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Friday, April 29, 2011

Turn the page

    Today was one of those days which I had been eagerly waiting for as it meant reuniting with relatives whom I thought were long lost. Packing a few items in the suitcase, I headed off to what seemed to me like distant lands which I have not visited in many long decades. It seems like this forgotten particular stretch of land beckons me now and from what I have heard, it’s an old house sits on the edge of a hill overlooking a forest that seems to stretch from one horizon to the other. The house itself is many centuries old yet others say that it’s old as time itself. It was passed from one generation to the next without fail even through the hard times and no one really knew who actually built it. It’s been whispered in hushed tones that the original owners fled the northern lands and settled here to start afresh.
    As I drove out of the familiar lands and into the uncharted areas, I looked up and saw that the wind was picking up and the sky clouding up. It seemed like rain was imminent and I wanted to reach the safety of my destination instead of being stranded on some lonesome highway in the dead of night. These long drives on long dusty back roads always wore me out and the unexpected car problem in some back road surrounded by a corn field will probably add to my woes. During my journey, the sky cleared up a bit and looking up I saw a full moon disappear behind a cloud and a sickly yellow full moon emerged which seemed to be leering back at me. The lonely stretch of land where nothing could be seen for miles upon miles made me wonder when my journey would end. The moon still seemed to glare at me through the clouds and at other times through the tops of houses as I drove through the field looking for the house hoping that the folks were still awake. I felt like a leaf caught in the gently flowing river called time which gets swept along vainly struggling to find it own path as it gets swept along at ever increasing rate until all control is lost.
    The moon lit grassy plains soon turned into a lightly wooded one. As I drove further down the winding road, the lightly wooded plains turned into a dense forest. It seemed like an old forest and if it could talk, it might have a tale or two to tell the passerby. Driving through the deep dark woods, nothing could be seen except for some odd flickering lights that seemed to draw me like a moth to a street light. A soft breeze started to rustle the leaves and ruffled my hair ever so gently, yet died down as quickly as it had risen. In this enchanted forest, it seemed like a thousand voices talking to each other and I could not name the source. The voices seemed everywhere. As I drove deeper into the woods, my uneasiness grew in the near total darkness broken at times by the moon peeking through the tree canopy every so often. I heard the sound of water gently flowing down some creek and the sound of a startled deer hoping away.
    Driving through the total darkness which is intermittently lit by moonlight, I eventually come across a creek. My water bottle is nearly empty and the river some distance away calls me out to quench the thirst that seems to overpower me. As if mesmerized, I step out of the car and keep on walking through the bushes that seem to bite and scratch. The strange gurgling sound draws me closer and I kneel down to wash my face and fill my water bottle. A shrill cry emerged and the forest was till once more. Startled by the site, I drop my water bottle into the stream. The flowing water seems so black even in this dim moonlight. The splashing and rippling caused by the water bottle subside soon yet I hesitate to pull it out as I see strange lights in the water of what seems like reflections of star constellations even though the sky is clear above of any stars and only the moon is visible.
    The black top road soon turned into a dirt track and after what seemed like an eternity and I discovered myself at the end of the forest. An old house with stuttered window loomed ahead. The road leading up to the house was dimly lit except for a few pools of lights that seemed to flicker every so often. On each side of the road were numerous light poles. Some lights were not working, others flickering on and off and others seemed like they had been smashed into a pile of debris. I eventually found my way to an old wooden door with a heavy brass knocker near the center and a brass handle on the right edge. Two monstrous cement figures which looked like gargoyles sat on each side glaring down the road. Pulling up to the front door, I stop the car and warily step out not knowing what to expect. The door opens just as I was about to knock and out of the shadows appeared a huge bearded burly man emerges. "Master is not at home yet he told me to expect your visit. Come inside and unwind in the library over there. I'll bring you food and drinks and put your luggage away in the bedroom upstairs" was all he said as he wandered off into the dark hallway.
    Through the old wooden partially open door, bright yellow light was spilling out. As the door creaked open, a startled bird flew out making me gasp out loud and fall backwards. Looking inside, I saw cobwebs everywhere and a thick layer of dust covering everything. I started to cough as a thin layer of dust started to float as I started to walk across the floor. In the distance I saw a dust covered table with a table light. Walking over I flipped on the study light on the desk. It was a large room with a blazing fireplace at the very far end. Wooden book shelves lined one end of the wall while there was a large window at the opposite end. It was still dark outside.
    One the floor, there was a lush carpet and behind the bar was a huge wine rack filled with numerous bottles. This place seemed timeless and older than time itself at the same time. Standing in the flickering shadows, I wondered about the content of the book. As I brushed my hands along the walls, I got the sensation that the walls were smooth, rough, and alive as it seemed to move and pulsate under my hands. Wiping the dust off the desk, I picked up an old crumbling book. It seemed like it was a diary of someone who had passed by this place long back and left his story behind.
    Opening the book, an apparition seemed to hover between the covers and started to recite the two deaths that he had been cursed with. As he started to speak, the images seemed to come alive and I saw the past unfold before me. The yellowing crumbling page flipped on its own. As the images unfolded before me, I felt myself being drawn into the scene until I was submerged in it and saw the world through the unfortunate mans eyes. A lonesome dirt road led to a deserted town where the creaking, swinging board at the entrance said Welcome to Mile High town and it showed a barren land where the harsh winds refused to die down. The town seemed deserted except for the stray dog that was asleep under the front porch grocery store. It seemed to be lost in some dream as it let out a growl and then a bark before quieting down once more.
    Shielding my eyes, I looked up at the sky. It was high noon and I realized that the dusty road of this town was being watched. The glint of metal was seen, the rustle of feet was heard and a rifle which poked out from a window seemed to give a hint of what was expected to the unwary visitor. Wiping the sweat from my forehead due to the blistering heat radiating from the door, I guided my weary eyes down the dusty street seeking some place where I could find an answer to the empty town. Looking around I finally found my way into what seemed to be the sheriff’s office. The pages of the log book were flapping in the wind. It listed the crimes and the punishment meted out to the criminals in this town that seemed so lifeless. The last few entries were of loot, murder, coaches being waylaid by robbers. I looked out the window and the town seemed as dead as before.
    The sound of horses and a dust cloud drew me closer to the window and I wondered what it all meant for me. For a moment I could see faces hiding behind the shutters and the fear of these strangers was shown in their eyes. I drew up a chair on the patio fully aware that all eyes were on me. Propped my feet on the wooden rail in front of me and put my rifle on my lap. No use running out of town and end up with a bullet in the back when I can go down fighting and die like a man. The roar of hoofs drew louder and I could hardly see anything in the dust cloud. Soon a group of men appeared and called out to me. They were not the towns’ men I could tell right away. I walked down to the one in the middle, spat on the ground in front of his horse and said “ You gonna get down yourself or do I have to drag you down.” A gasp went up and they drew their guns.
    As the sun went down, the last of the gunshot were heard. Many town folks had died yet the town has been cleansed and the fear was gone. No more raiders from the dusty badlands to haunt the folks. Rising out of the ground from where they had buried him, he looked up to see the sun was way high in the sky. Lifting his hat just a bit and wiping his forehead out of habit, he went looking for his horse to say the last good bye. The horse sensed where he was followed to a shade of a tree and started to clean and oil his guns knowing that his job was done in this world. Saying his last goodbye, the gunslinger left this world for the next.
    A soft moan went up into the air as the pages ruffled past and the diary momentarily stood still. A coyote let out a lonesome howl somewhere in the distance. One could feel the tension building up in the room as if something wanted to release the pent up energy upon this room. The tension flowed out of the room and I heard a soft sigh.
    The pages started to ruffle once more as one chapter ended and another opened. It revealed a vast field which might have been a corn field. A dirt road ran through it with a dead car lying somewhere in the middle. Lightning flashed in the sky and one could hear thunder all around. The sky had turned jet black and it seemed like a tornado or an electrical storm might happen anytime. A man was hollering in the distance looking for his dog while it was barking in return and it started to rain heavily. All the power lines were knocked out and none of the houses showed any sign of activity. The once dry dirt road had turned muddy and anyone using it would sink deep into the mess than the one they were in already.
    A figure got back in the car and tried to get it out. The wheels spun yet it remained stuck in the ditch. A dash across the muddy fields was my only hope and it had to be done before it was too late. I looked up to the sky seeking some salvation, yet none was coming. I was on my own once more as I made a mad dash across the corn fields.
    Banging hard on the door, I wondered if anyone was home. I could not see my car anymore in the growing darkness. The rain had died down, yet it seemed like there was another storm brewing. I turned around to pound the door once more when I saw a pair of eyes looking at me. I realized that I was being watched. The glint of metal was seen and the rustle of feet was heard and a rifle which poked out from a window.
    The next morning, a head popped out of the engine after he was sure that the engine was all dry and started smoothly. The smell of breakfast broke the spell he was in and he was grateful when the plate of food appeared on the table. Not a soul was in sight and he seemed to have forgotten all about the last night events as he finished off the food in a jiffy. He went off o the farmers market leaving behind an unmarked grave at the edge of the cornfield.
    The book started to quiver and shake and I felt hypnotized, lost in the strange mesmerizing room. My hands dropped the book as if it was hot piece of burning charcoal and I heard someone recite the names of long lost and forgotten Gods. The wind began to howl and thicken around me. A sudden flash of light made me shield myself. Wisps of smoke started to rise from the old tattered diary, broke away and started to gather in the far corner. Turning its head towards me, it told me of the curse placed upon it by the wizard for whom it worked for. Entrapped in this diary and the release only granted if someone pulls the book out and reads the two deaths cursed upon him.
    Its job was done and told me that it was time for it to leave. A soft moan was heard which slowly turned into a howl. As if released from a curse, the apparition started to float away slowly and glided out of the house and into the space above. There was a soft knock on the door and a gentle cough. Turning around, I saw a dark skinned old man standing near the door who started to move swiftly towards me. Air was knocked out of me as I felt a fist and then a swift kick strike me in quick succession.
    As I started to lose consciousness, I looked up to see the old man walking to the far end off the room. After what seemed like many eons, the darkness began to clear as I groggily regained my senses and claw back from the nameless horror pits which I had been dragged to. As I regained my senses, my eyes focused on the dark skinned man near me. He seemed to sense that I had regained my senses and turned his head towards me.
    He lit four candles and placed them at each end of the table to which I was tied. He opened an old leather bound book which was starting to fray at the edges to the desired page and started to recite some long forgotten spell. Wind stated to pick up even though no windows were open and the candles started to flicker wildly. The pages of the leather bound book starts flap wildly. My body starts to ache, groan and then I don't feel anything. I look around to see that I am slowly rising from the ground. Startled, I look down to see a disintegrating body and the old man holds out his claw like hand and draws the wisp of smoke into its cavity. Looking through the cracks of his fingers, I saw a leather bound book pulled off the shelf and with a spell forced into an open leather bound book which shuts forcefully.
    A door opens in the distance once more and out of the shadows appeared a huge bearded burly man emerges. Looking around he sees the old man and says "Master. The man you told me about had arrived some time back. I have put his personal belonging upstairs and told him to wait here. Shall I go and look for him?" The old man growled back "No need to. I've met him and the matter is settled. Put that leather bound book on that shelf over there and the vase with the rest in the next room." The servant leaves as the dark skinned old man looks around a last time and leaves the room. In the dark room, s book starts the shake and a soft moan is heard as if waiting and seeking some relief from the prison that it’s been trapped in.