. He just had to scream at those distant sirens, at those empty devils come writhing from the pits of his fried imagination.
Up ahead of him not ten paces is a massive log, a tree ringed with more years than the town of Logger’s Pond has readers, which fell under the force of an inland hurricane earlier in the year. Wheezing like a clogged filter, Albey chokes on his own exhaustion and forces one foot in front of the other as he closes the gap, which only seems to widen forever further. The Peace Piece probably unpacked itself all over his pocket but he doesn’t care, he has more weed at home, and that fallen tree may be the only thing that can keep Albey safe from a life of misery locked behind the iron bars of a jail cell.
Breathing through the balls of cotton growing from his tongue, which is drier than a hardpan desert, Albey hoists himself sloppily over the log and crashes to the leafen floor of the forest. A tree root digs into his hip. At least it’s not a rock.
No, scratch that. It was a rock. Albey can feel blood soaking into his shirt, but not too much. Not enough for the dogs to smell over the scent of the pot in his pocket, in any case, but never mind that. He’s safe now, the cops won’t be able to find him behind this dead log, he’s too well-hidden. They’ll never suspect a thing. They were born and raised in this town; hell, some of them might never have left before. He’s going to be fine, all he has to do is wait.
And so Albey waits. And waits. And waits.
The sirens wail into the distance, fading out just as slowly as they faded in.
And so Albey waits.
The most peculiar quality of madness – perhaps the best, perhaps the worst, certainly the most dangerous – is just how similar it is to brilliance. There is a very fine line separating genius and insanity, an infinitesimally thin streak of gray juxtaposed between the white and black of the mind (a streak of pink between the White and the Red, in other words, or the Purpose and the Random if you like) that often goes crossed without the crosser ever being aware. Both exist at the outer bounds of consciousness, at the place where you go so far down you find yourself coming up, a place so distant from the center that it is the center, and they’re made of the same stuff. They must be, after all – the only true dichotomy that exists in reality at large is that discerning what is real from what is not. That which appears before the eye of whoever may be watching and that which remains hidden, for better or for worse. Everything else is up for interpretation by the subjective perception of each individual; ugly, beautiful, genius, crazy, it’s all up to the one who places those labels.
“So which one am I, then?” Albey asks the dead leaves his face is pressed against. The dead leaves give no answer. “Maybe I’m neither. Maybe I’m the odd one out.”
The police sirens no longer disturb the tiny hairs lining Albey’s ears, yet behind the fallen tree he remains.
“Yeah, maybe I’m just the special one. Maybe the rules don’t apply to me and that’s why college didn’t work out. Maybe the path I must take is not down the road I know.”
A spider crawls out from beneath the leaves and sets one of its eight spindly, hairy little legs upon Albey’s hand. He shrieks, leaping over the log. Albey’s landing is not graceful, nor is the catching of his breath. At least he didn’t land on a rock this time.
Albey stares at the scattered flecks of blue sky peeking through the gleaming green canopy above. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to them.
“Or maybe I’m cursed to walk the waste lands without a ka-tet to keep me company. Maybe I’m just a fuckup.”
Then again, why should there be a visible pattern? Albey’s just a ‘man, after all. He’s small, puny compared to what else is out there, and so is the range of his perception at any given moment. At every given moment. A vision of the decrepit city of Lud comes to him then, a vision of its damned, sick, and horrifically mutated populous who worshipped the God Drums by ritualistically sacrificing one of their own any time the monstrous tune shook the streets from below. They thought they were brilliant, the Pubes did, they thought they came into contact with the divine, and what’s more the fools thought they understood it. Little did the surface-dwellers know, the drums of their God was just a song from the past, a piece of culture left behind when the rest of the world moved on. But how could they know?
How could they possibly know?
Leaves and dirt cling to Albey’s clothing as he picks himself out of the rubble. He tries to brush the forest off him and gets most of it. Looks back the way he came from, sees nothing at all. Looks forward towards The True Commons, sees even less. The wind begins to blow, the leaves begin to dance. Tears well up across Albey’s eyelids.
“Maybe I’m just alone.”
His left hand checks his pocket to make sure the glass bowl didn’t shatter. It didn’t, and it’s even still packed. This makes Albey smile. It’s not a happy smile, but it’s a smile nonetheless. Money doesn’t buy happiness and weed doesn’t dampen the noise of lonely silence; that said, a new corvette isn’t the worst place to cry, nor are disembodied voices the worst company to be kept. Hands in his pockets clutched around The Peace Piece and its good buddy the white lighter, Albey continues walking to The True Commons. After three uninterrupted minutes of the blissful harmony that is nature at work, Albey starts talking to himself again.
“You know, it’s really not that bad.”
The forest does know, but it doesn’t tell him as much.
“My situation, I mean. Flunking out of college and moving back home.”
Trees don’t make for good conversationalists – especially not the living ones, and especially not when they’re rotting – but they listen to whatever they’re told. They might not hear a single word, but they sure do listen.
“Someone else might be pretty miserable in my position. A few of the folks who I went to school with definitely would.” A smirk rises to the surface. “Yeah, I’m talking about you, Jocelyn,” he says as if the girl, ‘Who I slept with, by the way, in case you were wondering, ho-ho hey-hey, life is a game and Albey learned to play [before he failed the fuck out] and play well I did, let ‘er loose after lay; I did the right thing, at the end of the day,’ could somehow perceive this communication from halfway across the damn country. But of course she can’t, Albey doesn’t have the touch nor the shine nor whatever you want to call it; Albey’s not psychic and he knows it to be true… so perhaps he isn’t crazy after all. He’s certainly not a genius – not by the standardized, average meaning of the word – but perhaps he’s not crazy either. He shakes his head, chuckling to himself (who else would he chuckle to, right?). “That girl was a cold piece of work. Hated her family, her dad especially.” Albey ducks beneath a leafless branch, then turns around and tries to break it off the tree. It snaps off easily, then breaks in half when Albey tosses it into a rock. “Come to think of it, a lot of folks I went to school with were really spiteful towards their folks. Talked all kinds of shit about ‘em.” Continues walking. “Oh, my Mommy and Daddy could only afford to buy me last year’s Bugatti Veyron, not the twenty’twenty’whatever’the’fuck model, on top of paying my tuition out of pocket so I could go to college without shackling my ankles with two hundred thousand dollars of dept like stupid Albey Blake.” Takes The Peace Piece halfway out of his pocket, then slides her back in. “Yeah, I’m real stupid. That’s why you fucked me eight days out of the week. All right, lady.” Clears his sinuses and hocks it off into the woods. “All right.”
Scurries of gray squirrels chutter carnally all around him. Albey doesn’t think into it.
“It always amazes me how rotten some folks my age can be about their parents.” Crunched dead leaves. “Especially the folks who had money. We hardly had shit coming up. Did plenty enough wanting for everybody on my street… I guess it’s different when you’re adopted though. Ashley and Jeremy chose me, after all. No happy accidents in the Blake hous–”
A bolt of blue lightning flashes before Albey’s eyes, whipping his face with little whirlwinds to a soundtrack of machinegun fire. He stumbles backwards, teeters, and lands hard on his ass. The blue jay, who landed on a branch to watch the silly human fall down, takes flight and disappears between the trees.
“Woah.” He tries to think of something more to say to himself to express him amazement, his awestruckedness, his gratitude towards the universe for giving him this moment of close contact with such a beautiful azure embodiment of nature, but comes up empty. Stands. Knocks the leaves off his butt. Chuffs orally. “Woah.”
Like the blue jay through the air, Albey floats on down the trail. His feet might not leave the ground, but they might not be touching it either. He has no idea what he was thinking about a moment ago, no memory of talking to himself, no feelings of malaise nor bliss. Albey is purely Albey in this extended moment spent prancing down the game trail where whitetail does flee their antlery bucks, purely his own consciousness, purely a spiritual being enjoying a most human of experiences. Purely… Albey is purely…
Albey is high as a motherfucker, and he’s loving every second of it. The warm beams of hazy sunlight cascading from the canopy, the glimmering green leaves decorating the trees, the gray rocks laced with resplendent white quartz, the pink and purple puddingstones lending their air of myth and wonder; Psychedelia walks with Albey on this day, he’s taking a voyage guided by the hand of The Flower, The Garden engulfs him like an aura, Existence spirals forever fo–
“The Garden?” Albey asks himself dazedly, then stops walking for a moment. The memory of the last forty-twoish seconds of his life flutters out of his mind like a blue jay through the woods. He looks around at the beauty that is the undisturbed landscape surrounding Sawblade Lane, the oldest road in all of smalltown Logger’s Pond. His extended backyard. “What a gorgeous day,” Albey observes, feeling as though a lucid dream would seem less surreal. “I wonder how long I’ve been out here…”
Too bad he didn’t bring his phone.
“Yeah, too bad,” Albey confirms. “Too bad, so sad… but at the same time, I’m kind’a glad.”
He walks nineteen paces, counting them as he goes, then, ‘Wait, wasn’t I bugging about the Dark Tower before?’
Mayhap he was, but he doesn’t remember. He’s slightly dizzy, like Roland walking across the Mohaine, but otherwise he’s feeling good. Feeling like everything in the universe is as it should be. Ninety-nine uncounted paces later, Albey arrives at The True Commons.
Hello Commons, this has been the third subchapter of the second 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.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~