The House on Haverly Lane : Part I
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
The House was a very imposing brownstone located on the corner of Kildern and the thirteenth block of Haverly Lane.
It was tall and rigid-looking, a brick sentinel posted on the street corner, casting glowing, watchful eyes over the dim and slumbering intersection below. To its right was a tall gaunt house of a saddened white, the two windows in its gaping front porch staring like tired eyes with charcoal rings around them. To the left of the House, a tall lamp post cast a somber pool of light on the street corner, highlighting the glinting curve of the curb, the moist irregularities of the cobblestones, and glossy shafts of the iron-wrought fence that encircled the House.
The street was always slick and the air was always muggy. Leaves often skittered across the cobblestones, borne by the pale breaths of wind that disturbed the silence, but they inevitably became bogged down by the wet and gathered in blackened cakes by the dripping gutters. Francis, who lived in the House scarcely remembered a day that had not been dim and overcast, with the faint scent of something putrid on the wind. And he did not remember a single night in which it had not violently stormed.
Despite the dreary conditions out-of-doors, the House itself was a pleasant place. It was always brilliantly lit, and most of the time, there was soft, calming music playing from large, speakers placed all around the Glasshouse. The Glasshouse was a modern conservatory, a greenhouse with exotic plants, dripping fountains, and gorgeous tile floors of marble and mosaic patterns. The entire house was actually very luxurious, much like a five-star hotel. There were beautiful potted plants on every corner, fine paintings, and velvety carpets. The staff handled the scheduling like clockwork--though word had it that there was a good amount of politics in their apartments and arguments about the handling of things occurred on a regular basis. However they managed it, the staff was always promptly in the rooms to make the beds and straighten up; meals were healthy, delicious, and served punctually; and everything was in general run very smoothly and efficiently.
The other residents, like Francis, each had their own suites, which afforded a good view of the town and the rest of its dark, dripping streets. The church was visible from Francis’ room, with its peeling bell tower and the cracked bronze bell that shivered in the gusts but never rang. The old bank was just beyond it, another imposing four-story building with neoclassical columns in a drab white and just beyond that, something that Francis loved inexorably and often sat and gazed at instead of doing whatever he should have been doing--a green, green park, at the center of the town, guarded by a soaring brick and iron arch in which was entwined its designated name, Grenwich Park.
It was odd that this park was so very green, for it truly was an extraordinary jade color, not just to the loving eye of Francis, and not just in comparison to the rest of the town, (whose drabness undoubtedly contributed to the striking appearance of the park). The whole landscape of the town seemed submerged in a brooding barrenness the color of slate. In contrast, Grenwich Park, in its dead center, glowed like an emerald in a setting of titanium. The trees on Haverly Lane seemed always to be raggedly brown and balding while in the far distance, Francis was sure he could discern the luxuriantly spreading boughs of mossy oaks and elms. This was a strange phenomenon.
He had been raised in the House. He had no memories outside of it. He had never been outside of the House; in fact, none of them ever had. Not even the Keeper of the House, who was in charge of its management, though he was not the Owner. At least, no one really knew what he was--except that he was one of them, and lived among them, and was called the Keeper. He kept mostly to himself, in the Library, dusting and re-arranging books, updating computer programs and databases; he slept in the attic, which Francis had never seen but had heard was very comfortable and well-furnished, much like his own room or the rooms of the other residents.
They led a strange, comfortable life; very peaceful on the whole, troubled only by the kinds of things that usually happen when multiple people live together and rub shoulders under the same roof. There was always plenty of food. Periodically, they would receive new clothes, made by a few of the residents, who were skilled at clothes-making. Each resident had some job to do, as the Keeper had assigned him or her, in order that the House keep functioning in good order. Francis' responsibility was to assist the Keeper in running the Library. This meant that he saw a good deal more of the Keeper than the others, and knew more about him as a result.
No one ever, ever ventured so much as a step outside the House. The reason for this was obvious. It was an unfortunate but true fact that a horrifying monster that looked like it had literally crawled out of hell had ravaged Haverly Lane and the surrounding neighborhoods for as long as Francis could remember. It fouled the air with an disgusting stench in its passing and was always accompanied by a chilling scream that seemed to emanate from two small front holes in its face, which was a brown misty mass of darkness that sometimes opened up into a black void with rows of tiny, dripping, dagger-like teeth. Its body was a writhing brown worm, similar to its face in that it seemed to be enveloped in a twisting mist, like a brown tornado, but when it turned abruptly, you could see that underneath was something solid, dark green and gruesome. Its humongous body just fit between the rows of apartments and houses gazing in horror at each other across the street and as it slithered and coiled between them, rain fell heavily and strong gusts of wind shook the House. It always left in passing a gleaming, gelatinous wake.
They did not see it too often, as the entire town seemed to be its general territory and it traveled about, passing the House only now and again. No one knew conclusively if it went throughout the whole town or kept to this neighborhood, though the Keeper had once said he believed the former was the case. Either way, from what they could see from their windows, it seemed that the town had long ago been abandoned, no doubt because of the monster loose within it. Every street as far as the eye could see was empty and dark, with blackened windows. Even the large, grey house next door was as dark as could be. Only the House on Haverly Lane, who religiously kept its blinds up at night per the Keeper’s instruction, sent blazing shafts of light into the darkness.
This of course made them a target for the monster, the Daemen Drakkil, as it was called by the Keeper. As the darkness set in, they were accustomed to hearing its horrible swishing and screaming more and more often, and as it approached, the skies rumbled and the windows shook and a great, blustery wind picked up. As it grew darker and darker and the House grew brighter, the Daemen’s anger would foment and it would begin lashing its coils at the House and whipping around and around it. The residents would just sigh and shiver. It was a terrible but familiar occurrence, and as they all knew, the Owner of the House had long ago cast a powerful spell that prevented the Daemen from harming the House in any way.
For a very long time, as long as he could remember, Francis had been contented with this way of life. He had no understanding of when it had all begun, no recollection of a childhood or an arrival at the House. As far as he could remember, he had always been at the House. The same applied to all the other tenants except one, J. Gibson. On a very dark and stormy night, J. Gibson had appeared in the atrium, drenched, pale and wild-eyed with enormously sunken features. The Keeper took him directly to a room upstairs and nothing was seen of him for weeks and weeks until one day he appeared at the dinner table, nicely clothed, slightly fatter, and with considerably more color in his cheeks. The other tenants whispered among themselves but there was something in his air that made them refrain from talking to him and ever after it was generally understood that his experience had been highly traumatic and he was to keep to himself.
Francis could not put a finger on the moment when dissatisfaction was birthed within him, but it had at some point, and it came on gradually. It all had to do with Grenwich Park. Francis loved it. Something about the color was spellbinding, like in the fairy tales found in the Library. Though they were advised not to look out of the windows as much as possible, Francis often found his gaze drawn to the great, grey stretch of the city and its glowing green center. The sight of Grenwich Park gradually came to be an oasis for his eye, and then his heart - he would cast his glance towards it whenever there was a particularly unpleasant conversation at the dinner table or arguing could be heard in the kitchens. He would escape to his room, curl up in the window seat, and gaze longingly towards it whenever he was feeling restless or sad. At night, when it stormed heavily and the Daemen passed the House again and again, Francis would muster up his courage and stand right at the window, looking past the monster at Grenwich Park, and a kind of anxious glow would suffuse his heart.
The unfortunate part about all this was that the Keeper was strongly against the frequent use of windows, talk of Grenwich Park, and anything generally that drew the tenants’ focus away from the inside of the House to what lay beyond.
“It’s not healthy,” he claimed, “there is no leaving, and psychological effects of longing after something impossible to be had are not to be minimized. We have plenty of work to keep us busy here and our wait for the Owner’s return will seem shorter if we focus on what we should be doing.”
The Owner, of course, was the proprietor of the House but also the one who had established it and appointed the Keeper. He funded its upkeep and was responsible for all the luxuries the tenants enjoyed. Every leaden morning, Francis and the tenants gathered in one of the large living rooms and listened to the Keeper talk about the Owner. Being as the Owner required no rent of them, it was understood that in return for the sanctuary they had found from the Daemen, the least they could do was attend these meetings and learn interesting facts about the Owner in the hopes of one day meeting him. Apparently, he was an extravagantly wealthy man, wildly successful in business. He had built an enormous empire in manufacturing and technological engineering and then used the money to go into politics. Currently, he was one of the most powerful men in the world, and many books and articles had been written about his accomplishments, a copy of each, of course, available in the library. The Keeper claimed to know him personally and strongly encouraged everyone to study the Owner’s biography and personal writings.
“Besides educating yourself by learning from such a successful man, you have much higher chances, when meeting him, of developing a friendship with him.”
“What wouldn’t I give to be best friends with a billionaire,” Francis remembered murmuring to whoever was sitting by him at the time.
The Keeper had overheard and twisted his mouth wryly. “Yes, of course - it’s a great connection to have,” he had responded. “However, knowing him closely as I do, I can assure you the pleasure of knowing him personally is the best of it. His success was fortuitous but not a matter of good fortune. Trust me when I say that you will never meet his equal in wit, in intelligence. He is the shrewdest man I have ever seen. But besides this, he is an incredibly pleasant person. I’ve heard it said that he is downright good-hearted, though you can’t assume he’s soft. But you’ve seen what he has done for us in our unfortunate circumstances. His generosity has truly been extravagant.”
The tenants murmured their assent and nodded their heads. But for the House, they would have all been lost.
On one of these mornings, Francis raised up his hand before the Keeper dismissed them.
“Excuse me,” he said, “but who owns the Park?”
The Keeper, who usually welcomed questions, raised one eyebrow. “I don’t believe I know,” he responded. “Whoever may have owned it before, it is almost without a doubt possessed by the Daemen Drakkil now. It could even be its lair. On the other hand, maybe it is the only place he doesn’t dare slither through and so it is able to stay fresh and green. Regardless, spe--”
“Speaking too much of Grenwich Park is unhealthy,” interrupted Matilda Lennox, one of the tenants. She had long, slender limbs and a languid manner. “There is no leaving the House, and psychological effects of longing after something impossible to be had are not to be disconsidered.”
Everyone stared at her and she flourished her hand theatrically.
“It seems I’m not the only one who has heard that before,” said Francis.
The tenants chuckled and the Keeper shrugged a little self-consciously. “The truth does not change, but perhaps my delivery can be refreshed,” he said good-humoredly.
Matilda smirked at Francis, and that was the first time that he felt a connection to her.
* * *
The short discussion of Grenwich Park birthed an anxious excitement in Francis. He somehow felt closer to it, as if the mere talk of it brought its possibility closer to the surface. Consequently, he tried throughout the week to somehow bring discussions around to it. He had to do this, however, artfully, because it was universally understood that they had to obey the Keeper and the culture was such that any obsession with the Park would have been very looked down upon. Some might even take it upon themselves to mention to the Keeper that Francis had been poking around for information. Least of all did Francis want the Keeper to confront him.
As expected, the tenants were generally either wholly disinterested in Grenwich Park or reluctant to talk about it. Francis was shocked at the passivity of some people who seemed completely content with focusing on the minor goings-on within the House and disconsidered completely what lay beyond it. Others were terrified of the outside and wished to forget it. The most interesting discussion he was able to have was with a man named Jax Pierce.
Jax was a handsome, upbeat gentleman who spent most of his time in the hazy basement game rooms with some sort of alcoholic drink in hand. Francis found him in the billiards room one day and somehow felt able to speak more freely with him than with most of the other tenants. Jax laughed heartily when Francis mentioned wishing to visit Grenwich Park.
“That’s wonderful,” he said. “I love that! I wish I could too. Imagine being outdoors, maybe swimming in the pond - playing some tennis or even basketball if there are courts! But for you to think you could actually do it! That’s straight up absurd, my man.”
Francis shrugged his shoulders, defeated. “Obviously. I just can’t help feeling cooped up in this House. We’ve been here as long as I can remember.”
Jax raised his eyebrows. “You can say that again. Forever and a day. I’ve tried remembering what it was like before but I really can’t recall.” He drained his scotch glass then set it down. “Say,” he said, grinning. “J. Gibson might be able to tell you. Scary person. Weird individual. But I would guess he remembers.”
“I’m kind of frightened of him,” scowled Francis. “He makes my skin crawl.” He leaned on the pool table and stared longingly at the soft green stretch of fabric and the glinting balls. “I’d give anything to know more about it, you know? It’s history at least. Even if we won’t ever see it. It would break some of this boredom.”
“Oh if that’s all you want,” said Jax, twirling his pool stick. “Juggars’s your man. He knows all about Grenwich Park. He’s in room 206 but I’ll tell you what--” he winked. “I’d recommend spending some time downstairs with the maids. Break your boredom more than ten history lessons will.”
“Oh--? All about Grenwich Park?” said Francis ignoring the topic of the maids and pursuing his subject with such unconcealed interest that Jax once again broke into a pleasant, ringing laugh.
“Wow,” he said. “You’re really interested in this, aren’t you? Yea - go talk to Juggars. He’s a strange dude, though, fair warning. He spends all his time in the Library. From what I know, he’s done way more research than anyone ever needs to do on pretty much everything to do with how we got here. And keep that on the down low, obviously - because of the Keeper.”
Francis left the game rooms with a thick-beating heart. The anxious excitement that had gripped him since this morning had not lessened, only intensified. He felt as if he was on the edge of a huge discovery and yet nothing concrete had happened. And even if he should learn more about Grenwich Park (his heart thumped at the thought)--so what? He was bound irrevocably to this miserable House as long as the Daemen ravished the streets.
He realized that his hands were clammy and trembling. He began to feel uncomfortable with how much this idea was affecting him psychologically. The Library was, to Francis, one of the most comfortable and, because of his work, familiar spaces in the House. He decided to sit there to calm himself. He decided this at the risk of running into the Keeper, whom he eminently wished to avoid, because he knew the Keeper’s schedule and that he was not likely to be there at this time.
The Library was a lovely place, with warm ambient lighting that brought out the vibrantly colored bindings and glossy dust covers of the books. There were several levels to it, with spiraling walnut staircases connecting them. All the wood surfaces gleamed with fresh polish; the Keeper was fastidious about keeping the Library looking its best. There was an great marble fireplace twice his height on one wall with a roaring fire and before this Francis sat and rubbed his hands sagaciously. Now he would make sense of this strange interest that was starting to feel consuming. In the Library his head seemed to clear, as if the wisdom and the knowledge contained in the books infected the air. What a strange feeling had gripped him today! The Keeper was right. It was simply unhealthy too long after something that was he couldn’t have. He had put it out of his head compl--
Francis was startled to notice the Keeper coming down one of the walnut staircases. The Keeper must have seen him start a little for he said, “It’s just me, friend.”
Francis chuckled nervously. “I just thought I was alone.”
The Keeper nodded. “Indeed.”
There was an awkward silence.
“How is Jax doing?” asked the Keeper.
Francis’ eyebrows went up. “How did you know--?”
“I passed the room while you were talking,” said the Keeper.
Francis blushed deeply and wondered what he had heard. “Er--yes. I had never spoken to him much before. Do you know him well?”
“Well as I would like.”
“He seemed like an interesting guy.”
“Depending upon your interests, possibly,” responded the Keeper dryly, and began making himself an espresso at the coffee bar.
Francis felt that this comment was pointed and not knowing what to say, looked out the window. The night was beating and blowing in vicious wet sheets against the large square window panes. A shadow passed over the room and a blood-curdling scream was heard.
“It's not unnatural,” the Keeper broke into his thoughts, “to long for escape. It would be unnatural not to.”
Francis turned to him excitedly. “Do you want to escape to Grenwich too?” he exclaimed.
“Never,” said the Keeper coldly. “I would never want to leave the safe confines of this House. I have no death-wish.”
“But you just---” said Francis.
“I said that it is natural to long for escape. But leaving the House wouldn’t be an escape. It would be proverbially jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The real escape I am referring to is the return of the Owner.”
“If he ever does return,” muttered Francis bitterly.
“He will,” said the Keeper, in a tone of finality. “Pay attention to my words, Francis. To believe anything differently from what I’ve told you is madness, and the road to madness.”
He turned to leave, but almost as an afterthought, turned back. “Francis. I don’t mean to meddle, but as your old friend, I advise you stay away from Matilda Lennox. Not all the tenants here are really of the House.”
Offering up no other explanation, he was gone.
The truth is that Francis felt rather dependent on the Keeper’s opinion. He tried to forget all about everything--Grenwich Park, Matilda, Jax - but soon found he could not. The gorgeous image of the park, as a jewel in the night, was a constant, niggling thought in the back of his mind. At length, he made up his mind to visit Juggars. Wandering around the great House was always pleasant; the talented interior designers that the Owner had commissioned had employed great care and creativity in counterbalancing the horrible darkness outside with a bright, relaxing atmosphere inside. Francis passed many tenants who looked actually cheerful and busy as they went about their day. To him, even this seemed a bit eerie.
He stopped in front of a large door with a gleaming plaque that read “206.” He hesitated slightly and then knocked.
After a short pause, the door opened slightly. Frances glimpsed the glow of bare incandescent light bulbs and multiple computer screens. Then a man’s face appeared in the doorway. He was balding, but on the lower half of his head had long, jet black hair slicked back into a tight ponytail. He was possessed also of a sparse beard and round glasses with thick, black rims.
Francis cleared his throat nervously, then a sudden boldness took hold of him. “Good evening. I’m here to speak with you about Grenwich Park.”
As it turned out, Juggars did not know anything, not decisively. He still proved to be a good amount of help to Francis in his quest to know more.
He was a nervous man, a very nervous man. He had a tic, several tics, which one noticed at first and never stopped noticing; in fact, you noticed them more and more as time went on. The most prominent one was a little twitch in his face that made his expression look all of a sudden very twisted and then totally vacant.
“How may I help you,” he stated more than asked, holding the door open and looking vacantly out at the hall behind Francis, a little as if he was expecting someone else.
Francis cleared his throat. “Excuse me. I was given your name by another tenant by the name of Jax.”
This did not seem to ring a bell with the man. Francis began to warm to Jax’s characterization of Juggars as a “strange dude.”
“Erhm,” he began again. “I’m interested in the history of...the House. In its rules. And how they came to be. Especially the one about not ever leaving--”
Francis cut off because Juggars had turned his eyes full force on him, startled to attention. Francis laughed nervously. “I’m also...pretty fascinated by Grenwich Park. Jax said that you might know more about it.”
“Oh of course!” responded Juggars, bowing servilely and with excitement. “Of course. Precisely! Come in! Come in!” He threw the door wide open and waved his hand for Francis to enter.
His first thought was that he had entered some sort of laboratory or museum. There were bulletin boards on all the walls, stabbed with papers and a map lacerated with string that zigzagged all across it, returning always to a central hub, a green-tinged spread that Francis instantly recognized as Grenwich Park.
Aha, he thought. This is definitely who I want to talk to. He seems to have made a real study of it. His heart beat fast.
Juggars had been busying himself throwing down piles of books, papers and paraphernalia off the two armchairs by the hearth and clearing the low coffee table. Dust swirled a bit and he politely and self-consciously opened a window. This shocked Francis. He had never dared open a window. He had never even thought of opening a window. He wondered, wildly, if it was safe, but Juggars seemed undisturbed, as if this was something of an old habit.
Meanwhile, the stiff night air filtered in, and the familiar patter of rain could be heard. There was a peculiarly disgusting smell wafting in from outside. They sat. The room was very dim, lit only by the low, licking flames on the hearth and a couple shadeless lamps with expiring bulbs that seemed scattered here and there throughout the room.
“Now,” said Juggars, looking this way and that. Francis assumed this was out of habit, since they were alone. “Now. Since when have you been interested - ” he waved his hand. “ - all this?”
Francis paused, searching his mind. “I honestly can’t say. I’ve been fascinated by the Park, I guess, as long as I can remember. And I am... simply trying to understand our...situation here. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t make sense. Even if everything is exactly as the Keeper says, it’s still a completely out of the ordinary situation.”
“IF,” said Juggars vehemently, holding up one finger. “IF everything is exactly as the Keeper says. Indeed. Now. If you don’t mind my asking. What is it, exactly, that the Keeper says?”
“You must know,” said Francis. “Well...um, the Scream holds us captive in this magical House, where we are kept safe by the power of the great Owner who will come to rescue us one day in the far and seemingly very distant future. Even a step outside and we relinquish any protection of the House; we become instantly vulnerable to the savage, bloodthirsty monster.”
“Ah. And what is your interpretation of our situation?”
“Excuse me,” Francis coughed. “MY interpretation?”
“Yes,” said Juggars, with a look that showed he was mystified as to the cause of Francis’ confusion. “Your interpretation.”
“I’m sure that doesn’t matter,” Francis said. “I can make up any number of interpretations. I’m concerned with finding out the truth. The reality of the situation, which the Keeper has made very clear. I’m just not convinced he has a full grasp of it. He seems perfectly content in the House, making me doubt that he has ever fully explored all of our options.”
“I beg to differ,” said Juggars with a little twitch and a dry, disbelieving laugh. “Certainly your interpretation matters. Why, that is as much to say that my assessment of the situation is meaningless. Or the Keeper’s for that matter. How very backwards, if you don’t mind my saying. We are all equals here, no? Don’t we all suffer from this terrible quarantine equally? Don’t we all look out of our windows and see the same incredibly dismal thing? Why should anyone’s interpretation matter less than anyone else’s?”
“I apologize!” Francis hurried to say. “I definitely respect and value your assessment. I came purposely to seek it. I was merely trying to say that the reality of the situation is pretty clear. To all of us. Because, as you said, we are all in the same boat. Of course we are. But the rules--the rules are what bother me. I don’t know that I agree with the Keeper’s way of dealing with our predicament.”
Juggars impatiently rubbed his bald head and then readjusted his glasses. “Of course. Well - well. We’ll come to that. I see you have no interpretations.” He rubbed his hands together. “Will you at least hear mine?”
Juggars once again looked left and right, then over his shoulder. He lowered his voice. “I have studied the Scream for many years. I have conducted observations, from the very attic windows of this old House, charting the stars whenever they could be seen and mapping the layout of the town. I have read every relevant book and article in our Library and online; history, philosophy, science--of whatever value they may be--and many books that you have never had the privilege to lay hands on, memoirs secretly left to us by past tenants who have lived and died sequestered in this hole. It’s fascinating, on the whole,” he said, rubbing his hands together again with great excitement. “Fascinating, simply fascinating. I assume you have read books about the world as it used to be, before the arrival of the Scream?”
“Then you will agree with me how unusual--how totally unprecedented--how highly, highly irregular our situation is. Scientifically, there are few explanations--I say few, because there are definitely some. The most plausible, the most convincing that I have come across so far is that…” he paused.
“What?” asked Francis, irritated by his confusion and feeling a little desperate.
“You are looking upon the end of the world.”
There was silence broken only by the crackling of the flames and the lulling flush of rain. Francis wondered how he could excuse himself from this situation, this obviously deranged conversation.
“I understand, I understand,” said Juggars. “You think I am mad. Listen carefully. Never before in all history has such a thing as the Scream appeared. There is NO scientific explanation for the strange, insubstantial storm that obscures its true form, the incredible pitch at which it delivers sound that breaks any instrument that tries to measure it, its cellular makeup regarding which I have conducted innumerable experiments and observations. Oh, yes, I have obtained samples, of the gruesome slime that has streaked my own window in its passing and, believe it or not, from the actual bite marks of a man that arrived here long ago, having been torn apart limb from limb by this creature and died on the doorstep in the arms of the Keeper.”
“You’re kidding!” breathed Francis, wide-eyed. “And what results did your experiments discover?”
Juggars breathed long and low. “It has no cells at all. Not what we would call cells. The closer and more magnified you look at them under a microscope, the more invisible they become. They transform first into a rapidly vibrating mass that is hard to visualize, and then, simply disappear altogether. Don’t misunderstand me. My instruments aren’t failing me. I’m not magnifying to the point of invisibility because of miniscule size. I am not attempting to see atoms. It’s the cells themselves - they simply disappear.”
“And what is more strange,” said Juggars, jumping up and tossing papers left and right until he drew out various graphs of sound waves and some distorted images, of what, Francis could not make out. “Sonograms! Diagrams of sound waves! The only way to really “see” the cells at all. It seems that the creature’s matter is literally made up of pure, concentrated sound. It’s simply unbelievable!”
“Yes,” said Francis uneasily. It was all very astonishing, but it seemed to him, not to the point.
“What does that have to do with the end of the world?”
“By all appearances,” said Juggars, sitting down rather breathlessly, “there is no way in this universe that such a creature could have originated. Matter here, is made up of, essentially, and it’s all very complex, what I believe to be light. Not sound. Which leads me to believe that this creature is simply out of this world. Literally, having come from another universe.”
He paused to draw breath. He was terribly nervous and excitable, and his words fell out over each other in their hurry to be said. “And if so, why us? Why this town in particular? Why haunt this place when the world is at its disposal. And here you may find you have particular interest. This may actually rock your world, and I will in a moment explain why. From my observations and calculations, the measuring of sound waves and magnetic fields, I have come to conclude that this town is its particular haunt because it is trying to get home. Whatever portal it used initially to enter our world exists here. Here, somewhere in this town. It must be here. It must be--”
“Grenwich Park!” Francis exclaimed.
“Yes,” said Juggars solemnly. “Grenwich Park would seem to be the most probable location.”
“How sure of this are you?” said Francis, incredulously and with immense interest. “This is all just theorizing, am I right?”
Juggars slouched back in his chair, suddenly drained of energy. He wiped his forehead. “As certain as I can be. There is only one way to see, of course. Go to Grenwich Park.” He watched Francis sharply from behind his nebulous glasses, and as if making a decision, suddenly leaned forward.
“Here’s the other thing. I’m a scientist, as you can obviously see, and not a philosopher. But I belong to…” he paused, searching for the right word, “a secret society… of tenants in this House. We have philosophers, historians, poets, scientists--all kinds of men and women. But we have one purpose, all of us. To formulate interpretations and theories of what we can only describe as this highly interesting--fascinating--situation we find ourselves in. I say this because--well, I present to them my findings. I don’t try to rationalize the meaning behind it all. But I have philosopher friends who hold to my interpretation and form their own, hinging on it. They trust my findings. Philosophy and science, the marriage of true minds. They say that this world must be coming to an end, and whatever metaphysical gods or powers may be, have sent the Scream as what they term a siren call. A proverbial messenger of either doom or salvation.”
“What do you mean?”
Juggars rose and shuffled to the window. He stood there with his arms clasped behind him. “When you hear the Scream, what exactly do you hear?”
Francis shrugged. “I hear what everyone hears,” he said. “A terrifying shriek.”
“Ah,” said Juggars. “But not everyone hears the same thing. Just as we all look out at this same bleak vista, and not everyone understands the same thing. I certainly don’t understand this,” he motioned out the window, “to be the same thing that the Keeper understands. Likewise--” he waved down Francis’ protestation, “while some hear a horrible scream others hear...a call.”
“A call. To the portal. To the other universe. The new world. Some are being called to go. Only some, mind you. The noble, the physically strong, the ones with the highest IQ’s? The best of human stock? Who knows? They are being summoned. Look out. The stars I have charted tell me tht this is a dying planet. Everyone who remains here is destined to die with it.”
“But,” broke in Francis. “I mean--should we even survive long enough to make it to Grenwich Park, should we even find this theoretical portal once we got there, should we against all odds make it to and through the portal, how could we ever expect to survive in a world whose very matter is composed of something different than ours? We would disintegrate.”
Juggars shrugged. He sighed. “That is the risk. That is the leap of faith. As you can see, I’m still here. I haven’t yet ventured out. I still need to be sure, to conduct more experiments and make more calculations. Of course, I am as certain as I can be. But I think I can also can be more certain, and that is what my great work amounts to.”
“I am--amazed, by all this,” said Francis, “I just don’t know what to think.”
Juggars shrugged again. “Think whatever you want,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it. The indifference. We’re all guessing here, and the truth is out there waiting to be grasped.”
Francis could think of no answer to this. He got up slowly, intent on leaving. “Thank you for your time,” he said. “This has been very interesting. I have to be by myself now, and think.”
“Certainly, certainly,” said Juggars, startled out of his thoughts and adopting once again a servile attitude. “Thank you for stopping by. I am available to speak at any time. Just give me a call. Or don’t. Come by whenever you wish.”
Francis made his way back to his suite. His brain felt tired, his mind a blur. He remembered the things that Juggars had said; they were in sharp focus in his mind, but he could not seem to arrange them in order, to make sense of this visit. He felt thrown upon waves of uncertainty and confusion. There was only one, throbbing thing he felt sure of. He unreasonably loved Grenwich Park and desired more than anything to go there.
End of Part 1 --> Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3!