House on Darque Hill Enigma 6
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.) Feel free to add any comments whatsoever, including grammar tips (which I have not edited this draft for such). Instead, the draft is the last one that I wrote before editing. Now, of course, maybe the commentator will make such suggestions. Sure would be helpful!
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS
"After your death you will be what you were before your birth."
The remoteness of this high country landscape matched the terrain on the other side of the mountain, except it seemed we were driving across a plateau. Thus, there were no forthcoming switchbacks as I anticipated. There was only a fairly straight and poorly maintained thoroughfare, if the road was ever maintained in the past.
As before, there wasn’t any community near or far, much less lights that suggested houses, business establishments, lighted billboards or similar roadside attractions. It was apparent the driver intended to stretch the distance into oblivion, which also increased the sense of alienation I sensed all along, but here, in this region, even more so. Pondering these thoughts and feelings, I had resigned myself to face the stern facts. Namely, I wasn’t about to try and escape, and, besides, I was too damn tired to even make the attempt. Instead, I wanted only to rest my weary eyes and leave the driver alone. He obviously had nothing to say to me and I felt the same way about him.
Before closing my eyes, I noticed something that instantly snared my attention. Sitting straighter in the seat, I leaned forward and focused on what appeared to be a modest-sized galaxy of lights in the greater distance––that emptiness and darkness lessening its hold on my senses. At first, I thought I was imagining the illumination surrounded by a shadowy backdrop that betrayed a typical featureless terrain from here to there. The more I concentrated on the periphery of luminance spread out on a flat plane, the more I realized I wasn’t imagining what I watched with a great deal of interest. In fact, that faraway vista pleasantly surprised me and had an immediate effect upon my beleaguered senses––a modicum of welcomed relief. Releasing a drawn-out sigh, I was about to ask the driver what he knew about those lights. But then I quickly decided against it because my inanimate and fatalistic chaperone appeared to have only one agenda and one objective: driving. Still, that large array of twinkling lights gave me new hope. I also wanted to keep that feeling to myself.
From my exhaustive state of mind and perspective, I surmised that anomalous, electric attraction was a town or perhaps a small city. If so, it was the first tangible and manmade setting I could relate to, which also subdued my usual and immediate concerns riding in the vehicle. Possibly, I came from that region. It made me homesick just to look and think my home and homeland was indeed in that vicinity. I then asked myself, Well, Is that saucer of radiance familiar to me or not? More to the point, is this dummy or mannequin beside me taking me there? Again, there was no answer to my query, yet, if ever I wanted to hear an answer from the driver, I just asked the most important question.
Whatever those lights represented in the way of civilization, and whatever that place might have to do with me, it soon crossed my mind the direction we were headed was moving away from that sector. Nevertheless, I was desperate to go there even if that wasn’t my hometown or a place I was familiar with at one time. To be with people again, to know that I was alive again, and to experience creaturely comforts and modernization again. . .there were no words I could think of to express such exuberance based on a desire to be part of a society and experiencing life as it was to be experienced. After that passionate declaration, something disturbing occurred to me and I asked myself, ‘To know that I was alive again?’ What the hell does that mean? Am I not alive, despite how dead I feel at some level? Jesus. This shit gets more weird by the passing mile.”
I thought the driver’s mistake was taking me to this high vantage, which proved I was still in the nexus of life, albeit far removed from the tangible aspects. Reaching out with my arms, I pounded my fist on the dashboard, merely meant to vent my dissatisfaction and anger that I felt for the obstinate driver. I don’t know what I had in mind given the way of making such a forceful demonstration, except to let him know I had, once again, reached my limits of tolerance. Correspondingly, I could not continue on with the absurd and mentally debilitated folly he had put me through, and continued keeping me at bay. More importantly, I wanted the driver to stop and let me get out of the vehicle and be on my own. Eventually, I would find my way back to that fast-disappearing light-drenched metropolis glittering in an expanse of circumscribed darkness. To me, those combined beacons of light might as well have been luminescent diamonds given the consoling affect on my enervated senses. How I longed for home and would have relished, instead, being part of any society and setting.
But the driver did not stop. Neither did he care or sense what I thought or desired. Instead, he accelerated, putting more distance between us and that unknown geography and metropolis listed on some map that might as well have been other worldly. Then the darkness returned on the horizon and that world vanished. In our wake, it was as though the night had consumed everything manmade and sentient. A sense of my own temporarily restored animation that briefly made me feel more alive than dead was also consumed.
Once more, I tried to adjust to an augmenting perception of self-alienation. Equally, I held out for the confirmation what I had observed as a satellite defining an outlying rural metropolis was only temporarily hidden from view, Thus, the elevation of the road was lower but eventually would gain elevation. Still, the view toward the horizon remained as before––obscure and exhaustively disconsolate. My longing and aspiration to see those lights again were also fleeting, for in my thoughts I heard what had to be the driver’s response to my latest chagrin––taunting laughter. He must have known whatever the origin of lights represented, as a place and a rural community, would give me hope, just as a prevailing darkness would return and quickly snatch it away.
Angling my body to face the road again, I had the crippling impression the driver was right: that scintillating spread of lights I briefly beheld did, in fact, generate a virtue of hopefulness, and he likely derived a twisted pleasure knowing the disenchantment I presently felt. Glancing quickly at him, then looking the other way, I didn’t think there was anything this human monster could do to make me hate him even more than I have felt all along being in his sinister presence. The acrimony I felt was also abounding and well-deserved. The driver didn’t have to say anything even if he could orally express himself with a few or a lot of words. The worst of it was how he occasionally glanced and leered at me. Studying my face, I was too intimidated to stare back into those twin dark portals that were barely illuminated by the dashboard lights. For all I knew, I might be a trophy that he had whisked away but would not let on what he hoped to gain until I was delivered to the place he intended to take me. Thinking this hideous and impending outcome, it was another emasculating insight I didn’t want to deal with, and yet what else could I wonder and worry about? Obviously, my seeming adversary had the advantage all along. Moreover, the longer he kept me in suspense, the more power he had over me. Knowing this, I reminded myself not to let my guard down, not even for a second because that was his ultimate stratagem––having the element of surprise and dark secrets he possessed––secrets that centered on me and the purpose why I was a passenger in his transport.
Scanning the windows on both sides of the vehicle, I focused on the twin yellow beams mounted on the fenders. I was still too afraid to close my eyes for fear of what the driver might do if I did fall asleep. Instantly, I roused and turned inward to search for another way to try and save myself before it was too late. In a contrite tone of voice to break the lassitude that restrained me, and using the steady white noise of the engine that might keep him from hearing a petition to myself, I muttered, “RK Alleman, if that’s my name, I’m in a sad, bad way. I fear for my life and I fear even more for the loss of my soul. I must regain control of all my faculties, including my past experiences and credentials. Thus, retrieving what this lunatic likely assumes is his. . .”
Before I could finish the supplication, the driver turned his head and looked at me. This time, and without regard for the track of the car, his penetrating stare appeared to acknowledge what I had muttered to myself. However, his reaction didn’t surprise me because my private thoughts and confession were not entirely exclusive. Once more I gleaned a simple fact I had thought about earlier: I had already given up the keys to my personal life and he had taken over and did all the driving in more ways than one. I sensed the simile of this psychologically disabling notion, but couldn’t comprehend the consequences of the sentiment. I was a pawn in his unscrupulous game and he was the master who controlled the board.
Covering my face with my hands, it was the only way I could feel a tinge of warmth. Dream or reality, I thought feeling my breath was the only way I could be sure I was still among the living; at least at some level I was alive. Before long, estranged thoughts sifted through my mind and I examined each strand in hopes of finally discovering something pertinent and insightful that would disrupt the mental blockage, then reciprocally bolster my failing confidence. More importantly, I reminded myself how necessary it was to defend myself, mentally and physically, from the driver, even though the present circumstances that I faced seemed utterly despairing.
Given these cerebral-based strands, what I monitored amounted to curious and obscure metaphysical notions that puzzled me why I even conjured such feigned principles in the first place. As such, I recalled the Tibetan Bardo state of consciousness that defines a place between one life and the next. Then came a reference from The Book Of The Dead, and its Tibetan Buddhist philosophy? The title, alone, intrigued me. But what what did I know about such abstruse subject matter? Gradually, I remembered something about the major tenets embraced by Tibetan Buddhist doctrine. Notably, how only an enlightened mind can recall its previous existence of one’s life, but for all others memories of past existences are merely glints of light, twinges of longing, passing shadows, though disturbingly familiar. Such experiential and cognitive detritus from the past is also erased before one’s repository of memories can be consciously grasped given any sense of knowing. Therefore, to recognize such beliefs required other means to reinstate the teachings.
Though intrigued by these passing thoughts and objections, but also baffled given the import of this metaphysical reflection, such subject matter was manifestly centered on Eastern philosophical beliefs. To some degree, also psychological dream analysis and interpretation. Why this particular insight came to me at this time, I could state the same question about all the other fragmented information or insight that formulated in my mind. I then debated myself and asked, So, why am I entertaining such impressions and what do these implied religious or spiritual pronouncements have to do with my quandary that began a seeming lifetime ago? I postulated relevant questions this time around, but I had no answers to go on; that is, except for one beneficial benefit––my mind was engaged and that meant I was also physically involved. Moreover, I wasn’t about to dismiss any of the covert conceptions as insignificant folly or mental gibberish. If, by chance, something else occurred to me, and made sense of my thought process to the present, then I had no other choice than to monitor and regard every notion.
Given the context of the latest round of transient thoughts, the most fascinating detail came down to an implied thesis––What if the state of consciousness that I assumed was nothing more than my being between the previously alluded to dual realms of birth and death? Something told me that pointed question begged an equally pointed answer but first I needed to resolve something here and now. Simply put: Was I imagining everything from a detached perspective while assuming I was part of some real-time scenario that was unfolding? This abstract perception was spellbinding as it was idiosyncratic. If I let my imagination wander a little further, then the perception suggested I might be existing inside some kind of a timeless womb where I waited to be delivered into the world. However, the strangeness of this momentous thought utterly eerie, for what if I was about to be delivered, only into a world of darkness, a place of the unborn while also perceiving was still to come?
The ensuing debate generated so much havoc in my mind, I berated myself for letting my thoughts wander so far in speculation. Nevertheless, once those thoughts were unleashed, I could not build an argument for or against the morose outlook I entertained. Moreover, the conceptual implications I discerned from the fallout of such disputation, if that was the sole intention of such recollection about such things, mystified me.
I was about to change mental channels when I heard words in my head, All worldly pursuits have but one unavoidable and inevitable end, which is sorrow: acquisitions end in dispersion; buildings, in destruction; meetings, in separation; births, in death. Knowing this, one should from the very first renounce acquisition and heaping-up, and building and meeting. Life is short, and the time of death is uncertain.
There was something comforting and discomforting about those sentiments, which I assumed also came from the Tibetan text that found another way to haunt or inspire me with its suppositions. I still could not comprehend what most of this astringent philosophy had to do with me, especially with respect to a lingering mental impasse that shutdown a greater portion of my mind. Nevertheless, this latest introspective soliloquy probably contained the cerebral key that I sought, yet this one-sided oration didn’t apply to the equation that summed up my problem––I remained in a mobile prison monitored by a mostly uncommunicative guard.
For the time being, I was where I had been all along––a luckless passenger in an old-model vehicle driven by a sociopath who had problems with diction and common courtesy. About the only thing I could do for myself was wait, watch, and wonder or worry until I gleaned a reliable mental pathway from my tentative present to the dusky past. Thus, repairing and completing a broken neuro circuit. Only then, could I get on with my present and into the future, which I sensed also depended on what the hostile driver had to say about this projected premeditation. By remaining fully present, both mentally and physically, I could also cope with the strangeness of my circumstances, and maybe deal with the driver when the time came for me to win back my life. At a visceral level, I also knew there was an impending duel and we would both compete for the same prize––my life!
☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎
(to be continued next week)
The reader is invited to edit or make a commentary or both. Feel free to express yourself! I will address the remarks and consider any recommendations that are made. Gracias!