House on Darque Hill Enigma 3
HOUSE ON DARQUE HILL ––
A Psychological, Gothic, & Existential Thriller
Richard Kerry Holtzin
Backstory: If you are new to this series, please read the PREAMBLE. That information is what this posting is all about. This novel was drawn from a short story I wrote in the mid-1980s entitled “SKYE KEEP.” The longer subtitle reads: A Quirkish Novel about a Haunted House, a Charming Cat, Romance in the Rockies, the Georgetown Loop Railroad, and Small-Town Politics” (For the synopsis, view this URL: https://amzn.to/2Vbr1BH A larger rough draft of the manuscript followed years later.)
THE OTHER ROAD LESS TRAVELED
"I have been a stranger in a strange land."
Knowing only minor details about the major aspects of the seeming perpetual mystery I was part of, the little that I did discern was enough insight that made me afraid of the inner darkness where I hid. I was also just as afraid of the outer darkness. The mask of night concealed almost everything from view and the anonymity of the sterile-looking landscape was all the more disheartening. Merely to sit and watch such grim and monotonous scenery immobilized me, and, to the point, I was unable to empower myself to override the utter pessimism that satiated my cognitive faculties. That flat and tiresome backdrop I stared at perfectly described the melancholy of an imperfect and undistinguished landscape. Even worse, was the fact I was evidently incarcerated in a vehicle with the strangest creature I thought I had ever had the displeasure to encounter. The ghastly vacuum of space we shared, as well as the uneasy silence of the chauffeur, bailiff or whatever his purpose served was unnerving and exasperating to endure.
Balling myself into a fetal position, my legs tucked under my torso, I scanned the misery of the homogenous panorama that lined my side of the road. The gloomy, lifeless environs mirrored the way I felt inside. Pondering that solemn reflection, I thought the parody was remarkable beyond an ostensible coincidence suggested by that observation. As before, I could do nothing but pray and hope I would eventually get a lucky break and end the charade or whatever I was part of, and, of course, without my volition. But telling or teasing myself with such encouraging and surprising outcome did not lighten the psychological load I conveyed. Not in the least. Consequently, I felt like a whore in church and decided the pretense of being penitent about anything didn’t appear to matter too much one way or the other. Whatever was lost in my past, either temporary or permanent, made me think there had to be a connection that I had, thus far, overlooked; something that I should or should not have done that led me to this exceedingly long and endless moment in time, for that is how the measure of felt to me––exceedingly long and endless. Were it not for the ongoing uncomfortable ride and the changing direction of the road threading its way through a somewhat torturous topography, it would not amaze me to later learn that, all along, I was a doomed passenger interned inside a vehicle in the guise of a time machine, only stuck in neutral. However, what time period I was in defined the truly unknowable, as did my location.
The despondency of this somewhat plausible exposition made me wonder why I had previously beseeched God or angels to help wrest me from the serious plight I was in. In fact, why would I even think there was a compassionate overlord or deity who would intervene on my behalf? Gazing upward, there were still no stars and no moon in that pitch-black canopy. Accordingly, I sensed no temporal relationship with the eternal.
Wearily, and facing forward I watched the twin yellow lights probe the road that scarcely gave up anything in the way of topographical features that would determine if the driver is navigating a course across a desert, a mountainous terrain or a forested hinterland. The firmament was equally dark and barely distinguishable from the terrain we rushed and rumbled through. I was literally in the dark about everything––the drama riding in the vehicle and knowing something about the apparent wasteland we drove through.
I didn’t know what was worse––the gloominess of that dour setting beyond the windows or being trapped inside with the driver. Compounding my affliction was the appalling condition of the road’s surface. It made me anxious how he continually pressed onward and seldom slowed down to round some of the more dangerous hairpin curves that appeared to materialize out of nowhere––the headlights were that ineffective against such invincible darkness. I thought if I could only see a light or a road sign or some large or small structure in that seeming black sea painting out there, then I might feel there was something earthly about this eerie escapade that continued to baffle me. But as far as I could tell, the route the driver chose was a bleak and tiresome environs that suggested no reference to any place I had ever seen or known. Thus far, there weren’t any trees, shrubs, fields, telephone poles or fence lines, much less wildlife that sometimes graze alongside roads.
By this time, and after these latest deliberations, I was fuming. The driver could have told me more about the crisis I was in, but why I thought the situation was a crisis I had no idea. I was especially concerned, if not altogether curious, about the forthcoming destination and end to this traveling nightmare. I wondered if I should mention my latest pique to him but thought better of the notion. Besides, I didn’t want to hear the horror of the driver’s deep-throated comments and intimidating sounds that followed.
Doing the best that I could to keep my thoughts to myself, I wandered ahead in my thoughts. Namely, where he was taking me. For instance, was it a jail or a hospital? What were my chances of surviving either ordeal? Only then did another possibility occur to me that someone might have hired the driver to take me to my home in Georgetown. If so, it didn’t matter if the spooky man was loquacious or sparing when it came to communicating with passengers. He may, in fact, be crass, even contentious by nature. But this flaw in his character didn’t necessarily mean he was potentially harmful in any way. That said, I could easily understand how my mind jumped to conclusions about such odd and impudent behavior as he demonstrated almost from the start.
Then again, did I imagine what I thought he initially said, telepathically––those blood curdling words and admonishment I was almost sure I did not say to myself? Then again, such a foreboding message was not something I would tell myself, and merely meant to frighten me and get my attention. Surely, my mind could not be afflicted with a bipolar arch enemy that set me against myself; at least, I hoped such a state of dementia affected my psyche.
“Georgetown,” I said. “GEORGETOWN?” I bolted upright and knew something about that name. But what? It was familiar and if I concentrated I thought I could know about this place. That appellation, as a metropolis of any size, had aroused me all right, but with only that reference there was no image or associated memory I could recall. Still, the name of that place had to do with me. I was sure of it. Moreover, if that bit of information fell out of nowhere, then there might be more useful information to follow. I assumed as much and tried to be patient. I then told myself I would have to be satisfied with that passing fragment, and eventually I would have learn more.
As the journey continued, and thus, the distance increased from whatever point I started, I sat back in the seat and conceived a mobile that turned slowly in my mind. Attached to the mobile were morsels of information that I had to rely on, as cognitive points of reference: something to do with my name, Spiritus Mortuorum; Georgetown, and possibly the place where I lived; and credible reasons why I was in a mental stupor that kept me in the dark in more ways than one. Then there was the eccentric driver––the ominous driver who might have played the most diabolical prank on me or was hired to do it. Certainly, the costume that he wore matching his ghastly figure was both frightening and intimidating. Then again, if the driver wasn’t masquerading, for whatever reason, and if what I thought he said about there being no one to help me––not even God––then I was in a world of trouble more than I could possibly know.
The tense situation I was in steadily got worse and the corresponding payment in kind merely added to my depression. I was physically and mentally exhausted, even more than how I felt and reacted when I first awoke. Confronted by seeming delirium and an arrant state of amnesia, all this time, if indeed there was an element of passing time, the only thing I managed to do and ascertain were the essentials of the drama. Thus, I was going somewhere with someone and he was entirely in control of my life and fate.
I thought if an opportunity arose to try and defend myself from a sudden and unprovoked attack administered the driver, I was certain to lose that contest. He was too strong and I was too weak. For all I knew, I had been in a prolonged state of shock since I realized my mare’s nest, functioning by residue energy that maintained my anatomy. Thus, I could sit up, turn my head, lean forward and backward, or gaze out the windows. Meanwhile, my brain remained lethargic, except when induced by an adrenaline rush, assailed by anxiety, or agitated by any given emotional outburst as a reaction to changing circumstances. All these reactions felt like a tsunami wave had engulfed and left me wallowing in desperation and incertitude.
Given this latest assessment, and risking the driver’s ability to tap into my thoughts as likely was the case all along, the only sound recollection I had was what had taken place from the time I regained consciousness to the present. Starting with the dream-like dismembering images of being attacked by a monster-like ghoul was just as shocking and violent then as now. Moreover, the combined horror of my ponderous thoughts were still nonfictional and transplanted in my mind and easily accessible. I also sensed by acquired cognitive legacy constructed a neuro program that would not easily be erased if and when my life returned to normal.
Pressing my cold hands tight against my face, I felt my hot breath warm my palms and fingers. I needed this distraction to keep from succumbing to a constant torrent of negative thoughts. Consequently, surrendering without a fight. I then told myself, Don’t give into the dark side. Take back your power! None of this is a dream. It can’t hurt me unless I let it!
Pausing, I responded, Where have I heard that phrase ‘don’t give into the dark side? It doesn’t matter. As to the other, which is more real––the waking or the dream? I had no reply to this ostensible kōan. I merely sat and reflected on the advice and insight. In fact, I didn’t know what kōan was.
It then occurred to me what if my mind was the arch enemy and not a faculty I could altogether trust without being circumspect? Thus, I thought I had conspired various defense strategies, even promising tactics that might release me from ongoing madness, but, in fact, I was only fooling myself.
Therefore, self-deluded while also abetting whatever or whomever was essentially in charge of this entire pantomime, as performed by two contestants in the same arena––a vintage vehicle of some kind.
I told myself, Yes, yes; this alternative perspective makes cautionary sense. Pausing, while glancing sideways at the driver to see what, if anything, his reaction might be, I concluded, I can’t lie to myself that the situation I’m confronted with might turn out okay when we get to wherever we’re going. I suppose now that I will have to take another chance and try and flee before we get there. I also realize this mannequin across from me who only reacts to steering the vehicle, and sometimes berates me, has the power to tap into my thoughts. It follows I must act on the next escape plan without thought. Hell, is that even possible?
I then commenced with a simulated dialogue and responded: Yes, it must be because some people instantaneously react to situations without thinking. For instance, reaching out and yanking someone backward who is about to get hit by a car.
Okay, that makes sense, but how do I know what this example means?
Never mind because I must know. Otherwise, I would not have conceived of it.
That engaging repartee ended and my thoughts were silenced. The driver never looked at me during that deep introspection, but it didn’t mean he was unaware. There was no other choice, except to challenge him again. I turned and faced the driver and stated, “I asked you this before and I’m telling you now––where are you taking me? Surely, you can tell me this much. Apparently, I’m locked inside this heap and I can’t escape. So, why not tell me what you know?”
All of a sudden, it was quiet. Even the usual sounds emanating from the vehicle were silent. I then wished I hadn’t asked those questions or enticed a dialogue. But it surprised me to hear him respond, “Daaaaarrrrrqqqqquuuueeeeee Hiiiiilllll.”
“Did you say, Dark Hill?”
“Is that a place or a town or something? Don’t think I ever heard that name before. Can you tell me more? Please, mister?”
He turned and faced the road and didn’t say anything else. Still, I, at least, knew the name of our destination. Muttered the name to myself, Dark Hill, and without any concern if he could read my thoughts, I continued, Maybe I should be patient and wait until we get there before deciding on what I thought about earlier. Now the question is how far is it to this place or town? And the obvious follow-up question is the purpose of my going there. Should I be worried? Affraid? I know I asked this earlier, but he was more forthcoming and didn’t say what he said in a threatening manner. I guess he just likes emphasizing words. . .Daaaaaarrrrrrrkkkk Hiiiiillllll.
The punishing ride continued and usual sounds resumed, starting with the protesting sounds of the engine and chassis. The wind draft was also louder than it was but it didn’t seem the driver was going faster. Perhaps the wind increased and we were heading into a storm.
Feeling my legs cramp up, I stretched my legs and touched the floorboard.It was impossible to get comfortable, and, to the point, I could rest my eyes and wait until he stopped the car at our destination. Glancing at the driver, I didn’t know what was worse: his heedless driving at excessive speeds or the fact he likely knew something he wasn’t planning to tell me until we got to Dark Hill. Something else occurred to me just then: all this time we had not a passed another vehicle and neither were there vehicles headed in the opposite direction. I sensed that I was on the other road less traveled, but what kind of a road was it? Why was it less traveled? And if I thought the stranger was strange, now I felt, even more, strange.
Cognitively dysfunctional as I felt, I still counted on my intellect to restore some of its former capacity and help me unravel the mental disorder. The overindulgence in my theatrics was one thing, which I could accept at some level; however, not being effective by coming to my rescue was something I would not accept. I needed to recall what took place prior to going to sleep, only to later awaken into a seeming state of psychosis that had partially infiltrated my conscious, and not just my subconscious. The specific inference of the missing past elements was, in fact, the crux of the matter. Reflecting on this insight, I said and emphasized, It has to be the source of the quandary––my blotted out past. Everything was, therefore, connected to the disassociation with my “self,” as memories. Thus, all that once was me and now was lost or misplaced
☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎
(to be continued next week)
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