martes, 24 de mayo de 2011

Excerpt from Notebook 3: "Yuga Park under Watch"


Do you remember all the stories your parents told us about Yuga park when THEY were our age? It was like the nicest most tranquil beautiful genteel bubblegum place in the world, it was cardigans and schoolgirls in mini-skirts and kids playing soccer until five in the afternoon at which point they went home and fought over control of the TV remote because they wanted to watch cartoons but their older brothers wanted to watch re-runs of old action movies and then mothers would come in and say, "Fuck you both, we're watching my afternoon soaps", and that would be that, and... Oh man, weren't those nice and fun and clean times? Now what does Yuga park look like? I'll tell you what it looks like, it looks like cats and whores. Cats and whores. Did you know about the whores? Yeah you knew about them alright, you're a lot more, oh let's say WORLDLY then you let on, I know that perfectly. Anyway what were we talking about?

Oh yeah Yuga park, right? Yeah, well, I met up with the guy--you know, The Guy, the one I've told you you should talk to, I've told you this before, he runs the record store deal out of his apartment, he's in on this shit too--, anyway, I was meeting up with him, I think I was sitting on the bench that's next to the kids' see-saw or maybe it was in front of the bust of that general commander sergeant, the park was established in his honor or something. Actually I think I was sitting on the bench in front of that sign they just put up the other day, something like "Please clean up your pets' waste" or whatever, anyway, it's all bullshit.

It was like nighttime but not really nighttime, it was twilight actually, it was around six. It was that time of day we all love because it feels lazy and old and the sunlight is coming from just the right angle to illuminate everything like an old picture, you know? You know about this. [Laughter] Shut up. Shut up! Okay so Yuga park. I'm at Yuga park. This is like just five days ago, this is completely recent shit, I hope you're paying attention because you and I, we can't go to that place anymore. As a matter of fact I suggest you advice all your little friends on the dangers of Yuga park, and I'm not just talking about getting mugged or drugged or raped or kidnapped at night or all that other fun teenage shit, I'm talking about REAL danger, I'm talking about the guys, you know the guys.

So I met up with The Guy--you know, The Guy, don't make me repeat myself--and he was selling me this really good weed for a really good price, I'm not always this adventurous, you know, it's like my dad said before he died, way before he died, he said, you know, the hard stuff is fun sometimes, but, sometimes you just want some good, old, sticky weed, my dad was a hippie, have I told you that? He was a hippie motherfucker, and so was my mom, but she's not anymore.

The sunlight was really nice and I was just sitting there watching people like B. does, you know, he likes doing that, he's weird, I was just letting go and enjoying the moment, and this asshole, at first I thought he was a fag, and he was like, coming on to me. That happens a lot in Yuga park, too, you know, it happens too much. At first I thought he was a fag and he was coming on to me. Have you noticed that everyone is looking at us weird? Get the check. Let's go to the back.


Where were we? It's cold. Oh yeah, this asshole. This asshole sits next to me and starts killing my buzz. I think he was trying to provoke me, probably, he was whispering this shit at me, trying to look totally normal and natural, he had a snake tattoo, by the way, it was this stupid fucking snake tattoo wrapped around his arm, it was the stupidest shit I've ever seen, and I've seen lots of stupid shit, mostly coming from old people.

So this guy says something like, "Do you know who the Brutalists are?" And I'm like, fuck, now I'm screwed. But really, really screwed. Because well, he's talking about the Brutalists, and--what do you mean? The Brutalists, they're all part of the group, it's a thing they do. It's the Brutalists, the Nobles, the Legion, and... one more but I don't remember what it's called. Write this shit down later. This is exactly what they do. I said something like, fuck you, man, I don't know what you're saying, leave me alone, and suddenly I realize it's nighttime and everyone has left and there are like five more of these assholes, they were all dressed really nicely, though. But they were all surrounding me.

And they just look at me, and they're grinning. Really wide grins, they have really clean teeth and really white eyes, like, around the eyes. But they're pure evil. I just know that. I can tell. So the one sitting next to me stands up and says, come with us.

I'm not fucking A. or whatever, okay? I can't just activate my super strength or whatever it is he has and pounce on five guys. Plus I was still tripping, when I told you that The Guy's shit was good I wasn't kidding, by the way. So I just keep quiet and keep my head down, I look to see if there's any police or decent people that might help a poor boy being assaulted by a bunch of evil men, but there's nobody around, Yuga park is fucking deserted all of a sudden. It's like people disappear on those few moments when you would actually like them to be around.

So I went, reluctantly with them, I thought they were going to take me behind some place and beat me up or mug me or worse, but no, these weren't muggers, of course, they weren't a gang, either. These were upstanding members of society. I picked it up the second he started talking about the Brutalists. These were the assholes who were kicked out of the Clan of Adoration--I think that's what it's called--and wanted to get back in. So they started asking me, where does E. live? Does she live with her parents? How does she rank? How long have they been in the clan? And I just shake my head.

I'm not a loser or a coward or a traitor, I wasn't going to say anything, my plan was just to pretend that I didn't know E. at all, and didn't know what they were talking about either. Actually I don't know how they even knew that I was associated with any of that, and I'm not, anyway, so it doesn't make sense. But back to the story, I was in this fucking seedy back alley, there was no moon in the sky, just a really desolate streetlight in the far left, and I have these five guys ganging up on me, and I think at this point I started to make peace with the fact that I was going to die here, because the guy with the snake tattoo takes out a knife.

But I think I got really brave all of a sudden, I was like, fuck, I don't care, you're going to carve up some kid because of something so stupid, are you retards, I started to really make a racket, I think someone could have heard me in the distance, I figured that if they didn't stab me first someone would come to my rescue, but no one did. Plus it got really foggy that night, which was weird because it's still summer, but whatever.

And they kept pushing and pushing. And I don't really have much else to say because I kept denying everything. So the guy got really mad, he picks me up by the collar, the other ones start inching closer, I can feel their combined breath on my face, it was caustic, they had the worst breath in the world, like they had rotten from the inside.

They tossed me onto some garbage bags in a back alley and left me there, I was still in a daze, and I didn't see where or how they left, but I think they got in a car after turning a corner. And well, fuck, you can see what kind of reminder they left me with. [Points to sutured cut on left cheek] It was pretty deep, by the way. The doctor said I was lucky or whatever. I told mom that I got mugged, what else was I gonna say anyway.

Don't tell E. about this, I don't want her getting paranoid. They're not gonna touch anyone unless you get in their range of action. Just don't go near Yuga park. I'm pretty sure they're keeping tabs on all of you, on your whole little group, so I'm going to try and keep anything bad from happening. But I can't promise anything. As you can see. So just be careful out there. They're losers anyway, this isn't like the New World Order or anything, just a bunch of angry old men. You know. Old people. They're the worst.

[--End of interview--]


Sorry for stopping by your house while you were out, but I thought I should leave this in the Books as soon as possible. I forgot to tell you that I was still holding on to a transcript of this back from '95. It's a good idea that everyone re-read this sometime. You know, because it's X.

- F.]


L.B.'s Considerations

This appears to be the only testimony by X from what I've found in the notebooks until now. As for the "Clan of Adoration", I have no idea of what it's supposed to be. Frankly, it sounds a little silly and very novelesque. It's true, by the way, that Yuga park has deteriorated over time, and today it is frequented by prostitutes and, as you can see, young people looking to buy drugs.

lunes, 23 de mayo de 2011

Excerpt from Notebook 2: "Mom & Pop"

This is the first time I get to tell a story for this so let's hope I don't fuck it up.

All of this went on before I hung out with you guys. It was during winter vacations and days went by slowly. Back then I guess I was a pretty private kid, I mostly stuck to my video games. Or that's another way of saying that I didn't have a lot of friends. You know what I mean.

My favorite place in the world back then was probably the Chinatown, right near Yuga park, you know, it's not REALLY a Chinatown, but close enough. And there's tons of little mom & pop stores ran by couples of second-generation Chinese, probably descendants of immigrant workers back during the early boom, you've learned about this in History class, hopefully.

There was this one little dingy store where they sold the best candy and stuff straight from the Far East, in its cutesy packaging with Chinese characters--at least I'm guessing they were Chinese, I couldn't read them obviously--, and the girl at the counter was very nice, this slightly plump university-aged girl who was probably the daughter of the couple who ran the place. I only saw the father like twice. The mother sometimes came out to sweep the floors and shoo away the cats, you know how Yuga park is infested with cats and it spills over to its surroundings.

Now, you've definitely heard the rumors and jokes about Chinatown. You're only supposed to eat in the well-known places because everywhere else they will give you a back-alley rat on a platter and tell you it's spicy chicken. I've never really bought into that too much, I mostly think it's people being mean for no reason.

However, this little shop was full of them. Rats. Sometimes you would see one scurry over from one hole in the wall to another. The girl at the counter would look really embarrassed and the mom would get angry as hell and start sweeping everywhere. You know what was really creepy? Once, she was really frustrated I think, she hit one of the far back walls with the other end of the broomstick, she was looking for rats I guess, and I'm pretty sure she got more than she bargained for. We all heard this horrifying rattle and scurrying behind the wall, like there were a million of the little animals moving around behind that paper-thin wall. She never did that again. It was kind of sickening. I guess they were thankful I kept coming back--I was just a kid, after all--because most people steered clear of that place for reasons that are now pretty obvious.
The shop had a second floor, a staircase tucked away behind a wall that cut off at the back lead up to it. I think the whole family lived there. You could tell they were going through tough times because sometimes I would start to hear screaming in Chinese coming from upstairs, so the girl would give me this sad stare and turn the volume of the radio up, so I would hear the loud FM crackle and some old tune instead of the yelling. As a child I was very forgiving, I think.

So anyway, I kept coming back to that shop for a decent time, like maybe three months, long after school started again, and one day I come in and I find the father at the counter. I asked him what had happened to his daughter and he said he was taking care of her brother. I didn't know there was a brother; I mostly thought she was an only child. The father informed me that he had many, many sons. He had a VERY loose grasp on our language so I'm guessing he didn't exactly mean that. A lot of what he said didn't make sense. For example, he said that he also sold "milk" if I ever wanted some, which they didn't, and then he started rambling, half in Chinese, half in chewed-up local vernacular, that the women in his family always pampered the men.

I think I'm getting a bit too long-winded. I'll get to the point. What happened was that I once mentioned this store to a boy from school I liked, let's call him Giovanni, because he had a fancy foreign name. You don't know him, he transferred to another school a couple years later. He was very mischievous, and taller than me. He said, I know that place, and then he asked if I wanted to see what they REALLY did there.

So we went to the store one day later than usual, when it was already getting dark, but then again it gets dark early in the winter. Giovanni was wearing the funniest scarf, I remember, but that's not the point. He said, a kid who lives here told me that they cook rats in the back. I rolled my eyes at him and told him that that's what they ALL said about EVERYWHERE here and that that wasn't cool or interesting, but he put on this really serious face and said no, really, I'll show you.

That day the father was also watching the counter, and the rest of the alleged family was nowhere to be seen. We went around the store and to the back. The store had a little back room, I always assumed it was for storage, nobody ever went in or out of there as far as I could tell. There was a little window in the back that peered into that room, but it was protected by iron bars to keep burglars out. You could still see through it, but barely.

Giovanni put out his hands to let me climb up on them and look. So I did. I grabbed on to the bars and peered into the room. It was dimly lit. I couldn't see much other than a dingy old bed and a small desk with a lamp on it. Then the door opened. It was the mother. What I'm going to tell you now is why we don't go to that one kiosk.

Again, it was dark in there and it was dark outside. I strained my eyes to see. Also I was freezing and Giovanni down there was complaining about his arms. But I was only focused on what was going on in that room, the mother came down and then she stood in front of the bed. She just looked down on the mattress, which was covered with a really thin sheet, and I could just barely make out that it was covered in stains, plus the whole thing was really lumpy and uneven, like it was a really old mattress that a lot of people had slept in over the years. I figured this all made sense because after all this family didn't seem to be very affluent. And then she ripped off the sheets.

I realized that the bumps under those sheets weren't from a lousy mattress, the whole thing was just covered in rats. Like a gray carpeting of these animals, each varying from the size of a hamster to a full-grown rabbit, just sitting there, inert, as if they were paralyzed. At this very same moment, peripherally, I noticed that whoever was working the clerk at that moment--I'm guessing the father--turned the radio up loudly again. The animals didn't move at all. The mother just stared at them, I don't really know what kind of look she was giving them, if it was tenderness or fear or hate or something. Then she spun around and yelled out a name I knew. The daughter came into the room. She hung her head low, as if she were about to be reprehended for something.
They talked really quickly, like, chattering, in Chinese. First the mother, these long sentences, and sometimes the daughter would try to interrupt but she would overpower her with her own voice and continue. The daughter didn't attempt to make eye contact. The mother raised her arm and first pointed at her, as if blaming her for something, then she waved her arms around, gesticulating wildly about who knows what, and then the daughter tried to speak up again and she slapped her. When that slap reverberated throughout the tiny, cramped, rat-infested room, that coat of vermin lying on the bed suddenly sprang to life, quivering and shaking like an animal waking up abruptly, and making those high-pitched hissing squeals that rats make when they're excited, like you're going to give them food or something, we've all had to deal with rats at some point. I can play this whole scene back in my head like it happened yesterday, by the way. Giovanni was still complaining but I tuned him out. The radio was still on pretty loud.

It's lucky that at that time of day Chinatown is practically abandoned because otherwise we would've looked pretty silly to passerby, peering into the back room of some family's private business, and some old lady with nothing better to do would have probably stopped by to admonish us.

That unified hiss of the rats kept rattling the back room. The mother and the daughter stood there, silent as graves. Then the mother, without saying a word or making any sort of gesture, walked out, shut the door behind her, and left the girl alone with the animals in the room.

Giovanni asked me what was going on and I told him to shut up. We were lucky they hadn't heard us. I looked into the room with full concentration. I was enraptured by the inexplicable scene developing before me. What now? Was she going to take out some big pot from under the bed and start cooking? Was that really all it came down to?

In the room, there was this silence that touched me, went beyond the fear and fascination of that moment, and suddenly I remembered that this girl was my friend and I liked her, and whatever she was doing in that room she was clearly doing it against her will, and that made me sad. It also made me feel wrong, because I was poking my nose into her private life, and additionally my leg was getting sore and I was losing my footing.

The girl just stood there, staring at the animals, and it was almost like they stared back because they quieted down suddenly. I've mentioned that this room was dimly lit, there was only one old lamp in the corner turned on, that's why I couldn't even really see what was going on on the bed. Anyway, like twenty seconds of ambivalent silence passed. Then--I remember this in slow motion--first, the girl, she unbuttoned her blouse, really quickly, practically tore it off, she had a bra underneath, I think it was the first time I'd seen one, and she had a lot of marks and purple bruises and scars on her shoulders, and over her collarbones and some on her belly, but most importantly on her breasts, they were all scratched, petite as they were, and then she spun around and switched off the lamp.

At this point I lost my footing, partially because I was sore, partially because I was scare, partially because I didn't want to continue looking at whatever was going on there, and fell on my butt. Giovanni made fun of me in silence but then immediately he asked me what I saw. I said, I don't know. I really don't know. But there were rats, I said. You were right. And then he did the little song-and-dance all self-righteous kids do when they're proven right and he started telling me about other strange things he'd heard about Chinatown, but he was cut off by screams.

Do you remember how I told you that sometimes I would hear this screaming coming from the second floor and then the girl would turn up the volume of the radio so nobody would hear? Well this was the same thing, except it was the girl screaming, but then the father joined in, I heard the door open and slam shut once more, and I heard the mattress give in to pressure, the rusted springs squealing, and I heard something get knocked over, and I heard that awful, sinister hiss of all the rats, and I heard them crawling up and down the insulation in the walls, in the sewers, under my feet, and for a moment I FELT hundreds of tiny little claws crawling all over me, it was freezing, I was terrified by the screaming, I nearly pissed myself all over right there. Giovanni pulled me up. For a split second I considered peering back into the room, but with the light off I couldn't see anything, I didn't want to, either, so Giovanni and I ran away. On the way back I passed by the front of the store. There was nobody at the counter.
I never came back to that place again, but it's still around, they tell me, although the daughter doesn't work there anymore, and you never see the father doing anything because he's senile and in permanent bed rest, so it's all the mother's work now. I've never seen the son they once mentioned; apparently nobody has. I told this story to F. once, you know he's my cousin, right? Way before I knew the rest of you I told the story to him, but I chickened out of telling the truth, I went with the conventional answer and said "Yeah, they cook rats there." As a matter of fact I hadn't told anyone the whole thing until now. I haven't seen Giovanni in ages, either.

I could still come back to that store someday if I felt like it--as far as I know they didn't see me that night--, but honestly I don't want to. There's a bit of an epilogue to this story, though, one you can go check out yourself if you want to. You know that little kiosk in the corner of [____] and [____] St. where D. used to buy her cigarettes? They sold all kinds of stuff without regards for regulations, cigarettes, porn, kids' sticker albums, all on the stands. You know how most days there's this plump lady, lots of creases and dark spots on her face, of Asian descent? She's well known. Well, I stopped by there one time. I saw her from afar, she didn't recognize me. But that's her. That's the daughter. I guess she's working there now. Maybe she's keeping the business alive, opening a new locale. I don't know.

L.B.'s Considerations

I'm not sure of who narrated this story, as I'm not familiar with F.'s relatives. I had never heard of such a store in Chinatown, but then again there are hundreds of such stores in Chinatown. A kiosk does exist in the location specified. I haven't stopped to look at who runs it, nor have I heard any strange stories about it, but then again I don't go looking for those, either.

Excerpt from Notebook 5: "The Hissing of Summer Lawns"

[Note: The title of this entry was originally written in English in the notebook; I did not translate it. This happens with a few other entries, all of which seem to be musical references.]


B: Okay, go.

A: What are we doing again?

F: No, not you. K. is doing this.

A: Why is K. suddenly our fearless leader?

K: Because I am the one going through with this endeavor. Please be quiet.

T: Oh my god, 'endeavor'. I'd forgotten how weird you talk.

F: Yes, yes, K. is weirder than the rest of us put together--

N: Okay I seriously doubt that--

B: Okay, guys! Come on. This is for posterity. For the ages. Someday this will be important, probably. Okay, go.

K: [pause] Well. As we all know [laughter], this began in '99, when we realized that we were not going to be together forever after E. suddenly up and left. Back then our records of our travails in this cesspool we like to call our city consisted of little more than a few cassettes of recording and even fewer transcripts. Back then, X was our... uh, treasurer?

T: Well you really shouldn't speak of the dead so lightly.

A: Shut up.

K: Okay. After 2001 all of that material was lost for reasons that are painful to recall. We don't have to make a record of that. Do we have to make a record of that?

B: No. Just keep going.

K: Okay. It is now 2002 and we have decided that we are going to compile our findings in a series of books which will be kept by B., our new... uh, treasurer? Are you okay with that?

B: Whatever.

F: He's okay with it.

K: So... Starting on this day, we will record everything that we have and will continue to refer to as "Weird Shit". Let me leave for the record that I did not come up with this term and happen to have extremely vulgar friends.

A: That's funny.

N: Come on, stop.

K: [Loud sigh] I wanted to name this project "The Sand Notebooks", because it is a much more elegant reference, not to mention extremely fitting.

B: What is that? Borges?

F: Yes, it's a Borges story.

T: I only ever read him in school. I liked the one about the library.

K: Well. Whatever it ends up being. On this day we have decided to continue exploring these avenues and record them, if somewhat haphazardly, and B. will keep them. And that's all.

B: We should probably keep a record of who is here and participating in all this.

F: Well, I guess the official group is B., T., A., K., our lovely new member N...

N: Nice one--

F: And myself. F. [Pause] Where's D.?

T: At the wake.

F: Oh.

K: So yes. That's it. Wait, what about J.?

T: Guys, J. is scared of most of you. I can talk to him if you want but no way he's gonna hang out with the whole group.

B: It doesn't really matter. Honorary member.

A: That's so stupid.

K: Okay, I have to go. Keep the notebooks at your place where your family won't find them or anything because I would be deathly embarrassed. We would all be.

F: But B.'s mom is so nice. [Laughter]

B: Okay! That's all we needed. Since cassettes are no longer a safe medium I'm gonna type this up later and--[End]

L.B.'s Considerations

This excerpt is important, as it all but confirms my brother's friends' involvement in this, and is also where the name for this blog comes from. It also sheds light on the alleged purpose of keeping these notebooks, and reveals why my brother had them in his room.

domingo, 22 de mayo de 2011

Excerpt from Notebook 3: "Record Store"

Let us go down a trip to memory lane, specifically to the summer of 1997, when A. was finally kicked out of school. His dad has always been negligent, as you know, so every day was partytimes in his house, as you also know. Truly this was a glorious time. This was the summer of Sister Zero, of the Convent, of the Arcade Incident. This was the summer when K. got caught and suspended for the mess she made in the boiler room. This was the summer when B. tried to stop smoking like twelve times and failed consistently.

Coincidentally, this was also the summer when B. got very dark in terms of music tastes and we all had to put up with it. Remember all that shit he played in the car when we all drove down to the coast? I mostly remember Swans, he was huge on Swans. This is how we started going to The Guy's apartment, you know he runs a little record store out of that place. Guy is the textbook definition of an audiophile, reminds me of the guy from Ghost World (the movie).

B. was looking back then for a vinyl of Swans' live album, the title had "Castration" in it, I don't remember too well. I was never into things like that, I don't find music of that type cathartic, even if I have professed my love for Suicide (the band, not the act) several times with great enthusiasm.

Anyway, the first time we went there it was fairly innocuous. It was just me and B., one Friday after school. I think we also asked K. to come with us because we wanted her to fucking explain what she had been doing in the boiler room, but back then she had holed herself up in her home, poring over her books, you know how she is, she needs her space, she's weirder than all of us put together, which is saying a lot.

A lot.

Anyway, the guy's apartment was tiny, and it was made to seem tinier by the fact that it was lined with shelves which were themselves lined with records, and other than that there were piles of cassettes, mostly bootlegs and mixtapes, and there were also at least five different record players and musical paraphernalia that I'm not enough of an expert to comment confidently on. And there was practically no furniture. And for some reason there were porcelain bowls strewn about. Guy was big on cereal I guess.

He opened the door and he was stubby and unkempt and wearing a Captain Beefheart t-shirt. He didn't have much in the way of social graces and quietly invited us in. He offered us coffee, I said no, B. said yes, you know how he is, he never refuses a cup of coffee, even if it's laced with hemlock.

B. and the guy started talking about music and I felt like I should be a part of the conversation as well. They started off on points that we all had in common: Joy Division! Monster Magnet! We got into an argument over whether NYC Ghosts & Flowers was really, really bad or just bad. Then I started to zone out when the two of them started talking about bands and movements that I didn't even know existed. I remember the names Syzygy, Baroque Hell and Spiritual Masters of Shangri-La. I zoned out. I remember that at some point they mentioned a record called "Baby Sex" (the name stuck to me for obvious reasons), which I'm pretty sure is by the Residents.


I ended up falling asleep in the couch where I had settled. Afternoon sunlight, the time when all the kids are coming home and you're being lazy, listening to crackly AM radio and procrastinating over homework, that kind of stuff gets me woozy. I woke up abruptly when one of the guy's ferrets jumped onto my lap. Did I mention the guy had a bunch of pet ferrets? They all had names like Patsy Cline and Howlin' Wolf. It was cute.

I noticed that B. and the guy had moved to the kitchen, which was tiny and adjacent to the living room, and were talking in hushed tones about something.

At this point I realized that it was already dark outside, I glanced at my watch and it was like half past seven. So I called out to them and their conversation stopped abruptly. The guy almost dropped the beer he was holding. They both stared at me as if they had heard a disembodied voice or one of the ferrets talk. I guess they had forgotten I was there. B. could really get into music when he wanted to, to say nothing of the other guy.

So we said our goodbyes (I hurried the whole thing along) and B. left with the record he wanted, I remember it now, it's called "Public Castration is a Good Idea". Quaint title. He put it in the backseat and we drove back, he dropped me off at my place. He was playing something really soft and tender on the way back, I think it was Joni Mitchell, she's a favorite of mine. First time I heard something like that playing in his car all summer.

On the way back I asked him what had he been talking about with the guy all that time, all in all we had been there like three hours, and he said nothing, just music and trivial shit, he's an interesting guy, but a little weird. And I agreed and didn't pursue things further. He dropped me off and I went to sleep because for some reason I was unholy tired, despite having done nothing but sleep for the last few hours.

The next day B. didn't show up at the regular place, which was weird because it was a Saturday. I called his cellphone but it apparently had no batteries. I called his phone number and his mom answered, she said that B. was in his room, I could hear little [My Name] crying in the background, back then he was just a baby.
Apparently B. had been "studying". Ha.

That day I was with A. and T. and we both called bullshit on that, because it's B., he doesn't study for tests, he just wings it. We decided we would march over to his house and see what was up.

His mom opened the door for us, she looked a bit distressed, but then again B.'s mom has never been a big fan of B.'s friends. She is nice and polite though, and she offers us cookies, and that's good enough for us. B.'s sister was playing Mario or something in the living room and the door to B.'s room was closed. We knocked and knocked and he finally opened.

B. looked like he hadn't slept, there was an unlit cigarette dangling from the corner of his lips, he had that hilarious spotty attempt-at-a-beard he got when he forgot to shave, and bags under his eyes. He looked at us as if it made no difference who we were and let us in.

This is when I realized that B.'s record player was spinning the new Swans record, but it wasn't making a sound. B. had a nice used record player he got at a really good price, it worked really well for what it was. A. tried to play around with it and B. told him to be careful. T. just grabbed a magazine and sat down to read, she was out of it that day, I think she was still mad at B. for what he did to J.

So we just sat there in silence for a minute or so, A. and I were mostly waiting for B. to offer up an explanation, T. was in her own world. B. raised up his head, he was practically falling asleep in his chair, he was about to talk when we heard this UNEARTHLY SCREECH FROM HELL coming from the record. The speakers sprang to life and out came this hellish sonic torture that blasted the room at full volume for all of four seconds, and then it stopped and everything was silent again. B.'s mom stormed into the room, incredibly angry, wanting to know what that was. B. sheepishly apologized, said it was a malfunction of the system, wouldn't happen again. She gave us all a disapproving look and shut the door. Really, we don't LOOK weird, so parents usually like us, but when you spend as much time around us as B.'s mom did, you learn to roll your eyes at everything we do. I guess.

B. started to spill the beans at this point, but not before hooking a pair of headphones to the record player and disconnecting the speakers to spare us of any further torture. He said that he had talked to the guy who sold him the record and he had told him that this was some sort of special first-issue version. Apparently it was recorded live at a different venue than the one on the official version or something, it was a pretty nerdy distinction but apparently B. was so excited about the notion that he played it the second he got home last night.

The problem was that the record had been playing all night and it doesn't make a sound except for periodic outbursts every hour or so, apparently like the one we had just witnessed. At this point I felt a horrible headache coming on.

Well, fuck that, I said. It's probably scratched beyond recognition, or the guy conned you. Take it out and we'll go bitch at him right now and get your money back, I said.

But B. shook his head. He explained further. Apparently he had been listening to the record all night on headphones so as to not disturb his family, and the record is not damaged at all, it's just... different. He nervously lifted the headphones up and offered them to me. I gave him a blank stare. Then I put them on.

First I only heard the usual vinyl crackle and pop. But then I realized that there WAS music playing, but it was playing incredibly softly, like it had been recorded from miles away. From what I understood this was Swans alright. I listened for about thirty seconds, there were other sounds, like I think I could hear something like a wood chipper in the background, but B. took the headphones back and put them on the floor.

He explained to me that the outbursts, the extremely high-volume screams coming from the record, were unpredictable, and that's why he couldn't listen to it continuously. You had to crank the volume all the way up to hear the music at all, and if one of those high-volume sonic blasts came at you through headphones at full volume, that was it. You'd go fucking deaf or damage your eardrums beyond repair.

Listening to the record for any long stretch of time involved putting yourself at risk of that.
A and myself listened to the story with moderate interest; T. was still out of it and would continue to be out of it for the rest of the day. In fact it won't even make a difference to the story if I stop mentioning her. You know her. She's stubborn, when she's mad at someone she doesn't acknowledge their existence. She and B. wouldn't really make up until months later.

B. looked at our reactions as if he expected them, but then he looked at us and leaned closer, as if to tell us the punch line.

"The thing is", he started, I remember this word-by-word, "That this isn't a Swans record. This is a list of places being recited repeatedly."

I didn't really react. So aside from being a dangerous piece of shit, it wasn't even a Swans record. It was some random bootleg probably by some random band that never got anywhere. I said fuck it and put the headphones on again. I strained my hearing to make out the lyrics. The singer, who was definitely not Michael Gira or whatever his name is, was indeed screaming out locations of places. Places in our city.

Record stores.

When I confirmed this—the street names, the locations—everyone looked at me weird. Suddenly this became interesting. This had either been recorded by a native of our city or it was simply inexplicable. But my hearing isn't so great. I couldn't make out most of what was being recited. Back then we were bored and there was nothing else interesting going on. K. was still cooped up in her house and with T. and B. not addressing each other directly the whole group was tense. So we decided we were gonna find out what that guy was saying. So we decided to call up the guy with the best ears, and that would be N.

Remember back then? We weren't really friends with N. We had conversations every once in a while but I guess he was a bit too cool for us something. He wouldn't be a part of the group until a year later or so. It was kind of funny how much he got into the whole thing, and how fast.

So the next day we called up N., asked him to hang out and get a couple drinks, he agreed. When we were in the store where we always did our requisite non-I.D. drinking, we casually and briefly summarized the story for N. He was fascinated by the whole thing, but, as he told me later, he didn't really believe us at the time. He was mostly humoring us because, remember, they had sort of kicked him out of the cool group at school for being gay, so he kind of turned to us for a new group of friends. It's true, he told me all this!

Anyway, we went back to B.'s house. The record was still playing. Now we warned N. about the thing with the sudden blasts of super-loud music. He seemed unimpressed by our somber warning. Again, because at the time he didn't believe us. He put the headphones on, we gave him paper and a pencil. The rest, of course, is well-recorded history.

That episode with the record is how N.'s List of In-the-Know Record Stores in Our City was composed. Of course, back then we only had the names and locations. N. wrote them all down on the paper, scribbled them, really, and then when the thing started looping he put them down, with a half-bewildered and half-amused look, he said "that's all".

And I am not shitting you when I say that not more than one second passed after "that's all" that the record emitted the must brutalized, awful scream, it was like a wave of metal crashing into a sea of metal, with tortured people screaming over it, it was like a tower or Church organs stacked on top of each other, it fucking BLEW out B.'s headphones. We all stood there in shocked silence. N. was slack-jawed, it's a funny image now but back then I felt bad for him, because we had used him and put him in danger (he's forgiven us for it now). We just stood there in silence with the list in hand.

And well, the record never stopped making that horrible sound as far as I could tell, except B.'s headphones were shot. He lifted the cartridge and took out the record, it was scratched all over, A. grabbed it and broke it in two in a moment of righteous fury.

Of course that list would lead to tons of other stuff—the expeditions, the midnight chases, the run-in with the doctor—, as we discovered which stores were Safe and Not Safe and Never Safe. But that came later. Right after this happened we—B., N., T., A. and myself—drove right the fuck back to this audiophile fuck's apartment, wanting a series of explanations.

During the drive there we got N. up to speed on the whole thing—that this is where we had bought the record, that B. originally thought it was a Swans live record, that we tended to get into Weird Shit (the official term wouldn't appear until later) like this unnervingly often. He was still amused, but I think he was also a little scared.

By the time we got to The Guy's place it was nighttime. We stormed up the steps to the third floor where the guy's apartment was. This was a somewhat abandoned building by the way, in a somewhat shitty part of town, and the whole scene was a little perturbing. But anyway A., who always takes the lead when shit is expected to go down, knocked on the door impetuously, and nobody answered. He kept knocking for like a whole minute. T. started complaining that it was cold and in this part of town they might try to jack the car and we should go. Then suddenly the door budged, and it opened, abruptly and unexpectedly. And we entered the apartment.

There was only one light on, a naked light bulb hanging from the center of the living room ceiling, barely illuminating anything, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the ferrets scurrying about in the darkness. But the guy, the bastard, was nowhere to be found. But all his stuff was still there. This is when T. noticed that something that been spray painted on the far wall, in big, fat letters.



These three lines had been sprayed onto the far wall; we had to combine the illuminating power of all our cellphones to read it. This is when it hit us, and we realized that the guy was gone for good. For some reason we were certain of it. Mostly everyone was just weirded out, but B. looked knowing. And then he spilled the rest of the story.

Apparently The Guy was a part of a sort of underground circle of really obsessive record collectors in the city. Apparently that day when B. and I originally went to the apartment B. had sort of taken an "entrance exam" with the guy, where he asked him about music and if he answered enough obscure shit correctly he gained entrance into this circle, which presumably implied access to lots of rarities and oldies. But B. also mentioned that the guy was moving soon and he'd let him know about his new address.

The guy has never gotten into contact with B., by the way, nor has he ever come back to his apartment. We still use it sometimes. We go there, surprised that nobody else has robbed it clean by now, we browse the shelves, we find a record we like, and we pay the exact amount in cash, on the kitchen sink. We feel a little silly because there's a rather big pile of money building up there—it's not like the money disappears overnight or anything cheesy—but we feel like we should pay. T. wants to take one of the ferrets home, but that doesn't feel right to us either. I guess they're like cats, they find their own food wherever.

And to this day, this is the only store we consider Safe.

L.B.'s Considerations

This one mostly speaks for itself. It largely introduces N., who I never knew, as far as I can recall.

Excerpt from Notebook 4: "Lists of Our Lost Friends"

"The List of Adoration"

1. The man with the golden watch transports large fish tanks in shopping carts. He buys them at [____] Gallery, the one in front of the [Supermarket franchise] on [____] Ave. He does not keep fish in these tanks, but he does not keep anything else in them either, except for his feelings.

2. The young man who jogs around the old military training facility in District 6 is his partner (in crime).

3. There is a small kiosk on the corner of [____] and [____] St. that sells both children's sticker albums and pornography, side-by-side. The lady vendor has a deal with these two men.

The eye doctor that A.'s dad has been going to is also an acquaintance of my mother. He was part of this group in the sixties.

5. The rat population living under the aforementioned kiosk did not form naturally. [See: rat king]

6. Did you know about the hospital black market? Certain bodily fluids are at a premium. The one A.'s dad used to go to is in a discreet little place near Yuga park.

7. "The Clan of Adoration" has not been active since the eighties, but you never leave it. Members refer to you as "dormant" when you're not active.

8. The former chairman is now homeless and frequents a specific bench of the same park.

9. Find out for yourself.

In loving memory of our dear E., lost to a job offer in Europe and taken away from us far too soon.

"List of In-the-Know Record Stores in Our City"

1. Fantômas, Arbalos Ave., 252, close to dumpster. Classic rock, newspaper, stuff. *

2. Todos Tus Muertos, Morelli St., 771, ask K. for details. Monster, punk, viewpoint. *

3. The Guy's place, Percy St., he runs a store out of his apartment. Nice collection of rarities. SAFE!

4. ESSENTIAL: In the Name of the Can, the Byrds and the Vampire Rodents, located in you-know-who's basement. **

* Not safe during the night.
** Not safe at any time.

In loving memory of our dear N., lost in the fire of Nantes Market, September 19, 2006.

"List of Places we do Not Mess With"

1. The Office of a Thousand Identical Faces with the Doorman who Looks Impossibly Old where A.'s Dad Used to Work, but Doesn't Anymore (for Obvious Reasons)

2. The Field of Mars, Located on the Seaside Hotel near Yuga Park, which Is Not a Hotel at All, and Will Not Take No for an Answer

3. The Baby Stroller Abandoned in District 7 Dumpster, which for Good Reason Has Not Been Moved Since the Fateful Day of Feb 16, 1991, Coincidentally the Birth Date of Our Fearless Leader

4. The Hospital, You Know the One I'm Talking About

5. The End of the Road that Leads to the Haunted House, as Retold in T.'s Riveting Tale of Beasts and Children, as Recorded, Verbatim, In a Previous Tome

6. The Hole Twice Cursed

7. The Bottom of the Lake Where We Freed Things That We Will Probably Never Understand

8. The Playground where Everyone Lost

9. Our Dear School, Left Behind Us Forever, for the Better

10. K.'s House for At Least the Next 12 Days, After Which We Should Be Okay Again, but You Should Always Exercise Caution!!!

In loving memory of our dear X, who we never fully understood.

Take these lessons to heart!


L.B.'s Considerations

I can't offer much insight into who E. or N. are/were, although they appear prominently in other excerpts. I don't have any recollection of them, nor did I know that my brother was acquainted with anyone who perished in the Nantes marketplace fire of 2006, which I assume is what they are alluding to here. (Nantes market was a large marketplace full of unlicensed stores and kiosks, and a firework set off accidentally caused a fire that burned the place down and took the lives of two dozen people.)

I have a sneaking suspicion as to who X was. Back in high school, my brother was acquainted with a guy who got really into drugs and ended up having to be dragged to a rehabilitation center by his parents. He was known for being paranoid and strange, even before the addiction took over, and wrote with arbitrary capitalization, as in X's list. However, I cannot verify this, because this person is literally referred to as "X" in the notebooks; it's not a pseudonym I made up, as is the case with the others.

X's list also appears to confirm that it was T. who narrated "A Memory". 

Excerpt from Notebook 1: "Monica"

T. named her new doll Monica, I think after Monica's Gang. T.'s mom is Brazilian and she used to bring her kids' comics from there and Monica's Gang is like the Brazilian equivalent of Peanuts or something.

I told T. that the doll was bad news, though. She had gotten it at one of those big flea market fairs. The doll looked really old and the facial proportions were off, it's like they consciously tried to NOT model it like a real baby. It hadn't come with any clothes so T. put a doll-sized one-piece white summer dress on her. Oh god, why am I referring to "her" as if it was a person?

Anyway, back then we were all in grade three or so and even then K. was already very sensitive to what we have come to refer to as "Weird Shit"; for example she knew about the thing in D.'s garden way before anyone else. She said Monica was bad news, and I agreed. I always agreed with K., she's a lifesaver. We tried to convince T. to throw Monica away, but she's always been stubborn when it's worst for her, and instead she started taking Monica everywhere just to spite us. We threatened to stop being friends with her and such.

But in the end we all loved T., we still do, and we didn't stop being friends with her, but we hated Monica and its vacant, vaguely deformed stare, like a child born from generations of incest, gave us nightmares at night. So one day we hatched a plan to rid ourselves of Monica forever.

We went to the park. It was T., K., D., and me. A. and I had come up with the plan. In preparation, we had dug a hole near Echo Lake, behind some bushes, where we would bury Monica. First, we left our backpacks and things behind a tree in the park, and T. did the same, leaving her bag with Monica in it and nothing else.

Then, while we were playing at the monkey bars far from there, A. sneaked behind the tree and took ALL of our stuff in secret. We were all in on this except for T. When we got back and noticed they were gone, we all acted shocked and assumed that our stuff had been stolen. T. really must have loved Monica because she was bawling the rest of the day.

Later that afternoon, I met up with A. He gave me everyone's stuff and I gave it to them later. But we kept T.'s bag, and the doll inside of it. We pedaled to the lake. We went behind the bushes and took Monica out, handling it as carefully as possible.

We threw her into the hole and then we piled dirt on top of it as quickly as possible. We covered it with soil until it was no longer a hole. And then we breathed a sigh of relief. Until we heard the crying.

Apparently Monica was one of those baby dolls that emitted a crying sound periodically, like many such toys do. But we had never heard it before. T. had never told us about it. Given how much she loved Monica, that was odd. I don't think she knew. But if she didn't know, then she wouldn't have put batteries in, so how was the doll making that sound? It was a high-pitched analogue squeal, it sounded as old and sinister as everything else about that abomination of a child's toy, and we didn't stick around long enough to find out how we could still hear it through all the dirt we had piled on top of it. We got out of there.

T. never found out about what really happened that day until many years later, when we started university. A. accidentally told her while drunk. She wasn't upset. She agreed that it was the best thing to do. Apparently that doll had also given her nightmares, and the only reason why she hadn't personally disposed of it was to spite us. Stubborn, as always.

A. and I wouldn't dig out that hole until one or two years later, when we used it as a makeshift altar to a sacrificial god. (That's another fun story with a somewhat odd ending.) Once we dug it out, Monica was nowhere to be found. Plastic doesn't just decompose into nothingness. Our favorite (and most dreaded theory) is that, after we left, some girl passed by and heard the doll's crying, dug her out, and, charmed by it, took it home. Monica is probably still out there. It doesn't feel like she was something a bunch of kids could've gotten rid of so easily.

L.B.'s Considerations

I don't have much to say about "Monica". It was almost certainly written by my brother as well, as it references the events of "Xochipilli." I don't have any memories of this doll, and there are no features described that could help me find the model or manufacturer.

Excerpt from Notebook 2: "Xochipilli"

It seems that in every group of childhood friends there is one requisite expert in tall tales. The kind of boy who will tell you that there is a fourth flute in Mario 3 or a super-secret character in Street Fighter. Or that his Dad killed a lion on his trip to Africa. Or that his Mom is a movie actress. You know the type.

A. was our resident tall tale specialist, and one of my best friends—he is still both of these things. We mock him and enjoy his alleged exploits, which he can never back up. When we were still in grade school and [Sister] was a baby, we had been learning about the Aztecs in school, for some reason, and A. and I were obsessed with the concept of ritual sacrifice, especially if it allowed for communion with the gods.

So what we would do is, we would head out to Echo Lake [note: this is the same lake mentioned in the "List of People who Kill Animals & Other Things"]. We would roll up our pant legs and stand around on the shore with glass jars, looking to swipe up some fish. Some relatively large ones got close to the surface and sometimes we got lucky. The other kids feeding bread crumbs to the geese would look at us weird, something I would quickly get used to.

Now, prior to this we had dug a small hole in the ground behind some bushes, near the rusted swing set that you can still find there. The hole was originally dug out so A. and F. could safely bury T.'s doll, which is also an interesting story, but a different one.

At that point we weren't using the hole for anything. We would take the fish there and gut them with our school utensils (pens and pencils), while they were still alive, and then we would toss their smelly remains into the hole. With our hands covered in fish-blood, we would kneel before our makeshift sacrificial altar, and recite this solemn prayer: "We make this sacrifice to you, O, Xochipilli, and hope for guidance in return."

Xochipilli was one of the Aztecs' gods, appropriated from another culture, if I recall correctly. He was one of the few gods whose name we could recall correctly (albeit we usually couldn't spell it correctly), so he was our god of choice. We didn't know what he actually stood for.

Sometimes after our daily sacrifice we would sit there and wait, taking turns putting our ears close to the hole, waiting for some voice to emanate out and reveal, I don't know, our fates, or the existence of a God, or the answers for tomorrow's Math test. Eventually we would get bored and go do something else, but continued to do this for approximately one month.

Looking back on it, I find it felicitously odd that nobody called us out on our strange and recurrent behavior. The other kids that regularly went to the lake simply kept their distance. The altar of Xochipilli was tucked away in a faraway part of the park, and nobody used the swing sets anyway, so the pungent smell, which gradually became more notorious as the hole got full of rotting, gutted fish, was hardly ever noticed by others.

Xochipilli would not respond to us, but our efforts went undeterred. As I mentioned, our daily sacrifices went on for at least a month. Then something rather momentous happened.

We weren't the only kids in the neighborhood with a penchant for animal cruelty. There was another gang of kids, one or two years older than us, who would hang out near the lake and throw stones at the geese. I figure they mostly had the intent of simply scaring them away, but on one occasion, one of the kids hit a goose squarely in the head. Very good aim or luck, really.

The adults at the scene were mock-horrified for the violent tendencies of children these days, and how THEIR generation wasn't like that, and how video games were to blame, and so on. The goose was violently trying to swim, suspended upside-down, drowning while trying to make it to shore. A concerned father waded a few meters into the water, grabbed the animal by the leg, and put it down softly on the shore as a crowd of onlookers gathered.

Its head had been smashed and it was bleeding profusely. Some silly old lady suggested that they take it to a veterinarian, which was immediately dismissed by everyone with a modicum of common sense. It was understood that the bird was dying, and nobody was brave enough to put it out of its misery, so they just left it there. The goose convulsed and flapped its wings in vain every minute or so. The adults had left the scene, taking their children with them, and in a matter of minutes that section of the shore was left deserted. The animal struggled through its final throes.

Of course, A. and I had other plans for him. In our minds, it went like this: the bigger the sacrifice, the better the response. And this was a BIG sacrifice.

Once the area had been abandoned, we sneaked close to the animal and confirmed that it was still barely clinging on to life, as demonstrated by its infrequent spasms. We dragged the animal back to the altar of Xochipilli. I told A. that he should have the honors for this one, mostly because I felt queasy about it.

He was initially drunk on blood-lust, and without thinking about it twice, he took out his pen and stabbed the animal in the breast. Warm, red blood jetted forth. That's when we realized that we couldn't mutilate it. The goose seemed too alive, not alien like fish, too similar to our own pets. So we just stood there, feeling a little bad about ourselves, waiting for it to finally die.
It struggled for only another minute or so.

We quickly got to work. By this point the hole was almost entirely full of fish guts--rotting ones, at that. It's a marvel that we could stand to be near that horrid smell, but I suppose you have a greater resistance to these things as an intrepid and somewhat disturbed child. We grabbed the goose and pushed it into the altar of Xochipilli. Our hands were once again covered in blood.

With its new sacrifice, the altar looked rather sinister. The goose's smashed-in head poked its way out of the hole, its neck, sustained by rigor mortis I guess, propping it up, with one broken wing sticking out, and feathers strewn about. We looked at each other uneasily, decided to say our prayers and quickly go home, in unspoken agreement that our days or worship were over.

"We make this sacrifice to you, O, Xochipilli, and hope for guidance in return." I still remember that prayer perfectly. This time we didn't bother to try and listen for a response, partly because we feared that we would actually get one. We got on our bikes and furiously pedaled home.

This incident took place, to the best of my memory, in August of '90. And you know what happened in August of '90 to the lake. It showed up in the papers. All the fish turned up dead overnight, floating belly-up on the surface. And that lake has not been kind to life ever since. Like with the kid who drowned "mysteriously."

I suppose that Xochipilli rewards the patient. I didn't go down to the lake for years after that. Neither did A. We never checked to see if someone had bothered to clean up the hole and the mess we'd made. When I finally went there, there was not the slightest trace of the altar. And I don't like going there. There are still some geese left; they have nothing to eat but what others feed them. And the way they look at me—I know this sounds like I'm trying to make things spookier, but it's true—the way they look at me, it makes me feel evil.


L.B.'s Considerations

This story was almost certainly written by my brother, as it matches his style, and A. was indeed, as far I know, his best friend. According to my parents there was a time when he, as a child, spent a lot of time at Echo Lake, so it fits. As he mentioned here, the lake's fish mysteriously turned up dead overnight during August of 1990; it is generally believed that a toxic leak from a nearby processing plant caused the disaster. Nowadays only a handful of geese remain.

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.

Excerpt from Notebook 3: "People Who Kill Animals & Other Things"

1.   1.  Alma St., corner store, mom & pop shop, Chinese sweets. Rat infestation.
F. told me that what they really do is take them to the back and cut them up and this is why the radio in that store is really loud.

2. DRAMATIC shortage in dove population thanks to the "DOVE STRANGLER", anonymous assassin of winged pests.

3. Group of children in Dayani Park, use carbines.
They used to gut fish at the lake in District 4 but we all know what happened in '90. (ha ha! real funny. -A.)

4. Doors fan in Fantômas enjoys making films of this, K. is a friend of hers.

5. Do you remember those commercials that started airing past 3am back when pet dogs were turning up dead, either strangled or poisoned? And it was like a bunch of grainy footage of this dead animal with a voice-over asking people to report whoever was doing it? Good job guys!

6. Nobody ever figured out what the hell happened to It.

7. Ask A. about that guy from Architecture who is into torture porn.


  L.B.'s Considerations

  I honestly don't have much to say about this one.

What I found.

My brother was a whopping eleven years older than me, so I don't remember much of when he was still living with us during his university years. I was only thirteen when he moved out. But he was always weird. His self-professed hobby was to watch people. I remember there were times when he would pick me up from school, and, as we drove home in the afternoon sunlight, we would see something, like a group of children walking home in their uniforms, and those little mundane scenes—old ladies feeding birds, shops closing down for the day—were heartbreaking to him. He took pictures of seemingly innocuous things. He was very nostalgic about things that had never happened to him.

I distinctly remember that on a weekly basis he would sit in a corner of his cramped room and scribble into an old notebook that he used for school. Sometimes I would ask him what he was drawing or writing. He would of course tell me to leave. He kept it well-hidden when he wasn't writing, because several times during my childhood I looked for it while he wasn't home, and never found it.

I don't remember a whole lot else about my brother. He mostly kept to himself, but was willing to oblige when I asked him to play video games or something with me. He wasn't very much for sports, and he had a small but recurring circle of friends. They were generally as weird as him and Mom didn't like them around the house. But he didn't seem lonely or hurt, he got good marks and generally he appeared satisfied with his life. He was the opposite of my sister (seven years older than me), who has always been socially adaptable, self-confident and outgoing. Whenever my brother went out, it was either to take pictures of the seedier parts of the city, or heading straight to a friend's house, probably to listen to music. He was big on music, especially anything that used "found sound", i.e. recordings picked up from somewhere else.

My brother died in a car crash last year. We have made our peace with it by now. My parents decided to keep his room as it was when he left. But I haven't been able to contain myself. For years the mystery of the notebook had settled in the far back of my mind, but months after his death it resurfaced. I needed to find it. I scoured his room again. I checked under and inside everything, with meticulous care to make sure my parents didn't notice I had been moving things around. And finally, by sheer luck, I came across a loose floorboard under where his bed used to be shortly before he sold it off.

It was a clever hiding spot, and I never would have found it as a child. I pried the board loose with anxious expectation, hoping that this was, at last, where I would find the notebook. And I was right.

My brother kept loose documentation of his feverish scribblings. By now, time, humidity and insects had taken their toll on his writings, but most of it was entirely legible. It was kept in a pile of unassuming school notebooks, lined paper, ring-bound, bland black covers. There are marks on the cover that indicate that they were once covered with something, possibly labeled, but those aren't there anymore.

For the past couple days I have been poring over my brother's lost oeuvre with unbroken interest. What he wrote (and occasionally drew) there is of extremely varied nature. It includes lists of people he "loves", but these are populated with people like "7:30am cleaning lady, Bolognesi Av., Millennium Hotel, wears pink ribbon" or "kindly old doorman from childhood house". These are people who, I assume, he only knew via his personal brand of nostalgic voyeurism.

There are also interviews with people from the city about varied subjects. My brother would sometimes do this; he would pretend to be a Communications or Journalism student of some sort and interview strangers on the street about various things.
Many of the interviews are recorded here.

And then there are also personal (or sometimes impersonal, stated as if they were fact) accounts of strange things that go on in the city, written as if they were the most mundane things in the world. Yet they are anything but. Sometimes his friends pop up in these writings.

After reading most of the material, which was originally discovered on May of 2011, I began to post excerpts of the notebooks on 4chan's board /x/, as it seemed like something that would pique their interest. (It apparently did.) Now I have decided to start this blog in order to keep the entries in one, easily readable place as I continue to transcribe them. English is not my native language, nor was it my brother's, and these notebooks aren't written in English, either. So I have to translate and transcribe them as I go.

In order to preserve everyone's anonymity and be on the safe side, the names of all people and places involved have been replaced with pseudonyms. Originally I also planned to change any dates mentioned, but after some deliberation, I have decided to keep those as they are to avoid confusion, as these notebooks are written in a non-linear manner.

After initially browsing these texts it has become apparent that this project was not only my brother's, but all or most of his friends were in on it and contributed regularly. The entries are usually not signed by specific authors, which adds to the documents' inscrutability, but suffice to say many of these excerpts were not written by my brother, who will be referred to as B. whenever he appears in transcripts from the notebooks.

I came across one particular document while studying these books. Apparently the project of recording or writing these entries into the notebooks was known among my brother and his friends at some point as "The Books of Sand", which alludes to a famous short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. Hence the title of this blog.

These notebooks are considerably thick, and jam-packed with writing, which varies greatly in terms of legibility. There is also the occasional crude drawing, map or diagram. Whenever I have time, I will continue to post new transcripts on /x/ and then post them in this blog as new entries. In any case, I hope that you will enjoy reading.