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11.01.02 1:15 a.m.

People only see what they are prepared to see.

 -Ralph Waldo Emerson  

Previously in Xenology: We met OtherZack approximately once. I tried to photograph the Sorority Nazis. Halloweens occurred. I tried to find a green meteor rock to kill Superman. Emily needed twenty hours of sleep a night.

OtherZack is missing. Really, honestly, completely missing. Missing to the extent that his mother reported him and detectives are searching his home for clues. Missing to the degree that he was in the newspaper.
Don't ask  
Really, don't ask
The story goes as follows, as far as I know. He disappeared October 20th around midnight, while depositing the theater's money for the night. None of the money actually got deposited, so $3700 in cash is also missing along with Mike's van. This certainly motivates the police to believe that OtherZack has disappeared with the money. However, most people with whom I have spoken seem to concede that he would have called someone by now had he stolen the money. Thus one could suspect that he was robbed of the money, as he was inclined to make deposits at a bank in the bad section of Poughkeepsie rather late at night. However, one would be inclined to think some evidence would have remained. Also, OtherZack does not appear to be the sort that would be carrying massive amounts of cash with him nor would he be inclined to put up much of a fight with anyone armed. As such, foul play seems sketchy.
Don't ask  
We lack milk cartons
Detectives, as stated above, have been going through Oz's personal effects in hopes of finding some clue that might give them an indication of what fate he befell. What they found was heaps upon heaps of pornography, which lead them to unofficially draw the conclusion that he was an amoral deviant who took the money and was now living the high (amoral) life. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that $3700 is not going to keep someone in margaritas for very long in the scheme of things. At best, he could have bought a plane ticket to somewhere far away. Of course, they would have checked his ID and seen that he was a missing person. Someone with that much cash will become suspect fast.
The anecdote I heard about the pornography search was, while the cops were searching his computer (full of every kind of sex act one can imagine, none of OtherZack), two CDs fell to the floor. They asked Mike, his roommate, what the first disk was and he pronounced it, "Cockmasters." They, I'm sure reticently, asked about the second disk and he responded, "Cockmasters 2." Of course.

My Halloween/Samhain started out less than ideally. Sleeping pills I had taken seven hours earlier had granted me the cursed ability to integrate my painfully annoying alarm into my dreams, making me severely late for me first class. Nevertheless, I arrived forty minutes late, as I would much rather not be marked absent. I have long since forgotten how many absences I have racked up and wish not to be reminded.
After class, I darted to another room to try to retrieve my precious notebook that contains all my notes and papers from every class this semester. Someone had clearly gone through it and helped themselves to my highlighters, as well as further breaking a broken CD I had in there. It does not surprise me in the least that New Paltz students feel the need to violate people's privacy, steal, and commit senseless vandalism. It does not surprise me, but it does depress me that this it to what my "peers" aspire.
Seig Heil!  
A Nazi in action
I perched myself on a lofty rock outside and sorted through my notebook in order to make sure that idiotic vandal (or perhaps Ostrigoths) hadn't destroyed my notes. However, as expected, the big words had prevented the vandals from touching my notes.
As I refiled and sorted, I saw a figure in a black trench coat violently push someone out of his or her way. It was a Nazi! This Nazi would not escape my grasps, or rather my lens. I pursued the being until it entered a building, knowing full well it could not reverse direction or acknowledge me in the least. Attached are the only photos I currently possess of these creatures, but I have taken them finally. It is a bit like having photographed a Bigfoot (given the blurriness, this is not an unfair comparison).
After another class of little note, I returned home. I could feel the appropriate seasonal vibe in the air, though it was not as strong as I would have hoped. The Veil, which should have felt thin and permeable, felt rubbery. That's no good.
Emily arrived at my home soon after I did, thoroughly high on the holiday. She was hyperactively asking every few moments if it was yet time to trick-or-treat. I insisted that we, creatures of the dark, should at least wait until it wasn't so terribly bright out. This pleased her not in the least, so she ran her glow-in-the-dark nails up and down every piece of exposed flesh I possessed until I quivered too much to insist we stay in the house one moment longer (at least without exposing more flesh).
We went to the China Buffet up the street, because nothing says "reverence for the dead" like General Tsao's Chicken. For no discernable reason, the mood music being pumped into the dining area was various show tunes. Emily became distracted as a song from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert came over the speakers. Between mumbled verses, she asked if I would be interested in living in Colorado. I asked the obvious question, "Do you mean right now?" She explained that she only meant eventually. This bloomed into Emily explaining that she had recently become infected with a bout of wanderlust. She needed to see something different and wonderful and she wanted me by her side. She detailed how she traveled, seeing as many tritely tourist sights as possible during the day, eating food from grocery stores without paying (her logic: "If I don't speak the language, I really fail to see how they can punish me. I lived off cheese and apples in Germany because no one was going to stop me."), going to movies at night, and going to bed early. I do have to say, this speaks to something deep within me. I feel that I have traveled very little for a man-child on the verge of being twenty-two. She decided by the end of this conversation that, as she had recently been offered a job at a mental health clinic in Ulster County and fears that her gym is going under, moving to Kingston might be change of scenery enough for her (as long as I can promise her day trips and the potentiality of my moving in).
Scared you didn't I?  
Grr! Arg.
We intended to discuss the ritual that we were going to do after trick-or-treating, however this conversation never really took off. However, we did later realize that we were speaking in a conversational tone over the tray of food about the ritual we intended to conduct. The restaurant was far from empty, though I don't know if this earned us any strange looks.
We returned home, glutted on MSG. Emily removed her glow-in-the-dark fingernails as they restricted her dexterity. More specifically, they restricted her ability to make a fist. One must love a girl with her priorities in the right place. I slid into the nylon costume my mother had purchased on eBay. My mother is doing her part to keep eBay in business well into the next decade. Deciding that it would likely be a bit too cold, I put my cashmere jacket underneath. Emily pronounced that this made me look a hundred pounds heavily. I was okay with this, as I would be warm. Emily doffed her clothing and added as many layers of fleece as she could under her costume. She looked like she had added about twenty-five pounds, so I seemed proportionally smaller.
Emily tried to impugn my cross-dressing skills by insisting that she put the black lipstick on me. I would hear none of this, at least until I put enough on that I felt validated. She touched me up out of pity, I think. However, it balances out, because I tried to refrain from telling Emily that she looked like a raccoon given how much black make-up she put around her eyes. I did, of course, tell her almost immediately that she looked like a raccoon, but I did try not to do so.
Such a willing victim  
Such a willing victim
We walked throughout my neighborhood, hardly being told even once that we were too old to be trick-or-treating. I think most people were just grateful that someone was knocking on their door. One of my neighbors, whom I had known since I was a very wee child, remarked at how big I was getting. I held back my laughter at this vaguely senile statement. Her daughter who was only a grade above me is now pregnant with her second child. I am sure she is getting big as well.
Only one house dared to give us a religious pamphlet along with the candy. However, since they had given it to Emily, she would not allow me to return it and inform these people that I already had a religion. I think it is the height of rudeness to try to spread lies (for this was the intent of the tract) to children. Emily and I discussed exactly how our religious choice could be a bad one if we were getting loads of candy. This is positive reinforcement, it tells us that we are right.
By and large, Emily's favorite house was the gentleman who offered a non-chocolate candy alternative. I thought Emily would pop; she was so jubilant that someone out there understood. The man blushed a bit and demurely said that it was his wife's idea.
As we walked home from trick-or-treating, I noticed that a cop car was keeping pace with us. Very well, I thought, these insecure men can follow us all the way home, if they wished though it would be terribly tedious as "home" was at least a mile's walk and we were moving at a snail's pace. Then he shone his powerful searchlight at us at a distance of four feet, which was grossly unnecessary as we were standing under streetlights, and informed us that there was a curfew. I mulled over for a moment if I should try to explain constitutional law to this man and the fact that Emily and I are citizens in a country that purports to be free (though not for the want of effort from Bush and his cronies). I decided against it, both for the fact that the point would be lost on him and that he clearly believed us to be minors. He condescendingly asked if we were headed home and, rolling my darkened eyes, I assured him we would toddle straight home like good little prisoners of the state. Or maybe I just told him we were. I was tired and my memory is fuzzy on this point.
We arrived home, not having dealt with any more overly zealous authority figures. We sorted the candy into chocolate and non-chocolate piles, then subdivided those piles into "edible" and "evil." The evil candy (qualified as anything humans shouldn't eat, the Halloween equivalent of fruit cake) would be distributed to the less fortunate, meaning Emily's students and my little brother. The rest would serve us well until next Halloween. And, as Emily said that she will trick-or-treat until she has children to take, there will be another Halloween.
We called Melissa and Zack and tried to make the appropriate ghost hunting plans with them. Zack was unavailable and, after much discussion, Melissa decided to show us haunted Wiccopee Mountain (you may insert your own dramatic chords here). It would be at least forty-five minutes until Melissa arrived, so Emily and I decided to begin the ritual.
I gave M the bag of supplies I had procured from a store in New Paltz and gave her free reign over the magick cabinet. When I returned, she had picked out various herbs and seeds that would be suited to our purposes. I remember offhand that she chose the star anise (reputed to magnify psychic powers), witchhazel (good for protection and divination), motherwort (wards off evil spirits), eyebright (enhances mental and psychic powers), and damiana leaf (increases magickal energy) to burn, leaving behind the herbs that were directed toward controlling her poltergeist (skull cap, mullein leaf, and mandrake root). As one of her goals in this ritual was to speak with her departed aunt, she didn't think we needed to burn anything invoked in exorcism. The lines might get crossed.
We picked a patch of lawn in my backyard and called the corners. Our ritual was largely free form, which works well for both of us. When I was shopping for supplies for this ritual, I ended up purchasing several that, unbeknownst to me, are complimentary. Clearly I have a knack for such intuition.
We began by trying to contact Emily's aunt. M had told me this lovely story about her aunt, while doing an acting exercise, shooing her brother (M's father) away saying, "Shhhh! I'm being a gumdrop!" As I had no idea how to visualize Emily's aunt, save that Emily bears a striking resemblance to her, I procured a sparkling purple stone that is roughly the size and shape of a gumdrop on which I could concentrate. Emily was growing sad, as her requests for a sign were being met with silence. I decided that we were trying for something too broad and Emily should speak to a candle for her sign. Sure enough, the flame of the candle Emily chose immediately began reaching for her and jumping in answer to her question. I tried to interpret the movements of the flame (how pyromantic!) though I admitted, "I was a bit rusty in Flame." It was largely the reassuring "I still care though I don't have a body" sort of thing.
We next tried to increase our psychic abilities. I thought that we should petition some god, though we quickly forgot I suggested it. I had brought out a piece moldavite I had purchased while supply shopping. Initially I was not going to use it in ritual, despite it being efficient with psychic powers and such (it is from space, after all. All space related things are deeply spiritually in tune. John Glenn is like a guru), however driving home from class I had heard two different songs about kryptonite while flipping through stations. Moldavite is obviously the only green meteor rock I can get my hands on, so it would have to do. We also ended up using a large smoky quartz with a flat edge to gaze into, though it was decidedly hard to keep it in focus. I had initially bought it as a representation of the path I am taking (gazing into the dark and seeing rainbows), but this was a very good use for it. I had, for the same reason, bought Emily an Andalusian cross, though I cannot recall why it was so appropriate nor did it gain a meaning in ritual. We tried little exercises but, aside from both seeing a pink beetle surrounded by blue in our mind's eye, we didn't seem to have much success.
Around this time, my pager went off signaling that Melissa had arrived. Emily and I scrambled to clean up and uncast the circle. Melissa called from the driveway and my mother, in so many words, told her we were uncasting the circle. Strictly speaking, I was pouring water on the coals because only I can prevent a forest fire, not uncasting. As I stood up, I looked to the trees at the edge of my yard and saw a light blue shape dancing about. Emily looked to me and asked if I had just seen it, so evidently the spell had some success.
We didn't get around to various other bits of ritual we had planned, though the only one I can remember offhand is burning the wand I had made for Katie years ago which she gave back after breaking up with me. Her spirituality evidently only existed as long as she was my strange bedfellow. Once estranged, she had no use of such magic in her life. It should be very much noted that I never tried to push my beliefs on Katie when we dated; I actually made a concerted effort to keep that part of my life separate. Within six months of dating, however, she wanted to know about witchcraft and such. Burning the wand in ritual (incidentally made of the same branch of mine and, if we are to believe the woman from whom it was procured, struck by lightning on Samhain) would be a tangible way of rescinding that connection and preventing any needless magickal attachment to Kate now. This will have to occur another night.
We loaded ourselves into Melissa's car and set off for the mountains. We first stopped for snacks, however, as there was no use hunting ghosts on an empty stomach. As we walked through the A&P, Emily bemoaned the fact that breads were now verboten to her. I bought her a bag of knock-off Cheetos that caused her to forget her anguish. Some sunflower seeds and blackberry soda did this for me.
Outside the A&P, I again saw some blue shape moving, this time across the street near a cemetery. However, it should be noted that I've since not seen any moving blue shapes. Make of that what you will.
Creepy, haunted church
Melissa drove us toward the mountain and shared her tales with us. She told us that the last time she was driving with Evan on the very road we were on, still a distance from the mountain, a chalk white creature appeared out of nothingness and flew at the car. She made it seem as though it could have been a snow owl with a thyroid condition, but more likely it was not.
She led us to the church on the left, irritated that many of the haunted structure had been torn down or refurbished since she had last been here. This doesn't mean that the ghosts are gone, but merely that they are enjoying the pleasures of vinyl siding. The church, aside from being freshly boarded up, retained the rustic Old World charm that would be appropriate for baptizing the Antichrist in the blood of the innocent or perhaps a knitting circle... OF DOOM! Where was I? Oh yes. If you'll look carefully at the grass, you will note the red and blue splotches. I haven't the slightest idea why that happened. No other picture taken (save the other nearly identical one of the church) had this anomaly. Again, make of this what you will.
We headed up the mountain, which was a bit like driving up a very steep hill for ten minutes. Melissa gunned the engine in order to get up sufficient momentum to even attempt it. Had she a standard vehicle, we all might be in the clutches of pure evil right now. However, it was an automatic Saturn which acts like a sunlamp to a vampire.
Melissa shared that this mountain was supposedly lousy with Satanic worship. Hollywood has led me to believe that this is a justifiable reason for a place to be haunted by unexplainable phenomena of a malevolent inclination. The only thing worse would be a decommissioned genetics lab next to a decommissioned nuclear plant that was frequented by horny teenagers with little common sense. I do have to confess, the mountain was certainly of the realm of creepy and for both paranormal and practical reasons, I hadn't the slightest clue why one would opt to live there. One flake of snow and you would be snowbound until April.
Through deft maneuvering that we will call "accident," Melissa happened to get us to the top of Wiccopee Mountain. She has never accomplished this feat and she was both terrified and curious as to what mystery the apex held. At the top was a dead end with the road sharply turning from paved to gravel. At the end of the gravel cul-de-sac was a pitch-black field that both Emily and Melissa assured me we would not be visiting tonight, despite my having made no move to ask for such assurance. Next to the field sat a strange building that I think can best be described as follows: picture the archetypal scary, old house one sees in Halloween television special and rare nightmares. The house at which the crazy old witch always lives and is haunted. White wash over the black paint and leave to decay for fifteen years. Post a bright yellow No Trespassing sign in front of the front door. This is the building we encountered. Emily thought it was a monastery, though I dare not imagine the order who would call this building home. However, there seems to be no purpose for it. Melissa refused to stop the car so I was unable to photograph it.
Melissa told me today that she returned to this spot with Liz and Denise. Denise claims to have seen a noose on or about this building's land.
Before returning to civilization, Melissa showed Emily and I roughly where she blew up several years ago. I had been there once before, though she wisely chose not to bring us father than the entrance. It is on the same range of mountain, though lower. It looks like a normal field, though Melissa's car stalled and would not move the last time she ventured beyond the entrance. Strangely, it stalled when the same song she was listening to when she blew up came on and revived when the song ended. Her Glade hallucination told her that there was a portal to hell in the field and, while hallucinating on Glade, Melissa could see the two hinges of it floating in the air. I rather think it wasn't a terribly idea not to drive into the field.
As we drove away, we heard the "scritch scritch" of something attached to the car. Melissa, cigarette in hand, asked what she was hearing outside of her slightly open window. At this, we all hear an audible and angry hiss and then silence. I stated that it might be prudent to roll up the window, but Melissa reminded me that she was still smoking and that took precedence. Slowly, the "scritch" resumed and Melissa said she wanted to get out and check it. We convinced her to ignore the horror movie convention that always results in the embarrassing pain of death and actually drive to a well lit area before investigating. The closer we got to civilization, the quieter whatever was on the car became until we heard nothing. In investigating, of course, we also found nothing.
We went to a diner to discuss matters, though we quickly fell into a discussion of eighties cartoons, mostly He-Man, She-Ra, and Rainbow Brite. Ah, the memories. Ah, beautiful Mount Airy Lodge where all you have to bring is your love of everything. Ah, the Care Bear Stare. Good times.
By this point, Emily had been awake for something like twenty hours and was a bit punchy. In an effort to tell me she wished to leave, she tried to push me out of the booth using all the force she could muster. I stood firm, as this was the punishment for not using her big people words. If she had said to Melissa or me that she was sleepy and wished to leave, we would have left in minutes. This was not her approach, thus it was more fun to give her a hard time. She threatened to go on the floor but we gently reminded her that we didn't care if she was on the floor, it would be her clothes that got encrusted with floor leavings. This logic held great power over her. Finally, we decided that we would let her leave if she would sing "I'm a Little Tea Pot" with all the motions. She complied, understanding that it was her only choice.
It was a good night.

Soon in Xenology: Grad class. Red Dragon. Toothlessness before godliness. Other lives not led in a dentist's chair. Nights with Zack. Eileen. Kate's imminent return. Crazies faking seizures.

last watched: Lolita
reading: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
listening: Rasputina
wanting: to investigate the paranormal in the spring through fall, not when it is twenty degrees out.
interesting thought: My life bloody weird.
moment of zen: seeing the invisible.
someday I must: capture something more credible than colored blobs on film.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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