From The Journal Of Anson Fordyce
I wondered how the sun could shine on a day like this. The last thing I could even fathom was that this was over. What God was looking down with relief now? It was over, but I didn't want to admit it. We had lost too much.
I stood there in a nice suit I had bought especially for the occasion and would probably never wear again. I thought it would be appropriate. Black the color of the moment. Harm Hill was black, our hearts were black. Everything was black.
It had been a while since the fire. About two weeks. I guess that's how long it takes to get your affairs in order. You know, pay bills, buy crap. But anyway, I stood there on the grass in a f*cking business suit, wondering how it came to this.
To anyone who may find this, I'm supposing you'll probably want to know what happened. Well, to be honest, sh*t happened. Everything went downhill.
At the time of this writing, I am homeless. I've been able to squeak by with some help from Tony, but for the most part, I'm on my own. I usually sleep on park benches. No one really bothers me. They think I'm just another transient. Pity that.
Charlie and Becky got back together, but I know it's not the same. They don't act the same around each other. It feels stilted. The love present is more of a physical connection. They are together because they can be, and Charlie fears dying alone.
I have to admit, at this point, I've begun to notice the little things about the people I considered my friends. Well, Charlie is clueless: a man obsessed with the beauty of the body and not of the mind. Where is the love? Dead.
As for Jason? He told me he saw the fireball from miles away. Well, at least that's what I think he was trying to say. See, when the fireball went off, something went wacky in his head. He's gone full-blown autistic now. Can barely communicate now. I'm so sorry for him and his family. Why this happened to one of the best guys out there is beyond me. God's design is flawed.
And Ericpoor guy. He's gone catatonic. The docs say the trauma of the explosion triggered a sort of latent posttraumatic stress disorder. He was released from the psychiatric hospital a few days ago, but Ryan says he's still off.
Darryl was arrested for arson and murder. The guys and I confirmed he's the shredder. We can vaguely remember him being around Harmony Hill during the summer, and I know he moved in rather close to Karen's house at the beginning of the summer. Here, the man who caused us such pain, such terror he's gone? Like that? With one last fire the man who ruined our lives is arrested? But nothing changes for the better. Jay and Eric got f*cked up, Charlie got some huge cuts from the glass, and me
I stood there in my suit, looking up at the sunny sky. Why would it be so bright? This was far from an appropriate day for sunshine.
We were gathered around the hole, all dressed wonderfully in black. Ryan and Jana had brought Eric. Jana was crying, and Ryan tried to comfort her, but Eric just stood there blankly, like he wasn't there. He seemed in a fog. He looked at things like they weren't really there; like it wasn't happening. I can only wish this wasn't happening.
Jay was there, too. His parents and Kristin were holding him. He was aware of the situation, though I'm not sure if he was processing it appropriately. Pity, really.
Charlie showed up with Becky. They held hands the entire time in a futile attempt to comfort each other. How can you love someone not yourself? I doubt they could. An odd sort of self-centered existence was the fuel of their character. I wasn't sure how that worked.
I had lost Gina weeks ago to a man who was now staring blankly at the ground. I wasn't sure where she was anymore. I didn't really care. She could die, for all I cared. Nothing really mattered at this point.
Tony came, too. He stood there with me, and we both just stared in silence. Somehow, I feel he understood on some spiritual level. How, I'm not sure. What I am sure of, I figured, was that he would be a lot happier without me. The priest began the sermon rather awkwardly. They were burying Becker in the Catholic fashion, despite the fact he was more of an agnostic than anything else. I think it was due to his mother's wishes, but I didn't pay much attention to her. She was just another soul. It was her only son, and I'd like to think these things could heal. But wounds on the soul of an entire town? I'm not so sure.
They buried him in his nicest dress shirt. I heard that Jay's sister worked at the funeral home and had to dress him for the funeral. I can't imagine a worse moment. This boy who saved your life is now lying lifeless before you, and you have to make him look beautiful for God. How could she function?
They left him a rather boring tombstone. Gray, rough. Inscribed with his last name and birth and death dates. Is this all we leave behind? A piece of stone marking where our family abandoned our remains? Why? What was left in this meager tale? My last memory of Becker will be this priest's droning voice, going on about how he died a hero.
There are no heroes in war. This war only brought victims.
As they lowered the casket, I had to wonder what his last thought was. Help, or a swear? No. Something much more. He was thinking about something deeper. The meaning of life, I imagined, must have come to him. But on this inappropriately sunny day, it didn't come to me. On this day, the hope died. The meaning was lost, and I didn't know how move.
I watched everyone leave. Finally, dad came and took Tony home. I watched him leave, locking eyes one last time with my brother. He was cold. Dead on the inside. I then realized he was becoming just like me. I don't want him to be me. I don't even want to be me. Why spread the suffering?
I've decided what I have to do.
He moved silently, knowing no one was home. But the fear of discovery frightened him more than anything else. Not the memory; not the consequences. The late afternoon was comforting. The cicadas chirped in the dying embers of a late summer's day. He had an hour. He'd only need ten minutes. He just hoped they hadn't moved anything yet.
He knew they always kept the back screen door open. What use was trying to lock a glass door? Someone could shatter it. But not him. He was more delicate.
One last thing. He just needed one last thing before he was finished here. He could finally leave the evil behind. All it required was one last symbol of a fallen idol. God's last crucifix.
Anson slipped into the basement quickly, knowing the neighbors were rather vigilant. He stood in his former room, smelling the odd mix of dust and gasoline he knew so well. The chemicals that rotted in the walls smelled like home to him.
He sighed and trotted up the steps, taking his time to absorb the moment. This was the last step before the end. What else could he do?
He moved down the hall like a shadow, trailing the walls to the room of a dead hero. He opened the door to Becker's room and was immediately blasted a wave of cold air. Right above the garage, Becker's room had always been an icy locale, home to the fearful demons he kept locked inside.
But here Anson stood, staring at the demons. And somehow, it felt so out of place. Sotame. The walls were painted bright blue, making the 8' by 11' room look even smaller. The darkness at the corners made him nervous. He felt as if he were being watched.
The paranoia would have to be ignored. Anson stepped forward, taking in a frosty breath, sending a shock to his aching lungs. It was around here somewhere. Ah, yes, the mini-locker. The striking blue locker sitting on Becker's dresser, holding all his most treasured items. The only issue was that single golden lock. Surely it could be broken.
Anson retraced his steps and passed the basement door. The front shoe closet held all the tools, he knew. What an odd family. What a strange broken family.
The box did indeed contain what he needed: a simple pair of pliers. Anson quickly returned to the cold blue room of a broken soul and brought the pliers to meet the golden lock. It broke easily. Anson knew this would leave evidence of some tampering, but he had to imagine it from Becker's mother's point of view. Would you go in your dead son's room a day after his funeral?
He flipped open the little hinged door and looked inside. Nestled among scraps of folded notes and crinkled dollar bills was Becker's prized ankh necklace. It was the last shred of his broken soul Becker would not be able to revive the goodness of this town. But, Anson thought, putting it on, perhaps I can bring this piece of him somewhere else.
Yes, he thought, flee this wretched place. Run from the monsters that inhabit it; the monsters that hide in alleyways and rape women and eat children while they play with the father's charred remains.
Slipping back downstairs, Anson smelled that grand old smell of dust and chemicals he loved. It was almost as if he didn't want to leave, but he knew he had to go. Who knows how long Becker's parents would be out? But something called to him here. He couldn't go without it. It was a voice.
Into the dark, Anson. It cried in misery. Bring me with you.
Anson, albeit rather turned off by the voice, followed its lingering sound, watching it bounce of the walls in a dazzling ball of blue light. It curved into the darkness of Chagrin's music corner and settled, as if it were the soul, into Eric's acoustic guitar, which had been left here to rot.
Okay. Anson said, grabbing the guitar by the neck and stringing it over his shoulder like an army rifle. Time for war against the growing darkness.
He gathered his things out of the alley between the shoe store and the apartment building on the rough side of town early that morning. He noted in his journal that it was the fourteenth. A day no one would remember for anything specific. It was a day that didn't stand out on the pedestal of a holiday. There was no joy to be had, nor any misery. It was the apathetic god's holiday.
He hadn't slept at all the previous night. The summer sun was starting to fade into a chilly fall breeze. The leaves were still fully alive, but they seemed ill, as if they knew something no one else in Harmony Hill did. They must have known that the last little bit of light in the black hole was going away.
Anson had written up a manifesto on a stolen legal pad and a broken pen. It was his last message to the town: like writing a letter to the devil. His soul was not for sale, but surely it could easily be delivered unto darkness should he remain.
It read: To the damned: I have seen the true face of this vile town and I realize its true nature. The depraved souls left behind here shall be the only remnant of the black hole that has engulfed my home, my life, and my righteousness. I must flee from this place, should I ever wish to retain my charity. All hope has gone from this place, and I feel I must go with it. I have taken the ankh, perhaps the last piece of holy scripture left here. Bibles mean nothing to a man without hope. Damned be all who reside in the pit of Harmony Hill.
Anson left the note in a trashcan no one used. He hoped somewhere, sometime in the future, someone would find it and read it aloud. Let the damned know who they are. To quote Walt Kelly: I have met the enemy, and the enemy are we.
By the time he reached the bus stop on the edge of Firebrand St. and Maple St., it was about 9 AM. The sun had risen and was growing to a powerful blaze. But somehow, a shadow was hanging over Harmony Hill on this day, blocking out the eyes of God. No one would see the events of this day, as the last messenger was leaving. Flee this wretched place; Sodom and Gomorrah. He wouldn't look back. There would be no pillar of salt in the back of a bus.
The bus wasn't due for another hour or so. Anson had time. He calmly fell onto his side on the bench and closed his eyes. Make the world disappear. Harmony Hill was his hallucination, except for the fact it was reality. He just so deeply wished making dark things disappear was as simple as closing your eyes.
In the layered dream world, he walked on a green glass bridge in an endless expanse toward a castle made of the same green crystallized glass. A red flag hung from the highest tower, waving in an intangible breeze. The insignia reflected the true inner passion: a jolly roger. Piracy. Steal the lives and innocence of a small clan of kinsmen. Eat their souls and spit out the darkened creatures, still scarred from the jagged teeth. The dragon rode past, breathing a wicked flame. This thing he so wanted to destroy. But groping for his sword, he found nothing. The dream world shattered around him. And the pieces fell; flying out at two boys standing on the porch of a burning house.
He opened his eyes in a lightning strike's time. The darkness had penetrated his unconscious mind, warping his thoughts. Get out, he thought, sitting up. Get out of my mind!
Hey-o. a voice said from next to him.
Startled, Anson looked to his left and saw Jana sitting there, looking rather uncomfortable.
It's weird. I found Becker in a similar state about a year ago. Wanting to get rid of it all. He was standing on the edge of the Willsbury Cliffs. I can't imagine you want to actually leave?
Anson coughed, composing himself. Jana had approached rather quietly, not disturbing his sleep.
You don't really need to say anything. Jana said quietly. I know you think Harmony Hill is disturbed.
I wouldn't put it that way.
No, you'd put it far worse in context. Jana sighed. I don't know.
Well, Jana Anson began, then stopped.
What? she responded.
Well, you could always come with me.
Jana shook her head.
No, I think I'd best stay. Ryan can't take care of Eric by himself. He's really quiet, but he can go into a screaming fit in an instant.
I'm sorry. Anson said, patting her on the back sympathetically.
Don't be. Jana sniffled. It's not your fault.
I know, but
He didn't bother to continue. The two sat in silence for the remaining hour, staring into the distance of the surrounding hills guarding the valley that was Harmony Hill. In the shadow of the horizon, the high school loomed, watching the two truants with furious eyes. Anson stood strong, a defiant symbol of the rebellion he was staging.
Jana? Anson asked out of the blue.
Did you love him?
Love iscomplicated. I don't like to think of it as love. It's a troubled existence.
Love is a lie. Anson announced, seeing the bus driving up from a few blocks down the road. Remember that.
Is that what I get from you? Jana asked, standing up with Anson. That everything propelling the world is a lie?
Love doesn't propel the world. Anson said.
You're right. Jana muttered. She reached into her jeans pocket and removed a red pack of cigarettes and a small silver lighter. With a flick of the wrist, she lit the cigarette.
I didn't know you smoked. Anson muttered, grabbing the guitar.
I don't. Jana said simply. She gently tossed the lighter to Anson, who caught it with shaky hands. He immediately put it in his pocket. The two shared one last look. There was that melancholy moment of recognition between them, and then Anson started for the door to the bus, which had stopped just in time.
But as he began to ascend the steps to his new life, Jana called out to him.
Hey. She said, puffing the cigarette. We don't do things because we want to. We do them because we are compelled.
Anson nodded, a hint of sadness in his motion, then walked the rest of the way onto the bus. He chose a seat toward the back, so he could be alone. He wasn't sure where this bus was going, but all he cared was that it was going far away from this place.
Out of sheer curiosity, he took the lighter out of his pocket and began fiddling with it. But to his surprise as he turned the silver object over, he discovered a familiar symbol: a simple crucifix carved in the side. Then, as if by instinct, he turned the lighter over. There, inscribed in the bottom of the lighter was the name Zippler.
Anson turned sharply in his seat and stared out the back window of the bus.
The last sight he caught of Harmony Hill was the glow of Jana's blazing red hair, disappearing into the growing shadow of the town, much like the embers of a fire that destroyed a young boy's home fade into the night.
Well, that's it for Harmony Hill. Hope you all enjoyed the ride. I know I loved having you guys around to give me feedback. I certainly have noticed my writing style has developed nicely. Thank you, all.
But don't get down. A new series is on the way, which will continue the story of Harmony Hill, and perhaps answer some more questions, called The Vanishing Point. I don't like to just give answers outright. I like you guys to interpret it for yourselves. There can be meaning in even the smallest things.
Vanishing Point will be investigating the deserts of the southwestern United States and the Palm Desert scene, but who knows where it will go? Stay tuned, my friends!