House on Dargue Hill Enigma 8
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!
"All is mystery; but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil."
What seemed to be the last ride of my life was also telling me what I might be confronted given the outcome that I faced––the end of the ride in more ways than one. I also recalled a suspicion I thought about earlier, but now clarified and rephrased: someone had cast a spell over me and I was trapped no matter what I did or didn’t do to try and save myself. Worse than this, I could do nothing about the situation; at least, not at this point. Nonetheless, I obviously had no other choice other than continue the strangeness of my singular journey until I was handed over to whoever or whatever waited at Dark Hill. There could also be another option that I hadn’t considered. Thus, an opportunity to seize when I got there. For the present, all I could do was wait and wait some more.
In the meantime, I was plagued by ill-feelings, as well as prone to pandering and predicated on a wretched situation I truly loathed. Still beset with a craving to abscond, I supposed what I was going through could be likened to a volcano slowly venting its furor, only, for me, it was the perception of building subconscious pressure, yet I didn’t explode and go stark raving mad. Instead, I overcame the impending release because I knew I needed to be rational.
By controlling my emotions and temperament, I mentally massaged my torpid intellect. Thus, the prudence of employing patience and assessment without alarm. Besides, confronted with the subterfuge of this steadily progressing drama, it followed how I had to be stronger, starting with empowering my cerebral faculties. Consequently, being more dynamic and defensive. If there was an innate or overt purpose to the insanity given the nature of circumstances that I faced, namely the fact I was the prey and the driver was the predator, I realized since the beginning he could have easily ended this caper by murdering me. Instead, all he did was hiss, snarl, and occasionally threaten me when I defied or denounced him. Neither did he attempt to slap or punch me when I abruptly challenged him for any reason or none at all.
Looking at him, I noticed he was unusually quiet, perhaps even pensive. Even after I commandeered the vehicle, at least, steering us away from the direction and route he followed, he didn’t appear too infuriated; just wary of the change of direction and my daring provocation. Tempted to tell the driver what little I knew given what had thus far transpired, and despite the fact he had the ability to read my thoughts, I wanted to try and make amends for my aggressive insurgence. Thus, offer a sincere attempt to resolve our differences and end the hostility between us. Moreover, if, as I thought earlier, he was part of an impish game or prank, I didn’t know the rules. Neither did I know how to play his wicked game. Moreover, if the intended stratagem was meant to be life-threatening, then most assuredly I didn’t know how to concede and prepare to face my demise. In truth, I wasn’t that brave to face an execution at his hands.
Contemplating this menacing possibility, my accepting a no-win scenario was tantamount to surrendering. Therefore, willfully walking through death’s door without a fight. Presented with that consequential ultimatum, the consternation that came with it was unprecedented. Compared to the fitful state of mind I was in since the beginning of this ghastly rigamarole, and knowing I had come all this way and steadfastly tried to work through the quandary, confronted by a woeful finality was the absolute worst. To this latest communication recorded in my conscious mind, I retaliated and said, “Fuck that final bow and exit from stage left or right. If I have to, I’ll fight the son of a bitch to the death.”
Immediately after I spoke those encouraging words, the driver turned and said, “Yesssssssss. Buuuuutttttt yoooooouuuuu dooooooooo nottttttttreeemmmeeeeemmbbbbeeeeeeerrrr.”
“Remember what?” I shot back but he didn’t respond. But that was all he said, and, in truth, all he needed to say to turn my fantasized plans into an instant express reality. As for what I remember or forgot, that matter was something else altogether.
Fear of the unknown is one thing; but fear of the known is quite another. Recall this advice, I sensed the driver’s directive was meant for me to figure out. In fact, the fear I awoke with and still remained a viable emotional reaction centered on the destination somewhere ahead. But what did I know about Dark Hill? What did I know about this terminus? More to the point, what was it that I did not remember? He said as much, yet his cryptic reminder revealed no insight. No insight indeed, not even a teasing inkling why I should continue playing the stranger’s game.
My thoughts were entangled by too many questions. My mind was also inconveniently blank when it came to finding matching answers. I muttered, “He knows everything and is having me on. Must be enjoying every minute of his ruse.”
☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎
So far, it was self-evident the worst of my difficulty and dilemma came down to having grave misgivings about my anticipated delivery to the designated locale, Dark Hill. I was also unknowledgeable about the correlation between the driver and why he was instructed to take me there. Curiously, hidden secrets of my past patently trickled out of my disheveled mind, almost randomly, and certainly all were opportune recollections. Accordingly, I sifted through each teasing fragment searching for other associative shreds of memories. Every fragment retained essential elements that accounted for the continuity of my past life and experiences to the present. That much was a given. While it was also true I had accessed numerous details or suggestive hints about my past, the main and missing constructs of memory association still remained elusive. Furthermore, these missing links kept me off-balance and made me skeptical. Accordingly, I struggled to regain what I had lost, as though the effort was nearly as important as breathing. Indeed, without those memories, I feigned a blindman trying to read Braille’s coded language. I didn’t know anything about this code but I somehow understood the simile.
Given the continuing barren frontier we crossed, the driver steered a nearly straight course. He seemed to be as curious as I was about some unforeseen and contingent hazard somewhere ahead. Thus, possibly disabling the vehicle. Whether it plowed into a gully, developed a mechanical breakdown, or was crippled by a ruptured tire, I didn’t care one way or the other. The rationale for wallowing in such apathy resided in the fact I was still willing to take my chances on foot; that is, if I escaped injury and managed to outrun my presumed adversary. Besides, if the phantom house was somewhere in this general direction, then it was worth trying to get there on my own and let him fend for himself, which is precisely what I had to do since the beginning.
Reflecting on these tempting musings, it only then occurred to me there was more to my inflated confidence centered on distancing myself from both the danger and the driver. Thus, I might have sabotaged my only chance to make it to the house safely when I forced the driver to go this way. Accordingly, I was already having doubts about that impulsive decision to alter his original course and plans by heading in the direction I thought was better for me. The pivotal question I then asked myself was equally disabling: What if the heading we’re on not only ruins our transport but possibly injures or kills one or both of us? It didn’t take too long for me to find a fitting one-word response––shit!
The quandary I thought about was certainly ponderous and debilitating. Recalling what he said earlier, now I wasn’t sure if I felt good or bad about that compelling house and its locale. Moreover, I was baffled to hear he was, in fact, taking me to Dark Hill and was that engaging house I sought to find also located there? If so, why was I keen to find out one way or the other? Naturally, it was impossible to know what to think or believe. For one thing, the stranger had all the answers while I had some of the questions. Once again, I was at another mental impasse. I considered lunging at the driving and take control of the steering wheel. The hasty plan was meant to alter the course again, merely to keep the stranger from the satisfaction and irony I suspected might be part of his clandestine and diabolical plans. Namely, not letting me know Dark Hill and the house were part of the same estate.
I didn’t trust the driver before and I sure as hell didn’t trust him now. But what direction would I go if I decided to take action? The ambiguous terrain we were on would either lead to a route that eventually led to the house or back to the spur we were on, in which case, we would more or less be back on our original course.
The option of hijacking the vehicle for the second time came to mind. Watching the driver, I wondered if he sensed I hatched such a plan, and, therefore, it would not as easy as it was before. Still, he was somewhat distracted because he was forced to maneuver around taller bushes and foliage that started to appear in this vicinity, but not trees; at least, not yet. The gravity of the situation and our impromptu detour had worsened for me, and, possibly, for him, as well. With no track to follow, he had to improvise, if not altogether guess, on a somewhat exacting and slightly changing course and direction. Given credit where credit was due. the rolling, rocking, and bouncing transport made its relatively slow and tentative way across a nearly flat and a predominately featureless terrain. It astonished me that he even continued driving because he could have stopped and physically made me pay for my actions. Even then, retribution would likely happen later, and in the worst way.
After driving in silence given whatever mileage had already passed since we entered this environs, I broke the hard silence between us and asked, “Are we lost, mister?” As expected, there was no answer. I then asked, “Are you mad because I wanted to go this way?” Still no answer. Releasing a long and intentional sigh, I added, “Let’s just get it over with. You take me to Dark Hill, let me out, and I’ll go my way and you go yours.” Ignoring me as usual, I said to myself, but verbally expressed, “Why has God abandoned me? I still don’t know what I did to deserve any of this shit or share a ride with this grim stranger. God, I feel so alone; so helpless; and so estranged. Why, why, why. . .”
In his familiar intimidating tone of voice, he surprised and startled me when he said, “Youuuuuuu haveeeeeeeeee abaaaaannnndoneddddddd
youuuuuurrrrrrsekfffffff RK Allllllleeeeemaaaaaannnnnn!” Then he turned, stared at me, and I cowered and sunk back in the seat when I heard the equally familiar hiss and snarl.
“What?” I shouted back; “I abandoned myself, did you say? How on earth is that possible? And how is that you know this name, RK Alleman? Is this my real name and not Spiritus or whatever you said before? Listen to me, I demand you explain yourself, mister.” The hard silence between us had returned, only accentuated with more tension and suspense.
Not knowing the implication of his terse statement, in hindsight, I took note of the fact, this time, the driver was not equivocal given what he said. He knew something all right, but that part of what he held back was not for me to hear and know just now. The import of his message was also one more clue added to a thoroughly perplexing riddle I still could not solve. But he could.
I had abandoned myself? That questionable assertion delivered by those uninviting words echoed in my mind. Hearing, again, what he uttered in sparing words was far worse than my worrying about an imminent breakdown or crash. Looking out the window at the murky background and occasional shrubbery, my delayed emotional response felt as though I was just kicked in the stomach. I still couldn’t believe what he said or I thought he said. The trackless landscape we traversed generated a parody of a nearly barren backdrop without a clue to its overall dimension or orientation to any point on the compass. If the driver was right about my abandoning myself, and for whatever reason I exiled my life and soul, then I may have brought such fathomless dread on myself. It was indeed a lost world I had errantly ventured into, simply by waking up in this strange vehicle driven by an even stranger man, if a man. Either by accident or premeditated, there was no doubt about my reality. Thus, it was the waking that was more real than the dream. Immediately after that unparalleled notion passed, I realized I finally solved a conundrum I had long ago challenged myself to do just that.
The next question I thought about was whether I could change the perimeters of this dramatic episode by begging for the driver’s forgiveness and getting another chance to redeem myself? If so, what infraction had I caused to even ask for his forgiveness? I needed to know this answer before I could properly atone for whatever it was that consigned me to his supervision. Otherwise, this hoosegow-on-wheels, along with the driver’s cheerless and pitiless company was a providence I perceived to be more abhorrent than death itself.
After these deliberations faded in my mind, I realized the severity of what I just admitted to myself, then hurried to exclaim, “No, no, I don’t want to go there with a bargaining chip of virtue to try and win you over. Let this madness end here and now. I’m talking to you, mister. Whatever I did or didn’t do in my still unremembered past, let me go home again. I’ll make it on my own and I will find my way come hell or high water.”
But then I cut off the invocation, for I saw a discernible profile of something or someone not too far ahead and standing on my side of the vehicle. Rubbing eyes to make sure I wasn’t imagining what I saw, where the headlights aimed whatever it was appeared to be a tall human figure because it stood upright on two legs. Spellbound, I saw his two eyes eerily glow in the reflected light. I was astonished to see another human in this godforsaken terrain we traveled through. As we got closer, the mysterious stranger appeared to be waiting for our arrival. I was about to say something to the driver when whoever it was suddenly darted in front of us.
Hearing a dull thumping sound, the impact was followed by a noticeable bump. I was sure we had run over whoever it was. But the driver never even slowed down. Neither did he seem interested in what just happened.
“Hey mister,” I cried out; “you just ran over someone back there. Didn’t you see that stranger standing there? Did you not hear or feel anything?” I stared at the driver to see what his reaction might be. But he said nothing about the incident. Obviously, he chose to ignore my concerns. Nevertheless, I didn’t want him to forget what just happened and yelled, “Did you hear me? I said you ran over someone. And it sure as hell wasn’t an animal. Turn around. Go back, I say. He might only be injured and just wanted us to stop and give him a ride. That’s why he leaped out in front of your vehicle. Nothing I said had an effect on the driver. He just didn’t give a damn one way or the other.
I broke down and let the emotional outburst center on me. Given the aftermath of what happened, I sobbed and said in a barely audible tone of voice, “Oh, Christ, what’s happening? No, what’s happening to me? What have I gotten myself into? This is all too real, yet seems like a well-orchestrated fantasy, but not a dream. For all I know, the driver might be a figment of my overwrought imagination. Figment or no, things like this just don’t happen. I swear to God I’ll get to the bottom of this. And he’ll pay dearly for his actions. We always pay for our actions, at least, the bad karma shit.”
After expressing those emotionally-charged sentiments, I turned and said to the driver, “Are you a figment of my imagination, mister?”
Turning his head, he stared back at me and, this time, there was a different response, though not with words. I sensed the same icy stare as before and the prolonged silence between us was more intense. I then heard the sound of what I assumed was laughter, a mocking and malevolent sound that sent chills down my spine. That’s all he did––laugh at me. Still, it was enough to put me in my place and shut me up. Afterward, he turned his head and faced forward again. I wanted to crawl inside myself and disappear forever.
This driver was not just a chauffeur of sorts; he acted more like a demon masquerading as a human being. I thought if I pushed him too far he intended to harm me. Pressing my body tight against the door, I could feel the hairs raising on the back of my neck. I wanted nothing more to do with this stranger. A final showdown that I suspected might come before too long would no doubt prove he would be formidable as an opponent. Although I might outrun him, if he captured me, I certainly could not defeat him. The way he laughed also told me he knew his strength and my weakness. I also had an uncanny feeling an encounter with the driver under such conditions was nothing new. That was all I could derive from this odd and disturbing inclination.
Closing my eyes, I listened to a blend of sounds, mostly mechanical and the usual noise and protest of badly worn springs and shocks. In a way, these audible reports were almost meditative, but not quite relaxing. But what happened next I didn’t expect. The vehicle suddenly surged and flew over a protrusion. When it landed hard on the front tires, the impact was so severe I felt a surging pain in my lower back. Glancing sideways, I was about to scold the driver for his negligent driving, but to my amazement he wasn’t there. I looked a second time, yet he had inexplicably disappeared, or else murky shadows concealed his body so perfectly I couldn’t see him sitting behind the wheel.
“Hey,” I cried out; “where the hell did you go, mister? Are you still there?” There was no answer. I asked again, “Driver, where did you go? This has got to be another one of your pranks. You can’t just vanish like this, mister. But the vehicle is still moving. This is crazy. What the hell is going on here? How can this be?”
☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎ ☁︎
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!
Note: This completes the posted weekly installments of this strange novel’s rough draft. For those who, for whatever reason, have read these so-called “Enigma” (chapter) installments and would like to continue with this exercise, contact me at my email address firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will send additional chapter material; otherwise, this latest chapter (8) completes the weekly offerings.