An adventure in shades

Gordy encounters a creature at his aunt’s cabin and summons his friends to solve the mystery of the interrupted afternoon.

Author’s note: This story is written in all three viewpoint voices: Gordy, Mel, and H.D. respectively. It was a fucking pain in the ass and is a great example as to why I tend to write in detached third person now.

Our Modern Horrors

The sweetness of the afternoon was intoxicating and my pen moved with a renewed fluency, constructing bold towers of verse from the rough timber of my thought. I was truly at peace in my exile, my gently throbbing heart sang contentedly of the rain that sliced through the temperamental late March sunlight.

I was reclined in the sunroom of my aunty’s Rhododendron cabin — at my left hand was a decanter of the best brandy and my Alexander Pope anthology. The only way the environment could have been more conducive to creative energy is if I’d a sweet woman at my side to stimulate the more base element of my formative wits. It seemed that again reverie would have to replace the concrete — it was good luck that I’d such a prolific imagination.

It came to be that I was exercising my carnal figment when I first heard the tumult coming from the garage.

Initially, I resolved to ignore it. I had achieved the correct pressure and angle in my erotic endeavors and was hesitant to suspend the motion for a cryptic noise in a distant room.

Then I heard a melancholy wail carried upon the wind that wound itself around the protrusion of the sunroom and I fear I went quite limp in response.

“Fuck!” I called out, drawn out of my exercise. I wiped my hand on the leg of my pants, a decadent black faux velvet. The plush fabric puckered as the moistness worked into its fine fibers. I’d have to change my breeches before I was to interact with any proper human, but I cared little for the state of my pants when confronting whatever rogue thought it proper to interrupt the most delicious of all dalliances through such grievous trespass.

I gathered myself up and went into the claustrophobic utility room that joined the garage with the rest of the house. Once in that dreary alcove, I paused, pressing my ear to the door to further investigate the outcry.

At first I heard nothing, all was quiet. The only discernible sound was the buzzing of the ice chest.

I placed my hand upon the knob, the damnable interruption had unsettled me and I swear to you, reader, that I heard a sound like a child crying.

“It’s haunted!” I fell back, pressing up against the washing machine in recoil. I could not bring myself to believe that this modern sanctum of creative and natural energy would be tainted by something as ancient and unoriginal as an apparition. But the wail sounded again — so close! It was as if the creature was in the room with me, some monstrosity that straddled the dimensions, foul and betentacled with limbs that stretched between the realms of sanity and madness and drew them both closer together still!

I fumbled in my shirt pocket for my portable phone. My fingers were wet with perspiration as I agonized which of my friends would be best suited to counter the garage daemon.

Surely H.D. would declare me a fool and march right in there, quick to bring the situation to a climax; but I’d no doubt have to endure much criticism on his part, he was very cruel to me when I did not fit neatly into the parameters of his manliness.

Mel on the other hand, soft-spoken and scientific, would hang back, gather data and my weekend of leisure would come to an abrupt end as we spoke endlessly about every board in the house and any acoustic phenomenon that could possibly create such a noise.

My finger traced over a third option and although I didn’t feel it would be viable, the notion of hearing her voice was so tempting that I couldn’t resist.

“What in the fuck do you want?” She answered crossly on the third ring after five previous calls had gone to voicemail. “I would turn my phone off but I’m waiting on an important call.”

“Is not my call the most important of it all, my dearest darling?” I asked in a breathy affectation that I knew to be irresistible to women.

“Stop calling me, Gordon!” She spoke each word with an emphasis as if there was punctuation between them; but her game did not deter me.

“But my fairest flower, you see, I was hoping that you could assist me through a very trying situation that has my nerves quite unsettled.”

She did not respond but I could hear no dial tone, so I continued.

“There is some manner of ethereal being earthbound in my auntie Kathryn’s garage you see, and it interrupted my afternoon reverie.”

“Your what?” She demanded.

I was proud to have brought it up, “My, well, my time to think fondly of our love and romance myself.”

“Stop calling me.” She repeated, her tone crosser than before. I heard a click on the line.

“Dal, my love, the loveliest of all May’s blooms?” I asked after her, surely she wouldn’t have hung up upon the realization that I truly desired her, that there was no need to play further games to inspire my love.

But the line was dead and before I could ask again, I heard the tone.

“Must have been a bad connection.” I said, moving to dial again — but before I could, another call flashed across the screen.

I lowered my eyes, trying to calm myself back down, “To sleep.” I whispered, addressing the lower portion of my body, but I got no response until another wily caterwaul erupted from directly behind the door I faced. Then, my friends, I fear that the whole of my circulation had turned into a polar sea.

I quickly accepted that call, answering in a shaky voice.

“What is wrong with you now?” He demanded before even greeting me.

“I’m afraid I have a situation on my hands,” I answered, “There is some manner of creature trapped in my auntie Kathryn’s garage.”

He was quiet at first and then he laughed, “What kind of creature? An animal, a crackhead? I mean, how far out is Rhododendron? Surely not true wilderness, doubtlessly it lives on the disgusting fringe of our tiresome societal construct.”

As if in response, the creature cried out again, a petrifying moan that — for a few tense moments — stilled my heart and convinced me that I was of the spiritual world myself. Yet the terrifying sound was enough to convince H.D. that I had legitimate need for his assistance.

“I’m on my way,” He said in a clipped tone, “We’re leaving the cabin right now.”

“Why were you at the cabin? I thought there was a meeting?” I asked, referring to their insufferable philosophic circles that we hosted in our downtown bookstore.

He grumbled something that I could not understand and said goodbye before I could further argue. Leaving me in the low-light of the claustrophobic utility room with a creature that sang as it rubbed up against the other side of the door.

I felt a swoon coming on.

The Near-death of a Naturalist

It seems to me that many men, vigorous men — the types of men that it would be proper for a vigorous man like me to associate — ask me about my truck. People think it’s odd that a guy like me — a big wide-chested fellow with calves like ripe melons who quite obviously has the raw strength to pedal several hundred pounds beyond my own weight up even the steepest hill — would own a gas guzzling truck.

Yet it would appear that many of our neighbors here in one of the most educated cities in the country have ideological blindspots in their thinking. I argue that it is necessary to own a four-wheel drive vehicle in this very rugged part of our country, I also argue that regardless of if I personally buy it to burn or not, the oil that is currently out of the ground will be burned. It may as well be that the oil is propelling my truck, a silver-tone lifted F350 with camo print truck nuts suspended from the trailer hitch, into the wilderness where I can commune fully with nature and escape the bonds of our stifling modern society and its tiresome norms.

It was a bright day in late January when Gordon called upon me to retrieve him from the wilds and it struck me as quite appropriate that he should reach out to me in his time of need. My readers should note that when my friends and neighbors come into trouble in the wilds I am typically the first person they call and it is usual for me to drop whatever lively task I am employed in to come to their aid — it happened that Gordon had no need to initiate his plea as I heard the terror already in his voice. And while I should not usually obtrude my knowledge upon my friends, the entire community has come to depend up on me for my expertise in making the best of the wilderness.

Upon hanging up the phone I’d instructed Mel to ready himself for the task of assisting me. We had been enjoying the congress of nature and our virile masculinity in the Troutdale cabin when I was called upon to act.

“It’s just that I’m not ready to go yet, I won’t be ready for maybe twenty minutes still,” Mel told me, his dark eyes flickering up to my face nervously.

It always seemed to me that those eyes, however intelligent they may appear, were hidden behind a screen of wild untouched hair. It is unbecoming for a gentleman, I believe, to not properly groom himself and remove the savage hair from his chin and cheeks. I had explained this to Mel several times and had even instructed him in the proper way to remove hair from one’s face with a well-sharpened straightblade but he countered with an assertion upon the utility of the untidy growth in a tiresome tirade about the sea and winds and other natural phenomena we didn’t often see in the urban-wilds interface of temperate Portland, Oregon that eventually wound down to a lecture on the mathematical symmetry of a sperm whale’s head.

“It sounds to me as if he is in great distress and has some sort of wild animal trapped in the garage,” I told him, securing my flask to my belt so my hands were free to gather up my guns. “He is the last person who should be trifling with the wild. His blood is wine and his bones are glass. Should an animal get its teeth into him—”

“I’m telling you, I can’t move yet,” Mel appealed in a passionate voice, a deep blush spreading across his face as he spoke. He held his book in a very peculiar angle in his lap and seemed to blush deeper when my eyes fell upon it. I knew I had little time for this tireless exercise, at that very moment it could be that the knave Gordy had opened the door seeking out what he thought was a ghost or goblin only to come face to face with a bear or or wildcat.

“Well then, you will have to catch up on your own accord,” I asserted hurriedly. “It appears to be quite an emergency and I am not one to let those down who depend upon my expertise. Besides, I want to see the look on his stupid face when he sees the carcass of the animal I remove from the garage.”

Mel grimaced at me, “So this is just an exercise in ‘I told you so?’ You are rushing me—”

“I am not rushing you, friend. I am simply stating that I will not wait for you to come to your senses about the severity of this situation. My sister’s Vespa is in the lean-to, whenever you have prepared yourself for the day, you can join Gordy and I in Rhododendron. I daresay we shall be feasting on the meat of wild game tonight.” I’d taken the rest of my supplies up and filled my fatigue green duffel bag with an assortment of guns, ammo and liquor.

“I’ve not ever used a Vespa before, I don’t know that—” He began to argue.

“You have a phone, look it up. Exhaust yourself with it, as you do with so many other things,” I suggested, slinging the bag onto my shoulder.

He gave me a wry look, the thin line of his lips disappearing under the stomach-turning overhang of his shaggy and unkempt mustache.

“I will see you later,” I told him and turned to go, leaving him to his book without any further discussion.

I’d thrown the duffel in the back of my truck and peeled out of the icy lot with great dispatch, knowing that the time I made transversing the some 32 miles between Troutdale and Rhododendron could mean life and death for the helpless romantic fool that stood separated from an instinct-led killing machine by a flimsy door.

I navigated the icy streets with great haste — relishing in the advantage I had at the wheel of my truck. I was somewhere near the freeway when the road ahead of me hooked in a great unplowed curve edged up against a precipice that opened into a residential backyard below.

It was some mechanical failure, I fear, that caused me to lose control of the vehicle while negotiating this curve and my truck rolled, plunging over the edge of the hillside down into the yard below.

I braced for impact as I hurtled downward, grasping onto the seatbelt and tucking the toes of my boots under the pedals.

The top of my truck hit something hard enough, but not the ground — something that gave stiffly. I’d not even gathered my bearings or loosed myself from where I hung suspended upside down in my seatbelt, when the surface began to sink further and icy water pressed in through the various cracks and vents.

It appeared that I had landed in someone’s backyard pool.

The traumatic methodology of a final chapter in a hell trio narrative, or the many failings of Mel

He called me a shit-whale. It seemed to me that he was worse than he’d been when he left the cabin hours earlier — he hiccuped into the phone and wrestled with his tongue as he attempted to tell me what had transpired, but his haughty narrative was peppered with insults, insinuations and reproaches on my beard and my work; he slurred into the phone about my fixation on sperm whales, how anti-lock brakes were a myth and swore vehemently that he’d seen a giant bird of prey pass over the truck right before the impact.

“Impact?” I asked in a quiet voice, rousing myself from where I’d been lying in my cot. I fear I had been quite out of sorts in that moment — H.D. had left me in a terrible emotional state, willingly sacrificing our time of intimate camaraderie to dash off and act a hero to that fool Gordy; so it was, that I was sorting through Gordy’s belongings to find a toothbrush to press vindictively between the bisected bulk of my fanny cheeks, and I came across a pill bottle with one single blue disc rattling around within — the crushing depression that rode my heart like a vessel navigating an erratic sea whispered permission that I should take the pill, and so I did. I swallowed it and woke to the sound of the phone ringing in my ear with my blanket glued to my haunches.

“There was a mechanical failure, the truck flipped over a hillside and landed upside down in a pool,” He told me.

He could scarce expect me to hold my composure at a declaration like that — mechanical failure? On a day like this? What kind of fool does he think I am? I had taken his criticisms and kept my tongue mute, but it seemed to me incredibly silly the way he explained away flipping his truck into a pool on the grounds of mechanical failure; what manner of mechanical failure would cause a vehicle to flip over the edge of a roadway and land on it’s roof in a blinking swimming pool? I felt a flurry of giggles blustering through my midsection and I bit hard on my tongue to keep back the joy that was spilling over.

“Are you laughing at me?” H.D. demanded in a sharp voice.

“I apologize, sincerely, my dearest, dearest—” I broke into thicker peels of laughter, I could not control it. I fear that Gordy’s pill had pulled me out of myself and I was unable to control the urges my body produced; I sat the phone down on the cot and allowed the laughter to leave me, I knew no other course of action.

When I picked the phone back up, H.D. was quite cross with me and barked orders that I man the Vespa and get down to the scene of the accident. I reasoned that he must have accomplished some distance, knowing that I’d spent quite a leisurely afternoon entranced by Byron’s pill; so I made haste getting dressed while still pressing the phone to my ear to take in whatever actual information he edged in between the reproaches on my physicality, intelligence, interests, and sexuality.

“I’m quite sorry for laughing at you, my dearest friend,” I finally edged in, slipping my feet into my boots, “I am about to leave the cabin, where am I going?”

He mumbled directions in a soft voice and I was hardly sure I heard him correctly, “It sounds like you’re only blocks away.”

“Stop criticizing me and get over here. I have handled the issues with the police and paramedics, but Gordy remains in peril,” He ordered.

I agreed quickly and said my goodbyes, hanging up the phone before I could burst into that nervous ingratiating laughter again; I then locked up the cabin and went to the Vespa that slept in the lean-to against the building. It took me some time, and the help of my phone to figure out how to work the machine, but once I got it going, I secured the helmet to my head and was on my way to fetch H.D.

I picked him up at the other side of the property from where he’d wrecked, he shivered under a rough cotton blanket and cursed at me when he saw that I had brought him no change of clothes — I could not recall him saying that I was to bring him clothes; but perhaps he declared it when I was distracted by my own laughter.

So he kept the blanket and knotted it over the bulk of his shoulders like a cape — he said his thanks to his hosts and we left. He was disappointed with the pearl pink shade of the vehicle, as if somehow the hue of the machine cheapened his masculinity; with the fact that his hands were too cold to grip the handlebars, so he’d been delegated to the rear of the seat, forced to wrap his sinewy arms around the plump swell of my midsection; he was disappointed with the distance that we had to travel and with the position of the sun as we chased the winding pavement down the freeway and then toward Mount Hood — the majestic lady that hovered in the distance like a sleeping goddess.

He was offput by the whole endeavor, but I must say I was very pleased with my lot — I could even feel the beating of his heart as he leaned into my back and occasionally would feel the brush of his whiskers against the exposed skin on the back of my neck.

When we came upon the subdued structure owned by Gordy’s dear aunt Kathryn, it was nearly dark and H.D. was in a hurry to get off the vehicle, nearly rolling off of it before I could bring it to a full stop — but he stumbled forward and took up a gun that had been tucked into the wet leather of his boot pressing his finger into the loop of the trigger guard and bringing the weapon up against his chest in a dramatic pose as he neared the house.

“No, wait!” I called after him. He’d feigned being so concerned about Gordy, but going into the abode with a drawn firearm would likely send the fairhearted fellow into hysterics. I ditched the Vespa on its side in the snowy grass and broke into a run, chasing him up the front yard and into the house.

The house seemed dark and unoccupied and if it wasn’t for a strange noise that sounded like crying emanating from a distant corner of the structure — I’d have thought the place completely abandoned.

“Sounds like a coyote to me!” H.D. declared, moving forward through the living room with a gusto. I tried to keep pace with him as he hurried through the kitchen and the adjoining mudroom and utility room. It was there where his boot hit up against something that cried out in response.

I saw the muzzle flash as the firearm discharged pointed upward into the ceiling panels.

“What in the hell are you doing?” I demanded, reaching for the gun, but he moved away and stepped back, pointing it downward at whatever he’d stepped on.

Then I heard a low mumbling that preceded a gurgling sound.

“Stop!” I demanded, pushing the gun to the side. He groaned at me as I leaned over and pulled Gordy out of the shadows, “Put that gun away and help me.” I demanded. With little effort, the two of us moved him to the couch and laid him out as he began to come to.

“Ghosts, haunts, it’s terrible, so base, so terrible — it is not worthy of my mind, my great appreciation of beauty, something so stagnant, so old, so terrible!” He murmured as if the linguistic part of his brain had short-circuited and instead of fluid speech sent out staccato bursts of interrupted thought.

H.D. backed up and raised his firearm again, this time in response to a sound like the garage door was opening.

My eyes widened in response to the sound, “Gordy! Gordy! Please speak! Tell me, is your auntie supposed to be here tonight? I’m afraid someone has opened the garage door!”

“Don’t go! The garage, there are demons in there — unearthly things, ethereal things — things which interrupted my reveries in the most unkind fashion.” Gordy mumbled feverishly.

But H.D. was already on the move and our lithe and fearless hero shot out the front door, breaking into a run as he rounded the house toward the garage. We heard a series of shots fired, and I assumed it was over, that all was well — that he had rectified the terrifying situation. I turned back to Gordy, back to my task nursing our friend back to good health

Yet as Gordy roused himself, he pointed to a pair of French doors in the rear of the house. “I saw something, the ghost has shifted, moving toward the forest.”

“This is nonsense, Gordy.” I said crossly, getting to my feet. Yet for some foolish reason, I followed his directions and emerged through those doors into the cool of the evening.

In retrospect, seeking out Gordon’s ghost was a useless endeavor — while I am charmed by lore and mystery the same as any man, I am also a man of science and reason, and while my appreciation for fact and the illumination of mystery is apparent, men like Gordon are scarce moved by fact and men like H.D. are scarce aware of the necessity of fact when one does not attain said fact through manifesto or transcendence.

Gordy would rather live his entire live believing that the sirens are incarnate companions of goddesses and H.D. would live disinterested in the details of it all arguing simply that it all belongs to nature and we as well, as if the things he said were profound and not so very confusing; but I suppose I am not a man to criticize another for thinking in a confusing manner.

There were fresh tracks in the snow that covered the grass and I moved stealthily beside them, toward the treeline. I fear that the trauma which befell me in those woods is unspeakable, that fresh hell I will not rehash in this recollection as I feel it would do little to enlighten the reader upon the situation and would draw to the surface heinous memories that should leave me with night terrors and panic attacks. Suffice to say, I left those woods, having barely survived an encounter with a large wild cat and dragged my bleeding body toward the house with great effort, miserable and struggling to breathe through the constant drain of blood that ran down the back of my throat from my ruined nose.

I tramped into the sunroom just in time to be flagged down by a police officer who stood at attention next to the couch where Gordy continued to lie in a swoon.

“Are you okay sir?” She asked me, her brow furrowing in concern as she reached for her walkie.

“Mel! Oh Mel!” Gordy’s hand shot up from where he lie on the couch, “They’re about to take H.D. away.”

“Take H.D. away?” I asked in a gurgling voice.

The officer’s concern deepened and she began to speak into the communicator, but I brushed past her, brushed past Gordy who broke into an unfitting laughter, writhing on the couch like a worm in the grips of his hysteric fit; I could hear the garage door opening and closing with his movements — I’d not considered until that point that he’d been lying on the opener.

I heard him reproach me for my foolishness, I heard him say mockingly, “Curiosity killed the cat, didn’t it mate?” But I kept walking, pulling my feet grudgingly through the pile of the carpet, to the threshold of the door and looked out upon the scene in the front yard — H.D. was handcuffed and leaned against the hood of the police car, a bored looking officer plucked a cigarette from the edge of his lip as he broke into a smile upon seeing me.

“I see that our beast found you! Look officer, see, men of weak constitution are butchered by these beasts of the wild. See why I discharged my weapon? Why my gun was necessary? See what happens when you are more a quaking little girl than a real robust man armed to the teeth with the many guns your mother has gifted to you over years of Christmasses and birthdays?” He paused to spit in the snow, and I became aware that the stiff tendrils of his beard stood at attention in the chill of the wind as the substance of his expectoration caught in the hair nearest to the left side of his chin and promptly froze there — still I thought him beautiful. And the words stung more than the wind as I struggled to breathe.

I fear I ended that night in a swoon myself — but cannot recall anything after that moment.