Upon entering I immediately recognized the layout from Finch’s letters. Bathroom to the left, mini kitchen to the right. Further down on the right was a wicker chair with a ratty papasan sitting in front of an older model television. DVDs were stacked up next to the TV. Across from his living room was his bedroom; a mattress, and a few storage boxes stacked in tiers. His office was a triangular nook cut into the room, and I could see the window that supposedly looked out upon the park and that mysterious monument. The window was boarded up. A crisp, pungent odor hung about the entire apartment, like an old perfume, especially in the area of Finch’s desk by the window.
Finch’s desk is a raw wooden thing with an uncomfortable wooden chair tucked under it. A laptop lay off to the side, a portable typewriter next to it and a thick stack of graph paper sat in the middle of the desk; a fat blue fountain pen lay atop the paper. On the floor next to the desk were a half dozen shoe boxes, all stacked up. Sheets of paper were sticking out of the topmost shoe box. Endless dark scribbling filled the pages.
Inside were notes and unsent letters, all handwritten. I thumbed through them, found the one with the most recent date--last Tuesday--and plucked it out of the box. It was addressed to me.
“SAM! I can’t even describe today! Language fails. I’m not thinking rationally and I thought I could write this down but it’s hard to think. The stone, the words. I can’t. I need to. I need to eat and drink and think. I’ll continue, or start again later.”
The pages felt stiff, as if they’d been damp very recently and had hardened as they dried. The ink was smudged in places, and entirely scratched out in others, but was otherwise readable.
“I stopped. But then I started again. I’m calmed now but still a little freaked out. It just started raining. Rain and thunder. It’s not helping things. It’s like I can’t stop writing. Even when I can barely comprehend what I’m writing about. Strange landscapes, byzantine plot-lines, weird characters. Like nothing I’ve ever written before. A persistent whispering in my ear. I’m exhausted but I can’t close my eyes to sleep. Because I’m staring out at it. The monument. The orator. Sitting there among the trees. Auditing the discourse of the storm. I need to stop to write.”
I looked down at the packed shoe boxes, now gaining an inkling of what they contained.
“Okay, my thoughts are a bit more organized now. Maybe it’s because I did some writing, or maybe it’s because of the soothing sound of the rain on the window. This morning I decided to go to the park to see if I could find the obelisk. I was really excited, and an anxious vibrating energy filled me as I stepped out of the house. It was early morning, just before sunrise. The park isn’t that far so I decided to walk and enjoy the break of day and the cool morning air. The sun crested the horizon almost as soon as I left the house. Cool air and the warm sun on my face in the quiet of the morning. These are the things that make me happy.”
There were many lines scratched out here, and I needed to turn the paper over to get to the next legible sentence. I continued reading.
“I thought I was crazy at first, when I saw the road to the park. I felt like I’d been here before. I didn’t remember until I was standing there, but I knew that my mom brought me here as a kid! The memory is so vague, and just about the only thing I remember was the smell of wet leaves, the old white farmhouse sitting just off the road to the park, and some kind of large bird. As I explored the park further I found that I had no memories of the place.
It was empty. Not a shout or laugh. I wandered the paths for hours trying my best to line up certain landmarks in my head so I’d be able to find that stone. It was taller than the treeline, and I knew that it was beyond the squat grey water tower that I could also make out from my window, but beyond that I didn’t have a clue where it might be. I wasn’t afraid of getting lost, though thinking of it now, I should have been. And I did get lost, but I never once thought of giving up. If I had to spend the night among the scrub pines and wet trails to find the thing, then so be it.
But that wasn’t necessary. I happened upon one of the park rangers. He came wading out of the bushes with a dazed look on his face. He just sort of stumbled out onto the path, starry-eyed. His skin was sun-browned, his hair a deep orange wool. His eyes were a clear and sparkling green with a wet quality about them. Unblinking. He stared at me for a bit, like he was trying to understand what kind of animal I was. Then he asked if I needed assistance. Was I lost? His voice was accentless, save for a slight flattening of t’s, making them sound like d’s. I asked him if he knew of a the stone obelisk. I told him that I could see it from my window. That I wanted to see it up close. He scrunched up his face and I noticed the creased wrinkles that webbed his skin. He looked twenty years older just then. He shook his head and I thought he was going to run me off. Tell me to get out of the park altogether. But instead he turned and pointed off into the woods, the way he came.
I picked through the woods as the sun rose to its noon apex. There was the barest hint of a path, overgrown with ground ivy twisting among dead leaves. The trees, rotting in the cold, shivered above my head as their leafless fingers scrabbled at the sky, pleading for the sun who sat aloof in the heavens. I felt a kinship with those trees as I stumbled over roots and sodden dirt. I too was searching. Reaching and rooted to one spot. Static yet forever voyaging. In my mind I’ve been far and wide. Distant moons have felt my tread. I’ve seen the wonder and horror that the future holds. And the majesty and tragedy of the past. In my head I’ve walked the streets of Paris and the back alleyways of Rome. In life I’ve only ever been out of the country once. Always searching for life I’ve been missing. But life is all around us and the second you stop searching is the second you start living.
Or dying, maybe, too.”
There were more crossed out lines, these few scribbled over viciously and completely. I could make nothing out of them, except for the following line floating in a sea of black:
“In any case, I made it to the stone.”
© Tim Mucci, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tim Mucci with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.Photo credit: zeitfaenger.at @ flickr