Letters - pt. III

     Truth be told, I didn’t really believe that he’d seen an ancient obelisk from his studio window. Finch was very interested in themes of false realities, and loved to explore what it was that made us human—often he would send me stories that mixed fantasy and reality, so I’d thought that this was just another one of those. I was intrigued however, and sent him a letter asking him more about the oddity in the park. His next letter came a few days later.

“Got my acceptance letter from F&SF for the newest story today. Feels really good. I had a strange dream last night. Dreamt that I was here in my room, but it was all blue night and shadows like black ink. I was sat at my desk, looking out the window at that monument. It rose above the tree line—which was purple, and still—and the sky was yellow and grey. The clouds were arrayed around the obelisk in disturbing striations, as if the sky were a giant muscle, relaxed but ready to flex at any time. Or like scar tissue up against the vault of heaven, left there as a reminder of some long-forgotten transgression.  A flock of monstrous birds wheeled their way out of the west and began circling the tip of the obelisk. They wheeled lazily and as I watched they began to drop, silently, one by one, into the purple forest beneath them. I looked down at my paper, I guess I was writing, and it was dotted with blobs of black ink, black shapes scattered across a white page. The ink continued to spatter onto the page as I looked at it, and I soon realized where it was coming from. Ink was running out of my eyes and nose, and as it dropped onto the page it formed words. I couldn’t read them, but I tried. I stared and searched my mind trying to find the key to unlock this language. The ink dropped faster onto the page.

I found it.

I breathed out sharply and a great gout of black liquid belched out of my mouth. I saw sinew and bone pouring out of me, and I think my glasses vomiting forth in that black torrent.

SO weird!  Think I can work that into a story?”

     I didn’t know what to think. I was getting worried, but I was also going through a few personal struggles, so I lapsed in my correspondence. But Finch didn’t.

“I think I wrote another story last night. This time I don’t remember writing any of it. I read it this morning. It’s good. It’s about a woman who finds herself in a new life every time she goes to sleep and wakes up. Every morning she’s a new person and she doesn’t know why. As she starts to find the answers, her history and her memories are constantly being changed and reworked. She tries to remember the cause of the constant shifting. Was it something she wanted? A pact with the devil? Caught in some kind of time storm? Is she a prophet of old bristling with primal religious power awakening in the modern era? Or is she merely insane? Again there’s this hanging dread of being controlled by something outer. Of faceless forces granting power or delivering punishments.

Oh yeah, I’m planning on taking a walk around the park today to see if I can’t find that obelisk.”

     That marked the last of the letters that I received from Parabola Finch. This last one, which was sent to me on an index card, arrived about a week ago. It was almost light by the time I finished reading, so I put the letters away, took a shower, then made breakfast and strong coffee. I called out from work—my plan was to rent a car and drive out to Long Island to talk to the police and sort through Finch’s things. I had a strange feeling hovering over me all morning, and my girlfriend warned me against getting too involved.  Do what you must, she said as she headed out to her job, honor your friendship but don’t punish yourself for things beyond your control. I dressed in a dark suit and mulled her words over as I packed some things in a shoulder bag. There were things I needed to know beyond seeing how Finch was living or what he’d left behind. Why was I the only person listed in his contacts? What happened to his life, his friends, his wife?

     These questions stuck with me, unanswered, until I reached the address listed on Finch’s letters. It was a nice house on Harbor Hill Drive. Large and remote overlooking Lloyd Harbor and the island that housed the Caumsett State Park. Yellow police tape formed a perimeter around the house and a squad car sat in the driveway. After a quick conversation with the officer, and a few minutes spent checking my ID, I was allowed to go up into Finch’s room and instructed not to remove anything from the premises.

     My feet were unsteady on the gravel walkway that led up to the house. Its architectural design looked born out of the late 1960’s and consisted of flat perpendicular planes, a dark wood exterior and plenty of windows. It was shaped like a low rectangle, except for the roof, which rose in a  low peak, somewhat defying the squareness of the construction of the house. Like a kind of inverted top, or like an odd UFO. The peaked garrett sat like a cap upon a face of edges and glass. There was no lawn, and I could hear the undulating cry of the surf coming from the harbor clearly in the distance.

     The officer told me that no one was home and that I could go right up using the stairs which led to the separate entrance in the back of the house. She warned me not to linger anywhere but the attic. While the house was modern and seemingly well-kept, it still looked filthy, and had an ancient air to it, which I chalked up to it being so close to the water. As I stood at the foot of those stairs, made of wood and iron, switching back and forth along the side of the house, the whole scene suddenly took on a fearsome aspect. My friend had died up there. Fear pulsed out of my sapien brain as I mounted the stairs, but logic prevailed and I made it to the top, and entered the attic room.

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