Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Who fret to find our bedtime near.

It's hard to write about what happened next. I'm reminded of all those interviews we did - the ones we didn't share, the ones we sent back to Mister Boots to do whatever he wanted with - and all the people we met and all the stories we heard. I've told my story to you. And now it's time to share Frank's story.

"Just the place for the Snark," the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."

It was weird, sharing a truck with my father, the father I couldn't remember. He sometimes looked at me like he knew everything about me. I don't know what Frank thought about it; he was mostly silent as we drove day after day. During the nights, Richard tried to tell me a bit about my childhood; Frank would sit in his chair and read as I tried to fill in the blanks of my past.

On the third day, we arrived in Pasadena. The next city in the book. Richard was still a little unsure of why we were going there, but we don't him that we owed somebody something. We told him about interviewing survivors, the flotsom and jetsom of incomprehensible abominations. He still didn't quite believe, but he wasn't willing to let go of me.

On the freeway, however, there was a popping sound and suddenly the truck was losing gasoline. Richard said that the gas tank must have broke. We pulled over to the side of the road and Frank tried diligently to call AAA or a tow-truck, but the cell service was bad. So finally, he said he would just walk to the next gas station and set off, leaving Richard and me alone.

I was looking at the truck, wondering why it had suddenly decided to stop working, when I saw it. A hole right in the gas tank, where the fluid spilled out. A bullet hole.

A heard a whizzing sound and a scream and looked over to see Richard on the ground, blood staining his shirt. "Suzie," he said and then there was a piece of cloth over my mouth and I struggled, but I could smell the fumes and my vision shook and blurred and darkness descended.

I woke up in a movie theatre, in a red plush seat before a large screen. My head ached and I could still taste the chloroform in my mouth. My arms were tied to the sides of the seat and my legs were duct-taped together.

"Hello," a voice called out. It was sweet and melodious and it came from the stage under the screen. The velvet curtain parted and I saw a woman duck out from the underside of the stage. "Just straightening a few things out." She looked young, her hair a shade of unnatural red. "You're name is Susan Kingston, though you've been going by the name Carol Baker." She smiled and pulled out a straight razor from her pocket. "I've had quite a few names, too, but the one I'm using now is Number Nine. Shall we begin?" I was still drowsy from the drugging, but I felt tears in my eyes and started to plead with her. "Shhh, don't worry, don't you worry you're little button nose," she said. "I'm not here to kill you. I just want to know." She pulled out a tape recorder with her other hand, pressed the record button, and tucked it into my shirt pocket.

Nine: Hello, Carol. Do you prefer to be called Carol or is it Suzie by now? 
Carol: What-what do you want? Why are you doing this? 
Nine: Well, I received some disappointing news a while ago. I got very depressed. But luckily, I knew of a way to cure my depression. 
Carol: You're- you're cr- cra- 
Nine: Crazy? Yes, I am. Do you know what the Quiet is? No, I suppose not. Not many survivors of that to interview, are there? Well, let's just say that in your little pantheon of Lewis Carroll characters, it would be the Red King. As soon as it wakes up, then poof! we'll all go out like a candle. I thought, well, I don't like this world anyway, I might as well work for it. Wipe it away like the drawings on a chalkboard. Do you understand? 
Carol: No. 
Nine: Of course not. But I'm glad you're honest. Not many people are these days. Well, as I was saying, I thought I was working for the Quiet. "Number Nine, Agent of the Quiet, Member of the House of Nothing." That's how I introduced myself. Turns out? Not so much. The Quiet doesn't do minions. It just is. Well, that kind of sucked for me. But I had found this great source of information, this tower of knowledge. What else was I going to do but look through it? And, well, looking through it, I found your name. You and Frank, on your little quest. Not running, not chasing, but searching. I liked that. But then I realized - you didn't know, did you? 
Carol: Know wh-what? 
Nine: Know who you were working for? Your "Mister Boots"? Yes, all of that was in your little file. The information was really quite thorough, I must say. Anyway, as I was saying, you didn't know who was sending you off on your little interviews. Can you guess? Why, it was the Archive! 
Carol: The-the Arch- 
Nine: The Archive! Strange little fellows, I didn't even think they were real. They collect information for the Blind Man. Or maybe the Blind Man gives them information, I'm not sure. Anyway, sometimes they use civilians to gather information, people who don't know they are being used. You were working for the Blind Man all along and you did even know what. Isn't that funny? 
Carol: What-what do you want? 
Nine: I want you to see the humor, Carol. You were working for one of them and didn't even know it. I would have given anything to work for one of them and I was denied. 
Carol: Why- 
Nine: Why did I want to work for them? Well, let's see, do you know what happens when you die? You don't flutter happily into heaven, no, sirree, Bob. No, you become part of the Archangel. I think you killed it the Carpenter? Everything you are, everything you were becomes a part of it and you are just a puppet. But not if you work for one of them! You get blissful nonexistence then! Heck, I wanted to give everybody blissful nonexistence! But no, such a fate was not for me. But then I read about you! Irony of ironies, you didn't know anything, didn't want it, yet you were going to get nothingness. So I followed you. I saw your little reunion. And I set a trap. I want one of them to come for you. I want one of them to kill me. I want nothingness! 
Carol: I'm sorry. 
Nine: For what? 
Carol: Nobody's coming for me. You're waiting for nobody. 
Nine: Of course I am.

She stood back and closed her eyes. "You can come out now," she said loudly. "I gave you that clue on purpose. Come out now or I slit your little girlfriend's throat." She approached me with the straight razor and I heard footsteps above me. I turned my head and saw Frank. He was holding his gun up and pointing it at Number Nine. She didn't seem disturbed by this, she just kept on smiling.

"Are you okay?" Frank asked and I nodded.

"Ah, well, if it isn't Mr. Nobody," Nine said. "You don't even know your real name. I do. Do you want me to tell you?"

"Untie her," Frank said. "Slowly."

Nine stepped forwarded and started to cut the knots around my arms with her straight razor. "Would it help if I told you it was a good name? A very nice, very masculine name?" She cut through the duct tape on my legs and I stood up unsteadily. Nine took that oppurtunity to raise the razor to twist me around and raise the razor to my neck. "You shoot, she's dead."

Frank didn't lower his gun. He stepped forward calmly. I don't know how he could have been so calm, but he was. "You're not going to kill her. You could have killed her at any time. It wasn't her you wanted. It was me. Let her go."

"And what, take you instead?" Nine laughed. "How cliche is that? No, how about I kill her and then I kill you and then I kill everything you ever touched? I could do that. I could travel across country, finding all those interviewees and I could kill them all."

"But you won't," Frank said stepping forward. "You said it yourself. You want to die."

"I don't want to die!" Nine screamed. "I want nothingness! I want nonexistence!"

"I can give it to you," Frank said. "You said we worked for the Blind Man. If I kill you, won't that be enough?"

Nine seemed to think about this and I felt a drop of blood from the razor nicking my throat. "Maybe," she said. "But maybe I don't want to go down without a fight. Maybe I want one last kill. How about that?"

"Let her go and you can kill me," Frank said. "You kill me, I kill you. How about that?"

Nine smiled. "I like it. On the count of three? One?"

Frank stepped forward. "Two."

Nine lowered the straight razor and pushed me away. "Three!"

Frank shouted at me to run and I ran, my legs pushing themselves forward, my body scrambling up the steps of the movie theatre, rushing outside into the bright daylight. I found Richard waiting for me, his shoulder bandaged. I heard the bang and I turned to look back, but Richard pulled me away, away from the building. And it was good that he had done that when he had, because in the next few moments, the entire building went up in a ball of flame. We were across the block as it happened and it flattened us and we felt such enormous pressure and heat.

I found the wire later on. The recording. Frank and I had used it when certain hospitals wouldn't allow tape recorders. One of us would wear a wire and the other would listen to the recording in our car outside. When he entered the movie theatre, he was wearing the wire. He was recording everything. I don't know why. Maybe he wanted me to know his last words. I listened to it every night for a week afterwards.

Nine: [grunting in pain] You got me good, Frank. A nice stomach shot. It'll take a while to bleed out. I thought you were a better shot than that. 
Frank: I guess not. You got me good, too. Femoral artery. I'll be dead soon. 
Nine: Nice knowing you, Frank. Do you want to know? Your real name? Who you are? 
Frank: I know who I am. 
Nine: I don't...I don't understand. 
Frank: Have you ever read The Hunting of the Snark
Nine: Can't [gasps] can't say that I have. 
Frank: It's about a group that goes and tries to hunt this wild creature, this Snark. But they keep running into problems. They only have a blank map. They get shipwrecked. And finally, sometimes a snark isn't a snark, but a Boojum. And if you look at a Boojum, you'll just fade away. 
Nine: Frank? Frank, I've rigged this whole place to blow. You're wound's not that bad. You should go. You could- you could take me with you. 
Frank: So they go out hunting for the Snark and one of the crewmen thinks he's found it, but...he just disappears. So they search all night, but they can't find him at all.
Nine: I'm sorry, Frank. I was wrong. I don't want to die. 
Frank: Shh. We're not going to die. Don't worry. We've see the Boojum. "In the midst of the word he was trying to say, in the midst of his laughter a glee, he had softly and suddenly vanished away." 
Nine: I'm sorry, Frank. I'm afraid. 
Frank: Shh. Don't be. We'll just vanish away. "For the Snark was a Boo-"

The recorder cuts off at that point.

A month later, I met Mister Boots again and threw the book at his face. He left without saying a word and I've never heard from him again. Richard and I traveled back to New Jersey. I'm still getting use to him, getting to know him, getting to know me before I was Carol. And I miss Frank, so much sometimes that I cry myself to sleep. Still he haunts me, phantomwise.

But then I wake up and I go to work and I talk to Richard (my dad, I have a dad) and I read and I watch movies and I know all those bad things and Boojums are out there, but it's not my job anymore. I just want to live my life as best I can.

And maybe someday I'll be able tell of my stories to someone else. Maybe I can tell them without sorrow in my heart and my eyes wet with tears, the tales of me and Frank looking for Boojums. The pleasures and pains, the forgetting and the remembering of my childhood, and those sad summer days.

Susan Kingston

If I or she should chance to be
Involved in this affair,
He trusts to you to set them free,
Exactly as we were.

My notion was that you had been
(Before she had this fit)
An obstacle that came between
Him, and ourselves, and it.

Don’t let him know she liked them best,
For this must ever be
A secret, kept from all the rest,
Between yourself and me.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We are but older children, dear,

Hello. Some of you probably thought I was dead. I'm not. At times I wished I was, but I'm not.

Some of you are probably wondering why I stopped posting. When was my last post? Three months ago? A lifetime? Time seems to flow differently in my memories. 

It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards, I know, but it's the only one I have.

Looking back at this blog, I'm struck by so many things. The nicknames I gave to everything, even to ourselves. I know it's somewhat sad, but I miss it. Traveling with Frank. (Frank, oh Frank. I didn't even know his real name.) It was...simpler. I know that's hard to understand. Chasing things, interviewing survivors, that was simple? It is compared to the life I have now.

'I could tell you my adventures — beginning from this morning,' said Alice a little timidly: 'but it's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.'

But I'm getting ahead of things. Anyone reading this will probably be confused. I want to clear up any confusion, at least about what happened between then and now. I mean, my mind is still jumbled about lots of things, but I can tell what happened. I can give a clear account of events. I think.

We drove to California, Frank and I, me and Frank. I was Carol then. Carol Baker. Frank Bellman. Looking for Boojums. We drove to California because it was the next place in the book, the book given to us by Mister Boots. (That wasn't his real name either, but I suspect his real name doesn't matter at all.) We drove to California, a place of sunshine and it was there we broke down.

I mean that both literally and figuratively. First, our car literally broke down. It was old and Frank had had it repaired numerous times before (he had, hadn't he?), but by the time we got to California, it was on its last legs. We eventually had to push it to a mechanic's, but it would quite a lot of money to repair it. Frank and I decided it was better if we just bought a used car or rented a car.

Frank and I were walking back to the motel when it happened. The truck. The white truck that had been following us. I hadn't seen it in a while, but there it was. Driving down the road. It passed us and inside I saw...the driver was a man. An old man, thinning brown hair and sunken cheeks. He looked tired. He pulled over in front of us and I became afraid. He called out to us. "You guys need a lift?"

I looked at Frank and he knew. He knew this was the truck that had been following us. "No, thanks," Frank said, "it's not that far a walk."

"No, no, I insist," the old man got out of the truck. He didn't look dangerous. He just looked tired. "I want to help."

"We don't need any help," Frank said. He had one hand inside his jacket holding onto a handgun. "Please just leave."

"I just want to help," the old man said. "Suzie, please." He rushed forward and Frank pulled the gun. "Suzie, please," he repeated. "Please, Suzie, please." The old man looked so pitiful -- Frank didn't even have to point the gun at him and he had fallen to his knees. "Please, Suzie. Remember me, please."

I broke his heart. "Who's Suzie?" I asked.

The old man gasped as if I had stabbed him in the chest and pulled out a thick, brown wallet. He flipped it open and took out a picture. He gave it to Frank. Frank looked at it with a puzzled expression and then gave it to me. It was a picture of the old man and Suzie, his daughter. They were hugging and wearing smiles, standing before a Christmas tree. It was a picture of the old man and his daughter.

His daughter just happened to look exactly like me.

He explained it later when we got back to the motel. His name was Richard Kingston. His daughter, Susan Kingston, had gone missing a year ago. He had put up signs and searched, but found nothing. Then there was hope. More specifically, there was Hope, New Jersey. It was just a coincidence that he was in the town while we were there, but he saw me. He knew me. And so he followed us. He wanted to know why I had left. He wanted to know I had been kidnapped or was running from something. He asked me so many questions. And I couldn't answer any of them.

I didn't remember him. I swore he had the wrong person. But he didn't. The more I looked the picture, the more I realized I was Suzie. I had no memories of being her, no memories of him. But that could be explained, couldn't it?

The Aged Aged Man. The Blind Man. The Stealer of Memories, the Thief of Childhoods. But why did I remember another life? Why did the Blind Man leave me with new memories?

All throughout this revelation, Frank had just sat and listened. After I was convinced, after I knew, he stepped outside. And found him looking up at the night sky, unaware of who he really was. Because if the Blind Man did this to me, He did this to Frank, too. And there was no father to tell Frank who he was, no crumpled picture of holidays past. Frank was a mystery and shall always remains so.

We decided to keep going to Pasadena, me Frank and Richard (I couldn't call him my dad yet, I didn't have that in me). We still had a job. We told Richard about this. He didn't believe us. He thought we were just kind of crazy, but he wouldn't leave. Not after he had found me. He would take us to Pasadena in his white pickup truck, the truck that had tailed us for weeks and weeks.

And so we moved on. We drove on to the end.

It's hard to put these words down. Without it written down, I could remember it however I wanted. But now it's written down, solidified, frozen into text. I can't write the rest. Not now. Not yet. Tomorrow. I'll try to tell the rest tomorrow. And then it'll be over.

Susan Kingston

"My name is Alice, but — "
"It's a stupid name enough!" Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. "What does it mean?"
"Must a name mean something?" Alice asked doubtfully.
"Of course it must," Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: "my name means the shape I am — and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bade Them Sit Down On The Beach

We're going to California. Specifically, Pasadena. That was the next place on the list. The next destination.

We need a vacation. Maybe while we're there, we can go to a beach somewhere. Lay back on the sand, enjoy the sun. Before we go to wherever we're supposed to go, meet whoever we're supposed to meet, see whatever we're supposed to see.

I hope so. God, I hope so.

 -- Carol Baker

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

There Is Another Shore

Frank called the feds. The group that call themselves the SMSC, he called them. I don't know how he got their number -- maybe one of the interviewees had it -- but he called them. I didn't object, because how could I? How could we fight this thing?

So we let them handle it. We arrived at the prison this morning to see dozens of black SUVs outside. A man met us at the gate and introduced himself as Special Agent Ian Fish. "You'll have to wait outside the gates," he said. Frank told him he was the one who called in the tip. "Yes, I know," Special Agent Fish said. "You'll still have to wait outside. It's for your own safety."

So we waited. I was glad we weren't allowed in. Occasionally, someone would check up on us. Finally, a few hours later, Special Agent Fish himself came out and talked to us.

"I want to thank you," he said. "We've been getting reports now from all over about these little toys appearing, growing bigger, and then disappearing. Sometimes they kill, sometimes they don't. We've evacuated this part of the prison in preparation for the capture or termination of this entity." As he explained, I realized something: this was new to them, too. They had never seen this and they had been at this far longer than we had. This must have been the Boojum just born, what Steward called the Manufactured Newborn.

"We've got it cornered now, though," Special Agent Fish said. "I don't think it's like the others. I don't think it can move around like them. I think we got lucky today, thanks to you." He smiled at us and then a very loud explosion boomed across the prison. Dust billowed into the sky as one of the walls of the prison collapsed. Something shifted, something moved, and then, faster than anything I'd ever seen, it leaped out.

It was big. As big as a car. It had legs like a centipede, many and jointed. It looked patchwork, like it had constructed itself from any materials on hand. I saw prison bars and chair legs and bones. I saw a dark red splotch that must have been Hickson's heart, but in the middle I saw something else. In the middle I saw a snowglobe just sitting there, like it was its brain.

It was a quick nightmare. It didn't give anyone time to think. It moved before they could fire and when they did, it wasn't in the place where they fired. Special Agent Fish took out his firearm and started shooting, while Frank took my hand and we both curled up inside the car, hoping we wouldn't get shot.

It was over before I knew it. No more shooting was heard. I peered outside and saw it. It had climbed up on a fence and one leg had...it had ripped a hole in the world. No one said anything, no one shot their gun, they just stood their as the thing ripped the hole wider. On the other side...it looked like nothing I've ever seen. I only saw a glimpse. Just a glimpse. It looked like an engine. A monstrous engine. The thing pushed itself through the hole and it closed itself afterwards.

We didn't want to stay there. Frank drove away before Special Agent Fish could find us again. Whatever had happened was no success for them. We didn't want to stick around if they got suspicious of us and decided to throw us in jail or worse.

But as we drove away, I kept thinking about where it went. The Newborn. I would need a name for it.

The Cheshire Cat. That's what we'll call it. The Cheshire Cat. Appearing and disappearing at random, vanishing into whatever hell it came from.

 -- Carol Baker

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

By a Sign or a Word

He left us a letter. Sigand, Hickson's cellmate, left us a letter. The local police have already read it and asked us why we wished to see Sigand. We gave them the same story as the one we gave Sigand -- that we're reporters that want to know about Hickson's last days. We had petitioned Sigand for over a week to interview him and he only acquiesced the day before his death.

Apparently, he wrote us this letter the day he died. Perhaps even just hours before. The police have the original as evidence, but they gave us a copy and asked if we understood what it meant. We told them we didn't.

Dear ms. Hargreaves [the fake name I had given him] 
What happened to Hickson was justice. He mirdered those girls and he got what he deserved. But now its loose. Now it wont stop. 
It started last week. A few things went missing. We all thoght there was a theif. But then sum of us saw it in the hall. It looked like a strange toy, weird and incompleet.  
It hid in Hicksons cell away from genpop. I saw it there once. I gess he thoght it was like a pet. But it wasnt. I saw it afterwards. After it killed Hickson. It was covered in blood and it had his hart, Hicksons hart inside it. It looked bigger. 
It wont stop now. It will come after all of us until its big and strong enuff to escape. 
Im sorry, 
Russell Stigand

I don't know. This...this isn't like any Boojum we've encountered before. Stigand wrote that it'll kill again. Can we...can we stop it?

Do we even want to try?

 -- Carol Baker

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser

Okay, so, it took over a week to finally convince Wayne Hickson's cellmate, Russell Stigand, to agree to an interview with us. He wasn't in the cell at the time of Hickson's death, but we figured hey, anything is better than nothing. And nothing was what we had so far.

So we rode down to the prison yesterday. Except we weren't allowed in - there was a lockdown in progress. It seems another prisoner had died like Hickson. That prisoner being Russell Stigand.

Yeah. Stigand was in prison for armed robbery - nothing to do with little kids. If this is the Jabberwock, his MO is off. Of course, the Jobberwock's MO has never really been all that clear, but this...there's something else going on here.

 -- Carol Baker

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All the Wearisome Days

We've arrived in Leavenworth. Somewhat appropriately, we arrived during the first official day of summer, the longest day of the year. Somehow, I thought this would be like the last two - that whatever happens would happen after we arrive. But I was wrong.

The headline for today's local newspaper: PRISONER KILLED IN MAXIMUM SECURITY.

A local prisoner by the name of Wayne Hickson was eviscerated, with all his internal organs removed. Hickson had been convicted of the murder of two children a few months ago and hadn't been released to general population yet. It wasn't hard to put two and two together: child killer plus evisceration equals the Jabberwock.

Problem was, there were no witnesses. Hickson was killed in his room. There's no security camera inside. Nothing to see. No one to interview.

So now the question becomes: why are we here?

 -- Carol Baker

Monday, June 20, 2011

Not A Well-Mannered Ghost

I saw the dirty white pickup for a fifth time today. Still can't see the driver.

We're getting close to Leavenworth. We've been stopping each night to stay in a motel, which slows us down, but neither of us like driving at night. We've had...bad experiences in that regard. Maybe I should tell the story -- it could illuminate information on another Boojum (or perhaps they weren't Boojums at all).

About six months ago, we were driving at night, coming back from an interview that had turned out to be nothing at all. Half of the leads we chased back then were nothing -- Mr. Boots didn't really tell us where to go, we just followed where the stories were.

So: driving at night. The headlights shown ahead of us, illuminating the road and little else. I'm lucky that Frank is such a cautious driver, otherwise we may have hit the car in front of us that was stopped. Nonetheless, it was a close call, but Frank was able to stop before hitting the other car's bumper.

Curious, we got out of the car to see why the car ahead of us wasn't moving. The driver was still there - he looked to be in his late forties, brown hair, wearing a business suit - but he was frantically looking for something in the glove compartment.

"Hello?" Frank said and the driver jumped up, surprised. "Do you need any help? Do you want us to call triple-A for you?"

The driver look disheveled. "I'm sorry," he said. "I just...I lost my keys. I know I had them. I know I did. They just...they just disappeared. I'm sorry."

"No need to apologize," I said. "It happens. Do you know where you left them last?"

"In the ignition," he whispered. "They were in the ignition and I was driving and then they weren't there. And the car stopped. But I know they were there." He gave up looking through the glove compartment and just starting tossing everything inside it on the car seat.

Frank looked at me and mouthed the word Boojum? I shrugged. I had never heard of a Boojum hiding someone's keys.

The driver continued to frantically search for his missing keys when the car starting to shake. Frank and I backed away, but the driver was so shaken, he couldn't move at all. Then, a shadow passed through his car, covering the interior like all the lights had gone out. When it moved through the car, all the papers and pamphlets the driver had dumped out of his glove compartment shuffled into one large, neat stack and then quietly shifted back into the glove compartment and organized themselves. Everything in the car arranged itself neatly and the driver, in a panic, tried to open the car door.

It wouldn't open. We watched as he tried again and again, until finally he was kicking the door and crying.

The shadows apparently didn't like that. They tried to...they tried to neaten him up. To organize him. A shadow passed over his head and his whole body seemed to stand rigid in attention. His arms pushed themselves down, his legs closed together, and his head snapped upward, his eyes open with alarm.

He tried to turn. I could see him straining. I think the shadows decided to just let him go then, because he head then snapped sideways and he fell down onto the steering wheel with a broken neck. The shadows pulled his body backwards and laid him neatly on the seat and then seemed to melt away.

Frank and I got back into the car and buckled our seatbelts. We didn't say a word as we drove around the man's car and away from it all. The only sound I made was a gasp as I found a new set of keys in my purse, keys that weren't mine. Frank looked at them and then told me to put them back where I found them in my purse and never touch them.

I left the purse in the next motel, all belongings inside essentially lost.

 -- Carol Baker
I think there's someone following us. I've seen this dirty white pickup truck on the highway four times now.

No Boojums drive pickup trucks. Snarks, maybe.

 -- Carol

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nobody on the Road

Still on the road. It's taking us longer than expected to get to the next place in the book: Leavenworth, Kansas. Yes. Joy.

I've been writing in my journal more often. I know it's sort of paradoxical having a journal and a blog, but the journal is for more private thoughts. Thoughts I don't wish to share, not even with Frank. He respects that - sometimes I think it would be a good idea if he had a journal, too, or if he wrote more in the blog. But he doesn't.

Even I know sometimes that private journals aren't private though, so my journal is an old copy of Through the Looking-Glass and I write my thoughts underneath the words and in the margins. So technically, it's a palimpsest. I don't know why I decided to do it that way, but I did. I like writing underneath words that were written before - words describing Alice's live chess match, her conversation with the Red Queen, all the nonsense wisdom.

I never really understood the book before we started on this mission - or whatever you would call it. I always thought it was just pure nonsense. It is nonsense, but it's right, too. I don't know what I'm saying. I just reread this passage and I'm getting tired:
"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"
Run as twice as fast to stay where you are. Nonsense wisdom, see?

Sleep now.

 -- Carol Baker

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Departed Days

We left Hope behind yesterday. It didn't seem so pleasant after what happened. I've managed to figure out what was going on, but I don't really want to talk about it (if you really want to know, go read about what happened from Steward).

Onward. The road feels more and more like home these days. Highways, gas stations, rest stops. Places of transition, people coming and going, only stopping for a few minutes. Liminal places. In-between places.

I'm going to talk about the Looking-Glass now. It was one of our first interviews after Mister Boots recruited us.  We talked to a Mister Higgins, whose daughter and her friend were taken by the Looking-Glass. By the City.

We didn't really believe it, you know. I mean, Frank and I had seen weird things - the Incident with the Aged Aged Man - but now someone was asking us to believe in a city that was alive. A place that lived outside of reality and trapped people within its maze. It seemed kind of silly. (I know, I know, arbitrary skepticism ahoy.)

But we did our interview and further research. We looked at the place where the girls vanished. We even interviewed other family members and friends. Finally, we were going to close the book on it and move on. Then, we heard that Mister Higgins himself had disappeared...out of a locked mental institution.

The security tape of his room (don't ask us how we got it) showed him waking up, then looking at the door to his room in awe. The camera wasn't pointed at the door, so it couldn't see it, but we saw Mister Higgins turn the knob and open the door, illuminating him in sunlight. Then, he walked through and the door closed behind him.

Sometimes, I wish I could have seen inside the Looking-Glass. Just for a moment. He had such a happy look on his face. But then I pull myself back to reality, back to the road ahead. Back to work.

 -- Carol Baker

Sunday, June 5, 2011

They Hunted Till Darkness Came On

Carol's sleeping now. I'm going to let her. I don't want her telling what happened last night. I know she doesn't want to remember it, but she will write it down just so it's written. So I will write it, so she doesn't have to.

I packed the gun and several flashlights and we headed off to the Land of Make Believe. I don't know why I thought it would be better to go there at night -- we had been there during the day twice and nothing had happened, but for some reason, I was just feeling like something bad was brewing and felt we had to be there after it all went down.

We were a little early.

When we arrived, the gates had already been broken open. Carol looked at me with that questioning eye and I took out the gun. We walked steadily through the amusement park, which in the dark of the night had become so much more sinister and unnerving.

Then, suddenly, we saw it: a Door in the middle of the path. A Door to the Looking-Glass. We ran off the side, behind the wooden horses of a Merri-Go-Round, as the Door opened and three men walked out.

"Don't do that ever again, Sleight," one of them said. "I don't want to be there."

"It was just a quick jaunt," the one whom I presumed was Sleight said. "If we didn't use it, we would have been too late."

The third one, who was tall and stout and looked very much like he could kill you with one punch, said nothing, but it clear he didn't like Sleight either.

We watched as they walked down the path and the Door vanished.

And then, just to make matters worse, several dozen more people ran down the path. They must have arrived as soon as the Door appeared. Men with guns and wicked grins. Following whatever orders they had gleefully.

And behind them, a man in a suit. Leisurely strolling after them. He turned and, unlike the others, saw us hiding. He gave a little wave and then continued walking. I knew then that he must have been Steward.

I don't know how long we stayed there. Hours, minutes, seconds. We heard an unholy scream and then suddenly there was a hush as all the air stopped. I held onto Carol's hand as we waited. Then, as suddenly as it descended, the silence went away and I could hear her. Carol. She was whispering.

"One, two. One, two. And through and through.
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack."

It was supposed to calm her. She only said it when she was about to panic. I held onto her hands and we listened as the sound of gunshots faded away.

And we waiting for the morning.

 -- Frank Bellman

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Evening Got Darker and Colder

So the kerfuffle I talked about last post? Turns out it was between some proxy of the Jabberwock named Steward (with two Revenants in tow) and two other people opposed to the Jabberwock named Peter and Hunter - and the little girl the witnesses mentioned was a servant to the Carpenter. So I guess we probably should have believed the witness who stated she instigated the fight.

Anyway, I'm glad we weren't there when it happened. I hate guns. And violence. I mean, Frank and I learned how to use a gun and keep one packed with us -- we're not stupid -- but I just hate them. There's no taking back a mistake with a gun.

We went to the Land of Make Believe again today. It was kind of crowded, probably because it was Saturday. Still, we didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Frank wants to go back tonight, though, after it gets dark. Around eleven.

When I asked why, he said he was just getting a funny feeling. I've learned to trust Frank's funny feelings over the months. When we got back to the hotel, I saw him unpack the gun. He never unpacks the gun unless he thinks something's going to go wrong.

I hope Frank's feeling is wrong. If not, if something does happen, I hope we get there after that fact. I hope there are survivors we can interview.

I'm hoping for a lot of things.

 -- Carol Baker

Thursday, June 2, 2011

They Roused Him With Mustard and Cress

We went to a restaurant today. It was kind of a splurge, but I think Frank was feeling better. This feels like a good town.

Afterwards, he flipped on our radio to the police band and we heard about some sort of shoot-out in a restaurant across town. Since it might have been a Boojum, we legged it up there to take a look.

We interviewed about five witnesses to the event - each one had a different perspective. One said that two men at a table drew guns and tried to shoot three innocent men who were walking past. Another witness said that the three men tried to kidnap a little girl who was staying with the first two men at the table, which is why the two men attacked. Still another witness claims that the little girl was the one who attacked one of the men and started the whole fight (needless to say, we didn't believe this witness at all).

Still, there one thing all witnesses agreed on: the participants of the fight all seemed to vanish away when no one was looking. Police have searched all over for them, but there's no sign. So this either means that they were all servants to the Jabberwock or that they have access to the Looking-Glass.

I talked with Frank to see if this was what we were supposed to observe and write about, but he doesn't think so. Even though all the participants disappeared, none of them appeared to be Boojums. He thinks we should stay a few more nights and if nothing happens, then we should leave.

I think he just likes it here.

 -- Carol Baker

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We Have Sailed Many Days

We're in Hope Township now. It's...actually pleasant. Not quite what I expected.

Actually, I don't know what I expected. Usually, the places we go are hospitals or asylums, places that reek of disinfectant and despair. We hardly ever go to places like this.

Looks like we came before the event, too. Whatever it will be. We've been asking around, but nothing strange has happened so far. We took a look at the Land of Make Believe, but it looked like a perfectly normal amusement park. Apparently, it's supposed to be "safe and wholesome recreation," but somehow, I don't think they have control over what frightens little children. I used to be scared to death of the Teacups at Disneyland. Spinning at high velocity, afraid that at any moment you might let go and be flung off into the sky.

Frank is being more silent than usual. He told me he wouldn't be mad if I wrote about the Incident, but maybe he is. It used to be the secret that held us together, but it's not really a secret anymore. And it never was -- Mister Boots knew about it without even asking us. He knew where to find us, who we were, everything.

"There are more out there," he told us. "You will find those who have survived encounters with them. People like you."

People like us. That's what hooked Frank, I think. Find more people like us. Make sure we weren't crazy. Make sure none of this was happening in our heads.

Sorry. I started talking about how pleasant this town was and ended up talking about insanity.

I read this poem back in college. It don't remember who it was written by, but it kind of stuck in my head. The last verse especially:
Whoever is downcast or solemn,
   Whoever is gleeful and glad,
Are only the dupes of delusions -
   We are all of us--all of us mad.
Sometimes I think about that when we're driving in lonely roads, with nothing but the static in between radio stations to fill the silence. Why are we doing this? Well, we are all of us mad.
-- Carol Baker

Friday, May 27, 2011

I'll Tell Thee Everything I Can

We're on the road again, going to Hope Township, New Jersey. The Land of Make Believe, per Google, is actually an amusement park in Hope.

We haven't talked much today. I know Frank doesn't want to think about what I said. About how we were there before it happened. (We always arrive afterwards. We're not runners. We're not fighters. We're just looking for the story - if there isn't a story yet, we won't be there.) He did, however, give a grudging approval about talking about the Incident.

The Incident didn't involve the Jubjub or the Bandersnatch or the Pool of Tears or the Little Crocodile. It didn't even involve the Jabberwock, with his blank white face and long nightmarish limbs.

It was the Aged Aged Man. (Why do we use these silly names? Because they are silly. They are something silly in a decidedly unsilly world.) The Aged Aged Man with his gray hair and wrinkled face, his dark glasses glinting in fluorescent light. Always carrying that book with a thick, red cover.

We met him in the college's library. He wasn't there for us, but we saw him. He must have let us see him. He looked so...unreal. Or perhaps more real. Hyperreal. He was part of something that was realer than the world around him, our world.

So we followed him. I don't know why we were so brave and stupid, but we did. We followed him into dank tunnels and found the bindings of books filled with childhood memories. We found where the spiders spun the cloth that made the pages of his books. And then we looked into the pits that were his eyes.

I don't remember what happened after that, but Frank said he dragged me out of the tunnels. I don't know why he wasn't affected by those pits - he says he just saw smooth skin where the eyes should have been - but he pulled me out.

We still remember our childhoods. I don't know why the Aged Aged Man left us with them. I don't know why he let us follow him either. I don't think I'll ever know.

 -- Carol Baker

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In a Soft Undercurrent of Sound

It happened today. It came through the news reports. Of course it came through the news reports: school shootings always do.

Blossomville High. One student, one gun, one bullet. Marie Stephens went to her locker during lunch and stuck a gun into her mouth and pulled the trigger.

How do we know this is the work of a Boojum and not just some messed up kid that lost at the game of life? (Well, for one thing, we're here - this is where Mister Boots sent us - so there must be something here and this was the only thing that happened.) But there's something else, too. Witnesses to Marie's last day, to her Act of Despair, said that they tried to talk to her, but couldn't.

Nobody talked to her as she went to her locker and took out the gun. Nobody said a word. Except one student (unnamed by the newspaper) who, in fact, heard two words: do it.

This is the work of the Jubjub - otherwise known to others as the Choir. We confirmed this with an interview with Marie's mother:

Mrs. Stephens: I didn't mean to say it. I didn't mean to say it. I didn't. I didn't mean to say it.
Baker: Say what?
Mrs. Stephens: I said it, but I didn't mean it. I wanted to tell her to have a nice day.
Baker: Mrs. Stephens?
Mrs. Stephens: Have a nice day. That's all I wanted to say.
Baker: What did you hear?
Mrs. Stephens: I told her. I told her but I didn't mean it. I told her I never loved her. I didn't mean to say it. I only wanted to say have a nice day. Have a nice day, Marie. Have a nice day.

So that's what we were here for.

Back in our motel, I looked at Frank pleadingly. "What?" he asked.

"Why were we here before it happened?" I asked. "Why send us here before?"

"I don't know," he said. "You can ask him yourself."

"What if we can stop it?"

"We can't." Frank packed carefully, each article of clothing folded and stacked.

"What if we can? What if that's why he's sending us here before they happen?"

"We can't. You know that." He stopped packing. "I'm sorry," he said in a whisper. "What's the next city?"

I looked at the book. "Hope Township, New Jersey," I said. There was something else written next to the city name, as well. I thought it was a joke, though Mister Boots probably never tells jokes.

It read: The Land of Make-Believe.

 -- Carol Baker

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Perfect and Absolute Blank

So, we're at Blossomville, Pennsylvania right now and, well, we have nothing. We can't find a single incident in any newspaper that could possibly be a sign of a Boojum. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

We're staying in another motel and it's rather cheap, even for us. But we have to save money - we don't have paying jobs anymore and, well, Mister Boots doesn't provide much in the way of compensation. If he ever shows up at all.

This used to be a big coal-mining town, but it stopped a few decades ago. Something about a coal fire. But that's too far in the past - it's the recent events we look at to try and find the Boojums. And so far, as I've already said, we've got nothing.

I'm staring at the motel wall, trying to think of things to write. If I don't write, that means I'll either watch the crummy TV or read one of the books I've already read a thousand times. If I do nothing, I'll start thinking about why we are here and I don't want to do that.

I don't want to remember the Incident, but I guess I can write about it. If I write about it, will that help forget it? Can I transfer my memories to words and leave them there?

And if I write about the Incident, will Frank be angry?

 -- Carol Baker

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Charm It With Smiles and Soap

Frank here. We've stopped at another motel and Carol's currently taking a shower. It's hard on her, traveling.

And me? I've gotten used to it. That's...not exactly a good thing. Carol may have taken two hours to pack but I had been packed and ready for weeks. I knew Mister Boots would find us one day and send us out again. It was only a matter of time.

But. But we had that month of solitude. That month of being normal. Of doing nothing except what we wanted to do.

That's why I'm doing this. As Carol said, everything has to end sometime. This has to end sometime and I'm going to be a part of it until it does. I read what Carol wrote, about her fear that I would leave her alone one day, that she would wake up and I would be gone. That's never going to happen.

She saved me. The day after the Incident, she saved me. I was convinced I was insane. My family has a history and I've seen what happened to some of them towards the end. But Carol was there and she took my hand and I knew I wasn't crazy. So I'm staying with her until this whole thing is over.

Some of you may wonder why we use terminology from Lewis Carroll. Well, first, we don't want to reveal our real names (yes, these are fake names). The other reason is that, well, when we decided that we weren't crazy, the world itself must have gone a bit crazy to have let the Incident happen. And Lewis Carroll wrote about worlds that were wondrous and insane.

And The Hunting of the Snark. Well, that's a story about people who go out to find something and it turns out that something finds them. The creature they thought they hunted was not what they expected. So we called them Boojums.

 -- Frank Bellman

Beware of the Day

We've been driving all day. The first city in the book was a place called Blossomville, Pennsylvania, but that's a long way off. So we took turns driving Frank's old beat up Toyota pickup. When both of us were too tired to drive, we stopped at a motel.

Frank's trying to sleep now. He doesn't want to be here, I know. The last interview...it wasn't good. But he's doing this anyway. Everything needs to be finished.

If we have readers out there, they are probably wondering why we are doing this. Why we search for survivors, why we look for the Boojums.

We aren't runners. I've met some runners before. Some were nice, some were mean. Just like people everywhere.

But Frank and I...we're not running. I mean, with what happened, you would probably expect us to run. But nothing's chasing after us. There are no proxies on our heels, no Slender Man waiting behind every door. We're just roaming, gathering stories.

We met at school. We weren't friends. We said hi to each other every once in a while, but we hung out with different people. A few years later, when I was going to night school at a community college, we met again and this time we did become friends. We knew each other in a class full of strangers.

This lasted up until the Incident. The Incident was where everything changed. Except it didn't. We pretended that it didn't happen. That nothing was different. But we felt it.

Then we met him. He said his name was Mister Boots. He would be our benefactor. We would work for him. Try to find other people, other Incidents.

All we had to do was say yes.

I can see him turning in his bed now. Frank. He's always had the most nightmares about the Incident. Me, I don't have nightmares about it. That's what memories are for.

I have nightmares about the day that Frank isn't there anymore. That day I wake up and he's gone. That day I do this job alone. The day that I meet Mister Boots with his wrinkled hands and cold eyes and he gives me a new list of cities. Because we said yes.

I hate doing this, Frank, but we have to. We have to.

-- Carol Baker

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time's Dark Relentless Stream

Sorry for not posting any interviews in a while. We've been...busy. There was an incident at a hospital and Frank was arrested. Everything was sorted out, but Frank wanted to stay in one place for a while.

So we stayed in this small town. It was fine. Frank and I got jobs and an apartment and in the mornings, when we woke up, we pretended that we couldn't remember our nightmares.

But everything ends sooner or later. Nothing lasts forever.

I worked as a waitress in a diner here. It's not fancy, but it's a job. Today, a man walked in. He ordered coffee and sipped it as he read a small, thin book. I tried not to notice his face or his hands, which were filled with wrinkles. I wiped tables until I saw he was gone.

He left his book behind. I opened it and two hours later, I was packed and ready to go. Frank came home and saw me and I showed him the book.

It was a list of cities. And three words: Get to work.

 -- Carol Baker

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Raymond Rutherford Interview

I'm standing outside of a padded room in the Ripton County Psychiatric Hospital. This area of the hospital makes the Sunnyside Wellness Center look like a day spa. Standing next to me is Dr. J. Emerson, the attending psychiatrist for Raymond Rutherford.

Dr. Emerson: As you can see, Mr. Bellman, Mr. Rutherford is in no condition to be interviewed. He has had a severe psychotic break due to the incident.

Bellman: The "incident" where he killed his entire family and tried to dump them in the lake?

Dr. Emerson: Yes. Just look at him, Mr. Bellman, you can see for yourself.

There is a window on the door and we both look through to see Mr. Rutherford – thirty-two years old, dark brown hair – sitting on the floor in a straightjacket leaning against one of the padded walls. We can hear a little of what he is saying.

Rutherford: ...the lamb lies down, but it never lies down, the lamb lies down but it never lies down...

Dr. Emerson: Do you see now? I've tried sedating him, but the sedation doesn't seem to have much of an effect.

Bellman: I'd still like to try to talk to him, Doctor. If you don't mind.

Dr. Emerson: Very well.

He pulls out a ring of keys from him pocket and carefully chooses one, then unlocks the door to the padded room.

Dr. Emerson: You should stay at least five feet away from him. If he doesn't like you, he tends to attack, even in the straightjacket. I'll be right outside.

Bellman: You don't want to observe?

Dr. Emerson: I'll observe from right here, thank you. Some of the things Mr. Rutherford says...unnerve me.

With that in mind, I slowly walk into the room.

Rutherford: ...the lamb lies down, but it never lies down...

Bellman: Mr. Rutherford? My name is Frank Bellman. I'm writing an article on what happened to you and your family. Can you tell me what happened? The police report says that you shot-

Rutherford: Shot? So quick, so clean an ending? Oh that was right, lad, that was brave. Yours was not an ill for mending, 'twas best to take it to the grave.

Bellman: Mr. Rutherford?

Rutherford: The crawlers cover the floor in the red ochre corridor. For my second sight of people, they've more lifeblood than before.

Bellman: I don't understand.

Rutherford: The eager pack lift up their pitchers – they carry all they lack. The liquid has congealed, which has seeped out through the crack.

Bellman: Mr. Rutherford, do you understand me?

Rutherford: I understand. Right you guessed the rising morrow and scorned to tread the mire you must. Dust's your wages, son of sorrow, but men may come to worse than dust. Men may come to worse than dust.

I knock on the door once and Dr. Emerson opens it to let me out.

Bellman: It's just snippets from songs and poems.

Dr. Emerson: Yes, I know. Sometimes he'll seem lucid, but whenever we try to ask about the incident, he goes back to talking like that.

We both look back through the window. Mr. Rutherford has laid down completely on the floor, still muttering to himself.

Rutherford: ...the lamb lies down, but it never lies down...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Annette Hodge Interview

I'm sitting at a small plastic table within the Sunnyside Wellness Center in P_______, California. Annette Hodge, forty-seven, is sitting across the table. She's wearing a starch white shirt and blue pants – like all the other patients of the Sunnyside Wellness Center.

Baker: Mrs. Hodge, you were admitted to the Sunnyside Wellness Center-

Hodge: Sunnyside up. Always filled with scrambled eggs. Sorry, my little joke.

Baker: That's okay. As I was saying, you were admitted here five years ago.

Hodge: That short? It seems like I've been here forever.

Baker: What brought about your admittance to this place?

Hodge: You know.

Baker: I would like the get the story straight from you, if you don't mind.

Hodge: Oh, I don't mind. I've told it often enough to various psychiatrists and psychologists and every other headshrinker they got here. You want it from the beginning?

Baker: Yes, please.

Hodge: Okay, well. Five years ago, me and my family...my husband and my two boys, Kevin and Jerome...they were good boys, though they liked roughhousing...anyway, my family and me went camping. Up near Y__________. We used to go there every few years. Just camp out for a few days. My husband, Paul, he used to love it. [She takes a long sip of water] Anyway, it was our first night camping in a while. We set up two tents – one for me and Paul and one for the boys. Paul had already gone to sleep and I was driftin' off when I heard this noise. Like a growlin' noise. But not like any animal I'd heard before. Then I hear this scream. You heard of the term bloodcurdling, right? [I nod] Well, it was like all my blood curdled in my body. Because I knew that scream was one of the boys. So I rushed out of the tent, not even bothering to see if my husband had woken up yet and I rushed over to the boys' tent. But I was too late. Their...their throats had been torn out. And as I looked at them and wept, I heard another scream and though oh god oh god Paul. So I rushed over to our tent and there it was.

Baker: What did it look like, Mrs. Hodge?

Hodge: You want to know what it looked like? You're gonna laugh. To me...to me it looked like the Wolf Man. From that old movie. Lon Chaney in all that makeup. But without all that hair on his face – and with these teeth, like razors. He didn't look funny at all, Ms. Baker. He looked...he looked like he could rip my eyes out of my socket before I could move. He looked intelligent. And then I noticed he was standing over my husband's body, one hand holding Paul's throat closed and I knew it had been slashed, just like my boys. But he was holding it closed and my husband managed to utter one word before he died. Just one word. "Hell," he said. Do you get it?

Baker: I'm afraid I don't, Mrs. Hodge.

Hodge: From what I read later on about this creature, his name is the Rake, right?

Baker: It's the only name we have for it.

Hodge: Well, my husband had just completed the name. "Rakehell." You know what a Rakehell is? A lewd or wanton person. It was certainly wanton. Those headshrinkers I saw? They said I just hallucinated the creature, that my grief caused a, what was it, a break with reality. But you know it's real, right?

Baker: Yes, I do.

Hodge: Good. Because it still visits me sometimes. That's why I checked in here. I thought I could get away from it. But I can't. Even with locked doors and barred windows, it still visits me. And it tells me the most horrid things. It whispers, Ms. Baker. Do you understand?

Baker: I'm afraid I don't.

Hodge: Good. Be glad you don't understand. Understanding is hell.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In the Wake of Boojums

That's what we look for. Their wake. The people they leave behind, scarred mentally and physically. Left in prisons or mental institutions. We can't do anything to help them, only record their stories. But that's something.

Frank and I, we go place to place, city to city, searching for those strange incidents you never hear about. Murderers that claim there was someone else there, some shadowy figure in the background. Witnesses to carnage that see crowds of unnatural people. Men and women left in despair, believing themselves insane, simply because what they saw does not correspond to what they knew of reality.

I'll pretend to be a reporter and pass off my fake credentials (printed at a college reprographics shop). If they insist on calling the paper, I give them Frank's number. If they still won't allow me in, I get Frank to go, posing as a doctor or lawyer, with similar fake credentials. Eventually, one of us gets the interview and tells the story.

This is not about how to fight them (and if you know who "they" are, bully for you). This is about the flotsom and jetsom they leave behind. This is about the people in their wake.

 - Carol Baker