Something old, something new, something gone, something found

Prose, updates

The thought of leaving my current life to begin a completely new and utterly different one is daunting, to say the least. It’s also exhilarating; almost everything I own will not be going with me. I’m truly starting over. Everything I do, and everything I will own will be mine. I’ve compiled somewhat of a list of the things I will and will not be taking to help me sort things out.

My best friend who has been there for me every second I’ve needed her, and always just wants to be pet, I will be taking Brita. Her best dog friend who she plays with every day in the back yard, and who has looked out for Brita will not being going. The pictures, videos, and memories of the two of them playing with, annoying, and looking out for each other will be going.

The futon that is slightly over-folded on one side because my friend used it as a bed for a year will not be going; the memories of staying up almost through every night that year, talking and sorting out problems, ideas, and thoughts will be going.

The desk that I grew up with – the one I learned how to type on, and played my first video games on; the desk that still holds faint reminders of a younger me, through its stickers and drawings, will not be going. Learning how to spell my name at that desk, and learning how to use a computer for the first time, and making Valentine’s cards to my first crushes at that desk will be going with me.

The giant piles of blankets that have regularly kept me warm and comfortable will not be going. Like, really, who even needs that many blankets? You gotta choose wisely, and those blankets are just not going.

The records and record player I have will be going. They have been my only company before on my worst nights. They are there when they don’t have a choice. They speak to me when I need it most.

The loveseat I have been sleeping on for over a year will not be going. The memories of finding love there, of first holding someone’s hand while watching a movie, of spending all day making a fancy dinner to share with someone in that spot will be going. The holes that my friend and I put into the walls moving the loveseat from the street where we found it into the basement will be staying, though I will not be taking them with me.

Brita’s pee on said loveseat will not be going.

My TV is going only under extreme scrutiny. I mean, I need to fall asleep to something boring, like Shark Tank, and I’m guessing anyone who visits would appreciate something to do. But also, TV is dumb.

My books and bookshelf will be going. The texts that have kept me sane and also have taught me almost as much as actual life experience are going to be incredible tools I’ll have to turn to, and I’ll need all the help I can get.

The chair that an ex bought for me that looks like something out of Mad Men will be going. It’s the best chair I’ve ever owned, and the memories of receiving it as a gift, and the things I have created in it, and the memories of a life that I once lived in it will also be going.

The carpet is obviously not going, but the memory of having to physically block by mom from coming into my room using a shower curtain during an inappropriate time will be going. On second thought, maybe that memory won’t be going. Let’s take the memory of the Halloween when my friend threw up on the carpet from eating over ten KitKats instead.

The box of letters, small gifts, and memories from those who used to be close but are now living different lives with different people – as I soon will be – will be going. However, it will probably not be opened again, if I can help it. What is it about needing to keep good memories close by, but also finding them so difficult to actually face and look back on?

My clothes will be going with me; but the clothes that belong to a younger, much different version of me, will not be going, for they are not my clothes anymore, but they belong to a distant memory of a person who no longer exists.

All of my musical instruments will be going. The chords and notes they make when I enter a new chapter of life might change, though. Everything, even if it’s going with me, will be a different thing when it enters a new chapter of life.

My friends will not be going – this journey is just for me. But, my phone will be going. The messages, photos, and memories of my life until this point will be going with me. Those who love me now may continue to love me, talk to me, and reach out to me as I leave.

I will be going. I will be packing up my things and my dog, and leaving. My experiences, life lessons, personality, and thoughts I have come to live by will be going with me. My fears, uncertainty, inexperience, and lack of money will be going with me. But, if something is going with me, it must in a way be a part of me. All of these parts will converge together, messily, and without much planning. But eventually, they will settle together. They will find their place and volume, and in that way, they will all become new things. A thing really can only be described through the context in which it exists. If the entire context for all things – including myself – changes, then we all become new things. And in a way, that’s what life is; being a thing, and then changing your context, location, and ideas, only to become a new thing later on. Hopefully a better thing. A thing that has grown from all of the old things that it used to be, so that it can just become a better, wisened, stronger thing.

I am ecstatic, and terrified, and anxious, and happy to begin as and to be a new thing.

Thank you for reading, and for any help

Starting over and asking for help

Uncategorized, updates

Hello all! I have a serious post here. I am packing up and starting a new life! Things have taken a scary, troublesome, and unhealthy turn in my life, and I am doing what I know will be best for my stability and mental health. I will be going to Peoria Illinois with my dog, Brita. My best friend and some family live there, and I am beyond excited to start over and live the life I have wanted for years. But due to COVID and some other financial burdens, I won’t be able to do it alone. The initial plan was to wait until I had enough saved up to comfortably leave, but life has become so uncomfortable and unbearable here that I am going to be leaving ASAP, knowing that is the best possible action. Brita will be able to stay with family during the day while I am looking for work/ housing, but the two of us will most likely have to be homeless in my car for a (hopefully) short period of time. Generosity in this time is something that would mean the world to me, and to Brita. I have started a GoFundMe with the goal of raising $2k so that her and I can start over and get into a sense of normalcy and healthy living. All of the rest of the details are going to be in the link at the bottom. Feel free to DM me with any questions or concerns, should you be interrested. And hey, thanks!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/transgirl-needing-to-start-over?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_na+share-sheet&rcid=c170375d1046498c8e92b68693bcedc6

Bad Times with Jetson Plains

Essays, music

My one-person (generally) band, Jetson Plains released “bad times.” on June 14th, 2020. The album is about loss, mostly, and doesn’t seem to end on much of a hopeful note, as most of my work is persuaded to do.

Now, I fully comprehend the idealistic, and also self-indulged narcissism in writing about my own album. The music should – and hopefully does – speak for itself. The caveat here, though, is that I’m not by any means a popular musician. I do not have any sort of following, no one writing reviews, and certainly no one attempting to decipher anything that should come from the music and lyrics of this creation. Like every JP release before it, it simply exists. It was cast into the throws of the internet, where it stays for those to listen to – or more likely, to ignore. And because of that, here lies my idealistic, self-indulged, narcissistic write-up of my own album.

Where I think I have succeeded in this release is in having the songs and lyrics, and the tones of said songs speak for themselves. It’s a breakup album. It’s an album about feeling like a fuck up, and losing people close to me whom I once thought could never be lost. It’s about depression, anxiety, and also about attempting to find comfort in friends, family, and also in other unsavory endeavors and rituals. Musically inspired by the likes of La Dispute, PUP, Single Mothers, Say Anything, and Conor Oberst; and lyrically inspired by Charles Bukowski, Max Bemis, Bob Dylan, and the films of Lars Von Trier, Ari Aster, and Gaspar Noe (the former filmakers’ works make an appearance on several tracks), this album is intentionally dark. Sometimes it’s dark in its own right, sometimes it’s dark in an almost comedic, self-realized sort of caricature of myself.

I wrote this album during the start of the COVID outbreak, and made it my goal to finish it during my time being furloughed from work. It’s safe to say it accomplished its goal in helping me sort through my thoughts, keep my mind busy, and keep me from succumbing to the dread that was poured into the writings within. It’s admittedly not always a fun listen. It’s quite long, messy, and horrifically under-produced (though sometimes the latter is purposeful). But hey, maybe someone will stumble upon this. Maybe.

Maybe they’ll even give it a listen and it’ll help with some of the same dread that we all feel from time to time. Maybe it’ll give someone a good laugh with its shitty vocals, musicianship, or lyricism. Perhaps someone will even learn to love it. I made it for me, and it did its job in being a coven – a safe space for me to pour out existential crisis.

I’m goddamn proud of it. I spent a lot of time, effort, and attention on it. My love and heart went into it, and though I realize that in the end, I’m just writing this even for myself more than anything, I do hope that someone may find meaning in this album. So, thanks to anyone for listening or supporting – however that may look. Love ya’ll

bad times.

Comedic Proceedings of a Transgirl

comedy, Essays, Prose

Working retail is invariably full of comedic happenings. Whether it’s the typical Karen out to seek vengeance on a forgotten coupon that was not added to her order, or an irate manager who doesn’t understand why an employee would call in under their watch. Yet, being a transgirl in retail brings in a new set of comedic circumstances.

Take for example, my coworker, S. S is middle-aged, and extremely passionate about her job as a front end cashier within a failing retail chain that specializes in selling bath mats and coffee makers. S is quite intuitive, finding new and ingenious ways of making mundane tasks, like taking out some trash before assisting a new customer, a process that one may only begin to comprehend; how does she take so long? What true intentions is she hiding in working so seemingly quickly, while not actually accomplishing anything at all? What an elusive and mysterious woman.

S and I have never particularly gotten along, partially due to my frustrations in having to work with someone who clearly has secret, ulterior motives that go above just completing her simple tasks, but also because she has said a cornucopia of offensive things now-and-then that leave me wondering how she could have such an enigmatic mind – being both empty and yet full of needlessly daft thoughts and opinions. It therefor came as no surprise when S came back from her furloughed time off from work (of which I had been working a month before she came back) to have to adjust to me having transitioned just before the beginning of COVID. For the first half hour of our shift together, we quietly worked at our own registers, and even exchanged a wave when we first saw each other. S then came to my register (which is the customer service desk) to ask me a question.

“I keep wanting to call you Evan-Evelyn,” she chuckled.

I cringed. “Well, that’s not…” I began.

“So, anyways, how was your break, Evan?”

“Uhm,” was all I was able to make out.

S then went back to her register, apparently not needing a response.

A, a favorite manager of mine then went to S’s register to see if she needed anything.

“No, I’m okay. I just dropped some stuff off with Evan and he seemed to be okay at his register,” she responded.

“Well,” A began, “That is not a he, that is a she, and her name is Evelyn.”

“Oh, I know,” S chuckled.

“Right.”

A then came to my register and asked if S was giving me any trouble.

“I mean, not really. Just sort of generally being disrespectful and making me feel like shit. But, that’s sort of just what this job is, am I right?” I responded, half-jokingly.

A assured me that she would make sure S got the notice and would get her act together. But before too long she came back to my space.

“So, Evan-Evelyn, when did they move things around in the store?”

I let out an over dramatic sigh and just walked away, letting S deal with the now long line of people forming in the checkout que.

Perhaps I will begin addressing S as “puzzle,” a new pronoun I am considering for those who just don’t seem to get it. That should hold up in corporate, right?

Children, as dumb as they can be (though I generally chalk this up to parenting more than anything, desperately attempting to cling to the idea that children are not dumb, adults are) can also be quite a source for contemplative, depressive humor.

“Mommy, why does that boy sound like a girl?” asked one child as I was checking her mom’s purchases out.

“Yeah, a boy-girl,” chimed in her brother.

They both giggled and chanted “boy-girl” half a dozen times as the mother made demands as to how she wanted her items bagged. After a good thirty seconds, their grandmother reprimanded them, asking them if they thought that was a kind thing to say – which is clearly a good way to parent. I am no child psychologist, nor developmental expert, though I would be willing to bet that those children have not yet completely divulged in and catalogued their own personal philosophy of ethics and societal constructs. Though, like with all things, I could be wrong.

Some other parts of being a transgirl in society that are anecdotally/ depressingly comedic are in dealing with cops*. With this being a time of international pandemic, a girl still has to eat. And a depressed, lonely girl has to eat at absurd times of the night. Before I was back to work, and still under locally mandated quarantine constrictions, I took a walk to King Soopers for some dinner. It was about 1 a.m., and I was walking through a parking lot with nothing but a cop car in it. As I passed, I noticed the cop on his phone. I kept walking – what else would I do? Some thirty seconds later, the lights were flashing behind me. I stopped, and he asked me what I was doing. I told him and he decided to check my ID to, I still don’t know, verify my story? (Again, check the footnote.) And let me tell you folks, there is no greater joy for a trans person than being “caught” in a situation when you are ordered to show your ID to an authoritarian figure, looking the complete opposite of your photo, and seeing the perplexed look on their face as they attempt to put all of the pieces together in their head. After a couple of minutes, he let me go, but it was honestly worth it just to see the look of bewilderment on this man’s face as he realized that one person’s entire identity can’t actually be boiled down into gazing at one photograph from years ago to know everything you think you need to know about them, as I consummate their training has previously told them.

Ahem, (the following italics are to be read in a Jerry Seinfeld voice) And what’s up with parents? (Thank you, I will send for my Nobel Prize in Literature.) During the quarantine, my mother obviously became aware of many of my transitional traits. At first, she accused me of being a literal “devil-worshipper,” which is another essay for another time. Yet, as her blood-alcohol content, and time swelled, so did her apparent tolerance. There came a point in time in which she even asked me if I could do her hair and makeup, which I happily obliged to. We talked about such things for a bit, before I showed her a live video of NoFx to pass the time. “I don’t like the singer,” she said.

“Oh? Why is that?”

“He’s wearing a dress. I just don’t like that. I love Elton John’s music, too, but he is just way too flamboyant, I don’t like it.”

Instagram is another place to find quite the smothering of reprehensible, yet jocular trash. I’ll choose to conclude this essay with some of my favorites from my inbox.

“Wow you’re so hot baby”

“I am from India.” (???)

“Where are you from”

“Sexy”

*several video chats sent at all hours

“Hello…. miss”

and many, many “Can I ask you a question?”

Also too many to even go through. Though, I do find them all to be quite funny.

*A note here that I am not going to get into the philosophy, societal impact, or politics of the police in this writing. Perhaps some other time, as it is an important topic, though this is a comedic post and not one meant to create opinion or express polarized views on clearly imperative and vital, urgent topics.

Color Out of Space – Movie Review

movie reviews, Prose

What a fun movie.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a fan of Nic Cage, but I also love him. Nic Cage is the Guy Fieri of Hollywood. There are three or four films of his that I enjoy, though, and his acting in this film is above his general standard. There are still classic moments of Cage screaming and being the ‘so over the top you should hate it but love it instead’ style of acting he’s become known for. Yet, there are also moments where Cage presents himself as a serious, well versed performer. The fact that the movie is so odd and back-in-forth in its tone may account for Cage’s comparative back-and-forth acting.
The rest of the actors do a good job as well. Tommy Chong carries a short amount of screen time, but plays a character that’s difficult not to love. The mom does a good job in gradually reacting to the effects of the meteorite. The two teenagers in the film are also written decently, and are a refreshing portrayal of how Gen Z’s genuinely interact. The youngest child is the only actor that brings out the apparently self-aware b-movie aesthetic a little too much, and not in a good way.

Now, this movie is wild. It’s based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft. The story is interesting – a meteorite crashes into the yard of a family living in the woods, and the meteorite begins to change reality itself for anyone who comes near it – though that is about all you get. The surface level story is as far as this film goes, in that there is not really a deeper meaning, moral, or commentary to be found. But, that’s part of what makes this movie so enjoyable. The Evil Dead (and its sequel – mostly the sequel) came to mind quite often as I was watching this. Reality is morphing into something unfathomable; the atmosphere of the film changes between a seemingly normal style, and an over-the-top fever dream; it seems like hope is lost and all is bleak, but then switches between somber tones to crazed comedic delivery.

The atmosphere of this film is really the best thing going for it. The meteorite emits this fuchsia-ish color that is very mesmerizing. At times, the color fills most of the screen and creates an atmosphere that is both unsettling and calming at the same time. That atmosphere essentially carries on through the entire film. It’s difficult to know who you’re rooting for, and what you’d like to see happen, because the expectations of this film go out the window with its combination of b-movie fun and campiness, and somewhat emotional and intense horror.

Going into this movie, it’s best to not know much, and to have no real expectations, because it’s absolutely not a normal movie. It’s part fever-dream, part emotionally disturbing horror, part Nic Cage mental breakdown, and part dark comedy. It’s a wild ride, and one that is fun and worth it. There’s not much to learn, or to take away intellectually, but the trip it’ll take you on is one that’s memorable and will stick with you with its fun and craziness.

Guess I’m back or whatever

Prose, Uncategorized

Well, it seems that I’m back at it with this blog. So unbelievably much has happened, which I’m not going to go in to. I will, however, drop hints and easter eggs through some of the stories and anecdotes I’ll be publishing, because that’s what writing is anyway, right? I also decided I’m going to be adding movie reviews to my publications. Some of these will be quick little fun reviews, and some will be attempts at really analyzing what makes a certain film the way it is; its meaning, philosophy, and practicality within the real world. I don’t have a specific outline as to when I post, but will try to do so at least 3-4 times a month. Sometimes it might be 10 in a month, but it’ll at least be 3. So, if anyone has stuck around, thanks for doing so. And if you happen to stumble upon this thing, welcome.

Clandestine – 5

Prose

Soundtrack

I feel as if I’m finally beginning to understand just how difficult it can be to fall down a metaphorical rabbit hole. I think back to conspiracy theories I’ve heard, and now wonder if maybe their descent began in the same way mine did. I took a job to pay for my housing and have witnessed strange things. I have been told that a mysterious substance is involved and have now been told that I have perhaps been subjected to its use against my will and without my knowledge. It’s becoming a bit more difficult to keep telling myself that things are normal, that it’s just been an odd week.

“Are you assuming I’ve been exposed to this stuff because of how crazy I might sound?” I asked Dr. Kardos.

“I’m not trying to assume anything,” he responded calmly, “That’s why I just want to be sure.”

“What makes you think I might have been exposed, then?”

“Well, when you told me everything, you mentioned datura. I found that in this powder. I also found more than just that.”

I didn’t know what to think or really even how to respond. I flatly asked what else he had found.

“For starters, I don’t know how much you actually found out about datura, but it is generally fairly harmless. The flowers can be seen just growing on the side of the road in the southern US. The plant contains several different alkaloids which can produce psychological effects, but nothing like in the levels found in this datura. This one is different.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“It’s been severely altered. And in a way that would take a lot of time and a lot of engineering to make happen. See, datura generally contains scopolamine, but in relatively small amounts. This datura’s scopolamine levels were like nothing I’ve seen before. The levels of hyoscyamine and atropine were also lower than I have ever seen.”

“Right… and that means?”

“Sorry, I wasn’t sure how far your research had gone yet. Hyoscyamine and atropine are alkaloids which can have extensive uses on their own, but are largely not psychotropic. Scopolamine, however, has been used extensively in various countries such as Columbia and Venezuela to perform certain illegal acts.”

“What kind of illegal acts?”

“Well, Vice News published a video in which many Colombians interviewed said that they would rather die than be subjected to the effects of pure scopolamine. They tell stories of gangsters who would use the drug as a powder, blow it into a victim’s face, which would cause them to unquestionably give away all of their belongings, due to the degree in which the victims are subject to direction.”

“Oh, god. So you think that I was one of these people who has been subject to such ideas? I mean, there would have to be a reason, right? Like, how much does this stuff cost?”

“Calm down,” the doctor said, actually somewhat reassuringly. “Let’s just get answers first.”

I gave a urine test. I was anxious, and scared, and somewhat embarrassed.

After a couple of hours, I got a phone call. “Are you still nearby?” Asked the doctor.

“Actually, I still haven’t left.”

“Good. Well, not good I guess, but, uhh. Can you just please come back?”

I went back.

“Good news first,” Dr. Kardos began, “I mentioned that some of this drug has gotten into your system. Not much at all has reached you, though. It looks like whatever got to you must have been by accident. The bad news is that it seems there’s something that won’t go away.”

“What do you mean ‘go away?’”

“Most drugs have what’s called a half-life. Basically, when a drug is approved for use, there is a recorded time of how long the drug will last actively, and a time of how long a drug will still be in the system. For example, Xanax has a half-life of ____ hours, but will remain in the system for ____ hours. But I have tested this drug for its activity, and so far it seems as though there is no half-life. It’s been over 36 hours at this point, and in my subjects I don’t see any signs of this wearing off.”

“What does that mean for me?” I asked.

“It just means that you need to be careful. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on what I find out about this.”

I left feeling probably the worst I have since I moved. I got into my apartment, L still gone, and turned the TV on. I got some snacks and proceeded to call it a day, when I got a phone call.

It was J. She told me she had found out where L had gone.

“Ever been to Seattle?” She asked.

“Yes, but why are you asking me that?”

“Because I got you a ticket to go there. I know where L is and I can help you find her.”

“But I’m living here for free right now,” I protested.

“You think you are living there for free. It’s going to catch up to you eventually though.”

So, I accepted a ticket out to Seattle. What did I have to lose?

I met J at the Seattle airport, she was outside smoking a cigarette.

“Ever been here before?” She asked.

“Yeah, a couple of times, actually.”

“So, you would recognize downtown if you were to see it?”

“What do you mean,” I asked.

“Just wait.”

J drove us into downtown Seattle and parked the car in an all-day lot.

Clandestine – 4

Prose, serial, Thriller

Soundtrack

The landlady was gone when I got back home. I went inside, unpacked, and was about to get some research done, when I got another text message. “There is still something you need to see. Don’t think you’ve figured anything out.” Figured it out? I had no clue what was going on. Also, I assumed that my first text had come from the cop that pulled me over twice, but now I’m realizing it wasn’t. Who was messaging me? “Who is this? Are you following me?” I responded.

Moments later, I felt like an idiot for responding to an anonymous number by asking if it were following me. I needed a nap.

When I woke up, it was dark. I checked my phone; I had fallen asleep for over a day and a half.

There was a reply on my phone from the unknown number. “Just meet me it the gas station down the hill from you, you know the one I’m talking about” it said. Why would I do that? What kind of an idiot does this person think I am? “No,” was my immediate response.

“Don’t you want to know why you slept forever, or what was going on with that town? I know your landlady,” they responded.

I thought more about meeting them. The gas station was a public place where I always had cell service. I would be fine; I should at least see what this person wants, and figure out how the hell they got my number.

The unknown contact and I eventually decided to meet at the gas station at 8 pm. When I arrived, I only saw the employee who was working inside, but looked around to find a black Mini Cooper, with its driver waving me over, a cigarette in their hand.

“Want a smoke?” They said as I walked to their car door.

“So, I guess I’m supposed to meet you?” I asked, accepting the cigarette.

“Yeah, that would be me.” It was a woman, she was about my age. She had the hair on one side of her head shaved, some tattoos, tee-shirt, jeans.

“How did you get my number?” I asked.

“Is that really what you’re concerned about?” She said, still looking at me through the car’s side mirror. “You have bigger problems than that.”

“Bigger problems than being stalked by someone I’ve never seen before?” I asked, trying to raise my voice, but not in a way that would start anything.

“Actually, yes. Much bigger than that. And if you quit being so skeptical and uptight, I promise to fill you in. Sit down.”

I got into the Mini. It was clean and smelled like the “Black Ice” air freshener hanging from her rearview mirror.

“How I got your number isn’t important, and you need to learn to not stress over such small things like that anymore. You have become involved in something that will test your limits much more than small stuff like that, now. And you can’t walk away from it.”

“Um, okay?” I said. I didn’t now what to say. I had too many questions. “Who are you?” Was apparently my first.

“Call me J for now, I don’t know how long this is going to last.”

“What’s going to last?” I asked.

“Us talking. I’ve tried this before, but not everyone sticks around. Just call me J.”

There was a moment of silence, and then she continued. “I used to work for L. I was her own personal little UPS, just like you are now.”

“Oh, I see…” I respond. “What did she have you deliver?”

“Do you believe in zombies?”

“Of course not,” I said.

“I was delivering something that made them. Maybe not in the same ‘resurrected-dead’ style that movies show, but it was something like it. A drug.”

“So, I’ve just become a drug mule?!” I ask, shocked.

“Not exactly. If you were to get stopped by the cops, they wouldn’t know what you were transporting. It’s not a ‘drug’ that anyone knows of. It’s nothing that can be documented, really.”

“And why is that?” I ask. Still in some sort of disbelief.

“Because anyone who is exposed to the drug is immediately fucked. That is it for them. After that, it doesn’t matter what you know or what you think you know, you are just another part in the whole thing.”

“So why did you get a hold of me? To tell me that this is awful, and that I should just walk away?”

“No!” She yelled. She suddenly seemed concerned — empathetic, for the first time. “You can’t just walk away. It doesn’t work that way. Do not try to leave this now that you have started.”

“What would happen to me? You need to be more honest with me, I mean, this is my entire life now and I feel like you’re just jerking me around.”

“I’m not trying to,” J tells me. “Just be careful. And don’t make L mad.”

J then throws a cell phone into my lap. “Use this,” she says, “it’ll be the best way to contact me, and they won’t be able to track it.”

“Oh, um, okay,” I say.

“I need to go,” J says. “Keep up that research you were doing before on datura, though. And check behind the toilet in your rented place for a sample, there is usually one there. She keeps it for emergencies.”

Just like that, she leaves me behind.

I finish the cigarette and walk back to my car. I look up datura again, only to find nothing all that interesting on the Wikipedia page. One thing catches my eye though, and that’s the fact that “Datura was used to locate missing objects by southern Paiute Indians.”

I head back home and, sure enough, there is a small bag containing a white substance behind the toilet in my bathroom. Does this mean that I should trust J, though? She didn’t really provide me with much new information. The bag – of the sandwich variety – doesn’t seem to contain much of the powder, though. So I don’t open it.

The next morning, I find that L is still gone, so there isn’t a delivery for me today, I suppose. I decide I need to find out what is going on with this new job. I take the powder to one of the colleges in the city, where I finally meet up with Dr. Kardos, who agrees to analyze the powder for me.

“This isn’t for some sort of gag, where you just brought me meth or something, right?” Asks Dr. Kardos. He is young, and seemed eager at the thought of helping me solve some sort of mystery.

“Do people do that? Why would I do that?” I ask.

“People can be cruel,” he responds. “Being the science geek can sometimes get you into trouble. But anyways, give me a couple of days and I will get back to you.”

We make some small talk, and eventually I head out the building.

A couple of days later (with still no sign from L), I get a phone call from Dr. Kardos.

“So, I haven’t really seen anything like this,” he says. “Would you mind coming down here so that I can properly explain this to you?”

When I arrive at the school, Dr. Kardos has his arms folded and is looking at me as I walk in. He isn’t wearing his glasses, they are attached to his shirt, which I haven’t seen him do before.

“Where did you get this?” He says, almost sighing the whole sentence out. “Please just be honest with me.”

I fill him in on what has been happening. He seems honest and genuinely concerned. I tell him of the job I have just taken, about the delivery I have made, about the cop and the boy with the snakes. I let everything spill out. I tell him of the Atlas of Humanity and about the man I had seen getting into the car, and of the woman in the mansion and the town at the bottom of the hill.

“Please, just keep this between us,” I say. “My job, and where I live all depend on this.”

“Okay, I understand,” he says calmly. “But, can I please just get a urine sample before you go?”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because, based on what you’re telling me, I think you might have been exposed to this drug yourself.”

Clandestine – 3

Prose, serial, Short Stories, Thriller

Soundtrack

I’m still not sure what made the popping noise that woke me up, but when I looked at the building, I saw people piling in. None of them were looking at me, even though I was pretty close. Close enough to recognize that they were the same people who lived in the shacks at the foot of Sasha’s mansion. They still had the same scared faces on, and seemed scared as to what would happen to them if they did not make it inside. One elderly woman happened to trip and fall over; her family members around immediately got her back on her feet, and seemed even more terrified that their family member might be stranded. But, stranded from what? What would happen to these people, should they not make it inside of the building?

My question was answered quickly enough, when one man refused to enter the building. He didn’t say much, just “no,” and “please don’t.” He didn’t even sound particularly upset, mostly just apathetic, monotone even. Those around him urged him to go inside, but he became almost erratic. He grew obviously fearful, but still did not develop any emotions in his voice. He dropped to the ground when people began physically forcing him — I couldn’t tell if it was because he’d been hurt, or if it was an attempt to not be moved. Either way, after he dropped, a gold, 90’s Ford Taurus pulled up in front of the man. Two sort-of-well-dressed men got out. They were wearing button-up flannels, had shaved heads, and khaki pants. They opened up a back door to their car, picked the man up by his elbows and shoulders, and threw him into their car; as if he were nothing more than an over-filled luggage bag.

I had seen enough. I started the car. They didn’t hear that, but when the headlights came on, the two men in khakis – who were now smoking outside the car – stared at me. As I pulled out of the parking lot, one seemed to elbow the other. I didn’t think much of it as I was leaving town. My mind was more focused on what the hell was going on with those people.

Tired, since it was still only 2 a.m. and I hadn’t slept more than an hour, I began to drift off the road. That’s when I pulled into a gas station for an energy drink; and that’s also when I noticed the gold Taurus at the other end of the parking lot. They had seen me, and they had followed me these last 100 or so miles.

I got back into my car and tried to remain calm. I sat there and waited until the men had another cigarette and got out of the car — that’s when I burned out of the lot and got back onto the highway. I drove for another 100 miles, and I didn’t see any headlights behind me. I thought I was in the clear until I saw headlights in the rear view mirror. It was close to sunrise at this point, but right before sunrise. Sometimes I think that’s the darkest part of the night.

“I told you you should have left,” said the officer from this morning, and from the night before.

“Why are you stalking me?!” I yelled. “Tell me what is happening. Now!” My voice started to quiver.

“I’ll tell you what I can, but I want you to know that I didn’t want you to get involved in any of this. It seems like you already are though. Do you personally know Sasha?”

“Sasha? That woman I made a delivery for?”

“Apparently not. What did you deliver to her?”

“I don’t know. That woman wouldn’t even tell me if her name was Sasha or not.”

“Well, who are you working for?”

“I thought you were going to help me,” I responded.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” He said. He genuinely seemed very anxious. “Sasha owns this town. And I don’t just mean she’s rich — she’s rich, too. But she owns this town.”

“What does that mean?” I asked. “How could someone own a town in more than just a financial way?”

“Look, I followed you a long ways just to make sure you weren’t going to get hurt. She is going to wonder where I am soon, and that won’t be good. For either of us.” He sped his speech. “So, let me tell you this: she is drugging the town. I have a wife and kids. I pleaded with her when everything changed and she made me a deal. I am the town sheriff and I control the ones who won’t take.”

“Take to what?” I asked.

“Have you ever heard of datura? Look, it doesn’t matter. Just, whoever you’re working for, stop. It’s not worth getting involved in all of this. And all of this is bigger than you can imagine. I need to leave now. I’m sorry.”

And just like that, he sped off on his bike.

I didn’t know what to make of the conversation — what could I? I didn’t know what datura was, or who Sasha was. I was never going to go back to that town again, and why should I? That kid, just hanging by snakes… and that cop didn’t do anything about it! Why should I trust him? I just made a weird delivery to a weird town, where a lot of backwoods hicks wanted to scare me.

I pulled into a motel and the west side of Kansas and slept for over twelve hours. When I woke up, I looked up datura, just out of curiosity. I went on the Wikipedia page, but could only read for a few minutes before the hotel’s WiFi shut off. The line that most caught my eye was under the “effects” part of the page, which stated that “Datura intoxication typically produces effects similar to that of an anticholinergic delirium (usually involving a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy).”

My first reaction was to joke that that must be why the town was acting so weird. But then I thought harder, was this some sort of cult? Was everyone in that town either drugged, or involved in some religious garbage and wanted me to join? Or, was I running on little sleep and just being paranoid about all of the weird people in one weird town? But then, what was the “Atlas of Humanity?”

Driving back to my new home, I couldn’t really come to a conclusion.

Clandestine – 2

Prose, serial, Short Stories, Thriller

Soundtrack

“You lost, friend?” Comes a loud voice, which sounds oddly familiar. I wipe the sleep from my eyes, put on my glasses, and look out the window. It is the cop from last night. Did he follow me here?

I roll down the window of my car. “What do you mean? I’m sorry if I wasn’t supposed to stay here; I’m leaving now.”

“You best do that. And go back where you came from, remember?”

When he says ‘remember’ his voice changes. It gets lower, sadder, and even louder. Immediately, without trying or even thinking, the image of the boy hanging from the highway sign by snakes comes back to mind. I shutter.

“I’m leaving,” I say in a rush, starting my car.

“Good. Go.”

I leave the lot feeling just as bad as I did last night. The location where I am supposed to drop off the letter is just about ten miles outside of town. I reach the small community by 10 a.m. There is no one in sight. The road is made of dirt, and I see a few houses every now and then on the left and right side of the road.

I wonder what the hell was up with that kid, and with that cop. Was this all some sort of backwoods joke on passers by? I begin to feel sleepy. Almost like I am going to fall asleep at the wheel, just out of no where. I stop to calm down and have a cigarette at a small park I find. There’s not much here, just some rusty swings, some gravel, a chain-link fence missing the gate, dead trees in the middle of summer, and some matching cigarette butts. I glare at the envelope I am to deliver. What could be inside this? I hold the envelope to the light to try and read through it. I think I can see the word “Human” somewhere, but I’m not even entirely sure.

“Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS came on my CD player. It’s a good song. I forgot about making this CD, there’s a lot of good songs on it.

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division came on next.

Odd pairing, I thought, but also sort of funny. I started another cigarette.

“Never Tear Us Apart” started again. Followed by “Love Will Tear Us Apart” again. Tired of hearing the same two songs twice, I pulled the key from the ignition. The radio didn’t stop, though. I pressed the power button and it still didn’t stop. I pressed the eject button; the CD didn’t come out, but the music had stopped. Something didn’t feel right; I lit another cigarette.

Just as I did, “Never…” started playing again, at full volume. About thirty seconds in, “Love…” began playing. I ran to the car, and pressed the power button again, to no avail. I looked at the radio.

666

That’s all that was on the radio. The music kept playing and I opened the trunk for a wrench to disconnect the battery. Just as I opened the trunk, the music stopped.

What could I do, really? The car went back to normal. I was a bit freaked out, but I needed to make my delivery. I kept driving on back roads, and the streets seemed to get worse: more potholes, more rocks. The houses also went down drastically in quality. That is, until I got to a golden gate, with a drive-up box to talk to the owners of the house up the hill. The house was the one I was to make the delivery at. I drove to the box and pressed the call button. “Who is it?” responded an elderly-sounding woman’s voice.

“I have a package,” I said.

“And you’re sure it’s for me? For this address?”

I repeated the address to her.

“Well, who are you with?”

“Ma’am, I’m just trying to make a delivery for my landlady. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I am not with a corporation or anything. Can I please just come drop this off to you?”

She let me in. As I drove up the winded road to her house, I realized it wasn’t much of a house at all — it was a mansion.

“I’m sorry I was so annoying at the gate,” she told me over the tea she eventually made us.

Her mansion seemed to go on forever. We were sitting near a large fireplace, in elegant red couches.

“It’s just,” she continued, “you saw all of those shacks on the way up. They’ve got me beginning to think this was all a bad idea.”

“What was a bad idea?” I asked.

She sighed. “You have something for me?”

I handed her the envelope. All it said on it was For Sasha. “Can you tell me what it’s about? I don’t want to pry, but I drove a long way and my landlady is really making a big deal out of these deliveries…”

“You’re right, you shouldn’t pry. I think maybe you should go now.” Her tone was completely different, like she had snapped.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m sorry if I asked something offensive…”

She didn’t even look at me as I left out the long, stone hallway. Along the way, I saw something move into the room next to the front door along the floor. I peaked my head in before I left, to see a snake slithering through the room.

I found it a bit unsettling when the people who lived in the cheapest housed gave me sad, almost scared faces as I drove passed. They were gone so quickly and out of view, so my mind moved on to other questions faster than it probably should have.

I ended up back in town quicker this time — strange how not having my car radio become possessed during a smoke break will make that happen. I had to get gas at the gas station which was now open. As I went inside and b-lined for the snack isle, I got a message on my phone from an unknown number.

“New delivery boy, huh? I think there’s something you should see,” it read.

I responded with a “who is this,” only to get no response. I paid for my gas and chips and went to start my car. It started, but didn’t sound okay. I pulled over in the still closed “Atlas of Humanity” parking lot since it was still abandoned, and looked at the engine. Everything seemed fine, but when I went to start the car to leave, nothing happened. The engine didn’t turn, the lights didn’t come on, nothing.

I had just made a long, stressful drive out to a place I didn’t really want to go, where I didn’t really feel comfortable, to do something I didn’t really want to do. And now my car had died. To make the best of my situation, I decided to cut my losses and make a day of things. I stopped by the local liquor store, grabbed some more snacks, and went on a hike in the northern Kansas nothingness to take my mind of of things, or at least to organize the thoughts inside my head from the last day.

The day-hike quickly turned into a night hike. I got lost. I don’t know how it happened, exactly, as I followed the map I had previously downloaded onto my phone. The whole time, it said I was only a couple miles away from where I had started at most, but when I turned back to go to my car it took me hours. I am back at my car now, and it still will not start. Something is wrong, though. Someone has done something to my car and is keeping me here. It’s too late to do anything about it now, though. I have no choice but to camp out in my car again, in the same lot I was in before. I hope that cop isn’t watching me.

I eventually fell asleep for a little while. But I woke up to a loud pop.

I looked up at the lot, and at the “Atlas of Humanity” place — it wasn’t empty anymore.