Urban Exploration (Part One)

The old factory sat downtown against the river clustered amongst the other abandoned buildings. They didn’t mean anything anymore, relics of an economy long forgotten but whose ghost still remains in America. Everyone in town knew of them but not directly. In memory they only appear as vague and ghostly shapes around the peripheral of actual memories. Countless wedding pictures and social media posts show these ghostly, grim structures hiding in plain sight across the river, but nobody takes notice.

The factory wasn’t special — just one of many — but it was the one we scouted out one weekend night and it became special to us. It was perfect as far as abandoned factories go, tucked away from the main streets, dark and secluded with the street lamps far away. As we wheeled to the side of the building we noticed that the windows, while boarded up nearest to the ground and shattered higher up, were not that high. We’d just have to find a way to get up to them. Riding around to the opposite side of the building we discovered a tree growing, one large branch probing directly into the building, with the single plywood sheet smashed into the interior. The tree was leaning towards the opening almost as if it knew we wanted a way in.

She climbed up the trunk, carefully grabbing the few branches to access the window while I watched our bikes. No one was around so I took a drink of our mutual vodka and waited for her report.

“It’s fine,” she said as she clicked on her flashlight and peered through the smashed window. “It leads to a small room and there’s a table right under the branch.”

“Very cool,” I said.

“Are we doing this now?” She asked.

The alcohol was coursing through both of our veins, I could feel the pull of the adventure, but we could wait. And we should’ve waited. This evening was meant to be an aimless drunken bike ride and only in the midst of the factories had we talked about exploring one. We were just poking around, seeing what could be accessed, and had lucked out; we actually found one to plunder. There’d be other days to explore the abandoned corpse, there was no rush, and next time we could prepare.

“Maybe we should come back next weekend. We could bring some supplies or something.”

“Come on, chicken shit. What ‘supplies’ do we need anyways? We have our phones for lights, and climb up here and give me the vodka. Let’s do this!

She had a point. Maybe I was only being my hesitant self? Another way to pass up the adventure and succumb to my anxiety; adventures are always in the future for me. I took another drink and climbed up after her.

It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust from the dim light of downtown to the utter darkness inside the factory. I turned my phone on and shone the light inside. My eyes followed the bright circle of light as it darted around the room. There was a table a few feet below the window strewn with old papers and file folders. The back of my mind vaguely noted that none of these papers were printed. Handwritten scrawl all over the pages, numbers and codes that ceased to have meaning to anyone alive except some old retiree living somewhere in the world.

We both climbed down onto the table and then to the floor. Filing cabinets lined one wall while desks took up the rest. All useful machines, typewriters, phones, and whatever else had been in the room had been removed. Papers covered the floor and a few broken lamps layed sideways with their bulbs smashed and glass glittering in the pale light.

An old wooden door led to a hallway that ran in both directions. Across from us was another “office room” (at least this is what we called it). This room was the same as the last, littered with the same cryptic papers and trash, although the far wall was all dusty glass. We walked up and peered into the blackness of the factory floor. Some large machines remained, old, decrepit and long being useful to anyone. Our lights didn’t shine far and we didn’t know what the rest of the floor contained, shrouded in a darkness that the little ambient light from the few holes in the roofs couldn’t dispel.

We walked down the hallway and entered another room along the outer wall like the one that led us inside. This room wasn’t totally dark. A solitary oil lamp sat on the floor. We both looked at each other and crawled our lights around the room. There was a pile of blankets a few feet from the lamp in a corner of the room. It looked like another heap of junk, except that it moved.

We gasped and stared at each other in the dim reflected light from our lights. Eyeing the pile closer we noticed there was a shaggy head of hair peeking up under the covers. The bum coughed, rolled over, and tucked himself into his nest, apparently still fast asleep. Our senses came back to us after this initial shock. We noticed the pipe of empty cans and bottles of beer and alcohol as well as a few cans of food. Ravioli. Beans. Soup. Old bread and fast-food bags also littered around the nest.

We nodded to each other and silently left the room, retreating back to the windowed office room.

“That scared the shit out of me. I didn’t expect anyone to actually be here.” She said.

“I about pissed my pants. But it is an old factory. There’s probably homeless people all over the place.” I said. “Should we leave? I think we should leave.”

“No. There’s this whole building to explore, we can’t leave now. He’s sleeping anyways and didn’t notice us so we’re fine. We’ll just be very quiet, okay?”

“Sure. I guess.”

“Gimme the vodka; stop hogging it.”

I pulled the bottle out and we took drinks from it.

“Well, you ready?” She asked.

“Sure. Let’s see what…”

Footsteps on the floor above us and we froze. It didn’t sound like a single person either, maybe two or three. They didn’t seem like they were scared of making noise either, their footsteps being confidently loud and booming in the silent stillness of the building.

“How about now? Are you ready to get the hell out of here?” I asked.

“Let’s wait. Maybe they’ll…”

The footsteps moved across the ceiling above us and down a flight of stairs in the distance. The sounds echoed from the end of the hallway looming in the distance.

We shut our lights off and hid up against the wall next to the doorway. If anyone looked in our room maybe they’d miss us?

Her courage was greater than mine. She peered around and out of the doorway. There were three people, one carrying an oil lamp and the other two had, well what did they have? She couldn’t clearly see.

They stopped at the room with the bum, and a voice spoke up. “Will he work?”

“Yes,” another voice replied.

“Do you think he’ll fight?”

“No. He’s passed out drunk. Get him.”

The figures walked into the room and we heard rustling and grunting. A raspy voice seemed to be mumbling and questioning something and was silenced by the sound of fist against flesh. There was more mumbling and grunting, this time with an edge of pain to it.

“Good. Get him upstairs.”

The figures helped the bum limp his way along the hallway with something held to his neck. It could only be a knife. The footsteps faded into the silence of the building, into the silence of the night, and once again transformed into those threatening steps on the ceiling above us.

“We’re leaving now, right? Let’s get out of here. Fuck all of this.” I said. “Unless you’re still bold and courageous for some reason.” I was joking; I wanted to leave.

She grabbed the bottle out of my pocket and took a drink bigger than I’d seen her do thus far. “Let’s check it out. Why not? He’s in trouble, it’s obvious, and maybe we can help him.”

“What kinda trouble do you think he’s in? They can’t rob him, he has nothing, so…?”

“Come on. Let’s go.” I followed sheepishly as she led the way through the darkness towards the stairway.

Anna of the Woods

Strange things happen while camping in the woods…

Note: Hopefully my writer’s block is over. I’ve been finding a ton of inspiration and motivation lately: use it while I have it, right? This is a mostly fictionalized account of my time trying to live in the woods.

I was lost for sorts. Not physically lost but mentally lost. Lost in life. Depressed. A drunkard to cope with being lost. Being drunk lets you feel okay with being lost, with having no idea what you’re supposed to do, because it shrinks reality into the present. All you must deal with is the here and now and people are always happier when they pay attention to the here and now. The trouble only begins when you dwell on the past or look forward to the future, traveling the x-axis too far. Regret, anger, helplessness, dread, and anxiety all seem to come from either looking backwards or forwards too much or too desperately.

To find my place I set out for the woods. That was the plan. I was drunk again and it seemed like a great idea. I gathered all the supplies I casually thought about over the past few months in case I ever became crazy enough to actually do it. Cans of coup, a can opener, tent and sleeping bag, a few tiny cans of Sterno, rice, cans of beans, a knife, cigarettes, everything I could think of I put into my car and set out. And alcohol of course. And some drugs in the form of my trusty cough medicine dextromethorphan, DXM. Something to help oil the gears within my mind. Something to let my mind expand outward along the y-axis of whatever you’d call it. Space. Time. Peace. Nirvana. Whatever. I’d felt it countless times but it always escapes grasp.

I went to a local park; an isolated park, not too popular but also not totally forgotten. It was a popular area for disc golfers as there is a course there, but disc golfers are there to golf and not to hike. That was part of the appeal, to hide in plain sight in a park populated by disc golfers who didn’t care much for exploration in the woods. Up a path into the trees I went for a quarter mile in dark, then turned off and walked another few hundred feet. Located close enough to the path for convenience but far enough away that I was fairly hidden. It took three trips to haul all of the supplies to my new home.

I sat in the tent and cracked open a beer. The trusty thought that I always dwelled too much on reared its hideous head: So now what?

I texted some friends and no one replied. I tried to start a fire but the wood and twigs I could find were soaked from days of rain. Even the air seemed chilly and thick with too much water and a faint mist seemed to envelop the woods. Not that I could tell because it was dark; only the lights from the city reflecting pale off the clouds provided any illumination. The tiny candles I had did little to push back the ever present darkness around me.

I was alone. Utterly alone. I checked social media for signs of life and found only ghosts, only the faint images of real life that people wanted others to see. Memes shared, political opinions posted, happy family pictures and dinners. Picturesque to a tee. No, there was no life there at all, and if anything this made me more depressed. Trapped in my mind and isolated left me gasping for anything to hold onto. Some sense of peace. There was no answer from the woods. Only the scraping of tree limbs in the wind replied. Maybe a creature sounded in the dark, but they stayed far enough away from the deadly human trespassing in their domain. Silence. Loneliness. And the time crept ever so slowly. It was only one in the morning. So, now what?

I thought as I drank and made no progress. The same issues over and over. The same flawed person thinking their regular flawed thoughts endlessly. But maybe I needed to go deeper, really get down into the nitty gritty of my mind. Have an experience. Steal some insight forcefully from the universe as if it was mine by right. I popped open my cough syrup bottle and began to drink. The stuff was horrendous and I drank beer and medicine back and forth, desperately trying to clear my tastebuds from the twisted flavors of each of them.

I did some math about how much of the sticky, bitter stuff to actually drink. I came to about half a bottle, but as boozed up as I was wasn’t very confident in my math. Who the hell knew. I guessed. I’d either end up not feeling anything or transcending reality. The stuff tasted disgusting and after 75% of the bottle I gave up the whole project. I wasn’t feeling anything and it was time I tried to get some sleep. My math was probably wrong so I put the cap back on and regretfully laid down for the night.

Sleep. Sleep? No. Music. More infernal music, something I had heard in the past ages ago. Or maybe the future. I sat up and looked at the candle feebly flickering in the tent. And. Fire. Fire. That’s what was missing tonight. This morning. Time didn’t mean anything — the world simply spun and only us humans put meaning on it — and that was fine. Everything was fine. But, fire. Fire makes us human, right? There I was in the woods as a prehistoric human, nothing more than a caveman who happened to have a phone and internet with him. I didn’t have fire. Until I had fire I wasn’t enlightened. I could never be at peace living as a slovenly creature in the woods.

In the tent I said aloud to no one in particular. “I want fire. I will make a campfire. If it’s the last thing I do, I will have fire.” I stood up, grabbed my cigarette lighter, a beer, hobbled a bit, and stepped out into the damp and chilly air.

Sticks. Wood. Kindle. Start small with dry stuff and build up to larger branches. Until you had logs. A self-sustaining fire. A fire hot and fierce enough to burn anything liquid thrown into it. Sure the branches were wet, but with a blazing fire they’d dry and burn like everything else did in the world.

I gathered my piles into categories based on how large the branches were. Twigs, here. And there, larger sticks. And here, branches. The only thing missing was grass, something small and dry that would easily light. But I had paper towels and a nearly empty case of beer; maybe that would suffice? I grabbed the towels, emptied the box, and started tearing the shreds of paper into smaller and smaller bits. I would have fire. It was the meaning of my life in the all-consuming present.

Onto the ground they went into a small pile. I then made a tiny tent of twigs and smaller sticks on top of the pile. I rolled up a tiny bit of paper on the end of a stick and dipped it in the liquid candle wax: a tiny homemade torch. It took fire easily. And this went into the bottom of the tent of twigs.

And fire! It smoked, glowed, sputtered, and then went out. I hopped onto my knees to blow on the remaining feeble embers only to have them die. I tried again. And again. And there was no fire. I was still a dumb caveman who’d never be enlightened and wise. I’d never cook meat, have crops, smelt metal, or build cities. Left in the woods to die and discovered thousands of years later like Homo Neanderthalensis.

I stood up, looked around, and nearly gave up. A tiny bush next to fire seemed to taunt me but I didn’t know why. It was a strange plant, a bush that was only a bush only when you looked at it. Because when you looked away and viewed it out of your peripheral it took on a humanoid appearance. This bush was something human, or humanlike, and it taunted me. It stood over my pile of sticks that refused to burn and made them refuse to burn. It’s name, because it did have a name, was Anna.

I stared at the bush again, knowing who it was (but not what), and said, “Anna, please let me make a fire.”

She stared at me silently, reverting into a form or a bush depending on if I looked directly at it or not.

“Come on. Why? Why do you do this to me?! I just want to make a fire.”

I set back to work. Anna wouldn’t stop me.

More timeless time passed and nothing happened. I came close, once or twice, where flames licked the sticks for nearly ten minutes before it smoldered into nothing.

“Anna. Anna, why?”

Reality came back in waves where I realized I was talking to a bush. A plant. Nothing more and nothing less. I was in the woods trying to build a fire and I couldn’t and I was talking to a plant. Begging the plant to let me make a fire. I felt like I was losing my mind. Nothing made sense. Who was Anna and why was that the plant’s name? Why was I stumbling around? Why did the bush appear so lifelike at times? My thought came back to an old Stephen King story I had read. Something about a hotel room that a totally skeptical guy wanted to spend the night in. And in the room he slowly goes crazy. The room itself was a malevolent being that degrades your sanity causing you to question everything. Until you lost it. Until you went mad. Until the room killed you.

And, what?

I remembered old stories about this park: many people in my city say it’s haunted. My cousin, a supposed ghost hunter, claims she’s seen ghosts in this very park on countless occasions. Right where I was trying to spend the night and seek some solace. There were no ghosts, obviously, and I was a skeptic. Maybe it was just her imagination? There weren’t any ghosts here.

But what if there was.

The woods did seem very silent and malevolent. And I was losing my mind. Was it that far-fetched to believe that I was surrounded by a horde of ghosts or worse, demonic beings that wanted to claim me as their own? I started to panic at the thought. Anna, the bush three feet from my tent, was one of them. A spirit of some long lost and forgotten soul who for some reason haunted in the park I was in. She probably died in a fire, which explained her stopping me from making mine. Even in death she was scared, or even protective of me. Or not. Maybe she was trying to drive me insane, to get me to hang myself off a tree? Or do something crazy. What would happen if I chopped my hand off with my hatchet? Where did that thought even come from? What would people think and say if I came out of the park after one day and had to be hospitalized and institutionalized for hacking my hand off? What if I was going crazy?

No. No way. It was the drugs. Didn’t I drink a bunch of cough medicine ages ago? But, what if it wasn’t the drugs? What if they only allowed me to perceive the unknown? As my mind raced I desperately tried to get a hold of it and keep it under control. Think happy thoughts. I gave up on the failed fire, got into my tent, and finished off the last few beers of the twelve pack.

I awoke a few hours later once again feeling lost, this time mentally. I questioned where I was and what I was doing there. Rain was soaking in through my tent that I was in, my sleeping bag was damp, and I was freezing. My head hurt — the familiar feeling of the hangover — and time would only make it worse. My mind turned back to the previous night which felt like a dream. The demons, the demons that weren’t there but seemed to be there at time, had haunted me and now they were gone. I opened the door to my tent and looked out. I was in the woods and I was certain of my place in space this time. Birds were chirping, the wind wasn’t blowing, and the only sound was the rain in the middle of the forest. Despite my brutal confusion and hangover, there I was. Maybe I wasn’t lost.

And Anna stood by the failed fire. Still a tree but as I looked away there was a person there. I was sober. I wasn’t high. But…the bush was a human. A person. A spirit. Something. I stepped out of my tent and grabbed a couple of beers to think about the situation. I didn’t feel threatened, just confused with this presence still there. After a beer and a half I walked over and grabbed my hatchet which I tossed aside early in the morning into a pile of mud for some reason. I wiped the blade off and it glistened as well as it could under the cloudy and dreary day. I walked up to Anna.

“Anna. You need to leave. You’re disturbing my peace. This whole thing, this whole adventure, was only meant for me to find peace. So, please leave.”

Anna stood there.

I sighed. “Alright, have it your way. I’m sorry.”

I swung as hard as I could drawing all the strength from my body. I waited for a cry or a shout or anything from Anna, but there was nothing. Just the dull plop plop plop of the hatchet striking branches over mud. Eventually Anna toppled over right on top of my aborted bonfire.

And as damp as it was the night before, and as much as it was raining at the time, the fire started to smoulder and burst into a large blazing flame. Here was my fire, here was my peace, here was me transcending my primal spirit.

Check out my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog Everything Sucks where I blog about random topics.

Or Wattpad where I have a Morrowind fanfic ongoing.

Or my Facebook page where I don’t do much of anything at all.

Time is Running Out

An author desperately tries to write a story.

This is the first (posted) chapter to the hypothesized story about random bullshit that I’ve decided to try writing. And it’s exactly what I hoped it would be: total subconscious ramblings with zero regard to an overarching plot or anything. I’m also not suicidal so don’t worry.

I need to sit down and get this chapter written fast. Why is that, you might ask? It’s because I just ate a fist full of cough medicine pills, that’s why. I took the fuckers ten minutes ago, and the clock is ticking. These boys kick in after about an hour and when that happens time ceases to exist. And after that point I’ll have no idea what is going on. I won’t be able to write a story. I also can’t believe it took ten fucking minutes for the computer to turn on. But that’s what I get for buying the cheapest laptop I could find for this writing adventure of mine. Whatever.

I took fifteen of those pills by the way. They’re Robitussin Cough Gels. The only active ingredient is dextromethorphan, more frequently known as DXM. This is mostly because when people actually abuse dextromethorphan they quickly become unable to spell/pronounce that monstrosity of a word and DXM is a quick way to get your point across to people: I’m abusing fucking cough medicine. Like a teenager.

They’re each 15 milligrams a pill which means I’ve eaten 225 milligrams. And because I’m a Man of Science this means I’ve dosed about 3.1 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. When you take drugs you need to account for your body weight. Any alcoholic knows this. Skinny people can get by only drinking a few beers while your large people need about nine of them to get drunk. The same is true for dextromethorphan: the more you weigh the more you need to take. By dividing the milligram dosage by your weight (in kilograms because science only uses the metric system) you’re left with the dose per kilogram of body weight. This tells you in a simple number how fucked up you will become. This 3.1 mg/kg dose will put me firmly in the second plateau of DXM exploration. I’ll be fucked up, kinda drunk, kinda dopey, but nothing involving ego-death or meeting aliens/divine beings. I won’t be seeing music or transcending to another dimension. I’ll just be fucked up and walking around with the classic robotic walk that DXMers display. It’s called robotripping for a reason.

Okay, okay. Enough rambling. I only have like twenty minutes left before all hell breaks loose. Get your shit together. Okay, so what is this chapter going to be about today? Um. Okay. It’s going to be about that guy at work that is awful at conversations. Work. Weather. Sports. The Holy Trinity of mundaneness. Of talking because you have to talk because silence is scary. His name is Johnny. It can’t be John because John sounds to mature. Maybe Larry? Or Lonny? Or Bobby? No. Fuck it. Johnny is good enough. Let’s get to work.

I was on break one day. A day like any other day. And Johnny walks into the break room. And he says, “Did you know that it’s cold out?”

I looked out the window and it was snowing. I don’t know if anyone considered it warm if it’s snowing outside. I said, “Yeah. It looks pretty cold outside. It is snowing.”

“Do you think it’s going to warm up soon, James?”

It was January. The end of January. Warmth was just an illusion by that point: a vague shadow of a memory, a long-forgotten sensation. What exactly did heat even feel like anymore? It was the furthest thing from reality at this time of the year. By this time you’d just bear down and deal with life one day at a time. It was cold — brutally cold — like if you went outside you actually had a chance of dying if you didn’t wear the proper clothing. Why anyone voluntarily lived in the Midwest was a question I’d ask myself daily in January and February. Something about Scandinavian settlers I vaguely recalled.

“Yeah probably not.”

He looked at me and looked away. He looked at me. He looked away. Again and again. Johnny couldn’t sit still. Johnny wanted to talk. Socialize at all costs because silence was a demon. Silence was something dark and nebulous that only appeared in the absence of something actual tangible. Sound is a thing, silence is that thing not being there. Silence is to sound what death is to life. Johnny stared at me, his eyes bulging.

“Do you have any more vacations left?”

I had told Johnny over and over in the past weeks that my sole vacation was scheduled for July. Even though January and July both start with J’s like Johnny’s name they were polar opposites. January was so cold and dark that you could die if you didn’t wear enough clothes outside. July was so hot and bright that you could die if you wore too many clothes outside. My vacation was as far away from me as physically possible. The Earth had to be on the opposite side of the sun for me to be on vacation: my vacation was literally 180 million miles away.

“Um. Uh. Yeah. Mine is scheduled for July.”

Johnny nodded and started looking at me, and away, and at me, and away all over again.

He then said, “Maybe you should kill yourself James.”

“What?”

He looked at me slightly confused. “Have you met Bill the new guy, James?”

“Oh.” I thought for a moment. Maybe I misunderstood him. “I thought you said something else. No, I haven’t met Bill.”

“I think Bill wants you to kill yourself,” Johnny said.

“What?”

Johnny looked confused. “I didn’t say anything,” he said. “Are you okay?”

“Oh. Yeah. I think I’m fine…”

I felt tired and sleepy and like I might be in a dream. But I wasn’t in a dream because reality had some fabric to it that dreams never had. While I never dreamt in black-and-white the colors were always dull. I glanced at the vending machine which seemed to be on fire with the intense red color from the Cheez-Its and the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos contained within. It surely wasn’t a dream: the colors were too bright. I closed my eyes and opened them. I was alive. I was there. I felt like a puppet. I felt like a robot. I felt as if I was in a dream but I wasn’t dreaming. I felt fake.

“Just kill yourself James.”

“Johnny…no. What?”

“I didn’t say anything James. But if I did say something it would be ‘Kill yourself, James.’”

“I don’t feel good Johnny. I think I should go home.”

“Well, you can’t kill yourself here, now can you? Do you have a gun at home? Or some rope for a noose? Everyone has rope, right?” Johnny laughed a very childish laugh.

The walls kinda shifted and shimmered. Like it was an illusion painted over whatever was really there and the illusion was starting to melt away. I went to stand up but my legs we just as rubbery and unreal as the walls appeared.

“You know what the goal of life is James? And call me John by the way — not Johnny. Not anymore that is. The goal of life is to be happy James.” It was as if John was talking to a child, trying to explain some immensely obvious thing to someone oblivious to it. “If life is a function, like a mathematical function, x- an y-, and maybe a z-axis if you really want, life is about maximizing the happiness in your life.

“Do you know what integrals are? The area under the curve? All of our choices are driven by maximizing the area under the curve of our happiness function. This sort of f-of-x where x is time and f(x) is happiness. We make choices to maximize this over time. And it all adds up as integrals do. If the line is above zero you add happiness and if the line is below zero you subtract happiness. Does that makes sense to you, Jimmy?”

I blinked trying to come back to reality. But since I was already in reality where was I trying to escape to?

“It probably doesn’t make sense to you. It makes sense to me though. My f(x) is always positive, I live and my happiness adds up to infinity. Because life is so simple! I have it all figured out Jimmy! You overcomplicate things, you know that right? Yes, you do. And as you overcomplicate things your function goes below zero and subtracts happiness from your life. And as this goes on? It keeps getting worse for you.

“What you need to do is to maximize your happiness integral function by stopping it in its tracks right now: which means killing yourself. Every day you add time to your happiness function you subtract from your total happiness integral because yours is below zero. The way forward is so clear I don’t understand how you don’t see it: just get on with it. Find a bag and put it over your head. Breathe in helium. Shoot yourself in the head. Hang yourself from the ceiling. Poison yourself. Whatever you want to do really.

“Johnny…John. Whatever. Please stop. I feel sick. I…”

He giggled his childish giggle. I closed my eyes and opened them again and Johnny was staring at me. He looked away. He looked at me. And looked away.

“James, you don’t look too good! You look sick! Maybe you should go home!”

“Why did you say all of that to me?”

“Say what? I just said it was snowing really hard outside. Look at how it’s coming down! Wow! My hands are so cold, I had to bring two pairs of gloves to work today. Burr!” He clapped his hands together. As childish as ever.

The walls continued to melt, my legs still allowed me no escape, and the table I was sitting on started to consume me. It was melting like a heated piece of plastic would and I sank into it, melting along with everything else in reality. And while terrified I melted right into it, my brain turning to a sticky goo just like everything else in existence.

%d bloggers like this: