I DIDN'T HEAR ANYTHING FROM ANYONE FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS, WHICH I SPENT JUST EXISTING, DOING SMALL THINGS. I WAS SITTING IN A COFFEEHOUSE READING THE NEWSPAPER WHEN I CAME ACROSS A LITTLE BLURB IN THE LOCAL SECTION THAT SAID A MAN NAMED MAURICE AIKENS, THIRTY-THREE YEARS OLD, FROM POTOMAC, MARYLAND, WAS KILLED IN A CAR ACCIDENT THE NIGHT BEFORE, A ONE CAR ACCIDENT. HE HIT A DEER AND HE RAN OFF THE ROAD, IN MANASSAS. HE WAS DEAD, JUST LIKE THAT. I READ THAT LITTLE BLURB THREE TIMES. I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT. WHEN I LOOKED UP FROM THE PAPER, I LOOKED RIGHT AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE COFFEEHOUSE, AND A MAN WAS COMING THROUGH THE DOOR AT THAT PRECISE MOMENT, AND I SWORE IT WAS HIM, A THIN MAN DRESSED MOSTLY IN BLACK, COMING IN, LOOKING AROUND FOR SOMEONE. BUT OF COURSE IT WASN'T HIM. IN THAT MOMENT, THOUGH, I COULDN'T BREATHE. MAURICE WAS ACTUALLY DEAD, TWO NIGHTS AFTER BEING IN THE WOODS, AND IT WASN'T SOME TRANSCENDENCE, HE HADN'T SACRIFICED HIMSELF, HE'D HIT A DEER DRIVING ALONG AT FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING, AND THAT WAS IT. WHAT IT FELT LIKE, THOUGH, WAS ONE MORE PIECE OF SOMETHING CLOSING IN ON ME, SOMETHING COMING FOR ME, ONE STEP AFTER ANOTHER. IT FELT LIKE A CHAIN WAS BEING PULLED, AND I WAS ATTACHED TO IT, AND I DIDN'T KNOW WHERE IT WAS TAKING ME. I CONSIDERED CHECKING MYSELF INTO A HOSPITAL. I NEEDED TO BE PROTECTED, I THOUGHT, AND IF THE ONLY WAY I COULD DO IT WAS TO DRIVE SOMEWHERE AND COMMIT MYSELF, THEN MAYBE IT WAS TIME. ALL I HAD OTHERWISE WAS DRINKING, STARTING TO DRINK AT ABOUT NOON, LEAVING MYSELF TWO GOOD CLEAR HOURS IN THE MORNING BEFORE I BASICALLY CHECKED OUT OF LIFE ENTIRELY FOR THE REST OF THE DAY, EVERY DAY. I WASN'T GOING TO GET A JOB, I WOULD JUST BE EVICTED EVENTUALLY, HAVE NOWHERE TO GO. SO THE NEXT DAY I THOUGHT ABOUT IT MORE, AND I HEADED OUT AND WALKED UNTIL MY FEET HURT, I WAS WALKING AND TRYING TO KEEP MYSELF AWAY FROM DRINKING, GETTING FURTHER AND FURTHER OUT, MILE AFTER MILE UNTIL I DIDN'T KNOW REALLY WHERE I WAS. I WAS DEEP IN THE SUBURBS AND IT STARTED TO RAIN.

I WENT INTO AN ANONYMOUS-LOOKING SPORTS BAR IN A STRIP MALL, HOPING JUST TO STAY DRY, AND HOPING I COULD GET SOMETHING TO EAT THERE. THERE WAS ALMOST NO ONE INSIDE, NOTHING ON THE TV SETS, NOBODY PLAYING POOL, NO WAITRESS WORKING. THERE WAS JUST A GUY BEHIND THE BAR, SO I SAT THERE AND ORDERED A SANDWICH, AND WHEN IT CAME I WENT OVER TO A BOOTH IN A CORNER AND SAT THERE EATING IT. FROM WHERE I WAS SITTING I COULD SEE THE BOOTH OPPOSITE THE AISLE, AND THERE WAS A PRIEST SITTING THERE, JUST SITTING, NOT EATING OR DRINKING ANYTHING. HE WAS MAYBE FORTY YEARS OLD. HIS HAIR WAS GOING GRAY, AND HE DIDN'T HAVE MUCH OF IT, IT WAS REALLY SHORT ON THE SIDES, ALMOST SHAVED, AND HE WAS VERY MUSCULAR, THOUGH I COULDN'T TELL IT THEN. I COULDN'T SEE HIS ARMS BECAUSE HE WAS WEARING THE CLOTHES OF A PRIEST, LONG SLEEVES, COLLAR, AND BLACK SLACKS. AND HE HAD SORT OF SMALL EYES, THEY SEEMED UNUSUALLY SMALL, REALLY SET INTO THE SOCKETS. THEY WERE BROWN, I THINK. EVEN WHEN HE SMILED HIS EYES DIDN'T SMILE MUCH, YOU COULDN'T TELL HIS CHANGES OF EXPRESSION FROM THEM. I LOOKED OVER AT HIM FROM TIME TO TIME AND HE FINALLY LOOKED AT ME AND HE SHRUGGED AND HE SAID, IVE BEEN STOOD UP, LOOKS LIKE.' AND I SAID SOMETHING POINTLESS, LIKE 'THAT'S TOO BAD', AND THEN HE GOT UP AND HE CAME OVER TO MY BOOTH, AND HE JUST SAT ACROSS FROM ME, JUST LIKE THAT. WHEN HE GOT UP I SAW HOW TALL HE WAS, HE WAS TALLER THAN I WAS, TALLER THAN 6-2. HE INTRODUCED HIMSELF TO ME AS FATHER HALL. HE SAID HE WAS EXPECTING A FRIEND BUT THE FRIEND WAS AN HOUR AND A HALF LATE, AND HE SAID HE THOUGHT I LOOKED ILL, AND I TOLD HIM YES, I HAD SOME KIND OF A FEVER, AND I WAS VERY TIRED FROM WALKING. I REMEMBER NOW HE NEVER SHOOK MY HAND, WHICH WAS ACTUALLY A RELIEF TO ME. HE ASKED ME HOW LONG I HAD BEEN OUT WALKING, SINCE I WAS SO DRENCHED, THE RAIN HAD REALLY COME DOWN ON ME, AND I SAID IT HAD BEEN AT LEAST TWO HOURS. HE SAID HE WISHED HE COULD GIVE ME A RIDE BUT HE WAS ON FOOT HIMSELF AND HE WOULD HAVE LEFT BY NOW, EXCEPT FOR THE RAIN. SO WE TALKED FOR A WHILE AS I ATE. HE SAID HE NOTICED THAT I SEEMED VERY DOWN, AND I TOLD HIM IT HAD BEEN A ROUGH COUPLE OF DAYS, AND A ROUGH COUPLE OF MONTHS, AND SOMEHOW WE GOT TO TALKING ABOUT HOW I HAD GOTTEN INTO THAT ACCIDENT UP IN THE SHENANDOAHS AND I HADN'T GONE BACK TO MY FATHER'S HOUSE AND I HAD NO JOB, AND I TOLD HIM ABOUT WORKING FOR PETER, AND GETIING INVOLVED WITH SOME FRIENDS WHO TURNED OUT TO BE BAD FOR ME. WHEN I FINISHED EATING WE KEPT TALKING. HE ASKED ME A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT MYSELF, AND HE REALLY WANTED TO KNOW HOW MY FRIENDS HAD TURNED OUT NOT TO BE FRIENDS. SO I FOUND MYSELF TELLING HIM THE ENTIRE STORY, EVERYTHING FROM MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE CLEANING JOB TO THE STRANGE SCRATCHING SOUNDS IN PETER'S HOUSE, TO MY MEETING MAURICE, TO THE MARKS ON MY WRISTS AND ON MY NECK, TO THE WAY THEY'D TAKEN ME INTO THE WOODS. HE WAS SO EASY TO TALK TO, HE ACCEPTED EVERYTHING, HE DIDN'T BLINK WHEN I MENTIONED SATANISM AND HOW I HAD BEEN SUCKED INTO MAURICE'S WORLD. IT ALL CAME OUT, I DIDN'T LEAVE ANYTHING OUT EXCEPT FOR HOW I HAD BEEN FIGHTING THE PAINKILLERS AND NOW ALCOHOL. WE SAT THERE FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR, AND AT SOME POINT WHEN I WAS TALKING ABOUT HOW I'D FOUND OUT ABOUT MAURICE'S DEATH, I REALIZED I WAS CRYING. AND FATHER HALL DIDN'T DO THE OBVIOUS THING, WHICH WAS TALK ABOUT GOD. HE NEVER ONCE MENTIONED GOD, OR CHRIST. HE DIDN'T TOUCH ME, DIDN'T COMFORT ME. HE WAITED TILL I HAD REGAINED MYSELF AND THEN HE SAID, 'I THINK I SHOULD TELL YOU, YOU MIGHT BE IN A LOT OF DANGER STILL.' I FIGURED HE WAS TALKING ABOUT MAURICE'S FRIENDS, BUT HE MEANT MY MENTAL STATE. HE ASKED ME IF I HAD THOUGHT ABOUT CHECKING INTO A HOSPITAL, SO OF COURSE I TOLD HIM YES, BUT THAT I WAS AFRAID TO DO IT, BECAUSE WHO KNEW WHAT THEY WOULD DISCOVER ABOUT ME WHEN I WENT IN. MAYBE I WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO GET OUT FOR A WHILE, MAYBE I WOULD BE MESSING UP MY CHANCE TO GET TO IOWA, AWAY FROM ALL THIS, TO SCHOOL. HE INVITED ME TO MEET HIM THE NEXT DAY. HE SAID IF I WANTED TO TALK MORE, HE COULD GIVE ME A COUPLE OF HOURS IN THE AFTERNOON. HE WANTED TO TALK ABOUT WAYS JUST TO GET ME BACK ON MY FEET AGAIN, AND THINKING CLEARLY, AND HE PROMISED THEY WOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CHURCH. HE ASKED ME TO WRITE DOWN AN ADDRESS, AND I DID AND I STUCK IT IN MY POCKET. HE SAID TO MEET HIM THERE THE NEXT DAY AT AROUND THREE IF I WANTED, AND I SAID I'D TRY. AND HE GOT UP AND LEFT, AGAIN WITHOUT SHAKING MY HAND. I DIDN'T ACTUALLY EVEN SEE HIM LEAVE, HE MOVED PAST THE TABLE AND I STARED INTO MY BEER, I DIDN'T FEEL LIKE GETTING UP, OR MOVING AT ALL, I ONLY WANTED TO SIT AND LET TIME GO BY. IT HAD BEEN SUCH A RELIEF TO TELL THESE THINGS TO SOMEONE LIKE A PRIEST, EVEN THOUGH I'D NEVER BEEN RELIGIOUS, THAT I JUST WANTED TO SIT AND BE STILL AND CALM. SO IT WAS ALMOST DARK WHEN I LEFT.

I DIDN'T MEET FATHER HALL THE NEXT DAY THOUGH, I DIDN'T GO. I SUDDENLY FELT A LITTLE ASHAMED AT HAVING CRIED IN FRONT OF HIM. SOME TIME HAD PASSED, AND I TOLD MYSELF IT WASN'T NECESSARY, THAT I'D HAD MY CATHARSIS, A CHANCE MEETING WITH A PRIEST, AND I HAD BASICALLY MADE MY CONFESSION. SO I DIDN'T GO TO MEET HIM, NOT THEN. INSTEAD I WENT THAT AFTERNOON TO THE MOVIES. I WASN'T GOING TO BE ABLE TO PAY MY RENT AT THE END OF THE MONTH, IT LOOKED LIKE, FINALLY I WAS GOING TO RUN OUT OF MONEY. BUT IT SEEMED LIKE A SMALL ISSUE, AND WHATEVER HAPPENED, HAPPENED.

ON THAT FRIDAY NIGHT, I BEGAN MY COURT SENTENCE FOR MY DRUNK DRIVING CONVICTION. I'D PLEAD GUILTY, NO LAWYER, NO ANYTHING. MY COURT SENTENCE WAS TO WORK AS A NIGHT WATCHMAN AT A HIGH SCHOOL A FEW MILES AWAY. I WOULD HAVE TO DO THIS EVERY NIGHT UNTIL I GOT A REAL JOB, EVERY NIGHT FROM TEN TO FIVE IN THE MORNING, SIX DAYS A WEEK. THERE HAD BEEN A LOT OF VANDALISM RECENTLY AT THE SCHOOL, ELLINGTON HIGH SCHOOL, SOME BREAK-INS, SO THEY FIGURED THIS WOULD BE GOOD COMMUNITY SERVICE. I WAS LET INTO THE SCHOOL BY A JANITOR AND LET OUT BY A DIFFERENT ONE. I HAD NO KEYS, I HAD NO UNIFORM, NO WEAPON OR ANYTHING. IT WAS MY JOB ONLY TO STAY INSIDE THE SCHOOL, MAKE OCCASIONAL ROUNDS OF THE HALLWAYS AND THE CLASSROOMS, AND CALL THE POLICE IF I SAW ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS, NOTHING MORE. I SUPPOSE I COULD HAVE GONE RIGHT TO SLEEP AND NO ONE WOULD HAVE KNOWN, BUT INSTEAD I READ ALL NIGHT. IT WAS TOUGH TO STAY AWAKE AT FIRST, BUT I WALKED AROUND A LOT TOO, AND EVEN SHOT BASKETS IN THE GYM. THE ROOMS WERE ALL LOCKED, I COULDN'T GO IN ANYWHERE, ALMOST NOWHERE WAS OPEN TO ME EXCEPT THE GYM AND THE CAFETERIA, WHERE I SAT WHEN I SAT. THAT WAS MY WORK, SEVEN HOURS EVERY NIGHT, WALKING THROUGH THE HALLS OF THIS BIG TWO-STORY HIGH SCHOOL. HALF OF THE HALLWAYS WERE COMPLETELY DARKENED, THERE WEREN'T EVEN ANY DULL RED EMERGENCY LIGHTS. I JUST TRIED TO STAY AWAKE AS BEST I COULD. I NEVER SAW OR HEARD ANY VANDALS. THE CRIME WAVE HAD ENDED, I GUESS.

IT WAS FIVE DAYS AFTER I MET FATHER HALL THAT SOMETHING HAPPENED. I WAS IN THE CAFETERIA, IT WAS ABOUT ONE-THIRTY IN THE MORNING. I WAS SITTING IN A CHAIR NEAR THE BIG PICTURE WINDOW THAT RAN THE LENGTH OF THE WALL, LOOKING OUT ON THE PARKING LOT, WHICH WAS COMPLETELY EMPTY. THERE WAS ONLY ONE LIGHT ON, BACK IN THE KITCHENS. THEY WERE THE NIGHT LIGHTS. I WAS BASICALLY IN THE DARK, EXCEPT I HAD A FLASHLIGHT WHICH I READ BY, I WAS READING A J.G. BALLARD BOOK. AND I HEARD A SOUND LIKE A DOOR CLOSING, WITH AN ECHO, BUT VERY FAR AWAY, WHICH MADE ME THINK AT FIRST THAT IT CAME FROM THE BOILER ROOM, WHICH WAS AT THE BASEMENT LEVEL, WHICH YOU GOT TO BY OPENING A DOOR INSIDE THE CAFETERIA, GOING DOWN A LITTLE HALLWAY, AND THEN GOING DOWN A SHORT FLIGHT OF STEPS. SO I GOT UP, THIS IS WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO, AND THE SOUND DIDN'T COME AGAIN. BUT I THOUGHT I'D CHECK OUT THE BOILER ROOM. I'D BEEN THERE ONCE BEFORE. THE JANITOR KEPT THE DOOR TO THE STEPS OPEN AT NIGHT IN CASE SOMETHING HAPPENED WITH THE HEAT OR SOMETHING, SO I COULD CHECK ON IT. I WENT THROUGH THE DOOR NEAR THE KITCHENS, AND DOWN THE LITTLE HALLWAY, WHERE THE JANITOR HAD CREATED A LITTLE OFFICE CONSISTING OF A CARD TABLE AND A SHELF HE'D SCREWED INTO THE WALL. I WENT PAST THAT AND DOWN THE STEPS. THE BASEMENT, THE BOILER ROOM, WAS PRETTY BIG, IT WAS A MAZE OF PIPES AND MACHINERY. I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WHERE THE LIGHT SWITCHES WERE, SO I JUST NAVIGATED BY FLASHLIGHT, GIVING THE ENTIRE PLACE A QUICK ONCE-OVER. I COULDN'T IMAGINE ANYONE GETTING INTO THE SCHOOL THIS WAY, OF COURSE, BUT I HAD TIME TO CHECK EVERYTHING, SO I DID.

THE END OF THE BASEMENT WAS ABOUT FIFTEEN FEET AHEAD OF ME WHEN I SAW THE THING BY THE LIGHT OF THE FLASHLIGHT. THERE WAS A CHAIR SET BETWEEN TWO TALL WATER HEATERS, A CHAIR SET AGAINST THE FAR CEMENT WALL. THERE WAS SOMETHING IN THE CHAIR, SITTING IN IT. I TOOK A FEW STEPS CLOSER AND I STOPPED, LOOKING AT IT WITH THE FLASHLIGHT. THE THING WAS WRAPPED, SWADDLED, IN A BLACK SORT OF CLOAK, ALL OVER ITS BODY, DOWN OVER WHERE THE FEET OF A PERSON WOULD BE. BUT THIS WASN'T A HUMAN BEING. IT WAS TWICE AS BIG, ENORMOUS. IT HAD RECOGNIZABLE ARMS, WHICH WERE ON THE CHAIR'S ARMS, IT WAS SITTING UP, AND I SAW ITS HANDS, WHICH WERE THREE TIMES THE SIZE OF NORMAL HUMAN HANDS. THE FINGERS WERE GIGANTIC AND DOUGHY, A PALE WHITE COLOR, AND THERE WEREN'T ENOUGH OF THEM. THERE WERE THREE OR FOUR ON EACH HAND. THERE WEREN'T ANY FINGERNAILS, EITHER. THE HANDS WERE PERFECTLY STILL, THE ENTIRE BODY OF THE THING WAS PERFECTLY STILL. THE HEAD INSIDE THE CLOAK WAS OVERLY LARGE, AND IT WAS ALMOST A FEATURELESS LUMP. THE NOSE WAS SQUASHED FLAT, THE MOUTH RAN HORIZONTALLY TOO FAR TO EACH SIDE, THERE WAS JUST A SLIT, NO LIPS, A SLIT RUNNING FROM ONE SIDE OF THE HEAD TO ANOTHER. THE THING'S FACE WAS GRAY, A LIGHT GRAY. THE TEXTURE OF THE SKIN MADE IT SEEM LIKE IT WAS MADE UP OF THOUSANDS OF SPECKS OF GRAY SAND. IT HAD HUGE EYES, ALL ONE COLOR, A DARK RED I THINK. I'D SAY THE EYES WERE THE SIZE OF SAUCERS. IT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS GAZING AT THE CEILING, BUT IT DIDN'T HAVE ANY PUPILS. THE EYES WERE JUST A MASS OF DARK RED. I KEPT THE FLASHLIGHT TRAINED ON IT FOR MORE THAN A MINUTE, AND I COULD EVENTUALLY DETECT MOVEMENT. IT WAS BREATHING, BUT IT WASN'T MAKING A SOUND, AND IT WASN'T LOOKING AT ME. ITS HEAD WAS COCKED BACK TO THE CEILING, LIKE IT WAS NEAR DEATH, COMATOSE. I COULDN'T SEE ITS UPPER TORSO MOVING BECAUSE OF THE CLOAK. MAYBE I ONLY SENSED IT WAS BREATHING.

IT JUST SAT THERE, IN THE DARK, AND IMMEDIATELY IT WAS SO BIZARRE BECAUSE I FELT NO THREAT FROM IT AT ALL. I KNEW SOMEHOW THAT IT WASN'T THERE TO HURT ME. IT DIDN'T SEEM CAPABLE OF ANY MOVEMENT. BUT I BACKED AWAY, JUST A LITTLE AT A TIME, ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE STEPS, AND ONLY THEN DID I TURN AND GO SLOWLY UP THEM AND BACK TO THE CAFETERIA, AND I SAT BACK IN MY CHAIR AND I JUST STAYED THERE FOR AN HOUR, WATCHING THE OUTER DOOR, WHICH I HAD CLOSED ON MY WAY OUT. I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT I WAS THINKING, BUT I WAS STRANGELY RATIONAL, I KNOW THAT MUCH. EVEN THOUGH I WAS SHAKING, I WAS RATIONAL. I THOUGHT THAT I WOULD SIT THERE FOR AS LONG AS IT TOOK TO BE ABLE TO GO BACK DOWN THERE AND LOOK AGAIN. I THOUGHT THE CHANCES WERE GOOD THAT IT WAS ALL IN MY HEAD, WHICH WAS ALMOST A RELIEF. IT MEANT I WAS GOING CHEMICALLY MAD, AND I COULD BE HELPED, I WOULD GO TO THE HOSPITAL THE NEXT DAY IF I WENT BACK DOWN THERE AND THE THING WAS GONE.

IT WAS ABOUT AN HOUR, AND THEN I WENT BACK. I WENT THROUGH THE DOOR, DOWN THE HALLWAY, DOWN THE STEPS, AND FROM ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE BOILER ROOM I SHONE THE FLASHLIGHT AGAINST THE BACK WALL. AND SURE ENOUGH THE CHAIR WAS STILL THERE BUT THE THING WAS GONE. I WENT CLOSER AND THERE WAS A SMELL NOW. I THOUGHT AT THE TIME IT WAS AS IF AN APPLE HAD BURNED AND CHARRED, AND BEEN MADE TOXIC, THAT'S WHAT IT SMELLED LIKE.

THE CEILING OF THE BOILER ROOM WAS JUST THOSE TAGBOARD SQUARES IN A BIG GRID, LIKE EVERY CEILING IN EVERY SCHOOL EVERYWHERE, YOU COULD LIFT THEM UP JUST BY PUSHING A HAND ON ONE. I SAW THAT THE SQUARE DIRECTLY ABOVE THE CHAIR WAS GONE. I KNEW IT HAD BEEN THERE WHEN I FIRST SAW THE THING, I KNEW IT. AND ON THE CHAIR, AND ON THE CEMENT WALL BEHIND IT WERE STREAKS OF WHAT LOOKED LIKE MUD, REDDISH MUD, LIKE SOMETHING HAD GONE UP THE WALL AND DRAGGED THESE STREAKS BEHIND IT. WHEN I GOT CLOSER TO THE SUBSTANCE, THE SMELL GOT STRONGER. I SHONE THE LIGHT UP INTO THE HOLE WHERE THE SQUARE HAD BEEN, BUT OF COURSE I COULDN'T SEE ANYTHING. THERE WAS JUST A LITTLE OF THE MUD ON THE CHAIR, NOT MUCH, BUT IT WAS ALSO ON THE THIN METAL BARS THAT MADE UP THE CEILING GRID, THE BARS JUST ABOVE MY HEAD WHERE THE SQUARE HAD DISAPPEARED. I CONSIDERED STANDING ON THE CHAIR AND POINTING THE FLASHLIGHT INTO THE CRAWLSPACE ABOVE THE CEILING. BUT MY NERVE FINALLY FAILED ME, AND I WANTED TO GET OUT OF THERE.

I LEFT THE ROOM, AND I WENT BACK UP THROUGH THE CAFETERIA TO THE MAIN ENTRANCE, AND I OPENED ONE OF THE FRONT DOORS OF THE SCHOOL. I PROPPED IT OPEN WITH A CHAIR, AND I STOOD OUTSIDE WHERE THE BUSES DROPPED PEOPLE OFF, AND I DIDN'T GO BACK INSIDE THE SCHOOL, AT ALL. AT ONE POINT I THOUGHT I HEARD SOMETHING AND I CLAMPED MY HANDS TO MY EARS. FINALLY THE MORNING JANITOR SHOWED UP, BOTH OF THEM DID, AND I DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING. I JUST LEFT. IF THEY EVER SAW THE CHAIR AND THE SUBSTANCE THE THING HAD LEFT BEHIND, I NEVER HEARD ABOUT IT.

I WENT TO SEE FATHER HALL THE NEXT DAY. I ONLY HAD THE ADDRESS HE GAVE ME, NOT A PHONE NUMBER. IT WAS ABOUT A MILE OFF THE METRO, WHICH I TOOK MOST OF THE WAY EAST, AND I GOT OFF THE TRAIN IN A DESERTED, INDUSTRIAL SECTION OF TOWN. IT WAS ALMOST TOTALLY QUIET AT NOON, JUST BLOCK AFTER BLOCK OF WAREHOUSES AND AUTO GARAGES AND AN ABORTION CLINIC AND A PLASTICS PLANT. I'D NEVER BEEN ON THAT SIDE OF TOWN BEFORE, BUT I WAS SURE I HAD THE METRO STOP RIGHT. THE ADDRESS FATHER HALL HAD GIVEN ME WAS FOR THE SHELTER HE WORKED AT FOUR DAYS A WEEK, BUT WHEN I GOT TO THAT ADDRESS, IT WAS A BOWLING ALLEY THAT HAD BEEN TORN DOWN OBVIOUSLY LONG AGO, AND NEXT TO THAT SOME FOOD DISTRIBUTOR. SOMETHING HAD GONE WRONG, OBVIOUSLY, SO I WALKED A COUPLE OF BLOCKS IN EACH DIRECTION, AND I SAW ONLY ONE PERSON, A U.P.S. DRIVER, GO BY ME ON THE SIDEWALK TOWARD HIS TRUCK. I ASKED HIM IF HE KNEW WHERE THE SHELTER WAS, AND HE DID. HE TOLD ME TO GO BACK A FEW BLOCKS, SO I DID, AND ON THE WAY THERE I SAW FATHER HALL WALKING TOWARD ME ALONG THE SIDEWALK. HE WAVED AT ME, THEN CAME UP AND ASKED ME IF I HAD COME TO SEE HIM, AND I SAID YES, AND HE SAID HE WAS SORRY FOR GETTING THE ADDRESS WRONG, IT WAS EXACTLY THIRTY NUMBERS OFF. HE WAS HEADED OFF TO TEACH A CLASS IN A CHURCH SOMEWHERE, BUT HE SAID HE HAD A WHILE TO TALK, SO WE TOOK A WALK AROUND THIS INDUSTRIAL SECTION OF TOWN, WHICH BORDERED ON A NOTORIOUS SLUM. I DIDN'T REALLY FULLY UNDERSTAND WHY I HAD COME, SO I ASKED HIM SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SHELTER, I THINK, AND HE ASKED ME HOW I HAD BEEN THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS. WE SAT ON A BUS STOP BENCH WHERE NO BUS CAME ANYMORE, AND I TOLD HIM I'D HAD A ROUGH GO OF IT, I THOUGHT I WAS SEEING THINGS. THIS LED TO ME EXPLAINING WHAT I SAW AT THE SCHOOL, AND I HAD TO TELL HIM ABOUT MY PROBLEM WITH THE PAINKILLERS AND THE DRINKING AND MY SENTENCE BECAUSE OF IT. NOT ONCE DURING THE CONVERSATION DID HE CHECK HIS WATCH OR SAY HE HAD TO GO, WHICH DIDN'T OCCUR TO ME UNTIL LONG AFTER. IT WAS LIKE HE HAD JUST WRITTEN OFF HIS CLASS. I TOLD HIM ALMOST MORE THAN I HAD THE FIRST DAY. HE LISTENED VERY CAREFULLY, NODDED A LOT, AND SAID HE UNDERSTOOD, AND HE ASKED ME TO DESCRIBE AGAIN THE THING I HAD SEEN IN THE BASEMENT. IN THE END, HE ASKED ME IF I REALLY WANTED TO GO INTO THE HOSPITAL, BECAUSE IF I THOUGHT I COULD HOLD ON FOR A LITTLE WHILE LONGER, THERE WAS SOMETHING HE WANTED ME TO TRY.

HE SAID MY EXPERIENCES WITH PETER AND MAURICE AND MY DRINKING AND MY DESPAIR HAD MAYBE HARMED PARTS OF MY MIND THAT I HAD NEVER CONFRONTED BEFORE, ALL OF THAT COMING SO FAST. BUT SEEING THE THING IN THE BOILER ROOM MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE BEEN A GOOD SIGN THAT I COULD MAKE IT OUT OF THIS WHOLE SITUATION IN ONE PIECE. HE SAID SEEING THAT CREATURE MAY HAVE BEEN MY MIND'S ATTEMPT TO SNAP ME INTO ASKING HARDER QUESTIONS OF MYSELF. BY GOING OVER THE LINE INTO TOTAL FANTASY, IT WAS TELLING ME I NEEDED TO BE HEALED, DESPERATELY. FATHER HALL SAID THAT I SHOULD ASK MYSELF ALL THE HARD QUESTIONS ABOUT MY LIFE I HAD BEEN TRYING TO AVOID WITH DRINKING, BUT TO DO THAT I NEEDED TO SCREEN OUT THE INFLUENCES OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, AND MAKE MYSELF MORE ALONE THAN MOST ANYONE WAS WILLING TO DO. HE SAID IF I WENT WITHOUT HUMAN CONTACT FOR A WHILE, HUMAN CONTACT OF ANY KIND, THE PARTS OF ME THAT HAD BEEN FRAGMENTED AND DISTORTED WOULD COME BACK TO ME. I MIGHT BE ABLE TO THINK CLEARLY AND FIND A PATH FOR MYSELF THAT WASN'T TAINTED BY ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN TRYING TO CLAIM ME. AND HE HIMSELF WOULD HAVE TO BE INCLUDED IN THAT. FATHER HALL SAID I WOULD REALLY HAVE TO GO IT ENTIRELY ALONE, REMOVE ALL TRACES OF OTHER HUMANITY FROM MY LIFE TO REALIZE WHO I WAS. I SHOULD NOT WORK FOR A WHILE, NO FRIENDS, NO TV, NO NEWSPAPERS, NO SPEAKING TO STRANGERS, NO PHONE CALLS. HE SAID IT WAS AN ELEMENTARY PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY, BY ISOLATING YOURSELF TOTALLY YOU BECAME MORE AWARE OF YOURSELF. YOUR AWARENESS OF WHO YOU WERE AND WHAT YOU REALLY WANTED AND NEEDED DOUBLED, TRIPLED, WITHIN DAYS. AND I LIKED THIS IDEA. HE WASN'T PUSHING GOD ON ME. HE MUST HAVE BEEN VERY EDUCATED, I THOUGHT. IF YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DRINK, HE SAID, JUST DON'T LET IT GET OUT OF HAND, BUT PEOPLE WERE AS DAMAGING TO ME NOW AS ALCOHOL COULD BE, JUST FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, MAYBE A COUPLE OF MONTHS. I SIMPLY HAD TO REMOVE MYSELF. I HAD TO DO IT. AND THEN IF I GOT BETTER OR WORSE, I SHOULD COME SEE HIM, I SHOULD COME BACK TO FATHER HALL, AND TELL HIM ABOUT IT. I TOLD HIM I'D DO IT. I THOUGHT I COULD MAKE IT SO THAT I SAW ALMOST NO ONE. I COULD KEEP UP WITH MY SENTENCE, I COULD KEEP GOING TO THE SCHOOL, I DIDN'T HAVE TO EXCHANGE SO MUCH AS A WORD WITH THE JANITORS, AND I DIDN'T HAVE TO GO SEE MY PROBATION OFFICER FOR ANOTHER COUPLE OF WEEKS, MAYBE EVEN THREE. I JUST WOULDN'T STAY INSIDE THE SCHOOL DURING MY SHIFTS. I WOULDN'T DO THE ROUNDS THEY WANTED ME TO, I COULDN'T EVEN GO BACK INTO THE CAFETERIA. I'D PROP A DOOR OPEN AND READ IN THE DOORWAY CLOSE TO THE PARKING LOT. EVERY NIGHT. I TOLD FATHER HALL I THOUGHT I COULD TRY IT, AND HE SAID ALL RIGHT, PLEASE DO IT, AND IF IT DOESN'T HELP, WE'LL GET HELP FOR YOU, AND HE GOT UP AND WALKED BACK IN THE DIRECTION HE HAD COME, AND HE SAID HE'D SEE ME LATER.

AND WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I CUT MYSELF OFF FROM ALL THE HUMAN CONTACT I POSSIBLY COULD, KILLED OFF ALL THE VOICES, WAS THAT I STARTED TO SEE HOW CLOSELY RELATED AND CONNECTED I WAS TO ALL THE THINGS AROUND ME IN MY LIFE. CONNECTED TO MY BED, TO THE FOOD I ATE, TO THE SUN, TO THE GRASS, MY CLOTHES, THE CLOCK, TIME MOVING PAST ME. ALL THESE THINGS WERE SILENT ALL THROUGH MY LIFE, THEY WERE THERE FOR ME IN A WHOLLY ACCEPTING WAY, NEVER A BAD WAY. EVERYTHING AROUND ME WAS THERE TO HELP ME THROUGH LIFE, AND I SAW HOW IT WAS PEOPLE ALONE WHO CLOUDED THINGS, BECAUSE PEOPLE COULD HURT ME, THEY DID HURT ME, AND WHEN THEY WEREN'T HURTING ME THEY MADE ME FEEL LIKE I HAD TO BE PART OF THEM, PART OF EVERYTHING THEY CLAIMED WAS GOING ON. BUT WHAT WAS REALLY GOING ON, ALL THAT MATTERED AND WAS PERMANENT AND GOOD, WAS THE DAYLIGHT, AND WAKING UP AND FALLING ASLEEP, AND COLD WEATHER, AND HOT WEATHER, AND THE FEEL OF THINGS, MY SENSES. TREES, ANIMALS, WALKING, RESTING, A TABLE IN MY ROOM, THESE WERE THE THINGS THAT WOULD ALWAYS BE THERE, AND NEVER ASKED ANYTHING OF ME. I COULD EXPERIENCE THEM ALWAYS EXACTLY AS I WANTED TO, THEY WOULD NEVER CHANGE, THEY WOULD BE THERE FOREVER IF I WANTED. OBJECTS AND NATURE WERE PERMANENT. BUT PEOPLE HAD IDEAS THAT I HAD TO ADAPT TO CONSTANTLY. PEOPLE COULD KILL, AND WORST OF ALL THEY MADE YOU AWARE OF HOW LONELY YOU WERE. IF THERE WERE NO PEOPLE IN MY LIFE, IF I HAD NEVER LET THEM IN TO BEGIN WITH, I NEVER WOULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT LONELINESS WAS. SO I SAW WHAT FATHER HALL HAD BEEN DESCRIBING. I SAW IT INSIDE OF A WEEK, AND THE ONLY HARD PART WAS THE DARKNESS IN MY ROOM, BECAUSE I WAS SCARED OF WHAT I'D SEE. I HAD REGRESSED TO BEING A CHILD IN THAT WAY. IN THE DARK, I WISHED I WASN'T ALONE. SO THE VERY FIRST NIGHT OF THE TREATMENT, I WENT TO GET SOME FOOD, BUT LATE, REALLY REALLY LATE, AT THE ALL-NIGHT PHARMACY SO I WOULD SEE AS FEW PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE, AND I BOUGHT SOME SLEEPING PILLS, SO I COULD BLACK OUT IMMEDIATELY WHEN I NEEDED TO SLEEP. DURING THE DAY I WENT ON LONG WALKS, BUT NEVER ANYWHERE WHERE I COULD BE SEEN, OR I DROVE TO THE RIVER AND STAYED THERE FOR HOURS, LISTENING TO MUSIC WITHOUT VOCALS. I HAD ALWAYS LIKED MUSIC WITHOUT VOCALS AND NOW I WAS BEGINNING TO SEE WHY. I SLEPT WAY TOO MUCH, AND I DID DRINK, BUT WHEN I RAN OUT OF LIQUOR I DIDN'T GO GET MORE, BECAUSE PAYING FOR IT WOULD HAVE MADE ME HAVE TO SEE SOMEONE, AND I DIDN'T WANT THAT.

I HAD NO MONEY LEFT, I WAS LIVING OFF MY CREDIT CARDS, SO I'D GO TO THE LIBRARY AT A.U. FOR HOURS AT A TIME. I'D WEAR A FACEMASK IN THE COLD SO NO ONE COULD SEE ME OR TALK TO ME, AND I WOULD ISOLATE MYSELF IN A CORNER OF THE LIBRARY AND READ. THAT'S WHERE I READ SIX DIFFERENT BOOKS ABOUT SATANISM, AND IN A BOOK CALLED 'THE UNFAMILIAR' I HAPPENED ACROSS A DRAWING OF A HANGED MAN WRAPPED IN A BLACK RIBBON FROM HEAD TO TOE, IT WAS SWALLOWING HIM. IN THAT BOOK I READ ABOUT PEOPLE WHO FOR NO REASON MISPERCEIVED SENSORY THINGS, LIKE ONE MAN WHO DRANK BLOOD AT A SATANIC CEREMONY AND HONESTLY BELIEVED IT HAD BEEN NOTHING BUT WATER. TO SATANISTS, THESE ERRORS OF PERCEPTION MEANT A DOOR WAS OPENING UP IN THE BRAIN. IF THE DOOR WASN'T FOUND AND CLOSED WITH THEIR HELP, DEMONS WOULD COME THROUGH. THEY WAITED UNTIL THE DOOR WAS SO FAR OPEN THAT THE PERSON WOULD THINK NOTHING OF SEEING DEMONS ON THE VERY STREET WHERE HE LIVED, WOULDN'T DENY THEIR EXISTENCE BECAUSE THEIR SENSES WERE TELLING THEM TO JUST ACCEPT EVERYTHING, AND THEN POSSESSION COULD BEGIN.

I BEGAN TO HAVE NIGHTMARES, AND IN THE NIGHTMARES THERE WERE ALWAYS PEOPLE, AND THEY WERE CHASING ME, COMING FOR ME. IT WAS AS IF THEY KNEW THIS WAS THEIR ONLY WAY TO GET ME, SINCE BY DAY I HAD OBLITERATED THEM FROM MY LIFE. THE NIGHTMARES GOT LONGER AND LONGER AND WORSE AND WORSE UNTIL BY THE END OF TEN OR ELEVEN DAYS, I WAS SCARED TO GO TO SLEEP. THE NIGHTMARES STARTED AS SOON AS I WENT OUT. I WAS AFRAID TO TAKE MORE PILLS BECAUSE I THOUGHT I WOULD OVERDOSE. I WASN'T EATING MUCH OF ANYTHING, I REALIZED. I WOULD HAVE A BOWL OF CEREAL, AND THAT WOULD BE IT FOR THE DAY, OR I WOULD EAT HALF A SANDWICH IN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS. AND THAT WOULD BE ALL. SO WHILE I WAS BEGINNING TO FEEL FREE, I WAS SINKING TOO, AND I WAS VERY AWARE OF IT. IF I HAD DRUNK A LITTLE MORE, MAYBE I NEVER WOULD HAVE SEEN IT, THAT I WAS FADING. I DIDN'T CHANGE MY CLOTHES, I DIDN'T BATHE, I DIDN'T SHAVE. MORE AND MORE I WOULD THINK ABOUT HOW EASY IT WOULD BE TO JUST END IT ALL INSTEAD OF GOING BACK AND TELLING ALL THIS TO FATHER HALL, OR ENTERING THE HOSPITAL. IT WOULD BE SO MUCH EASIER, TO JUST NOT EAT ANYMORE AND LET MYSELF STARVE AND NOT GET OUT OF BED.

BUT NO, I STILL WANTED TO LIVE, AND I FORCED MYSELF OUT AND BACK ON THE METRO AND I TOOK THE TRAIN TO THE STOP WHERE I HAD MET FATHER HALL NEAR THE SHELTER WHERE HE WORKED DURING THE DAY. I WAS CAREFUL TO TAKE A SHOWER AND SHAVE AND DRESS MYSELF NEATLY SO IT WOULD LOOK LIKE I WAS IN MY RIGHT MIND. I WENT TO SEE HIM ON A FREEZING COLD DAY WHEN THEY WERE CALLING FOR A LOT OF SNOW. IT WAS DUE TO HIT BY FOUR THAT AFTERNOON, BUT I HAD TO GO ANYWAY. I HAD A PREMONITION THAT I MIGHT ACCIDENTALLY TAKE TOO MANY PILLS, BECAUSE I HAD SO MANY IN MY ROOM, MORE THAN I COULD EVER USE IN A YEAR. I HAD JUST KEPT ON BUYING THEM AND BUYING THEM. NO ONE STOPPED ME.

I WALKED ALL THE WAY TO THE HOMELESS SHELTER FATHER HALL HAD TALKED ABOUT. IT WAS ON THE CORNER ON A STREET ACROSS FROM A VACANT LOT, RIGHT ON THE BORDER OF THE SLUM WHERE ABOUT HALF THE CITY'S MURDERS TOOK PLACE. I WENT IN, AND RIGHT THERE, RIGHT AWAY, THERE WERE ROWS OF COTS, NO LOBBY OR DESK OR ANYTHING, JUST HOMELESS PEOPLE. EVEN AT NOON THERE WERE A FEW, BECAUSE OF THE SNOW COMING ON. A MAN CAME WALKING UP TO ME, A BIG RED-HAIRED GUY, A MILITARY KIND OF GUY, AND HE ASKED ME IF HE COULD HELP ME. I TOLD HIM I WAS LOOKING FOR FATHER HALL. HE SAID 'FATHER WHO?' AND I SAID AGAIN, FATHER HALL, I STILL DIDN'T KNOW HIS FIRST NAME. AND HE LOOKED AT ME IN A FUNNY WAY AND HE SAID, 'SORRY, THERE'S NO ONE BY THAT NAME WHO WORKS HERE.' I SAID WELL, THIS MAN, THIS PRIEST, TOLD ME THAT HE WORKED HERE FOUR DAYS A WEEK, AND THE RED-HAIRED GUY SAID HE HAD BEEN THERE ALMOST EVERY DAY FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, AND HE HAD NEVER HEARD OF A FATHER HALL. SO I THANKED HIM AND TURNED BACK TO THE ENTRANCE, AND I STEPPED OUT AND STOOD THERE FOR A MINUTE, NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO. I THOUGHT I MUST HAVE MADE SOME SORT OF STUPID MISTAKE. THEN I HEARD THE GUY'S VOICE CALL ME BACK, AND HE CAME TO THE DOORWAY AND HE SAID 'JUST A SECOND, COULD YOU WAIT HERE JUST ONE MINUTE, I'LL BE RIGHT BACK.' SO HE WENT TO THE BACK OF THE BIG ROOM AND DISAPPEARED THROUGH A DOOR, AND HE CAME OUT AGAIN A FEW MINUTES LATER, MORE THAN A FEW MINUTES LATER ACTUALLY, AND CAME UP TO ME AGAIN. HE SAID, 'WOULD YOU DO ME A FAVOR, WOULD YOU COME TALK TO THE MAN WHO RUNS THE PLACE, HIS NAME IS NED, HE MIGHT HAVE SOME INFORMATION FOR YOU.' SO I WENT WITH HIM, HE LED ME BACK, BETWEEN THE ROWS OF COTS, AND SIX OR SEVEN PEOPLE ASLEEP ON THEM. AS WE WALKED, HE SAID SOMETHING ABOUT HOW THE NAME I HAD GIVEN HIM HAD STRUCK A BELL WITH HIM. HE HAD ALMOST FORGOTTEN WHAT IT WAS, BUT THEN HE'D REMEMBERED.

I WENT BACK INTO THIS TINY OFFICE. THE RED-HAIRED GUY CAME IN TOO, AND BEHIND A SMALL DESK THERE WAS A GUY IN A SWEATER AND JEANS, HE WAS ABOUT FIFTY AND MOVED WITH A CANE. HE CAME AROUND AND INTRODUCED HIMSELF AS NED. HE'D FOUNDED THE SHELTER TEN YEARS BEFORE, AND HE WANTED ME TO TELL HIM ABOUT FATHER HALL. HE WANTED TO KNOW WHERE I'D MET HIM, AND WHAT HE LOOKED LIKE, AND WHAT HE TALKED ABOUT. SO I TOLD HIM, GIVING HIM A PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION AND MENTIONING OUR TALKS, AND THEN I ASKED HIM, 'WELL, DO YOU KNOW OF HIM?' HE WENT AROUND TO THE BACK OF THE DESK AGAIN. I WAS SITTING DOWN ACROSS FROM IT BY THEN. I FELT A LITTLE LIKE I WAS TALKING TO THE POLICE.

NED SAID MAYBE HE KNEW HIM, MAYBE. A YEAR BEFORE, THERE HAD BEEN A HOMELESS WOMAN WHO HAD STAYED AT THE SHELTER OFF AND ON, HE'D EVEN FORGOTTEN HER NAME. SHE'D BEEN A DRUG ADDICT AND SLIGHTLY UNBALANCED MENTALLY, BUT SHE'D MENTIONED SOMEONE NAMED FATHER HALL TOO. SHE WANTED NED TO TELL FATHER HALL TO STOP VISITING HER. SHE SAID HE FOUND HER EVERY DAY, WHEREVER SHE HAPPENED TO BE, AND NEVER STOPPED TRYING TO START CONVERSATIONS WITH HER. IN THE BEGINNING HE HAD BEEN VERY KIND TO HER, BUT THEN HE HAD TRIED TO GET HER TO COME AWAY WITH HIM, NOT TO CHURCH, BUT TO A MISSION HE TALKED ABOUT SOMEWHERE WAY OUTSIDE THE CITY. SHE CLAIMED THAT FATHER HALL HAD BEGUN TO INSIST EVERY DAY THAT SHE COME WITH HIM, TELLING HER HE COULDN'T PROTECT HER IF SHE DIDN'T, THAT SHE'D WIND UP FREEZING TO DEATH, OR BEING KILLED, SO SHE BEGAN TO FEAR HIM. BUT THE WAY SHE HAD TALKED ABOUT HIM TO NED, ASKING HIM EVERY OTHER DAY TO KEEP FATHER HALL AWAY FROM HER, THEY HAD BECOME CONVINCED THAT THERE REALLY WAS NO FATHER HALL, SINCE SHE SAID HE KEPT 'APPEARING' IN HER ROOM, 'APPEARING' AT THE FOOT OF HER BED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. THEY THOUGHT SHE NEEDED PSYCHIATRIC CARE. SOMETIMES THE HOMELESS WOMAN CLAIMED THAT FATHER HALL WANTED HER TO COME WORK IN A MISSION, AND SOMETIMES SHE SAID HE WANTED HER TO GO TO A PALACE. SHE SAID CONFLICTING THINGS, AND SHE NEVER KNEW HIS FIRST NAME. SHE SAID THAT HE HAD BEEN GETTING MORE AND MORE CRUEL TO HER, FOR NO APPARENT REASON OTHER THAN SHE WOULDN'T GO WITH HIM. EVENTUALLY SHE HAD DRIFTED OFF SOMEWHERE, STOPPED COMING TO THE SHELTER, THEY'D NEVER KNOWN WHAT BECAME OF HER. BUT NOW, TO NED, IT SEEMED THAT WITH ME COMING IN, MAYBE THIS FATHER HALL HAD BEEN REAL ALL ALONG. THEY WANTED TO KNOW EVEN MORE ABOUT WHAT HE LOOKED LIKE IN CASE HE SHOWED UP THERE. THEY HAD A LOT OF QUESTIONS FOR HIM. I TOLD THEM WHAT I KNEW AS BEST AS I COULD, AND THEN THEY LET ME LEAVE.

THERE WAS A MESSAGE ON MY MACHINE AT HOME THAT I DIDN'T HAVE TO REPORT TO THE SCHOOL THAT NIGHT, BECAUSE OF THE HEAVY SNOWFALL. IT STARTED AS SOON AS I GOT BACK TO MY ROOM, AND IT KEPT GOING ON WELL INTO THE NIGHT. THERE WERE SIX INCHES ON THE GROUND BY TEN O'CLOCK. I LEFT MY ROOM AGAIN TO WALK TO THE PARK AROUND THE CORNER, AND I SAT THERE IN THE COLD AND I READ TILL IT GOT DARK. THEN ONCE I GOT BACK IN, I TOOK SOME SLEEPING PILLS AND WENT TO BED.

I WOKE UP A LITTLE PAST MIDNIGHT, NOT HAVING DREAMED AT ALL, AND IT WAS STILL SNOWING. I GOT OUT OF BED AND STOOD IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW IN MY ROOM, AND I UNDID THE BLINDS AND I LOOKED OUT. EVEN THOUGH IT WAS DARK, YOU COULD SEE EVERYTHING BECAUSE THE WHITENESS OF THE SNOW REFLECTED A LOT OF LIGHT, THE WAY IT DOES. YOU COULD GO OUT AND WALK AROUND NO PROBLEM. IT WAS JUST FLURRIES FALLING BY THAT TIME. I WAS ON THE THIRD FLOOR OVERLOOKING A LITTLE COURTYARD BETWEEN THE BUILDING AND THE ONE ACROSS FROM IT. OUTSIDE IN THE SNOW I SAW A MAN, ALL ALONE, SITTING ON A SWING. THERE WAS A JUNGLE GYM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COURTYARD FOR THE NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS, AND HE WAS SITTING THERE. AND I SAW THAT IT WAS FATHER HALL. HE WAS FACING AWAY FROM ME, SITTING AND LOOKING OFF AT THE BUILDING ACROSS THE WAY. I WATCHED HIM FOR A FEW MINUTES, AND NEVER ONCE DID HE TURN AROUND, BUT I COULD TELL IT WAS HIM. HE WAS WEARING THE SAME CLOTHES AS WHEN I HAD FIRST MET HIM, AND THEN SEEN HIM THE SECOND TIME, NO COAT. THAT'S HOW MUCH DETAIL I COULD SEE BECAUSE OF THE FULL MOON AND THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE SNOW. AFTER A WHILE I CLOSED THE BLINDS, AND I WANTED TO GET INSIDE MY CLOSET, I WANTED TO GET UNDER THE BED, DISAPPEAR. BUT INSTEAD I SAT ON MY COUCH AND I WAITED, BECAUSE I FIGURED IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE HE WOULD COME. IT SEEMED TO TAKE FOREVER, BUT IT MUST HAVE ONLY BEEN ABOUT A HALF HOUR LATER WHEN THERE WAS A KNOCK AT MY DOOR. I DIDN'T ANSWER THE FIRST KNOCKING, BUT I DID THE SECOND TIME IT CAME. FIRST I TURNED ON ALL MY LIGHTS, AND I OPENED THE DOOR, AND FATHER HALL WAS THERE, A LITTLE BIT OF SNOW IN HIS HAIR. HE SORT OF SMILED AT ME AND SAID IT HAD TAKEN HIM A WHILE TO FIGURE OUT WHICH BUILDING WAS MINE, BUT HE HAD RAIDED HIS MEMORY AND FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT.

I DON'T THINK I SAID ANYTHING. HE CAME IN, AND HE SAT DOWN IN A CHAIR, AND I SAT ON THE SOFA, AND HE SAID HE WAS OUT LATE WALKING AROUND AND HE WANTED TO KNOW HOW THINGS WERE GOING WITH ME. I TOLD HIM THINGS WERE ALL RIGHT. HE WANTED TO KNOW HOW MY LITTLE THERAPY EXPERIMENT WAS GOING, AND I WAS ABLE TO GIVE HIM SOME DETAILS, I WAS TRYING TO SOUND NORMAL AND I DID ALL RIGHT. HE WANTED TO KNOW IF I'D EVER SERIOUSLY GONE TO CHURCH, EVER IN MY LIFE, WHAT MY EXPERIENCE WITH IT HAD BEEN. I DIDN'T TELL HIM WHAT MY FIRST MEMORY OF CHURCH WAS, WHEN I WAS SIX OR SEVEN, AND MY AUNT HAD TAKEN ME TO A CATHEDRAL IN THE CITY, AND I HAD BEEN TERRIFIED, BY THE ATMOSPHERE AND THE FIGURES ON THE STAINED GLASS, AND THE PRIEST IN HIS ROBE, AND THE LONG WALK DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE AISLE, EVERYTHING ABOUT IT HAD FRIGHTENED ME. FATHER HALL DIDN'T TELL ME WHY HE WANTED TO KNOW THAT, SO I MADE SOMETHING UP. I TOLD HIM I'D BEEN TO CHURCH A FEW TIMES AND HAD JUST NEVER FELT ANYTHING AT ALL THERE. HE THEN SAID HE HAD AN IDEA FOR ME, ABOUT WHAT SHOULD COME NEXT. HE HAD ORGANIZED A GATHERING OF PEOPLE A LITTLE LIKE ME, FOUR OR FIVE PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR SOME KIND OF GUIDANCE IN THEIR LIVES, AND HE WANTED US TO GO TOGETHER TO A FARM ON THE EASTERN SHORE, A FARM WHICH HIS FATHER HAD OWNED, AND WHICH HE HAD THE USE OF. IT WAS ON A STRETCH OF OPEN LAND NEAR PRINCESS ANNE, MARYLAND. FROM TIME TO TIME HE MADE A RETREAT OF IT, HE TOOK PEOPLE THERE FOR A FEW DAYS OF INDIVIDUAL PRAYER, AND MEDITATION. HE AND THE OTHERS WERE LEAVING THE NEXT DAY, AND HE SAID I SHOULD JOIN THEM. AND I SAID, 'BUT NO ONE'S GOING ANYWHERE, THERE'S THE SNOW,' AND HE SAID THERE WASN'T MUCH ON THE ROADS AT ALL, IT WOULDN'T BE A PROBLEM. I SAID, 'I WAS AT THE SHELTER TODAY, AND THEY DIDN'T SEEM TO KNOW WHO YOU WERE', AND I WATCHED HIS EYES WHEN HE ANSWERED ME, BUT THERE WASN'T MUCH OF A DELAY FOR THOUGHT. HE SAID TO ME 'WHICH SHELTER DID YOU GO TO?' HE SAID THERE WERE NOT JUST ONE OR TWO BUT THREE OF THEM WITHIN A FIVE BLOCK RADIUS, AND OBVIOUSLY I HAD GONE TO THE WRONG ONE. AND HE SAID I SHOULD DEFINITELY COME WITH HIM ON THE RETREAT. IT WOULD BE JUST FOR A FEW DAYS, AND I SAID I WOULD HAVE TO BE AT THE SCHOOL TO DO MY JOB THERE ON MONDAY, IT WAS PART OF MY SENTENCE, I COULDN'T GO OFF. HE SAID 'BUT IF I CAN FIX IT SO YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO GO BACK, I'D LIKE TO DO THAT FOR YOU', AND I SAID 'HOW?', AND HE SAID I SHOULD JUST GIVE HIM THE NUMBER OF THE PERSON I WAS RESPONSIBLE TO, AND HE WOULD TAKE CARE OF IT. I COULD GIVE IT TO HIM WHEN I MET HIM AND THE OTHERS FOR THE TRIP. I DIDN'T NEED TO BRING A SINGLE THING, IT WAS JUST FOR A FEW DAYS. HE WANTED ME TO MEET HIM IN THE PARKING LOT OF R.F.K. STADIUM THE NEXT NIGHT, AT EIGHT O'CLOCK, AND HE SAID THE ROADS WOULD BE CLEAR BY THEN, NO DOUBT, AND I COULD MEET THE OTHERS, AND HE WOULD DRIVE US TO THE FARM. WE WOULD SLEEP OVER AND BE FRESH FOR THE NEXT MORNING. HE MADE ME PROMISE, I REMEMBER, THAT I WOULD AT LEAST COME, AND MEET THE OTHERS, THE NEXT NIGHT, AT EIGHT O'CLOCK. AND IT OCCURRED TO ME VERY QUICKLY THAT ALL I NEEDED TO DO TO GET FATHER HALL TO LEAVE WAS TO AGREE. IF I AGREED HE WOULD GO IMMEDIATELY, AND HE DID. HE GOT UP OUT OF THE CHAIR AND SAID HE WOULD LET HIMSELF OUT AND HE SMILED AT ME, AND HE WENT OUT THE DOOR. HE LEFT ME ALONE, JUST LIKE I KNEW SOMEHOW HE WOULD IF I JUST AGREED TO WHATEVER HE SAID. I WENT BACK TO BED, BUT I WAS WIDE AWAKE AND WOULD BE FOR A LONG TIME, AND WHAT I WAS AFRAID OF MORE THAN ANYTHING THEN WAS FATHER HALL COMING BACK. I WANTED TO GET OUT OF THE BUILDING ENTIRELY. I WAITED JUST A LITTLE WHILE, TO MAKE SURE HE COULDN'T BE ANYWHERE OUTSIDE, AND THEN I PUT ON MY CLOTHES AND MY SHOES AND MY COAT, AND I WENT OUT. IT CAME TO ME AS I WALKED OUT WHY I DIDN'T SEEM TO REALLY NEED ALCOHOL ANYMORE, WHY I HAD NO CRAVING FOR IT SUDDENLY. THE ALCOHOL HAD MADE ME FORGET THE Z-SOMINOL, AND THE THING THAT HAD MADE ME FORGET ABOUT ALCOHOL, I REALIZED, WAS FEAR. MY BODY WAS DROWNING IN IT. THERE WAS NO NEED, AND NO ROOM, FOR ANYTHING ELSE.

I WALKED DOWN THE ROAD, SEEING JUST AN OCCASIONAL SNOW PLOW. NO ONE WAS OUT BECAUSE THE ROADS WERE PRETTY BAD. NO ONE WAS GOING TO BE DRIVING ANYWHERE, ESPECIALLY ON THE EASTERN SHORE, WHERE THEY HAD GOTTEN ALMOST TWICE AS MUCH SNOW. I WENT RIGHT DOWN THE CENTER OF THE ROAD. IT WAS A LITTLE MORE THAN TWO MILES TO THE HIGH SCHOOL, AND WHEN I GOT THERE, THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO ONE AROUND. IT SEEMED LIKE THE ENTIRE WORLD WAS ASLEEP.

FROM WALKING AROUND THE SCHOOL DURING MY NIGHTS THERE AS A GUARD, AND FROM WHAT THE PRINCIPAL HAD TOLD ME, I KNEW A COUPLE OF WAYS I COULD GET INSIDE THE BUILDING. ONE WAS BY GOING AROUND THE BACK OF THE SCHOOL, ON THE WOODS SIDE, AND CLIMBING UP THE PIPES BACK THERE. THERE WAS A WHOLE NETWORK OF PIPES ATTACHED TO THE BRICK BESIDE THE INDUSTRIAL ARTS DEPARTMENT AND THE AUTO SHOP ROOMS. IT WASN'T DIFFICULT TO GET UP THE PIPES, BECAUSE THERE WERE A LOT OF HORIZONTAL ONES. SOME KIDS MIGHT HAVE CLIMBED THEM IN THE PAST, BUT WHAT THEY PROBABLY DIDN'T KNOW WAS THAT THERE WAS ACTUALLY A WINDOW UP THERE THAT WAS NEVER LOCKED BECAUSE THE LOCK HAD RUSTED SO BADLY IT HAD FINALLY BEEN REMOVED. I CLIMBED THE PIPES, THEY WERE SLIPPERY BUT I MANAGED, AND I JUST WENT INTO THE WINDOW UP THERE, TWELVE FEET OFF THE GROUND. I WORKED THE WINDOW UPWARD WITH ONE HAND AS I STEADIED MYSELF WITH MY RIGHT. I THREW MY LEGS OVER THE SILL, AND I FELL A COUPLE OF FEET INTO A STORAGE ROOM. IT LED OUT IN THE HALLWAY RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER FROM THE TWO COMPUTER ROOMS. I COULDN'T GET IN, THEY WERE LOCKED AND I HAD NO KEY, SO I BROKE INTO ONE OF THEM. I HAD BENT A COAT HANGER BEFORE I'D LEFT MY ROOM AND SHOVED IT INTO MY COAT, AND IN THE HALLWAY I UNDID IT, AND I SHOVED IT INTO THE KEYHOLE. THE DOOR WAS A COUPLE OF DECADES OLD, REALLY CHEAP, AND THE LOCK EVENTUALLY POPPED AND I WENT IN. I SAT DOWN IN THE DARK AND TURNED ON ONE OF THE COMPUTERS AND SAT DOWN IN FRONT OF IT, AND I WAS LUCKY BECAUSE THERE WAS NO CODE NECESSARY TO GET ONTO THE INTERNET, SO THAT'S WHAT I DID, THERE IN THE SCHOOL, AT ABOUT TWO IN THE MORNING. THERE WAS STILL SNOW ON MY SHOULDERS FROM THE FLURRIES, IT HADN'T EVEN MELTED YET.

FIRST I CHECKED AROUND TO SEE IF THERE WERE SOME OTHER HOMELESS SHELTERS, OR YOUTH SHELTERS, IN THE AREA WHERE THE ONE HAD BEEN WHERE THEY'D TOLD ME THEY'D NEVER HEARD OF FATHER HALL. IT TOOK ABOUT A HALF HOUR, AND I DIDN'T FIND MENTION OF ANYTHING IN THAT AREA EXCEPT FOR THE ONE. THE CLOSEST OTHER SHELTER WAS QUITE A WAYS AWAY. THEN I WASN'T SURE WHAT TO CHECK, SO I TYPED IN WORDS LIKE 'FALSE PRIEST', 'IMPERSONATOR', 'IMPERSONATING PRIESTS', VARIATIONS OF THOSE, AND NO STORIES CAME UP AT ALL. SO I ACTUALLY TYPED IN 'FATHER HALL' AND CALLED UP ALL THE RESULTS. THERE WERE MORE THAN THREE HUNDRED, SO I STARTED GOING THROUGH THEM, ONE BY ONE, READING THE DESCRIPTIONS TO SEE IF ANYTHING STRUCK ME.

I HAD BEEN DOING THAT FOR ABOUT FIFTEEN MINUTES, NOT FINDING ANYTHING THAT HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE FATHER HALL I KNEW, WHEN I THOUGHT I HEARD A DOOR CLOSE, FAR BELOW ME, A SOUND IDENTICAL TO THE ONE I'D HEARD THE NIGHT I'D GONE INTO THE BOILER ROOM. IT WAS THE SAME IN EVERY WAY, JUST SO MUCH FAINTER THAT I COULDN'T PROVE TO MYSELF IT HAD REALLY HAPPENED. I SAT PERFECTLY STILL, MY FINGERS ON THE KEYBOARD OF THE COMPUTER, FOR FIVE MINUTES. I COULD SEE OUT INTO THE HALLWAY, BUT IT WAS TOTALLY DARK. I WAITED FOR SOMETHING ELSE TO HAPPEN, MAYBE SOME OTHER SOUND, BUT THERE WAS NOTHING. FINALLY, I HAD MYSELF CONVINCED THAT I HAD IMAGINED IT, THAT IT WAS SOME OTHER SOUND AND I'D TURNED IT INTO SOMETHING IT WASN'T. MY IMAGINATION WAS LEADING ME PLACES I DIDN'T HAVE THE COURAGE TO GO.

I FOLLOWED EVERY LINK TO THE PHRASE 'FATHER HALL' THAT I COULD. I SPENT SOME TIME READING TEXT THAT LED ME TO NO ANSWERS AT ALL. THE TWENTIETH OR THIRTIETH LINK I CLICKED ON TOOK ME TO A WEB SITE HAVING TO DO WITH THE HISTORY OF ALBERTA, CANADA, AND THERE WAS A SUBSECTION OF LINKS HAVING TO DO WITH VARIOUS TOWNS AND CITIES IN IT. I CLICKED ON A FEW, BUT I DIDN'T SEE ANY REFERENCE TO A FATHER HALL UNTIL I STARTED READING ABOUT A PLACE IN NORTHERN ALBERTA CALLED FORT ILLARD. IT HAD BEEN A LOGGING CAMP FOR THIRTY YEARS, FROM 1911 TO 1941. IT WAS IN FORT ILLARD THAT A MURDERER NAMED HORATIO VELLO WAS HANGED IN 1937. THE WEB SITE HAD SOME OF THE STORY, BECAUSE IT HAD BEEN ONE OF THE MOST INFAMOUS MURDER CASES IN THE HISTORY OF CANADA DURING THE FIRST PART OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. FROM THE BASICS IT GAVE, I WAS ABLE TO FIND THE ENTIRE STORY ON A DIFFERENT WEB SITE, ONE SPECIFICALLY ABOUT FAMOUS MURDERS. IT TOLD ME EVERYTHING.

IN 1937 THERE WERE MORE THAN EIGHT HUNDRED MEN LIVING AT THE LOGGING CAMP IN FORT ILLARD, BESIDE THE PEACE RIVER. THEY WERE THERE TEN MONTHS A YEAR. THE NEAREST OTHER SETTLEMENT WAS CALLED HULST, WHICH WAS BASICALLY A SISTER CAMP TO THE SOUTH WHERE THE WOOD FELLED IN FORT ILLARD WAS PROCESSED AND PUT ON TRUCKS AND TRAINS TO BE TRANSPORTED AROUND THE COUNTRY. IT WAS NINE MILES AWAY, DOWN THE RIVER. SINCE BOTH CAMPS CONSISTED ENTIRELY OF MEN, OF COURSE THERE WAS A LOT OF DRINKING AND FIGHTING ALL YEAR, AND ALSO A LOT OF GAMBLING, THESE WORKERS DIDN'T MAKE A LOT OF MONEY AND THEY WERE DESPERATE TO MAKE MORE. THE GAMBLING WAS OPERATED BY TWO FOREMEN IN HULST, AND BETS WERE TAKEN AND MONEY EXCHANGED VIA THE BOATS THAT WENT BACK AND FORTH. THESE TWO FOREMEN WERE VERY RUTHLESS, AND WERE BASICALLY WORKING FOR AN ORGANIZED CRIME SYNDICATE ALL THE WAY IN DETROIT. PEOPLE WHO GOT TOO FAR BEHIND WERE ROUTINELY BEATEN UP BY WORKERS AT FORT ILLARD WHO WANTED TO MAKE EXTRA MONEY BY ENFORCING COLLECTIONS OF THE BETS. IN THE LATE THIRTIES, THERE WAS ONE MAN WHO WAS AN ESPECIALLY RECKLESS GAMBLER, AN ADDICT, LIVING IN THE CAMP, AND HE SUNK DEEPER AND DEEPER OVER THE COURSE OF A YEAR. HE ENRAGED THE BOOKIES IN HULST TOO MUCH FOR THEM TO IGNORE, AND THEN HE FINALLY REFUSED TO PAY THEM ANYTHING. HE CLAIMED HE HAD BEEN CHEATED IN SOME WAY. THE WORD CAME FROM DETROIT THAT THE CRIME BOSSES WHO OPERATED THROUGH THE FOREMEN LITERALLY WANTED HIM DEAD. IT WOULD BE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO KILL HIM THOUGH, BECAUSE IN SUCH A SMALL ISOLATED POPULATION EVERYONE WOULD SUSPECT THE TWO OR THREE MEN WHO USUALLY DID THE ENFORCEMENTS ON THE BETS, SO THEY SENT WORD BACK TO HULST THAT IT COULDN'T BE DONE. THE FOREMEN WHO WORKED FOR THE MEN IN DETROIT TRIED TO GET OUT OF IT, BUT THEY COULDN'T DO IT. FOR THE GAMBLING TO CONTINUE, THIS MAN WHO REFUSED TO PAY HIS DEBTS WOULD HAVE TO DIE. WHAT MADE IT EVEN MORE DIFFICULT, EVEN MORE STRANGE, WAS THAT THIS MAN WAS THE CAMP CHAPLAIN. HE WAS A CATHOLIC PRIEST, A PRIEST WITH A GAMBLING ADDICTION AS WELL AS A DRINKING PROBLEM. HE'D BEEN IN FORT ILLARD FOR THREE YEARS. HE WAS A TALL, STRONG MAN, A STREET PRIEST IN MONTREAL WHEN HE WAS A LITTLE YOUNGER. HIS NAME WAS ANTON HALL.

SO MESSAGES WERE EXCHANGED BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE TWO CAMPS, BETWEEN ONE OF THE ENFORCERS IN FORT ILLARD AND ONE OF THE FOREMEN IN HULST, WHOSE NAME WAS STURRIDGE. THE SNOW WAS SO DEEP AT THAT TIME OF YEAR THAT MOST OF THE CONTACT BETWEEN THE TWO CAMPS, UNLESS IT HAD TO DO SPECIFICALLY WITH BUSINESS, WAS BY MESSAGES TAKEN BY BOAT. WHAT IT CAME DOWN TO WAS THAT NO ONE AT FORT ILLARD WAS WILLING TO KILL FATHER HALL, EVEN WHEN STURRIDGE, WHO WAS DESPERATE TO KEEP HIMSELF OUT OF HORRIBLE TROUBLE WITH THE MEN IN DETROIT, OFFERED A LOT OF HIS OWN MONEY TO HAVE IT DONE. ONE NIGHT, STURRIDGE'S CONNECTION WAS SITTING IN HIS SHACK IN FORT ILLARD WITH THE ONLY TWO OTHER MEN WHO KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON. A MAN KNOCKED ON THE DOOR AND WHEN HE CAME IN, HE INTRODUCED HIMSELF AS HORATIO VELLO. VELLO WAS A WORKER WHO NEVER SEEMED TO SAY ANYTHING TO ANYONE, WHO WORKED AND SLEPT AND KEPT OUT OF TROUBLE AND HAD NO FRIENDS THAT ANYONE KNEW OF. SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS MARRIED, BUT IT TURNED OUT HIS WIFE HAD DIED OF CANCER LONG AGO. VELLO SAID THAT FOR A PRICE HE WAS WILLING TO KILL FATHER HALL. FIRST OF ALL, THE MEN IN THE SHACK DEMANDED TO KNOW HOW VELLO KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON, AND HE WOULD ONLY SAY THAT HE HAD OVERHEARD SOME THINGS FROM TIME TO TIME. HE SAID THAT IF HIS GAMBLING DEBTS WERE FORGIVEN, HE WOULD COMMIT THE MURDER. IT TURNED OUT THAT VELLO OWED THE PEOPLE IN HULST A TOTAL OF THIRTY DOLLARS. HE HAD PLACED EXACTLY TWO BETS IN TEN MONTHS, BOTH ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAMES. THIRTY DOLLARS WAS HIS PRICE TO DO THIS THING. THE MEN AGREED. STURRIDGE SENT WORD TO VELLO THAT IF HE WAS CAUGHT AND HE SAID ANYTHING, HE TOO WOULD BE MURDERED. VELLO SAID HE UNDERSTOOD, AND THAT THERE WOULDN'T BE A PROBLEM. THEN TO MAKE SURE THERE WAS NO SECRET DEAL BETWEEN VELLO AND FATHER HALL, STURRIDGE INSISTED THAT EVIDENCE OF THE CRIME BE KEPT AFTER THE BODY WAS BURIED, DISPOSED OF. THIS MEANT HE WANTED TO SEE A THUMB, A TOE, SOMETHING AS PROOF THAT FATHER HALL HADN'T JUST CONVENIENTLY DISAPPEARED. VELLO WAS SUPPOSED TO SEND THE EVIDENCE DOWN THE RIVER ON ONE OF THE SMALL FREIGHT RAFTS THAT CAME INTO HULST FROM FORT ILLARD EVERY OTHER DAY. MEN WOULD SIMPLY GUIDE THESE HUGE RAFTS DOWN THE RIVER AFTER FILLING THEM WITH EXCESS SUPPLIES AND WOOD THAT COULD ONLY BE USED AS FIRE FUEL. VELLO WAS SUPPOSED TO MARK A CERTAIN CRATE SO ONLY STURRIDGE WOULD KNOW WHAT WAS INSIDE.

FOUR DAYS PASSED, AND DOWN THE RIVER CAME THREE SMALL FREIGHT RAFTS WITH THEIR THREE OARSMEN, AND STURRIDGE AND HIS PARTNER WENT OUT TO SUPERVISE THE UNLOADING. THEY SPOTTED A RED SLASH ON A BIG CRATE, AND THEY LIFTED THE HEAVY CRATE OFF THE RAFT AND TOOK IT INTO A SHACK WHERE NO ONE COULD SEE. WHEN THEY LIFTED THE TOP OF THE CRATE, THEY SAW THE ENTIRE BODY OF FATHER HALL. HE HAD BEEN PUT INTO THE CRATE NAKED, IN A SITTING POSITION. HIS HEAD, HIS HANDS, AND HIS FEET HAD BEEN ALL CUT OFF AND WERE ALL SET IN HIS LAP. AND EVERY ONE OF HIS FINGERS HAD BEEN INDIVIDUALLY CUT OFF THE HANDS. THE MEN WERE REVOLTED, AND THEY BURIED THE REMAINS AS QUICKLY AS THEY COULD.

A FEW DAYS AFTER THE MURDER, VELLO, WHO HAD ALMOST NEVER SAID A WORD TO ANYONE IN THREE YEARS, AND WAS ASSUMED TO BE BORDERLINE ILLITERATE, BEGAN TO TALK, AND HE TALKED A LOT, TO ANYONE WHO WOULD LISTEN, ABOUT SOME VERY STRANGE THINGS. HIS MAIN THEME WAS HUMAN ANATOMY, WHICH HE BEGAN TO STUDY VORACIOUSLY FROM THE SINGLE TEXTBOOK HE MANAGED TO BORROW FROM THE CAMP'S DOCTOR. IN PARTICULAR, HE WAS OBSESSED WITH THE HUMAN BODY'S 'CRUEL DETERMINATION' TO 'HIDE' THE HUMAN INTELLECT AND THE SOUL. HE BELIEVED THAT EVERY TRACE OF OUR AUTHENTIC BEING HAD TO RESIDE SOMEWHERE INSIDE THE BODY, AND COULD BE FOUND IF IT WERE DISSECTED THOROUGHLY ENOUGH. HE COULDN'T BELIEVE THERE WAS A DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE SOUL AND THE BRAIN, OR THE SPIRIT AND THE RAW MATERIAL OF THE HEART. HE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND HOW THE RAW LUMP OF BIOLOGY THAT WAS THE HUMAN BODY, WITH ITS DUMB ORGANS AND TISSUES AND BLOOD, COULD PRODUCE THE UNIQUE ACTIONS AND THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS OF A PHILOSOPHICAL, DOUBTING, SENSITIVE HUMAN BEING. SOME MEN IN THE CAMP DESCRIBED HIM AS BEING HORRIFIED, DEEPLY DISTURBED BY THE FACT THAT A MAN, OPENED UP ON A TABLE, WAS SO SUDDENLY REDUCED TO ANIMAL, EVEN PLANT FORM, AND ALL VESTIGES OF HIS HUMANITY WERE GONE. HE BELIEVED THE KEYS TO IDENTITY HAD TO BE INSIDE THE BODY SOMEWHERE, THAT THERE MUST BE SOMETHING PHYSICAL IN THE BRAIN WHICH MADE US HATE OR FEAR OR LOVE OR CREATE MUSIC, THERE MUST BE SOME HIDDEN VALVE OR MUSCLE IN THE HEART WHICH ACCOUNTED FOR HEROISM. WHEN THEY FOUND VELLO'S DIARY LATER ON, THEY FOUND ONE PARTICULAR PASSAGE IN WHICH HE DESCRIBED HOW, SHORTLY AFTER MUTILATING FATHER HALL, HE BECAME UNABLE TO HAVE ANY MOMENT OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN WHICH HE DID NOT IMAGINE HIMSELF LESS THAN A MAN. IN HIS MIND HE WAS SUDDENLY NOTHING MORE THAN A LURCHING ASSORTMENT OF ORGANS AND BONES, AND HIS EXISTENCE BECAME ABSURD TO HIM, FREAKISH. HE COULD ONLY IMAGINE HIMSELF WITHOUT FLESH, A WALKING SKELETON. AT HIS TRIAL THE PROSECUTION ARGUED THIS IS WHAT DROVE HIM UTTERLY INSANE, EVEN BEYOND THE MADNESS THAT HAD CAUSED HIM TO KILL FATHER HALL AND DO UNSPEAKABLE THINGS TO THE BODY, ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT, AS HE SAID IN HIS DIARY, OUT OF 'CURIOSITY' AFTER HE HAD SEVERED FATHER HALL'S LEFT HAND.

WITHIN A WEEK AFTER THE KILLING, THE MESSAGES BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE CAMPS, AND ALL THE CONVERSATION AROUND FORT ILLARD ABOUT WHY FATHER HALL HAD DISAPPEARED, MADE IT OBVIOUS TO STURRIDGE THAT HORATIO VELLO HAD TO DIE NEXT. THERE WASN'T MUCH TIME. STURRIDGE GOT ON A BOAT TO FORT ILLARD HIMSELF TO ARRIVE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND PUT AN END TO THIS MAN WHO WAS COMING CLOSER AND CLOSER TO EXPOSING EVERYTHING. HE JUST WOULDN'T SHUT UP. BUT VELLO WAS GONE BY THEN. HE HAD VANISHED. AFTER A FEW DAYS WENT BY, A COUPLE OF MEN HIKED INTO THE WOODS AND KNOCKED ON THE DOORS OF THREE SMALL HOUSES LIVED IN BY A TRAPPER AND HIS EXTENDED FAMILY. THERE WAS NO ANSWER AT ANY OF THEM, BUT THROUGH THE WINDOWS OF ONE OF THE HOUSES, THE MEN SAW THAT SOMETHING WAS VERY WRONG. THEY BROKE INTO ALL OF THEM, AND IN EACH THEY FOUND THE REMAINS OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAD LIVED THERE. FOUR MEN, THREE WOMEN, EIGHT CHILDREN, ALL OF THEM CUT UP. BODY PARTS WERE EVERYWHERE, NOT ONE LIMB REMAINED ON ANY OF THEM. THE LIMBS WERE LYING ABOUT INSIDE VARIOUS ROOMS IN NO CONCEIVABLE PATTERN, THEY'D JUST BEEN LEFT THERE. THE TORSOS WERE ALL GONE, THOUGH. A QUARTER OF A MILE AWAY IN THE WOODS THEY FOUND VELLO. HE WAS WORKING IN THE OPEN AIR, DISSECTING EACH ONE OF THE TORSOS WITH NOTHING MORE THAN THE KNIVES FROM THE HOUSES AND HIS BARE HANDS. HE WAS VERY CALM WHEN THEY FOUND HIM. HE DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING.

HIS TRIAL WAS QUICK. HE KEPT HIS MOUTH SHUT AND DIDN'T OFFER ANY DEFENSE, EVEN TO HIS LAWYERS. HE JUST TOLD THEM THAT IF THEY WORKED FROM HIS DIARY, THEY COULD MAKE THE JURY SEE WHY HE HAD DONE WHAT HE HAD DONE. HE DIDN'T MIND BEING FOUND GUILTY, SO HE PLEADED THAT WAY. THE ONLY WORDS HE SPOKE PUBLICLY CAME JUST A FEW SECONDS BEFORE HE WAS HUNG. HE SAID OUT LOUD, 'THERE ARE A FEW OTHERS WHO SHOULD GET A PROPER BURIAL.' BEFORE ANYONE COULD ASK HIM WHAT THAT MEANT, HIS NECK WAS SNAPPED AND HE DIED. NO ONE EVER FOUND ANY MORE HUMAN REMAINS, THOUGH THEY SEARCHED FOR THEM ALL OVER, AS WELL AS THEY COULD, CONSIDERING THE WEATHER IN ALBERTA. HIS DIARY MENTIONED ONLY WHAT HE HAD TRIED TO LEARN FROM CUTTING UP FATHER HALL, NO ONE ELSE. HE HADN'T EVEN GOTTEN AROUND TO WRITING ABOUT HIS EXPERIMENTS WITH THE WOODSPEOPLE.

THAT WAS IN 1937. THE WEB SITE DIDN'T HAVE MUCH MORE. IT DID HAVE A PICTURE OF HORATIO VELLO, THOUGH, TAKEN FROM A NEWSPAPER, ACTUALLY ONLY AN HOUR BEFORE HE WAS HUNG. AND IT HAD ONE OF FATHER HALL. IT WAS A VERY CLEAR PHOTO, THEY BOTH WERE. THE PRIEST WHO HAD TRIED TO BECOME MY FRIEND OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF WEEKS DIDN'T LOOK ANYTHING LIKE FATHER HALL. IN THE PHOTO, FATHER HALL, THE GAMBLING ADDICT, HAD BLONDE HAIR AND A MOUSTACHE. WHO THE PRIEST WHO CAME TO MY ROOM LOOKED EXACTLY LIKE, EXACTLY, WAS HORATIO VELLO. THERE WAS NO MISTAKING THE RESEMBLANCE. IT WAS EXACT. THE HAIR WAS THE SAME, THE FACIAL FEATURES WERE THE SAME, ESPECIALLY THE SMALL EYES. IN THE NEWSPAPER PHOTO, THEY WERE LOOKING OFF INTO THE DISTANCE AS HE STOOD BESIDE THE GALLOWS.

I DIDN'T HEAR ANY MORE SOUNDS INSIDE THE SCHOOL, AND I LEFT AT ABOUT FOUR IN THE MORNING. I JUST WALKED OUT ONE OF THE DOORS IN THE BACK, AND I WALKED AS FAST AS I COULD THROUGH THE SNOW BACK TO MY ROOM. SOMETIMES I LOOKED BACK OVER MY SHOULDER TO SEE IF ANYONE ELSE WAS ON THE STREET. NO ONE WAS THERE. NO SNOW PLOWS WENT BY, EVEN. WHEN I OPENED THE DOOR TO MY ROOM I WAS FRIGHTENED BECAUSE THE LIGHTS WERE ON. THEN I REALIZED I MUST HAVE LEFT THEM ON MYSELF.

AT FIVE O'CLOCK THE NEXT AFTERNOON I WAS ON THE METRO TRAIN, STANDING WITH HUMAN BEINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN WEEKS, AND AFTER A THIRTY MINUTE RIDE I GOT OFF AT THE R.F.K. STADIUM STOP. I JUST WANTED TO SEE WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE, WHAT WAS THERE. I WANTED TO SEE THE PLACE WHERE I HAD BEEN TOLD TO GO. I HAD TO SEE IT. IT WAS A COMPULSION. IN THE THIRTY MINUTES IT TOOK TO GET THERE, I DIDN'T EVEN TRULY SEE THE PEOPLE AROUND ME OR HEAR THEIR VOICES OR EVEN SENSE THE MOVEMENT OF THE TRAIN. I WAS SO ALONE THAT I HAD BASICALLY DISAPPEARED. WHERE I HAD GONE WAS DEEP INSIDE MY OWN BODY. I WAS LOOKING OUT THROUGH MY EYES BUT I WAS HIDING WAY BEHIND THEM, FAR DOWN IN MY BRAIN. MY BODY WAS JUST A SHELL TO PROTECT ME. I NEVER FORCED THIS FEELING ON MYSELF, IT JUST CAME. NO ONE ON THE TRAIN COULD HAVE POSSIBLY KNOWN WHAT THEY WERE REALLY LOOKING AT WHEN THEY LOOKED AT ME.

CONTINUE