Actions

Work Header

A Whisper Through the Wastes

Work Text:

BANGOR POLICE DEPARTMENT

November 14th, 1989

TRANSCRIPTION of ITEM #004 in the case of the disappearance of Nicholas and Elise Doherty, provided by Nicholas Doherty’s sister, Alice Murray. Journal, lined, 128 pages. Item is in overall good condition though appearing to be somewhat water-damaged and frost-bitten in parts. Water-damage likely due to journal being found outside; frost-bite unexplainable as temperatures have not fallen far enough. Investigation ongoing.

 


 [First page of the notebook is a dedication. Tight, neat handwriting confirmed to belong to Elise Doherty. A small flower with a smiling face is drawn in the lower right corner in the same black ink. No other embellishments.]

Alice—

wish you were here with us.

 


[Next page. Start of journal proper. Handwriting blocky though not overly large, belonging to the missing Nicholas Doherty. Addressee of the journal entries and intended recipient of the journal itself is Alice Murray, née Doherty, widowed, younger sister to Nicholas and friend to Elise. A week prior to the Dohertys’ trip to Maine, Mrs Murray was the victim of a hit-and-run accident, preventing her from taking part in the trip as had been originally planned. A connection between her accident and the Dohertys’ disappearance is unlikely at this point.]

 October 13th

Alice—

What can I say? We arrived! Took us long enough, too.

Maine is Maine. Not much else to say, though the weather has been awful. It’s no wonder dad always used to say that Grandma moved down to California after divorcing Gramps for no other reason than to spite the rain – I’m sure things are real nice and beautiful here, but we must’ve caught the one rainy day and it’s pouring.

Moving on! When Elise and I finally crossed over the state line the sun was already well on its way down toward the horizon, and though we did get a quick meal at a diner and drove for a few more hours, neither Elise nor I felt particularly inclined to try and navigate the streets at nighttime. (It’s so easy to get lost here – not because there’s a whole lot of roads to accidentally drive down, but more because there’s so much empty space. It really is a whole other world from San Francisco!)

[In the margins, in black ink; Elise Doherty’s handwriting: We were tired. So tired.]

We stopped at a small motel that looked as if its best days had been sometime in the fifties – all run down, peeling off-white paint and dubious stains on the carpet in the foyer. But our room was cheap and smelled clean and really, there’s worse places to sleep in. (Aren’t you glad you’re back home, now? Sorry, sorry, I kid. Elise and I both miss you.)

[Loosely jammed in between the two pages making up the journal is a receipt for a motel, though the ink has smudged – presumably due to the water damage – and is therefore unreadable.]

The man at the front desk must’ve been real bored, too; he all but refused to give us our room keys until we’d told him just why we were heading up toward Schoodic Lake. I didn’t want to tell him – why did he want to know, anyhow? – but after ten minutes of him floundering about Elise was desperate and tired enough to tell him. Gramps died, left his two grandchildren a house, one grandchild can’t make it so now the other grandkid and his wife’re heading up there to stake things out, please fuck off now and give us our keys. (Alright, she didn’t say that last part. But I swear it was a real close thing!)

Elise is just coming out of the shower, which is tiny and is tiled with those awful green ceramic tiles – you know, like the ones that always show up in the movies. I wanted to take a picture of the tiles for your sake, but Elise says that that’s tacky and I should just take some pictures of the landscape instead. So! You get a picture of this very nice green lawn with some forest in the background, and, well, imagine that the color of the grass is the color of the bathroom.

[Attached to the bottom of the page, half-covering the journal entry, is a polaroid picture of a misty lawn with a handful of trees in the background.]

Tomorrow we’ll be arriving at Gramps’ house. I’ll call you as soon as I figure out whether the landline there’s still working.

 


October 15th

We’ve settled in as much as we could. The house isn’t what it used to be, of course – around the doors and windows there’s this constant cold draught you’d expect in a building this old, and the stairs creak like they would in a horror movie.

In fact – and by the time you get this I’m sure Elise will have already called you to complain – it’s a prime location for a prank. There’s only one lamp, set pretty high on the wall, and I don’t know if it’s the old powerlines out here or just the age of the lamp showing, but it flickers incessantly. Elise made me change the lightbulb, and that fixed it, but because you don’t do these things halfway I think I’ll switch it back to the flickering one when I’ve got everything else set up.

But more on that later, when actually I get to it.

The house is almost exactly like it was on the floor plans: there’s the living room on the first floor, next to a small dining room and the kitchen. Also a tiny – and I mean tiny – bathroom, but there’s so much questionable paraphernalia littering it (did you know that Gramps was apparently an avid collector of porcelain snakes? No? Neither did I) that we haven’t actually been able to use it yet.

“Know when to pick your battles, Nick,” Elise told me when I grabbed a garbage bag and some worker’s gloves, and I won’t pretend that I wasn’t real relieved to be able to put off the porcelain snake massacre for another day.

The second floor has another bathroom – this one properly usable, with only one porcelain snake hiding on the window sill – as well as a guestroom and the master bedroom, which Elise and I claimed. The bed, nightstands, and just about everything else was fairly dusty, but we didn’t come unprepared and though I’m fairly sure I coughed my lungs out, we did eventually manage to get everything clean enough to sleep in.

There’s also a small basement, but when I say small I mean “small enough to barely contain a table, a chair, and a cabinet with a whole lot of garden equipment and old buckets of paint” so I don’t think we’ll be doing much there aside from cleaning. There’s a shed outside in the garden, too, but it’s so overgrown that I doubt Gramps has been in there at any point in the last five years.

 


[cont’d]

The TV doesn’t work. I don’t know why I’m surprised – it’s one of those real old things, do you remember? Clunky and real heavy and in its defense it doesn’t have antennas, but I’m sure it only missed those by a few months. If it worked the picture’d be in black and white so I suppose we aren’t missing that much, but . . . you know. A working television would have been nice out here.

To Gramps’ credit he did apparently have a radio, and Elise is currently trying to get it to turn on.

You know what, Alice? I’m going to call you while she’s working on that, right now, and then when you read through this later, you’ll know exactly why your dearest brother was so talkative that night!

 


  October 16th

 

The weather finally let up today, so Elise and I took a break from investigating the house and went out to the barrens.

You’ll love them, Alice—they’re called blueberry barrens, sure, but this time of the year they’re actually colored red! (Where they haven’t already succumbed to the flash colds, mind you.)  I’d tell you all about them but you know I’m not the best with descriptions – you’re lucky I’ve managed to write this journal at all, sister! I’ve attached a pamphlet they hand out here, and anyhow, once you’re out of the hospital you’ll be able to see them for yourself!

[Stapled to the page is a pamphlet for southern Maine’s blueberry barrens. The paper has that glossy sheen to it only flyers for tourist attractions seem to manage. Bright blue background and white writing clash with a large picture of the moorland on the front, while the inside of the pamphlet gives a map and several long, bullet-pointed lists of things – mostly plants – to keep an eye out for while in the barrens.]

We walked for a good long while, enjoying the way the blueberry bushes swayed slightly in the breeze and marveling at the color variations they showed, until at long last Elise decided that we should take a break and turn our attention to all the sandwiches we’d packed.

We ate. We drank. We laughed.

As we were packing up, Elise pointed out that one of the nearby hills looked as if it had something built on it, and because the sun was still warm on the back of our necks, we went to investigate.

It looked as if there might have been a house, or a barn, or a shed or something similar standing there on top of the hill at one point, but now all that remained were a few larger pieces of rock as well as what seemed to be some sort of gate. Not what you’re picturing right now – more a garden gate, about waist-height. Two small, thin stone pillars bracketing a weathered wooden door. It was the sort of thing you expected to run across on a farm, complete with a barely-legible scrawl of “KEEP OUT” written across it.

The gate had a rusted metal lock, and though you’d figure wind or animals – or other tourists, for that matter -- would have knocked it open a long time ago, it was still firmly shut when I jiggled the handle. I got the strange and all too sudden feeling that someone was watching me, and, feeling slightly guilty for touching what must've been someone else's property at some point, I quickly glanced around the hill. The only other person I could see was Elise, though, and so I shook the feeling off.

“It’s stuck,” I told Elise, but she didn’t believe me and went to try the handle herself.

It didn’t budge for her, either. Not that that made her stop trying, mind you! She got the gate pried open to the point where she could stick a hand through the gap and try to get the lock to open that way, but still nothing.

Eventually (and by that I mean after I sent her increasingly puppy-like looks) she relented and we went back to the trail.

Elise says she wants to go back tomorrow for pictures if the weather holds up.

 


October 17th

To ease the suspense: it didn’t.

The morning started out well enough; I still haven’t gotten used to the bed here so I got up early and made breakfast. I treated Elise to a cup of instant coffee and some real great eggs on toast in bed – she appreciated the gesture but wasn’t all hungry, so I ended up eating most of it. Win/win! (Though I hope she hasn’t caught a cold or anything serious; there’s no medicine in the house – not even some ancient Aspirin. Yes, yes, we should’ve thought to take some along ourselves, but we didn’t.)

[Scrawled in the margin in Nicholas Doherty’s handwriting: Pharmacy!]

At around mid-morning we found ourselves a nice picnic basket in the basement and packed it with some sandwiches and soda, and as the sun shone down on us we drove back to the barrens.

Funny thing, though – the closer we got to the blueberry barrens the worse the weather got. Clouds covered the sun, a wind picked up, and by the time we parked near the trail we’d gone down yesterday, a slight drizzle of rain had started up.

Elise was adamant that we go back to the hill with the gate on it, however, and while I was still internally debating the matter she pulled out an umbrella from God-knows-where and marched off.

I ran after her, and before long we ended up back on the hill with the gate on it. Elise pushed the umbrella at me, and before I could protest she began rummaging through the pockets of her coat – only to pull out a small metal hammer.

While I was busy staring at her open-mouthed, she started bashing at the lock with the hammer—one strike, two, three, before the lock gave a hollow cracking sound and the gate swung open.

Things happened very quickly, then.

Elise briefly back to look at me, flashing me a wide grin and beckoning for me to come to her before turning back around and pulling the small gate all the way open.

She took a step forward.

There was the feeling of someone watching me again--

I don’t know what came over me, just then. But I leaped forward – losing the umbrella in the process and immediately being drenched by the rain – and grabbed at the arm that was still stretched out toward me. There was no time to think.

I pulled Elise back with so much force that she fell back into my arms, head thumping against my chest.

We stood like that for a few seconds, both gulping in desperate breaths. Then Elise looked up at me. She suppressed a sneeze.

“I think I caught a cold. Let’s go home?”

I was all too glad to comply.

[Folded up and wedged into the middle crease of the two pages making up this entry is a polaroid picture. According to the words written on the back – “the gate” – it should be a proper photograph, but it is completely black with only two off-focus red dots to be seen. No water damage.]

 


October 18th

I already told you on the phone, but since you told me to write it all down regardless—

Elise isn’t doing too well. I think the rain must’ve gotten her worse than she let on – she’s been coughing on and off all day, and her skin is cold and clammy to the touch. I can’t seem to be able to get her to warm up, either; I raided Gramps’ blanket stash and made her cup after cup of tea, but nothing seems to be working.

She’s adamant about not taking any medicine, either, “I’m sure I’ll be fine tomorrow, Nick, no need for you to drive all the way into the town!”

Screw that. If she’s not gotten any better tomorrow, I’m going.

 


October 19th

I just woke up in the middle of the night. Elise was – still is – talking in her sleep. I don’t want to wake her up because quite honestly she needs to rest, but—

“It’s so cold,” she’s muttering. “So, so cold.

“Where are the stars?

“Where have you hidden the stars?

[A dark blot of ink, obscuring a partially-written word as if the pen was hastily dropped.]

Oh, Alice. This house is going to be the death of me, I swear. As I was writing the light suddenly went out – very briefly, to be sure, but since I was keeping an eye on Elise it caught me entirely unawares. (It was a real nice effect, actually; all the shadows in the room lengthened for a few seconds on and grew very dense when the light turned back. I didn’t see my own shadow but Elise’s, cast against the wall above the headboard, was especially impressive – all long limbs and sharp angles.)

 


  [cont’d]

I woke up feeling like death, and Elise doesn’t look any better. She’s still coughing, and her eyes are red and swollen. Her fingers keep on twitching uncontrollably as if wracked by awful shivers, and her skin is still terribly cold and clammy to the touch.

I made her breakfast, bundled her up in a whole lot of blankets, and told her that I’d be driving down into to town to get her some medicine. Whether she felt up to coming with me, I asked, but Elise declined.

“Just make sure you come back soon,” she said as I headed out the door. “It’s so cold without you here.”

 


[cont’d]

Machias Town is small but I found the pharmacy to be well-stocked. The clerk recommended a whole armful of pain relievers and antibiotics to me, and I bought them all, just to be sure.

All in all I couldn’t have been gone for more than an hour.

[Several small spots of water damage have smudged some words from this point on.]

Alice—

I can’t write it. It’s past midnight and exhaustion made me give up and go to bed, but my hands are shaking and I can’t stop crying. I tried to call you but there’s something wrong with the phone, the damn thing’s not working.

But Elise is gone.

Gone.

I came back to Gramps’ house, ready to unload all the various pharmaceuticals, but when I opened the front door and went to look for her she wasn’t on the couch.

I called for her.

Nothing.

I went through every room in the house, and the basement, and the shed.

Nothing.

Elise was gone.

I went through all the rooms again to see if there was some sort of note or letter I had overlooked, but again: nothing.

But I had the car – so she couldn’t have gotten far. She’s on foot. She’s sick.

I sprinted back to the car and began to drive around the area, looking for signs of her.

Nothing.

At around mid-afternoon I was forced to accept the reality of the situation, and got back on the road. There was a house I’d passed by several times now, and, well. They should have a phone I can use to call the police.

 


[cont’d]

They did have a phone.

The police, however, refused to do anything.

“Your wife hasn’t been gone for even half a day yet,” they said.

How do I know she hasn’t just gone for a walk?

“She’s ill. There’s no way she could have walked anywhere.”

Their line of questioning got more insidious, then.

Perhaps she wanted to get away from me? Had I been treating her badly?

“I would never—she’s my wife! I love her.”

I should give her some time, then. There’s nothing they could do for me at this point in time.

So I said my thanks to the old couple whose phone I’d borrowed, and got back into the car, and spent the rest of the day looking for Elise.

Gone.

Gone gone gone.

 


October 20th

I went back into town.

First the pharmacy, where the clerk recognized me from last time and asked how Elise was doing – I told him that there was trouble, and asked if he would be so kind as to point me to the nearest police station, as the phone line at the house was dead.

Thankfully he didn’t ask any questions, just looked concerned and told me that I’d be better off driving all the way to Bangor than trying my luck with the tiny department in town.

I ended up taking his advice, but before I even had time to get back inside the car that pair of old men from earlier ambushed me. And I mean ambushed in every sense of the word here, Alice. They were waiting for me beside the car, half-leaning against it and half-supported by their walking sticks. Had they been forty years younger it would’ve looked real impressive and perhaps even sort of threatening, but as things stood I only felt this vague sense of unease as I walked up to them.

“Can I help you two?” I asked as soon as I was within earshot. One of them – the one with bald head and the scar – immediately shuffled over to stand in front of the driver’s door.

“Just give it until tomorrow,” the one with the scar on his cheek said, while the other, looking at me with the same blank eyes, added, “Might want to go back out to the barrens, see if maybe your wife’s gotten lost there.”

I told them that I had already driven around the barrens and that if Elise was truly there I would have seen her, but they kept on insisting. (Only now, writing it all down, does the question how they knew that Elise was missing occur to me.)

“Do you remember the hill?”

“There’s a gate there,” the man who still had some hair said, and he got this faraway look in his eyes that was even more disconcerting than the blank look he’d sported before. “Could be she’s gotten lost on the other side. Wouldn’t be the first one.”

I filed a missing person report at the police department in Bangor – or I tried to. A very bored-looking officer, seated behind the world’s tallest table, told me that you can’t actually file a missing person report unless the person in question has been missing for 48 hours. Ridiculous!

I would have argued the point, but the man – also old, though not as grizzled-looking as the two who had jumped me earlier – kept hinting that perhaps Elise hadn’t gone missing so much as that she had purposefully run away. I couldn’t get a word in sideways, and eventually I just stormed out. (Bet you that’s going to end up in some report somewhere, but they’re “too busy” to file one for Elise.)

Back in the car, driving along the empty roads and back to the cabin, I was reminded of the what the old man had said about going back to the blueberry barrens and the gate there.

It was completely ridiculous, of course. I’d already searched the area there, and if Elise’d had some kind of accident there, I would have found her. There was no way she’d just turn back up there.

But I was running out of options.

So I did what the old man had suggested, Alice. I went back to the gate.

It took me another hour before I brought the car to a halt in front of the beginning of the trail that we’d followed to the gate. By this point night had already fallen, but thankfully the stars were out and by some stroke of luck I found a flashlight in the car’s trunk – I sure can’t remember putting one there, so it must’ve been Elise, way back when we started packing.

However it ended up there, I was glad to have it.

Another half hour later I finally found myself at the bottom of the hill with the gate on it.

Even from this far off, I could see that it was open.

I walked up to the gate with all the surety of a man who has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. It was still open.

I looked around the hill, hoping against all reason to see Elise just sitting there – but of course all I saw were the blueberry bushes. I felt as if there was something watching me, but I couldn’t even see a bird or badger.

The gate was still open.

Wide open.

I stepped through.

 


[cont’d]

I don’t know what happened.

I honestly don’t know.

One moment I was standing on top of that hill in the barrens – the next I was free-floating in some sort of dark space. It was the kind of darkness you only get when you wake up in the middle of the night, convinced that there’s something waiting for you at the foot of the bed, and Alice, to say that I was shaking with fear would have been an understatement.

There was nothing around me. Nothing. Do you remember how back when we were kids, and dad rescued that blind kitten stuffed into a cardboard box discarded near the highway? Remember how even though it couldn’t see, it always seemed to be able to tell if we were in the room with it, even when we tried to make as little noise as possible?

It was a bit like that, except the complete opposite. You don’t realize how much you rely on your spatial awareness to sense other people around you until you find yourself in a place where you suddenly can’t feel anyone else around you – it was horrible. Absolutely horrible, and try as I might to reel back, to get away from this pure nothingness, my limbs wouldn’t move and I was forced to continue to float in the darkness.

The free-floating quickly turned into ‘actively falling’ as I became aware of the dead air rushing past my face and tearing at my clothes.

It was so cold. I felt like I was falling forever, tumbling through a deep dark abyss that had swallowed all the stars and would one day surely consume all matter, all life left in the universe. Falling, I pondered the emptiness around me—

And as I watched a star blinked into existence to my left.

Words can’t describe the relief I felt at that moment, Alice.

There was suddenly light in the abyss – a dull, red light, yes, but anything was better than the sheer blackness that surrounded me.

Then another star appeared, level with the first one and the same deep red color. They hung there in the black abyss, keeping pace with me as I continued to fall.

The two stars disappeared for a second, then, and I realized with abject terror that my earlier description had been terrifyingly accurate.

They weren’t stars at all, those two red lights.

They were eyes.

 


[cont’d]

I don’t know for how long I screamed, only that eventually my voice gave out.

It might have been hours. Weeks. Months, perhaps. But perhaps also only mere seconds -- time was not something I could measure in that dark space.

The red eyes had remained in their spot all-throughout, watching me unwaveringly while the dark abyss engulfed the both of us.

And then I myself blinked, and from one second to the next realized that I was standing back on the moor.

I coughed.

The moon was still clinging to the sky in exactly the spot I had last seen it, and the clouds above still looked as if they were getting ready to rain down water any minute now. It was as if no time at all had passed while I had stepped through the gate—

The gate in front of me, which, I only then realized with a rush of cold adrenaline, had swung back closed again.

 


[cont’d]

I drove back to Gramps’ house as if the devil himself was after me. (And maybe he was. At this point I wouldn’t rule it out.)

Once there I locked the door, made sure all windows were closed, and turned on every light possible. I tried to call you, but eventually recalled that the phone was still dead.

Three hours later, wrapped in blankets, steaming-hot mug of coffee in my hands. And I still can’t get the cold of that dark emptiness out of my bones.

 


[cont’d]

[A rough sketch of a lamp and a square beside it occupies the top left corner of the page.]

Reading back through the journal—

The shadow I saw in the bedroom, when the light went out. Elise’s.

I need to try something.

 


[cont’d]

I was right. I don’t know what it means, but. I was right.

The bedside lamp I had turned on that night is exactly that: a bedside lamp. It’s literally sitting on a small nightstand next to my side of the bed.

And if it suddenly turned off, then on again—

There’s no feasible way that a shadow could have been cast onto the wall at the head of the bed.

 


October 21st

I don’t recognize the person staring back at me from the mirrors around the house. It looks like me, but it’s not. Its eyes crinkle like mine but its smile is too wide and its teeth are too sharp. The neck just slightly too long, the fingers just a bit too pointed.

The eyes too red. Too luminous.

I’m missing chunks of time, too. I’d blame it on having caught a cold out on the moor – which I have; and the aspirin isn’t able to offer as much relief as I’d hoped – but that would be lying.

This morning I woke up only for the kitchen clock to tell me that it was already well past noon – and I was dressed, Alice, and around the house I found signs that I had been doing something.

The activity seems to be centered around the basement.

I’m afraid to go down there.

 


[cont’d]

Is this what Elise experienced?

 


 

[The next page is covered in mostly illegible scribbles and several sketches. The words that are readable make little to no sense, though the roughly-sketched diagrams appear to be a curious mixture of nautical notation and star maps. The only legible phrase, parts of which appear to be repeated throughout the page, reads as follows: “beyond the stars lies”.]

 


October 22nd

I came to on the stairs leading up from the basement. It was a supremely disconcerting feeling: suddenly you’re walking, in control of your body, but try as you might you can’t remember what went on before. Why you are on the stairs. What you’ve done in the basement.

I forced myself to stop just short of the door leading back into the rest of the house.

Rationally, I knew that there were two things I should do: first, I would have to go back down into the basement and see what was going on there. Second, regardless of what I would or would not find down there, I should go to a doctor.

But my hands were shaking just at the thought of turning back around and heading downstairs, and when I did force myself to take the first step, I suddenly felt very dizzy. Step after painful step the dizziness increased until, my hand on the cold basement door, there were black spots swimming all across my vision.

You know I’m not a particularly superstitious man, Alice. I was never bothered by the ghosts in the attic you were so afraid of.

That basement, though – Alice, it felt as if I was walking into a cold wall the moment I stepped through the door—

And then I was suddenly back at the very top of the stairs, one hand already stretched out to open the door to the rest of the house.

I tried going down into the basement a couple more times, but whenever I got close enough to the cellar door – closed again, as well – I blanked out only to find myself back at the top of the stairs.

It’s no use.

Whatever’s happening in the basement (and it’s tiny! What could possibly be going on in there?), I don’t think I’ll be able to get a look at it myself.

 


October 23rd

Woke up in the middle of the night. Still shaking.

There’s loud noises coming out of the basement.

I know I should go check, but—

 

Shit.

There was a scream; high-pitched, desperate. In pain.

I raced down to the basement but yet again I only found myself standing back on top of the stairs.

More screams. It’s awful. I can’t get down there, I can’t stop them.

 


 [cont’d]

The screams have let up. There’s no sounds coming from out of the basement, now – maybe I was only imagining things last night.

I still can’t approach the basement properly but now that it’s light outside, I can see that there’s deep furrows in the wooden floor leading to the basement stairs.

They look like claw marks.

 


 [cont’d]

I don’t know what to do, Alice. I’d think I’m going crazy if it weren’t for—well, for everything, really. But the police are no help and the villagers—

I passed through that gate up on the blueberry barrens.

Briefly.

For barely a second.

But Elise—

She didn’t walk through it. Not initially. A hand, when she trying to get it open that first time. A foot and her leg, before I could drag her back.

But now she’s gone, and if I can’t find her anywhere then doesn’t it stand to reason that this time around she did cross over the threshold?

And to have been in that dark abyss for so long . . .

What if Elise doesn’t come back?

[The rest of the page is blank save for the very bottom, where words are all but squeezed into a corner.]

What if she does?

 


[Stapled to the page, which is empty, are several loose sheaves of paper. Nicholas Doherty’s handwriting covers them.]

 

Sheet #1: Old Man w/ Hair (John Gainsborough)—

Not helpful at all. Asked me repeatedly whether I had gone to the barrens yet, and when I finally relented and told him that I had, he got real quiet.

I took the opportunity to ask him what he’d meant when he’d told me earlier that Elise wasn’t the first one to get lost out in the barrens, near the gate, and that seemed to snap him back from wherever his mind had wandered off to.

“Used to be mostly pets and livestock,” he said, “but every once in a while you have a person disappearing, too.”

“Get lost in the barrens, you mean?”

“Out near the gate. The barrens are large and vast and children get lost there all the time, especially in the summer, but those are usually found and returned to their families after a few hours. The ones disappearing near the hill with the gate, though?” He looked at me and gave me a crooked grin. “We hear someone’s gone missing near that place, and we get ready to console the family and relatives.”

He refused to say anything else on the subject.

 

Sheet #2: Bangor Tourist Office

A shot in the dark, but what else do I have?

I asked the young woman behind the counter whether she could tell me anything about the house – or farm, or whatever – that used to be located right smack dab in the middle of the blueberry barrens, but she only stared at me blankly and told me that there hadn’t been anything built there in the last few centuries, as far as she was aware.

I ended up directly asking her about the gate, but was again met with that blank expression.

Eventually, after some more prodding from me, she was able to tell me that there was indeed a gate out on some hill in the blueberry barrens, but that nobody had any idea how it got there or what structure it might have been a part of.

Waste of time.

 

Sheet #3: Evangeline Francis, dog-walker—

Met her while completing my notes of the talk with Gainsborough. Evangeline Francis is almost as old as he is and says that she’s been living in vicinity of the blueberry barrens for all her life.

After some small-talk concerning her dog – a real beauty, and the fluffiest and haughtiest poodle I have ever seen – I asked her whether she knew anything about animals or people disappearing in the barrens. She gave me a sidelong glance and frowned.

I was desperate at that point. “My wife’s gone missing,” I told her, “so if there’s anything you know, anything at all – you have to tell me. Please.”

Evangeline Francis, however, only wrapped the dog leash tight around her hand and shook her head. “Gates go both ways, young man.” Then she walked away.

 

Sheet #4: [untitled, though the address of the public library in Bangor is written in the upper right corner]

--Alex Barker, “50 Things You Didn’t Know About Outer Space.”

--Yael Irving, “From the Shadows: Collected Tales of Things in the Dark."

--H.P. Lovecraft, “The Collected Works of H.P. Lovecraft.”

--Jonathan Lynn, “Folklore from Around the World: Humanity’s Boogeymen.”

--Katherine Swift, “Multiverse Theory and You: What’s Happening Two Universes Over?”

--Zachary Tolvin, “Moors and Barrens Around the World.”

 


[undated]

There’s something out in the barrens.

Or rather, there’s a way leading to something out in the barrens.

And Elise has walked that path.

 


 [The next page is a list, undated. Folded up and wedged into the crease in the middle of the journal, where the pages meet, is a piece of paper. Unfolding it reveals it to be a receipt from a local store in Cherryfield. Both the items bought as well as the amount spent are obscured by water damage.]

--backpack

--water bottles (a few big ones or a lot of smaller ones? See what’ll best fit)

--food; canned

--gloves

--warm clothing: coat, socks, scarf, hiking boots

--flashlight & batteries

--rope?

--knife

--gun (hunting rifle? Check shed)

 


[The next five or so pages have all been ripped out. However, depressions in the remaining paper indicate that the missing pages were filled with more of the kind of nautical star maps found in previous entries.]

 


[Final entry by Nicholas Doherty before he is reported missing by his sister Alice on November 5th. Entry takes up a double page, words scrawled in large letters across the spread.]

[unknown date, presumably October 26th]

Forgive me, sister—

Elise. I’m coming.

 


[Several blank pages. Then one completely black page, stained with ink. Then more blank pages with increasing water damage closer to the back of the journal.]

 


[Final page. Writing almost illegible due to water damage. Ink is black. Handwriting once again that of Elise Doherty, though not as tight and neat as seen in previous examples. Drawing in the lower right corner of the page, also black ink, seemingly depicting two stone posts with a small wooden garden gate between them, standing in the middle of nowhere. On the wooden gate the words “OPEN ME” are scrawled. No other embellishments.]

Alice—

wish you were here with us.