My name is Rich. At the time of writing, the date is 8-25-83 and I am 14 years old. Dear diary Today I learned how to tie 20 different kinds of knots. Each with a different use and a different purpose. The anchor knot is for anchors and the bow knot is for bows. Is everyone gone? Okay, now that no one's reading this, I can write freely. And if my parents or someone else is still reading this far, just assume this is a fun story by some 12-year-old sci-fi aficionado from camp who stole my diary and copied my handwriting. You know those shapes you see when you close your eyes at your first sleepover and you frantically think of a face from a cheesy monster movie to solidify them? Well, I've lost that ability, no matter how much I'd rather see the movie poster of Frightmare than the footprints these things leave behind. But I can't afford to ignore them, so closing my eyes is how I see now. If anyone were to find out I actually believe the following, I would get locked up in a padded white cell for long enough for the things to find me. I'm writing this for my own purposes, because I'm terrified of things that have no documentation or even folklore attached to them. Heck, if it was a ransom kidnapper after me, I'd at least have some hope of losing all my blood from ammature ransom negotiations. Then the fear would be over, and my parents would think no less of me as they write my eulogy. But since what happened, I feel morally obligated to be as paranoid, alone, and dangerous as possible for the rest of my life.
I can't believe I wrote that, but right now I'm upstairs from a family reunion full of people who would die for me at the drop of a coin and I've never felt more alone. I had waterproof matches sewn into my pants, and stacks of newspapers piled under the cedar support beam at the edge of my attic room, and I feel willing to risk burning 80 people alive simply because the things might not like fire and might be planning something worse for us because I'm here. Just writing this makes me afraid of hurting people, like I should just admit myself to the padded rooms already like Grandma. I'm writing by feel in pitch black because they're easier to seen without light getting in the way. I've searched for any other opinion about these things since two years ago when my little epiphany happened. I'm homeschooled and my dad designs cranes for a contracting company, so with that and a paper route, I've had the time and allowance to have myself declared "of sound mind and body" by some very pricey psychiatrists. I've even written letters to published metaphysical theorists, thealogans, mythology experts, and guys with doctorates who swore they had contact with extraterrestrials. I may have been vague about what I've seen for myself and what I've done, as I don't want to risk an admission. But mental experts tell me my mind shows "healthy amounts of skepticism, precision and perfect emotional intelligence" and shoo me away with confidence unanimously. Meanwhile, when I tell people what "supposedly happened to my friend," they think it's obvious hogwash. Even Mr. "U.F.O.s control congress". I'm alone, unanimously.
My uncle Pastor Dan, my last hope of protection or common ground, is down there. Unlike some mere 5000-dollar certificate of being right in the head, this is a man I trust 100%. He's obviously not doing what he does for money or popularity. I've seen every kind of beverage thrown at his face during his sermons, partly because of the Babykillers concert T-shirt he always wears with vomited beer stains he and I know are from counseling work, and the morbid song lyrics he chooses to tie into his messages. We've watched him walk 3 miles out to our stalled car to bring us a gallon of gas and supplies he could barely afford. And I've watched people I know get all epileptic with no medical explaination, and Pastor Dan would storm into the room like somebody's sidekick and "let Angels deal with stuff out of our league" while he got in a circle with helpless spectators to "cheer on the Lord's work." But 20 minutes ago, this man ripped the last bit of hope out of me when he smiled and said he couldn't find any problem in the house, demonic or otherwise. He said he was sure my guardian angel wouldn't let anyone overwhelm me. I know demons are technically worse, but no one's alone against something so big anyway. It's the little things that get ya. It's rats that killed so many sleeping workers locked in the factory in "The Jungle." Maybe I should smother my neck in peanut butter so rats won't be so shy about it. Something might beat them to it in a few hours.
Whatever they are, they could see me only as well as I could see them. Some show up easier, so As Dan and I were talking I covertly rubbed fruit punch into my eyes pretending to casually un-gunk them. I closed my eyes and a blurry shape of one of them was standing behind pastor Dan. It started to smell me or sense me, I think. I'm special to them for some reason, I think. I didn't say goodbye or ask my mom for permission, but I ran upstairs and started writing this just to stop darting my eyes around the room so much they fall out of my head. I was joking about the eye thing, and the fact that I have to point that out for myself is not helping my panic attack right now. These things are as strong as us, I think. It feels good to put theories in writing. The window is five stories up in the community center I live in, and they're not impact resistant. I could easily run at it with my chair and land past the haybails mom put below every window when grandma visited. Or there's the "hairspray moltov" method my cousin told me about. "fast, painless and funny as crap to watch" he said. Suicidal thoughts are making me a bit too happy, so I'd better get depressed real fast.
The night my grandma died was the worst night of my life, and not why you think. When people catch me shedding the last tears I have left, they can think whatever they want. But for anyone violating the sanctity of my tear-warped journal this far, I'll try to explain from the beginning. Two years ago in Febuary 24th 1981, our homeschool group took a trip to a graffiti-ridden summer camp in Endroit Mortel, where nobody has resided since the 60's. We would tell spooky stories under the best conditions: moonless nights around a dying campfire in the middle of a dead forest big enough for a group about our size to have no chance of help if we were attacked by something from our stupid stories. We would let the campfire die and try to see what we feared most in the pitch black distance. The fear in my fellow campers was hilariously convincing, especially when we pranked each other by going out and making noises. The best part was when our camp leader told us he was a "Paranoid schitzophranic ex-con and some other stuff in the papers your parents signed but didn't read." He was a pale, twitchy, dog-eyed doormat who appologized all the time, and gave us buoy knives to hide in our cabins "in case I give you the shivers". The handles came off and the blades were dull, like he really was planning something against us. It was awesome. Every helpless fear in the book was practically stapled under our eyelids every night as we teased each other about "being fed to the chupacabras by scoutmaster pee-pants". I miss that kind of fear: unbased and exciting. I even had it when I missed the bus and I spent three days alone in the abandoned mess-hall basement in the loneliest part of the woods. I never wanted it to end.
And then....then there was the silence. The best part. Silence. Thick and delicious, like you could roll in it, like it was a blanket. I would trade everything I had to capture that silence in a bottle. Silence and the darkness. The only thing that could match such elegant silence was the darkness that came with it. I couldn't get enough of it. Maybe I should have felt unnerved? There was an odd feel about the place in general, that is from a normal standpoint, I suppose. A person couldn't really ignore the chalk outline of a body right outside or the rest of the things that contributed to the atmosphere around this place. But how could one feel troubled in a place like this? This was like a dream to me, honestly. All the things I wanted and needed were at my disposal, and best of all, my sister wasn't here. She was an expert tattler and an amazing spin doctor. Once when I was 11 and she was 5 I told her I saw some possums in a hole in the wall. She told Mom I was seeing little creatures in the wall and that I was acting weird, and then I spent the afternoon at a kid's psych counselor while she watched Flash Gorden and ate my candy. But in that mess-hall basement paradise of chips and exotic soda, I didn't think about the thin ice I already was on with my mom. If she merely suspected that I believed in little non-rat, non-demonic, non-anything creatures like grandma, she could have practically given me over to the electorshocking quacks responsible for Grandma's death-row personality. If Mom actually reads this, I am prepared to jump out of the car on the way to the ward and aim for rocks, because the white room is exactly where the things would expect to get me cornered if they still like me so much. I didn't have those thoughts yet. I didn't know anything then that wasn't in a book or on TV, and I had no fear of this world, the next, or any hogwash in between. My biggest concern was television static.
The barely-functional television in the middle of the storage hall was the only light I had access to and the only light I wanted for the four days until my grandma would pick me up. I must have watched the upper three inches of 15 episodes of Open All Night, and when I got bored with that I looked at the other five inches and watched the static dance in various ways. I saw spinning tops on a hotwheels-style racetrack mainly because I'm not creative and that was the last fun I had before relaxing in the darkness. And that's what TV static looks like, right? The darkness looked exactly like the static eventually and I sang the Hotwheels commercial theme about 40 times. My eyes had learned to adjust enough to use the TV as a light to avoid tripping on the crates of bloated juice boxes, not that there was any footing on the actual floor. I could even figure out which foods were exceedingly expired, not that any of it was newer than 20 years old. I could have requested a ride from local law enforcement, or ordered Chinese from a restaurant a few miles away, or even brought the flashlight from upstairs to end the hotwheels fun, but none that appealed to me. I wanted to see my grandma again, and not why you think. She had been declared just sane enough to run the errand of picking me up, and was just unscary enough to be allowed to talk to me. But they had no idea what she confided in me and me alone simply because I promised not to tattle. I had learned to delay my laughter long enough to learn a new "preventative trick against them" and rush into the kitchen and chortle into a pillowcase full of cotton balls and rice I had set aside for the activity. I would later use the stifle pillow to shriek and cry after I found out she was right. I miss my ignorance as much as I miss those fermented fruit cocktail cans.
By day two I figured grandma was taking her sweet time in getting here, so I went upstairs to give her a call in case she hadn't even left. I found out the phone had been ringing the whole time. The Open All Night theme song sounds like a bucket of cats, so I wasn't surprised I tuned it out. I answered, and it was Grandma. "Rich? Is that you?!" she blurted out like time was precious.
"I'm at a pay phone two miles north of the mess hall. you need to start walking."
"might I ask why?"
"If you run, they might see you."
"well, see, I might hold out here for now." I said, trying not to laugh audibly.
"I saw a lot of 'em headed that way! You're the only one left at camp, right?"
"I think I know what that means, but I'm afraid to believe it!"
"I'll look outside for help when it gets darker, ok, grandma?" My voice wavered with tears of laughter.
"You have to mess your eyes up real good to see what can't be seen, OK Richie-Boo? Citrus works best." Her voice wavered with regular tears."Be safe. Be safe. Remember what I-"
Those were the last words she had to give me and she sounded like she knew it. Did I mention that whole conversation was originally in pig-Latin? That was the only way she would talk to me about em-thay. Only now does it bother me what a jerk I was and I wish I had laughed to her face so she had a chance to truly convince me or give up on me, but then I would never have found out this much and I could be dead right now or worse.
I may have had no respect for people, but I had pride as an honest man. I went outside like I said I would, and sure enough the cloud cover made the place pitch black, a beautiful sight if I'd ever seen one. I couldn't even see the forest that was ten feet from the building in all directions, partly because I was up to my eyes in grass and cat-tails from the 60's. But somehow I stumbled upon a tipped tripod and camera near where I remember the chalk outline was, and I figured the cops already took what they needed from the scene, so I raided it. For some reason, those teenagers were desperate enough to tape over a copy of The Black Hole. I found a VCR in the supplies closet, which must have been left by the owners of the camera. They hadn't seemed to record over anything, so I figured they left in the little plastic plug that keeps you from taping over movie tapes. It was all normal until about 30 minutes in, when I started to see subtle airbrushy effects at 60 frames per second, the speed of certain stuff on that new channel MTV, but movies could only use 24 FPS 'cause of reel distribution. I was 12, so I don't remember how I knew all that, besides being a seclusive homeschool student who basically lived in a library (which may also explain my relative finesse at mid-panic memoir authorship). Something about the blurry shapes created an impression of reality, it wasn't just the different frame rate, and I knew it was a recording on the screen, and those would have looked like formless moving swishes or a magnetic problem with the TV to anyone else. And I know that sounds abstract, but I felt like everything around me, my own life, was a dream or a cheesy coming of age movie compared to the indistinguishable shapes appearing on that VHS tape. It's like when you set a crystal clear TV showing Looney Tunes in glorious color next to a fish in a smudgy, grimy, light-warping fishbowl and instinct has to kick in to tell you that the fish is the one that is more real. I know what you're thinking and I was not on mushrooms. Indeed, the most terrifying realization up to this point was that there were no drugs, no transition into sleep, no emotional stress or fear or any other reason not to trust this inexplicable instinct to be afraid of what may have been recorded on that tape. But even then, I thought nothing of it. I chuckled, finished the movie, and went up to go for a walk in the broad daylight my Grandmother told me to avoid.
I went to the gas station about a mile away to pick up some gum. It was an old decommissioned station from at least 20 years ago, so the gum was free and it tended to disintegrate on contact. I grabbed a fistful of gum only I could enjoy, noticed my overcooked grandma in the corner of the store, grabbed some bone-dry expired milk I was legendary in camp for liking, and left the store thinking "I'm late for Underdog". That was my only reaction. Just the fact that she was dead, like "whatever, she was pretty old and crazy. Could have been worse considering." The fearful instinct I was generally immune to was still abscent even when I realized how she died. She was a skeleton clenching a gas can and a stack of charred firewood, pretty obvious how she did it, and pretty obvious why considering the last phone call I had with her. She obviously thought fire had some sort of power over the things that supposedly hunted her for reasons I never really put together. Her explanation for what they did was the only thing I didn't pay as much attention to because it wasn't funny enough at the time. Not funny because it was so gruesome and troubling it was over my ten-year-old head.
I didn't remember the worst of what she said, but she mentioned something to me when I was five that I remember clearly. "You catch things most people don't see for a reason." That alone scares me to this day, and I lay awake at night trying to piece together some memory that can help me understand them better. But rather than piece together "the brain farts of the Fairy Tale Queen" when the memory was fresh, or at least take a moment of silence for the woman who helped raise me, I chose to rush home to catch the end of Underdog. And then tell Mom to pick me up, and tell the police to pick up an obvious suicide case at the gas station. The police didn't believe me because camp ghost stories and stuff tended to make the kids there a bit paranoid and full of it. Fun fact: my prints were all over this 'stuff' they were 'full of', hintedy hint. Empty Pill bottles, probably from the last group of public school campers, covered the couch I had been using. So calling the police over to my basement paradise for any reason would have entailed peeing in a cup in front of terrified, furious whistle-blowers and suspected for murder during my favorite show, let alone explaining that 'White' and 'Guy' are legitimate middle and last names and not a smart-aleck remark. Besides that, I didn't want to be the one to tell my mom about Grandma because I didn't want to kill the mood of my selfish little vacation. Whatever I would yet see in that mess hall, I was already detached from everyone's vouch and credibility.
Funny story: this would have been the worst day of my life even if nothing weird happened. The cops came over anyway, and I chose then to let the gravity of my Grandmother's death hit me like a human being. I was shaking like a guilty man while clenching a pill bottle I forgot I picked up, and furious at them for interrupting Underdog, my only emotion clutch at the moment. What did I look like but a psychotic druggie, snot a-danglin; an obvious suspect for my burnt grandma. They were scowling pretty bad at me, and I thought I was in for a beating, but then one of them said "You find a body and you don't think to tell anyone about it?!" Rather than be relieved that I wasn't suspect for murder, or enquire how uncoordinated a group of state troopers would have to be to not know I already called them about that (but again, probably because my name sounds like a prank call), I flew of the handle about missing Underdog. "THE DOG-MAN IS GETTING IN THE PHONE BOOTH RIGHT NOW, YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE, I DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS PART!" I clasped my mouth, and silently waited for their reaction. They just left. The ornery pigs drove a mile just to chew me out, but then figured I was crazy and left covering their faces and chuckling the same way I did with my grandma. The sitcom timing of everything was enough, and the tortilla crumbs caked to my tears must have been classic. If I could have only seen the pathetic look on my face in third-person, It would have been the best worst day ever.
No way anyone has read this far, right? Even a psych evaluation guy would have seen enough by now to think he understands me. 'Lost cause', right Doc? Now is where I'm supposed to tell you that all was enough to adhere everything into my memory, put me on edge, and ruin my life like I talked about. It wasn't. I would still be very comfortable and unafraid for the next 20 hours until my mother would arrive in the main campground to pick me up. I slinked into the couch that night, turned off the TV, and immediately got up. Before I left for camp, my grandmother made me promise to drink lemonade every night. Strange advice, but she was persistent. I rarely did it, but there was a can of lemonade concentrate like two feet from the couch, and ya gotta be nice to dead people like Mom says. She even agreed to play the Hart to Hart theme at my funeral (thinking it was the name of a hymn), so I kinda have to be fair. I woke myself up and started jamming a screwdriver into the seams trying to get it open. If I ever saw a miracle, it was right then. That lemonade concentrate sludge squeezed squirted right between the seams of the can, and somehow made it into my clenched-shut eyes. If I had my own personal guardian angel and he had any other help planned for me at all, he wouldn't have so perfectly attacked my eyes with citrus in the first place. It was then I looked over across the room with TV-static-ey amounts of darkness and saw some kind of motion-blurred slender shapes. That feeling of it being exceedingly real was stronger than ever, and yet I laid back down in that couch trying to fall asleep. It must not have seen me yet, and must have been doing something over there, because I must have laid wide awake for an hour experiencing an odd combination of Life-or-death fear and absolute skepticism.
I miss both those things. A mere fear of a traditional death like slaughter or fire, fears my terrified grandmother never had. In the pile of provisions right next to me was a newspaper, a box of matches and an empty can of fermented lemonade concentrate I had downed like a Christmas drunk. I decided to make a lantern to navigate to supplies hall and go to the bathroom to wash out the lemonade sludge I just realized had been grating my eyes like sandpaper for an hour. I got up and something from under my bed started eating through from under the couch making it warp and bubble unnaturally under my hand. I jerked my hand away from the couch and frantically twisted and face-planted my way off the back of the couch. I told myself rats had gnawed their way into the couch, but I saw a two-elbowed arm under my bed, and a clawed hand shoot through where I was sitting. I saw all this in the half a second it took to start running away. Did I mention I should not have been able to see anything period in that light-sealed basement? Whatever it was, it took the time to position itself to attack my spine specifically. I lit my newspaper in a can I had already prepared and somehow managed to keep in my hand through the whole slapstick tumble. I held the fire, my only source of light, behind me defensively while I looked forward rushing upstairs by pure muscle memory. When I was up there I was surrounded by three of them. They only seemed to notice my fire. If I didn't have that lemonade in my eyes, I wouldn't have been able to see them. I wouldn't have been able to rush over between them and light the firewood that was stacked up next to the lounge's support beam. I ran out into the harsh moonlight. Big mistake.
Most of the things appeared to vanish as they ran into the light, and if any of them had tricks for being able to see humans, they used them. I didn't make it past the front porch before experiencing something I can't really describe. Imagine that feeling you get in your leg when you sit on it wrong then stand up too fast. That, but with every nerve in your mind and body. Imagine planning something horrible with no hint of guilt, and then changing your mind and saying to yourself "I don't even know you," like something took over your body. Imagine having an epileptic seizure while being on fire. Funny story, this one time I thrashed around on the floor because I was allergic to some chemical in the hairspray I put on my cereal because I was four and didn't know any better. That was funny, this wasn't. After what could have been three hours or three minutes, it was kinda hard to tell, the terror stopped. It wasn't a dream because my eyes hadn't been closed in a while, but I realized there was a fallen plank from the porch on my chest. I noticed it was on fire, and that a gentle confetti of burning embers had been falling all around me like snow. The things must have died.
They could have easily left the burning porch. They could have probably killed me more easily than whatever else they were doing. But they must have seen this as their only chance to try it. Maybe they exist in a different layer of space and need to take over a human host by seizing the nervous system through the spine. Maybe to their world, I'm the ghost. Maybe from what they've seen now, they have every right to believe I'm a demon who must be vanquished. After all, I burned down their home and killed what could have plausibly been innocent people in that world with the only substance that can cross to their side: fire. If we controlled fire, then maybe our plane of existence had the upper hand, and they had actually been trying to kill me for an hour the way I killed them in an instant. I wanted to merely believe I was a murderer, because the alternative is much more troubling. It was my loving grandmother's word against some freaks who tried to attack me first, and I had to believe the whole world was in danger if they manage to take me. If an evil brain-control invasion was what they were planning, I would be the perfect prototype. If my eyes could see them, then something about my and my grandmother's DNA must have been special somehow, closer to their plane of space. And maybe they occupy the same timeline, but in reverse. Their movement and bodies were so bizarre, they could have been walking in reverse for all I know and if so fire doesn't kill them but creates them. My theories get weirder and weirder, and if you saw them you would understand. But not knowing has created a purer moral confusion than I've ever tried to imagine. I don't know if they're innocent, wicked, smart, stupid, powerful, weak, or even if they finished what they tried to do that day. I don't know what they want or even if they CAN want. But my Grandmother's comments convince me of one thing: I can't find out. And it has become a matter of common sense to me that I can't tell anyone. I'm not even sure about the fire anymore, if it attracts attention or gives them a genuine right to take me. And I don't even know about suicide in general, and if they would still be able to take control of my dead body somehow and use it to kill everyone I love. All I can do is stay on the uncomfortable side of a lifelong game of hide and seek. This diary has been therapeutic, but I need a scissors to chop it up so no one can read it. Some people are knocking pretty hard on the door, I may have to burn it. I don't know. I just don't know. Time for some cheesy lies as buffer in case someone just skims to the end.
And that is how I learned to tie all the knots, ride a horse, and pitch a tent with my friends at camp. Everyone was super nice, and the scoutmaster even let me ride in the wagon. It was a super fun time. Things are looking up, and there's nothing that can get me down. Not even the homework I'll have to do when I get home. But that's the only thing I have to deal with in my perfect little life, yessir! It's been great couple of years I'll never forget, and the snacks at camp were amazing! A great life. But life. What it is, I don't know, and in fact doubt I ever will. But these things were more real than life. My existence was less real than them. They're being exceeded mine in the sense that they seemed to be on a higher level than me. The Nachos, I mean. Nachos so perfect, I may have to wait years before I find anything like them.