Blog | Author's Blog | Published 22 April 2021
Who are You?
Either the journal was magic or everyone was right all along and she really was insane.
God, please don’t let them be right.
That plea cycled through Alice’s thoughts pretty much on a daily basis and definitely after every instance of Weird. This particular instance had her staring down at a seemingly innocuous book, a mélange of wonder, shock, trepidation, and intense curiosity making her head spin and her breath come short.
The journal really didn’t look like much, which was one reason she’d picked it out of the musty box at that yard sale.
Her latest psychiatrist insisted keeping a journal would be good for her, and since any words out of Dr. Pamela Richards’ mouth might as well have resounded from a burning bush for her parents, they had been even more insistent than the doc.
So, Alice picked one up at the Hallmark store while her mother did the grocery shopping next door. It was crisp and new, spiral-bound with a pink cover decorated with flowers and a cute white kitten. She called the journal Fluffy, in honor of the cat but also because the neatly lined pages were going to be filled with nothing but fluff. Alice didn’t trust her parents not to snoop.
In fact, Alice suspected the whole keep-a-journal thing was really just a ploy for her parents and Dr. Richards to find out if she was lying about not having any more hallucinations or hearing voices in her head.
On the other hand, she decided that writing down her experiences for her own purposes might be useful. She didn’t have anyone she could talk to, no one to bounce thoughts and ideas off of who wouldn’t give her a squiggly look and whisper behind her back later. It would be really nice to have someone to confide in, even if she had to write it out to a make-believe pen pal in the form of a journal, a journal no one knew about but her.
She’d chosen the green leather-bound book because of a feeling. One of those feelings, the kind that wouldn’t be mentioned in Fluffy. Alice was certain the journal was special. For one thing, it had a very subtle halo, a faint, nebulous silvery glow about it.
Alice sometimes saw a halo-like aura around some people and things or a funky haze over certain places. When she was younger she told people about it. At first her parents and doctors thought it might have indicated she was prone to migraines, but Alice never got headaches. Now they suspected the halos were visual hallucinations. Alice hadn’t mentioned halos since she was eight and they started her on antipsychotics.
The journal also seemed to be unusually forgettable. Not because the green leather was faded and scuffed, the pages yellowed and slightly frayed around the corners, or that it wasn’t too big or too little, too thick or thin. The green journal simply faded from memory as soon as you stopped looking at it.
The woman putting on the yard sale had thrown it into the paper bag with the used novels Alice had grabbed and forgot to charge her for it. When Alice tried to pay for the journal the woman didn’t know what the money was for and Alice had to show it to her before she remembered bagging it.
Alice hid behind her airhead mask during the odd exchange, but inside she was quivering with suppressed excitement and jangled nerves. Somehow she knew that the journal might possibly be one of the few tangible pieces of evidence that what she saw and heard and felt weren’t all just in her head.
At the same time, it still could be a delusion. The woman, after all, hadn’t noticed anything odd about the journal. And really, was it so weird that she forgot one old ratty book when all her attention was clearly divided between answering questions about pricing and keeping track of three small children careening through the modest crowd and under the tables heaped with yard sale goods?
“Okay, maybe the forgetful thing and the halo are all my imagination, but I am not imagining this!” Alice muttered to herself, pressing her palm to the journal cover. The leather warmed under her hand as though her skin were a heat lamp. She’d noticed the phenomenon as soon as she plucked it out of the box, a tactile confirmation of a vague intuition.
But, then again—how did she know she didn’t only think the journal warmed under her touch?
“Please, please don’t let them be right,” Alice repeated, aloud this time for extra oomph.
Alice slid her fingers over a shallow score along the bottom right corner, tapped it nervously with a nail, bit her lip, and snuck a furtive look around. She was in her room, sitting at her desk before the window. Her mom was out back working on a rock wall, her dad didn’t seem to be back from golfing yet, and she could hear the familiar strains of music from the TV in the living room. The twins were watching their favorite cartoon. Again.
“Let it burn! Let it buuuurn! Let that damn movie gooooo!” Alice sang under her breath absently, making sure no one was at her end of the house. Tapping the cover one more time, Alice flipped the book open to the first page. It was blank, unlined, the paper’s texture like that of a good quality sketchpad. Those open pages were one of the reasons she’d wanted the journal. Some of the things Alice had seen… Well, she wasn’t the artist the twins were, but she wasn’t half-bad either. She’d tried to take pictures of some of the things she saw, but almost nothing ever came of it. Just one more tally in the crazy column.
Alice pulled the cup with her colored pens closer, considered the mellow yellow tone of the paper, the evergreen leather, and selected a pen with green metallic ink. Either way, the journal was special: because it really was magical or because it was an outlet for all her secrets. Alice thought it was only appropriate that she use her good gel pens when writing in it.
What to write though? Maybe she should start by giving it a name. She liked naming things, though she didn’t think she had a knack for it. It gave her comfort, a feeling like she was creating a handle she could grab hold of when she found herself facing something she had no way of understanding or explaining. She’d named Fluffy out of a sense of perversity, but this journal needed a good name, a fitting name for its purpose.
She’d been sitting there, holding the pen poised at the top of the page for several long moments, thinking, when it happened. The warmth saturating the paper under her hand pulsed once and a foreign symbol emerged in the upper right corner, glowing a soft golden yellow.
Words began spilling across the page, the ink stark black and glistening before absorbing into the paper. The writing was slanted and rushed, the letters running into each other in a bastardized cursive.
Don, are you there?
Alice jerked her hand away from the journal and shot out of her chair, her heart racing. She stared at the words, black and so very there!
More words skidded onto the page, faster now, frantic and jagged.
WAIT!!! Don’t go! I need to know if I’m in the right spot
They aren’t here and it’s been 2 days and there are constant patrols
I need to know if the exchange has been moved
Was this really happening? How could Alice know? It could all be in her head, couldn’t it? But…what if it was real? What if there really was another person talking to her through the journal—someone who could tell Alice that magic was real and she wasn’t insane. Alice shifted her hand back to the paper, pen tip touching, but then she stopped. What if it was a delusion and, by engaging with the imaginary person, she slipped into a fantasy she could never escape?
Hey, ink the page already!! This is not the time to keep me waiting!! There’s a patrol due through here any minute!!!
Oh screw it, Alice thought as she started to write. It’s better to try than not.
“Hello? Wh—” Alice was going to write “Who is this?” But the other person cut her off.
Yes! Hello! Oh, thank Danu! I thought I had the wrong channel.
Where are my passengers? Are they still with their last conductor?
“Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about or who you are—”
This is Danny North Star
I was told to contact you as soon as I had my passengers on board for directions to the next station but they’re not here
What’s going on???
The urgency coming through the jagged and rushed writing was infectious. Throat dry, her heart pounding, Alice wrote back, “I’m sorry, but I’m not Don. I don’t know what you’re talking ab—”
You’re not Don? Who are you then?!
“My name is Alice Sinclair, but everyone calls me Allie,” Alice wrote back. And then she dashed out, “Is this real? Are you actually a real person writing back to me through a magic book???”
Never mind any of that!
Have you seen a middle-aged man, with black hair, hazel eyes, and medium build? He’s supposed to have hawkish features and a scar over his left eye. Most people say he’s very charismatic and hard to forget. Was he the one to give you the book? Did he leave a message for me?
“No. I found the journal at a yard sale,” Alice wrote back.
Shit!!! What am I suppo
The ink of the unfinished word hadn’t even dried when the paper beneath Alice’s hand flashed cold and the symbol in the corner winked out. There was a powerful impression of disgust and impatience in how abruptly the conversation was cut off. A second later, the writing faded until there was no sign of Alice’s conversation with someone named Danny North Star.
Alice slumped back in her chair, staring at the blank pages. “Well, crap.” Alice sighed. “They’re right. I’m bug fuck crazy.”