From the personal journal of Dalton Deschain

From the personal journal of Dalton Deschain 

October 14, 1944 

    I remember EVERYTHING.
    Oh God, I remember it all. The two months I blacked out, the unspeakable things I did, the person I turned into…no, no that’s not right.  The person that was inside me. 

    This is quite possibly my last entry. IT is still weak, still learning my body, so I was able to get control back for a moment...but IT won't let it happen again. I know this sounds crazy, honestly, and it is highly likely that I have merely lost my mind altogether. So please, if you're reading this, you have to help. Take this as a confession, and CALL THE POLICE.  Have them find me and lock me up, or else the horrors I describe below WILL happen again. 

    It started with a dream I had last night. At first, it seemed identical to the recurring nightmare I've been having all year. I'm riding in the backseat of my parents' car as they drive along a deserted highway. The sky is lit up a bright, fiery orange, and we're surrounded by red desert in all directions. A sedan delivery drives directly in front of us, painted a glittering, blinding gold. Miles past it, a mushroom cloud blooms on the horizon, stretching its stem higher and higher into the diseased atmosphere. 

    I realize that we're speeding towards the explosion, and I begin to feel anxious. At this point in the dream, I suddenly have that sense of deja vu you can get during recurring dreams, where I know exactly what is about to happen, and I'm horrified, yet I can't do anything to change course.  I exert all of my willpower to try to wake up, or at least stop my dream self from speaking so as to avoid the nightmarish visions that are coming, but it’s all useless.  And so, as if a doll with a string being pulled on my back, I hear myself whisper fearfully, "Mother, I'm scared." 

    Without turning around, her head perfectly still, my mother replies in an unnatural monotone, "It's alright. Just keep your eyes on the golden van, dear." 

    I begin to panic as the deja vu gets stronger, and I realize that these are not my parents.  It dawns on me, as it does every time, that I have been taken by something wearing my parents’ skin, and the sight of the back of their still, unmoving heads begins to feel like needles on my flesh.  And I wonder, why should I keep my eyes on the delivery?

    I turn to peer out the window to my left, and my mother’s voice flatly reminds me, “Just keep your eyes on the golden van, dear.”  I don’t obey.  I keep looking out the window, until I see something growing closer on the side of the road.  It’s a gnarled, burnt tree, and I begin to weep as I see my real parents’ bodies hanging limp from its branches.

    Through my sobs, I yell, “WHO ARE YOU?”

    They slowly creak their heads around and I become paralyzed. Their faces are not the faces of my mother and father, but rather grotesque demonoids inhabiting their bodies. 

    The one that wears my father's sport coat has hollow eye sockets that ooze a black tarry substance down over paper-white skin. Its lips have been ripped off, leaving bloody tissue pulled back around a mouth of rotting teeth. Its forehead has been cracked open straight down the middle, and as I watch, a tiny three-toed claw reaches suddenly out of the blackness and rests on the edge of the bloody opening. As I look closer, I can see the gleam of sharp teeth reflecting from inside the dark cavern of its skull. 

    The beast in the passenger seat wears my mother's favorite floral print dress. It too has no eyes, but extending out of its sockets are two six-inch tentacles, swollen and strained, bruised a deep purple.  They flop wetly and frantically around its face, smacking its cheeks and forehead.  The tentacles’ purple membranes stretch with each impact and look as if they may burst at any time.  The creature’s skin is cracked and bleeding porcelain, and while it still has its lips intact, they are shredded from the pointed teeth which gnash inside its jaws. 

    Now, this is the point where I usually awake screaming, to find my sheets soaked through with sweat.  I’ve been having this dream since April, although in recent weeks it has become increasingly common.  Every time I know what I’m going to see when the creatures turn around, and yet every time I yell for them to look at me.  Every time I’m too frozen to look away or close my eyes, and every time I see their bodies on that tree.  And every morning it happens I wake up, I call my mom, I have a mug of tea, and I move on with my life.  But last night was different.

    Last night the demons turned to face me once again, and I closed my eyes, waiting to jolt upright in my own bed.  But instead of waking up, I kept feeling the vibration of the car on the rough road, and kept hearing the distant rumble of the explosion in the distance.  I squeezed my eyes shut tighter and prayed for it to end.  

    With my eyes still shut, I felt the car roll to a stop.  I gripped the seat beneath me and started to breathe heavily, terrified of what was coming next.  For all the horrors I had seen, at least I had seen them before.  I couldn’t imagine what new horrors waited for me in this extension.  

    After sitting still for what felt like forever, my curiosity got the better of me, and I opened my eyes.  My demon-mother was inches from my face, close enough to obscure all other sights, gnashing her bloody teeth close enough to splatter its blood into my mouth.  As the salty taste hit my tongue, I screamed.  The tentacles reaching out of her eyeholes suddenly elongated and shot forward into my open mouth.  I could feel their warmth crawling down my throat as I began to choke.  

    I squeezed my eyes shut, tears pouring down my face, praying to wake, praying for death, praying for anything that would stop the feeling of its alien limbs stretching inside my chest. As it hit my stomach, I felt a sudden pull, and the shock of it opened my eyes wide.

    I was suddenly floating in a vast, dark, endless expanse.  The mother-demon was gone, and my throat was empty.  I felt an intense vertigo as my mind tried to make sense of what it was seeing.  All around me, stretching out in all directions for eternity, was a dense network of the same purple tentacles, only these ones stretched out for as far as I could see, and many were as wide as a city block.  Some in the distance appeared even larger.  

    I instantly felt disoriented and dizzy.  I was unable to get any bearings at all in this expanse.  There was no up or down, no ground beneath my feet, nowhere to go…it felt…well, it felt like I was going mad.  

    To my right a smaller tentacle stretched just out of arm’s reach.  As I stared at it, I realized that the outside of the skin was translucent, stretched taut and thin like the ones in the demon’s eyes, and through it I could see a human being trapped inside.  

    “Hey!” I called.  “Hey, you!”  I kicked my legs frantically and found that I could make swimming motions to move around.  I paddled over to the tentacle and peered through its flesh.

    Upon closer inspection I could see that the man was naked, and he was also moving, sliding slowly through the tube to God-knows-where.  He was being carried along by a network of razor-thin needles that lined the inside the tentacle like villi. They pierced his flesh, inserted themselves about 6 inches, then seemed to suck out some sort of black matter from inside his body and disperse it into the tentacle.  The needle then helped push him downward towards more needles, stretching onward inside the tube.  The man’s face had a scream of pain frozen on it, and to my absolute horror I realized that he was still alive.  Tears streamed down his face, and as I pressed my ear to the outside, I could just barely hear his screams, hoarse, desperate, and irregular.  Screams of torture.

    I felt my body rock with a spasm of horror, and I kicked myself away from the tube.  I began to panic, and my mind spiraled.  What if I wasn’t dreaming?  What if this is real?  No…no…this is just a nightmare…or I’ve lost my mind.  Perhaps I’ve lost my mind?

    Then, in the distance…a spot of motion.  A speck at the limit of my vision, slowly getting bigger.  I peered at it in apprehension, wondering what horror approached me now.  It moved impossibly fast, and within seconds I could see what it was:  a new tentacle, speeding directly for me.

    I screamed soundlessly and tried swimming away, but it was no use.  The thing was upon me, and it thrust itself through my back into the center of my spine.  I was immobile.  I tried peering over my shoulder, and saw a pitch black liquid pouring through the tentacle towards me.  I braced myself as the poison hit my back.  I felt it seep into my body, coating my lungs and stomach with what felt like battery acid.  

    As the feeling spread through my arms, legs, and up to my neck, I heard an ancient voice that seemed to come from within my own chest say, “I AM THE ÆTERNAL.”

    I awoke.  And at first, I remembered none of it.  I didn’t wake up screaming, my skin was not soaked in sweat, and I had no lingering feeling of fear or discomfort.  Although, I did find it wasn’t just the dream I had forgotten, but momentarily the events of the last few days.  It took a few minutes for me to remember why I was waking up on a hay bale in a circus tent.  Then the memories came back, of meeting Bobby and Casey the Dogman, of Bobby offering me a place to stay…although I found I couldn’t remember the specifics of the meeting.  I no longer found thesetypes of lapses strange, however, as they have been common since the blackouts started.  I went about my day.  

    Later in the afternoon I stood on the edge of the lot, dragging enormous bags of elephant food to the tents.  In the distance, a car drove by, the warm autumn sun reflecting off of its waxy exterior…glittering…like the sedan in my…

    Suddenly the entirety of my previous night’s dreams came rushing back and I staggered on my feet.  I remembered the explosion, the demon faces, the tentacles rushing down my throat, the tortured man in the tube…and the poison, filling me up until the dream spat me out.  And those final words:  “I am the Æternal.”

    But the memories didn’t stop with the dream.  It was like a dam had burst in my head, and suddenly memories began flowing back of the times I had lost, filling in the spaces where I had blacked out, sometimes for days at a time.  Some of it was inconsequential: Driving in the dark in April, sitting motionless at my dinner table for three hours in May, getting up to walk around my block at 4am in June.  But these were memories of actions,  not intent.  I tried to remember what I was thinking during these bizarre happenings…but there was nothing.  

    At least, nothing at first.  In the early days of the blackouts, it seems my mind was blank.  My body moved by reflex only, an automaton with no purpose.  But as the blackouts progressed, I could remember not necessarily cohesive thoughts, but primal emotions…fear, confusion, disgust.  It was like my mind had been replaced with that of a frightened child, unable to make sense of the strange world around it.  Flashes of imagery as well…mostly of the pulsing purple tubes from my dream.  Have I been having that dream for months? Or was something else inhabiting my body during these blackouts, and were these images of tentacles its own memories?

    I should pause and clarify again that I know that this is an insane leap to make.  To the reader, it may appear that I have only had a series of nightmares, but I cannot impress upon you enough how real this all is.  It only occurred to me that something else had been controlling my body because that’s the way the memories felt: as if they didn’t belong to me, as if I was watching someone else with my face perform these actions.  So call it madness, call it split personalities, call it what you will…but for me this is all very real.

    Which brings me to the two-month blackout I experienced between August and October.  Listen well, reader, and present this to the authorities as quickly as you can, for what I am about to tell you is a true confession of murder.

    If you read earlier entries in this journal, you will see that on August 12 of this year, 1944, I played a terribly depressing show at a bar in Pontiac, Michigan.  I finished writing the entry shortly before my set time.  When I was finished playing I sat down at the bar, and another blackout occurred.  Before this afternoon’s revelations, my next memory had been waking up two months later in a field outside Traveling Tutons’ Circus.  

    But in this newfound memory, I watch myself sit at that bar motionless.  I watch the bartender that I had been shyly flirting with come over and ask me if I’m okay, and I do not respond.  A couple of the teenagers from the band that had played before stumble over, laughing and roughhousing.  “C’mon, fathead, you owe me another drink!,” says the larger of the two, and shoves the smaller one backwards.  The kid trips on a barstool and falls onto me, and suddenly I’m struck by the most intense flash of rage I have ever experienced in my life.  The memory clouds over in white as my body whips around, grabbing the kid by the shoulders and throwing him into the pool table.  I stand looking over him as his friend helps him up.   “Hey sir, no problem here.  We’re killer-diller, just heading out.  No cause for trouble.”  

    I watch them exit the bar, my body trembling with rage.  The bartender yells from behind me, “Hey!  That’s enough, I want you gone with the wind, buddy.  Get out of here!”  

    I cock my head to the side in response. 

    “NOW!” she yells.

    I begin walking slowly towards the door.  I pass the pool tables where the teenagers had been playing, the balls lying abandoned and still on the felt, like the remains of an ancient monument.  My eyes rest on the 1 ball, a dull gold boulder at rest near the corner pocket.  I pause.  I pick it up.  I feel its weight in my hand, and squeeze its smooth hard exterior, as if I had never felt anything like it before.  A single word floats into my mind.  ‘Gold.’

    I walk out into the humid late-summer night air, and my eyes scan around me, looking for the kids.  I hear an echo of laughter bounce around the street, and begin pacing quickly up the block towards the source.

    A block away I see the two kids.  Apparently the rest of the band has gone home, and it’s just these two left, smoking and laughing against the bare brick of an enormous school building.  My vision clouds again, and now I’m SPRINTING, running towards them silently with the billiard ball clutched in my fist.  One of them looks up and sees me coming.  He puts his hands up in front of him and says, “Hey, wait—“

    It’s too late.  I reach him and without hesitating slam the heavy plastic ball into his jaw.  He staggers back into the brick as my arm swings back round and plows him in the face again, shoving his nose into his skull as a guttural scream chokes out of his throat.

    His friend is trying to scream for help but his breath keeps hitching in his chest.  He turns to run, but I swing the ball down in a high arc straight into his crown.  He collapses on the ground, but I pick him up by his collar and prop him up against the wall next to his friend. 

    A curious thing happens next.  As I pound the life out of their bodies, I notice that the streetlight is creating a grotesquely misshapen silhouette of this gruesome act onto the wall next to us.  In this bizarre shadow-play, their loose-hanging jaws create the impression of an elongated snout pointed downwards from their skulls, like a dog’s downturned face dripping saliva onto the ground.  I stare at this image, fascinated, as I continue to pummel them.  For the first time in any of the blackouts, I watch my face smile.

    When the act is done, I let them fall to the sidewalk, and I calmly walk away.  Over the next two months, I simply wander, walking the highways and backroads.  I never stop to sleep.  For food I catch rats in the alleys and eat them alive (the memory of this alone would have been enough to have me vomiting in the haybales, if the murder scene hadn’t already brought me to it).  And all the while, thoughts begin to finally emerge.  A new consciousness starts to develop within my body, and it is from the thoughts of this consciousness that I am finally able to piece together what it is that's happening to me.

    First of all, I have learned through its visions that there are other…worlds, outside of our own.  And I don’t mean other planets, or solar systems…but worlds that parallel our own, but that differ in subtle but meaningful ways.  An infinite collection of them, all attached to one of the arms of this being that presents itself in our language as the Æternal.

    My body has been, for lack of a better word, possessed by the Æternal.  It is a god-like being that exists outside of our world, outside of even the furthest reaches of space, an infinite being comprised of an endless network of tentacles that pierce into endless worlds, at various points in those worlds’ histories, infecting individuals that then become its Eternal Feeders.  These Feeders become vessels for the Æternal, tied to it forever, through infinite reincarnations, always doomed to become its slave and hunt down its food while under its control.

    The Æternal doesn't have a word for what it feeds on, but it seems to me as if it's some form of our souls.  Anyone the Feeder makes physical contact with becomes bound to the Æternal, and when they die, their souls will be used to feed it forevermore.  They will never find peace, never move on to whatever afterlife there is.  They will be trapped in its pocket world in eternal anguish, its soul being used to feed the monstrous being.  I believe this is the fate of the man I saw in the tube, being pierced endlessly by the needles, sucking some black matter (his soul?) from his very core.  

    These visions alone are enough to drive me insane, and I pray to anything and everything that that is what has happened.  Because I believe...I believe that I am its Feeder in our world.  I believe that in the coming days, my consciousness will be removed from my body, and the Æternal will take over, making contact with as many people as possible to create food for itself.  And it will very likely kill many of them, so that it doesn't have to wait for their deaths to obtain nourishment.  

    It breaks my mind to think that I have damned those teenagers to an eternity of torture and isolation.  I would pray for death, but I know that that would only start the process over.  I am bound to this Hell forevermore.  No, my only hope now is madness.  That this exists only in my head, and that such a creature could never exist in our universe or any others.  But my hopes are not high.

    So please, if you find this, DO NOT seek me out.  Turn this over to the authorities, and have them apprehend me.  But warn them, DO NOT TOUCH ME!  I know it may seem like the ravings of a lunatic, but if there is any chance that I am right about this, a single touch will be all it takes to damn you for eternity.

    This is my last entry in this journal.  While the death of Mr. Robell has bought the circus some time here (and what of Mr. Robell's murder?  Surely it was at my hand, but these memories are still blocked off to me.  Another sign of the Æternal's growing strength.), but the circus must still be moving on soon.  There's no Post here, but I will slip this journal into the deliveries car on its way out, so that it may be carried back into town, and found by someone.  I dare not tell the crew here, for fear of damning their souls when It takes control again.  Instead I will run, as far as I can until it takes control again.

    My name is Dalton Deschain.  I am 22 years old, running north from 17 Mile Road near Sterling Heights.  I must be stopped.

    Please...tell my mother and father I love them.  Tell them I hope I see them ag--

 

 

From the Diary of Catherine Elizabeth Harlowe

October 14, 1944

    Dear diary,

    i had the most BEAUTIFUL dream last night, and i've just GOT to write it down.

    i was with Bethany and Danny in Detroit (i guess in the dream i was still dating Danny? UNFORTUNATE). anyway and we were walking around the city and somehow i got separated from them.  i ran around trying to find them, and eventually I heard a voice down an alleyway next to me. i turned down the alley, and found that the whole thing, walls and floor, were made of GOLD, reflecting beautifully in the sunlight.  The ground was gold brick (just like Oz!) and the walls were a smooth, papery gold, sort of like lamé. The bricks led down the alley, and at the end i could see a well-dressed man standing there.  His face was obscured by the shadows, but i could see that he had the most beautiful, giant rose in his hand, and he was holding it out to me!

    i think this is the sign i've been waiting for. i think things are about to turn around, and i think it's all gonna happen in Detroit.  i woke up with a huge grin on my face and jumped out of bed.  i grabbed my folded-up map from my desk and drew a frantic circle around Detroit.  Underneath i wrote "NEXT STOP DETROIT."  

    And underlined, underneath that:  "THE LAND OF GOLD."

 

END OF SIDE A

Excerpt from the Memoirs of Mr. Robert Montgomery Tutons

Excerpt from the Memoirs of Mr. Robert Montgomery Tutons 
October 12, 1944

It was Casey who first brought him to me. This was the morning after I had gotten the call from the downtown office, telling me we were cancelled. I had been up all night in the red wagon, poring over the papers again and again, trying to find the funds to jump us to our next date. But the numbers never changed, and at some point in the night it became less about number-fudging, and more about delaying the eventual talk I'd have to have with the whole crew. 

I felt Casey’s approach before I heard it. The wagon suddenly jerked up, and leaned in the direction of the stairs as he lumbered his way in.  I always thought it felt like the Scrambler starting up, although I hadn’t ridden that rusted deathtrap in years.

"Casey, dammit, not now!" I hollered over my shoulder. "Go find Roberta, she's usually up by--" 

I stopped when I turned and saw the boy with him. Casey stood off to the side, eyes drooped and lowered, any sign of expression masked by the thick long hair that covered his face, forehead to chin. Next to him stood a young man, mid-20s most likely, but with boyish features that probably allowed him to get away with younger if he needed it. He was filthy from head to toe, wearing torn knickers and an unbuttoned shirt that showed his scratched and bleeding chest. And yet the look on his face was one of pure wonderment, his eyes darting around the wagon from knickknack to show flyer, taking in every detail with an openmouthed smile on his face. I remember not trusting that smile.  It wasn't the smile of the children that used to visit in our early days, entranced by the kinkers or the carpet clowns. It was the smile of someone who has just been given a wonderful gift.  Like he was looking over his inheritance, and imagining the possibilities. 

"Who's this then?" I barked at Casey. "Look, kid, I don't know if you heard, but we're not exactly hiring riggers right now." 

It took a few seconds for the kid's eyes to slide down to meet mine, like he had just noticed I was there. 

"Oh, I'm sorry," he said. "I'm not looking for a job. It's just...I've had a very strange couple of days, and well..." 

He paused, and suddenly looked very uncomfortable, picking his next words carefully. "I don't exactly remember how I got here," he said slowly. "I was hoping, maybe you could find it in your heart...to let me stay here? Just for the night, while I collect myself, and figure out a way to get back home." 

"And where exactly is home for you?" 

"Detroit," he answered, but his eyes were already wandering to the stone elephant paperweight sitting on the shelf above me. 

"Hey, kid, focus! We’re havin’ a conversation here, and I don’t got time for you to keep goin' doe-eyed on me.  I mean, Jesus, ain’t you ever been to a circus before?" 

"Oh! Yes, of course. As a child. But this place feels...different." His eyes landed on the pile of papers spread in front of me. 

"Yeah, well, maybe that's because as of twelve hours ago, we're not technically a circus no more." Casey's eyes shot up, and I could hear a low whimper ooze out from his matted face. 

"Oh, my. I'm sorry to hear that,” the boy said.

"Yeah, well it's been a long time coming. We've basically been a fireball outfit for about a year now. We had to let the bally broads go in April, which lost us any sex appeal we may have had left, and since then we've just been skating by, essentially stealing from the rubes and selling dike in between dates." 

"Dike?" 

"Yeah yeah, you know, klondike. Like, brass, copper, whatever. We steal it from whatever lot they put us up in, then sell it on the road. Gas money, helps pay the riggers, all that." 

"So what changed yesterday?" I seemed to have gotten his attention. He sat down in the ratty stool across the desk, and stared intently at me with those blue eyes of his. It was like this guy didn't blink or something. 

"Ah, just these goddamn fatcat promoters. I shouldn't have signed the deal in the first place. They basically said I could have the land for the weekend as long as I guaranteed to sell out at least two of the three nights. Of course I knew that was ridiculous for us. Hell, it's ridiculous for goddam Barnum and Bailey in the middle of a goddam war, but I thought, sure, we'll say yes, sell enough tix to get to the next city, and be out of here before they even know what happened. But the bastards based it on our pre-sales! They called me last night and told me that based on their 'projections,' we weren't profitable enough, and they were canceling all three shows entirely. We've got til Sunday night to clear out, with nowhere to go, and barely enough money to get us to Ann Arbor!" 

I was red in the face and I felt tears welling behind my eyes. I've never cried in front of anyone except Roberta, but I'd been up for over 48 hours and I felt like I was about to collapse. Perhaps sensing my distress, Casey started weeping in the corner. The sight of my oldest friend, the Dogman himself, the first and toughest freak in the Traveling Tutons Freakshow crying on my behalf, finally broke me in. 

"GodDAMMIT!" I swept the papers off my desk, and stood for one long impotent moment, looking for something else to take my rage out on. I finally turned and grabbed the stone elephant off the shelf, and threw it across the room. 

Quicker than I could even see, the boy's hand flew up, catching the statue in mid-air. He looked up, surprised, as if he didn't even realize he had done it. He slowly lowered the statue, starting at it intently. He held it in his lap, turning it over and over as I stared at him in amazement. 

Without looking up, the boy asked softly, "What's his name?" 

I snapped out of my trance and sat down. "What?" 

"The man who canceled your show. What's his name?" 

"Robell. Arthur Robell." Had his voice...changed? It wasn't just softer, but...lower. More like Casey's rough growl. 

He looked up suddenly, and it was like someone else entirely was sitting there. The smile was gone, and he looked much older. His blue eyes were dark, almost perfectly black...but was there a hint of red in one of them? I tried to lean in and look closer, but he blinked and suddenly the bright blue was back, along with the charming, if a bit off-putting, smile. 

"I'm so sorry to hear about your troubles, sir, but I'd really appreciate if I could stay here for the night. I promise to help out with whatever I can." 

"Sure. Sure, whatever, I don't care. We only got about 2 days left here anyway, and we could use all the unpaid help we could get." 

"Fantastic! I owe you everything, Mr..." 

"Tutons. Name's right on the tent. You can call me Bobby if you like, everyone else around here does. And that beast there next to you is Casey Meyers, known to the rubes as the Fearsome Dogman." 

"Oh yes," the boy said. "Casey and I chatted for quite a while outside. We get along famously already, it seems." 

"If that's true, good for you." I gestured to Casey. "And good for you. Casey doesn't get along with anyone but me and the rest of the freaks." 

"Thank you for your hospitality, Bobby." 

"No problem kid. And what do I call you?" 

"Oh! How rude of me. Deschain, sir. Dalton Deschain." 

"Thanks for the help, Deschain. Casey, why don't you introduce him to the others." 

The kid sat the elephant down on my desk, gave it one last puzzled look, and left silently with Casey. The wagon rocked up and back into place as Casey's weight stepped off of the strained stairs. 

———

The next day, the police arrived at my door. Arthur Robell had been found bludgeoned to death in his home. During their search, the police had found a signed paper on his desk, giving me full ownership over the land upon which our circus sat. I returned to the red wagon upon hearing this news, and sat down hard at my desk, stunned and confused. 

It was over an hour before I noticed that the stone elephant statue had gone missing.

From the Diary of Catherine Elizabeth Harlowe

From the Diary of Catherine Elizabeth Harlowe

January 22, 1945

The same bar again. The same drink. The same faces.

Everything around me is the same as it ever was, and yet this year feels so different. Everyone I know seems to be carrying the exhaustion of the war over their shoulders; faces weary and postures slumped. And yet there's also a renewed energy and vitality to the conversations in this bar. Everyone can sense

that we're heading towards something huge, something world- changing, and no matter what it ends up being...at least it won't be this.

As for me, I've spent the last month with a constant low-grade fever. Aches, sloth, shivers that I just can't shake. Maybe weather. Maybe repetition.

"you go out just as poor dandling your bones in the clothing of the flesh
wrinkled to the soul tired of the bustle of the world
wrinkled to the soul tired"

I shouldn't read Tzara when I'm depressed. But right now there's nothing in my life that feels so much like home. Without art, where would I seek comfort?

Ah, yes bartend, I will have another.

On January 1, Bethany left for good. Apparently she had a scary run-in with some guy that used to stalk her Junior year. It really freaked her out, and then a week later she was gone, moving in with some pen pal of hers in Cincinnati. I barely got a chance to say goodbye. A hug, a kiss on the cheek, a promise to write...and there goes my best friend.

Since then this month has felt like being tied to the tracks with a train heading toward me in slow motion. Mounting dread, loneliness...how the fuck did I end up here?

And then my thoughts turn to Danny, and it makes me hate myself. I've always prided myself on being independent, strong, impulsive yet in control. So why the hell do I keep getting hung up on him? I left him for God's sake! Independence is the mirage on the horizon that looks so appealing from far away, but once your reach your realize you're still just stuck in the same damn desert.

Then tonight, he walked into the bar, and that train finally hit me.

I watched him all night from afar. My thoughts vacillated wildly between hate and lust, affection and repulsion. I argued with myself for what felt like hours, debating whether to approach him, or give him the cold shoulder. I had finally decided to go talk to him when he suddenly looked up, made eye contact with me...and

then with no emotion in his face, went right back to the conversation he had been having.

I had gotten the cold shoulder. Here it comes, I thought, my tailspin starts here. I braced myself for the self-loathing, for the tears, for the embarrassment. I think I physically winced.

But then...nothing. I felt nothing. The train had passed, and I was still here. In fact, if I felt anything, it was...relief.

Danny and I were never right for each other. He was too straight- laced, I was too impulsive. The idea of us keeping each other in check, of this whole "opposites attract" scenario, was enchanting, but ultimately nonsense. And I suddenly realized...I treated that man like shit! The dancing with other men, the barbs at his intellect and work ethic, the way I'd involuntarily shrink from his touch...I was awful to that man. He deserves better.

And as I finished my last drink, I realized that ultimately, it wasn't Danny that I missed. When you're with someone else, it's so easy to tell yourself that you're doing okay. There's always someone by your side reassuring you, telling you how great you are, telling you they love you. Once he was gone, there was no one left to tell me that but me. And I think I'm realizing that maybe I don't really believe all of that.

The train has passed, but I'm still tied to the tracks. But at least now I can start thinking about how to get myself free.

"deaf roads were losing their wings
and man was growing under the wing of silence
approximate man like myself like you and like the other silences" -Tristan Tzara
"The Approximate Man" 

From the personal journal of Dalton Deschain

Thursday, October 12, 1944

I awoke this morning at sunrise to the pinpricks of yellowed, broken grass pushing into my back and the flesh of my arms. I sat up abruptly, my heartbeat quickening in the same manner as if I had woken up late for some urgent engagement, frantically pushing blood to my extremities, urging my body to snap into action, and FAST, dammit!

But around me, there was nothing. I was lying alone in a field of dead grass. I was wearing only a tattered button-down and slacks, and suddenly my whole body broke into shivers, as if the act of noticing my attire had caused my body to realize that it should be cold. I looked around, and found my hat lying on its back two yards to my right. To my left, I could see a road just before the horizon line, and sitting astride it…a circus tent.

Having nowhere else to go, I picked up my hat and headed towards the tent, bracing myself against the wind and trying to position my face so that my own hot breath-cloud would blow back and warm my lips.

I searched my memory and found that at least I knew what date it was. October 12th…but I could not remember how I got to this field. I tried to search farther back, to see what my last memory was, and if it could lead me to an answer…and suddenly I stopped, staggered, and caught myself before falling back to the cold earth.  

The last thing I remember was the cafe show, in Pontiac. That awful, deserted show…on August 12th.  

Two whole months, gone. No recollection at all. I remembered playing my set, getting in my car to drive home…and then waking up here. Yet I still remembered today’s date. As if my mind had been active, ticking off time as it went by…yet the memories of what happened during that time were now inaccessible.

I started to panic. My breath quickened, and the cold air burned my lungs. I kept moving forward, my mind focused on the circus ahead, trying to hold myself together.

I approached the tent from the rear, and walked around the side. The area seemed deserted, although I did finally realize where I was. The road was 17 Mile; I was just outside of Sterling Heights. But there were no cars on the road, and none of the bustle one would normally associate with a circus being in town. How strange to have circuses at all in a time like this. The entire world is off murdering each other and we sit here at home laughing at stuntmen risking their lives for our entertainment and animals taken from their homes and kept in cages. Is this what we require in times of extreme violence? To be entertained by this facade of “safe” violence? The very idea is nonsense.

Posters hung around the sides of the tent, intricately painted banners advertising the current roster of outcasts in the circus’ Sideshow. “MARVEL AT THIS WOMAN, WONDERFUL AND WEIRD! — ROBERTA BARNELL, THE LADY WITH A BEARD!”  
Another: “YOU’VE SEEN THE LION TAMED, AND NO SMALL FEAT IS THAT! — BUT YOU’VE NEVER SEEN A TAMER FACE DOWN A LION-SIZED RAT!”  
Another: “SHUNNED BY THE WORLD BUT OBEDIENT TO THE END! —CASEY MEYERS, THE DOGMAN IS HIS OWN BEST FRIEND!”

The last one caught my eye. The poster showed a slumped figure with a sloping forehead, and thick hair covering his entire face. In fact, the fur seemed to spread over his body; it could be seen sprouting from under his shirtsleeves and the cuffs of his slacks. But his eyes are what stuck in my mind. They were entirely black, an empty void that seemed endlessly sad. These sad rejects, I thought to myself, cast out from an uncaring world and forced to entertain the spoiled masses. Laughed at, spit upon, exploited. I began to imagine a world where the dichotomy was reversed. An audience of freaks and rejects, laughing and booing at a huddled mass of businessmen and executives, forced to dance and pratfall. Or walk the high wire. Or cling to their lives from the trapeze. 

I had reached the entrance of the tent. The front flaps were hanging open, but the inside of the tent was dark. A sign hung above the entranceway. “TRAVELING TUTONS’ CIRCUS — THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH! — LIMITED ENGAGEMENT ONLY, BEGINNING OCTOBER 29.”

In the shadow of the open flaps, a silhouette stood. Its back was hunched, its arms hanging loose down to the figure's knees. There was thick hair covering the backs of his hands. His face was invisible in the darkness, but there was a glint of sunlight reflected in his eyes. In his empty, black eyes.

“Hello there!” I called. “What is your name, sir?”

A long pause. Finally, a growl. “Casey.”

“Well hello there Casey."

I smiled at him, and entered the tent.

From the Diary of Catherine Elizabeth Harlowe

Sunday, August 13, 1944

Was just digging around in my bag and found that I’m somehow still carrying this diary around with me. I haven’t written in months…but I suppose now is as good a time as any.

There just hasn’t been much to write about, I guess. This summer has been…foggy. Not in a literal sense. Just…well, I dunno. Let me see if I can explain.

When I was a kid, my whole family used to go on vacations together. This was between the wars, and my parents were doing pretty well for themselves, so we used to rent a summer home up on Lake Michigan. I remember distinctly one afternoon lying on the beach, no towel, just skin and sand and heat. I had to close my eyes to guard from the bright sun. As I listened to the gentle gurgle of the waves cresting, and inhaled that unique smell of fresh summer air combined with gobs of sunscreen, the insides of my eyelids gave me a blazing fireworks show. The light made the world inside my head burn a deep fiery red, with shapes and patterns exploding and dissolving in the illusory landscape under my eyes. When I finally sat up and opened my eyes to look at my parents wading in the shallow water, the world was suddenly tinted a hazy blue as my eyes adjusted to the real world. It was like opening my eyes underwater.

And that’s sort of what this summer as felt like. When I sleep, my dreams are ablaze with all the things I’ve been promising myself these last few years. Moving to the city, becoming an actress, or a writer, or a painter. Meeting someone with ambitions as large as mine. That red fire illuminates my mind with a pulsing energy.

But then when I’m awake…everything is covered in the blue haze. I sit at home. I listen to the radio. I drive around Lansing. I think about Danny. Sometimes I cry about him, wondering if I threw away the nicest boy in town because of some silly, unattainable dreams. All those dreams seem as far away as the people that I called my best friends just 3 months ago. And even with all the mental pep-talks and plans sketched on scrap pieces of paper in my childhood bedroom, I just can’t shake the haze. I can’t resurface.  

To be honest…it’s absolutely terrifying.

…Jeez. I should write in this thing more often. It seems I have more to get out of me than I thought.  

As I write this, I’m sitting on a bench on the banks of Grand River. The sun is starting to set. Tomorrow I’m going to start turning things around. I’m going to start looking for a car, I’m going to look up apartment prices…I’m going to get to work.

But tonight…I think I’ll sit here in the fog and look out at the water. I’ll gaze at the sunlight bouncing off its gently rocking surface, a shifting mirage of rippling thatchwork, colored gold and black and red…and I think I’ll get lost in it.

From the Case Files of Survivor No.162

From the Case Files of Survivor No.162
Interview: 2.16.1947

Before we start, I just need to know one thing: Did they kill him?

“——“

Look, I only agreed to this interview so I could get some answers. No one out there seems to know anything, but I know YOU know. So before I answer any of your goddam questions, I need to know, did you kill him?  

“——“

I mean, is the bastard dead?!

“——“

Shit. Fine. Okay. I’m sorry, you’re right, that was the deal. I’m sure you won’t blame me for having tunnel vision for the last few months. I never used to talk like this…lately it’s been feeling like the old me was a different person entirely, like a character I saw in a movie, or read about in a comic strip. It seems impossible that I’ve been in this state for less than two months.

Shit.

I didn’t prepare properly for this. I didn’t…realize how hard it was going to be, even just trying to think back to…the bombing.

“——“

No. I want to do this now. But if we do this, I’m telling you the whole story. Even the stuff I know you don’t care about. Because I need to get this all out. I need to tell the story of how I got here…try to find the bridge that connects the version of me I barely remember to the person I am now. For me. I need to tell you about how I met [REDACTED]…and how I lost her.  

Wait, scratch that last part. …How he killed her.

And when I’m done, you’re going to tell me if he’s dead…or if I have to do it myself.

From the personal journal of Dalton Deschain

Saturday, August 12, 1944

I'm writing this from the back corner of an awful pseudo-European "artist" Café in the middle of downtown Pontiac of all places, listening to a trio of pockmarked high schoolers stumble their way through Gershwin charts for an audience of their school chums bigger than any crowd I've played to in the last 3 years. They'll finish, and one hundred percent of this shithole's population will leave with them. And then I'll play a set for the bartenders, get a croissant for the road, and drive back home.

Every night in this city feels like starting over again from the bottom.

I shouldn't be this bitter. Not at my age. Maybe it's just been a rough day. Despite blowing a tire on the highway on the way here, I arrived in Pontiac four hours early. Yes, four hours. I just had nothing else going on back home, and figured I'd find something to do in the city for the afternoon. Instead of exploring the city, though, I drove straight to the only bar I know in this town, only to find that my favorite burger had been taken off the menu and the pool table was missing the 1 ball.  

So I came straight here. Where I've been sipping tea and brooding all night. The waitress has a walk to her that seems to always draw my eye when my mind wanders, until I snap back into myself and have a panic attack wondering if she saw me, and if she thinks I'm disgusting, and if she etc, etc. The old me would have just said something to her four hours ago, and smiled and flirted and gotten her number and hung around after the show to try and find a reason not to go back to Detroit tonight. But at this point, Sal is still too fresh in my mind. I know it's been 8 months...but I still need more time. I'm a sensitive artist, goddammit, leave me alone!

...He shouted to himself in his own journal. Jesus, is this night over yet?

Fun fact time. Two blocks from here there's a hotel that just opened last summer. That's not the fun fact. Bear with me. Before it was a hotel, it was an abandoned lot, the kind your mind directs your attention away from when you pass by, filled with discarded lumber and furniture and smelling faintly like shit. In the southeastern section of this lot was a sewer entrance, the kind that's just a big cement cylinder jutting out of the ground that your mom tells you not to play near. It was on the lip of this sewer cylinder that I was found as a baby.

That's the fun fact.

A patrolling police officer found me around 2am on April 12,1922, after he heard me wailing from down the street. I was sitting precariously on the edge of this sewer cylinder, which for some reason that has never been explained to me was left wide open. According to the official report (which I looked up myself on my 19th birthday), the steel lid was never found.  

It gets weirder. On this 1941 birthday (birthday of course being a loose term in my case, given the limited amount of information to go on), I also learned that I was found in this lot covered in fresh blood, as if I had been born there just moments before, although nobody was ever found in the area. The report also describes me as having mismatched eyes, one blue, and one with a deep red iris, although the adoption papers from later that year describe only the two blue eyes that I have now.

Which is to say that the story at least as a happy ending. I was adopted by two loving parents that raised me as their own. But they never told me about the story of my birth, and when I asked them about it 3 years ago, they pretended to have no knowledge of any of it.

No wonder this town bums me out.

Shit, the high school Gershwinettes are wrapping up. Time to tune I suppose. I'm already worried about how hard it's going to be to avoid eye contact with the waitress when she's the only one here.

Is it too late to crawl back in that pipe?

From the personal journal of Dalton Deschain

Sunday, June 25, 1944

It’s worth noting that before tonight, I hadn’t been in a fight since the first grade.

This is, of course, assuming it was me that broke the nose of the man I found lying bleeding in the alleyway in front of me. I suppose it’s possible that when I blacked out, a shadowy figure from the street ran in past me, beat the heck out of that opera singer, and then ran away before I woke up.  

Stranger things.

I’ve been doing well with the blackouts, if at the expense of my social life. I took a short sabbatical from performing, which quickly led to the realization that without the gigs, I don’t go out. So I’ve been spending a lot of time at home, practicing, and reading, and plotting out the next phase of my life. I’ve always been a man who sticks to the plan, and I realized recently that whatever plans I had made had run out. Time to reformulate.

Slowly, the blackouts ceased. As of tonight, I had gone about a month without them…that is, until Salomé danced the Dance of the Seven Veils.

I had gone to see a performance of Strauss’ opera Salomé at the Detroit Opera House. Not exactly the most contemporary of performances, but given the violent state of affairs in the world right now I was amazed to see it being performed.  

Even after all these years, it gets me. The complexity of the score, the ugliness, the aggression. To pull your audience in by pushing them away. There’s a lesson to be learned there that most musicians don’t want to touch. Playing nice with a crowd will only get you so far. We are fascinated by oddities, just ask Robert Ripley, who earned an unfathomable fortune off of it. We identify with the ugly, and that’s what turns us from interested bystanders to invested fanatics. Their story becomes ours, and we become viscerally attached to them.  

Herein lies the secret to music.

I’m no stranger to the concert epiphany, having had my best ideas, as many artists do, while watching others perform. I was in the midst of this inspirational fervor when the Dance began. I watched her, twisting and leaping across the stage, still turning over these ideas of repulsion and attraction in my head…and then…nothing. I woke up in the alley next to a bloody King Herod and sirens wailing in the distance.

The last thing I remember was looking at the fool King Herod there on the stage, gaping at Salomé, and realizing the power she had. That her blend of seduction and repulsion gave her limitless strength against all the armies of Galilee. But what is it that she wants?

The severed head of her lover.

And then things went black.

From the Diary of Catherine Elizabeth Harlowe

Sunday, May 14, 1944

GRADUATION!!!!! oh my WORD it feels so FANTASTIC to be out for good. As soon as the bell rang on Friday we all ran down Cavanaugh as fast as we could and jumped in Sycamore Creek. The weather was BEAUTIFUL and we stayed in the park until long past curfew, laughing and swimming and talking about everything except next year. We all knew it was the last time that we would feel like an everlasting, unbreakable unit; there was no need to talk about it. We just enjoyed it.

Danny wanted to drive me straight home, but after some pleading and arm-tugging I convinced him to park on the edge of one of the massive corn fields off of Cedar Street first. The night was just too perfect to give up on.  

We sat on the hood of his car, staring into the pitch. We held hands whenever we weren’t swatting bugs, silent in our own thoughts. Every so often one of us would point out a constellation, or bring up some silly joke that had been told at the park earlier, but mostly we didn’t talk. If we had talked, it would have turned to the future, and then we would fight, and the lasting memory we had worked so hard that day to build would be tainted forever.

Besides, there’s really nothing to talk about. I’ve been waiting for this day for years. I’m done with Lansing. I’m ready to pack up, move on, and find something better. Maybe California. Maybe New York. The where doesn’t matter, it’s all in the leaving. It’s all in the fresh start. It’s all in the promise of becoming something great. And that’s a promise I intend to fulfill, no matter what Danny says.  

I’ve told him this a thousand times, but he’s never taken me seriously. He still thinks I’ll stay here, doting patiently by his side while he goes to Michigan State, studying some godawful boring subject so he can get some godawful boring job and live a godawful. boring. life. 

Which is why that night, sitting on that car, holding hands and staring at the endless expanse of stars shining their light down through the fresh night air, I decided that I’m going to leave Danny.

If he won’t believe in me, then damn it, I’ll find someone who will.

From the personal journal of Dalton Deschain


Thursday, April 13, 1944

Thunder rolls overhead toward Lake Huron for the sixth night in a row. I can see the water outside my window flowing over the curb and drowning the lawn. Someone’s mailbox floats by, riding the current of the tributary that used to be my street. Letters spill out and trail behind it like ducklings, someone’s heartfelt ink melting into the rest of Detroit’s runoff. While I can’t recall ever seeing weather like this in my 22 years of existence, as a native of the city this all has a feeling of familiarity to it. If there’s one seemingly universal rule in Detroit, it’s that we will always see the darkest of days before the sun’s allowed to shine again. We are America’s Sisyphus, doomed to work our asses off pushing that boulder as high as we can get it, before we’re forced to start all over again when it rolls down to the bottom.

As an artist, what I’d love to do is smile smugly and proclaim that this weather is my element, that we creative types thrive on the darkness, that this weather is really just some cosmic metaphor for my very SOUL…but truth be told, I just find it all so exhausting. The gray wears me down, makes me lazy. Whatever creative part of my mind that hasn’t already been burned out over these past few years just shuts right off. I think it’s been a major factor in my strange behavior this last week.

The blackouts have continued. It looks like maybe they weren’t alcohol related after all, although to be safe I think I’ll continue to stay away from the stuff. Strangely enough, ever since they started, I haven’t even really felt any desire for a drink.  

Tuesday I drove to a gig in Novi, and the rain was pouring down so hard I could barely see the highway. I remember thinking I should slow down, that I was driving too fast for the weather, and then suddenly the highway lit up like it was on fire, and the sky was suddenly clear, but lit a fiery orange by a distant explosion along the horizon in front of me. There were no other cars on the road except for a windowless van driving directly in front of me, painted solid gold, glittering in the light of the far off blast. After that I don’t remember anything until I arrived at the venue. I’m lucky I made it there alive. If these flashes keep happening, it’s just a matter of time before I get myself hurt. I’ll make a note to see a doctor later this week.

In other news, yesterday was my birthday. I spent most of it in the living room, banging out arias on the piano and singing in my mock opera voice. Later on Bobby came over and we talked about ideas for our band that we’ll never implement, and songs we’ll never write, and musicians we’ll never be able to afford. Like I said, this weather doesn’t bring out the best in me.

Around 2ish my mom called, crying, telling me my cousin Rob had been killed in Romania when his bomber was shot down by the Axis. Rob and I had been close, he was really my best friend when I was a child, despite him being 3 years older than me. But to be honest, when I heard the news, I felt…nothing. I reached deep within myself, but I could not find sadness. The only hint of loss I could find was in a buried memory of him pushing me on a tire swing stretched over the shore of a river up near Lake Leelanau. But this memory seemed…distant. I had trouble holding it in my mind for more than a few seconds at a time. Every time I thought I had it, it was pushed out by that image of the golden van, and the distant explosion, and despite my mother weeping in my ear, all I felt was my pulse quicken with an inexplicable sense of…excitement.

Damn this weather.

Purchase the new EP "Roberta" now! Available on bandcamp, and all other digital music services.