I don’t know what I thought I was expecting. Shock and awe, maybe. Some kind of resolution.
But to be honest, I’m just fucking tired.
OK, Jackdaw founded this estate. Whatever, so what? How is that supposed to help me? Reading his journal to the end didn’t do anything but waste my time and solve a mystery I didn’t even care about before I got here.
Emphasis on wasting my time.
I don’t know what kind of timeline there is on this curse, or this disease I’ve got, but it sure as hell hasn’t been improving. Stalling, maybe, while I’m inside the house. But it’s creeping on. I kind of wish I’d kicked the bucket after I finished writing letters to my family. Clutched my chest dramatically and keeled over, or sprouted into a big tree the way Hazel did.
But I’m still here. Clinging to hope. Unable to really even move that much, because there are roots growing out my legs and anchoring me to the floor. Hurts like hell when I get up. I try to stand up and move around as much as I can, to keep them from growing too thick, but they keep coming back faster. I haven’t stood up in a while now. Don’t know if I even can.
And I don’t have anything better to do. I don’t even really see the point. I wrote my letters. I read the journals. There’s this pain in my chest whenever I move and I know that it’s growing inside me, taking root. Making itself at home. I’m as good as dead.
I know that’s not a good attitude to have, or whatever. I shouldn’t just give up. I should try whatever I can to get out of this. But jesus, who has the energy for that? If I’m gonna get my bones transmogrified and chewed up by some Great Old One or what-the-fuck-ever, there isn’t anything I can do about it.
Like, come on.
I’m just a guy.
Did the shouting make you feel better?
You heard that?
Everyone heard that.
I could have been talking to you out loud this whole time?
You could, but I don’t think it would be very responsible record-keeping, do you?
I am not familiar with that word. What does it mean?
Farrow, focus on breathing. The coughing will subside.
It means I’m sick of your shit.
Talking fucking hurts. There are branches in my throat.
Why do you care about record-keeping?
My grandfather — Jackdaw, I realize now, of course — hated writing. He hated books. He spent all his time in the woods, according to my father, hunting and fishing, and he was loath to even sign his own name. He was like that my father’s entire life, until very suddenly, in the week before he died, when he became obsessed with journaling and spent twelve hours or more a day inside his study. He would not even come out for meals.
Whatever he was writing, he didn’t let any of us read it. I was only six or seven when he died, but I remember he nearly hit me for trying to sneak into his study.
After his death, my father started keeping his own journal. And he insisted I keep one, too. And my sister. We had nightly writing sessions. If my father learned we had skipped an entry, it meant a caning.
On top of that, we were never to write anything but the truth. We were not allowed to embellish, to exaggerate, or to omit the details of any particular event. Fiction and novels were utterly forbidden to us. I have told you about my ability to bring willing creatures back from the dead. I wrote about it in my journal once, what I had done to my mother.
When he read that account, my father told me to go into the woods and select the branch he would whip me with. Then he burned the pages and told me I was a liar.
I never spoke of it again. It was as though my father were terrified that the truth, if not meticulously recorded, would be forgotten, or stapled over.
It sounds like he got into Jackdaw’s writing. Maybe that’s exactly what he was afraid of.
You enjoy fiction, right?
I mean, yeah. I never tried writing it or anything, though. I read a lot of fantasy as a kid, before the whole crawlspace incident, but I didn't have any urge to write it.
But you became a writer.
A nonfiction writer.
Did you ever keep a journal?
I had a therapist who got me into writing things down to manage my anxiety. I wasn’t great at keeping up with it, though. Never have been. I’m a travel writer, but that’s strictly nonfiction, and it’s not personal. I came here hoping to write a book about your family, you know.
But I don’t like writing about myself.
And yet you have done almost nothing but write about yourself, every moment of every day, in extreme detail, since arriving here. Why?
Because suddenly I felt like I had to.
Like something’s compelling me. Or maybe just because it’s all I have left. I keep trying to convince myself that
That I’m real. That I am the person I think I am. Ever since you said that
The crawlspace thing. I can’t get it out of my head. Like, what if you’re right? What if I didn’t escape, and I died in there. Maybe my whole life has just been a flash, my dying brain projecting some kind of imagined reality.
That wasn’t really what I meant. I didn’t mean to imply you were already dead.
What about Jackdaw, then? He made it pretty clear in his journal that he thought he had already drowned, on his first whale hunt.
I don’t think that was what he meant, either. He always believed, until the end, that he was supposed to drown on his first whale hunt, not that he actually did. He believed himself stalked by a cosmic force that felt cheated out of his death, and that ever after was seeking to collect an unpaid debt.
That’s sick. I wasn’t supposed to die in the crawlspace.
Who can say? Of course, you escaped and you went on and lived your life, but you were always going to end up here, weren’t you? There was never anywhere else you could have gone. What is this predicament you’re in, if not another crawlspace? You said that, eventually, you gave up shouting and crying and simply waited there for someone to find you. Isn’t that what you’re doing right now?
You have options, choices that I do not. You can go into the woods.
Or I can stay here, and let the woods come into me.
You must be rubbing off on me.