Four’thirty-five in the morning. Hilter cannot take it anymore – this is the third time he’s woken up tonight, it’s clear that his body does not want him to get any sleep. It is abundantly clear. Leaving his bed messy and unmade, Hilter gets himself dressed in a huff and storms down the stairway in what used to be the Flannigan household before he bought it, then goes outside to take a walk through the dark, slamming his front door behind him.
The sun is blazing in the sky both like and unlike Cooper’s older brother is blazing on the roof of Hilter’s house right now. The high school hippie waves hello to Hilter as the exhausted man – so exhausted he couldn’t sleep an hour straight after the first time he woke up at thirty-three after three, and speaking of which, what’s with all these numbers? First the synchronous triple threes, then the next time he woke up it was three’forty-five, as in ascending numbers, and this time it was four’thirty-five, disordered ascension. What does it all mean? Does it mean anything? Is Hilter out of synchronization with the Universe, is he fucking up his new therapist gig? He certainly fucked up his appointment with Cooper… but, wait, no he didn’t, they reached a breakthrough together, Cooper said he accepted the death of his older brother, said he felt like he didn’t need to come back.
What does it all mean?!
Hilter storms past the algal pond at the end of Fricker Drive, ignoring the laughter of the neighborhood children as they run around and dance in the lawn. There seems to be a block party going on, all of Hilter’s neighbors are there – the Johnsons, the Flannigans, Cooper and his older brother, the single guy who got murdered during the second burglary, the burglarman in the black ski mask who murdered him, plus a bunch of humans Hilter’s never seen before. He should stop and mingle a bit, it’d be good to get to know everybody, especially those unfamiliars who probably live on the next street up, which is less a street and more of a dirt path, but what do semantics matter in heat like this? When Hilter goes for his walks he usually sticks to Fricker, which doesn’t provide him the opportunity to meet the friendly folks living up on Barnstatter Path. This would be just that opportunity.
Then again, Hilter’s in a rather foul mood this morning, and the heat falling down from the blazing sun (which resembles a crystal more than it does a star, a detail Hilter would find very perplexing if only he would look up and stare straight into it) is only boiling his blood further, so perhaps socializing is not the best idea. Hilter bypasses the pond and stomps his aching feet from asphalt to unpaved dirt. Rather than going past the Dead End road sign – because that is a sign from the divine if Hilter’s ever seen one – he goes right and heads up Barnstatter towards Stonetown Road.
The first house he passes is to his left, it’s a ratty old shack with moldy plywood doors and a balcony made of knickknacks situated a bit up the hill from the dirt road. Between the balcony and the road is an expansive garden which sports plants with fruits of full pizzas with toppings ranging from crispy bacon to fried chicken fingers to straight-up unopened plastic bottles of classic ranch dressing. Hilter is taken by the sight of the pizza garden, so much so that he doesn’t notice the road rising under his feet – with each step taken forward he climbs about a foot, give or take a few inches, and suddenly, Hilter finds himself at the end of the shack’s driveway, at level with the ratty shack itself. Inside one of the windows next to the front door he sees a burglarman wearing a black ski mask. The man waves, and Hilter waves back, then continues to walk.
The next house Hilter sees, set down the hill from the road with a vibrant lawn of green grass bridging the gap rather than a garden, is a ratty shack with moldy plywood doors. There are two large naked burglarmans wearing black ski masks in the lawn pushing rusty motorless lawn mowers in paths with no discernible intelligence in their design – aside from the fact they’re avoiding all the knickknacks strewn about the yard like lawn ornaments, that is – and neither of them wave for Hilter, which is fine. Hilter just wants to take a walk, although he does wonder how the men are wearing those stuffy black ski masks with this unbearable late-night sunshine.
Barnstatter Path descends to an elevation roughly halfway between the bottom of the uphill stretch past the Fricker pond and the mouth of the first ratty shack’s driveway. To Hilter’s left is an impenetrable wall of trees – smoothback beech trees, oaks that rain acorns, patches of bamboo splattered with blood, an odd maple – and to his right is a line of ratty shacks. Ratty shack after ratty shack after ratty shack, all of them inhabited by nude men wearing black ski masks, all of them bursting at the seams with knickknacks, all of them doored with mold and sheets of plywood beneath it. The men all wave at Hilter as he passes. What choice does he have but to wave back?
At the end of Barnstatter, on the left side of the dirt road just before the Stonetown turnoff point, is not a ratty shack. It’s not a mere house, either – it’s a mansion, an elegant white and gold Victorian fortress standing eleven stories high complete with towers and windowless spires capped with gargoyle statues… no, those aren’t gargoyles! Those are djinns! Muscular incense djinns with their arms folded before their chests! The structure is so tall that it blocks out the sun, which Hilter is very grateful for – had he been forced to spend so much as another second exposed to the ridiculous heat of this four o’clock a.m. hour, he would have stripped down and went for a dip in the clear water of the pond between the mansion and the road.
“I could keep walking…” Hilter says aloud. He looks over to the traffic climbing up and down Stonetown Hill. The cars are bumper to bumper and they’re moving, they’re hauling ass and squalling gas, they’re going so fast the colors of the paints blend together into one ugly black-brown blur, they’re like an army of coked-up ants marching in a row trying to find more cocaine because they went and consumed the first pile they happened upon while out looking for a picnic to spoil. “…but something’s off about this mansion. I need to see who lives inside.”
Hilter turns to face the mansion and notices right now, for the first time, a rickety old rope bridge suspended over the moat of murky water which surrounds the building. He approaches it and grabs the rope on the right side of the bridge, shaking it a little to test if it’ll hold him.
“Ack, I have no idea what I’m doing. I may as well just go.”
And so Hilter goes. Every board supports his weight.
When Hilter is halfway across, he hears what can only be described as the pained wail of a tormented banshee. He looks down into the dark water and sees something swimming just beneath the surface, a shape, something large and serpent-like, something with hollow, bulbous eyes and tentacles beneath its fins and bones on the outside of its body. It’s swimming back and forth from edge to murky edge, as though it was searching for something, something very important to it that it has lost – or rather, that has been stolen from it – and by the tone of its demonic cry, Hilter gets the feeling that The Serpent knows it shall not find that which it searches for. He walks on, stepping gingerly over the boards as not to accidentally crack them and fall through.
At the end of the rope bridge is a wide, rocky trail that runs a lengthy four feet – with an extra five and six-sevenths inches tacked on at the end, Hilter is utterly sure of that much – before halting at a gleaming marble staircase. Hilter climbs the stairs and reaches for the loop dangling from the mouth of a bronze feline’s head, a feline Hilter recognizes as Fluffy, the housecat who came with the Flannigan household when he bought it. Hilter thinks about how weeks will go by without him seeing or feeding that cat and wonders how the wily little mongrel is always so lively, so frothing with energy and vitality. Then, as the thought takes its leave from his awareness, Hilter bangs the knocker against the door three times.
The door swings open before Hilter’s hand falls back to his side. Living in the mansion is a six-foot-tall egg, an egg with a translucent shell and a glowing orange orb at its core.
“I’m an eggy boy,” the egg says without a discernible mouth. “I’m an eggy, eggy boy.”
The sound of knocking bombards Hilter’s brain like rolling thunder. He falls to his knees and plugs his earholes with his middle fingers, as if to tell the cacophony to fuck off, but it does not listen. Teeth grind, ears split, skulls fracture to the loud, and it only gets louder and louder and louder and
Been having very interesting dreams lately. Lucid, the grand majority of them. Made me think of this passage specifically, so here y’go. Convenient Incidents is definitely one of my deep cuts. Lovely work, of course, but definitely one of the hidden gems. Hope ya see the sparkle (-: