Well, shit. I didn’t really mean to start writing another novel so soon after finishing Peripheral Vision. But I wanted to write a story about a city, for which I had a few ideas, then as I was filling out the plot I remembered a few other ideas that had been stirring around in my mind for a while so I added them in and, well, it looks like it might end up another novel. Probably not as long as Mostly Hidden/Peripheral Vision, but it might at least end up being novella-length.
I opened and stepped through the doorway, two dollars – each torn in half – crumped into the palm of my clenched left hand. Behind me was a member of the CF – City Force – and beyond the door stood five people in a semicircle. Each held a necklace with a stone dangling from the bottom in their right hands. I couldn’t see it, but I knew the CF member wore the same necklace under his clothing.
After that, I…
Wait, what the fuck did I do? I’ve started this narrative way too far ahead. I think I need to step back a bit. I guess I’ll start at the beginning. “The beginning, a great place to start,” the bible said, I think. Did it? Never read the book myself.
Anyway, the beginning.
I checked my wallet. One-hundred and thirty-six dollars were within, along with an empty Panera gift card and a debit card that I was, for all intents and purposes, not legally allowed to use.
I was packing a suitcase. I was a… well, I guess you could say I was a travelling salesman of sorts. There was a city that I hadn’t been to yet – nor had anyone else- and it was my next target. I opened my briefcase to make sure I had a good supply and heard a car honk outside. My ride was here.
I was riding with someone I didn’t know. There was this carpool website thing I used called Intersection, and we had scheduled it on there.
I quickly tapped out a bit of powder onto the edge of the table I was using, split it into two, and insufflated each portion in each nostril.
A few seconds later, and I was ready to go.
The ride reminded me of a line from the first paragraph of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like ‘I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…'”
Thankfully, though, I wasn’t driving. My license had been suspended recently due to a rather complex situation which I, all things considered, got the better side of. We didn’t talk much at first, but a little later on she – her name being Hannah – offered me a cigarette, so we began chatting. She was going to the city to write a news story, she said. I said I was a traveling salesman.
I don’t remember a whole lot of the ride other than the beginning. We smoked several more times, and listened to something she had brought; Simon and Garfunkel, I think.
When we were about ten miles out from the city, I felt a wave of apprehension. I felt heavily inclined to ask her to stop the car, get out with my briefcase, walk to a nearby gas station, and think. But I couldn’t. It was my job, and even if it hadn’t been, it felt like I was destined to get into the city one way or another.
Ten minutes later, we arrived.
In the year 1738, a man named Frederick Simmons bought the land that would become the town of Desmond, MA. How he came into the money needed to purchase it is not important. It is unknown why he purchased it, as well. But after doing so, he apparently still had enough money to build a few houses and a store to get the town started. A few families moved there, eventually, then a few more.
Twenty years later, and it was a nice small town, the kind of town where everyone knows each other and everyone is friends – or relatives.
After the first twenty years, fewer and fewer families moved to Desmond. It kept growing, though, as children grew up, married, and had children of their own.
It was a strangely secluded town. Perhaps it was due to the fact no one ever left the town, perhaps it was just due to the strong connections between them all, knitting them into an impenetrable mesh of a town.
Sometime around the 1920s it became a fully-fledged city. Still, no new familes moved there. Virtually no one outside of the town even knew of its existence; no major roads went through or even near it.
No one went to that city until a certain day in 2016, when, strangely enough, six outsiders all entered the city at the same time. At the moment they did, Frederick Simmons knew it, sitting in the small room he controlled the city from. He could sense an alien presence.
I suppose I left something out about the ride, actually. About midway through – and I don’t have any memory of this myself, actually, it is just what Hannah told me afterward – we stopped by at a Panera Bread to have a quick lunch. I ordered the “You Pick Two”, choosing a half Caesar salad and a half Mediterranean sandwich, she ordered a half steak and white cheddar panini.
It was good, I assume. I have little remembrance of my visits to Panera Bread as a rule, for some reason. But more importantly, there was a man sitting at the table next to us. He was eating a single piece of toast and crying, literally, into his mug of tea. He wore a very worn and ill-fitting tweed jacket, dress shirt, tie, and slacks.
I didn’t learn until later, but his name was Rennet Bennet. The name alone was enough to make someone cry, I think, although I know now that that wasn’t why he was crying. We’ll get to that soon enough.
Rennet Bennet had first learned of Frederick Simmons about two years ago. Or, rather, he hadn’t learned of him, but he had learned of his presence. In the same way that astronomers discovered Neptune, by looking at an otherwise inexplicable change in the orbit of Uranus, Rennet had come to the knowledge of Frederick’s existence.
He had begun his search, then. And on a certain day in 2016, he made his way to where he was certain Frederick was based.
So, that’s three of the outsiders that we’ve talked about so far. Me, Hannah, and Rennet. The other three? We’ll get to them later. Their stories don’t cross paths with our own until a little while later.
After we arrived in the city, we stopped at a restaurant to catch a quick dinner before she dropped me off at my hotel and drove to her own. I spent ten dollars – including tip – on a plate of pasta. More than I’d normally spend, but it seemed a good price for being in the city.
After that, she dropped me by the hotel, the Desmond Resort. I said goodbye and thanks for the ride, got my briefcase and suitcase, and went inside.
It was a decently large hotel, but there was only one receptionist. No one besides he and I were in the lobby. It was decently late, though, so I figured everyone who was there had just gone to bed already.
I checked in to my room, got changed for bed, and slipped under the sheets. I had some trouble falling asleep. Just some of that same anxiety and apprehension from earlier, I think.
The odd thing, though, was that the hotel was completely silent. No movement from the neighboring rooms nor the rooms above them. It was nice not to be disturbed, but at the same time it was somewhat unnerving.