Forever and Always

I was just reading idly over some of my old posts when something occurred to me. I don’t mention the Tree Walker all that often, do I? If anyone thinks it’s because I don’t see him much, let me disabuse you of that notion forthwith.

I see the Tree Walker all the time. He’s almost become like some sort of uncomfortable fixture in my life, something that is always there, to the extent that I am more uneasy when I don’t have some idea of where he is. He’s usually off slightly in the distance, observing, or so it seems. Of course, he sometimes gets closer, such as when he decided to toss me around the place, but no matter the gap between us, he’s almost always just there.

So, if I don’t mention the Tree Walker in a post, it’s not because I haven’t seen him. I only talk about something in a post if it differentiates from the norm and is noteworthy enough to inform you all about. Come to think of it, that means I find seeing a dark monster of immeasurable destructive power less notable than getting a nice burger.

That’s kind of tragic, isn’t it?

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Pebbles and Petals

The lingering kiss of my hiking boots against the asphalt was the echo of a whisper, muffled by the thin film of rainwater that had not yet drained or evaporated away from the bitumen now almost simmering under the dragon’s breath of the spring sun. The sea change in the weather was almost ominous, but only the most paranoid would read portents into the shifting of the winds and I’m not paranoid. Paranoia implies that your fears are unjustified.

Shifting awkwardly in my overcoat, I gripped the stems firmly, the light plastic wrapping paper crinkling around the heads of the roses. I was going to see a women who I hadn’t seen in a very long time. It had been decades, in fact. Those years weighed heavily on my shoulders as I pushed open the black gates and made my way along the gravelled path between the rows of elder trees, blooming but not yet bearing fruit.

I saw her first, standing under the willow where we’d arranged to meet. Dignified and poised as always, her beauty alight in the fire of the sky. My heart fluttered, the nervous lump in my throat like a tumour. This was the moment of truth, even if I wasn’t going to be completely honest with her.

She didn’t recognise me at first, but then she saw the flowers clutched in my hand and her richly-toned face was suddenly corpse pale. She didn’t say anything as I approached, made no sign of acknowledgement. She just watched as I ambled across the grass to meet her, the dread building in my chest like an asthma attack that no inhaler could relieve. After just a minute, there was only a couple of feet between us, at most. I opened my mouth to speak.

She slapped me.

“Hi, mom.”

She slapped me again.

“It’s been twenty years, Benjamin. Surely you have something better to say than that.”

I swallowed.

“I’m dying.”

She didn’t say anything. If that woman is made of stone, it’s only because she had to claw her way out of solid rock to get where she wanted in life. Still, even stones weep sometimes and the tears rose like a spring into the wells of her eyes. I don’t know if it was the best thing to do, but I embraced her. She reacted after a couple of awkward seconds and accepted the hug, but my mother has never been one for public displays of affection, so it didn’t last very long. When we broke, we both turned to the simple gravestone embedded in the ground, the stone face declaring the final resting place of my father. I crouched and let the bouquet fall from my hands on to the pebble-covered plot where the worms were feeding on the body of the man who made me. Somewhere across the forest of granite tablets, I could see the monster that changed me, but my mother was thankfully oblivious to its presence. I suppose men in black suits aren’t exactly an uncommon site in graveyards.

We talked a little more, trivialities and memories, the same nonsense you’d hear at any family reunion. Afterwards, we went for dinner at her restaurant, a classy and intimate affair nestled in the suburbs of Richmond, Indiana. When we were done, I turned down an offer to spend the night at her house and promised to call her soon. I don’t know if I will. I don’t even know if she really wants me to.

Closed Door

Peter and Natalie are gone. The house is locked up and I’ve taken a few months’ worth of the housekeeping budget out of the bank. I’m hitting the road for a while. I need to go places, see things and meet people. My brain isn’t getting any healthier and I want to enjoy America one last time while I can.

My updates will probably be a bit sparser for a couple of months but I’ll make sure you all know that I’m alive. I’m sorry for anyone who was hoping that they’d find a safe place to stay in Vermont. I just can’t guarantee that anymore.

So long for now.

Gone, Gone, Gone

Everyone but Peter and Natalie left today. Ronan evidently felt sufficiently recovered to move along and Derek, Elaine and little Emily are evidently accompanying him for the time being. Emily was, once again, upset about having to leave and I must admit I felt a little pang when she left. I’ve grown attached to her, I think.

Natalie and Peter will be leaving themselves on Wednesday. Peter is still on a good deal of medication but I’m confident that he’ll be okay as long he watches himself. My more pressing concern at the moment is closing down the mansion. I need to get out of here and do some thinking. I need to visit important places, meet important people and do important things. Or something like that.

It was foolish of me to even try this. It’s not like anyone else who tried to establish a safehouse for the Tree Walker’s victims ever succeeded.

At any rate, my presence may be spotty for a couple of days while I sort this place out. I’ll update when I can.

Holy Tears

Peter woke up on Wednesday. He cried when he saw what I’d done to his arm, cursed my name, told me to die. He’s young. He’ll understand, in time.

Things are calm here, or seem to be, at least. All my guests are taking full advantage of a chance to rest in comfortable and relatively secure surroundings while they can. They all have business to attend to, of course, and won’t be staying long, but they seem to be enjoying themselves while they’re here. Emily has decided to peruse my library and select a few more tomes for her collection.

I just saw what I wrote. When did this become “my library”?

It’s not mine. This library is part of the Prendergast legacy. A Vanderwaal has no more claim here than the lingering dust.

I’ve been here too long. I need to get out. I need to do things.

I can’t stay.