Blech. Just realized it's been over a month since last post... -Jason Spadaro #authornotes
Blech. Just realized it's been over a month since last post... -Jason Spadaro #authornotes
“I can't remember.” Lauren looked over at Jonas for just a second, then back at the trail ahead.
Jonas could tell how upset she was, but she was trying not to think about it. They were walking along the trail, which matched the route he was originally planning on taking. It was a coincidence, but not too surprising. There were a set number of trails maintained throughout Coven, and this one was a major one, with spurs and side paths. It was also generally straight, without excessive switch-backs except where elevation changes made it more prudent.
She couldn't remember… She couldn't remember how she had got to the stream. She couldn't remember how long she had been there. She was lost, but couldn't remember where she was lost from.
In general it seemed like her memory had an enormous gap. Names, places, and events all eluded her. She knew who she was. She was Lauren. Lauren…what was her last name? She had to have a last name.
She stopped walking and leaned against a tree, arms crossed. She had to have a last name.
“What's up?” Jonas stopped and looked at her, his thumbs hooked behind his pack's shoulder straps.
“Think I should find a campsite?”
Lauren shook her head. “No…I just need a moment. Maybe we can rest for a bit.”
Jonas set his pack down. “Sounds good to me.”
John Walsh's car ambled along the forest maintenance road. It wasn't dark yet, but that was okay. John had to find out if he needed to feed the cave's song. If he did, it would be another late night.
His car bounced along the tight road, over ruts and irregular dips along the dirt trail. It was only one lane, but almost never used. Walls of trees surrounded the vehicle as he passed through tight turns and down irregular straight-aways. The sound of branches rubbing against his car was omnipresent.
A couple of hikers were up ahead, a guy with a full beard and a girl in a red sweatshirt. He honked once, and they turned around. After they moved off the trail he honked again, and signaled a thank you with two fingers. Maybe tonight wouldn't be as late as he thought.
Jonas and Lauren could see the sun getting low in the distance, a sign of the coming dark. Jonas did some math in his head to determine how much time they had left before they would need to make camp. They didn't have much. “We need to stop. If we don't break for the night we'll be setting up camp in the dark.”
“I don't care.”
“I do.” He stopped. “We're not getting to the cave before nightfall. We stopped for too long earlier today. It happens, and I'm sure whatever is in that cave can wait till tomorrow.”
“We've got to be close.” Lauren kept walking.
Jonas sighed. This was probably true. He drummed his fingers against the straps on his pack. He didn't like where this was going.
Jonas smiled. He walked up to her with a smile. “Having a change of heart?”
“Sssh.” Lauren held up a finger.
“The King is dead.” The words fell like molten lead, coming out of the First Adjunct Courier of the Eighth Kingdom’s mouth, spilling onto the ornate tile floor of The Court. They burned those attending, but instead of the screams of wounded, there was just silence. That quiet of the calm before the storm filled the room. The Chief Vizier coughed from beside the empty throne, and stepped forward on spindly legs made of bone and wood. He used his articulated claw to remove his hat. “I see. And how did this come to be known?”
Jonas was about three miles out from the ranger station, but it seemed more than just an hours walk away. He tied his bandana around his head, and stretched in the morning air. He was lanky and tall, and arching his back made him feel lanky and tall. He popped his knuckles on both hands, and went over to his hanging bear bag to get oatmeal for breakfast.
He was taking a side trail north towards the center of Coven Forest today, and had to stop by a clean water source, a stream, along the way. It wouldn't be terrible. Jonas was only planning on putting in seven or eight miles that day.
After cooking and eating, he broke down camp, taking down his tent and repacking his bag. He gave the site a quick inspection, then started moving north along the trail.
Things stopped going as planned when Jonas approached the stream. A person was laying in it, face down. She had long, brown hair that the stream's current played with idly. Jonas stopped, and nervously drew his hand down the front of his face and beard.
“Hello?” He didn't expect a response.
He didn't get one.
Ummm… Jonas took out his cell phone. No signal.
I've been fleshing out a github “Archive” of the story content the last few days while I work on the next post. Mostly it's to make my life easier for the writing process, but when that becomes public it'll have everything compiled there in a less polished form. I may create a “spoiler” proof page for it in the future, but for now this will work.
I've been playing around with the idea of writing fiction, continuous fiction, in a blog format for a while. The internet is vast, and does terrifying things to traditional mediums.
So this is one part experiment on my part, one part new publishing platform. We'll see how it turns out...
— Jason Spadaro
A few miles outside of Bell City there was Coven State Forest. It was 50 miles of wilderness, like an apology on behalf of the citizens for the burned-out post-industrial center it neighbored. A few hiking trails criss-crossed it, with a couple of ranger stations positioned along the perimeter as way points for hikers either coming or going.
When the Bell family originally settled the area in the early 1800s, it had all been like Coven, but as the urban area grew, attracting people with promises of jobs and cheap land, the town sprawled. Factories and chemical processing plants (the majority of which the Bell's owned) sprung up. Apartments, municipal utilities, department stores, and suburbs steadily grew in over the next hundred years. The population swelled.
But still the area of Coven remained untouched. In the 1970s the Bell family gave the land to the government on the condition that it remained forever-wild. The government set up the ranger stations and trails. It invited hikers and campers, and organized the search crews whenever people went missing.
Locally, the woods had a reputation dating back to the earliest Bell settlement.
John Walsh walked down the street, brushing aside his brown hair to clear any bugs attracted to the pools of street light he moved in and out of. The night was dark, with a warm, damp summer air. He glanced behind him, and walked into the nearby apartment building. Down the hall and up stairs.
He came to his apartment. He heard Tyra next door, singing to herself. John smiled.
The lock unlatched, he opened the door, and entered.
It was small, a minimal, run-down studio. Filled with stacks of books and papers, he was sure that if his land lord ever did anything other than take a check he'd be evicted for fire code violations. It didn't matter.
Nothing mattered. At least nothing that the filthy plebs he dealt with daily considered important. The song was what was important.
It came from the cave, on the edge of the city. The damp stone, from the humid depths inside, wetter than the mid-summer heat wave he'd just come in from. An aria that touched the soul, on the breath of something deep within the Earth.
He sat down on the green couch and turned on his television. It was old enough it needed a digital converter box to get anything out of the old rabbit-ear antenna set by his window. The local news came on, with a set of generiaclly attractive local news casters.
“…word yet from local law enforcement on the string of missing persons from the Bell City area. They are still taking any leads on their anonymous tip line, located on the bottom of your screen right now. Since last April a total of sixty people have gone missing from the…”
John turned off the screen.
Oh, there's a lot going on there. Ummm…well, John was…complex. He didn't really get along with anyone, per se, but nobody really hated him, at least as far as I know. He just kind of did his own thing. He'd be going along, whistling this same weird tune to himself. Doing whatever. Who knows?
Apparently, as far as anyone can tell, I was the closest he had to a friend, but we were just neighbors. We lived next to each other, in the same apartment complex. We'd talk a little in the hall outside our places sometimes, and once I helped him jump his car when his battery was dead.
He'd left the lights on all night and they'd killed it.
He'd seemed so quiet, and…I guess normal. What they found out later surprised the hell out of me.
– Recollection of Tyra Anders
It wasn't the screams in the cavern that got Walsh, or the piles of bones that cluttered corners like displaced refuse. It was the song. The haunting melody filled the space behind the echoing anguish of the in-progress martyrs. It made the hair on his back rise. It called to him.
He touched his face and felt the slick warm of blood. Not his blood.