Related to the last one. More experimentation. Aiming for a pulp-fiction-seen-through-a-1980s-horror-movie-vibe.

You’re asking me why I’m doing this? I could say that it’s my job, sure. But that’s not what you’re after, is it? No, you want to know how I got started. Maybe then you’d really understand.

No, I wasn’t poor. I wasn’t abused, I wasn’t a street rat, begging for scraps of bread and stealing the loaf when someone offered it to me. My family wasn’t rich, but we weren’t beggars. My parents worked. My father was a shoemaker, my mother worked in a factory, when she could. After all, they had six kids. I was the second.

I was the smartest. The most ambitious. I couldn’t stand living in the tiny rooms, all of us on top of each other all the time. They were happy. They liked the company. Me, I wanted to see something different than the same seven faces day in, day out. Eating the same rice and potatoes every day of the week with meat on Wednesdays. I was the first one to leave the house.

I lived by doing the jobs a young man can get in a city. After a couple of months out there I caught on to how the kids who went to school had money. Sometimes the money came before the school, sometimes the school got the money. Didn’t matter. The smart kids that went to school — now I’m not talking high-school or anything like that here, no — but the smart ones… they looked at things differently.

They looked through things, as though they could see what was really behind everything around them. They could see right through everything…

*She* saw right through me. What? You really thought there wouldn’t be a girl in this story? Don’t pretend it surprises you. Her name was Carol.

Carol was one of the smart ones. She did well, and she learned far more than just what they were teaching in the classrooms. She knew what I was about when she first laid eyes on me. I don’t think I impressed her much, but she went out with me anyway.

I should’ve known then that she’d get herself into some kind of trouble. She stumbled across a cult. It was obvious, even funny. Robes, phony sacrifices, runes, secret codes, all of it. She played along, telling me stories about their rituals and made-up chants. We thought someone was having fun, that everyone HAD to be in on the joke and was just playing along.

We laughed about it for a while. Carol kept going to their little covens. They mostly did drugs, pretended to have visions, speak in prophecy, that kind of thing. She was going to write a paper about the whole thing for school. She came back to our apartment to write these meticulous notes about all the craziness people got to. Carol always came back to write everything down.

One day, she didn’t.

Took me three days to start looking for her. I had her notes — it didn’t take me long to find the place.

It was a home. Abandoned. Right in the middle of an ordinary neighborhood. The windows and doors were boarded up. I thought I was at the wrong place but, when I got closer, could smell the smoke from their half-assed peyote-and-horse-glue ritualistic incense. Couldn’t have been more than a day old.

It didn’t make sense.  The wood boards on all the doors was old and musty, with the nails rusted into it. Carol’s little cult had no way to get inside. The smell was too intense to be any older than a few days. I had to use a crowbar to rip them off.  

I nearly threw up when I finally got inside. The stink of the smoke was covering up the smell of a corpse getting ripe. It was on the dining room table, split open from crotch to collarbone. It wasn’t Carol. I did recognize them, though. It was one of her classmates.

The whole room had been turned into an altar. Runes written in blood in a jumble of alphabets and ideograms. Pentagrams. Bloody handprints, the whole deal. It would’ve been the set of a cheesy horror movie, were it not for the very real corpse.

I ran outside and didn’t even bother to try not to throw up that time. There was a moment there, after I was done retching, that I knew what I was expected to do. I was supposed to run off, call the cops, let them figure out the mess and get as far away from the whole mess as I could. I should’ve forgotten about Carol.

Instead, I spat up the last of the bile, took a deep breath, and went back into that house.

There was no one else there. No way out either.

I found a stack of notebooks in a corner of one of the bedrooms, out of the way. They were full of Carol’s careful handwriting. Hundreds of pages. More than she could have filled up in just three days. I took them, called the police, and left. They didn’t find anything else. I hung around to make sure.

There were names, dates, places, people, patterns. I felt the same way reading those notes that I did when I first noticed the college kids talking about the world. It felt like I was just skimming the surface of something much deeper.

I took the notebooks to one of her professors, an older woman called Von der Walde. All I said was that Carol had gone missing, and I thought the books may have a clue. She was curious enough to be talked into having a look.

A couple of weeks later, with absolute calm, she explained to me what Carol and her friends had done. They sacrificed their classmate. Whether it was the drugs that led to it, or if it was just a convenient excuse to kill the boy, I don’t know. The notebooks said that the sacrifice worked. That something answered, coming through the boy’s body into our world, and that it spoke the others.

Professor Von der Walde told me she didn’t believe it. She hadn’t seen how the boy had been burst open from the inside like I had.

There were places that the professor said I should go, if I was going to keep looking for Carol. She also said I shouldn’t, that I should just hand over the notebooks to the police and forget everything about it.

Somehow, I couldn’t. I needed to know the truth about the world.

What came after was years of searching, following a thread that led me to unholy places, to more blood and gore, and very few answers. I couldn’t get past the surface. Maybe I was just unwilling to pay the price, like they had.

I still graduated, years late, deeply in debt, and frustrated. Without realizing it, however, I had made a name for myself. People began to call me a mercenary, a treasure hunter, a charlatan, but then there would be those who would call me for help.

Sometimes families, sometimes colleagues, looking for others who had gone down a dark path would reach out to me. Eventually I figured out how to get them to pay me to look.

Most of the time the stories were mundane. The ones that weren’t led me to places like that abandoned home.

Sometimes, rarely, there are happy endings. Other times, I got glimpses of the world that Carol had gone to. I chased after it, looking for her, looking to understand.

Carol never came back, and I haven’t found her yet.

I still read through her notebooks, even though I just can’t understand them, let alone explain them. I do know this, though. How she saw reality was that much deeper than what I could see, again. It made me feel like I did when I was young, listening to the college kids talk about the world in ways that I just couldn’t see.

Knowing what I know now, what is clear is that the world that we live in is a comforting lullabye. Even with violence, disease, greed, cruelty… it’s a fairytale, laid over the nightmare that Carol knows it to be.

Now, though, I may just have found someone else who does understand, and doesn’t turn away from the dark. He’s blind, and he claims that he knows where to find the truth. I don’t know if I should trust him, but I have to try.

I have to know how deep this well goes. That, in the end, is why I’m doing this.

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