*A slim leather bound notebook has a collection of loose leaf papers stuffed into it. One of them has a crudely drawn map on it, but most are labeled illustrations of a strange looking machine. Slightly cramped handwriting fills the book, chronicalling the day to day activities of its owner*
I told myself I wouldn't cry, and I didn't. Not in front of him at least. I couldn't let him see me fall apart.
Everyone has coping mechanisms when things go horribly wrong. My mother would knit, needles steadily clicking to create sweaters, scarves, and hats from worry and anxiety. My father would roll up his sleeves and spend hours in the garage fixing small or imagined problems with his car. "Keep your hands busy to keep your mind still," he would say. Well I have neither car nor knitting needles, so instead I chose to go off into the jungle to explore. It would give me time to pull myself back together, putting jumbled thoughts in order, and whatever strange creatures I happened to run into would quickly find that a chainsaw can be a wonderful outlet for pent up emotion too.
With a backpack full of rations and a bandolier full of grenades I let my feet carry me where they wanted to, wandering without any particular destination in mind. I went deeper and deeper into the jungle and after a while I found myself in a part of the Island I had never been to before. Under the shadow of tall trees things were quiet and peaceful, and I found my thoughts drifting, not to Joey, that was still a wound too raw to probe just yet, but back to my life before the Island and all the things and people I had left behind.
I'd been so caught up with my new life on the Island, with my friends, with my clan, with Joey, that I'd almost forgotten my real purpose here. When I woke up in the middle of a strange field after some sneaky bastards thought it would be funny to steal my pants, I had promised myself I would do whatever I could to find a way home. And reclaim my pants (the later took surprisingly longer than I thought it would, but I digress. . .) Along the way I had somehow gotten sidetracked and lost sight of the first goal. This whole situation had been a wakeup call, and I was forced to re-evaluated my priorities because of it. I couldn't stay stuck in a rut, sitting around and doing nothing when a solution could be right around the corner just waiting for someone with enough initiative to stumble across it.
I was so absorbed in my own thoughts that I didn't notice it right away. Everything around me was calm. Birds chirped from the branches above me and a small lizard fled underfoot as I stepped to close to its hiding place. Nothing else happened to disturb the air of tranquility around me. Nothing attacked me. I seemed to be in a completely ordinary jungle.
I never would have thought there would come a time when I would find it odd to not be set upon by winged pistachios and gestalt tree branches at every turn, but I guess after a while here your idea of what is 'normal' starts to change. I thought surely it must be a mistake, that I was just having a remarkable string of luck that would soon be ended once I reached the next set of trees, but I kept walking and walking and still there was nothing Improbable in sight. To test the theory that was starting to put itself together in my mind I pulled a spare Imp bomb from my pack and set it to go off. I sprinted out of what I guessed to be its range (you can never really tell with these things) and ducked behind the sturdiest tree I could find, waiting for it to go off. Nothing happened. I had found myself in a place without Improbability.
After a brief attempt at rest which ended completely unsuccessfully, I continued my journey onward. I kept waiting for something to appear and prove my hunch wrong, but I took step after step and neither Tom Cruise nor the Pope leapt out of the trees to attack me. It wasn't long before a barely audible mechanical humming brought itself to my attention, and as I followed the direction it was coming from it grew increasingly louder until it was a steady thrumming in my ears that caused the ground to vibrate under my feet.
Soon I caught the glint of something metallic up ahead, and as I approached it I realized it was an immense building hidden amongst the trees. From the parts I could see of it not obscured from view, it was an irregularly shaped sprawling structure composed entirely of metal plating. From my vantage point the walls looked featureless, with no obvious doors or windows anywhere in sight. The one thing I was certain of though was that the humming was emanating from it.
I approached the building and began circling around the perimeter, hoping that, in this one place at least, logic would prevail and there would be some sort of obvious entrance on one of the blank walls. After all, what's the point of having a building that you can't get into?
I had almost made a complete circuit, spotting a suspiciously familiar pair of trees, when I finally found the door. It had a lock on it, of course I should have expected that, but the building must have been sitting there in the jungle for a long time because it was rusted through. A hole in the middle of it rendered the old security device completely useless. I tugged on the door, gently at first, and when it wouldn't easily open, with the force one would apply if trying to budge an elephant that had just taken a seat in your favorite flower garden. Squeaky hinges angrily protesting, it eventually ground outward and I slipped inside.
Skylights cut into the roof high above me kept the cavernous room I found myself in from being completely dark. On the opposite wall were several openings that looked like the start of a network of twisting corridors, pipes snaking back and forth across the ceilings and floors to disappear into some dark hole only to reappear a few meters farther down.
The thing that immediately caught my attention however, was the large piece of machinery situated in the middle of the room. My first thought was that it looked like a much more sensibly put together version of the Improbability Drive, and I wondered if its function paralleled its form. If it was responsible for what I had seen outside then it seemed possible that it might be generating a small Probability field within the larger field of Improbability.
The implications of this were exciting. If it was placed close enough to the Improbability Drive, would it make it obey the normal laws of physics and causality? Could it once and for all put an end to the horrible, horrible burny fire? End Horatio's ability to shrug off the fact that I had left it a smoldering wreck, reconstructing itself out of pure spite before turning me into a Zombie or Midget (once again robbing me of my hard-won pants!) in order to get the last laugh?
I spent most of today making as many detailed diagrams and schematics of the Probability Drive as I could. I was quite painstaking in my work and made a valiant effort to ensure they were more easily decipherable than my earlier failed attempt at illustrating the finer points of a puppy kicking competition. Why certain people had so much trouble guessing what it was I will never understand.
I was also curious to determine the range of the Probability field, so I located my earlier dud Imp bomb, walked a fair distance past it, and set off the other one that I had been carrying in my pack. It exploded in a cloud of technicolor confetti, so cleary I had once again entered into the realm of Improbability. I was trying to figure out how to come up with a more exact boundary line when of all things, Skidg's fish popped into existence in front of me. Few things seemed more Improbable that a talking, levitating, teleporting, mechanical fish, so I decided to enlist its aid as a guinea pi-er . . . noble pioneer of science.
I had it follow me, and as soon as it began to stop working correctly I judged we were once again under the influence of the Probability Drive. The fish didn't look terribly pleased about all of this (touchy little thing) and it disappeared again in a huff, no doubt to report back to Skidge.
Are you familiar with the phrase curiosity killed the cat? Well I'm glad I'm not currently a kittymorph because I went poking around with something that in retrospect I would have been better off leaving alone. Twenty twenty hindsight eh?
I decided that to truly understand how the Drive worked I would have to open it up and take a peek at its insides. The front panel came off without any trouble, and things were going well until I started removing the panel at the back. It was reluctant to move out of place, so I gave what was meant to be the lightest of pulls and heard the ominously shrill sound of metal scraping against metal. The sounds of happily working machinery began to grind to a halt, and the machine started violently shaking. There was a dull Thwoomp sound, and I blacked out.
When I came to I had a pounding headache, but was luckily in one piece without a scratch on me. The first thing I did once I was back on my feet was examine the Drive, and it didn't take long for me to manage to piece together what had happened. A loosened screw on the back of the panel had snagged on something inside the machine, and when I pulled it had torn free, wrenching things out of place and damaging old brittle pieces of metal.
Overall the Drive still looks to be in good shape, and I'm cautiously optimistic that I might be able to fix it. I have little confidence that I could rebuild this thing from scratch, but I think I'm up to the task of making simple repairs. The problem of course is that I don't have any sort of tools or parts with me, so I will have to make a trip back into town to pick up supplies.
As I stepped outside I was surprised to find a small collection of Improbable creatures that I had never encountered before milling around outside the building. As soon as the Drive broke down Improbability must have flooded into this previously untouched place, altering everything that it came into contact with.
Of the things I could recognize there was a duck billed platypus (an Improbable creature if I ever saw one), an unflattering pleather mini skirt that kept trying to make me wear it, a twist tie that frustratingly refused to come untwisted no matter which way you turned it, an animated set of dentures, an alarm clock flashing in red block letters "YOU OVERSLEPT! WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP!" and a mime trying to put a very frightened looking squirrel inside an invisible box. They all seemed relatively harmless (except for the mime of course) so I waded through them and continued on my way.
I don't plan on taking long to gather what I need in Pleasantville, so I should be back shortly to return things to the way they were before they have the chance to get any more out of hand.
My trip into town was brief but productive, and in a lucky coincidence I managed to run into Ferryn while I was there. I entrusted my previous journal to him/her for safekeeping as he/she (screw this, from now on I'm instituting the gender ambiguous term whatsit) is a good friend that I trust implicitly. As another pleasant surprise, whatsit also added a parcel of Happycakes to my provisions.
The walk back was spent munching on a piece of the cake, and even if it hadn't been one of the most delicious foods ever created, after days of living off of ration packs I would have sworn that it was . Needless to say, I was in a much better mood by the time I was once again within sight of the building.
As I drew nearer to the structure, my rendition of ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall winding to a close without anything left to take down from the now bare wall, something set my nerves on edge. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but the jungle seemed more foreboding in a way that I felt but couldn't describe. The rather ridiculous collection of creatures that was there when I had left was now nowhere in sight, and instead darker shapes moved in the shadows of the trees. They darted in and out of my peripheral vision, and I almost wasn't certain if they were there at all.
Then I saw what was left of the mime splattered against a nearby tree. I quickened my pace and saw the shadowy figures in the trees starting to gather, following me as I moved and making less effort to hide themselves now. Maybe they were just watching me with harmless curiosity, but I somehow very much doubted that.
I started running, which was a mistake. Perhaps if I had stayed calmer they would have left me alone, content to watch from a distance, but all at once began to converge, loping beside and behind me with oddly paced strides. One got close enough to take a casual swipe at me with a slimy grey arm, and I could feel the rush of disturbed air on the back of my neck from where it had barely missed. With a frantic burst of speed I reached the door, yanked it open, and slammed it shut behind me. Whether they were unable to figure out how to open it or unwilling to enter the building I don't know, but they made no attempt to get inside. I considered myself fortunate indeed since the lock was broken and the door swung outward. As I stood there trying to calm my ragged breathing I reassured myself that everything would be fine once I fixed the Drive.
I spent a restless night with my back against the wall and my chainsaw in hand in case something tried to come in through the door. Once the first rays of dawn began streaming down through the skylights I set to work, particularly motivated to finish the repairs as soon as possible and not waste any time.
I replaced broken parts when I had a ready-made match at hand and crudely fashioned imitations that I prayed would work when I didn't. I was making good progress, and by my estimate if I continued to work the rest of the day and most of the next it should be up and running again.
I was on my back with a wrench between my teeth, elbow-deep in machinery, when there was an ear-splitting shrieking noise, shrill and pulsing like a fire alarm put in front of a megaphone. It was so loud and piercing that it was physically painful. My head was ringing with it. I screamed, but I couldn't hear my own voice over the sound. Everything in front of me started dancing in wobbly double vision, and my last panicked thought was that now there would now be twice as many things to fix.
I must have lost consciousness because the next thing I remembered was waking up with the beginnings of another ugly headache. I found myself across the room, in one of the entryways to the branching corridors, and as I looked around me I sat too stunned for words or thought. Unrecognizable bits of machinery lay strewn across the room. My left shoulder was dislocated, a set of bookend bruises coloring both sides of my forearm. Large claw marks had been gouged into the ground, leaving a set of jagged lines in the middle of the floor. Whatever had been here was huge. And it had smashed the Drive beyond all hope of repair.
At this point I thought it best to focus on immediate problems, ones that I could actually do something about. The shoulder at least was something I could fix. I brought my arm in close against my body and began to slowly turn it outward until it slid back into joint. Now I was in considerably less pain and better equipped to handle whatever was thrown at me next.
It was obvious that I wasn't going to be able to turn the scrap metal in front of me into a working piece of machinery, so there didn't seem to be any point in staying in the building. Actually, with a giant machine destroying monster lurking around I decided it would be a particularly bad idea. I opened the door a crack and stuck my head outside to judge if I could make a break for it.
There were dozens of fleshy things surrounding the building, covered in far too many arms, eyes, and mouths in all the wrong places. I had thought that with the Probability field no longer in place Improbability would fill the empty space until some sort of equilibrium had been established. Instead, Improbability seemed to be overcompensating. Perhaps it was trying to make up for lost time. Each wave of creatures was being replaced with one successively worse.
I ducked back inside. On second thought, maybe the mystery monster wasn't so bad. At least it hadn't killed me, and it certainly had been given the opportunity. Maybe if I stayed put and waited it out the monsters outside would get bored and wander off. Maybe they'd eat each other.
Have you ever had a day when everything that could go wrong did? I had just had that day, and in a passing thought I figured that things couldn't get much worse. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Things can always get worse.
I'm playing a waiting game now, hoping that the situation outside will change. I sifted through the scattered remnants of the Drive and made a pile of the few pieces that looked salvageable. It was just something to do to keep busy, and once the task was accomplished boredom quickly set in.
I jogged in place, recited the capitals of as many countries as I could remember (I got stumped on Djibouti), braided loose bits of string in my pocket, and played enough games of tic-tac-toe to realize that it was doomed to always end in a tie. I checked outside periodically, but nothing had changed. I was trying to see how many words I could create using the letters in my name when the shrieking started and I blacked out again.
When I came to I had no idea where I was and had vague memories of seeing things that I knew couldn't possibly be there. I was still in one piece more or less, so whatever this thing is must enjoy toying with me more than hurting me. I assumed that I had to be in one of the corridors because of the pipes, but I had never explored back as far as where I currently found myself for fear that I would unintentionally run into the monster.
It took me many wrong turns and what seemed like hours of walking to find my way back. While navigating the mazelike hallways I speculated about the noise that proceeded my blackouts. The only explanation I could come up with was that it was either a sound that summoned the monster or was made by it. Despite me best efforts I couldn't devise a plan that would let me tell the difference.
I finally managed to reunite myself with my things and once again set down to write. Since there is no longer any useful information to record, there isn't any reason to keep up with these entries except for the spare time I now find on my hands. I think that I - oh god here it comes again
*a large section of shredded and badly damaged pages follow this entry, and it's not until the end of the notebook that the writing picks up again on a handful of untouched pages*
Damned thing ruined my notebook and poked holes in my pack. That does it. The coconuts said that I should track it down, and that's just what I'm going to do.
I was only joking. The coconuts didn't talk.
I was so fed up that finally confronting the monster did sound like a good idea though. I spent the day combing through every inch of the building. I went down every hallway and explored every corner. I found nothing, absolutely nothing. There was no monster, no secret lair, no sign that anyone or anything was in the building but myself. I heard the noise again, but this time I remember a few things that happened after it. They were . . . odd. Once again I remember seeing things that had no business being there. My mother for one, and a trio of singing animatronic pirates. Mother didn't stay very long, but the pirates took forever to leave. Thinking back it seems completely ridiculous. I'm starting to wonder if I'm losing it.
And another thing I'm starting to wonder about is if I'm alone in here after all. There is only one entrance to the building, so I should have come across another creature in my search if it were here. I'm not sure how it would have gotten into the building in the first place anyway. The door is small, certainly not big enough to allow something large enough to make those claw marks through it. The thing that I found the most disturbing though was the lack of claw marks elsewhere in the building. I've only found them between places that I've blacked out and places I've woken up, and they start and stop suddenly.
What if I'm the one turning into the monster and simply not remembering it? Maybe I'm the one who smashed the Drive. Maybe I walked into the corridors myself instead of being dragged. Maybe the shrieking is only in my head. I don't like that all the pieces fit, and I hope that I'm wrong. I really do.
I just want the pirates to shut up. It wouldn't be so bad if they sang a different tune every once in a while, but hearing the same song repeated over and over again ad nauseum is really starting to grate on my nerves. What I wouldn't give for a sturdy pair of earplugs right now. I'm terribly hungry too. I'd drink the soup but there's still an eyeball floating in it and I don't like the way it's looking at me. I'm running out of string. The next time Ferryn's nose falls off it's just going to have to stay off. There it goes again. She's out of luck this time. Bob's been good company though. There was a lot to catch up on, and we've had some very nice conversations. Or at least I think we have. They've been a bit one sided. He doesn't say much, but then again he never did. Zephy was here too although she didn't stay long. And Joey . . . I don't want to talk about Joey. I swear I'm going to kill those damned pirates.
It worked! I had peace and quiet for a little while. They came back and I had to use the chainsaw on them again, but at least it's bought me some time. Things are starting to look up. If I'm the monster then it means I'm perfectly safe in here. Food is running low, but think I can still safely wait for a few days. I checked outside again today and the monsters have changed again. This time they don't look so dangerous, kind of like a cross between a lizard and a kangaroo. Maybe if I wait a while longer they'll be gone completely. At this point I'm trying to preserve what few brain cells I have left, so I'm going to get some sleep. In case something happens to me I've placed something in the back of this journal with the hopes that it will get to the right place. It's always best to take precautions. Life is unpredictable and usually gets the last laugh. I'll write again when I wake up.
*this is the last entry, nothing but blank pages fill the rest of the book*