While conducting fieldwork in the Wild and Wonderful West Virginia, I came upon the following diary in a large box of free, mostly worthless materials purchased at an estate sale. It was – or is, depending on your interpretation – seemingly a diary owned by a preteen named Iris living near the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers in one of the poorest places in the United States in the year 1967. Her tale is told over the course of a ratty notebook that seems to have been used for schoolwork before it was devoted to one of the more unorthodox – if unintentionally — stories I’ve seen written by what presents itself as a child.
I feel that this account, of what I suspect is an example of transhumanism, is paramount to the larger investigation we are currently undertaking, Baron Polhemus. It is a thin place, West Virginia.
Friday, December 1
It was cold today! It even started to snow as the sun went down (so early these days!) and it was so pretty even though Maggie said it was too gray to be really pretty. Maggie is my mom, diary. Tiffany and me call her that and that’s also the nicest thing Daddy calls her.
What don’t grownups like about snow?
Daddy sure was cursing this morning trying to get his car going in the bitter cold. “Colder than a titty in a brass bra!” Maggie said, watching him from our porch as me and Tiffany got ready for school. That made us all laugh. We don’t even know where he goes every day and nobody asks.
Violet Sherman was so pretty on the school bus this morning. She always is. I don’t think she noticed me staring at her and her cute straight and short dress that makes her look like she walked out of one of the magazines Tiffany steals. I know it is bad, what I think about her, that’s why I don’t tell no one. Except you, diary. You I can tell about her lips that remind me of wild strawberries in June.
Saturday, December 2
I’m writing really early, Tiffany’s clock radio glows 3:52 a.m.
Maggie and Daddy got drunk last night and got to fighting like they almost always do, unless they’re kissing all over each other. Tiffany and me try to be real quiet and still in our bedroom when they do this cause if Daddy sees you when he’s mad, all of a sudden, you’re what he is mad about and Maggie doesn’t never do anything about it. It went on for a long time, until Tiffany and me fell asleep somehow but now I’m awake not that much later.
Maggie is asleep on the couch and Daddy must be in their bed, I know cause I snuck to the bathroom. Maggie’s pills that she is supposed to be taking to try and cure her nervousness were there in the bathroom cabinet and since she was dead asleep I grabbed a couple like I do when she’s real knocked out and hid them in the cigar box under my bed where I keep you, diary. Do you like your new neighbors?
Mr. McCarthy at school says pills are the surefire way to end up in hell but Mr. McCarthy also looks down busty girl’s dresses.
Sometimes I wonder what Friday night is like at Violet’s. Is her whole family dressed real nice like her? I imagine they look like stars from the movies. Maybe they eat meatloaf and nice green beans and even stay up to watch Johnny Carson and her parents only drink on Christmas and at weddings.
Maybe God just likes them better. I know I do.
Sunday, December 3
We stopped going to church a long time ago because it is a “den of vipers” Maggie said, but I think it’s really because the old proper people in there don’t appreciate people like us on Sunday mornings. Our clothes aren’t good and we don’t have any money to put in the plate.
I still like to read my Bible though. Today I turned to the Book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel saw a whirlwind – like a tornado I guess but in the desert, where the Bible happened – and there were four sparkly things that I guess kind of looked like people with four faces and four wings each with cow’s feet. Each one had a face of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle.
Monday, December 4
Daddy saw something last night and I believe him because his eyes are red and sore.
I couldn’t sleep again and heard something bigger than a raccoon outside me and Tiffany’s window, but I was too scared and couldn’t look myself. Of course Maggie and Daddy had been drinking, so Daddy got boastful and I would suppose grabbed his gun. I didn’t see him do this because I was laying in my bed, but I got ears and I heard him. Maggie sounded scared and her speech was slurring.
I heard him open the front door and start hollering, angry and I think scared, too. I think it was when he stomped off the porch into the black night that he saw it because I heard him yelp and a boom from his shotgun. Then he scattered back inside, slamming the door so hard the house shook jamming a chair under the doorknob, which I saw this morning before Maggie got up. Daddy was hollering and talking nonsense so loud into the morning that it woke both Tiffany and I up, but not Maggie, she was out like a light on the couch again.
I was scared to check on Daddy, and I was right to be scared, his eyes were swollen and the skin around them was cracked. He’d also been throwing up, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Tuesday, December 5
In English class we are reading Edgar Allen Poe, and I like the story “The Tell-Tale Heart” a lot. Violet doesn’t like Edgar Allen Poe. I sit behind her and all class she was passing notes to Duane Nelson, who I don’t like. I also didn’t like the notes he was passing to Violet but the thing is I think she liked them.
Duance looks kind of like how I think a bull would look if they turned into humans. That is a thing I think about sometimes. Some people at school, the majority, look like squirrels, and all the pretty girls, and especially Violet, look like foxes or cottontails. Some people, like me, look kind of like the slimy little skinks that you find in the mud near the river.
Wednesday, December 6
Maggie is really sick and me and Tiffany think she might have seen the same thing last night that Daddy saw Sunday night. She won’t say. Daddy’s been in between the bed and the bathroom ever since Sunday night and so is Maggie now.
Me and Tiffany had some crummy beans for dinner and nothing for breakfast. At least school lunch was good. Cottage cheese and ham and bean scallop.
Henrietta Lewis is one of the kids that I always end up grouped up with even though we are definitely not friends. She is too tall and big and like me she always has old clothes – luckily I’m small, cause Henrietta is always in what really look like old lady dresses. Today at lunch she sat up to return her tray, and it wasn’t even like we had talked at all that lunch period, we don’t usually. On her wide seat was a large red mark that I knew could only be caused by one thing.
“Henrietta,” I said, trying to not be shy, my voice cracking from not talking all day. She turned around. “There’s, your – it looks like maybe, um, I think you bled through your dress.”
“Don’t worry, it’s dry,” she said, and then she returned her tray.
Thursday, December 7
Donny Harley in homeroom made fun of my stupid shoes, and I have homeroom with Violet. My shoes smell real bad because it has been warmer and I only have one pair of shoes and my socks have been wet since maybe Monday from the melted snow. I was so embarrassed again and wanted to disappear and thought maybe I actually could I was so embarrassed.
How can I even be the same kind of thing, a girl, the same as Violet, and be so gross?
Friday, December 8
Maggie and Daddy are still sick.
It makes me sad because Maggie said that she would take me and Tiffany into town next Friday to buy real presents for me and Tiffany and Daddy too, and maybe even a real Christmas tree. But now they are just both in bed, and still drinking.
I like to take Maggie’s pills at night. They make my mind quiet and sometimes I get giggly. If Tiffany knew I was stealing them, she’d want them too. When I take them, I like to do this thing I call “time traveling” — I just go out back behind our house because there is an old falling apart barn filled with all types of rusty stuff and I like to stare at it until in my mind I can see the paint brightening on it and all the broken boards healing like going back in time. This goes both ways. Sometimes I look at it and it gets more and more broken down, and I look at my hands and they get all wrinkled and spotted, like our aunt’s who probably sent the money Maggie was going to use for Christmas.
Saturday, December 9
I saw it!
I really saw it, big and black and eyes like coals. I know I don’t seem scared, but that is because I am not.
It was big and dark as the night and when it saw me it spoke to me but not with words but with a movie in my head that just started to play clear and crisp as day in the space between my brain and my eyeballs. I saw red and blue and green and yellow lights on dark, cold, cold water – water so cold I could feel it and there was a strong smell of gasoline.
It wasn’t like Maggie and Daddy made it seem, it, the thing, seemed so sad. And the sadness soaked into the night and into me and gave me chills and when the movie in my head stopped, it wasn’t there anymore.
When I came inside and crawled into bed Tiffany was reading a magazine and when she saw me she screamed because my eyes are all red and puffy, but I feel fine.
Sunday, December 10
The way the red eyed thing made me feel is how I feel still. I’m not sick, not sick as Maggie and Daddy, anyways. They are finally getting around to do more than drink, but I don’t care to tell them about what I saw because I think they would just get more sick and probably more scared. I just have been staying in our bedroom and not looking at them out in the kitchen and they don’t notice me anyways and Tiffany knows better than to say anything.
The movies in my head keep coming. I start to feel a numbness in my forehead and my eyes get blurry. I saw two in the past day since I last wrote. In the first one I saw a beautiful pink sky like I had never seen that I remember but I felt like maybe I did remember. In the second one I didn’t see but I could hear Maggie and Tiffany crying, hard, howling. What I saw was my bed and it was empty and not made and someone had found my cigar box.
Monday, December 11
Maggie finally noticed my eyes, which are so raw they are bleeding on the sides but it doesn’t even hurt. Maggie had a fit of course but at least I got to stay home and Daddy went wherever he goes when he isn’t too sick from seeing a monster for the first time since he got sick which was nice.
I stayed in bed and Maggie treated me like I was sick until she got drunk enough to forget about it. I had more movies in my head. Three today. The first was more dark water and bright lights in red and green and yellow but this time I felt like I was in the water, so cold that it felt like the sadness that I got from the thing I saw was fresh in my bones again. I also heard police cars and maybe firetrucks and screaming. In the second I felt like I was spinning up high over the holler we live in and over town and the river and it was so beautiful and then it was all gone in a flash of bright light that was so hot I felt it sear my skin and when I was back my skin felt red and tight like a sunburn. In the third I saw Daddy walking real unsteady and getting into his truck in a parking lot and then I was like a bird watching him smash into another, bigger car coming his way.
I also looked at the clothes catalog I found one time when I missed the bus and had to walk to school. Dresses that would look real nice on Violet but not on me. I hope I see it again.
Tuesday, December 12
I saw it again last night! I took some of Maggie’s pills and sat outside and played time travel a little and then there it was and my heart felt so light and happy. It gave me a strong movie in my head and I was close up to a rusty nut on some kind of building I thought at first but then I was thrown into the air and I saw the nut was on the bridge, the one that goes into town, that was crashing into the river like a big mean snake! I know it sounds strange, but I didn’t want the movie to stop.
It did – but the thing was still there this time. I was in the air with it, still and frozen, and the flakes of falling snow in the air were too.
Wednesday, December 13
I am hoping it comes back tonight. I know that is wrong. My eyes are very crusty and red and my skin still feels tight. I stayed in our room all day and I wasn’t hungry once. I only had one movie today.
It was really strong. I was in the place with the beautiful pink sky and it smelled like cinnamon and I was surrounded by a white light, and I turned my head for the first time in any of these head movies and there was Violet, so pretty, and smiling at me.
Baron – I eagerly await your interpretation of this diary. It should be noted that the Silver Bridge fell into the river on December 15, 1967, with it many lives and holiday packages in shiny paper. The following Monday, according to my public records search — an Iris Simpson was reported missing by her English teacher and an intoxicated man by the name of Eustice Simpson died in a fatal collision with oncoming traffic.