Song of Susannah
Chilled to his core and shivering as if shaken, Albey opens his eyes to a black canopy freckled with dark indigo sky. The sun has set, the stars are beginning to wake, but the moon has yet to rise. And then there’s the singing.
“Albey…” Albey mumbles drowsily, “…the wolves, they come…”
He feels as though he’s floating, laid out flat yet not touching the ground. His clothing screeches against… the hammock, whatever it is the hammock is made of. There is a rustling somewhere, it’s hardly audible beneath the singing but it’s there. And it’s coming closer.
“The wolves… no… Susannah, she…”
But it’s not a singing, is it? It’s a moaning, a pained weeping from deep within the endless wood of The Hillside Commons… no, Albey can hear it, the soft notes kiss his neck like falling raindrops. Albey is deep within the forest around Sawblade Lane, and he’s not alone.
“Mia, she sings… the song of Susannah… Mordred… more dread, the birth of evil…”
The Peace Piece is cold as ice in his hand. The white lighter isn’t much warmer. A branch breaks somewhere, one that would support Albey’s weight by the meaty sound of the crunch. His eyes snap open then, adrenalin shoots into his veins like fresh heroin into the arm of a junkie. Albey struggles and flails about, dumping himself out of the hammock into the rooty dirt. The singing–
‘moaning weeping crying lost a-hungry searching for supper’
–abruptly stops, as does the rustling, as do all movements of the nocturnal wood. Aside from the raindrops, that is, falling lightly in a drizzle, wetting the half-burned bowl of The Peace Piece.
Albey stands himself up on unsteady legs. They’re covered in dirt and tiny shards of leaves, as are his arms, as is his clothing, as is his face. The detritus comes off his jeans and sweatshirt easily enough, but brushing his arms only smears mud onto his hands. He doesn’t bother with his face; Sidney Blake knows a lost cause when he sees one. Er, feels one… well… is one…
That said, he still brings the bowl to his lips and flicks his white lighter without so much as checking to see if there’s any pot left in the bowl. There is, and from the purely cannabic taste of the smoke, what remains of his bowlpack went untarnished by dirt and leaves, and whatever fungus likely grows beneath his feet. Standing there in the dark, oblivious to the creature hardly fifty yards out – about half a trek in the words of the creatures of the grandest other world, that endless wood dubbed The Hillside Commons – who’s started to rustle the leaves and break the fallen branches, though none nearly as thick as the one which startled Albey. The creature must be smart. Smart enough for stealth, anyway. Smart enough to circle and not directly approach the sound of Albey’s guttural coughing.
“Huuuuuuaaaaaacccccc,” Albey gutturs, drawing all the [maybe?] cancerous shit lining the walls of his throat and clogging the pores of his lungs into his mouth. He spits it out in a glob of blackish brown nasty that goes unseen, and he’s grateful for that. He’s also grateful for the ringing in his ears, for though it spiked after that first hit, it seems to be quieting down into a soft buzz.
Then he hears the rustling, closer now than ‘twas before, and he wishes he had more pot to smoke.
“Maybe there’s a little left,” he mumbles as he pulverizes the pile of ash with the butt of his white lighter. He then torches the bowl of The Peace Piece, proceeds to choke on the ash he just inhaled, huac s it onto the floor of The True Commons. “Ugh…”
Yet the rustling continues, and so the paranoia creeps out from within the pit at the center of Albey’s being, teeth bared, claws ready for the slaughter, eyes blind like the massive black wolves of The Hillside Commons that only come out–
‘during the Calla’
–when the moon is new.
“Hello?” he calls out weakly, pocketing The Peace Piece and the lighter as to avoid causalities just in case this cold war heats up. “Is anyone out there?”
The rustling stops abruptly. Albey’s not sure how to feel about this. He’s almost certainly being stalked… but then again, it could just be a squirrel or a raccoon or something. The forest is normally noisy at night, it only goes dead quiet–
‘just like this’
–when a big predator is lurkin’ around, like a bear or a cougar.Or a bigfoot. But those carnivorous bastards all lurk silently, they know how to walk on leaves without making them crunch beneath their paws/feet. Their massive, heavy, clawed paws/massive, heavy, filthy feet. And they wouldn’t be afraid of the voice of a timid semi-hairless creature like Albey, there’s no way. If anything, the sound of his voice would just make them hungry–
‘hungry starving Mordred’s a-hungry’
–and if they got hungry they’d probably start walking silently so they could approach the sound of the simpering little morsel so they could kill him without him knowing. Unless it was a cougar, cougars are cats. Cats like to play with their food. A cat would be making all sorts of noise, hopping from tree to tree, making Albey spin himself in circles trying to figure out where in the fuck it was about to strike, and then right when Albey was dizzy enough to fall down, the cougar would pounce. Rip off a leg, or maybe an arm. Or maybe a hand, his right hand, and then it would let him go so he could live but never write again because if I was actually serious about this whole writing thing I would actually fucking do it instead of lazing around and smoking pot all day like the goddamn loser I am.’
But the creature went quiet at the sound of Albey’s voice, so it’s probably not a cougar. Probably not a bear, either, because they don’t actually move stealthily, now that Albey thinks about it. Their walk is all too often described as a lumber, they couldn’t sneak up on a deaf lame fawn with three legs for Christ’s sake. So it’s probably not a bear, either. Probably not a bigfoot either, because, well, y’know. Bigfoot isn’t fucking real. Not in backwoods Logger’s Pond, at least, which is theoretically the perfect place for a tribe of bigfoots to live because the place is marinating so far back in the fuckin’ woods that inbreeding is more socially acceptable than smoking weed.
So… it’s bigfoot then? Probably?
Albey sighs. “I should just get my hammock down and get the fuck out of here.” He slaps his pocket in search of his cell phone so he can use his flashlight, but then remembers that he shut his cell phone off to ignore his friends who aren’t paying him any attention anyway. “Jesus fucking Christ, I’m standing in the woods in the dark with no fucking flashlight because I smoked so much weed that I passed out. What the fuck, ‘man?! What is wrong with you?!?”
The forest does not answer, nor does the creature, but at least the rustling doesn’t start again. Albey sighs once more.
“Yeah… just get the hammock and go.”
Swinging his hands blindly in the dark, Albey connects with the hammock. He follows its shape to one end – the front or the back, definitely one of those two – and goes about unclipping the carabiner from the rope securing it to the tree. The hammock then drops. Albey follows it with his skater shoe, then trades off to his hand when it starts to rise and unclips the second carabiner. Then he frees the tree from the rope, curses at himself for not taking the other rope off the other tree before walking over here, bumbles around in the dark for a few moments, ignores the rustling that started when he was cursing at himself, frees the first tree from the rope, wraps the ropes around his hand so they’re nice and bundled like, shoves them into his back pocket, picks up one end of the hammock, rolls it halfway, says, “Fuck it,” rolls it all the way up, then struggles to contort it into the attached carry bag and ultimately fails because the hammock was made to be rolled up in a specific way and Albey did not roll it up in that specific way just like he doesn’t roll his joints in the specific way that most folks do because Albey is different, Albey thinks of himself as special, Albey is fucking terrified of whatever the fuck it is making all that rustling that’s coming closer and closer and it’s going to step over the puddingstones and close its jaws around his fucking neck and fuck fuck fuck fuCK FUCK FUCK FUCK “FUCK OFF! FUCK THE FUCK OFF WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU ARE, JUST FUCK OFF! LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE! AAAHHHH!!!!”
There is silence.
Albey breaks this silence by laughing maniacally at himself, for he is now unsure that he actually heard the rustling in the first place.
“WHOOP!” Albey WHOOPs through cupped hands.
A branch breaks then, and that wouldn’t be so bad, but the thing is, that very same branch comes flying through the air and strikes Albey in the back hard enough to feel like someone jabbed him with the barrel of a revolver of sandalwood grip.
Then, Albey screams.
Then, Albey runs five steps forwards, stops, runs five steps in the opposite direction, stops, turns about forty-two degrees to the right, runs three steps, trips over the stones lining the firepit, and gags on the mouthful of fungal dirt he just ate.
Struggling to catch his breath while his heart is climbing up his throat to beat wildly in his head, Albey climbs to his hands and knees. Spits into the dirt. Wipes the sweat from his brow, focuses his ears. The rustling has stopped, that’s good. What’s significantly less good is the breathing, very soft, just on the bounds of his perception, but it’s there nonetheless. The heavy breathing, hot air swimming between tooth’ed jaws dripping with wet drool. A starved maw hanging slack, ready for the kill, craving it, begging for the opportunity to sink its teeth into Albey’s neck like Gobon the In’Flu-Enz’a before the wolves of the Calla shredded him to pieces.
Except there are no wolves of the Calla in these woods, and Albey has no magick quill nor a sacred papyrus scroll. Sidney Blake is all alone in the forest ‘round Sawblade Lane at this little clearing, this set table in the center of the dining hall where Mia eats and eats to feed Mordred until Mordred pops out and devours her right back, because Mordred’s a-hungry.
Because more dread is all Albey will ever find in this backwoods waste land, a wizard with an empty glass, the one who drew his three and smoked them down to the roaches. A gunslinger with no bullets who lost three fingers off his shooting hand, infected with the Plague of Decay. The Dark Tower stands in Can’-Ka No Rey, Sidney, but will you cross the red fields of none? Will you make it to the steel-banded slab of black ghostwood? Will you climb that spiral staircase to the room at the top and find what waits for you there? Or will Susannah sing her lovely perish song as you’re torn limb from limb by the tyger who followed your scent carried through the keyhole of his cage by the winds of ka?
“Snap the fuck out of it now, Sidney,” Albey growls at himself as he stands. “Your life is not the Dark Tower, your life is not the Dark Tower, your fucking life is not the goddamned fucking Dark Tower books!! ”
The creature in the wood dashes towards Albey, taking his rage as a challenge. Sidney screams again and sprints forward, his feet falling perfectly in line with the game trail he followed here earlier in the day.
His beating heart is the bassline, his footfalls the God Drums, his panicked pants the stanzas, the slamming of his car door a crashing cymbal, the roar of the engine the thunderclap, the screeching of tires the strumming of the guitar; the song of Susannah blares in Albey’s divided mind as he burns rubber down Sawblade Lane. Oh Discordia; hot tears of brilliant madness pour over scarlet rosy cheeks.
Hello Commons, this has been the sixth 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.
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~