The Dark Tower
It stands before him, black as soot, the linchpin binding all of reality, its spire reaching infinitely up towards the glorious starlit sky. The final destination of Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of the gunslingers, the only hope for a world which has moved on. The Dark Tower.
Albey wipes the tears from his eyes. “It’s just my parents’ house, it’s not the fucking Dark Tower.” His breath still uncaught, he kills the ignition and slumps low in his driver’s seat, letting the seatbelt dig into his neck. What a fucking day this has been.
“It’s not the goddamned Dark Tower, Albey. What’s wrong with you?”
That was a lot of weed he smoked in a very short amount of time. Whilst driving, too, and then right out in the open on the side of the road! And didn’t some cops drive by not five minutes after he started down the game trail? What if he had journaled for five more minutes? What if Logger’s Pond law enforcement came around that bend and saw Albey puffing on a fat one? What then?
“Are you delusional? Are you catching schizophrenia from all this fucking weed you keep smoking? Weren’t you going to quit a couple weeks ago, dude? The fuck happened to that?”
But they didn’t catch him, because he hid behind that log. In truth Albey doesn’t actually know if there were any cops, the weed’s been making his ears ring very loudly as of late. It’s easy to mistake that cannabic tinnitus for police sirens, why not? An audial hallucination is still a hallucination, and one you can’t see, too; all the much harder to discern from reality than a normal one. Sure, if you’re lounging in a hammock and you see a pink elephant stomping around phasing through the damn trees like it wasn’t there, that’s easy. That’s clearly a hallucination, you can laugh at that just fine. But choking on a toke and hearing voices in the noise… that’s something else entirely.
“What would your parents think, ‘man? What would your friends think? After the campfire that night they probably thought you were going to hang out with them, probably thought things were going to be just like they used to be, like back in the good ol’ days. But no, you decided to isolate yourself and smoke weed twenty-four’seven like a fucking asshole, because that’s who you are. A dirty hippie asshole who likes to get high and sleep in the woods, and that dream! ”
That Hillside Commons dream! What the unholy fuck was that? Albey hasn’t had a dream that vivid in… he’s never had a dream that vivid, and wasn’t there a second dream within that dream? Didn’t he get molested by those trees just to wake back up a few seconds before it happened? And the campsite, that weird room in the trees, with all those bottles… and Gobon kept calling him by his actual name, what was that all about? Is Albey supposed to be getting meaning out of all of this, is the universe trying to speak to him? If so he can hear it just fine, but he can’t seem to listen, he can’t understand what it’s saying.
“And why do I keep talking to myself like I was another human being?” he sobs, burying his face in his hands to bawl. “What the fuck is wrong with me? I flunked out of school because I smoked too much weed and all I’m doing is smoking more weed, what the fuck is wrong with me?! ”
Well, to be fair, he isn’t only smoking more weed. He also read all eight books of the Dark Tower series in two weeks’ time, which is a slightly impressive feat if you’re into the whole reading books thing, which his friends are not. Hell, half the folks in Logger’s Pond are the kind of illiterate that makes squirrel meat seem appetizing, so even if Albey made himself some new friends he wouldn’t have anything to talk about. What a huge waste of time… granted, not as much of a waste as smoking weed all day and building that stupid campsite that it takes a half hour to walk to; who the fuck’s going to want to go all the way out there when weed isn’t fueling the hike? Logger’s Pond girls are backwoods, sure, but they don’t want to fuck in the woods. Hell, Albey doesn’t even want to fuck in the woods, there are bugs out there! And the smell of sex attracts bears!
“Probably’d attract whatever the fuck that thing was that chased me, too,” Albey sobs to himself. “I should have let it catch me, why the fuck did I escape? So I could go on living this pathetic shitstain of a life I’ve made for myself? Why can’t I just fucking DIE?!”
Albey punches the steering wheel. The horn honks loudly, and one window of his parents’ house lights up. A silhouette comes to the window and peeks through the curtains, then closes them and walks away. The light turns off. Albey weeps as the wind continues to blow without him knowing, because he still hasn’t gotten out of his car. It smells like weed in his car, he supposes that’s why he’s still out here. The smell of weed comforts him, makes him feel safe. Makes him feel at home, even when he has the option to go into his real home.
“I don’t fucking have a home,” Albey groans as he unbuckles the seatbelt. “That’s the Dark Tower, and guess what, asshole?” He opens the door, steps out into the fresh air, and snorts two lungfuls. “You’re going to climb those steps, you’re going to get to that top room, and you’ll be right back where you fuckin’ started. Because that’s your fate, Sidney. That’s my ka, just like Gobon said. I’m strapped to the wheel of ka as it spirals forever forward.” Closes the door behind him. “And I’ll never fuckin’ escape.” Drags his fat black skater shoes up the driveway. “No matter what I do… I’ll never fucking escape…”
One foot is placed and then removed from the stone steps leading to Albey’s front door. “I already woke them up, I shouldn’t go through the front door. It’ll just make more noise, I’ll just be more of a burden on their lives. If that’s even possible at this point…”
The soles of his skater shoes are worn down ever further as Albey drags his feet miserably across his driveway.
“I fucking hate myself… they probably do, too… Oh yeah, great idea Ashley, let’s adopt that Sidney kid, he’ll turn out all right. What’s the worst that can happen, we send him to an expensive school on loans that he insisted on getting so he can pick up a drug habit and flunk out and move back in? Come on, there’s no way. We’re better parents than that… and they are. That’s the worst fucking part.” Albey stopped walking at some point; now that he notices this, he continues to drag his feet. “They’re great fuckin’ parents. They love me and respect me and support me so much. More than I deserve. They only want what’s best for me, but I don’t even want that for myself. Clearly I don’t want that for myself, the way I keep fucking everything up. Why am I such a fucking fuckup…”
The pavement morphs into grass, cool and wet with dew. Albey drags his feet regardless. The laces begin to soak.
“And the worst fucking part of all this garbage? The most horrible, despicable, pathetic facet of this steaming pile of bearshit that is my life? I’m practically sober right now. All I want to do is smoke.”
Albey rounds the corner, catches a whiff of the compost, and dry heaves. What in god’s name did Ashley make for dinner tonight? Smells like rotten eggs and coffee grounds… oh right, they have that little plastic bucket under the sink. They stuff it till it’s full and dump it, probably been marinating for days. No wonder it smells so–
‘much like Gobon’s elixir’
–disgusting. It smells disgusting, that’s all, not like something Albey was tricked into drinking in his dream. Just disgusting. Just. Disgusting. Albey climbs the steps up to the back porch, head hung low, and tries the door. It’s locked, the fucking porch door is locked, of course the fucking porch fucking door is fucking locked, Albey should throw himself from the stairs and land on his fucking neck and shatter it fucking why is he so fucking stupid and unwanted and fucking miserable and stupid and fuck fuck fuck fuck fuc–
The Earth slows its spinning for a moment so Albey’s mind may clear.
“Am I okay?”
The planet does not answer him, nor does the moon, nor does the universe they float in, because that question isn’t something that can be answered by an outside intelligence. Only Albey can answer that question, nobody else. And truthfully, he doesn’t know the answer. He hasn’t the foggiest idea, but his brain sure is goddamn foggy. Albey sure could use a goddamn smoke right about now.
“I think I’m okay,” Albey says aloud for his own sake. “I just ne–… I just want to smoke some weed. Don’t need to, I definitely don’t need to, only thing I need to do is breathe. And eat. And drink water. And sleep, eventually, but not quite yet. I slept all fucking day, after all.”
The crickets chirp, the bats squeak overhead. Nothing rustles in the forest around the humble Blake household, nothing throws sticks at Albey’s back… if that even happened.
“That was the best sleep I’ve gotten in a long time, too,” he tells himself as he descends the back steps, and dude’s not lying either. A pfft charges out from between his top teeth and bottom lip. “A long time; ‘man, I haven’t even been alive a long time. I’m not even twenty-five, not even close. I’m about as young as I’ll ever be.”
He pinches his nose shut as he walks past the fly-ridden compost, which explains the bat presence.
“I’m still a baby, in the grand scheme of things. I mean, yeah, all humans are, but like… in the Sidney scheme of things, this is still the beginning. Not the first chapter, but…” He chuckles then. “Maybe my life is the Dark Tower books, and I’m just approaching the end of book one. All that shit at The True Commons? Maybe that was just Roland tolerating palaver with the man in black. Maybe–… Mayhap it was actually the man in black who was messing with me, and that’s why I couldn’t see him. Black robes blend into the night.”
Another chuckle, this one shorter. Fat flat-bottomed skater shoes plop and clap as Sidney crosses his parents’ driveway for the third time in about five minutes. He puts a foot up on the bottom of the front steps, but does not climb it.
“Nah,” Albey does not whisper, but does not speak at full volume either. “My life is not the Dark Tower books. The Dark Tower books might be my life, but my life is not the story of Roland Deschain. I’m not the gunslinger, I’m… I’m Albey the Mad Poet. But I’m not crazy, I just don’t rhyme anymore. And that’s okay.”
Albey climbs onto the first step. Then the second. Then the third.
“My old friends might not be the same as they used to be, but I bet they’re still my friends. Harry too, all three of them. Change isn’t bad, it’s just life. We all grew up, and in doing so we grew apart. And that’s okay. That’s to be expected. I went to college, of course we grew apart. I was transplanted from the garden into a pot.”
After standing at his front door and talking to himself for a few seconds, Albey blinks his way out of the interior of his own skull and shakes his head a few times. Then, he takes his shoes off using only his feet, picks his shoes up, opens the door, and walks inside, silently placing his kicks in the shoe tray before turning the knob and closing the door behind him so the bolt doesn’t catch on the strike plate. He then creeps through his parents’ house on the tips of his toes, walking courteously because he’s not wandering through the waste lands, he’s back in his hometown after leaving for a few years and that’s no reason to be miserable. No reason at all. He should feel thankful to have a place to come home to at all, and he does.
Feeling nothing but gratitude (a manic episode will do that to you, if you’re lucky), the stoned wizard and his pocketed glass climb the stairwell up to the second floor where their bedroom – closer to a loft than a bedroom, sure, but it’s insulated and temperature controlled, so what’s worthy of complaining about? – waits for them, along with a warm bed and a desk full of great books with awesome titles like Wolves of the Calla and a journal named Journal who’s been sitting alone all day waiting for Albey to come home and scrawl some more of his bottomless black pen strokes upon its bright white pages.
‘Friction leads to a spark,’ as downstairs gives way to upstairs in the very same way the song of Susannah is sung: one stanza after the next, one step at a time, ‘a spark leads to flames, flames lead to smoke, and smoke? Smoke always blows away.’
As Albey opens the door at the top of the steps, he can’t help but feel like he really is Roland of Gilead finally completing his journey and reaching the top of the Dark Tower just to find out what’s waiting for him. In Albey’s case, there is only a short hallway, one which ends in another door.
‘Then there’s only ashes.’ Sidney opens his bedroom door and basks in the weedsmell, the stench of home. ‘And they blow away too, carried by the wind through the keyhole.’ He shakes his head and snickers to himself. “Yeah, I’m definitely the Mad Poet. Batshit crazy through and through… but I’m kind’a brilliant, too. In my own way.”
He struts into his bedroom, empties his pockets onto that writing desk that’s way too small for him, then pulls his chair out and plops down anyway, all without closing his door. But that’s all right, Albey knows he’s not a burden. Sure, his parents can probably hear him, and they’re probably trying to sleep, but at least they know he’s home and he’s all right. Poor folks were probably worried when they came home and he wasn’t here, and when his phone sent them straight to voicemail? Criminy, that’s just inconsiderate. Perhaps he’ll turn his cell phone on tomorrow morning, answer all the zero text messages waiting for him. Yeah, perhaps he will. Perhaps he’ll start that The Hillside Commons book, too. Who knows? It might be easy, especially after that wacko dream earlier. Might even be good.
“Yep, I’m definitely crazy… maybe even a little arrogant. But I have a right to be arrogant – I was nineteen only a few years ago. A little arrogance isn’t such a bad thing,” Albey says in the words of a ‘man who’s brilliance is undoubtable, a ‘man who treks that sliver of pink between the White and the Red without fear of toppling over to either side. “Maybe flunking out of college wasn’t the best move I could have made. Maybe writing this Tee’acHe’Cee book isn’t going to get me out of Logger’s Pond, but after today, I’m sure of one thing: had I started when I got back home a month ago, I might be done by now. It’d be a short book, sure, but it would be done. And I’d feel good about it, and when folks asked me why the hell I wasted my time writing a book that nobody would read – if nobody reads it, which, who knows? – I could smirk at ‘em, grab my crotch, and do my absolute favorite thing in the world: quote Stephen King to the blank face of a poor fool who’s forgotten the face of his father, if he ever learned that face at all. I’d say You know what, guy? It seemed like a good idea at the time. And that’s just what it is.” Totally unbothered by this self-directed tirade, Sidney continues on, “I’d probably add something about ka, too. And they’d ask what the fuck ka is, because they’ve forgotten the face of their fathers, and I’d say, It’s hard to explain, but I’ll give it a shot: If it’s ka it’ll come like a wind, and your plans will stand before it no more than a barn before a cyclone, and they’d ask me what the fuck I’m even saying, talkin’ about barns and shit, because… ah fuck it, I’m exhausted and excruciatingly sober.”
Sidney reaches a hand up and pets the concave spines of his used Dark Tower books as though they were some kind of strange blocky cat, then smiles at this thought.
“Thank you for bettering my life, Sai King,” Sidney Blake says to the wall his desk leans on. “Long days and pleasant nights.”
The weed jar comes off the pedestal upon which it sits when its lover is not there to stick his fingers into it, as does the grinder. The cap comes off with a spin so strong the thing flies off the jar all on its own, then rolls off the desk and clatters to the floor. After tweezering a particularly small nugg’ of herb with his pointer and middle fingers, Albey attempts to get high off the terpenes alone, then reaches down to his dustscape of a floor and grabs the lid to the jar. It takes him a good few seconds to clean it off. His already dirty sweatshirt is made filthy in the process; it is at this point that Albey decides he should get out of his nasty, sweaty clothes before engaging with his one true mistress, Miss Mary Jane.
Sidney’s hamper, a gray plastic thing which curses the day it was brought into this cruelest world, catches the soiled clothing without argument.
“All right, sweetheart,” Albey says as he plops his pajamaed ass into his swivel chair. “Time to get freaky.”
Three nugg’s, one significantly larger than the others, are broken up caveman style and shoved betwixt the grinder’s teeth. The cap goes on – well, it bites down, but there’s too much nugg’ for the thing to really close at first – and Albey flexes every muscle in his body as he struggles to twist the cap and grind the herbs down to flaky form. It takes some doing but the Mad Poet completes his task, and upon opening the catch chamber, that which lends the Poet his madness wafts up and fills Albey’s nostrils with delight. The boy damn near moans, but that could probably go without saying.
The Peace Piece, waiting patiently beside the white lighter, is dragged across the tiny writing desk and stuffed like a left-handed cigarette. Albey flicks his Nic once to test it, twice to red the cherry, and thrice to keep it going. Just when his lungs are full to the point of popping, he hears a knocking at his bedroom door, but then again maybe there’s nobody there. After today’s ridiculous events, Albey’s more inclined to believe that every disturbance in his life is actually a hallucination – maybe he’s still at college, maybe he didn’t actually flunk out, maybe what’s’er’name just fucked him so hard that he fell dick-first into the deepest sleep of his life and everything since that first night they spent together has been nothing short of the world’s most deceitful nightmare, on par with a salvia trip launched from the mouth of a four-foot bong.
Then he hears the knocking again and he spills the innards of his lungs all over his bedroom, coughing cancerously as the more solid bits of his hit deroot from his internal organs.
“Sidney? Are you all right, honey?”
‘Holy shit,’ Albey thinks to himself as hot tears flow like the snot pouring out of his nose. ‘They’ve never caught me smoking before.’ Not as far as he can remember, anyway. ‘What the fuck do I do?’
“Sidney?” It’s his dad, Jesus Christ they both came up. They care about him, they really give a shit, wow that feels good, but also, FUCK! “We heard you lay on the horn when you got home, we were going to leave you alone but then we heard you talking to yourself up here a few minutes ago, so we thought we’d come up and check on you.”
Jesus Christ on a crispy cream-filled coconut donut. Why don’t they just come in? Albey’s door is open, they’re just standing there. If there were no walls or anything this would be the most awkward thing ever.
“Sidney?” lilts the voice of his mother, no doubt trying her best to ignore the bulldozer of weed smoke he just relinquished unto their household.
“Yeah!” Albey chokes out, fanning the air immediately before his face with one hand, as if that’ll do anything. “Yeah’uh, yeah, come on in guys. Door’s open.”
The door swings all the way open. Ashley and Jeremy Blake, the caring and supporting adoptive parents of one Sidney “Albey” Blake, walk into the weed lair of Sawblade Lane all smiles and sit down next to each other on the bed. Albey batters his floor with a flurry of toes, swiveling to face them. Nobody says a word, but Albey is one hundred percent sure his folks know exactly what’s going down here. Shit, they can probably read his mind.
“So,” says Jeremy Blake, scratching his stubble. “Laying off the pot, eh?”
Sidney rubs the back of his neck and feels the cool embrace of The Peace Piece. Good Christ, he forgot he was holding it. “Yyeeaahh, something like that…”
“Well,” says Ashley, smiling her little smile, “I’m sure you have your reasons. What’s the strain called, sweetie?”
“Hippie Crippler,” Albey says without fully grasping that his mom just asked what strain of weed he is currently smoking.
“Hippie Crippler? Get the fuck out,” Jeremy says with a guffaw, clapping his hands. “Never heard of that one before. That’s a fantastic name.”
It’s starting to sink in, but Albey’s not quite there yet. He’s tempted to take another hit, truth be told, but even with the high creeping back in on him with a vengeance he understands that he shouldn’t do that.
“Yeah,” Albey says, trying his best to look his father in the eye. To remember his face, now and always. “I got it back in Colorado, from a dispensary. It’s uh, it’s totally legal… over uh, over there.” A sheepish laugh follows this, then hazy silence.
“Well that’s good!” Ashley bleats, still smiling. “At least you know what’s in it, right?”
Does he know what’s in it? ‘No, I don’t actually have a clue. This could be green crack… I mean, it’s not Green Crack, but… goodness, I’m correcting myself in thought.’ “Yup. Yeh’uh–… yeah, sure do.”
The air conditioning mercifully kicks on, dampening this most awkward of silences.
“So,” says Jeremy Blake, scratching his stubble. Albey fears that he’s trapped in another one of Gobon the In’Flu-Enz’a’s time loops. Then, “You go’n’a pass that thing or what?”
Sidney actually falls out of his chair. Ashley scurries over and helps him up, then continues to stand in front of him when he’s back in his chair, and wouldn’t you know it, her hand’s sticking out like she’s waiting for a tip. Or a hit. Holy shit, Albey’s mom wants a hit.
“Are you guys… you’re serious?” Albey asks incredulously. At this moment, the Hillside Commons dream which burned up most of his day seems more realistic than what’s going down in in real life.
“Son, do we look like we’re foolin’?” Jeremy asks seriously. He has his readers off so he can stare his son in the face, and his son sees no evidence to support the idea that his folks are foolin’.
“N-no, I just, I…” Sidney looks off to the side, as if searching for a camera to stare straight into. “This is just not even remotely close to anything I would ever expect to ever happen. Ever.”
“Well, son, we were young once,” Ashley says as she plucks The Peace Piece out of Albey’s hand with more style and grace than Albey has ever seen. She then asks for a light – not a lighter, but a fuckin’ light – and Albey gives her one. “Thank you, jellybean.”
Then, the unthinkable happens. Ashley Blake, mother of Sidney, sparks the bowl and takes a fatass hit, holding it like a champ and blowing billows of pot smoke all over her son’s bedroom up in the loft. She then hands The Peace Piece off to Jeremy, and he does the same except dude takes a bigger hit. Probably killed the whole damn bowl. He tosses the lighter back to Albey then, and Albey catches it, so he continues his test by lobbing The Peace Piece, which Albey also catches. Neither of them coughed even once. Sidney’s about to fall out of his chair again, what the fuck is happening right now?
“Easy there, sport,” says Jeremy as he lunges across the room and steadies his boy. “You smoked quite a bit today, didn’t you?”
‘If only you knew, you beautiful old codger.’ Aloud, with a slight giggle, “Yeah, kind’a. I slept it off in the woods though.”
The elder Blakes share a knowing look, a nice look full of love and nostalgia and memories of a good times had.
“No, I’m just kind’a… uh… I’m shocked, I guess,” Sidney continues. “Astonished would probably be a better word though.”
Ashley beams a smile. “Look at our little poet, throwing around words like astonished.”
If only she knew he learned that word from a Pokémon game. If only she knew.
“Easy there, babe,” Jeremy says, inadvertently sending the worst kind of chills up Albey’s back by referring to the boy’s mom as babe. “He’s not our little anything anymore. Sidney just smoked weed with his parents – our boy’s become a man.”
Seriously, what in the parental fuck is going on right now? Albey simultaneously feels like weeping and dancing a jig, and on top of both of those he’s absolutely sure that he’ll be waking up in the woods any minute now to the jaws of a bigfoot closing around his skull. Meanwhile, his parents keep talking to each other like Albey wasn’t there.
The Blakes look at the most recent addition to their family, an entirely misleading description.
“Is this real?”
They stare at Albey for a moment, then look at each other, then burst out laughing. Jeremy clutches his gut, nearly toppling himself off the bed. Ashley politely covers her mouth.
“Stop it, c’m’on,” Sidney says, starting to giggle a little bit himself. “Seriously, this is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me, and that’s saying something. Is this actually happening right now?”
“What, we aren’t cool enough to smoke drugs with you, Sidney?” Ashley asks, wiping a joyous tear from her right eye.
“No, that’s not it at all, I jus–”
“I’ll have you know, my man,” Jeremy cuts in; Albey’s not sure he heard him start speaking, “that between the ages of seventeen and twenty-six, I was the pot king of Logger’s Pond.”
Albey shits a brick in a purely metaphorical sense.
“And I was his loving queen throughout his entire reign…” Ashley says dreamily. “…and for about two years after he took off the crown.”
Bricks upon bricks upon bricks.
“What?” she asks innocently. “The tiara fit me well, a’ight? I only stopped because they started drug testing us at the salon,” with a roll of her eyes and a jovial smile. “There was an incident, but that’s all in the past.”
The fuck it is. “Oh no, tell me what happened.”
“It wasn’t me!” Ashley says with a sarcastic pout, hands on her hips. “One of the ladies was cutting her sister’s hair and her sister brought a little vial of blow, told her she could do a bump off her head if she wanted to. As it turns out, she wanted to.”
A brick wall slowly takes form beneath Albey Blake, lifting him ever closer towards the ceiling.
“I know, kind’a gross. I never got into any of the hard stuff, I was strictly a pot smoker.”
“Ya still are, too,” Jeremy nudges with his elbow. “I was into the mushrooms a little bit, too, but… how can I put this…” He scratches his stubble again, but more seriously this time, as if he’s doing it to help him remember. “The Universe began to reveal the secrets of reality to me, which was all well and good, mushrooms do that for a whole lot of blokes. The thing is though,” he leans in close for this next part, “I started to remember the things the ‘shrooms told me. Like, during my everyday life. Everything started making a little too much sense, you smell what I’m steppin’ in?”
“No,” Albey says flatly. “What on Earth did you step in, father?”
“Cow manure,” he whispers, as if he was revealing launch codes for a nuclear missile. “The very patty the mushrooms grew out of. I still can’t write the word Universe without automatically capitalizing the letter yoU.” He chuckles. “So I stopped with the mushrooms, and gave up the weed when the high school hired me. I don’t know, I don’t think I’m any worse off for it.”
“Not at all,” Ashley says with a hug. “You’re a wonderful ‘man, Jeremy Blake.”
“And you’re my wonderful woman, Miss Ashley.”
They kiss. Just a quick peck, nothing egregious. Albey just about vomits.
“Guys,” he says as the spins set in. “Is this real?”
The Blakes share a warm laugh together, then the elders ask the younger if they can smoke another bowl. Jeremy Blake shoves his nose into the jar and huffs the terpenes whilst Albey packs The Peace Piece and Ashley gushes over how pretty the glasswork is. When the bowl is ready they pass it in a circle. Albey’s folks take six hits each, and Albey takes seven. The bowl is cached after that nineteenth hit, and Albey knows that somewhere, probably in Maine, Stephen King is smiling. He’s absolutely sure Mister King’s smile has nothing at all to do with what just went down in backwoods Logger’s Pond, but he knows King is smiling regardless. And that makes all the difference.
“You’re sure you’re okay, son?” Jeremy asks as the parents file out of the loft.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Albey assures him, but his father doesn’t seem convinced. Albey sees it all over his father’s face, his high to the point of silliness face, a face he will never forget, so he spins around, snags his journal off the desk, and plops it down in his lap so he may pat it. “Nothing a little bit of journaling won’t take care of.”
“That’s my boy,” Jeremy says as he heads towards the stairs. As he descends, Albey hears him talking to his wife. “The dude really is a writer, you know. That’s a different journal than the one we bou…”
A smile spreads slowly across Albey’s face as he swivels to face his desk. As he moves the pot stuff to the side so there’s room for him to journal, a thought comes to his mind: ‘A strange day culminates with a strange night of stone… of getting stoned – Jim Morrison is rolling in his grave right now. Hell, he was probably here breathing in the secondhand smoke right along with us.’ It doesn’t really make any sense, Albey hardly listens to The Doors… but yet the thought still popped into his head. Huh.
“Whatever,” Albey says as he opens the journal, flipping through the many unnumbered pages of his latest in search of the freshest blank page. What a strange day indeed; there’s much for the Mad Poet to scrawl about, and as Albey lifts the pen from the divot between the pages, he decides he’ll start with the moment he closed this notebook, when the Dark Tower delusions, ‘Maybe delusions is too strong of a word, makes me seem a little crazy,’ started popping into his mind. He dates the top of the page as a continuation of this morning’s entry, then places the tip of the pen on the first line… but he doesn’t write anything. He just holds it there, staring at the white spaces and the faded blue lines which define them. Then, he asks himself a very serious question: “Why am I doing this?”
Albey sits up in his chair and hangs his head back to look at the ceiling. Breathes a few times, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Leans forward and crouches over the notebook again, placing the pen again, getting ready to recount today’s adventures again… but he can’t bring himself to do it. He just can’t do it, and so he leans back and stares at the ceiling once more.
“Today was not a very good day,” Albey reminds himself, twirling the pen with his fingers. “Today was hard, today was psychologically harrowing. Today was… I mean Christ, it’s not like it was one of the worst days of my life, but… it wasn’t one of the best, either. Not by a fuckin’ long shot.” He leans forward to sit up straight and looks at his notebook without hovering his face a few inches above it. “It was one of the highest days for sure, but… but it got scary. It got really fuckin’ scary. Even before all that shit went down after I woke up at The True Commons I was buggin’… I had a very frightening day, the kind of day that might go on to define a ‘man, and I don’t want to write it all down. I don’t want to relive that nonsense, going through it once was more than enough… so why am I doing this to myself?”
The journal offers no answer, because despite the fact that Albey addresses it as Journal when he writes in it, the journal is not a living thing. It does not have an identity, it has no character, no thoughts or feelings, no intentions. It’s just a notebook.
“I like to journal when I feel like journaling, but I don’t feel like journaling at all right now. I feel like…” He takes a moment to think, as if he doesn’t know exactly what he’s about to say to himself. “I feel like smoking pot right now. I feel like packing myself another bowl, going down to the back porch, and smoking a whole bowl to myself. Then, I want to go to bed, because I’m fucking tired. That nap I took was exhausting.” He nods to himself a few times, confirming that the nap he took in the forest was indeed exhausting. “Yeah, fuck that shit. I feel like smoking, so I’m’a pack myself a bowl, and I’m’a smoke.”
Sidney Blake puts the pen in his mouth like a pirate would hold a dagger whilst climbing, then stacks the jar, the grinder, the lighter, and The Peace Piece on top of the open notebook’s page. There’s not enough shake in the grinder to pack a full bowl, so Albey sacrifices one more nugg’ to the cannagods and grinds it into smithereens, then begins to pour flakes into the bowl with the intention of packing it full. Full as the Halla, as they might say in the endless forest of The Hillside Commons.
‘I’d like to go back there and spend some real time,’ Albey thinks to himself as he compresses the first pinch. ‘Oh shit, I forgot to roll a stopper… whatever, it doesn’t matter. A little ash never hurt anybody, that shit always blows away.’ The second pinch is laid to rest and flattened. Bowl’s just over half full, he could stop now… but what’s the fun in that? As he flicks the stragglers from the third pinch off his fingers, ‘But I think I might definitely write that Tee’acHe’Cee book. Novel, it’ll be a novel if I do it. When I do it.’ With the third pinch packed down, fitting a fourth doesn’t seem particularly necessary… but he does it anyway. ‘I just… I feel like it would be a novella, and I don’t want to write some little one-hundred-page pamphlet. Who the fuck would bother reading something so minuscule?’ Wouldn’t you know it, with the fourth hit packed down the bowl is perfectly full. ‘If I’m going to do it then I’m going to do it right, it has to be a novel…’
Albey spits the pen into his lap. That shit got old after the first pinch, ugh. He dries it with his shirt, then takes it in the hand that’s not cradling The Peace Piece.
“Fuck it,” Albey says committally, “I’m committing right now. I’m going to write a novel set in The Hillside Commons, it’s going to take place after the fall of Jericho Tower, and Albey the Mad Poet is going to be the main character. I’m committing to it right now. The first line: Gobon fled into the endless wood, and Albey the Mad Poet follows. This shit is fuckin’ happening.” He scoots his chair back and stands up, grabbing the white lighter with the hand holding the pipe. “I have no idea what it’s actually going to be about, but the book is happening. No matter what. I don’t care how long it takes me to write, I don’t care if nobody reads it. I’m doing this for myself, and I’m going to do it. Starting tomorrow; as for right now, I’m going to smoke this bowl and then I’m going the fuck to sleep. And that’s the last thing I have to say on the matter.”
He turns and starts towards his door, then stops and stares at his hand. The one free of cannabis paraphernalia. Slowly and with all the purpose he’ll ever need, Albey returns to his undersized writing desk and raises his hand above its gouged surface.
The black pen falls into the journal’s centerfold, and Albey closes the notebook.
Hello Commons, this has been the seventh 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 OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~