The Adventures of One Unnamed Gent and His Associated Investigations
Style: Horror comedy.
Statement: This short story satirizes philosophical texts and horror stories to the end of an amusing effect.
The cognitive flourishes springing dutifully from the wayward expression of well-oriented recollections had, on one fair winter day, drawn me, from some abstract region in the mind’s undulant landscape, to think about Oakhollow. Handsome men always pen embroidered prose with pointless verbosity.
But the genesis of this fledgling notion captured me. As I stared out the window of my classroom, cheek in palm, I entertained the thought further. I remember what I had seen and how I had been unable to unsee it, the kaleidoscope of memories swirling around me like an infinite sea of raw, brutal experiences. The sight of three Miltons across the canal which ran along the street, each of them stroking another’s chin. A shiver ran down my spine.
It was 3:35. I don’t remember what the teacher was going on about, but he seemed to be quite engaged in whatever he was saying, emphatically moving his hand this way and that, slicing the air around him with one hand and tapping the board with another. I looked down to my desk and started to trace its side.
Oakhollow was a street considered to be down-down-town. It had the appearance of swampland blended with profuse wilderness, cut by streams and dikes and rank with nettles. It was a veritably neglected side of town where the highest order of impoverished folk nestled in the center of the grimy habitat.
In the fifth grade, this was where my childhood friend Milton lived. He was a pasty white fellow that was nothing but skin stretched over bones. I swear, he looked malnourished and pale to the point of illness.
One day, while we were out on the playground, he turned his skeletal head to meet mine. “You should come to Oakhollow this weekend.”
Now, he had visited my house on multiple occasions, but the subject of visiting him had never been a topic of discourse before.
“Good Milton! By the heavens and forces of the earth both natural and unnatural in their properties! If, by the premise of that impertinent remark, you take me for twice the person you normally perceive me to envision myself, then I shall render you a fool in the light of proper judgment. In the course of certainty, and by degrees of virtue, I feel obligated to magnanimously inform you that many look down upon Oakhollow with a tinge of distrust. Could you perchance instead reckon some far less treacherous activity as a means of quelling this fear metastasizing in the recesses of my forlorn spirit? I have of late not been sleeping due to my ponderings of life’s exotic quandaries and have fallen into a depression of sorts, due to the superfluousness of being. I can feel the tendrils of remorse shooting through the sinews that bind my flesh; the bountiful mistakes I’ve made in life are so rich in ignorance and fruitful in future regret, that my quixotic projections live in a world I can’t escape to anymore; I feel no remorse for myself, for, when the substance of character denudes at the consequential threshold borne by the transgression of self-made prohibitions, I can’t seem to piece together the fragments of that shattered ego. We are pawns instantiated into a reality devoid of moralistic pleasures, of complete intellectual sovereignty: the totality of control is lost in words, but rings true in the essence of physical favors. Where, Milton, can I find meaning; the persistence to subsist? I feel fettered by the biology, restrained in the soul, lost at the core. And now, you urge me to where, Oakhollow? Could you, in your river of thought, float to some place more lovingly regarded? Could you, by the powers of nature and her instrumental vigilance, navigate a route through the lush forest of the mind, to seek, in some sublime endeavor, a domain where we shall unite under the commonality that society’s conjoined conventions reason within?”
“No.” he said.
“Okay then, you have convinced me. I’ll come over.”
So I went.
It actually felt quite late when I arrived no later than seven o’ clock that Saturday. After one of my parents dropped me off at the intersection where Oakhollow met Sunnyvale road, I walked up to Milton’s house, which sat atop a small incline on the top-right corner of the intersection.
He was already waiting for me outside with his hands in his pockets under a lamppost. The environment was so dismal and shrouded; Oakhollow was like a primordial earth populated with dark houses and withdrawn people. The air smelled foul. I could barely even see fifty feet ahead of me. Polluted rivulets in embankments carried various plastic items.
“How goes it?” said Milton.
“Fine.” I came under the lamplight and saw that his face looked even more ghastly white than it usually did.
“Good, let’s take a walk.”
“Here?” I didn’t like the look of Oakhollow, and wanted to maybe see the inside of Milton’s house (by the looks of it, the abode was shabby and small but it was better than the outside). “Where are your parents?”
“Inside, but don’t mind that. When one is trodding the bypaths of life’s harrowing battlefields, keeping within their line of sight the future vicissitudes that may accost them, they need only to rely on the self to fortify against the ambivalence of emotions, the derision of fear, the triteness of unresolved complexity. As such, you shall collect yourself against the unrelenting storms of unrecognized entities and circumstances, to, in your aim for independence, darkly circumscribe the precept of stability on the airy swards that currently lend a topological structure to your relished, innocent identity festering in childhood naivety.”
“Okay, that makes sense,” I said. So we decided to go for a walk along the left side of Oakhollow. The willow trees lining the road collectively drooped over it in such a foreboding manner that they gave the route a quality of mysteriousness and prejudiced anger. It almost felt as if the place itself held a hatred against those who traversed it, and hosted a wealth of vile aspects waiting to spring at any moment, or silently lie somewhere unknown to watch a passerby. Of course, this overarching effect was only augmented by the obscured lamplights, fog, cobbled gates fronting houses, and grimy vegetation with hollows of darkness.
I could hear the sound of flowing water coming from the right side of the road. “Milton, what’s that sound?”
“It is the Gray canal. It runs along a good portion of Oakhollow’s length and ends– somewhere— oh, I don’t know where, I’m just a fifth grader. Don’t you find it strange how, in our limited scope of perception as young children, the expectation of discipline and mental fealty is branded onto us when we initiate into the system of institutionalized academics past the age of four? Isn’t it ironic how our underdeveloped stage of knowledge is also the point in our pointless lives where we are most susceptible to habits and exterior influences, precipitating those quantitatively superior to us years to shepherd our movements throughout the day: a futile attempt at shaping the ideal image of our future selves? My knowledge of that canal– oh, it’s so hopeless! We as humans will always know so little but always strive to know more down to the very roots of a matter, but to what avail? Is it to march into the unseasoned new day we illustrate in the present as a flowery realm within which our problems naturally untangle themselves? Is it to quench our thirst for understanding structure, thereby ordering the world into a form desirable to the mind? For whatever reason it may be for whatever person suited to it, it is not something I could see myself living on through into adulthood.”
“Okay,” I said.
We walked up further along the road and saw a coyote trotting here, and an owl hooting in a pine tree there. It became awfully quiet and dark; the night was coming on.
“Milton, maybe we should turn back. I should go home now; it's getting late.”
“Nonsense,” he said, and turned to me and grabbed my wrist. “Wait here, there’s something I want to show you.” He started to amble away into the woods off the roadside.
“Wait Milton, where are you going?”
Without turning back he said, “Stay there and don’t move, I’ll be back.” He continued into the line of trees ahead, until the darkness swallowed him, and I saw him no more.
I began to shiver and the owl frightened me by unexpectedly hooting once again, more loudly than before. After a minute or so of standing I started to hear a rustling from the trees nearby and a low croaking from the voice of what sounded like a beast.
Milton emerged from the foliage and, at once, the croaking stopped. He came up to me.
“Stroke my chin.” He grabbed my wrist. “Go on, give it a good rub.”
He was shifting urgently, and I felt scared to rebuke him, so I complied.
“Does that make you feel better?”
“What do you mean?”
“About the inherent pointlessness of your existence? Does it?”
“Milton, I am a mere fifth grader, how would I have even an inkling of such philosophical depth? And even if I did, how would stroking your chin make anything better? I don’t like this. You’re making me very uncomfortable.”
“Good, you don’t deserve comfort. I’ll call my brother.” He turned aside and shouted some gibberish. From some part of darkness issued a boy who looked exactly like Milton.
“You have a twin?”
“No, no, you are dreaming.”
This second Milton walked up right beside the first and then began to stare at me.
Milton clenched his fist. “Now, stroke his chin; stroke his chin or I’ll bash yours in; go on, yes, there’s a good fellow.”
I started to become quite scared.
“Good now, lick it.”
“I SAID LICK IT YOU PANSY!”
I started to run down Oakhollow towards the intersection. Milton grabbed me by the back of my shirt, but I tugged away so his hand let loose. Him and the other Milton just stood there staring dumbly at me with wide eyes.
When I reached the edge of Sunnyvale, I heard a distant murmuring on my far left. I looked to where the canal was and saw three Miltons standing above it, stroking one another’s chins.
I ran all the way home and could never forget what I had seen.