Teaser of the first chapter from my upcoming mystery novella, The Mysterious Mr. Crowley. Enjoy!
It’s a curious and frightening affair, to wake up not knowing yourself; to open your eyes and look around to see four unfamiliar walls… You blink, to make sure you’re not dreaming. Then, you close your eyes again – this time, you keep them closed.
You count to three and take a deep breath, hoping that when you open your eyes, you’ll be in your room, laying in your bed, right where you were when you fell asleep… Right there at home.
You open your eyes.
Then, reality comes crashing down upon you with all of the horrifying and dismal sobering-power of a pit viper sitting on your chest.
You spring up – your heart skips a beat, you scramble out of the bed, unsure of which way to run… You stumble over to the dresser, and when meeting oneself in the mirror, you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that everything is wrong. That your mind and body are not in accord; that you do not belong. In that place. In those clothes. In that skin…
Curious and frightening, indeed.
This was the manner of my great awakening. I cannot count how many times I have woken since – drenched in a cold sweat and startled by the resonant affects of whatever nightmare from which I was emancipated – wondering precisely the same question that so exceedingly occupied my thoughts on that of my “first morning”… who am I? The feeling is unremittently disquieting, to say the least. I should hope that, whoever is reading this, neither you nor the ones you love will ever have to experience it.
To not know your own identity is inherently unnatural; for, what does that then make you? Aren’t “you” simply the result of a series of events and circumstances, a collective of life experiences and knowledge, a fountain of thought and speech and mannerisms, behaviors and personality, all that embodies a soul – the very thing which distinguishes mankind from the beasts, and without which “you” would cease to be human and instead, recede into animalism?
If all this is true, then I cannot be classified as such; for mine is a body devoid of a soul, vacant and impassive. As such, it does apparently serve the purpose of providing the occasional wandering consciousness with a space in which to dwell. Thus, I present: “me”.
I’m quite certain that all of this sounds delightfully insane, and it’s true – I can’t explain this anomalous, albeit remarkable phenomenon; I am, however, aware that I am not the only mind presently occupying this body. To clarify, I say “mind” only because I do not possess the proper acumen for delineating, scientifically, an appropriate diagnosis of my condition. That is, of course, if you accede to the school of thought that Psychology is indeed to be categorized among the Sciences – but that argument is “neither here nor there”, as I believe the adage goes.
But, I digress. Back to my awakening…
After calming from my initial uneasiness, and upon further scrutiny of the room in which I woke, I discovered something which, thereafter examining, I hoped would hold the key to unlocking the secret of my existence; or my whereabouts, at the very least.
There, in a drawer crammed full of knick-knacks, I came upon a parcel of a half-dozen black notebooks, approximately 5 inches wide by 7 inches in length, and bound together with a rubber band. I hoped then, using the notebooks as a guide, that I might ascertain the rather peculiar nature of my present situation, as well as my extensive working knowledge of the Universe and of the english language.
Suffice to say, I was shocked and thoroughly disappointed to find the journals empty; not a single page marked, not a blemish nor even a spot of ink at all. Admittedly, this discovery left me rather puzzled and served only to amplify my yearning for answers… I meticulously reanalyzed the books, chasing after any clue that might solve the riddle at hand; to my amazement, a riddle was precisely what I discovered.
From the pocket of the first notebook, I took a folded piece of paper upon which the following inscription was etched in ink:
If what you seek escapes you,
the trick is that you cannot see;
For, though this book was writ in night,
in light you’ll find the key.
This new revelation, disturbing as it was, tremendously exacerbated my narcosis, which suddenly began metamorphosing into a very powerful headache. What did it all mean? I was quite certain my eyes were fully functioning and that, as a matter of fact, I could see; thus, the meaning of first two lines eluded me. However, it was the manner of earnestness embodying the latter lines which haunted me even more.
I presumed that by “night”, the meaning implied was “darkness”; but by what means might a book be written in darkness? Furthermore, I was bewildered by the notion that I might have been outfoxed by such a simple detail; it had not donned on me, even after having been awake for nearly half an hour, standing there still in the dark and wearing nothing but my underwear, that I should begin by looking at the book in the light.
That particular line of thinking was, as it turned out, little more than a dead end. It seemed the poem was either mistaken or, as I suspected, it’s meaning more purposefully esoteric than one might glean at first glance. So, I took it upon myself to uncover the mystery of the journals – anticipating that they alone, if nothing else, would liberate my mind from darkness, providing me with some relief of the daunting awareness (or perhaps, unawareness) that I was not myself. I began my search as one should rightly begin any such endeavor: by putting on pants.
After deliberating on what to wear for longer than I care to reveal, I settled on the more respectable of two outfits – both of which actually fit me quite comfortably, to my surprise. A light blue button-down shirt, black dress pants and a matching blazer with polished shoes and a blue striped tie more than fulfilled my appetite for looking apropos; for surely it would serve my purpose to be dressed in a manner so that my appearance did not deceive, nor hinder my investigation by arousing suspicion or cause impasse at any formal establishment. Now, looking handsome as ever, I proceeded by once again scrutinizing the book under the light of a bright lamp.
It was during this third examination of the notebooks that I discovered there was, indeed, a message written within, using some type of ink that remained nearly invisible to the naked eye. The process by which I was able to arrive at this conclusion was more of a stumbling-upon the evidence than any sort of keen observation on my part: as I was flipping through the pages of the first journal, I lifted the notebook to bring it closer to my face and in doing so, moved it from under the light to over it, shifting my perspective; I was was able to gaze “through” the pages, carefully inspecting each page again and it was at this time that I made my great discovery.
As I was staring down at the journal, I recalled a distant memory – echoes from another life, perhaps – of a young boy writing a secret message with a novelty “invisible ink” pen, which was designed so that the message would only be revealed when examined under certain light. Although I did not know how or when I’d encountered it, I was sure of its existence and that this was, in fact, the workings of such a mechanism.
Of course! The last line of the poem made perfect sense now as I recited it aloud, “in light you’ll find the key.” The answer to the riddle was ultraviolet light. I threw my hands into the air in celebration, crying out with a glorious, “Yes! That’s it!”
But no great light opened up in the heavens to anoint me, nor did any subsequent flood of brilliant ideas flow forth to fill my head as to where I would procure a device that emitted ultraviolet light, so that I might read and learn the hidden message of the books. Perhaps I’d missed something else – some clue left in the room where I woke, or another riddle in the pocket of one of the remaining five journals… Alas, no such riddle or clue existed that I was able to uncover. It was a pivotal moment in my investigation, and there I was, left to sit on my hands with no further knowledge of myself or of how I came to be in that place. What a sobering moment, that was – realizing I had the answer to my question, but no means of acting upon it.
After hours of searching through the house, I felt as though I was further from uncovering the truth than when I started. I had six journals, all presumably filled with useful information written in an invisible ink – I would like to add that I did happen upon the pen that was used to write the journals, confirming my theory – and no discernible means of reading them. I decided, then, that it might be beneficial to take my investigation wayward, venturing outside the house to see if I could find a nearby market or hardware shop that might have the necessary tools to aid me in my quest for knowledge.
During my rampant frenzy about the house, I’d found a number of fascinating items, which I then carefully placed into a sack for safekeeping during my travels: among an assortment of medications, I found a bottle of amphetamines, which I quickly pocketed (for they might prove to be of some use later); a wooden tobacco pipe along with a bag of very robust-smelling turkish leaf; a pocket knife with the initials T.E.C. engraved on the hilt, one rather valuable-looking heirloom – a beautiful antique golden compass, in perfect working order; and finally, a set of six keys on a ring. As for the latter, the all-too-obvious conclusion would’ve been to assume that the number of keys in some way corresponded to the number of journals; I quickly transcended this line of thinking, however, for I thought it to be merely a coincidence.
After some trial-and-error, I found that the largest key apparently operated an automobile, and I discovered such a vehicle sitting outside the house. The second key unlocked the front door to the house, and a third unlocked the shed, which was empty. The fourth key, smaller than the rest and the only one of which was bronze in color, opened a safe that was hidden in the back of the closet in the bedroom where I first woke. Unfortunately, the safe was empty, save for a picture of me with a beautiful dark-haired girl – a former lover, perhaps? – and a bank receipt with the name “T. Crowley” written beside a long series of numbers which, presumably, was a bank account belonging to this Mr. Crowley fellow.
This left me with two remaining keys; I had not the slightest clue as to what lock either belonged. And so, I placed the key ring into my pocket, along with a twenty dollar bill I’d found folded up in the bottom of a sock drawer, and set out to find a merchant who would – hopefully – provide me with a source of ultraviolet light, as well as answers to a few burning questions, including: where in the world I was, what the year was, and more importantly… where in the bloody hell could I get a whiskey.
– From the upcoming mystery novella, The Mysterious Mr. Crowley