domingo, 22 de mayo de 2011

Excerpt from Notebook 1: "A Memory"

Back then we lived in District 2 which has always been very boring. You know the tagline. "The Greenest District in the City". They're very proud of it. Adults moved there to get away from the hubbub of city life but I prefer gritty urban chaos to some kind of lame attempt at bohemian country life.

And anyway it was bullshit because soon enough everyone else moved there and it was just another part of this awful city.

Anyway, back then I was like nine and I didn't have a lot of friends (HA HA), but I had this one friend whose name was J., he was a kid who lived across the street from me and sometimes we would play house (all you boys played house when you were little, don't pretend you didn't) and sometimes we would go exploring the neighborhood, which was almost the same thing.

But there was one place we didn't go to, which we shamelessly referred to as the Haunted House. I'm still not sure what it really was, I think once I asked Dad and he said it was an old terrain used to keep horses for the country club, but people lived there, too, and there were cars parked inside and you could hear a TV and sometimes see its glow inside the little cabin. But we never dared to go past the barbed wire.

I guess I should describe the infamous Haunted House. I have told this story over drinks countless times and I always describe different details. But anyway, it was in the really remote part of the neighborhood, right at the edge of where all the wealthy houses gave way to the shantytown, and that's where there was all the burglary going on. There was a main entrance, which was this huge old rickety steel gate, which you arrived to by following a dirt path (back then District 2 really did feel like the country a bit), and it was this HUGE terrain, you could tell just from looking at it from outside, and the whole perimeter was surrounded with barbed wire and warnings about trespassing, which I don't think is the sort of thing you could get away with in a neighborhood like that nowadays. And the whole place looked and felt old and sinister. There was a little cabin in the front and then in the back there were sprawling gardens and in the far back was the "main" house, where I assumed the residents lived, and there was a pool but it was always empty, and I never saw any guard dogs despite the warnings.

Anyway J. was really crazy about this place, he was into ghost stories and those stupid Goosebumps books and such so this was right up his alley (back then I wasn't as much of a freak as I am now), and he wanted to explore this house. And I said no but he kept insisting, and he was my only friend so I saw him every day after school. So we ended up going to explore it in three separate occasions, and it got progressively worse. Did I mention that it had the most twisted, evil-looking trees ever? They never flowered and barely had any leaves, they were just gnarled towers of twisted wood, and sometimes these HUGE black birds, like buzzards, would roost on them, it was awful.

So the first time we went exploring, not much happened. We didn't actually get into the house like later. First we spent a lot of time daring each other to slip inside and we both pussied out of it. Then we walked around it and tried to spot something creepy. In the distance we saw someone walking around with a stick in his hand, probably a watchman, and we also saw some figures in the far back, it was a really foggy winter morning, and we couldn't make anything out beyond a certain distance.

So I mentioned that there is a fairly long and winding dirt path that leads to the entrance to this house, which is straight out of a villain's mansion from a children's movie. And we would always look around while we were walking there because we were always afraid of stray dogs or something. We would bike there. So after spending about an hour walking around the perimeter of the Haunted House, trying to find something worth our while, we walked back to the entrance, with the intention of going back down the dirt path and to our homes. We had left our bikes right outside the gate.

So when we got back there, first thing, our bikes were gone. J. cursed for like the first time, I'd never heard him curse. It's pretty shocking when you're a proper nine-year old lady like I was! But that wasn't WEIRD, we were just stupid for leaving them tossed out there and walking away. Some kids stole them, we figured.

But then we saw the footprints.

Now I am not kidding you when I say this. I am not fucking kidding you. These were dogs' footprints but they were fucking. Huge. HUGE. They were like bigger than a human hand print. Or about as big. [There is a line drawn on this page paragraph roughly 21cm long.] And they went in a straight line, not in the normal path that a dog goes. And you know what else? They stopped right there at the fucking entrance.

We ran back home.

So when I got back home my parents chewed me out for losing my bike. I was wholly uninterested in my bike and tried to tell them that there was some sort of monster living in the Haunted House, which they dismissed as hyperbole, as parents always do. They told me that I should go back there and politely ask if they had seen my bike, maybe they had taken them into the house for safekeeping until the owners showed up.

I never mustered up the courage to do that. But J.'s mom apparently went there herself a couple days later to ask whoever was living there about the bikes. I never heard it from the lady herself but J. told me that his mom had no luck and that when she came back from the house, she looked "sad and angry", and told him that he should never go near that place again, and told him to tell me the same.

Of course we were kids, and while we were scared of the footprints, we hadn't actually SEEN anything, and we wanted to go back there so bad. It was incredibly stupid even for a nine-year old but what can I say? I'm an adventurer.

So one Saturday morning we sneaked out of our respective houses and walked back down that dirt path; without our bikes it was a half-hour of walking or so. It gave us a lot of time to speculate on the nature of the hellish beast that had left those tracks. Dog? Demon? Dog-demon? Our imaginations were not very agile. We decided we'd see for ourselves. Somehow.

That morning was a little clearer, almost sunny, a crisp winter morning. It subtracted some of the House's innately sinister qualities but we were still deathly afraid of it. As per usual, there was nobody around, but there was an old Volkswagen we hadn't seen before parked outside. The tracks were gone, by the way. And we decided we would find a way in.

So this time we were focused on finding maybe an unguarded back entrance or a child-sized hole in the barbed wire. For the most part we were unsuccessful. The sun was starting to beat down on us as it got closer to noon and we were hot and tired and urging each other to go back home; at this point we were more tired and bothered than scared. But then I heard something and I'm still not sure of what the fuck it was.

Honestly it could have been a super-heated marital dispute, if there was indeed a couple living there. It came from the "main" house, the big and pretty one in the far back of the terrain, which we were some, I don't know, twenty meters away from. But we could still hear it. It was this really weird screaming, it was like scream therapy or karate or maybe even a drill sergeant yelling out orders. The same interval of time (just a few seconds) passed between each scream. And there was a male and a female voice, alternating. And it got louder and louder and then it stopped when it sounded like something made of glass had broken.

They weren't yelling AT each other, though, they were yelling WITH each other, maybe? It was weird and controlled, and really disturbing. We were paying close attention to these screams, trying to see something through one of the house's distant windows, but then somebody started to walk out of the house through the back door and we got out of there.

Or parents never found out about this second visit. We were now intrigued and decided we would get in there no matter what. That night for some reason I remember having really bad nightmares and having to go sleep with my parents, even though the footprint episode hadn't phased me. Something about those screams.
We decided that we would gear up for our third (and as it would be, final) expedition to the Haunted House. We stocked up on snacks, J.'s pair of shitty binoculars (they were the kind that came as an accessory along with a G.I. Joe or as a cereal box prize), water, sweaters, and flashlights. Because we decided that we were going to do this at around 5pm, when our parents weren't around, to make sure they didn't catch us. It was winter and it got dark fairly early. This was unbelievably stupid in retrospect.

I was still having recurring nightmares after hearing those screams. I was much more shaken up than after the stuff with bikes and the would-be demon dog. On that fateful day we took to the dirt path early and got there in the late afternoon, in the twilight actually, and the House was the creepiest I had ever seen it. There were no cars parked outside, that was a first. But there were lots of those big black birds on the trees I mentioned. And there were dogs. They weren't devil-dogs, just a couple of emaciated stray dogs fighting over a dead rat, near the entrance. They left normal tracks and they ignored us, thankfully.

But the most important detail is that, for some reason, the gate had been left open. Just a crack. But enough for me and J. and our backpacks to slip through. And we were in. It was getting dark by then and we heard the dogs outside howling.

For the first few minutes of exploring we were accompanied by nothing but settling darkness and silence. We passed by the little cabin at the entrance without anyone noticing us. The TV was on and there was some afternoon soap opera re-run playing, but I couldn't tell if there was someone watching. I remember J.'s face bathed in the glow of the distant TV set pouring out through the cabin window, as we tried to sneak a peek into it. He looked pretty scared.

But since he was the boy he had to put on a brave face and pretend he wasn't afraid, so he got his backpack and took the flashlight out of it, and gave it a couple shakes and turned it on. It was the weakest little stream of light ever, but at least like that we wouldn't trip over anything. We were in the middle of the open terrain now. In the far back was the house where we heard the screaming during our second visit. We heard birds and dogs barking in the distance.

The next part is where it gets awful, and is the reason why J. ended up with all those stitches. First we heard the screaming again. This time it was anything BUT controlled. It was wild careening agony coming from the house. Then we heard the heaviest footsteps in the distance.

I'm not going to lie. I was ready to drop everything, grab J. and run out of there and straight back home without stopping. J. was taken aback by the sudden sounds. He jumped back a little. The light bounced off something that was reflecting it. I first I thought it was a dog but it was a bird.

It was like... a peacock. But it was all black, like an overgrown chicken-crow hybrid. It walked on the ground and it seemed incapable of sustained flight because its body was big and heavy like a squatting ostrich. It had these HUGE reflective golden eyes and the light was shining off of them. It stared at us and made this shrill squawking sound, but the screaming coming from the house drowned it out. I yelled at J. that we had to go. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that there were TONS of these birds. A terrestrial flock or herd wandering about the terrain. I hadn't seen them until now. They were all around. Then one of these birds brushed past my leg and its feathers were prickly like thorny stems. J. wasn't reacting to me yelling at him. He was transfixed.

He was shaken back into reality by the sudden distant barking, which was rapidly getting closer. I started hearing these horribly heavy footsteps, like if the ground itself were pounding. And then I jumped back and turned around and saw that, bigger than these creatures, there was something attacking one of them, just a few meters from where we were.

Then the screaming got louder and then suddenly I saw that the flashlight was extinguished because J. had been knocked down by something.

The rest is a horrible blur. I tried to help J. but whatever was pinning him down was huge, like, pony-sized. I heard these horrible guttural sounds coming from it that completely drowned out J.'s panicked screaming. And throughout this entire scene the screaming coming from the house didn't stop. It was like a ritual cry that had summoned these creatures which as far as I knew weren't supposed to exist.

The watchman came to help us. He was the one who was watching TV in the little cabin and by now we had made enough of a racket to get his attention. He took me sternly by the arm and with the other he beat... whatever was attacking J., and after a LONG series of SEVERE beatings with the stick the beast backed off. J.'s legs were covered in blood. At this point I don't remember anything else consistently. The screaming had stopped, everywhere, J. was no longer screaming, the House was no longer screaming, only the watchman was yelling at me, "Why are you here?! What are you doing?!" I sobbed and couldn't articulate words.

He took both of us in the cabin and started applying oxygenated water to J.'s wounds. They were awful, deep, chunks of flesh gone. He was bawling horribly. I managed to choke out my name and address and he called my parents. They picked us up and took J. to the hospital. I don't remember how many stitches it was but it was tons, on both legs, and the doctors said he was lucky, even though he needed therapy for the coming months to walk again. Even today J. is kind of weak and he has a really skinny right leg, have you noticed? It's because it has a chunk of flesh missing. He can't develop muscle there. He's probably going to end up needing a cane.

I don't understand where the birds came from or what they were, or that thing that attacked J. I did do my own investigations some years later.

I asked my parents several times about this incident; I've never mustered the courage to ask J.'s. Either way all I get most of the time are stares of disapproval and sometimes Mom starts sobbing because she was so scared that night that I had been hurt, and she was scared that J. might die. My father told me that he had a stern talk with the owner of the terrain two days later, along with J.'s dad. The owner was apparently a short, old man, European, terrible grasp on our language, but the watchman served as translator. Apparently his dog had attacked J. after the two of us had trespassed. Dad tried to get him to at least apologize but apparently things escalated and they almost got into a fistfight. Our parents never associated with those people again. I've told him about the birds and the screaming and he just gives me blank stares. "There is no bird that looks like that", he says.

When I was fourteen I had mostly forgotten all about that incident. J. had gone to a different middle school and we wouldn't start talking again until we ended up going to the same university. But one day I headed down that dirt path once more, against my better judgment, and as if it were a conclusion taken out of a movie, the house was now abandoned. Apparently it had been sold but the new owner never showed up and it was in real estate limbo.

I have talked to some of the neighbors and they agree that the people who lived there were strange and almost never left the house. They had also heard the weird screaming and such. But they had never seen any birds or dogs. They did add that that Volkswagen I saw parked outside once was a frequent sight; apparently four men, impeccably dressed, visited that house every weekend.
Those birds... appeared and disappeared like fog. I never got a good look at what attacked J. He didn't, either; he's practically suppressed the whole thing. My parents didn't. Whatever it was that roamed those terrains left with the owners.

This is mostly personal speculation, but I'm pretty sure those fuckers were keeping those birds as livestock for the horrible thing that attacked J. It wasn't the only one, there were more in the distance. I heard them. I don't get how anyone could deal with those things. Or what they were. Not a single creature living in that house seemed real.

I tried to get in contact with the watchman who saved J.'s life (and probably mine). My parents thanked him plenty after the incident but I didn't hear from him again, because after that I stayed the fuck away from the Haunted House for obvious reasons. I looked into it. I learned that long after working there he became a policeman. And that some years ago he killed himself.

Don't ask J. about this story, he doesn't like talking about it.

L.B.'s Considerations

This story was not written by my brother as the protagonist is female and J. does not fit the description of any of my brother's friends. Additionally, we never lived in District 2 and my parents have never mentioned an incident like this.

UPDATE: Cross-referencing from other entries has confirmed that this was written by T., one of my brother's (female) friends. J. is a close friend of hers, but never associated much with my brother.

1 comentario:

  1. Wow, I just realized there are no comments.

    I remember the first time I read this. Shivers. Just uncomfortable.