House On Darque Hill Enigma 4
HOUSE ON DARQUE HILL ––
A Psychological, Existential Thriller & Mystery
Richard Kerry Holtzin
Backstory: The 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.)
A MATTER OF MEMORY LOSS?
"Memory. . .is the diary that we all carry about with us."
An acute sense of apathy mingled with my remorse and worsened as the ostensible theatrics continued. Without a clue what, exactly, was behind my being transported to Dark Hill, and the menacing performance of the driver who administered no help or comfort whatsoever, how else could I describe the chilling and changeless escapade of sheer madness? Neither could I imagine a positive outcome much less a change of attitude. Once more I thought if the excursion was the butt of someone’s prank, the repercussions would barely make a difference given the pessimism and hopelessness that saturated my besieged mind. By now, I no longer was obsessed with where the driver was taking me, based on the maxim, “It’s the journey that matters, not the destination,” only, for me, it was the opposite. It was just another remnant of recollection that seemed to pop into my head, though without any reference.
Except for the designation “Spiritus Mortuorum,” which the driver implied was not my name, the only other designation he mentioned was the name of a place he was taking me––Dark Hill. These two mere scraps of information were tenable, yet also cryptic. Then again, whatever Dark Hill had to do me, as well as my being in the stranger’s vehicle, was unavailing. Manifestly, I was his captive or some such, and, so far, there was nothing I could do about anything. Yet, throughout this outlandish ordeal, I had one desire above all others––knowing something about my personal history. But that desire was not reciprocated. Moreover, I couldn’t think of anything worse than going to my grave without knowing who I was and what I did or didn’t do to merit the end of my life as an anonymous person who was, for whatever reason, denied such vital information.
Immediately after that humorless and daunting announcement came to me, the impact on my emotions was cautionary. “Hold on, now. Going to my grave?” I murmured; “Did I hear myself make such an absurd assertion? Why would I even think such an extreme climax––the terminus of this harrowing excursion in my grave?”
Given that morbid and debilitating impression, a sudden surge of energy fortified my resolve to override the appalling end of my life after arriving at the supposed destination, Dark Hill. Besides, the somber notion of going to my grave seemed contradictory, mainly because the concept of existence was a compelling force manifested in process and reality. Therefore, not a mere mental exercise, as in a contemplation of death. I based this redoubtable assumption without positing an insight to any known source of learning, that is, as a recollection.
The next thing my mind conjured was indeed a provocation: imagining myself as deceased. I was also quick to declare envisioning myself in such a permanent state was anathema to the fact I was still among the living. Consequently, I was constrained to safeguard my life until the last possible moment or seconds before my physical and cerebral faculties were extinguished.
The appealing logic rendered by this sobering afterthought was realistic. Nevertheless, I speculated what were my chances to survive such an impending tribulation? Given the odds I sensed were stacked against me, and recalling something I previously thought about, I could no more brawl with the shadowy driver any more than I could snap my fingers and change the desolation and darkness into something more bucolic, therefore, inundated with auspicious sunlight and warmth.
Despite judging myself too incompetent or too weak to try and defend myself, I posed a counter solution: the part of my psyche that took a defensive position demanded I conceive a plan of action the driver couldn’t anticipate, much less read my mind if and when I devised a way to try and protect myself. Previously, I also considered he possessed such uncanny powers. However, it was time to be more proactive because now it was a matter of life or death. Then again, affecting my rescue had everything to do with putting my life on the line. Thus, escaping.
Fused with the anticipated apprehension I would eventually have to face such an overcome, there was no other choice other than manifesting the courage to fight this monster while knowing the outcome of the impending contest would likely reward me with life or punish me with death. Presented with this graphic portrayal that materialized in my brain, the weight of such an aftermath pinned me down and would not let me move onto the next step in the cognitive exercise until I resolved the question––Could I commit to a dual to the death and risk everything doing it? Furthermore, the confrontation I perceived was the fundamental concern that mattered in the final analysis. I then decided to stave off addressing the imminent challenge; at least, until I acquired the mental and physical strength to do whatever was necessary when the time came to put my plan into action.
Although some of what I gleaned about my circumstances seemed helpful, as well as imperative to preserve my mortality, I was more annoyed how my mind continued to spoon feed me rambling thoughts that pertained to something rational, albeit not pragmatic. Thus, forced to do whatever was necessary to defend myself, yet physically questionable against my perceived adversary. Realistically, I also had a sense there was no other choice in the matter. Regardless the odds I knew were against me, devising a nonpareil scheme to finally put an end to the purported farce was my sole objective. Like most of the other incited queries that I had posed to myself, this latest inducement provided no feasible answer as to how I would manage to abscond and save my life. Then again, before embarking on a decision-making process that led to a point of no return, finding salutary clues how to succeed with my plan. . .that was the question.
Wondering if the driver was listening to my thoughts all this time, was just that––wondering. As before, like now, he pretty much kept to himself unless I directly provoked him, which I had no intention of doing; at least, not just yet. About the only thing I had going for me was the fact I could continue thinking and plotting. Even if it was all the pretense of a foolish cognitive exercise, as long as I could think that I had choices and might have a say in the matter, then there was always hope.
Carpe diem! Cogito ergo sum! Those words passed through my mind, almost casually, and likely very timely. Instantly, I bolted upright and let the two phrases inflate my spirits. Yessssss, I thought to myself; Latin, meaning ‘’seize the day,’ and another requisite maxim meaning, ‘Think––therefore I am!’ That’s what counts the most. Now, by God, I’m finally getting somewhere; at least, mentally. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ Isn’t that another helpful phrase to ponder?
Naturally, despite the encouragement and hope that buoyed my spirits, for me, the absurdity of the situation was, nonetheless, onerous to contend with. That was a given. Whether the driver acted alone or had an accomplice waiting at the final destination, such a likelihood was conspicuous. Therefore, my assumed and avowed adversary counted on my remaining defenseless. By defenseless, I also meant I still could not plunder my mind for its secrets––memories and knowledge before the weird episode happened, almost like a quasi afterlife; at least in some sense it seemed to be an afterlife because there was no revelation of self-identity. Then again, I began to think this disadvantage might work to an advantage. The only question was how to change a deficit into an advantage. Still, this latest round of thoughts might engender what I had hoped for all along.
For now, little else had changed: the driver sat in silence, still obtuse to the dangers of the nondescript road and its dangers, and my deliberation remained boisterous, though somewhat propitious based on executing an egress from the hearse that steadily took us closer to Dark Hill.
A hearse? I whispered; now, why in the hell would I describe this vehicle in such a way? This shit is seriously getting out of hand!
Angling sideways, I also turned around and peered into the darker recesses of the rear compartment. I still couldn’t identify the model of the vehicle, other than it seemed excessively large given its dimensions. There was also the oblong box back there but nothing else seemed tangible to warrant the vehicle was, in fact, a hearse. I was about to turn and face forward when suddenly I panicked. Saturated with fear and followed by a sensation of chills all over my body, the onset of disquietude and agitation spoke volumes given what came over me. I thought to myself, Wait a minute; wait a goddamn minute whatever my name is––What if it isn’t just the two of us in this vehicle?
That deep-seated query triggered an immediate reaction––at any second I could be attacked, but this time my assailant would strike from behind. Although I didn’t think of it before, I was clearly occupied with this concern, and, to the point, I turned repeatedly to make certain there was no one behind me; at least, a secretive observer that I hadn’t noticed before. Fortunately, there was no one hiding in the rear; just the unknown cargo. Instinctively, I flinched and half expected there was indeed someone ensconced in the further reaches of the vehicle. It was bad enough sharing space with the driver, but far worse if there was a hidden stowaway. If so, what was his purpose being in the vehicle? And why was he silent and secretive all this time?
Unable to relax and let down my guard, I emitted a long sigh, intentionally meant to let the driver know how exacerbated I was. Not that it mattered anything to him, though I wanted the driver to know I was weary of the daunting escapade. If nothing else, if I could only back to sleep and restore my energy, then later I might wake up and be fully restored. Thus, my memories returned and with a sense of self-identity.T
Attempting to get my mind off these latest concerns, I looked out the windows at the disheartening passing scenery such that it was. Presented with what was happening inside the vehicle, that consistent and lifeless backdrop appeared to act in collusion. Reflecting on what just came to me, I had no idea what I meant by making that offbeat comment. Still, I knew what lifeless entailed and that adjective plainly described my emotional status and reaction.
And so, the journey into a long and seemingly endless night continued, as did the apprehension and drug-like effect that kept me on the edge of a looming life or death showdown.
Turning his head toward me, I could feel the driver’s penetrating gaze. At first, he didn’t say or do anything but then he turned and faced the road again and said, “Yessssssssss.” That’s all he said and I didn’t know if he meant the ultimate consequence for me for be life or death.
☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎
Still powerless to tap into a reliable pattern of traceable memories, thus a network of restored engrams, that could formulate and distinguish reality from hyperbole or fantasy, I was not the individual and personality I once was. That hypothesis was tacit. It followed that I could not reconstruct the matrix of my past and rejoined with the present. Thus, there was no way to prove or disprove either construct. Moreover, there was no connection that I perceived between the two phases of time, much less projecting into the future tense. By itself, this sincere or naive or ingenuous analysis was captivating because I was plainly going somewhere and that meant going somewhere also implied a future sense. After this simile came to me, there was something somewhat farcical that was also revealed; something about a perfect Zen state of mind and the intensity of focus. I whispered, “Samadhi, as in the embodiment of equilibrium preceding the metaphor of blowing out into Nirvana and becoming a fully enlightened being?” But I scoffed at this philosophical query. Despite what happened to me, and continued to happen, I was convinced the corollary and hold on my senses did not adhere to the simile of a Zen Buddhist’s state of mind and its abstruse precepts.
Then again, I calculated these cognitive shavings might have been clues or messages trying to get through. Thus, issuing from a neuro network framing my past while attempting to elucidate something about who I was before dealing with the undefinable present. Furthermore, since I regained semi-consciousness, the present tense remains dubious, just like the past.
If this latest presumption proves to be the case, then I wasn’t amused or placated about such rationalization. I then told myself, A mind that cannot tap into its past, questions the present, or ponders the unborn future is realistically not functional. True or false? Deductive reasoning says the statement is true. The That’s it and all about it. So, deal with pragmatism, not embellished Zen metaphysics and such! After that stern disquisition, I returned to the confounded problem of memory loss and why such things happen. Engaging myself into a dialogue, I muttered, “Despite all the possibilities about what I previously thought might have caused a literal wipeout of my past, thus a TIA, poisoned air inside the vehicle, or utter inebriation, what if I’m suffering from short or long-term memory loss? If so, either phase might turn out to be a psychological affliction that I need to rectify before ‘Eureka’ is found?
“And then there is the logic of modus tollens to consider whose propositional rationalization defines a valid argumentative form and a rule of inference. Thus, an application of a general truth that if a statement is true, then so is its contra-positive. It follows the inference rule––modus tollens––validates the inference. Thus, If P then Q is accepted, and the consequent does not hold. Therefore, not-Q. But then the negation of the antecedent––not-P––can be inferred. Not knowing where this intellectual crap originates, I think I just more less explained something valuable about memory loss, yet without knowing how or why.”
After this latest scrutiny that reminded me of a puzzling slogan, mental masturbation, there was no response or challenge one way or the other. Nevertheless, whatever I knew or didn’t know about memory loss, the fact was there was an evident loss of memory associated with my limited present state of awareness.
In sorting through fragmented details that had to do with this subject, I also grasped something else I previously contemplated, but now made clearer––the relationship of engrams to the brain and how the neuro pathways function. Like most everything else that came to me thus far, I didn’t comprehend how I understood most of the passing notions, except the accumulating knowledge made sense at some level. Apparently, such facts were acquired through prior learning that I was could tap into, and, therefore, experiential, but not a priori. Ah-ha! I said to myself; I think, therefore, I am, and I’m finally getting somewhere.
From that point of the helpful monologue, and despite the fact I didn’t know how or why these mental constructs were issuing, I probed other comprehensible or arcane aspects relative to memory loss. For instance, how the protoplasm of nerve tissues in response to stimuli accounts for an acquisition of lasting memories, as well as acquired skills. Storing new memories, therefore, involved chemical changes in the nerve cells of my brain or in the substances that carried messages across gaps between the nerve cells, the so-called synapses. Satisfied that I was in touch with these fundamental aspects of how memories work, I concentrated on visualizing the so-named synapses, hoping or expecting the result might resolve the mental problem. However, that objective was not successful. I had to keep trying and elicit more insight by doing more research. It was as though I may have had experience in this field, but no way to confirm such speculation.
Continuing the exercise, the designation “hippo campus” associated with a larger structure, the cerebral cortex added to the visualization process. Somehow I knew this part of the brain controlled the higher functions such as problem solving. Pausing and deliberating what this knowledge had to do with anything, I asked myself, For Christ sake, isn’t this what I have been trying to do given the research? Hearing no response, I was soon back to the earlier concern I had about the possibility my brain was partially disabled, either by an accident or some natural cause.
Although there was no way for me to confirm if one or the other cause was the source of my present-state of partial amnesia or temporary or permanent dementia, there had to be some other explanation I had not yet considered.
Displaced or memory loss correlates with sensory memory that contains information for a brief period of time unless the patient makes an active effort to think about it. Afterward, short-term memory would return, lasting a little longer, or else long-term memory would be the case, which is something ordinarily retained throughout a lifetime.
Wherever this insight and information came from, and for whatever purpose, I found this convenient because eventually I, substituting myself for the patient example, would have settled for short-term memory recall, merely to have something substantial to go on; that is, as memory recall, however transient. I then reminded myself that it wasn’t that long ago when I awoke to find myself in a fatigued state of mind and body. Naturally, I deduced even short-term memory was somewhere floating around inside my mind and all I had to was locate those evasive thoughts.
After this pensive deliberation, I thought to myself, This explanation makes sense, but what if I experienced a retrieval failure working against me? Such mental atrophy usually occurs where the patient places an object and when he or she wants to retrieve it, the patient can’t remember where he or she put it. If this explanation is true, then the information that’s needed is not permanently erased but only temporarily forgotten. But if the brain is injured in some way, either by a blow to the head or something internal happens, like an aneurism, the mental turmoil would be permanent until, and if, the injury can be repaired.
“Mister, in case you’re eavesdropping again, and if you’re interested, I might as well tell you I am getting mentally stronger by the minute, that is, if there are passing minutes associated with this nightmare. Eventually, in a manner of speech, eventually my body will also be more energetic. Fair warming!”
As before, the driver didn’t acknowledge anything I said one way or the other. I also shrugged off his ignoring me because, from this latest mental fallout, I garnered more neuro research. For instance, the medical term, “anterograde amnesia” came to mind and I comprehended how this condition involved difficulty remembering events that occurred after the injury. Moreover, since suppression and regression, which highlighted motivated forgetting, was also something self-induced for any number of reasons, so was emotional shock that could block certain memories. If there was no physical or emotional cause for such memory loss, then the origin might be traced to psychogenic amnesia.
By the time I finished with the impromptu examination of possible mental ailments, and, apparently, based on medical studies I likely had access to in my past, I still ended up with no concrete answers; that is, proven solutions to repair the cognitive disarray. For whatever reason, I sensed I the impetus of this mental exercise struck upon many possibilities relative to cognitive failure or problems with retrieving memories. Equally, I reasoned the fundamental purpose of the exercise was academic given what the source of the problem came down to; specifically, what caused the cognitive disability. Thus, the collateral damage of blocking or erasing essential memories applicable to my personhood.
At this point, what was more important in the greater or lesser scheme of things was what I had initially planned: escaping from the stranger’s mobile citadel on wheels, and later hope that I could retrieve the memories I had lost or were provisionally displaced. That said, I was back to the original threat and quandary: could I avoid injury or death if I jumped from the fast-moving vehicle? Even if I managed to survive, I would still have to take my chances and elude the driver who was sure to pursue his quarry.
“Yes,” I murmured; “this cautionary feedback elicits a wealth of knowledge, but where can I run to if I absconded? What if the driver is faster than me? Certainly, he has the advantage of knowing this terrain we’re driving through. He also has the advantage of knowing what I still can’t recall from my past; that is, unless I could somehow disable him. If so, what chance do I have? He appears strong and might very well prove to be invincible.”
The arguments that shadowed my cogent mounting fears made sense to me. To my greater disadvantage postulating such details and awareness, was sensing the driver likely heard everything I said to myself given this latest internal address, yet smartly didn’t let on this time.
Besides, concealing my plans from a perceived enemy who knew every move I made or would make was tantamount to professing one’s honesty to someone who also was aware of one’s forthcoming deception. It followed that I had to devise another scheme that didn’t matter if he knew what was about to happen. Besides, there was also the element of surprise and timing that might provide me with an advantage, however slight.
After stating this ploy with confidence, I boldly said out loud, “Two can play the same game, mister.”
☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎
(to be continued next week)
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