In retrospect, it started at the very beginning, as I was setting the foundation. For the previous three weeks I had been selling off my possessions on ebay. My flat screen, my PS4, my desktop computer. Anything that might fetch for more than a hundred dollar bill was sold, and the profits added to the funds for The Arc. My new project. A 100% sustainable, self-sufficient tiny home to be built on my parcel in far upstate New York.
As I said, it began with the foundation. The slab I poured on that first weekend was modest, only a few hundred square feet, but it was truly the foundation for everything I wanted to achieve. I stayed the weekend, camping out in my van, waiting for the concrete to dry and set. But I mostly spent that time exploring the land I now proudly owned. Visiting the creek, gaging it’s depth, looking for blinds, locating game trails, and the like.
When I woke on Monday I returned to my site to examine the slab and was a bit baffled as to what I found. While the concrete had set and hardened perfectly, without cracks and retaining it’s structural uniformity, it had developed a strange pattern on its surface since Saturday. It was covered in flowing, variegated patterns like a sand dune, or the skin of a burn victim, from one corner to the other. At the time I chalked it up to an effect caused by the wind, and accepted that the foundation of my home would boast a natural flowing pattern. At the time it seemed appropriate, even pleasing. But that was before I was forced to re-examine my definition of “natural”.
The following three months were fraught with similar incidents of high strangeness during each phase of construction. At the very start of framing, I woke one morning to find that half of my two-by-fours had seemingly grown deep, black knotting since they were delivered. I had taken care to inspect the load before the truck departed for both structural issues, as well as warping. There had been no inconsistencies.
Yetin the cold light of dawn, half my stock was fecund with deep rooted black knotting, making most of them all but useless. I decided that my tiredness had made me careless. It was the only possible explanation. I was so exhausted when the truck arrived that I must have inspected only a portion of the delivery. I forgave my lapse in attentiveness and picked myself back up to continue my work.
Day after day, week after week, materials went missing. Twice I located the stolen items. Exhausted from the almost constant setbacks, I had lain on my back, on the ground, in front of my now framed-out tiny house to stare at the sky and try to regain my enthusiasm. I spotted something strange high in the pines above me. A spiraling decoration of red and yellow spiraling around the tops of the trees surrounding my plot.
Further inspection solved the mystery. It was my wiring. The wiring that was meant to connect my solar panels to my battery storage, and then finally feed the current into my house.
I had been making excuses for the strange incidents plaguing my work for well over a month now. But this was beyond any rational explanation I could come up with. How had two full spools of wiring ended up wrapped in intricate loops thirty feet up six nearby trees? A practical joke? Someone intentionally trying to slow or stop my work? I certainly wasn’t close to anyone with a sense of humor as twisted as that. Never mind someone who had the interest or wherewithal to pull it off.
In truth, I had less friends than I could count on one hand. I both like it that way, and find that it further motivated me to do something meaningful with my life. To stake a claim and live in harmony with the natural world out here. Growing my own food. Hunting and fishing. Reading, writing and exploring the benefits of solitude in a time when the rest of the world was only furthering its (in)human entanglement.
Yet here I was, in the middle of nowhere. And still being interfered with. Regardless, I would not stop. This was my dream. My focus. And when facing an obstacle you only have three choices. Go over them, under them, or through them. I undertook all of those paths to reach my goal before winter took hold.
I gathered rope and learned some knot tying in order to ascend the trees and retrieve my wiring. I placed another order to replenish my lumber supply. I chopped wood to replace the stakes that had gone missing, meant to mark the edges of my garden. It was especially important that I start my cold weather crops as soon as possible. I spent hours scraping dried mud and clay that I found coating my triple pane windows and doors. And near the end of the project I spent days reattaching hundreds of roofing tiles that had been removed and scattered throughout the woods, some as far as fifty feet into the thick forest.
But now finally, against the strangest of odds, my work is complete. Friday was the last night I would spend in my barren suburban apartment complex. The last night I would miss sleep due to the sounds of fucking from the floor below, and children tearing around from above. I would finally be separated from that cycle of endless, mindless propagation of which I had never chosen to take part.
And here I am. It’s 3am and I’m huddled in a ball behind my small couch, draining the last of the days solar power reserves to keep my phone charged to write this.
The cacophony outside started right at midnight causing me to fly from my bed to the main room. At first I thought that it must be a bear based on the incredible scale of noise it was making. Black bears are not unheard of in the area, especially this deep into the wilderness. And it made sense that it might see my little outpost as an opportunity for an easy meal.
But then I noticed that the noise was coming from all four corners simultaneously. Scraping and tearing noises from the east side, scratching and screeching from the west. And I could see the windows rattling on the north and south sides as my new home was being assaulted by a thunderstorm of incredible magnitude.
But there was no storm, no rain or thunder at least. Just a little box I had built in the deep woods. A little box that was my life’s work. From which I can now hear the siding being torn asunder.
I only built up the will to stand and look out the windows to see my assailants once. What little I did see was more than enough. A flurry of activity. The window cracking. Greasy fur and rubbery suckers and horrors of biology unintelligible to my simple mind.
So here I sit. Behind the loveseat. Cradling my phone, trying to comfort myself in it’s sane technological light. In its connection to the outside world, where things are dull but predictable. Bastions of perverse humanity yes, but also bastions against the unknown.
Please. Please, world out there. Help me. Tell me how to stand against this chaos. What moves can I make? What can I try? What is happening here and how can I stop it? I need you. I need someone. Some ideas, some knowledge that will help me.
Otherwise, without your help, I am just a man, alone in a box in the deep woods, assaulted by the very thing I was working towards, and quite possibly looking at my last stand against the horrors of the wild.
* * *
Two nights have passed since my first frantic post crying out for help. The first night, with all of your help, gave me great confidence in my ability to adjust out here. But the second night took a turn. I’m not so sure any longer. I don’t have many options, and none of the ones I do have are particularly agreeable.
Things that night started to calm around 4:30am, near to daybreak. Four hours of pounding, grinding, splitting noise petered out to the sound of a few squirrels doing their worst to gain entry to my home. By the time the first light crept across the forest floor, there was silence and stillness. It was all I ever wanted, and while I was not sure I would experience it again after that night, it had come. Sure as daybreak, death and taxes.
There was no time for sleep. I had a lot to accomplish today if I was going to refuse to back down and be the latest forty-something to move back home with his parents. A prospect I must avoid at all costs. I started by brewing some coffee on the wood stove. My priorities had shifted, but not enough to part with this most necessary of rituals.
Next I allowed myself an hour and a half to inspect and repair the damage that had been done to my humble abode. Whatever had torn the siding from the bottom of my exterior walls had at least left them on site. I replaced all but two boards that were shredded beyond viability, and patched the remaining holes with a vapor barrier to keep the moisture from seeping in. It would do for now.
As I cleaned up the debris left on site, I found something exceeding troubling behind my home. At first I simply noticed that all of the plants and seedlings I had started in my gardens were missing. At least 50 plants, garlic, onions, salad greens, potatoes and more were gone and my beds were now barren. There were no holes in the moist earth indicating where they had been torn from. The soil was rich, black and even. As if they had never been planted in the first place.
In the space that my potato plants had occupied I spied a small circle of bright clean white peeking through the topsoil, and brushed the rest away to uncover an egg. A clean, white egg buried in place of my seedling. Clearing away other areas revealed the same in each row. One egg after another. Perfectly normal looking eggs that one would purchase at any low end, high volume grocer.
I accidentally broke one of them during extraction. It’s contents were foreign and revolting. A black and blue wrangled mess of rubbery stringy flesh amidst a thick streaked muck that smelled like rot and petroleum which stung my skin. I dragged my palm across the grass trying to remove the putrescence before carefully gathering the remainder of the eggs for disposal, far from my property.
On my way into town I made one stop to part with them, careful not to crack any others and carry that horrific stench with me. I may be down a pail, but at least I avoided being shunned by the townsfolk for my smell.
The nearest town had one single outfitter, what used to be a five and dime now sold a strange assortment of instant meals, beer, hunting and fishing equipment. The proprietor was no less ragged or ornery than his stock. Any openings I tried to make to converse about local legends, strange happenings or anything else were met with pure hillbilly derision.
“Just another city boy trying to figure out the ways of the world.” He’d say time and again, before spitting his tobacco into a Snapple bottle that looked like it had survived a war.
At least he was consistent. Until I popped a twenty dollar bill into his dilapidated plastic tip jar. At that exact moment his whole attitude shifted drastically. Likely due to the fact that it would mean a bottle of wild turkey was now in his immediate future.
“Cassandra, at ta Liberry… you wanna talk ta her. Bout that weird stuff.”
I wasn’t about to push my luck, so I located the “Liberry” on my own, and quickly found Cassandra, which was simple since she seemed to be the only employee in a location with zero visitors. While a bit rough around the edges, Cassandra was far more forthcoming than the attendant at the store.
With nothing else to do she sat and talked with me for an hour, even made me a cup of tea while I cautiously approached the activity I had experienced on my property. I got more comfortable as time went on but still avoided going into any detail that would make me sound like a lunatic, which was a good portion of my experience.
“Salt for protection, offerings for appeasement. Milk and honey is best.” She said matter-of-factly.
Right inline with some of the more helpful suggestions to my previous post, this woman validated the wisdom that it appears that you readers, for some reason, have.
It was getting dark by the time I returned to my cabin, but the pink light of the setting sun was enough to see and manage my handiwork. As instructed, I used two full containers of dark blue, yellow raincoat labeled salt to draw a circle around my home, and my garden (I had also picked up some starter plants to reinstate my attempt at cultivation). Then I placed a small bowl of milk and honey outside the circle to the East within sight of my front doors.
That night was beautiful. Calm and moderately warm with a sky full of stars like I have never seen given the lack of light pollution. I sat vigil for a time, reading and having a couple glasses of wine before tucking in and drifting off to enjoy a deep well earned sleep.
The weather the next day was just as pristine. The wind with it’s slight chill mixed with the warmth of the sun on my skin as I inspected my circle, collected my empty bowl, and returned to explore the intricacies of my newly acquired land. It felt wonderful to return to excitement about my new home.
It was even more so when I found that a couple traps that I had set were tripped and I would be having rabbit for dinner. I collected my quarry, butchered them expeditiously saving and stretching the skins and prepared a wonderful feast. Rabbit stew with red potatoes, garlic carrots and fresh Thyme. Followed by a furtherance of wine.
I still had a lot of remaining work to do in the garden, and to restore some of the damage to my home, but after my ordeal the first night I chose to declare this day a weekend day. And simply be, and enjoy. That of course did not prevent me from bolstering my defenses of salt, and providing another offering for whatever had plagued me earlier for the evening. I was feeling more comfortable, but I was not stupid.
I sat vigil again as the sun set but moved inside, watching the woods from the comfort of my couch near the wood stove once a rather intense chill set in. I read on and off, but really I was keeping a close eye on my bowl out front. It had been empty this morning and I wondered if I could catch any activity around it if I remained alert.
Looking up from my book I saw it move, it’s form glowing in the growing moonlight. The book dropped from my hands as I watched it slowly rise into the air, first just an inch and then several feet. This was incredible. I couldn’t make out anything in the darkness behind it, but the white bowl was clear, and it was being raised to almost 6 feet in the air. I sat forward in a mix of excitement and trepidation to bear witness to the phenomenon.
Crash. It was shattered on the ground, milk and honey flying into the air around it. Broken pieces of porcelain and it’s soupy contents splayed out over my circle.
Crunch. An anemic looking bare foot was stepping on it’s shattered remains. My eyes adjusted and I raised my sight up a thin blue ankle to an emaciated waist covered in black tattered cloth to finally behold the sight of the Thin Man now stepping over my line and walking straight towards me.
By the time my eyes had met his thin yellow pupils and translucent bald head all rational thought had left me. He was walking towards me with slow but inevitable purpose, his eyes locked on mine as he came closer and closer.
For the second time in two days I flipped over the back of my couch like a cat sprung from it’s rest, and pressed my back against the furniture. My vision went red, my head went soapy, bubbling and threatening to float away.
Knock! One simple definitive knock came from my front doors.
“Fuck no, fuck no fuck no….” It was the only mantra that surfaced..
Knock! Another, then another. Every three seconds. My heart pounded a hundred times between each knock as my mind became more and more frantic trying to grasp some plan of action, something I could do. Some way to make this stop. Make this thing leave. Just leave me alone.
My searching gaze landed on the rifle I had purchased, sat upright in the corner, loaded and ready. But before I could even consider leaving my minimal cover I heard cracking sounds from beneath it and watched in horror as several moist black roots poked up through the corner and began entwining themselves around my only weapon, enclosing it in a raged cage of brambles.
I think it was that moment that I blacked out, though it is hard to tell. Asking when you lost consciousness, the very thing you require to determine such a thing, is fairly difficult.
What I do know is that I woke this morning. Alive. Intact. Somehow. The roots are gone, but the damage to the corner floor of my home remains. There was also one last remnant from the events of last night.
My front door is now adorned with a crude rendition of two rabbits, drawn in blood, with troubling streaked X’s in place of their eyes.