They get back to the shoulder soon enough. Keaton bumps Sidney’s fist one more time, and they hug again, just for the hell of it. Sidney watches the taillights of his car cruise on up Sawblade Lane and feels a queer kind of warmth in his heart. After all he’s been through since going away to college, Sidney still has a friend in this world who he can lend his car to with the knowledge that he’ll bring it back in the morning.
“That’s cool,” Sidney says, turning to head back into the forest. “That’s really, really cool.”
The fire glows with smoky embers when Sidney gets back to The True Commons, but that’s fine. Sidney thought ahead and gathered himself a bundle of firewood on his walk back. He piles a solid half of it into the ashy pit and then crawls into the tent to prepare himself a joint, because his high wore off a good long time ago and he’s ready to smoke up again. It’s been a while since Sidney’s prepared a joint for himself, but like riding a bike the pencil method comes fluidly back to him, and he doesn’t even need the light of the flashlight, nor the water bottle he put on top of his phone to act as something of a lantern. It helps, and it’s nice to have, but he doesn’t need it.
Then again, Sidney didn’t need to write his book, but he sure did. Mayhap – just mayhap – life doesn’t always need to be about what one needs. Mayhap sometimes life should be about what one wants, because what is a need if not a want with great intensity?
“I don’t fuckin’ know,” Sidney Blake says as flames dance across his face. “I’m too tired to be thinkin’ this kind’a shit.”
Mayhap; Sidney brings the joint to his lips and the lighter to the joint. Friction leads to a spark. A spark leads to flames. Flames lead to smoke, and smoke? Smoke always blows away. Then there’s only ashes, and they blow away too.’
“Jesus,” Sidney says, then laughs at himself. “I’m just smoking a joint, it’s not that big a deal.”
No, no it isn’t. But it can be, if he wants it to. Hell, it can even be the last night Sidney Blake smokes the Hippie Crippler. If he wants.
Do you want it to be your last night, Sidney Blake?
“I don’t know,” Sidney says to the crackling fire. “I’m just out here campin’ for the first time in my life, ‘man.”
“Out here sittin’ by myself smokin’ a bone in the wilderness.”
“Just Sidney Blake and Mary Jane.”
“Just Albey the–”
“–Mad Poet all alone in the endless–”
“–wood with no To–”
“–ri to keep him company.”
Sidney blinks a few times. “Woah…” He stares at his half-smoked joint. “What the fuck? What was that?”
What was that?
What was what?
Sidney Blake’s mind suddenly goes blank. The nocturne forest is alive and cacophonous. Old trees creaking, cold wind blowing, dead leaves rustling in the distance.
Leaves a’rustle in the distance. The footpace of a creature falling heavily on the deaded fronds which once clothed the canopy above.
Sidney tosses the rest of the goddamned fuckin’ joint into the fire. It burns up immediately on the bed of scarlet embers, leaving only a crumbling pillar of ashes.
“Maybe Tori is right, I should stop smoking that shit.”
Why? You like to smoke, don’t you Sidney? You don’t need to stop.
“It’s not always about needs, I don’t think,” Sidney reasons with himself, but quietly in a whisper. Talk too loud and he won’t hear the rustling, which seems to be coming closer. And closer.
“Fuck, fuck this, I’m going in the tent.”
Sidney goes in the tent and zips it shut, but the fire is still going, and feverishly at that. It’s just plain irresponsible to leave it burning, right?
“Yeah, no, you’re right,” Sidney tells himself.
He grabs a bottle of water and douses the fire, then throws one of his black skater shoes into the pit in hopes the rubber might give off some noxious fumes and drive away whatever’s out there. Short one shoe Sidney closes himself back in the tent and shuts off his phone’s flashlight. Then, he listens.
Rustling, getting closer.
A branch breaks, but not a thick one.
Footsteps, one after the other.
Heavy. Moving with purpose. With intent.
Kicking up leaves. Sidney can hear them landing now.
He can hear the leaves landing.
Landing close by.
A branch breaks, a big one this time. One of the ones he gathered for the fire.
Breathing now, Sidney can hear breathing. Labored breathing. Is it his? Or is it…
Sidney Blake is breathing silently through his nose, he can’t hear his own breathing. He can hear his heart beating in his temples, yes, but he can’t hear his own breathing.
Branches, pilfering through the branches.
It… there’s nothing, the noises stopped. What coul–
The tent shifts. Something is pressing the front. Pushing against it. Sidney can hear the polyester nylon whatever the fuck it is hissing against the… fur? Skin?
What’s out there?
‘Only one way,’ Sidney reasons with himself, ‘to find out for sure…’
Sidney turns around to face the back of the old Ozark Trail two-‘man tent and turns on his flashlight. He then sets his phone screen-down behind him and blindly puts a water bottle on top of the light, making a rudimentary lantern, setting the interior of his tent dimly aglow. Slowly Sidney turns around, eyes closed, until he is facing the door. He’s shaking, sweating, trembling uncontrollably all the while the outside world is deathly silent. Aside from the wind, that is. The wind continuing to blow.
Sidney opens his eyes–
–a silhouette of a human hand, fingers splayed, pressed against–
–the front of his tent.
He got out again, Old Fucking Jack escaped the group home again to wander the dense dark wood around Sawblade Lane, and here he is at Sidney’s tent. Here he is, a troubled and tormented soul all alone in the endless wood, just like Sidney. Just like Albey the Poet after he buried his friends and he went Mad, never to rhyme again. Just two lone ‘mans lost in the endless wood, and one of them is reaching out, wanting to be touched. He does not need to be touched, as none of us do – ain’t nobody makin’ it out alive; born alone, die alone, that’s the ride, word to ¡MAYDAY! – but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make some friends, that we can’t try to make the nights a little less lonely. The last Sidney saw Old Jack the guy was enraged, volatile, liable to do something stupid, something worthy of being stabbed, but tonight he seems different. Tonight Old Jack seems calm, collected, at peace. His hand sits motionless, pressed against the outside of the tent, and he’s breathing so calmly now Sidney can’t hear it. Old Jack just wants to be touched, he just wants to make a connection, and Sidney… well, Sidney wants to make that happen for Old Jack. Mister Kyng reached out and made a connection with Sidney, so Sidney can reach out and make a connection with Old Jack. It’s the least he can do for a fellow ‘man who so daringly walks that fine, fine pink line between Purpose and Random, between brilliance and madness, between genius and insanity.
With the hand not holding the pocketknife, blade extended and at the ready just in case shit goes sideways, Sidney reaches out and places his palm in the silhouette of Old Jack’s hand.
For a moment, nothing happens. The two sit there, palms pressed together, separated only by a thin sheet of ambiguous material.
Then, with a smile and joyous tears pooling on his eyelids, Sidney cups his knife-bearing hand around his mouth, feels the cold steel of the blade press against his bare cheek, and WHOOPs quietly into the night, just like he heard Old Jack do not one short month ago.
Then Old Jack seizes the other hand tightly, his uncut fingernails tearing easily through the miserable old tent, for Old Jack has finally found the wicked one who WHOOPs deep in the wood, the horrid one who torments him so night after night after night with his callous WHOOPs and hollers and rancid woody knocks. Old Jack faithfully followed the scent of The Flower each and every time She whispered into his ears and on this most glorious of nights She guided him on a voyage deep into the dark and endless wood; on this night at long last The Flower kept Her promise and brought Old Jack into the presence of the wicked one who WHOOPs deep in the woods of Sawblade Lane.
And now he shall WHOOP no more.
This has been the last subchapter of the last chapter of Untitled Bigfoot Project. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~