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