My name is Rickard Dunklestein and I have a hobby that is more interesting than most stamp and coin collectors. I am a bit of an urban explorer. In today’s day-and-age when most of the world had been investigated and mapped out, I instead sought to explore the abandoned and forgotten. I reasoned that in these places, I could find the extraordinary. I enjoyed my forays into the disused and neglected portions of the city. I loved nothing more than to spend a Saturday carefully moving through the decrepit and derelict buildings in the southern side of the city. It was on one of these Saturday expeditions this past year that I first came across the journal of Kaneonuskatew Blackwood.
I had been rummaging through an abandoned building on the industrial side of town when I discovered the journal. The first few floors were devoid of anything really interesting, but when I reached the sixth and upper-most floor; I found a soiled mattress and desk. Sitting on the desk was a fountain pen and a paper journal. I ignored the saccharine sweet smell that flooded my nostrils and pervaded the upper-most floor. I sat down on what was the squatter’s mattress and began to read.
Blackwood Journal Entry: July 28th, 2011
My therapist, back when I had a therapist, suggested that I write all my emotions into a journal so I could go back and see how far I’ve come. I guess that’s true, but probably not in the aspect that she had thought. She probably hoped that I would find enough emotional catharsis that I might make a breakthrough of sorts, but unfortunately she was wrong. I write and write, but nothing ever changes.
I guess I should give introductions. My name is Kaneonuskatew Blackwood. Don’t ask me how drunk my parents were when they came up with that name. My father thought it sounded tough and my mother was too doped up on the epidurals to support or reject the name. I told my friends my name was Kane and that went over without any problems. I was raised on an Indian reservation in the western part of America, but I left when I was twenty years old.
I’m writing all of this because my attempt to flee from home was met with less than desirable results. The plane stalled mid-air and crashed into a mountain. I won’t elaborate what happened to me while I was stranded in the wilderness for over three weeks without food and the wounded survivor who passed away named Jim Donner. I will only allude to the fact that it ended with me being tried for murder in court. I don’t feel it necessary to expound on this, as shortly after my court hearing, my journal that I had typed while awaiting trial was made public. [Note from Rickard Dunklestein: I believe he’s talking about this.]
Even though I was declared not guilty by the judicial system, the release of my journal made me into a pariah. I couldn’t live in one place for too long. As soon as the people placed my name and face to the tragedy, I had to leave. Their looks of disdain and harsh words were too much for me to bear. I was and am a social exile. I only did what was necessary to survive. I believe that anyone who had been in my situation would have done the same, but no one seems willing to step up to that challenge of being without food for three weeks and having to eat your only friend.
I received a small sum from when I pressed charges against the airlines that had put me in that fiendish situation, but once my sentiments came out; their support and funding dried up. I found myself an outcast. I moved out to New York. It was the only place where someone could be swallowed up in anonymity. I lost everything: my identity, my ability to sustain myself, my pride. I had once asked the gods for a new start, unfortunately I didn’t know that the gods were cruel and sarcastic when I offered up that supplication. I got my wishes in spades.
I live my life day to day on the streets. My frostbitten deformities make begging a rather easy thing. The tips of my fingers and nose have gone black. I don’t have any more sensation in them, which took some getting used to, but doesn’t even phase me now. I am still gaunt like a skeleton even a year after the plane crash that resulted in my near starvation. I earn enough begging to keep myself fed. It’s not the healthiest situation, but it could be much worse.
Blackwood Journal Entry: August 7th, 2011
Had that dream again. I’m peering into the cockpit of the place. The only part of the pilot’s body that I can see is his hand. The impact crushed the cockpit and it now looks like it imploded. His hand twitches in its death throes, but it is also beckoning. It is calling me forward like I should have died in the crash instead of surviving. I back away from the corpse and turn to flee, but the stewardess is behind me. Her ribcage is splayed open from the cart smashing into her during the crash. The ribs move and her insides pulse with every breath. It gives the impression that the ribs are teeth that are grinding, masticating. She lurches forward and the last thing I feel before I wake up are the bones piercing into me.
I wake up with a scream in my throat. One of the benefits of living by yourself is that in moments like these, you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. I am sweating heavily and my throat feels raw. What disturbs me most about these dreams is the realization that they are stirring up old memories and sensations. I can almost taste the coppery sweet marrow in my mouth. It isn’t an unpleasant taste, but I know that it is that taboo thought that had resulted in my ostracization from the rest of society. My stomach growls at me. I lay back down and let the uncontrollable sobbing wrack my body.
Blackwood Journal Entry: September 1st, 2011
My nights belong to my nightmares and my waking moments are now spent in fear. My therapist would probably chalk up the nightmares as my mind’s attempt to process the horrible events. The other homeless people on the street are whispering of a gang going around abducting people, brutally beating them, and leaving them in front of the police station. They say they are merciless and have been doing this for over thirty years. Witnesses are too frightened to report them to the police.
They call themselves the Pluto gang and they have the citizens of New York afraid to go outside. They have even assaulted a semi-known science-fiction writer. I have decided to take a fatalistic approach to the whole thing. I can’t live my life in fear of the infamous Pluto gang. There isn’t much I can do to stop them if they decide to beat me to a pulp in the streets. So it goes.
Blackwood Journal Entry: September 8th, 2011
The nightmares continue and are evolving. I am in the cockpit and the hand of the pilot beckons me to come closer. He motions me to embrace oblivion. I turn my back to him and confront Marge Reed, the stewardess. Her rib teeth gnash and grind at me, but she turns and disappears into the cargo hold. I begin to follow her, but another memory is standing before me. Jim Donner is grinning a fiendish feral smirk. I want to scream and wake up, but I can’t.
Jim moves closer to me. He is hobbling and each step produces a sucking sound as he puts weight on his dislocated ankle. There is a tiny shard of glass sticking from his throat and his neck is bent at an odd angle from when I snapped it. He lunges and the second he comes into contact with me; my world explodes in a white flash.
I launch myself out of my bed and wince. I rub at my cheek and it stings. I must have bitten it during my dreams. I prod the wound with my tongue. It is a small wound and it will probably heal on its own. The taste of blood in my mouth triggers a memory. I am kneeling over Jim’s corpse and my mouth is on the wound in his neck. I am licking and sucking the blood. My stomach rumbles inappropriately. There’s no way I am getting back to sleep tonight. I am going for a walk.
Blackwood Journal Entry September 25th, 2011
Went to the clinic today. I wanted a little something to supplement my begging allowance. I heard from other beggars that if you’re in good shape or at least not riddled with disease, you could get forty of fifty bucks for an hour of time.
I waited in the lobby while the secretary stalled. I could tell that she didn’t like the look of me. I can’t blame her. I look like I have some horrible necrotic wasting disease. When it became evident that I wasn’t going to leave, she called my last name and I went into the office with the doctor. He strapped my arm down and stuck the I.V. in and began to filter my plasma. It wasn’t until I was physically tethered to the filtration machine that I realized he was looking at me, at my frostbitten fingers specifically.
I tried to explain that these were injuries I suffered from after an incredibly cold winter in New York, but the doctor recognized me from the high publicity court case. I didn’t know my picture had been splashed all over the world by the media while I was awaiting trial. I thought that giving the nurse the pseudonym Jack Fiddler would be enough to deflect suspicion. While I was stuck waiting for the machine to finish separating out my plasma, the doctor grilled me about my experience during my time when I was stranded on the mountain.
I gave non-committal answers. Being stuck in a frigid environment was ‘kind of shitty.’ And spending three weeks without so much as a crumb to eat was ‘pretty bad.’ It wasn’t until he asked what it was like to eat another person to survive that I became agitated. I tore the I.V. out of my arm and stood up. I fled the clinic without any money for donating plasma, but I had to get out of there.
Blackwood Journal Entry September 29th, 2011
Got drunk today. I had no real reason for getting inebriated. I just wanted to. I never used to drink back when I was living on the reservation.
Blackwood Journal Entry: [The page is stained with a reddish brown substance.]
The dreams are back. Well, that’s not true. They never left, but I had found myself lulled into a false sense of security by the repetitiveness of the nightmares. The beckoning hand, the savaged stewardess, and Jim were now commonplace. I had seen them so much that it was like greeting an old and familiar dream. The dream I had last night was different.
Jim appeared before me. He had been standing in the nest of clothes that I had made to keep us warm back then. He looked like he had always looked in my dreams. He had the shard of glass sticking out of his throat and the deep purple throttle marks were on his neck. He began to shamble towards me on his dislocated ankle. As he got closer, I realized that he was completely covered in bite marks. Parts of him had been torn away, exposing the red sinewy muscles underneath.
He shuffled up the aisle and I wanted to run away from him, but I found myself inexorably drawn towards him. A small amount of blood was dribbling from his neck and his head lolled back and forth with every shuffling step on his broken neck. I stepped forward and now I was only a few feet away from him. He smelled like rotting flesh and whiskey. He lunged and the instant he touched me, I awoke from the dream. The memory of the taste of his flesh was fresh in my mind. My stomach wasn’t growling.
Blackwood Journal Entry: November 26th, 2011
The Pluto gang is at it again! (So it goes.) Not only have they been abducting people, but now they can add murder to their repertoire. Word has been going around that a man was recently found in an alley. He had been brutally beaten to death. Police have been pretty tight-lipped on the whole deal, but rumors have been going around that he had been so violently stabbed and beaten that the funeral will be a closed-casket affair.
I don’t know if it really is them or there are copycat gangs running around using their modus operandi, but I do know that it has me on edge. The building I’m squatting in is a few blocks away from any of the other squatters. (I don’t play nice with the others it would seem.) They could assault me and I could scream bloody murder and not a soul would hear me.
Blackwood Journal Entry: December 24th, 2011
It’s freezing here. I mean it could be much colder. I have experienced colder weather, but I would prefer not to experience it again. That is why I have a can of sterno with me. I bought a few at a gas station. I didn’t even know that they made it anymore. It is lit and the flammable gel is casting off a blue flame. As long as I stay within the heat radius of it, I will be fine on the colder nights.
The gas station attendant asked me if I was going to drink it. I have seen a few of my older, more alcoholic neighbors back on the reserve strain it through a sock and drink it. (They called it squeeze.) It’s a quick and easy to way to go blind. I politely let him know that I was using it to fend off the cold. I wanted nothing more than to throw it in his face and set him aflame. I’ve been noticing lately that I’ve been getting agitated easily and without much provocation.
Blackwood Journal Entry: January 2nd, 2012
I have had a bit of a revelation of sorts.
Blackwood Journal Entry: January 3rd, 2012
I guess I need to elaborate on that. The pieces of the puzzle were before me this past month or so. It wasn’t until the dream last night that I began to re-assemble the puzzle. The quickness in which I would lose my temper, the tonal change of my dreams, the lack of hunger, I now know what is happening.
I’ll tell you of my dream. It began like all the other recurring dreams I had had since the plane crash. I watched the convulsing and clutching hand of the pilot. I side-stepped the stewardess whose body was split open and masticating like a mad dog. I moved down the aisle and confronted Jim Donner. Something was different this time. It didn’t end in a white flash. As soon as I touched him, I was on him; my hands wrapped around his throat as he feebly beat at me. I watched him die. I began my macabre feast.
Once I had had my fill of him, I stood up and went to the door that led to the cargo hold. Everything was so clear and prescient. I knew what was going to happen next. It was more like a memory than a dream. During the trials, I couldn’t remember anything during my time in the cargo hold, but now it was clear as day. The door swung open and the stench of week-old death wafted in from the inky blackness. I stripped off my jacket and makeshift gloves. I wouldn’t need them anymore. I was where I belonged.
The memories! I remember shoving my face into their cold abdomens and tearing at them. I buried my face into their ribs and gnawed at their hearts. It was tough to chew, but so nourishing. I had my fill of feasting on their flesh. It was difficult to chew due to the damage the cold had inflicted on their corpses. I beat and broke their bones and lapped up their marrow. It was salty and had the taste of iron. I remember the taste of their marrow, their blood, and their flesh. I remember all of those delectable tastes.
The pieces are all in place. I haven’t been hungry because I have been satiating my urges. When’d I become a somnambulist? Is the Pluto gang even a real thing? I know the murders aren’t theirs to claim. How long have I been sleepwalking through my nights? How many times have I woken up feeling oddly refreshed and full? I don’t know how long for certain I have been giving into my darkest desires, but I do know one thing. I’m so very hungry.
[The other pages have been stained a dark red and are unreadable.]
I set the journal down. I wanted to leave, but something was preventing me from doing so. I had some sort of unfinished business. His last journal entry was over a year ago. Could he have abandoned this place and set up another haunt? There was nothing to indicate that someone had been here. Dust and cobwebs had begun to form on everything. The thing that bothered me most was the smell. What was that smell? It was a cloying, sickly sweet scent. I can’t really describe the smell other than thinking of one time when I was a child and I ate a jar of honey and got sick. This smell brought back that memory and that feeling of upset.
The smell was coming from the nearby bathroom. I wasn’t sure if there was running water here anymore. At first I thought it was the smell of fetid water that had been sitting in the bathtub for months on end, but my attention shifted elsewhere when I saw the writing on the wall. It, of course, wasn’t metaphorical writing. I had already read the metaphorical writing that I should have gotten the hell out of there the moment when I picked up the journal. This was actual writing. It was scrawled all over the bathroom walls and mirror in a black felt-tip marker. “When’d I go.”
The words overlapped each other and the ink had begun to bleed into the plaster of the walls. What could it all mean? When’d I go. Crazy? I assumed he’d gone crazy years ago after the plane crash. When’d I go. When’d he go on his serial cannibalistic spree? When’d I go. I was missing something. I couldn’t see the whole picture. When’d I go. The pieces clicked together when I said it aloud, “When’d I go-”
He had gone completely off his rocker! He thought he was a wendigo, a cannibalistic spirit prominent in Native American legends. I didn’t care about investigating the smell anymore. I wanted out. I had just turned around when a voice rasped, “Oh, my feet... My burning feet of fire.”
It wasn’t his words that startled me, but the way that he spoke them. It was somewhere between an inaudible sound and a whisper, but the sound of it ground into my ears like sanding paper. I think if I should live one hundred years, I will never hear another sound that instantly raised the hair on the back of my neck and made my stomach do a somersault like the sound of Blackwood talking. It sounded like this was the first time he had spoken in months. He was just outside the bathroom and he was waiting for me to show myself!
I slowly exited the bathroom and found him standing in the doorway. He, no it, because he barely looked human now exhaled a rattling gasp. He was bone-thin, the tips of his fingers and nose were black and necrotic. His eyes were sunken sockets in his head and they regarded me with a feverish fervor that reflected insanity itself. The blackened skin had drawn back from his nails and it gave him the image of having claws.
He spoke like a radiator rattling a bolt around in its tubing, “Did you read my journal?” I nodded, too paralyzed by fear to speak. He paused for a moment longer than a standard pause and asked, “Well, did you like it?”
The thing didn’t give me time for an answer. He took a step forward and I edged towards the window. I knew I was on the sixth floor, but I would rather have risked falling six floors and splattering the street below than staying with this fiend any longer. He saw me nervously glance at the window and grated, “I would prefer you whole. I am not a big fan of soup.”
He drug his tongue across his teeth and it was then that I noticed they were decaying, but sharp. His diet of meat had worn his teeth down to look like he had filed them. I could smell his breath from ten feet away. It was the same sickly saccharine smell that I had noticed when I first entered the room. How long had he been watching me? He lunged across the room faster than a blink and swung a cylindrical object at my head. I would later realize that his weapon was a bone, maybe a femur, and that it had notches on it where he had gnawed it down. It would have brained me had my body not acted on instinct. I managed to duck the swing and fled towards the door.
He threw his weapon at me while I fled and hit me square in the back. I lost my balance and smashed into the wall with my forward momentum. I managed to shake off my daze and kept running toward the stairwell. I would later find a bruise the size of a grapefruit from the assault. What was once Kaneonuskatew Blackwood gave a hellish growl and proceeded to give chase. I knew that if he caught up to me, I would be consumed.
I ran down the stairs skipping two steps at a time. I could hear the soft slap of his shoeless feet striking the floor as he hunted me down. I could hear him gnashing his teeth and making guttural sounds behind me. I flew down the flights of stairs and ran out into the lobby. The door was closed and I didn’t want to fumble with the knob with him so close behind me, so I lowered my shoulder and rammed it. It groaned in its frame, but didn’t burst open.
I frantically planted a foot and kicked it with all my might, but it still wasn’t breaking open. The sound of him was getting closer by the second. I gave one last desperate kick and was instantly relieved as it blew open and revealed the street. I started forward, but something jerked me backwards. He had grabbed the collar of my shirt and was pulling me back towards his gaping, rotting mouth. I was dumbfounded that such a gaunt, famished-looking man had the strength to pull me back by my collar.
His rancid breath puffed on my neck and the sensation was so revolting that I gagged. I tore at my shirt and shucked it like a snake shedding its skin and wriggled loose. I took off down the street away from the abandoned building. When I hazarded a look back over my shoulder, I saw him in the street. He had a strip of my shirt and had brought it to his mouth. He dragged his tongue across the shred like he could taste my fear; he then howled in a bestial manner and returned to his lair. I didn’t stop running until I was able to flag a taxi and vanish into the sea of anonymity that was New York.
That was a few months ago. I went to the police, but they shrugged off my outlandish story. I can’t say I blame them. Would you believe a story about a wendigo squatting in an abandoned building and feeding his charnel cannibalistic desires? You’d get laughed out of the precinct if you even decided to follow-up. I lied to myself and pretended that it was an elaborate prank my friends had set up and hired a make-up artist to scare the hell out of me. I stopped my hobby of going out and exploring abandoned buildings. I told myself that lie until it became the truth to me. I can’t lie to myself anymore.
I found it outside my apartment door this morning. I was getting ready to go to work for the day. I opened the door and it fell into my apartment. I picked up the book and almost pissed my pants when I recognized it as his journal. A small white object similar in shape to a bullet slid out from between the pages. It was the distal portion of a human phalange. It had been acting as the bookmark for a page. I flipped to the page and with trembling hands and quavering voice read aloud:
“You never gave me feedback on my journal. We should discuss it over a bite to eat.”
Written by EmpyrealInvective