The Lenses – A Halloween Tale

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world”

– Schopenhauer

A cool breeze stung Ralph’s cheeks, bringing him to his senses. Why am I lying down on grass? Where am I? A black curtain lifted from Ralph’s eyes. He could see a gray sky, speckled by a full spectrum of orange, red, and yellow – the dying fall leaves of the maples above. Besides the chirping finches and cooing morning doves, all was silent. Ralph sat up; he was sitting in a foggy field. The air was thick but as Ralph came-to he was quick to notice gravestones standing shrouded in the heavy mist. What the hell? How did I get here? Where are my glasses? Oh my god, my glasses! The combination of the graveyard and his misplacement of his glasses put Ralph into a panic. He crawled around the damp graveyard grass on hands and knees in search of the glasses. Where are they? Where are they! Although it was hard for him to see, he could make out some writing on the side of his left hand, starting at his wrist and going down to the tip of his index finger. Slowly, Ralph stood up.

Squinting at his hand he was barely able to make out the words but when they came into focus he read them aloud with an unsure hesitation: “LEAVE HERE – NEVER COME BACK.” It looks like my writing but – it couldn’t be. Ralph couldn’t remember anything about last night. Everything from the past few days seemed hazier than the air around him. The writing looked rushed, panicked. His memory was so boggled that Ralph realized there was no use in trying to create a timeline of the previous day’s events. What time is it? One? I gotta get home!

As he jogged out of the cemetery and towards his house, Ralph tried to think:  Yesterday was Saturday, the day before Halloween; that’s all I can remember. Today must be Sunday. God, where are my glasses? Ralph was more confused about losing his glasses than he was about waking up in a graveyard:  he never lost them. Some children take to blankets, but when Ralph was younger it was his glasses he clung to; his peer’s insults – “Four Eyes!” – were just fuel for his drive. I’m sure they’ll turn up; every one knows I’ll be going crazy without them.

Ralph got home and went straight for his room. Tucked between psychedelic rock posters and stacks of books, Ralph sat and tried to sort out his day. What am I supposed to be doing for Halloween? I must be chillin’ with Mike or something. Did I already have plans?… I can’t even remember. And where are my damn glasses? Ralph decided to call Mike, his best friend, to see what was going on.

“Hey, Mike What’s up?”

“Yo, Ralph. Not much.”

‘Hey, um – what happened last night?”

“What are you talking about, dude?”

“I dunno – never mind. Wait, what are we doing again for tonight?”

“Jeez, dude, are you okay? We’re going down to the graveyard with Tommy and Greg to see the McKenzie ghost, remember?”

“Um, oh, yeah. Kay bye.”

Ralph suddenly hung up the phone. When did we make these plans? I don’t want to go back to the graveyard; some weirdness is going on over there and this note on my hand…

***

Ralph met up with Mike, Tommy, and Greg at Walgreens. Little kids were out and about, going door-to-door for candy. Everything seemed invisible to Ralph, though; he was totally absorbed in thought. God, I don’t want to go back to that graveyard. I don’t want to go back to that graveyard. It was a perfect Halloween night:  full moon, streaked clouds, a crisp bite to the air, and a light wind that seemed to wander through the inner fears of the human mind. Mike interrupted Ralph’s thoughts:

“Dude, this is going to be so awesome!”

“Yeah I know, right?”

“Stupid trick-or-treaters, this is going to be way cooler!”

Ralph didn’t quite share their excitement. Even though he knew it was futile, he made an attempt to change his friends’ minds: “Come on you guys – don’t you want candy? I mean, I just don’t think it’s a very good idea to go to the graveyard; we just don’t know what’s out there.”

“Shut up, dude, we’re going to the graveyard.”

“Fine.”

“What are you dressed up as anyways, Ralph? A nerd? No wait – you always dress like that! Look! He even has pens in his shirt pocket!”

After the group erupted in laughter, the boys walked on in silence for a few steps. A coyote – off in the nearby forested hills – released a baleful shriek, echoing through the night. It sent a chill down Ralph’s spine that almost froze him on the spot. No, I can’t go there. I won’t let myself.

“You know what, if you guys are going, I think I’ll go home.”

“What are you, a pussy? C’mon, dude!”

“Yeah Ralph! C’mon you bitch!”

“Besides, Ralph, its too late, we’re pretty much there already.”

Ralph looked up and shivered with the sight of the cold iron gates before him. He’d been past the graveyard many a time but never before had the gargoyles on either side of the gate sparked so much fear. Should I even go in there? I have to. I am no pussy. I am no pussy. I am no pussy. Climbing over the gate felt to Ralph like a step through the gates of hell; his friends seemed to share none of his worries.

“This is so creepy, dude. We should’a done this every year!”

“Yeah!”

“Next year, for sure.”

The chatter went on but Ralph tuned it out. He was focused on the spot where he woke up earlier that morning – a mere fifty feet away. Ralph and his friends were walking but Ralph was aware of only that spot.   If a gust stronger than the steady breeze blew, it would have swept him from his feet. Suddenly, with the howl of another coyote, a lightning bolt shot through Ralph’s mind; he was back in the graveyard – from the day before.  A flashback?

He saw headstones, like the ones around him now. Among them stood a statue of Jesus, about five feet taller than anything else around it. Something was strange, though, as Ralph observed the statue’s face.  Jesus – wearing glasses?   His glasses.

As quick as it began, the flashback ended. What the– My glasses! Where are they? Where is that statue? Ralph feared what the flashback could mean; he never even remembered being in this graveyard before the morning, and tonight – as he walked through the cemetery – his mind told him he knew many an experience here already. Were his memories fooling him?

“Yes! Dude, I’m pretty sure that’s McKenzie’s crypt over there!”

“We’re definitely seeing this ghost.”

Ralph froze – he saw the crypt ahead that Mike was talking about, but it was another structure, off to his right, that turned his blood to ice – the Jesus statue he had just seen in his flashback! Oh, shit. What does this mean? Are my glasses over there? Without a word, Ralph sprinted over to the statue. He stared upon Jesus’ tranquil face from the base of the statue.  It was just as he had seen in his own head moments ago. The same trees stood behind statue. The same headstones studded the field like broken teeth.  But his glasses were not worn upon the statue’s brow as they had been. Where are the glasses? I know they are here; they must be here. Ralph slammed the statue’s arm in frustration and with his strike he heard the faint noise of his glasses scrapping against rock. He looked to the statue’s hand – where he thought he heard the noise – and there his glasses rested peacefully. They looked pristine; in better condition than when he last remembered wearing them. What the hell? How– wha– why? Everything had always been so clear, made so much sense to him.  But Ralph had never been so confused as now, looking up at that cold stone edifice.

Ralph held the glasses up to a dark sky, stars suddenly obscured by clouds. In them the ghost of a full moon reflected off the lens’ curvature and seemed to bounce through space infinitely. Finally, I’ll be able to see again. He lifted the glasses to his face and rested them over his nose. But looking through them, it was not the vision Ralph was used to. He thought he was looking over at his friends, near the McKenzie crypt.  Instead he saw bright orange and bright blue.  He saw his friends from a different angle, like he stood on the other side of them.  He saw off into the forest in the distance.  And he saw inside the closed crypt itself.  Yet inexplicably, he could see all of this simultaneously. It was too much too take in; Ralph was nauseated. His head spun and his sense of reality was shaken. He ripped off the glasses and stared at them in disbelief. What is this? What kind of glasses are these? I need to tell Mike and them!

Shaken, he moved unsteadily to his friends, crouching around the entrance to the crypt.

“Guys! You guys!”

“Shhhhh! Be quiet, dude! You’ll scare the spirits away!”

“Sorry.”

Oh my god. Oh my god. They need to see these things. They need to see them! Ralph was so overcome with curiosity for the glasses, he forgot about everything else – his fear for the graveyard, the warning of unknown origin, his gut instinct telling him to get out – all forgotten. He put the glasses back on.

Trying hard to sort out what he was seeing this time, Ralph was able to interpret the images coming through the lenses. He saw his friends talking around the entrance of the crypt. Something distracted Ralph from the fact that the glasses gave him some kind of x-ray vision but not only allowing him to see inside, but also see – or sense – multiple scenes.  He realized he was looking at four people.  Four?  There should be only his three friends.  Who is the fourth? He looks kind of famil– wait, that’s me! What the… Ralph couldn’t believe he was looking at himself but it was definitely he; same glasses, same clothes. Maybe I’m seeing into the future. After the shriek of what seemed like a pack of coyotes, Ralph listened in on the conversation his friends were having around him:

“Well, dude, how do you think we’ll get in there then?”

“I dunno.”

“Beats me.”

Suddenly, for no apparent reason, Ralph saw himself run away screaming.

“What a freaking weirdo.”

There was silence for a few moments as the boys thought about their dilemma.

“Hmmm, maybe we don’t have to go in. The ghost will come out – it is Halloween.”

“Duh. You’re a genius, Mike!”

Ralph stopped, to listen.  Glasses still on, he heard twigs and dry leaves snap in the woods behind the crypt.  He turned his gaze to the sound and sees – although almost hard to make out from the glasses’ dazzling perspective – a hooded figure emerge form the trees. Within about ten seconds, the hooded figure pulls a pistol from his jacket and shoots all three boys in the head. Ralph ripped the glasses from his face and screams…

“OH MY GOD!”

“SHUT up, dude! How many times do I have to tell you?”

“No, but we have to ge–”

“SHHH!”

There was no use trying. His friends wouldn’t listen. This is all bad. I gotta get out of here. I gotta get outta here! Why did I come here? I should have listened to myself! Why didn’t I listen to myself?

Mike must have decided he was waiting for the ghost for too long. The boys stood up and stared at each other, at a loss for what to do next. With a light gust, the loudest shriek of the night came from the woods. It sounded like a whole pack of coyotes.

“Well, dude, how do you think we’ll get in there then?”

“I dunno.”

“Beats me.”

Silence.

THIS IS WHAT I JUST SAW IN THE GLASSES! Oh shit! We’re about to die! Ralph threw the glasses back across his nose and looked to where he saw the hooded figure come out of the trees. Behind the headstones and gnarled oaks, Ralph could again see into the woods, his vision guided by the glowing orange and blue light through the lenses.  No, no. Oh, shit. Oh, god. It was the hooded man, quickly making his way through the trees toward the boys.

“Ahhhhh! Run!” Ralph busted into a full sprint away from his friends.

“What a freaking weirdo.”

I’ll never make it over that gate! How can I escape? Ralph ran through the cemetery, the glasses made it hard for him to see where he was going. Everything looking surreal – every object layered within itself infinitely, corners easily seen around. Ralph could even read the back of headstones he was looking at – it was all too much though; a wash of brilliance.  Yet there, bathed in the bright light stood the statue of Jesus – tall, unmistakable.  Not knowing what else to do – or is he pulled? – He sprinted towards the statue. Gazing upon it, this time it isn’t Jesus’ face that he’s drawn to but the chest. The chest glowed brilliantly, a white-hot glare.  When Ralph focused on the light what he sees is unmistakable: daylight. He looked into this strange daylight and wondered:  Where is this?  Some other world?  A nightmare?  Or a bizarre but intricate prank?  No, this is no prank – this must be some twisted reality – another world’s realms and dimensions. Most noticeable was that the daylight in the chest came from, or reflected the graveyard. Ralph realized he was looking at the cemetery the very next day!

This is my only chance to get out of here. Um, um, I don’t know what’s through there, though… maybe it’s not tomorrow. In a panic and not sure of anything anymore, Ralph grabbed a pen from his shirt pocket and wrote ‘LEAVE HERE – NEVER COME BACK’ onto his hand. With the sound of three gunshots ringing in his ear, Ralph jumped into the statue’s chest.

***

A cool breeze stung Ralph’s cheeks, bringing him to his senses. Why am I lying down on grass? Where am I? Ralph sat up; he was sitting in a foggy field. The air was thick but as Ralph came-to he was quick to notice gravestones standing shrouded in the heavy mist. What the hell? How did I get here? Where are my glasses? Oh my god, my glasses!

 

 

Ryan Griffiths

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About gnarlyoak

"Nestled sporadically over great and endless knolls, devoid of life during dry summer months, the oak trees of Los Altos Hills – so numerous around my home – speak to me in an unheard language. Like any person I am the sum of my successes and failures but unlike the masses I have heard the language of the oaks – I found meaning in their forgotten voice." - Song of the Oak
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6 Responses to The Lenses – A Halloween Tale

  1. Ha, that’s pretty awesome.

  2. Jamie Dedes says:

    Bravo! Well done. I like the jumping into the statue’s chest. Nice touch.

    Hope you had a pleasant Halloween.

    I absolutely love your header.

  3. Pingback: Blogger of Note | The Gnarly Oak

  4. Pingback: Blogger of Note at Words of Wisdom | The Gnarly Oak

  5. Robin says:

    It took me a while to get here and read your story inspired by the quote I posted way back in time. Sure, it was only last October but winters where I live are long and October seems a lifetime ago.

    I apologize for taking so long. And I’m sorry I took so long to find the time to visit and read. It’s a great story, for Halloween or otherwise.

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