Sep 5, 2015, 1:54 AM  

The Memory Jars 

  Prose » Narratives
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The Memory Jars

(всички 3 части)

 

Part 1

 

I love exploring old attics - they are like frozen pieces of universe, often the last piece of a perfectly preserved but forgotten generation. It's kind of a hobby to travel across the states, and check out the house sales, but you know, the kind where they let you inside and you may pick up whatever you like.

 

When I was a little boy my father used to take me into such sales and it stuck with me to this very day. Entering an attic is like I am stepping into another universe - the old smell, the covered stuff, the dusty pictures, countless boxes filled with precious, incredible furniture, weird toys and, oh well, kinky magazines.

 

The time just stops in there and I feel like nothing else really matters - just me and the tiny fraction of a past era. There were times that I thought if the world was to end right now, the attics of millions houses around the globe would have somehow survived the apocalypse in bubbles of reality. Like they are too precious for the almighty universe to wipe them out.

 

Anyway, one rainy November Saturday last year I was in Canon City, Colorado. A good friend of mine lived there and she told me about this amazing old house, better - a mansion, on Harrison Ave. A family of four vanished without a trace about 8 years ago and their relatives finally decided to sell the house and what's inside.

 

The moment I received the pictures on my email I knew this was a trip worth taking. Plus my friend Jane was going on a vacation in Europe for two weeks and she needed someone to watch over the house. It's a win-win, right?

 

You bet I said goodbye to her, dropped my bag and went straight to the house. Canon City isn't big, most of the people knew each other, and as it happens in such cities - nobody really had interest in poking into someone else's house, especially a one which entire family disappeared in a flash. C'mon, doesn't this sound fascinating?

 

Luckily the house was just four blocks away and I didn't get that wet. But the weather was going to get worse, as the distant thunders were not so distant anymore.

 

Expectedly, there were no tables with old stuff outside - it was raining and it was an open house after all. I knocked on the opened door and stepped inside. The parquet was amazing, sure it needed a refresh, but still. And that wainscoting - man, a real piece of art. I know, I know - I'm boring you with unnecessary details, so I'm cutting to the chase.

 

The house was old, but kept in a good shape, it had a basement, two main floors with 11 rooms each, and a spacious attic. The 40-year or so lady, who pointed me to the two attic entrances, first showed me briefly the house, but most of the common stuff we use were taken by the relatives. She was in some dark place, I can tell, maybe it was the house - such places can play tricks with your mind.

 

After the 5-min tour of the house I was opening one of the attic's dormers. A beautiful place, though very dusty and full with spider webs and dead bugs. It smelled…old…but there wasn't anything scent of rotting, mold or you know, dead.

 

There were lots of shelves on the walls, I counted eight chests, six of them locked, many boxes with old junk, two desks, nine old and very beautiful cushioned red armchairs scattered around, among many other things. It seemed the people who lived in the house threw everything that belonged to the previous residents up here. Or at least it seemed that way - I remembered lots of other old items downstairs I had a glimpse on during my quick tour.

 

The first unlocked chest just to my right seemed like the right place for a start. I clicked on the old mechanism and lifted the top. There were a few children books, some old baby dolls, an album with pictures of a baby, a once pink pillow, a note and a small brown key. I took the key and read the note - it was a page from a diary, where some girl or a woman was telling a story of how her baby died six-months after birth and how she was not good enough for her husband. Tragic.

 

I put back everything but the key inside and closed the chest.

 

I was searching the books on the shelves for some rear first editions, when I found the diary of a boy. It belonged to the missing kid and was last used about two years before the accident or whatever happened here. A quick look through the pages revealed a tortured soul by bad dreams, occasional fights between his parents and depressing school time.

 

I was just about the put this sad diary back, when my feet hit something on the floor. It was a hidden compartment under one of the planks, just below the shelf with the boy's diary. Below the plank was an old-fashioned jar filled with seemingly random stuff.

 

A peek around the jar revealed some claws, rusty bottle caps, pieces of playing cards, a small head of an old teddy bear, coins, newspaper clips, candy wraps, a hazelnut, different feathers, a piece of wood, bolts, a bone, a teeth, and lots of other creepy stuff. There was a small sticky label saying "jar #1". Wait, there is more of this creepy stuff?

 

I opened the jar and I don’t know why I decided to put my hand inside instead of emptying the damn thing on the floor. There was some sticky substance on top of everything and my fingers dug right into it. And I wasn't in the attic anymore.

 

The world flashed and I saw a girl playing in front of the house. But the walls looked somewhat newer, everything was brighter. I looked at my hands to check them for the sticky stuff, and they were tiny! I was a little boy. What the f?

 

The real shock came when I realized I wasn't in control of the boy, I wasn't the boy. I didn't look at my hands, it was a coincidence. I was a witness trapped in his mind. Was I dreaming? No.

 

The boy stood up and emptied its pockets in one of the bushes around - he didn't want his dad to know he ate some of the candy. He threw away the wraps and went inside.

 

But the dad knew and the boy knew he knew right away. He kept walking towards his father, grabbed a very small yellow teddy bear on the way, sat on a small chair next to his dad and stood still. Waiting. And the beating started.

 

It was inhuman, fierce, filled with blood rage. I could feel every slap, kick on the stomach, on the back, everything. I felt the blood in my mouth. After an eternity everything was over.

 

- Say it! - The father yelled.

 

I was crying. No, the boy was crying, but I was too. He cleaned the tears from his eyes, looked at the monster in front of him and mumbled:

 

- I am not good enough.

 

- That's right. And you will never be. - Another slap and the father left.

 

A white flash. The pain faded away in a while and the boy took a wooden box from underneath the bed. There were quite a few Coke caps with some symbols on the opposite side. Of course, the old Coke games where you had to collect some letters or symbols under the caps in order to win something!

 

Another flash. The boy knocking on houses, selling candies. Every coin he was given warmth his heart and he put them in his pocket like they meant the entire world to him. He had one candy left when he saw his house close by, it was getting dark - and he ate it.

 

A flash, and a beating. He lost a tooth. He cried all night and even his sister couldn’t calm him. I want to punish his father so bad, but I can’t do anything. I am trapped in this and feel everything. I must get out.

 

Another flash shows me the boy to a river. Arkansas River. I can hear trains nearby. He was crying above a small heap. The sadness is unbearable. I know what this is. Here is buried a small dog. I am crying.

 

A big flash and I am holding a jar in an attic. And I am crying.

 

What just happened? Was this real? Did I fade? No. It was real. I don't believe in ghosts or similar stuff, but what happened to me was real and I knew it. I closed the jar and put it back there. I checked my watch and I found out no more than five minutes had passed. The thunders were still far away, though they were coming for sure.

 

What should I do? The answer was easy. I needed more of this experience, no matter how painful it was. I need to find another jar. A memory jar.

 

I wasn't careful anymore, I was searching absolutely randomly and I didn't care if I break something. I needed another! The second chest didn’t have anything but old dresses. Wait! The key! I started trying the key on each of the other chests and the third one, the smallest of all - clicked.

 

Notebooks, toys, drawings, albums, a jar. Jar #3. There were lots of pebbles, a rabbit's food, cones, pieces of matte glass, more and more. This jar was filled with things mostly collected from the nature. Opened, touched, a flash.

 

I was a girl. The girl I saw the last time in front of the house. I just knew it. I was walking in a forest, walking fast. Running. A flash. I am standing in front of a cave. I enter. A flash. I am at home, eavesdropping on the basement's door. My father is yelling at my mom. Beating her. She cries. She is not good enough for my father. Nobody is.

 

A flash. I am at the river. I am collecting pebbles, my brother loves them. And this piece of glass, it was in the water for God knows how long. It looks beautiful, he'll like it. A flash.

 

I didn't clean well one of the cups. Ten slaps on the cheek. How could I miss it? I was so careful and thorough! My cheeks are burning. A flash. I am running on the street, this man didn't pay for my brother's candies. I can't catch him. I am crying.

 

And I am back in the attic. Breathless. But I need another jar. 15 minutes of poking on the shelves reveal jar #10. It had lots of nails, dollar bills, broken glasses, old car keys, pieces of what seems to be a hat, among other stuff. I can't lose more time inspecting it. Open. Touch. Flash.

 

I am a police officer. Reading complaints of domestic violence. Flash. I knock on the door, a man opens me and lets me in. He and his wife assure me everything is fine, their neighbors are just plain wrong and snoopy. Flash.

 

I am in a car, looking through binoculars. I can’t be sure, but I think I see someone hitting someone. I can't make the people. A shadow passes through the window, but I don't find anything. A flash.

 

It's morning. I am preparing to go to the house on Harrison Ave. There is something going on there. I am alone with the man. He says I am not good enough, I didn’t find who killed his daughter. He is angry, I have to leave. He stands up. Flash.

 

My hands are tied and it looks I am lying in a cave. I hear water drops. Footsteps. A mosquito. Flash.

 

The attic was dark, the storm outside has arrived. The hail was fearsome by the sound the tiles were making.

 

- Mister! - A women shouted behind me. I almost jumped. - What are you doing? Are you trying to steal something?

 

- What? No. God, no! I was…thinking. Sorry. I am a journalist and I am interesting in old, stuff, you can tell. Do you know what these jars are? - I showed her the jar.

 

- I don't know anything. I am just here to sell something. - She was angry and getting impatient.

 

- Can I ask you what happened to the family, did the police have any leads?

 

- No, you can't. But I will tell you, because everybody asks. There is no mystery here. Some bad people probably kidnapped them and the police are just not good enough to do their job. My sweet brother is probably lying in some unmarked grave and these fools here don't want to keep searching for him. They are incapable tools, not deserving a cent of what they get.

 

"Like brother, like sister." - I thought.

 

- Thank you. Give me 5 minutes and I will be out.

 

I took an old painting, some pretty wooden box filled with used stamps, a baseball and a rusty locket. While searching loudly and fast through all the stuff in the attic - I found jar #5. Took him too.

 

I met the lady around the front door, waiting for me to come out.

 

- How much for these? - I showed her the stuff I took.

 

- The picture is ten, the rest is twenty. - She looked at me not expecting to pay. I can't describe you the surprise, when I gave her the money without a word of disagreement.

 

- I'll be back tomorrow. - I said. She even waved me goodbye, when I was stepping outside in the heavy rain.

 

Back in my friend's house I googled the Terries - the missing family. A 50-year old man, a 46-year old woman, a 16-year old girl and an 11-year old boy. Their neighbors reported them missing and the police handled this as an extreme case of domestic violence, but in the end their efforts were in vain. No evidence was found whatsoever.

 

My head was hurting. But I still had to deal with one more jar today. Jar #5. Instead of the usual routine, I opened it and emptied it on the kitchen table next to my laptop.

 

A weeding band, old tea bags still smelling nice, a piece of a wedding dress, blond strand of hair, airplane tickets to Hawaii, some sand and shells, a hotel key 21 - it was literally written on it, a silver spoon, broken nails with the polish still on them, a hairpin, among other things.

 

The sticky substance was all over the stuff. I picked up the hotel key. A flash.

 

It was warm and I could hear the ocean. I was in a hotel room. Cleaning. I was some of the hotel's staff. Odd. I expected to enter the woman's mind. I was just collecting the sheets when I noticed the small drops of blood on pillow. Lipstick and blood. A flash.

 

I am the horrible man, now young, on the beach. And she keeps telling me what to do, where she wants to go tomorrow. Not asking me one time what I want to do. Just like my father. Obviously she was thinking she is better than me. I couldn't listen to her anymore, she was so annoying. I hit her. A flash.

 

I cry alone on the beach. My husband hit me again today. He said I was not good enough. I love him, but I keep wondering if I didn't make a mistake. A flash. I am in a strange shop, a vanilla smell, many candles, and strange items everywhere. It's a voodoo shop or something like that, those things hanging on the walls creep me out. But I am here to see my future. A flash.

 

A women leaves crying the shop, but I want to help her, so I am mixing some ingredients in a pot. I know where they are staying - she forgot her hotel key. This will help her understand her against the husband. A flash.

 

My wife bit me today on the shoulder. I was missing a piece of the skin. While I was putting some alcohol on the wound I could swear I heard my father saying - "kill her, she's not good enough for you". I turn around, a shadow passes in the hallway. I run after the shadow and on the next turn I stop in front of my wife. She smiles, grabs my wounded shoulder and says - "Where are you going, honey, am I not good enough for you?" A flash.

 

HOLY SHIT! My head was going to explode, the pain was huge. I went to search for the aspirin and sat down on the couch. I couldn't get to the bedroom upstairs. I was going to sleep here. Tomorrow I was going to decide whether to pursue this story or not. I thought it was not worth it, not good enough maybe. These people were a bunch of freaks, nothing more.

 

But I wanted to know what happened to them because of the two children. They didn’t deserve this, any of it. So I'd probably continue.

 

I was just about falling asleep, still trying to decide what to do, when I saw a shadow with the corner of my eyes. Or was it a man? In camouflage? And the sleep came.

 

Part 2

 

The next morning I decided I had to be more careful with those jars. My head was still dizzy. I was sure what were those strange jars, I just couldn't fathom how they worked. The memory jars. It would have made for a great title in my next story. My editor was pressuring me for something interesting and the interesting definitely found me.

 

Anyway the morning was cold as it was about to start snowing. The rain was gone, but the fog was going to stay for at least a few more hours. I wasn't about to go back into the creepy house and start looking for more headache. Instead I decided to do some online research.

 

There weren't interesting stories about the Terries before their disappearance, so I began searching for similar cases across the state. Unfortunately my morning hours in front of my laptop weren't fruitful.

 

I was distracted the whole time though - the shadow from last night was haunting my thoughts. I was convinced it was just my imagination playing tricks, but… I think I saw something similar inside one of the jars. I decided to set a small camera for the night - I always carry one of those around, hidden inside a small bear toy.

 

My second day in Canon City was a complete waste of time. A tried to talk with some of the locals but they seemed all cold and completely not interested in helping me. They didn't even want to talk about the Terries. Some nutjobs, which they'd almost forgotten. I went back in my temporary home, setup the camera and had some good sleep.

 

The fog was gone in the morning and I knew I needed to go back. I didn't intend to search the attic again - I just wanted to talk to that lady and maybe take another look inside the rooms. I took a flashlight, tweezers and a pair of cotton-made gloves - just to be sure.

 

When I reached the house I noticed its door was wide open. Maybe some people got interested in the sale. I went inside but there was no one. And it was dead quiet. I tried to keep my cool, but you have to admit everything so far was beyond normal.

 

I shouted a few times 'Hello', but nobody was there. I was just about to leave, when I heard some noise coming from the second floor. Like someone was running. No, it wasn't some ghost sound you wonder if it's real or not. It was real.

 

I climbed the old wooden stairs and their creaks had definitely announced my presence. There were four rooms on the second floor and one of them was opened. 'Hello?' Still no answer.

 

I went to this welcoming room and it turned out the master bedroom. I won’t lie - I expected the bedroom in this house to be full of antique furniture and old pictures. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but still. Instead everything was close to what Ikea is offering these days - a white double bed, a white dresser, a wardrobe with sliding doors, and similar stuff. There was just one picture - all four Terries and the Grand Canyon. The only thing old in this room was actually the parquet.

 

There was no one in the room. Now this is scary. I heard those footsteps. I heard them!

 

Well, I was there, no one else was, so… Yes, I decided to poke around a bit. Checked the drawers, the mattress, the wardrobe - nothing but few clothes and old cosmetics. I looked through the window hoping to see someone outside, but nada. I was just about to walk away from the windows, when the wood below my feet did a familiar noise. There was a hidden compartment for sure. I met a few of those through my attic journeys, so I knew this sound well.

 

Took one of my keys, pushed it down and the wood succumbed easily. There were some pieces of glass below with some small objects - but nothing of real value - a small flashlight, few coins, a bullet casing, a hairclip, a small rusty ring like it was meant for a girl, a small plastic pony toy, a lighter, a piece of cloth, and what seemed to be dog tags, just below the blue piece of fabric. I reached for the tags, they were sticky…A flash.

 

I am a little girl and I am walking in the woods. I've just passed through a small stream. I can smell the fresh scent of grass and mushrooms. It's wonderful. But I am sad, very sad. And in pain. I was beaten again and again. I was not good enough. And I had no right to talk to my dad about my mom. A flash. It's a cave and I am hiding something behind some stone about 150 feet inside. I can't make a shape of it. A flash. I am running back through the forest. Someone is chasing me. I can hear the footsteps closing on me. Someone fired a weapon, or a rifle. The footsteps stopped. A flash. My father is beating me because I was not good enough and I didn’t listen not to go outside. A flash. I am trying to breath by I can't because all that blood in my mouth. My lungs are burning. I can smell my aftershave from this morning, the fresh grass…And the sun…It's fading…

 

I snapped out of this breathless and in huge pain. I was so stupid! Of course this was a memory jar! There was the freaking number glued on the back of the parquet piece I pulled over. It's #7. But I knew where the cave was.

 

I was just leaving the damned house, when I saw someone watching me through the very same window I'd found the jar. It was just a glimpse and when I turned my head back for a better look the person had vanished. Whatever. Hopefully I was never returning back here.

 

I went back to my place, took an aspirin and sat on the couch for a while. Got some lunch and then left for the forest. I had to find that cave. The girl hid something there and the whole thing cost the life of…someone. Who shot him? I didn't know, but I was close to get some answers for the first time. I could feel it. Yes, this time I'd do better, the last few times I was just not careful enough. Not good at all.

 

The forest was absolutely stunning - most of the leaves had already fallen, but the few I could see on the trees painted one of the best autumn pictures I've ever seen. The people living in Cannon City were definitely lucky with such a great scenery wherever they turn their heads.

 

I followed the footsteps of the girl, or at least what I could remember. It wasn't that hard - I found the stream by noise, then headed northwest as she did. Half an hour later I saw the cave. Some bushes had grown in front of the entrance, but I got them out of the way quickly.

 

The cave wasn't big - about 20 feet wide and 300 feet long. By the end there was a small lake. The pile of stones was easy to spot, though some moss had grown by one of its sides. I searched it and found a small pouch. I put the gloves on and then emptied the pouch in my hand. There was a small vial inside, filled with some greenish liquid. A poison may be?

 

On my way back to the city I thought I saw someone behind me. No, it was probably just my mind playing more tricks. Nobody was following me, or chasing me.

 

After I got some dinner I thought for quite some time what to do with that vial. I knew my way around some hazardous materials, but I still decided to open the vial and smell it. Odd - it smelled like tea. Don’t you worry, I didn't taste it!

 

Next morning I called a friend of mine in a NY crime lab and he gave me the address to a local chemical lab. Hopefully they could give me some answers. I went to the address and met with a friendly receptionist. I told her the truth - that I found this in the forest and I just wanted to know what's made of. She gave me the lab's card and said to check back in two days.

 

Two days! Well it seemed I was going inside that house once again. I had nothing to do, so I could try searching for more clues. This time - no jars, just diaries and pictures.

 

The next day the lady was in the house. She said she was feeling sick yesterday and there was no one here. I said nothing. This was just another creepy occurrence among so many.

 

I went straight to the attic and in a while I found myself reading an old diary. The events took place about a year after a newborn died. Her husband wasn't the man she fell in love with and was behaving very strange. He was angry for no reason and he'd been saying she was not good enough. About everything. She tried to get a divorce and then the beating started. Awful story.

 

I found another diary - the little girl's this time. I was about in the middle of it when things got interested. She was seeing the shadow! The same shadow I saw inside one of the jars, probably the same one I saw in my house. OMG! What I was hoping to achieve doing all this stuff anyway? I had to get out of this place as fast as I could.

 

I calmed down, but it took me a while. I almost got a panic attack! Anyway, reading through the pages gave me a better idea of what's happening. The girl began to suspect this is not a ghost, but a bad man, and she often stayed all night hoping to see it. And one night she did! She was hiding below the kitchen table, when she saw him approaching the fridge, holding something in his hand.

 

The girl had courage! She grabbed an empty beer bottle and smashed it into the guy's head. He fell, she screamed for help, but then he recovered, stood up and tried to leave. She tried to stop him while he was in a hurry to leave the house, but she was just able to snatch something from his neck. The dog tags!

 

Those belonged to some John Miller, private first class, United States Air Force. Strange. He was an airman. Wait? Was this some government conspiracy? No way, all of this was too creepy for such a thing. Probably another lost soul.

 

I read the rest of the diary but everything went back to usual - the girl got grounded for what she did. Her father claimed she was not good enough. For letting the man escape! Man, this is a horrible father!

 

After a few months she was able to go back to her favorite cave and hid what she took from the man that night. And the diary ended.

 

I decided to search the attic from top to bottom. I cracked open the locked chests, checked all the boxes. But there were no more jars, no diaries or documents. Just old stuff stored in there for years and years.

 

I made another quick tour through the house and saw an old photograph on one of the walls - a young man in an army uniform. I asked the lady and she said it was indeed the missing husband. He served about six years before his dishonorable discharge for a classified reason. This definitely got my attention.

 

Wait, this pictures was taken somewhere close. I recognized the Cheyenne Mountain. I needed Google. Right now. Waved the woman goodbye and hurried to my guest house.

 

I opened my laptop and began searching for army bases nearby. There was one - in the deeps of Cheyenne Mountain. This was beginning to stink. I suspected some government involvement for real.

 

Maybe the Terries got into something bad. Or witness protection? Maybe. Hopefully I did no harm poking, if it’s the latter.

 

The very next morning I'd be going to the army base. But first I had to sleep. I washed my teeth, and was just about to go to sleep, when someone hit the back of my head. Hard! A second before I pass out I saw two men.

 

I didn't know how much time I was out, but when I woke up I was in a small gray room, on a chair, with a single old lamp above a metal door. The door was locked. I was trapped. I knocked and knocked, but no one came.

 

After a while I gave up. There was no one in front of the door. And the room was empty. Me, the chair and this familiar scent of tea.

 

Part 3

 

I could hear their voices. I could smell their clothes, the disgusting odor of sweat, smoke and urine. I was going crazy, day by day. Every minute I was imprisoned in this room was slowly leading me to a mental one-way breakdown. I knew the end was coming, my end of a sane human being.

 

Then I saw that lamp again. And it became my angel, my savior. It was me and the lamp. Old glass cover, protected with iron wires. I'd seen those in old military facilities, but that was not important right now. Me and the lamp. Me and the lamp.

 

There is the smell again. Green tea. I'd always hated tea, no matter the kind, but I was becoming to like this scent. It's calming. And it was something that became familiar to my thoughts and gave me some perverse sense of security. I know, it's sick. But maybe that's what they wanted. Who were they?!

 

I lost count of the days. I slept more than twenty times, but I didn't know what this meant in hours. The lamp. Yes.

 

The dizziness stopped for a while but then it came back. And it was horrible. The time didn’t matter anymore. Nothing did. I wanted to die. The lamp became blurred. My hands…I could barely see my fingers. I couldn't even walk. I had to crawl for the metal bowl with that awful mash. I vomited once. Or twice.

 

That was it. The food stopped coming and I knew I was about to die in a matter of hours. I gave up. Whatever they'd needed me for, I was not good for them anymore. At least it was over.

 

 

I opened my eyes and I was in the cave. I could barely remember my prison, but I was free. But there was this unfamiliar anger rising up beneath all my thoughts. I need to calm down. Green tea maybe? Not now. I needed answers. They'd kept me for God's now how long and I needed to know WHY!

 

I reached towards my pocket and my phone was there. It was on. I clicked on the power key and the screen lit up with the time and date. No way. It was the afternoon of the same November day I went to search for the cave and found the vial. Maybe they'd done this on purpose - to play tricks with my mind - indeed I was about to lose it.

 

I don’t really know why, but I decided to check inside that pile of stones once again. And there was the pouch, probably still had the vial inside. What was happening? I put the pouch in my pocket and went back to the house.

 

I stopped four people on the way and they also told me the same date and time. But I could clearly remember myself spending the evening at home, before the kidnapping. No, something was very, very wrong.

 

Back in my friend's house I checked my laptop, tried the internet and indeed no one was lying me for the date. I wasn't missing time, on the opposite, I had more time in my mind than I should had. Another aspirin, went straight to bed and left everything for tomorrow.

 

The next day I found some information about the Cheyanne Mountain complex, took my car and went there. The military outpost stopped me near the complex for my ID and business. What was I thinking? Hey I am coming to ask you why you kidnapped me yesterday evening and held me for a week? Right…

 

I said I am a journalist, showed my press card and told them I needed to speak with a supervisor about some possible involvement of their airman John Miller into the Terries' kidnapping. It seemed that worked and they escorted me to a small hangar nearby.

 

Colonel Shepard was about 50-year old man, with a stone face and white hear. I told him about what I found so far - at least the parts that made sense - and he seemed very interested at first. He couldn't talk about Peter Terry - the dishonorably discharged husband - but once I mentioned John Miller, the colonel became agitated.

 

Apparently John Miller was a fictional persona, created by the locals for various reasons - all with a common goals - to make the complex look bad. People believed the government was using all the facilities to make some experiments and they'd wanted them gone. Others believed there were aliens underground. Nuclear weapons and nuclear dump, too. Theories most of the nutjobs would believe.

 

But I knew there was more, especially when I was offered a tea, a green tea! The only reason the colonel was so patient with me was my press card, nothing else, but I'd make everything I could from his patience.

 

I asked about the archives and not classified materials and I was left alone into a huge storage, which looked like a giant library. I spent almost the entire day looking through platoon numbers and names, incident reports, and similar documents. And I found nothing.

 

It was getting dark outside and I was just finishing a kitchen report, when my thumb touched something sticky on the back of the page. It was just a small drop of something, which looked like honey. But the moment I touched it my head vibrated like a giant buzzer.

 

I quickly found the box I took this report from and emptied it on the floor. There was a very small jar - inside it had some keys, UAF wings, a bullet, an old photo, a small pebble and pearl. Jar #9.

 

The hell with everything, I wanted to take a look. Open. Touch. Flash.

 

I am inside my prison again. Into an army uniform. I could see my tag. Terry. I am starving and dehydrated. Don't know the day. Don't need to know it. A flash. I had my orders. Stop giving food subject number 31. But I recognized him. He was my father. They wanted to kill him. And I made a decision to help him escape.

 

A flash. They are safe now. I told my father the truth - about the hospital, the army, the Millers. Everything. But he couldn’t understand it. He was angry. He said that I should have stayed dead. I was not good enough to be alive. Flash. The girl is going to the woods. She stole my tags and the vial. I had orders. They needed to continue the experiment. I kept chasing her, I just wanted to ask her about the vial. And they shot Shepard. The colonel's own son! I was sure they were aiming at me though.

 

Wow. I was back in the storage and was shocked. It was dark already. I packed my things and left the whole place in a hurry. Went back to my house, locked everything and locked myself in the basement. My nerves were done with me for today. I started crying. Like a little child, who just saw the monster under the bed.

 

I put everything I've collected so far into a jar that was sitting on the table next to me - a pebble from the river, the dog tags, a flash drive with all the info I had on the Terries, a piece of a kitchen report I stole from the base, one of the keys I found in the attic, a diary page, and a drawing - also from the attic. And the pouch. I still didn’t want to look what's inside. I was afraid, no terrified, what I could find.

 

Where's the teddy bear with the hidden cam? Ah, in my jacket's pocket. I took it in a hurry from the bedroom. Removed the microSD card and put it in my laptop. Of course, there was no one captured. Maybe the recording was tampered. Will check on this later.

 

The microSD card was the last thing I put in the jar. If anything happens to me I hoped this jar would help solving the mystery.

 

I tried to sleep but I couldn't.

 

Next morning I talked with the Terries' neighbors about the Millers. They turned out to be an outside family, which had lived in a house near the west end of Canon City. They'd left many years ago and the house was abandoned. My next stop.

 

As I was just parking outside the Millers' house a single thunder brought the rain back. Calming monotonous rain. I loved this sound for most of my life, yet it was giving me the chills and…anger. Man!

 

The Miller's house was indeed abandoned and already in ruins. Most of the roof was gone, while the five rooms had lost most of the external walls. Some furniture was left here and there, an old couch, and part of the kitchen. The vegetation slowly claimed the place through the years. I felt like I am disturbing a grave.

 

I checked that couch and the drawers, but besides a few old pieces of clothes and some dusty cups, there was nothing. Then I remembered the basement. This old shack had to have one, too. Another sweep and I found the entrance. Under the couch. Odd.

 

While most of the wood was gone, the basement was made entirely of concrete - floor, walls, roof. Once I opened the lid I entered into a huge room. There were lots of empty shelves, old jam jars, a snowboard, two tables, wood-modeling instruments, and once beautiful carpet.

 

I lit up my flashlight and took a closer look to pretty much anything that looked remotely suspicions, but indeed everything turned out to be a stash of old junk. Until I stepped on the carpet. Something wooden creaked and almost succumbed. There was something below.

 

The concrete beneath the carpet was crushed into tiny pieces and removed for the most part. There were some old planks on top of what seems to be a pit in the floor. I got rid of the planks. JESUS! TWO. FREAKING. CORPSES. Four empty eye sockets were staring at me, something between asking for help and sending me to hell. A normal person would have left already, but not me. 

 

I took a closer look, but couldn't make anything of the bodies. Or the clothes. But I could clearly see the one was shot in the head, while the other had at least three bullet holes - the chest, the arm and the head. And there was a small note and a jar. Oh…

 

I took the note and read it. It was written by John Miller - a suicidal note. He wrote that no one should live the nightmares he and his father lived through, so he was ending them now. Poor soul.

 

This jar had no number, was full of dust, tea leaves, dirt and bullet casings, but I somewhat felt it's the final one. I was still missing a few pieces, but maybe this one could finally clear the story for me. C'mon, one more to go. Open. Touch. Flash.

 

I am explaining my mother they must run and leave my father here. He is of no good to them anymore, no more poisoning their lives. She agrees. Flash. I am driving the car through a blizzard, my little brother and sister are sniveling on the backseat, and my mother is sleeping next to me. Flash. I wave them goodbye and notice the Alaskan flag on one of the white house's window. They'd be safe here. They are the Millers now.

 

Flash. I am back at my foster parent's house. My brother is in the basement, still fighting the ropes to escape. I take the gun, head straight in front of him and shot him. Bang. Bang. Bang. He finally stopped moving. The last one cracked his skull. His life full of pain, torture and misery is over.

 

Flash. It's been three weeks since I shot my brother and I know some neighbors suspect me. I stage my departure from the town, head back to the house during the night, laid next to the rotting corpse of my brother. That awful odor and this pleasant scent of green tea. A solace, finally. Bang.

 

A bright flash.

 

I finally knew what happened to the Terries. Their long lost brother saved them. From the husband. And he saved Peter, too. From something. And then he saved himself the only way a solder could think of.

 

I heard footsteps outside. Some dry twigs cracking. I took one of the bullets from the jar and snuck out of the house through one of the decaying walls. I heard a voice, whispering something to other people. A gun click.

 

I ran for my life. A thunder. A shot. A horrible hailstorm had just hit the Canon City, but it helped me escape guys who were chasing me. I got to the car and drove fast. But it wasn't even a mile when I lost control and hit a street lamp.

 

 

"Jeff? Jeff, are you alright? How are you feeling?" It was Amanda. What? It took me a while to realize I was at Amanda's house, on the couch. My bag pack wasn't even opened yet. I asked her what's going on, and she said her flight was postponed for tomorrow because of the bad weather and she returned home. I was completely out and she was becoming to worry.

 

Apparently I never left the house, just slept four or five hours.

 

And then the anger came out. Raw, animal, obsessive feeling - pure blinding anger. She was lying, everyone was. This whole thing was a setup. I asked her about the Terries, but she didn’t know anything. The military complex - turned out closed ten years ago. I didn't trust a word coming from her mouth.

 

I asked her neighbor and he said me the same things. Google just confirmed all of this.

 

I sat and tried to calm down. I was just not good enough, didn't had the capacity to comprehend everything around me. Couldn’t understand the life itself. And this stupid Amanda couldn't help with her babbling.

 

I took my bag, started the car and headed back home. This whole city was no good to me.

 

 

Seven years later, nowadays

 

Today I god fired. My editor is still a total dickhead, not wanting to publish my breaking story on the Terries. It was not good enough, too crazy and creepy, absolutely impossible. He said I am a nutjob. Me! Can you imagine?

 

I got tired of this shitty job anyway. I packed everything in boxes and took them to the garage. I was going to rid of them eventually, the stuff reminding me of this job, but not today. And I found my daughter poking through my stuff. How she dares? Didn't I teach her well?! No, she is not good enough.

 

I'd grounded her for a month - no TV, no leaving her room for anything but school. She had detention and she had to learn. She had to become good, no matter the cost. I needed someone to understand, to follow my steps and see what went wrong. Life was more than living and I needed someone good to get me back in time. Back in November, so I could learn more, before everything disappeared.

 

I slapped her. Twice. The anger almost took control of my mind, but then I thought of the lamp. I sent her back to her room, added another week to her punishment and went to pour myself some green tea. It's the only thing that keeps me calm.

 

 

Dear diary, my father is angry again. I am still not good enough for him. My mother wasn't either and that's why he sent her away. Six months have passed and I still don't know where she is. But I will keep the memory of her alive, so when she returns I will remember everything. I will be good for my father and he'll bring her back.

 

I am putting this jar, #1, with some items that remind me of her - some of her favorite candies, the tooth that the fairy forgot to pick up (I know my mom is the tooth fairy), her favorite cooking articles from the magazines, the rubber duck she gave me for my birthday.

 

And I found a small pouch in the garage, inside one of my father's jars. I got the memory jars idea from him. I opened it and there was this small bottle with something yellowish and sticky. Like honey. I don't know what is it, but I tried it and it was delicious. It reminds me of my mom, she loved honey. I am putting a tiny drop of this in each jar - to keep the memory alive.

 

So, this is my first jar and I will remember. I will be good enough. Not today, but soon.

 

The end

© Калоян Колев All rights reserved.

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