Yesterday was release day for a book I wrote called Beacon, book one of the Nation of Five series. The book is about young men and an impossible task they set before themselves. Well, I know a lot about impossible tasks. I’m a DID survivor who suffers from hallucinations. I have bipolar and Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder. Getting through a day where I make dinner, hang out with my kids, be a husband to my wife, and not end the day screaming, is the completion of an impossible task. Well, it may be an impossible task that’s undertaken in the book Beacon, but it’s only even considered because of the friendship between four boys. Four teenage boys attempt this daunting feat. Got me thinking about the boys and men in my life. And so this weekend to celebrate the release of Beacon, I will be dropping upon you chapters from Reality of the Unreal Mind. These chapters are from the unreleased third volume, titled The Keep. I start at 7:30 in the evening on Friday, and will end at 9 at night on Sunday. So follow me now into the story of the men who made me possible.
He drove an old Monte Carlo. The type where you could play a ball game on the hood. It was an enormous car, and he drove it aggressively that night as he talked almost nonstop. She was in the car, and Cheech was obsessed with her.
Her name, I don’t remember, which for this book is fine. We will call her Gin and she was a pretty girl, very intelligent, with wide blue eyes and long brown hair. She had a friend with her that night, and it looked like this girl had put about two hours into her hair. It was twisted and curled and smooth and complicated. Her makeup was perfect and she was not impressed with Shadow.
Gin had insisted she come, and because of her plumes, we will call her Bird. She was pretty, though it looked like it took a long time for her to get that way, and she looked at Shadow like he was a turd the moment she saw him. This girl did not want to be in this car, and she did not want to be with these people. She had come to see Gin from their home town. Bird did not even go to SMSU. She was not a student at the college. She was simply visiting. But tonight she was with us, and Cheech had a place he had to show us.
He said it was the Freak Farm. Said that years ago the Springfield citizens, in their bigotry, had gathered up every freak in the city and took them out to this farm. They had forced them to live and work this place, and left them to it.
“Then one night,” he said, as he opened the creaking rusted gate as far as he could, in spite of the chain, to slip in. “A man got drunk in Springfield and started running off at the mouth and talked about how the freaks were devil cursed and they needed to be dealt with.
“A priest was in the bar that night, and he started spouting off scripture, and soon the entire bar takes to the streets. They start pulling people out of their house and speeches are being given in the streets, and then they all took to their trucks and they came out here.” Cheech let his voice get quiet, almost solemn, as we all ducked in and started walking the grounds.
“They had weapons and torches, just like you see in the movies,” Cheech said. “And they burned the house, the barn, and everything else. They killed all of the Freaks, and dragged their bodies out into the field out back and set them on fire.” Gin pulled close to Cheech, and he wrapped an arm around her. “They say that some of the freaks were still alive and that they screamed as they burned.
“Nothing grows back there. And some nights, you can hear the screams of the freaks in the field.” Cheech held tight to Gin. “I hope we don’t hear them tonight.”
“What kind of freaks?” Bird asked.
“Anything from a person with a club foot to an albino. Some were just other races. It was a total shit show. Anyway, this is the spot,” Cheech said. “Have a look, but don’t get too far from the group. And if you hear something, let us know. If the howls of the dead start up, it’s best if we get out of here.”
We saw a few outbuildings but they were burned badly. Shadow walked a far distance away with Bird to let Gin and Cheech have some time alone.
“Do you believe his story?” Shadow said.
“Want to go in there?” Shadow asked. He looked at a sunken building. There were crumbling stairs going into the ground, a shattered door, and the roof was only a foot and a half out of the ground. There was a window set low to the ground but it did not look big and it did not look inviting.
“You can go in there, but you are not getting me alone,” Bird said.
Shadow shrugged and walked on. We came to a basement where the entire barn had been burned down and only the basement remained. Cheech and Gin were standing in the bottom amongst weeds and saplings that pushed up out of the stone.
“It’s colder down here than it is up there,” Gin said. “Can you hear anything?”
We all got quiet, but no one heard anything. Out came Artist and he looked around as the buildings all came back. They just shrugged out of the ground, tossing off old burnt supports and trash that had accumulated there. The lights came on in the window, and one of the houses started to play music as if there was a piano in it. Artist saw a well with a small structure built around it.
It had a roof and was no more than five-by-five-foot at the floor and maybe six-foot high. The roof seemed broken in places, and Artist walked up to Bird. “Do you want to see something beautiful?”
“What did you say?” She seemed pissed.
“Do you want to see something beautiful?” Artist said again, and he spoke in that Artist voice. Half dream, half command.
“Fine, but I want to stay in sight of them,” Bird snapped.
“That is fine, it’s not far. They will be able to see us the entire time,” Artist said.
He led her to the well house and they ducked in. “Look right there,” he said, pointing at a bar that stretched across the boarded-up well. We looked, and sitting on the bar was a small bird. No bigger than my fist.
She scoffed. “Is that it?”
At her words, the bird chirped and flew off through the hole in the roof. She spun. She looked at Artist in the gloom of shattered moonlight. “How did you know that was there?” she asked. Her anger, her annoyance all drained away, replaced by shock and awe.
“I am drawn to beautiful things,” Artist said.
I remember her eyes and the way they widened. The moonlight hit her face just right and I could see her eyes, just then noticing they were green.
“Who are you?” she said. “You seem different.”
“My name is Smear. I’ll spare you the rest of it.”
“Can I kiss you?” she asked.
“Better not,” Artist said. “Passion might stir up the dead. They might rise to see the life that you shine with if we kiss at all.”
He turned to go, and when he was out of the well house, she looped her arm around his. He led her back to the burned-out barn where Cheech was finally kissing Gin.
They pulled away from each other and Gin shivered. “Can you hear that?” she said.
Cheech nodded. “We had better get out of here,” he said.
“I can vaguely see people down here,” Gin said. “Just shapes.”
Cheech found the stairs and tried to climb them, but they were old cement and they crumbled under his foot. He caught himself on his palms when he came down and within a breath, he was panicking. Shadow reached down, snatched him from the stairs, where he landed on his knees, and with one jerk, pulled him up and onto the grass.
Gin walked the stairs carefully, and she cried out as she left. “I can feel someone run their hands through my hair.”
Shadow stepped back and Bird looped her arm around him. “What changed with you?” he asked Bird.
She looked at him and said, “I decided you are beautiful.”
“Cool,” Shadow said.
“Let’s get out of here!” Cheech said. “We need to get back to the dorm. I don’t like this place so much anymore.”
As we made it to the car, the sky ripped with lightning. We dove in and it was sprinkling within minutes. The rain was cold when we stopped at the gas station. Bird had moved over to lean against Shadow in the back seat, and she turned to him and smiled.
“Do you want anything from inside?” Bird asked.
“I’ll get it, whatever it is,” Cheech said. “Dad sends me quite an allowance.”
“Dr. Pepper,” Shadow said to him. They disappeared into the gas station and Shadow tried to think of what had changed Bird so much, so fast. But at that point, none of us knew each other. At that point, the mind was still a mystery.
We went back to the dorm where we were invited to Gin’s room. She pulled out a bottle of—you guessed it—gin, and they started drinking.
Bird got drunk as fast as she could and kept eyeing me. When Cheech started drinking, I excused myself and headed back to my room.
“Stay,” Bird said as she slipped out of the room into the hall. “Stay and spend the night. We will lay blankets in the floor and crash together.”
But as soon as the drinking began, Guardian had come out, and he had images of Bekah in his mind. “I need to go. I have to be somewhere.”
Bird leaned forward and kissed him real quick with a closed mouth. Guardian gently pushed her back.
“Thanks for the bird and the well house,” she said. “I won’t forget it.”
Guardian nodded, then turned and left. He got to his dorm and crawled in bed to think about Bekah. He tried to call her, but when he reached for the phone, Shadow stopped him.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.