Arthur Noya was an ordinary man, who lived an ordinary life. Nothing he did throughout his life would make a lasting impact on the world — nothing he said or created would shift the consciousness of man forward, or throw humanity into a golden age. He garnered no great fame, and no great wealth, and died destitute surrounded by his solitude and the dozen and a half glistening remains of whiskey and beer bottles, and the innumerable pages of his journal, spread throughout the mess of his room. Scrawled on countless sheets of lined paper.
Mad ramblings, they’ve been called by the few people who’ve read them. Torn from the scattered mind, riddled with the insanity wrought from the self-imposed solitude and isolation. But within each of these pages, I have come to learn, is some truth to the world. A deep, underlying truth that must be shared and learned, about the very nature of our existence. Hidden from most. Hidden from me until his words opened my eyes.
I do not know why it was that he left me his journal of all people. He had family members remaining, some of which I had met before. In about the half decade that I lived in the apartment next to his, we spoke to one another a handful of times. I suppose that was the most amount of human contact he received in his final years. Or, perhaps, he saw his younger self in me: in the loneliness that purveyed through both of our existences. Or perhaps he really was mad.
Midsummer had come in a wave of heat that cooked the valley I lived in like a cast-iron skillet over an open fire when the smell of rotting meat wafted through the wood-paneling of our shared wall. It became unbearable after the second or third day, so I did what any other person would have done: I pounded on the wall.
“Noya!” I called, as the dull thuds of my fists on hollow wood rang throughout my apartment.
The only answer that came was the chatter of his television set, bleeding through with the putrid aroma. I went for his door next, pounding on it with the flat edge of my fist. The composite wood gave way and creaked open. A wave — dammed by the thin wooden door of the putrid smell of rotted flesh washed over me. My stomach twisted and churned before I managed to cup my hand over my nose to block out a bit of the smell and make peeking into the room bearable.
Monochromatic light flickered from the ancient television set, pressed against our shared wall, and filtered through the faded red, moth-eaten curtains to illuminated the figure seated on the couch.
Flesh dripped from the ripe body, and stained the white-felt sofa brown. As the summer sun beat down over the red-brick building, and cooked the dead man where he last sat. His head was turned to the side: hollowed holes where his dark, beady eyes once were, stared blankly at the western wall.The curls of his grayed hair fell freely from the top of his head, and gathered in pools of rot on the floor behind the sofa, and those cheeks that once held kindly wrinkles were eaten away by a family of rats that were still chewing on the muscles of his jaw, now slack and twitching with every nibble from the animals sitting in his mouth.
I jolted out as soon as I could comprehend what I was seeing. The contents of my stomach burned the inside of my throat as they stained the hallway’s shag carpeting. I staggered inside of my apartment and called the police. They arrived shortly after, and with a white sheet over his eaten face, they took him to the city morgue. I had to vomit as I described what I had seen when the police came to my door. I only caught a quick glimpse — seconds that seemed to stretch out for minutes, but that glimpse has never left me, even to this day, and I don’t suppose it ever will.
The smell stuck in my apartment, and I couldn’t seem to escape it with a walk, either. So I moved, and I thought I was done with the ordinary man, Arthur Noya. Fate, however, had different plans. About a month after I moved into my new place, a knock came to my door, and I found myself looking at a well dressed man, leading a delivery driver to my landing.
The well dressed man introduced himself as the attorney for the Noya family estate, and had informed me that Arthur mentioned me by name in his Last Will and Testament as the recipient of the countless pages of his journal spread all across the small apartment. That was the first time I heard the phrase, “mad ramblings,” whispered beneath the breath of the well dressed man.
I signed off to it, and the delivery driver set down a half-dozen black and white cardboard boxes, with their leads sealed shut with a layer of tape over the top. I carried them in one by one. Countless leaves of paper rested within — in the first few boxes, they seemed to be careful with the papers, setting them down on their sides and piling the rest behind them, so that the pages were filed neat and orderly — like one was looking at the crack of a book before it was opened. They must have given up at some point, because after the first two boxes, the rest were just crammed of papers. Each page was stained brown — from the rot that stained the air, or the liquor, I did not know. A few of them still had the smell of rotting flesh permeating them. Briefly, I thought of throwing them out, or burning them on the beach, but I’d thought that would be a waste. There had to be a reason he left them for me, after all.
Each page was filled out, front to back, and in every margin, with messy, hurried handwriting. I dug through the boxes, and I almost agreed with the assessment of the attorney. Mad ramblings, indeed. At the very least, it made for some good reading. Eventually, I found the first page. It was buried halfway in the third box, marked conveniently with a little, “1,” in the bottom right corner.
“There is one undeniable truth,” it began, “And that is, that I am dying. It’s inevitable. I can feel that dark specter creeping up on me everyday — feel the warmth leaving my body little by little. Every breath is more labored than the last, and darkness crowds my vision and my every waking thought. There’s no telling long how I’ll last at this point. It won’t be long. A few weeks, a month, maybe. But I will be dead.
And so I best get to writing, for I have many things to share — many secrets to spill, and many truths to tell. And, before the darkness overwhelms me — before my last breath leads my soul out of my coil, I wish to lay all of it out there for you, so at least some part of my story lives on after I do.
There is a world among our own. Invisible. Ethereal. Intangible, yet there. It rests above our’s and and wraps itself around every facet of our existence. Subtly influencing — changing the destiny of individual men.
It it possible to set foot in this world but once in your lifetime. It will be in a dream. A dream far more vivid than any you have had before, and one that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
I still remember mine — it was during the winter right before my tenth Christmas. I stood on the solid ground in our world, and looked into the other. Every thing was muted, as if every color in existence was mixed with a thick dollop of gray. Murky water lay a foot or so off the ground, as if suspended by some unseen force. I made my way to it, and stepped through.
Though the water didn’t touch me, it rippled as my shins passed through it. Round orbs of white light darted between my legs, and swam up the small of my back, turning into a fish as it crested my head and fell down my chest, splashing the water as it turned back into the orb. Another zipped past my ear, screeching as if it were a hawk.
More of the world spread out before me, as if a great fog had been lifted from my eyes. More of the orbs of light — sprites as I would come to call them, flitted back and forth all over the place. Some darted into our world, crashing through the muted veil. Leaving ripples in the air as if they were stones dipping beneath still surface of a glossy lake. Each ripple spread far and wide, reaching far into the sky, and deep into the ground.
Others seemed content with dancing around the tall stalks of the strange plants that grew here. Each one was constructed of harsh, jagged lines of red and white, resembling a plant that I was familiar with. A willow tree — cat-tails. Grass. These sprites danced around them like fireflies over a bog. It was so odd, yet it felt as if were a natural part of this world, as assuredly as the grass in our world grew in thin green blades, the grass in this world grew in red-white jagged light.
No artificial constructs marred this floating world. Instead those same jagged lines climbed every building of the city on the other side of the muted veil, as a morning glory vine climbs a chain linked fence, twisting and turning their way above every man-made construct around. They looked to me like the veins running down my arms. Each pulsated as thousands of white orbs moved through them.
Something flew by my head, drawing my attention to it. One of the orbs stopped in front of me and floated in the air, as if judging my worth. It felt as if I was standing in front of an intimate friend — one that I had know before my life had even begun. I wasn’t scared when it passed into me, and melded itself with my very being. A comforting warmth spread throughout me, and I felt utterly at peace. A jagged plant wrapped its way up my leg, and up my body, and I awoke.
Dawn rose in my bedroom morning, and I woke with the feeling that I had just been imparted a grand secret — something that I could never tell anyone. For the rest of the day, I swore I could see the jagged lines on every wall of every building. Or see the residual water floating above the ground. That went away after the first month. What didn’t go away, however, was the fog that seemed to crowd my vision in every waking moment. My sight was the price to pay to know the secret.
I learned later in my life, that the other people who knew, also paid a price. Some, like me, lost their vision. Others lost their taste, and still others lost their sense of touch. Hell, I knew a guy who lost a tooth in exchange for the secret. The worst off of all of us, were those who paid the price with their sanity, locked away in padded rooms, or in dank jail cells.
Since then, I’ve come across countless stories of these things, and encountered many more — the orbs of light that flitted between our world and their’s, changing their shapes as they did so. I did not go out looking for them at first, but they seems to find their way to me all the same, as natural as the rain falling from the heaven to earth. Eventually, it was me who sought these stories out.
There are a very few things that I am certain of in this world. The first of which is that I am dying, and I will soon be gone from this world. The second of which, is that the stories I have been witness to need to be told. They cannot die with me, and so I pen these pages in some vain hope that they find you and you, at least, carry them with you for some time. And thirdly, and most importantly: dealing with the orbs of light — the creatures born of that world who pass into our’s in their many different shapes and sizes, always always comes with a price. Be warned.”