House on Darque Hill Enigma 1
A Psychological, Gothic, & Existential Thriller
Richard Kerry Holtzin
WHICH IS MORE REAL: THE WAKING OR THE DREAM?
THE MYSTIFYING JOURNEY BEGINS
"In a vision of the dark night, I have dreamed of joy departed ––
But a waking dream of life and light hath left me broken-hearted."
(Edgar Allan Poe)
“Jesus H. Christ! What the hell is that?” There was no response. I felt my legs jerking and body thrashing on the floor. Something or someone was on top of me. I asked in an alarming tone of voice, “What. . .what are you doing? It feels like you’re trying to. . .Wait; are you trying to strangle me? It feels like you are, goddamn it.” There was still no response but then it felt whatever or whoever it was on top of me got closer to my face and was about to bite my neck. I could smell the stench of his breath and heard gnashing sounds. I resisted and pulled away. But it was no use: something or someone was about to puncture my flesh and I couldn’t finish the thought. Instantly, I forced my upper body upward, then rolled over and stood up. Feeling my heart violently beating in my chest, I still didn’t know where I was or who attacked me and do the unthinkable. I had the urgency to flee. “But where?” I asked out loud; “and what the hell is this room I’m in––a bedroom. . .my bedroom? No, it can’t be. Run! RUNNNNNN as fast as you can. Leave this evil place. Hurry. Hurry. I’m in danger. No, hold on. I remember something. . .something chased me in here. Yes, but this isn’t my bedroom. This is. . .This was. . . Wait, wait. Please. There’s something else about this place. Okay, now I remember: something horrid shadowed and chased me and that’s how and why I ended up in this dismal place. butt where is that hideous creature now––unholy creature from hell?”
After that explanation to myself, I screamed loudly, “Help! HELP ME, someone. Anyone. Please. Help!”
No sooner did I step into a dark pool of shadows and ponder my next move, when suddenly I felt myself fling forward again. Strangely, this time I wasn’t standing on a floor. Instead, my upper body was leaned against something soft and my feet touched the floor. I was confused about everything, and yet the images were real. So were the sensations and intensity of what transpired. But then, something or someone reached out and forced me backward on a seat that felt like it was covered with velvet. There was also a door with a dark, opaque window beside me. I felt jarring movements and it felt as thought the seat was moving. “No,” I exclaimed, “it isn’t that. I’m in some kind of a compartment that’s bouncing in all sort of directions and at the same time. Yes, that’s it. I’m a passenger in a vehicle and someone’s driving the damn thing. Okay, that makes sense but who’s driving? And why am I here and where am I going––where are we going?”
There was no response to anything I said out loud or thought to myself. I then added to the bizarre monologue, “The driver seems to be in a hurry. Am I okay? AM I OKAY, as in safe?”
By now, I wasn’t sure how much time had passed, that is assuming there was the element of time. Given my vexing ordeal, I was not only confused but spooked and wary. Neither did I comprehend the odd thought that came to me. Then again, I was cognizant I may have fallen asleep and dreamt everything that transpired thus far. Moreover, the graphic dream––again, if it was a dream–– was intense. It was also tangible in every sense, leaving a lingering and macabre recollection charged with unnerving emotions. But then I was awake, more or less awake, dealing with post-effects of a feigned nightmare. Presented with this latest insight, I smiled and was almost relieved of the tension and fear that had overwhelmed me. Whatever happened certainly got my attention; at least, physically I was alerted to a growing sense of danger and panic. Mentally, however, I was disoriented and confused about most everything. My senses were also sluggish to respond to the tenseness of the situation. In fact, I couldn’t be sure where I was given my so-called awakened state, except it seemed my earlier thought was correct: I was a passenger in someone’s vehicle, recklessly speeding on a rough road and a bleak moonless and starless night. The sensation was uncomfortable, and, to the point, I could barely stay in the seat.
“A moonless and starless night?” I whispered; “how would I know that? I know what a moon is and I know about stars, but why did I say such a thing? And is the driver even aware we might crash at any instant? Is he deranged or something?”
As before, there was no response to the telling, passing thoughts and observations that came and went, almost routinely. Just then, the vehicle abruptly hit something, then I felt a sinking sensation immediately followed by a simultaneous bounce. The repercussion pivoted us sideways, first to the right, then quickly to the left, then back to center. Fortunately, the driver regained control, then continued driving as before––reckless and utterly unconcerned about the danger.
Fine-tuning my hearing, and still waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, I couldn’t tell how fast we were going, but sliding erratically in the seat while trying to maintain balance confirmed the fact he was driving too damn fast on a derelict road and headed into unrelenting blackness. “Moonless and starless, indeed!” I murmured. Reaching down and gripping the seat on both sides, I tried to keep my body from flinging forward, backward, and sideways, and sometimes experiencing all three jarring movements at the same time, but it was no use. The road was too pitted, too bumpy, and too rutted for the driver to maintain the semblance of control, and yet he somehow kept the maladroit vehicle moving ahead. I listened to the thumping wheels reacting to the deep, uneven furrows on either side of the vehicle. Likely, those impressions kept us careening down the hand-packed thoroughfare. Otherwise, the observation was moot and not academic.
In a pleading tone of voice, I asked myself, Hearing the pounding tires, does he even care if there might me a precipitous blowout and possibly a crash? If so, what then? As before, there was no response. Unable to see too far beyond the large windshield and headlights too weak or dim to illuminate the curtain of the night, I cursed my eyesight and torpid mental faculties that provided no insight, no clue, much less any prior information about what had transpired and put me in the quandary I was in, and apparently no way to solve the bizarre riddle. I was still too groggy, too confused, and perturbed to overcome the spell of drowsiness that kept its grip on my senses. And so, the violent ride continued, as did faint noises in the background or the louder thumping coming from beneath the wheel wells. It was also peculiarly quiet inside the driver’s vehicle, just as he kept to himself.
Losing patience with the ongoing drama, I blurted out, “Okay, OKAY. I’m tired of this shit. Where the fuck am I? And who is the goddamn maniac driving this heap?”
I had risked everything, even an encounter with the driver, by making the intentional declaration, merely to engage the driver come what may. But, again, there was only an awkward silence. And then, something new came to me––I couldn’t remember my name. It also followed I didn’t know who the driver was or anything about his purpose and nature. Next, my perfunctory, though disquieted thoughts were immediately directed elsewhere, starting with a sharp pain in my neck and upper back muscles. It occurred to me that I must have fallen asleep and did so in an awkward position. Attempting to straighten my posture, the front wheels slammed into another deep rut or pothole. The chassis slammed down hard, followed by a high bounce that made me think we were airborne, only to abruptly make contact with the road again.This time, I had had enough of his and my dramatics and was about to say something and tell the driver to either slow down or stop, then let me out of whatever contraption he was driving. However before I could say anything, a queer image appeared in my head––a ghoul-like figure was on top of me with its bony fingers around my neck. No sooner did the image appear when it instantly faded. And then I heard a terrifying falsetto resonance, like a wolf’s slow and sustained baying, then followed by silence. I had no explanation for what just came and went in my head, except I had a notion I might still be dreaming and only thought I was awake. At that point, I was beyond being confused and afraid. As an emotional reaction, it was as though I was trapped between two different dimensions or realities, yet not wanting to enter either scenario and not willing to remain where I was. “Yes, but do I even have a choice one way or the other?” I whispered those words and waited for a response.
Pondering what just happened, either as a flashback or something altogether real and worrisome, my eyes began to flutter. I then saw part of the vehicle’s interior. Afterward, I sniffed at the air and caught a scent that reminded me of crushed velvet. Continuing to sniff at the dank, musky odor, I asked myself, I think I know what that aroma is. So, is it a car or truck this weirdo’s driving? Maybe it’s a van of some sort or a panel truck? Well, does it even matter what the hell he’s driving and where in the hell this fucker is taking me? I’m screwed no matter what; at least, until I regain my memories my personal history and maybe even his. And what the hell was that thing that I thought was on top of me? Where did it go, if it was even real?
The dark veil of night that concealed everything from view, including most of the interior of the mysterious make and model of the vehicle, slowly lifted. For the first time, I noticed a modicum of faint yellow lights emanating down and to my left. But what happened to whoever or whatever it was that was just on top of me, I couldn’t say. I could still hear the echo of a nightmarish and thoroughly intimidating sound in my head. Only then did I remind myself it was what I couldn’t hear that was more intimidating: air rushing by the window on my right and sometimes a sounds of sliding wheels across hard-packed dirt when the driver temporarily lost control of the vehicle. Why I didn’t relate to the sound before, I couldn’t say. Apparently, my sense of hearing was, in fact, returning, as was my eyesight, if only partially. Then again, what I had already experienced generated more concerns and questions, yet there were no reliable answers or insights given the entirety of the situation. Neither did the driver volunteer to say anything. Instead, I was aware of an intimidating profoundness given the wild and chaotic transport in progress. I was also an unwilling passenger in an unknown vehicle driven by an unknown driver, and an unknown purpose much less a destination.
Not wanting the driver to hear my arguable analysis of the predicament, I muttered in a barely audible tone of voice, Perhaps the most frustrating part of this worrisome quandary is the fact there isn’t so much as a simple pronoun that could tell me something about who I am. . .or was. Not even a clue to an abiding mystery that appears to hold my fate in the balance. Thus, the “I” of me and my egoic mind is woefully missing!
Once again, I attempted to sit up and straighten my posture. I was sore and worn out and it felt as though I went one too many rounds with a boxer in a ring. I also knew what a boxer was and what the metaphor implied and thought to myself, A boxer in a ring, is it? Well, no dream could possibly be so lurid and make me feel this fatigued and sore. I then assumed that I had to be awake, yet something kept me from being fully conscious. I was plainly out of sorts with everything, starting with the missing pronoun. Confronting the situation, I continued my mental dialogue and stated, Then go back to my dream. Start from the beginning, then move forward and pick up the lost engrams; those vital, missing details I sorely need, starting with who I am, as a name and personality, and what caused an obvious relapse and loss of memory?
Pausing to consider what I pleaded with myself to try and resolve, first, I assumed it was indeed a palpable nightmare that I had, which, accordingly, made me think I was about to get murdered by a fiendish ghoul. But then the ghoul or whatever it was disappeared, and so did the room where the attack too place. Second, only then did I awake into the present and equally confounding scenario that made me think I had escaped. Considering that insight, I said out loud, “Yes, but where did I escape to?” Realizing I broke the silence, and wondered what the driver thought, I focused on the dim yellow dashboard lights, then lifted my head and followed the equally dim yellow lights of the headlights. Turning my head, I glanced at the driver but could not discern his figure because he was cloaked in a heavy recess of shadows. Still, he was there, covert, and so far, still reticent to say anything one way or the other. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. The reality or assumed reality of the situation remained as before: a bewildering and fearsome mystery that upset me, and, to the point, I felt I was ready to confront him about the situation. I merely tolerated his ruse, if that was the right word to describe his pretense and silence. Then again, that disabling and true to life image of something appalling that captured me was somewhere lurking in my mind even if I couldn’t see the image as I saw and experienced earlier. Whatever it was that had captured me, by now, it had burrowed itself deeper into my subconscious. If the lingering impression was intended as allegorical, then I could deal with that psychological problem later. For the present, and despite the muddled state of mind I was in, the key to both scenarios––real and imaginary––was also locked in my subconscious. Consequently, if I was going to comprehend the before, during, and whatever is next to follow, I needed to break through the impasse.
Meanwhile, there I was––there we both were––the strange driver and the even stranger me mentally subdued. We were most assuredly going somewhere in a hell of a hurry, the destination and reason unknown. My neck and upper back muscles still hurt and the shadowy, dank interior of the vehicle, as well as the bleakness of night we penetrated, did not bode well for me. Given the sense or premonition that I had, none of what was happening was nominal. I felt similarly about the unfolding grim scenario I faced. Even worse, there was something suspicious that told me I already experienced this ongoing dismal reality. Déjà vu came to mind but I didn’t know what the expression meant.
The ghastly journey continued as before. The words Dominus vobiscum echoed in my mind and I had no idea what that phrase meant, either.
☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎
Realizing it was not possible to know how much time had passed since I awoke, a sense of time was indeed missing. I could, however, sense distance because the rough-riding vehicle was manifestly pummeling down a backcountry road of sorts, whose environs and scenery in all directions remained concealed by darkness. Although my senses were slow to respond to any stimuli, even minimal cognitive awareness bolstered to me to continue my observations, starting with the anticipation I would eventually regain full consciousness. Leaning forward, I watching the probing yellow luminescence mere feet in front of the vehicle, with the hope the void we passed through would yield a recognized sign of civilization––a road sign, a gas station, neon lights. Any sign would suffice and might break the impasse of memory and recall. Given this encouraging impression, my scrutiny intensified. My sense of hearing such that it was also increased. I leaned closer to the dashboard, bracing myself with both arms. The steady sound of protesting shocks, springs, and thumping tires added to the apprehension. I still couldn’t be sure if the seeming runaway vehicle could last too much longer before it suddenly careened off the road and crashed. Likewise, the secondary concern was as before: given the ratio of speed and distance traveled, the probing yellow glare of headlights was ineffective. Thus, an ostensible gulf of nothingness we drove through epitomized a black hole and we had since crossed the terminator of a temporal event horizon. Like the other notions that I pondered, there was also something nagging and curious about this metaphor and I couldn’t decipher the cryptic meaning of this latest outré perception.
“A temporal event horizon?” I whispered. Sitting back in the seat, I focused on this small scrap of teasing knowledge and I may have just discovered part of the mystery and suspense where I was going. I then went silent and asked, Temporal posits time as opposed to the eternal. It follows that maybe I was or still am a resident in both dimensions. And what if there is an emergency and the driver is taking me to a hospital? Is that it?
As soon as that riveting thought passed, I exclaimed out loud, “A hospital? I’m going to a hospital and this person, whoever he is, is taking me there?” The question was conceptual, but if I was right, then my reasoning would explain almost everything that had transpired up to this point, including the loss of my memories. One teasing thought led to the other and I responded to that declaration, Yes, that makes sense. there may have been an accident, and I may have injured myself. Consequently, something happened to my brain, which is why I can’t remember anything. And maybe I was in a car crash and the stranger came along, saw me on the side of the road or something, then put me in this contraption. Now he’s taking me to a hospital. Is that it? IS THAT IT?
I pleaded with myself to confirm the supposition that made sense but there was no answer. Instead, there were more questions following questions, yet no answers to satisfy anything that based on the scenario that might explain the conundrum, as well as consequences if I was injured and going to a hospital. Finally, I began to relax, but only slightly while thinking or assuming the driver may have rescued me. Nevertheless, I remained guarded because I had no idea how badly injured I was, again, if there was an accident, and if I was being transported to a hospital. My lapsed memories and reticent recall of the past only amplified the tense situation underway.
What soon followed these probing thoughts and possible answers to my dilemma was another possibility that might also be closer to the truth: I had passed out from drinking too much alcohol! Like all the other explanations, this rationale came out of nowhere, yet there was modicum of relief that also issued. Thus, I was not injured as I had thought or assumed. Instead, I was inebriated and the driver was taking me home. “Home?” I said out loud; “yes, but what if he’s taking me to jail, instead? For that matter, maybe I’m riding in a paddy wagon and the damn driver is a cop! Shit. Now what?”
Intrigued, though, nonetheless, befuddled by possible reasons I thought might explain what happened to me, my inability to ascertain anything with any certainty added to the suspense. Moreover, and given what each scenario posed, even a hunch was cognitively debilitating. I muttered as a follow-up to this latest analysis, “And shit just about says it all!”
The longer I slouched in the seat, the more I sensed there was yet another possibility why the foreboding dream continued to intimidate me: I was still trapped between two cognitive realms––the subconscious and the conscious. As a tentative response to this latest explanation, I whispered, “So, maybe I’m experiencing a hypnagogic state of mind?” If this proved to be the case, for the first time that I sensed I was, in fact, awake, and yet disoriented. Nevertheless, I may have just confirmed the suspicion. Steadily, the missing elements of my predicament were slowly and surely coming together. Accordingly, I had to be patient and not force the memories to unleash en masse. Instead, various and individual engrams of recall would return the vital information locked inside, but only when my thoughts were clarified and the confusion diminished.
For the present, more fragmented images, even traces of emotional attachment conveyed by these picture representative, prodded my introspection and analysis. What each image represented, I couldn’t say, except focusing on clarity, as opposed to confusion, was the patent objective. Furthermore, the longer I sat and pondered the inexplicable nuances that occupied my thoughts, the persistent frustration I felt vied for my patience and discipline. Despite the conjectural and speculative feedback, it followed how I had to find a way to concentrate and defeat a brain and its mental works that couldn’t decide on plan of action to resolve my plight. Therefore, opting for a satisfying defensive cognitive response.
Concentrating on recalling what I thought I had experienced, first, I recalled being in a shadowed corridor and someone or something pursued me. But then I awakened into a different scenario, and whatever was in the room with me faded from sight, then altogether vanished. Second, I later awoke in a different environment, therefore, sensing I was inside a vehicle of some unknown make and model. Someone was driving and didn’t appear to be concerned about speeding or the deteriorated condition of the road. At times, the vehicle slide sideways, then straightened out, rushing forward into a feigned subway of darkness. Third, realizing I was in danger, and the driver would lose control at any instant, I tried to protect myself, yet all I could do was cling to a velvet-covered seat and wait for whatever was about to happen. Inexplicably, I felt physically and mentally disconnected from myself. Either I was trying to escape from my corporeal mass or I was returning, but returning from where I had no idea. The sensation also brought with it an awaking from a deep sleep, yet not being fully awake.
Just then, I listened to a familiar sound, a faint mechanical sound, but there was no reference. Then it came to me––it was the mechanical resonance of an engine, a car engine, and the rpm’s were getting higher. I could feel the acceleration and the punishing effects of driving fast on a rough road. But the driver didn’t seem to care. He just drove fast and reckless, as though he was in a hurry to get somewhere.
After this latest observation, I asked myself, What does any of these impressions or recollections have to do with tea in China? Whatever that phrase meant or where it came from, I had no idea. But I did comprehend the fact sensory data was starting to function more nominally, though slowly. Then again, I still could not force my brain to divulge more pertinent information until the full thrust of my mental faculties coalesced and provided me with concrete facts, as opposed to speculation. In the meantime, here I was. . .here me and the driver were, who continued driving like the proverbial bat out of hell. I had no idea what that expression meant, either, except I had sense enough to know the difference between injury or death from mere threat. I surmised the only thing I could do about such an impending predicament was try and stay in the seat and brace myself against the dashboard. Then again, without a much less a shoulder hardness, I likely would be ejected from the vehicle.
I though to myself, A seatbelt? A shoulder harness? I know what this safety equipment mean, and what about an airbag, all standard in modern vehicles? What is it that I know about these things? Then another idea came to me and wondered if I wasn’t riding in a vehicle as I thought or assumed. Instead, I was inside a closet. Perhaps I may have been locked in a trunk, a very large trunk, but, nonetheless, a stationary enclosure of confinement. I added to this notion, Shut the hell up! Maybe I’m in denial about the fact I really was injured and the driver is taking me to a hospital.
If that thought or suggestion wasn’t bad enough, the next thought was far worse: I may have had a transient ischemic attack or perhaps it was a myocardial infarction!
Abruptly shouting, “A stroke? Wait a minute. . .I had a goddamn stroke or a heart attack?” I wasn’t knowledgeable about either medical term but I was keen enough to know what was implied by one or the other. This latest clue, if that was what just entered an ongoing stream of consciousness, was potent enough to rouse me from the nagging mental stupor I was in, which gave way to renewed mental energy. Instantly, I sat up and leaned forward, my hands touching the dashboard’s polished wood. Probing the stationary shadows around me, I concentrated on the metallic din of the engine that revved, then retarded, depending on the driver’s action at any instant. For the first time, I also felt a cold draft. In fact, I heard a distinctive sound of something oscillating in the background. Perhaps it was the heater, except it was cold air that assailed me and felt like air-conditioning. Also, it wasn’t the vehicle that I fixated on––it was the residual and brooding thought that I did, in fact, experience a stroke or maybe it was a heart attack. If so, how would the driver know this, if indeed he was taking me to the hospital?
Wanting to know why he continued ignoring me, I angled my body and turned slowly to the left. Before breaking the taut silence between us, I gazed into the shadowy recesses. For the first time, I was not so much intimidated about his presence and purpose driving the vehicle but curious what he looked like. Except for his gaunt outline, I couldn’t discern anything about his facial appearance. Even sitting, I could tell his stature was huge and it seemed this puzzling figure I stared at was bent over or malformed. With the feeble yellow lights on the instrument panel that barely illuminated the driver, he grasped the large steering wheel, constantly turning left or right while compensating for the constantly shifting and sliding motion of the vehicle. Despite how close we were to one another, the distance between us somehow seemed exaggerated. Moreover, I thought maybe it wasn’t a station wagon or panel truck after all.
I then thought to myself, So, am I a hapless passenger riding in a limousine of some sort; an older model, say, the 1950s? Although it didn’t matter to me what he was driving, the fact that I remained helpless to do anything about the aggravating situation was my main concern. And if I wasn’t aware of it before, I finally realized the stress of the drama also brought with it a gripping emotional reaction––trepidation and an unrelenting sense of existential angst. Although I understood the gut feeling of fear, I didn’t comprehend the latter sentiment. I then said or thought to myself, Existential angst, is that it? If so, what the hell does that mean or convey?
Turning my head the other way, I looked out the front window. The windshield was two separate panels and at the end of the hood the front of the vehicle came to a pronounced point. On either side, two large headlights were on either side of the wide hood. For their size, the lights barely illuminated the darkness. Oddly, they reminded me of a dragon and I knew what that word meant. Glancing back at the taciturn driver, only he knew our location and where we were going. For all I knew, we could be driving across the vast emptiness of the Mohave Desert; traveling headlong on some godforsaken backroad.
Yes, but how do I know or assume this? I heard the voice in my head and it was a salient question. I responded, What about a Heather moorland? I recall something about my being there at some time in the past. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have thought of such a place or the Mohave Desert, would I? There was no response. No longer did that thought pass when I felt the vehicle lunge forward. Now that I posed the question it seemed the driver could read my mind and suddenly the vehicle accelerated. Still, he said nothing, and as far as I knew, he never even looked at me.
Along with everything else I was confronted with, the pervasive gloom and darkness we drove into added to the pique, curiosity, and apprehension that dumbfounded me. I couldn’t ascertain why I even thought this, but it seemed to me I was presented with another metaphor to try and solve. To what end, I had no clue. Besides, I was stymied by everything that came and went into my beleaguered mind. Moreover, I was too preoccupied with that shrouded, incognito landscape beyond the windows, yet not too concerned with the immediate surroundings. Thus, there might be something of an inkling that would finally release my mind from its slumber, then reveal something, even more, pivotal; that is, as an enticement to resolve. Scrutinizing the surrounding environs, and followed by another search of the vehicle’s interior, something snared my attention in the rear compartment: I thought I saw what appeared like a long, oblong container. There were no seats back there and I wondered what was inside that anomalous object. Obviously, the thought was rhetorical. Still, I felt compelled to ask the driver if he knew about the consignment behind us. If he commented one way or the other, we would, at least, communicate and break the taut silence between us.
In the interim, an ostensible state of amnesia continued to vex me more than the intimidation, secrecy, and purpose why I was in the vehicle with a driver who appeared to have only one purpose in life: driving me to some unknown destination. Then I came up with another possibility why my mind was sluggish: I may have been drugged. If so, that cause and effect malady would also explain the confusion given my impeded state of mind. It then occurred to me that perhaps the driver might have drugged me. That thought or suggestion also got an instant reaction. I whispered, “If that’s true, then I am his prisoner and he is my captor!” Hearing no response to the query, the floodgates of apprehension opened wider. I had the distinct impression I was not only powerless to change the situation, as was the case all along, but I was also in grave danger. Consequently, and, for the first time, I feared for my life.
After the latest barrage of thoughts let loose, I needed to find answers to the abiding mystery. Neither could I wait until the fog lifted in my brain and my cognitive faculties were restored. Regardless what happened to put me into such a state of mind, I needed to confront the driver about my suspicions, as well as know his reason for ignoring me all this time. Then, when I tried to speak, my mouth and throat were too dry to say anything, other than emit faint, hoarse whisper. It was as though I hadn’t spoken in a long time. Wetting my lips, and allowing the saliva to work its way into my mouth before trying to speak again, I turned my head spoke to the driver, asking in a barely audible tone, “What is going on? Where are you taking me and why am I your captive? I mean, if that should prove to be the case?”
The shallow, raspy voice I heard come out of my mouth seemed ghostlike and barely recognizable. What I said and demanded also sounded different this time. It was as though I wasn’t inside the vehicle and spoke to him from somewhere far away. The silence continued and there was no response. Neither did he turn and look at me; not even for a second. I assumed he didn’t hear me and I asked again, “Mister, whoever the hell you are, I’m talking to you. Where am I? Why am I riding in this contraption?” I then hastened to add, “And you drive like a fucking maniac, besides.”
Since I had a sense time had slowed down or altogether stopped, I counted my breaths until and if I got a response. After ten or so deep inhalations, then breathing out, he still didn’t answer. When I asked a third time, my request was more demanding. This time, I raised my voice and called out, “Do you even hear anything that I am saying to you?” Again, the driver kept his eyes forward and said nothing. The monologue returned and I said to myself, Okay. Either he’s a rude son of a bitch or he’s deaf and dumb as a post. I was about to find out one way or the other when I felt the vehicle accelerated. If intended as a response, his actions puzzled me, especially noticing the already eroded thoroughfare had worsened and was more sinuous. When I mentioned this latest concern, I didn’t care if he heard and acknowledged what I had to say because it was the apparent neglect of my safety that frightened me, not his. I stated, “Mister, will you please slow down! You’re driving too fast and this whatever it is you’re driving can’t take too much more of this punishing road. Do you hear me? SLOW THE FUCK DOWN! For God's sake, please slow down, okay?”
Even the acute disquiet and anxiety that I sensed was not met with a reply, civil or otherwise. Instead, the defiant driver seated across from me continued driving like a psychopath. I wondered if he think the velocity of the vehicle was invincible and the same with both of us. Down the road we accelerated. The limousine or whatever model it was sometimes skidded sideways on the start of a series of curves that reflected the changing topography of the landscape, yet he never slowed down. Either he was deaf or oblivious to the danger or both.
Given the limited visibility beyond the windows, for the first time, the headlights scantly illuminated a homogenous environs as dreary as it was disheartening to see that stark landscape on either side of the road. I thought the dark side of the moon must have had more features than the naked and bleak terrain we passed. Retrieving this comparison from a mind that ostensibly had some knowledge about a lunar orb, both noteworthy and prosaic, the remark that came to me gave up nothing more than the usual isolated pieces of information and puzzling aspects I sat and pondered all this time, yet nothing essential directly correlated to the misery of such drab scenery. Indeed, I was also still convinced the driver had commandeered me and there was no feasible escape plan; at least, my being locked inside a speeding vehicle and a heedless driver.
This is nuts! I said and shouted to myself. Pausing, and wondering if he could hear me, I added, It’s as though I don’t even exist. The longer this rude and dangerous excursion continues, the more I”m convinced something is awry and FUBAR, whatever that means. Certainly, something’s not right with this confounded mess I’m in. By now, I should have regained some of my person history, some or all of my lost memories, and anything else that would tell me why I’m here, where I’m going, and what or who put me here in the first place. Turning to look at the driver who continued staring straight ahead, I said, “Mister, what the hell happened to my life but can’t remember anything about my past? Can’t you say something one way or the other? You’re so goddamn uncivil. Do you know what that means? And you’re annoying. Bet you know what that means.”
The questions I posed sort of made sense to me. Then again, without a way of knowing essential details about my past it was impossible to draw any conclusions one way or the other. Moreover, there was nothing for me to do, except wait until I regained control of my cognitive awareness and sense of time past, present, even the future. Starting to shiver, I had another excuse to bother the driver and cried out, “Can you turn on the damn heater? It feels like a morgue in here. I’m shivering and need to warm my body.” Waiting for a response, I wasn’t surprised by his customary silence. I then took it upon myself to find the temperature controls. Leaning toward two round, yellow lights on the instrument panel, I was cautious and careful not to touch the driver. Feeling a knob, I turned it to the right and heard a click. But the only other sound I heard was the wind buffeting the vehicle. Apparently, the heater fan was not working. Below the knob, I felt a lever and moved it to the right. Waiting for the warm air to flow through the vent, it was still cold. Maybe it wasn’t the heater switches I thought I operated. About to ask the driver if he would turn on the heat, out of the blue I thought of a name. It was also a name I heard before. In fact, it was mentioned by the ghoul that captured me in the dream. Either I was recalling another fragment of that frightening scenario or it was my name that I heard––Spiritus Mortuorum. I muttered to myself, “Spiritus Mortuorum? Is that my name––Spiritus Mortuorum? What the hell kind of a name is that? If that is my name, then were are the corresponding memories?
In that instant, whatever passed in my thoughts that sounded like a name, and possibly my name, I had something new to figure out. I turned and said to the driver, “Spiritus Mortuorum. So, is that my name? I’m having trouble remembering anything at this point.” Once more, the vehicle slammed hard on its chassis and rocked violently, swerved hard to the left, then recovered from the skid. I shouted, “Listen to me––Are you trying to kill me or both of us? Sure as hell makes me think you are. Slow down. Please. Maybe you’re ready to croak but I’m not.” After that outburst, I whispered, “That is unless. . .” but didn’t finish the sentence because I didn’t want to consider a possible implication.
Again, I plundered my mind to surrender its secrets, especially knowing something about the odd-sounding name that supposedly defined me as a member of the human race. And yet there was something vaguely familiar about the name or its meaning; something I once heard in church. Even that inviting insight was confusing because I had no memory association with such a place. Dealing with the exasperating loss of misplaced memories was one thing while knowing what was still to come was quite another. Nevertheless, it was the past that I deemed more important to recollect. Once I made a connection with that phase of my life, then it was a given the present would also be clarified, including why I was a passenger in an ominous stranger’s vehicle and transported into the future.
Just then, I thought I saw the stranger turn his head and look at me, but he turned the other way and faced the steering wheel. It was the second time I had the feeling he not only could hear my thoughts, but knew all the details and incidental information I struggled to remember. I responded to that private sentiment and stated, “If that is my name that came to me, then should I be afraid and am I really in danger? Yes, but how can I escape this murderous ghoul who seems intent on doing just that––murder us both by crashing this vehicle?” Pausing, I quickly added, “Wait. Did I just say ‘murderous’ and ‘ghoul’ in the same breath? Why in God’s name would I use such words?”
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