Roadside Attraction: Part 1
The silver ‘98 Corolla ran a steady 80 miles per hour up Highway 93. Mountainous terrain rose and fell in dreamlike randomness. Scott and Tony were five days into their trip and had hiked two smaller trails on their way to White Mountain. Scott felt the itch to be out of the car and on his feet after two days of being cooped up. They rode with the windows down, but the stink of exhaust from the other vehicles ruined the fresh mid-October air of New Hampshire.
Carsickness began to churn in Scott’s gut, and he turned his attention from the window. “I’m about over sitting in a car, man. Need to make a pit stop.”
Tony took a sip of coffee with his free hand, and the other draped over the steering wheel. “We’re only three hours off from Lincoln. The trail starts there, and we’ll be set for the next week.”
God, Scott thought to himself, three hours of sitting while looking at the things we came here to climb.
Another voice cropped up, a shriveled weed raging against the dying of the light. [Three hours to sit and think. Right, Scottie?]
He shut it out and opened the book he had brought to pass the time. This voice he called The Dark had emerged a few days after October 27th of the previous year. The night Scott thought of as when Reggie Bit the Bullet. That night unlodged a fundamental brokenness inside of him. A brokenness he was not quite ready to wrestle with. The Dark had only gained more of a hold on Scott’s normal thoughts over the following year. He found it difficult to sleep in the quiet of the night alone with his thoughts. He resorted to flipping on all the lights and putting the TV on before being able to rest.
The ride from Georgia to New Hampshire had been mercifully free of its insidious hum. There was Tony to engage in conversation with, plans for accommodations to be made, and the general sense of adventure to drown out the would-be nadir of his brain. As they neared the climax of the trip, though, it clawed at the back of his skull. The Dark begged to turn over the gruesome details of the night 12 months prior. It made him anxious and hungry for stimulation.
Enough; we’re better than that.
[Maybe. If not now, though, you know what’s waiting for you at home.]
Scott flipped the book shut and sighed a bit louder than he had intended. Tony shot him a glance. “You good?”
“Just antsy. Sucks knowing there’s a killer trail a little ways off, and I’m stuck in here.”
Tony nodded. “Right… so I know we haven’t brought it up this whole time, but I feel like I need to ask. You sure everything’s going ok for you? You know… since…”
Since Reggie Bit the Bullet…
“Since… well, you know, Reggie?”
Scott hesitated and, for a moment, considered telling him everything. About the sleeping pills, he had stashed away in his medicine cabinet at home. He could confess how he had sat at the edge of his bed, holding a handful. That he prayed he could go through with it this time. He could tell him about how he had a voice that sounded like Reggie in his head. That every night the Darkness tried to pull him into a mental abyss, he felt more comfort in despite his resistance. Then Tony would know how truly broken he was. And then all of them would know; his parents, his ex, the rest of his friends.
Thankfully Tony spoke for him and broke the silence that stretched for eons. “You’ve been kind of distant since then, and I can understand why, really. Nobody’s blaming you for that. We’re just kind of worried about you is all. Damon and Joe were asking about you the other day, and I honestly didn’t know what to tell them.”
Scott waited for Tony to continue as he tried to formulate words that wouldn’t betray his downward spiral. He met with only silence. Before the vacuum of thought and quiet could pull him into a confession, he shrugged. “It’s just, uh… hard sometimes. To sleep, I mean.” That’s it. That should be enough.
[And we don’t want him to ruin the welcome home gift you left for yourself.]
Tony gave a solemn nod, and it made Scott uncomfortable. They were not strangers to bearing deeper conversations and secrets with each other. Still, Scott avoided personal issues even before Reggie Bit the Bullet.
“Well,” Tony finally said, glancing over at Scott from the highway, “I’m glad we’re doing this now. A little adventure can help a lot, I think.”
Scott couldn’t help but smirk. “I think you’re right.” Then he saw the sign for Wella. “Yo, pull in there. Exit 76.”
Tony squinted at the billboard. “‘Wella. Home of New Hampshire’s famed Spire’. The hell does that mean?”
Scott shrugged. He was eager to get away from the conversation and out of the car, “Don’t know, but we should find out. C’mon, my knees are killing me.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. No more than an hour, though. We’re almost there.” Tony turned on his blinker for exit ramp 76.
The road that led into Wella was not dissimilar to the rest of the scenic countryside of New England. As they made their way further into the valley, though, Scott noticed the treeline veer away. Shrubbery and grass followed suit as it rippled away from the asphalt. He imagined the road looking like a giant serpent swimming through the gravel. Before long little more than rocks and dirt remained.
Scott’s mouth hung agape as his mind grappled with what he saw. This isn’t right. Before them, jutted a misshapen tower that stretched further out as it rose in height. Scott guessed it to be at least a hundred feet tall. Though it was not a cone, the head of the Spire reached out in a hexagonal pattern and was as wide as it was tall. Smaller spikes rose from its head to angry and sharp looking points. The base of the structure looked far too small for the weight it supported. This gave it the queasy illusion of teetering without moving. Its odd surface resisted the harsh sunlight of the clear midday. It stood like a black hole in defiance of gravity and light, daring the natural order of things to tug at its edges.
The Dark in Scott’s head rose. [This is the end of all things, Scottie. A one-way ticket to Donesville].
[As crazy as that thing is?]
Scott decided he’d rather not engage the nonsensical line of thought, correct as it felt. He looked over at Tony to see if he was having a similar reaction of unease. To Scott’s surprise, Tony seemed enamored with the monument.
“Look at the size of that thing, Scottie,” he said with childish glee, not taking his eyes off of it. “Wonder if we can go inside.”
Scott couldn’t think of a less appealing place to be. As they approached, he could see a small structure in front of the Spire, a sort of front office. He struggled to imagine anyone coming out of their way to see something so pagan and gothic in design.
“Maybe for architects and madmen,” Scott heard himself say aloud.
“I, uh, I don’t really know.” Scott chuckled. Tony searched his eyes, and Scott averted his back to the Spire.
It loomed towards them as they pulled into the small gravel parking lot. A dirty tan and white Jeep was the only occupant.
Tony switched the car off and began to work his arms through the sleeves of his sweater. Scott continued to stare at the structure, which now passed the top of the windshield. Its glossy, black surface was all that he could see beyond the office building dwarfed before it.
[Here we are, Scottie, at the end of it all.] The Dark was much louder in his head. Scott almost winced at its intrusiveness. [You know what this place is, we both do. I think we’re gonna have a hell of a time.]