Readers, something miraculous has happened. I use the word “miraculous” here in the sense of “so unexpected or amazing as to seem like a miracle”, of course. I do not think any miracle actually occurred. In fact, given the events of last Thursday night and early Friday morning, I would decidedly prefer not to believe the world was supernaturally altered for my benefit, because the idea of exactly what was doing the altering is simply too disturbing to contemplate. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I write to you now, dear readers, from the Hemlocks on Prism Bay. Yes, I made it. I’m here. And it is glorious and wonderful and very much more than I had imagined. There are no horned children, at least not that I have seen. Actually, the house, in addition to being quite huge, is quite empty. Aside from Mrs. Sylvester—sender of the Letter of Invitation, fifty-or-so pages of Guidelines and General Information, and mysteriously posted riposte—I appear to be the only person in residence. It could be that I am simply the first to arrive; Mrs. Sylvester has been pretty coy on the subject. She is a remarkable woman, readers, (I will, of course, not call her “interesting”, even if that would be an accurate description as well,) and I will be sure to tell you more about her as the summer progresses. For now, let me explain how I got here—at least as much as I understand it myself.
When last we saw our hero (meaning me; I am pleased enough with the outcome of this adventure to cast myself as its hero), I was finishing a serving of pie à la mode in preparation for my renewed attempt to locate the elusive Prism Bay. I never finished the pie, readers; after my encounter with the exceedingly strange man who invaded my booth, I had more or less lost my appetite. If you had seen that purple tongue of his, glistening with extra-thick saliva like a still-living hunk of freshly-chopped octopus, gooey pie filling and melted ice cream might not have seemed all that appealing to you, either. The young woman with the explicit t-shirt and her mother were still watching me, too, perhaps convinced some kind of drug deal had just gone down at my table, so I thought it best to pay my bill, pack up my laptop, and be on my way.
You will recall, readers, that there was one more route to Prism Bay I hadn’t really considered. The reason I hadn’t really considered it was that it seemed very silly—even sillier than asking birds for directions. Also, finding this other route required a good amount of work and preparation, and I was being lazy; I did not like the idea of more work, or more preparation, not after the day I’d had, and especially not in pursuit of something so silly. But now I was filled with renewed determination, and I thought you might enjoy a bit of silliness. I remembered, too, that laziness is one of the worst possible traits in a writer—far worse than silliness. And so I would do something silly, and then write about it, for your entertainment. Thus, without further ado, here is the pertinent excerpt from “Directions to the Hemlocks on Prism Bay”:
Do you see what I mean, readers? Compared to this nonsense, crashing my car into a ditch while counting stars seems almost like a sensible course of action. I will admit, however, that the author of these fifty-or-so pages of Guidelines and General Information took their silliness very seriously indeed. The attached list was there, as promised, and included no fewer than a dozen “Guardians”, each with a detailed procedure for gaining their favor and thus entry to Prism Bay.
I decided to go with G’lal the Devourer, not so much because he was on the list of recommended Guardians as that his appeals process seemed the most reasonable. I rather liked the sound of “She of the Foam-Capped Waves”, but getting her on my side apparently required, among other things, that I “drown a bird of the sky in the salt water of an ebbing tide”, which was not only completely messed up, but also impractical, because where was I going to get a “bird of the sky” at eleven pm? Late-night pet shop? Anyway, G’lal the Devourer had far more sensible demands.
Sort of makes you feel for this G’lal guy, right? I mean, which of us couldn’t relate to the idea of never truly having your fill, of wanting something you can never fully attain? And that part about “[lingering] beyond the lights of… revels”? How sad is that? Poor G’lal the Devourer just wants to be invited to a few revels! It seemed like the perfect fit for my mission—wasn’t I, like good old G’lal, out here searching for something just beyond my grasp?
On top of that, I had a good sense of where I could find that “banquet of great excess”. It is a well known fact that Wendy’s stays open until the wee hours, and with a little help from my trusty mobile device, I was able to find one within a relatively short drive. For the banquet itself, I thought the Dave’s Triple Cheeseburger Meal probably qualified as “great excess”, especially once you added the large fries and soda, but I decided to get a side of chicken nuggets just to be safe. The tomato topping would take care of the “[fruit] that grow[s] upon the earth” and the fries would be “those that grow beneath the earth” (potatoes, right?). The burger itself, of course, was the “flesh of beasts that walk the plains of the earth”. I was probably taking some license treating the soda as “the earth’s sweetness” (I got non-diet, of course), but I thought I made up for it with my “intoxications… of fermented grains”. I still had that tax-free scotch from New Hampshire, readers, and it was really nice scotch.
Finding a town with between five hundred and a thousand “human inhabitants” was also relatively easy, thanks to our pal the Internet, as was zeroing in on the “last four-way intersection before exiting the town boundaries” (which seemed to me like a pretty relative reference anyway). I was a little worried about the next part, readers, because things were going to get very weird very quickly, and I didn’t like the idea of what would happen if a patrol car drove by while I was appealing to G’lal the Devourer. I got as far away from the road as I thought I reasonably could, and started setting the table.
Grim stuff, right, readers? And the grimness continues:
I mean, honestly, what kind of bullshit was this? Poor G’lal the Devourer. Here I was, building him a domain, then setting his whole banquet outside of it? But I thought I’d better follow the directions, such as they were. Fortunately, there was a diagram showing how all this stuff was supposed to look, because it was a little hard to tell from the instructions. There were also a bunch of symbols I had to draw—not easy working with hot wax. Oh, and if you’re wondering where I got wax “the red of a young sow’s life’s blood”, I picked up a big apple scented candle at a convenience store on my way into town. I also got a few sheets of poster board to use for a tablecloth. Maybe I'd be performing a bizarre occult ritual on a lonely stretch of road in the middle of the night, but I saw no reason why it shouldn't be a classy occult ritual.
I don’t think I’m flattering myself when I say the banquet looked pretty good by the time I got everything in place. I’ve included a photo, readers, so you can judge for yourselves. As everyone knows, there’s hardly any point in having a nice meal if you don’t preserve it for social media posterity. I’ll be posting this one soon—I just need to find the right filter. What do you think works best for an offering to G’lal the Devourer? Valencia? Mayfair? Earlybird? We can try a few different ones and decide. Anyway, there wasn’t really time to stand around admiring my work. It was getting late, and I still needed to do the “Binding and Appeal”.
Fortunately I’d read this part ahead of time and thought to buy a banquet of my own at Wendy’s. I probably could’ve gotten away with stealing a few of G’lal’s fries, but I wanted to do the thing right. On top of that, prepping an arcane ritual really works up an appetite, and it had been a while since dinner. I had a spicy chicken sandwich, and it was delicious.
Readers, this is a little embarrassing, but I’ll didn’t really know how to pronounce “G’lal”. Was it “guh-lall”? Maybe “gull-al”? What sort of “a” sound were we talking about here? What was I supposed to do with that apostrophe? Maybe it didn’t matter all that much, since I was yelling with my mouth full of spicy chicken, but I know how annoying it can be when someone mispronounces your name. I ended up making it rhyme with “the mall” and flinging much semi-masticated food in the process.
So I stood there beside the road, in front of all this melted wax and burning candles built around a full Dave’s Triple Cheeseburger Meal with a side of chicken nuggets and single-malt scotch, and made nom-noming sounds while I thought about my innermost desires. I will say, readers, just then it was a little difficult keeping my innermost desires straight. For one, I really wanted to avoid being arrested for performing what had started to look like a vaguely satanic ritual in the middle of this sleepy little town. I also wanted to get a decent blog post out of all this, though that wasn’t quite mutually exclusive with avoiding arrest. I did think about finding Prism Bay, but that was possibly the vaguest desire of them all, since I had about zero hope this Appeal to the Guardians thing would actually work.
Well, readers, I’ll leave you to decide. I will merely point out that I was not arrested, and that you are now reading the resulting post. And that, most surprising of all, I found Prism Bay.
The first sign that things had gone well was that no raccoons appeared to tear me limb from limb. This tends to be a pretty good sign in most situations, generally speaking, but especially then, since the possibility had actually been mentioned in the fifty-or-so pages of Guidelines and General Information. I wasn’t really sure what to do with my red wax table of offering, now that the appeal to G’lal the Devourer was over, so I swept away as much of the wax as I could, removed all wrappers and refuse, and left the food where it was—maybe it would distract the raccoons until I could make my escape. I’d served the scotch in a paper cup, and was tempted to down it before heading on, but I knew, whatever happened, I’d have some driving to do.
My next task—the last step from my directions—was to take four right turns. This would, of course, put me more or less back where I started, depending on how the roads fit together, but I had already sacrificed a triple cheeseburger to an unknown entity of eternal hunger, so at this point I was pretty much down for whatever. I started up my car, took my first right, then the right after that, then another right.
The final right turn set me on a narrow, wooded road. I drove, expecting any minute to see the intersection where I’d had my late-night snack with G’lal the Devourer, local detectives now sifting around for evidence of satanic activity, but the road only continued on, became bumpy and dirt-covered, twisted and turned. Checking my GPS map, I saw myself—or, the little dot representing my position—in a featureless swathe of green. My phone proclaimed “no service”, not an unusual turn of events in rural Maine, but not exactly welcome, either. The woods grew ever darker and closer. Turning on my car’s high beams only made it harder to see: the predawn fog was rolling in.
Then, readers, just as I was beginning to get nervous, to imagine scenarios involving flat tires on this secluded drive, masked lunatics, packs of raccoons that had tracked me all the way from town and now stalked through the darkness, awaiting the moment to strike—that is, as it was starting to seem like I’d have to just put the car in reverse and back my way to the road—just then, the trees cleared, and I was driving beneath a wide, starry sky. Ahead, I saw the lights of a small down, and the ocean glittering beneath the last sliver of a waning moon.
Minutes later, I was driving through the town center. Most of the buildings were dark—it was past two in the morning by then—but through the windows of one restaurant I saw the servers and chefs gathered for an after-hours drink. I was tempted to knock on the door and ask where exactly I’d turned up, but I didn’t want to disturb them—and readers, part of me knew already. By some miraculous turn of events—whether coincidence, serendipity, or the favor of G’lal the Devourer—I had found my way to Prism Bay.
As the road curved away from the little collection of shops and eateries, I pulled over and got out the fifty-or-so pages of Guidelines and General Information, so I could check my directions one more time. My destination, the Hemlocks, was located at “Five Fathom Drive, approximately three miles from the town center”. I drove on, and on, and on. For maybe an hour, readers, I drove, around and around, back and forth, looking for Fathom Drive. I saw my first real evidence that this was, indeed, Prism Bay: a poster for the Prism Bay Theatre Company, which was holding auditions for its first production of the season, The Revenger’s Tragedy. But there was no sign of Fathom Drive.
Finally, I found what I needed: evidence I’d made a mistake. The first signs of dawn were beginning to show over the horizon, and as I took yet another turn toward the town center, I noticed a rickety sign hanging from a tree. The letter “F” caught my attention, and when I went to look, I saw it read “Five Fathom Dr.”. I hadn’t been looking for number five Fathom Drive, it seemed; “Five Fathom Drive” was the name of the road. Sure enough, just about three miles from the town center, Five Fathom Drive ended at the doorstep of great house, situated deep among the trees. A single light shone over the porch, and on the door was pinned a small note. I’ve copied it below.
Well, readers, I don’t think I have to tell you this was a welcome sight indeed, but so that you can see it for yourself, and partake in my sheer relief at coming to the end of the day’s odyssey, I’ve included a photograph. It was, as will be apparent, that same typewritten text. I had, it seemed, finally reached the origin of the mysterious Letter of Invitation. I crept quietly to my room, doing my best not to wake any of the other guests (I still expected there to be other guests then), all the while reveling in my good fortune.
Probably it was just luck. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences, readers—of getting lost to some ridiculous degree, of wandering around what seemed like forever, only to emerge, suddenly, just where you wanted to be. Even so, before I went to bed, I drank a toast to G’lal the Devourer, who had, it seemed, seen fit to smile upon my endeavors with his eyeless gaze from all the way out there in the starving darkness. What a guy, right?
A postscript, dear readers, to my tale of searching and finding: though the majority of this post was composed the day after my arrival in Prism Bay (and I did get up in time for breakfast—but that is a story for another time), I am in fact posting to you from a little café a few towns over. The Hemlocks is quite the impressive house, readers, but its technology is far from up to date. I was hard pressed to find an electrical outlet that didn’t seem ready to fry my laptop down to its circuits; wifi was out of the question. So too fiber optics and DSL. Even if I could somehow acquire a dial-up modem (do such things still exist?), and even if I could convince Mrs. Sylvester to let me attach it to the house’s one telephone (and I seriously doubt that would fly with Mrs. S), I don’t think it would even work with the house’s old-timey wiring. I’m seeking a better solution, but for now it seemed easiest just to drive to the nearest Starbucks.
Hopefully I won’t have any trouble retracing my steps back to Prism Bay. If I have to make an Appeal to the Guardians every time I leave town, this summer is going to get very expensive, and that’s if the raccoons don’t get me. I’ll let you know next time, dear readers. Until then, I say to you, with much joy, gravity, and seriousness, NOM-NOM-NOM!