I didn’t know him well at all. I only knew him as the guy who lived in 704, a few doors down. I’d see him at the pool every once in a while, almost always alone or trying to be alone if someone tried to talk to him. He used to be married – I assume – and his wife and daughter would go with him to the pool, but no one saw them anymore. We all assumed that she had just left because he didn’t seem like the type of guy who wanted to be a part of society. If you waved to him, he would crack a shallow smile and wave quickly and look away towards the ground. Apparently he liked to walk around the neighborhood, where he could be seen nodding his head in agreement with some thought in his own head, or waving his arms in emphasis of some fleeting notion in his mind about who or what no one knew. His lights were on until the wee hours of the morning. Somehow, though, when they found him dead in his apartment, I was the first one in the neighborhood they found, so they asked me to identify the corpse or shed any light I could on this spectral man.
The cop asked me if I knew the man, and I told him that I saw him in the neighborhood but I never talked to him. I said he had a lot of strange habits and mannerisms; kids stayed away from him and adults didn’t usually approach him. No one went to his house and his wife and kid never came around anymore. We all guessed it was divorce, probably because of his weird ways.
“Well,” the cop said, “would you mind coming inside and seeing if you can help us in any way?”
“Sure,” I agreed and went in, still not sure how I had become the witness to this man’s twisted tale. The cops stood behind me as I inspected his body slumped over the kitchen table. The place smelled of cat urine, smoke and spilled booze. There was also the stench of a man who had been dead for a while in a sealed townhouse. His cat wandered around in filth.
“He stopped going to work a few days ago,” one cop told me, “and no one said anything, because I guess no one really knows the guy outside of work, so no one was alarmed. It wasn’t until the stink got so bad that we got a call, but it was from a Trac phone so we couldn’t trace it. All that the caller said was, ‘Dead man in 704. I could smell him’ – and that was it.’”
There were mountains of books, all of them dirty on the spines and edges from his grimy fingers constantly thumbing through them. The pages were dog-eared and whole passages were underlined; there were insane little connections to other books made in the margins in a tight scrawl. Piles of pages covered in notes were all over the table, the writing frantic and shooting off into random angles. Sketches of planes crashing into buildings, angles of the sun, calculations of numbers, dates, and names of historical events all collided on those pages. Several large notebooks, filled from margin to margin, from top to bottom, with long prose passages in a wild script that ran up and to the right littered the floor. There were quotes and more sketches and calculations.
There were vodka, cigarettes and the final note:
I figured it out. They’ll be here any time. Whoever finds this – and me – should burn me, these notebooks and this whole house to the ground, lest they find you too. Then get the hell out of here.
The ashtray was overflowing with crushed cigarette butts. A glass stood still with a mixture of melted ice and lukewarm vodka. A .38 caliber pistol was still clutched in his hand. Whatever –whoever – got him, got him quickly and easily. It was as if he just went to sleep. There was no struggle, no fight and no resistance. He just left this world and left all this behind.
“The bedrooms upstairs are nailed shut,” another cop told me. “Do you know anything about that?”
“No,” I told him. I told him that he had a wife and a kid at one time.
“Does anyone know where they are? Does anyone know what happened to them?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “They just went away one day and then he became … unsound.” That was the only word I could think of just then. “Unsound.” The cop asked what I meant by that and I told him how he walked around the neighborhood alone talking to himself and how he had a good job, but he never seemed to associate with anyone.
“This is a weird case,” another cop said. “Not one scrap of identification left. Even the lease was under some female’s name – maybe his ex-wife?” He said he didn’t know what to do with it; he didn’t know where to go next.
“I guess he sleeps in the back with the cat,” a cop said. “There’s a camping mattress and a blanket back there and a phone charger. Something must have happened upstairs. We’ll have to check that out later,” he continued.
“How did he pass?” I asked.
One cop said that they didn’t know. No gunshots. No stab wounds. No signs of struggle. Just him slumped over the table. We’ll have to wait for the toxicology report to come back and see if it tells us anything.
“What’s in these notebooks?” I asked one cop.
“Couldn’t make any sense of it,” he admitted. “Seems like he was doing some kind of research, like some historical or some government stuff – I definitely didn’t get it, that’s for sure. You wanna take a crack at it?”
“Isn’t it evidence?” I asked.
“I’ll get you copies if you want,” he offered.
A few days later, several large envelopes arrived, stamped with the sheriff’s department logo. I opened them up and in doing so I walked into the mind of that twisted loner who was dead and alone at his kitchen table. Each page was a step down a path as surreal as the fabled Yellow Brick road, and when I had gotten to the shining City of Oz, I would have no idea of what was real and what was not real. Just as in the movie, I pulled the curtain away and saw that “reality” was an artifice, a mirage created by a little man pulling strings and yelling through a bullhorn.
I did my best to form some sort of a narrative as best as I could. Some of it seems to be an attempt at a true narrative, some were rambling notes, some were just random facts and quotes that I culled from the margins of his many books. His topics range from the “fabric of the cosmos” to numerology to crack-pot historical theories and conspiracies. After having read it all and then having organized it, I didn’t know what to think any longer – about more than just the writings themselves but so many things. I did what I could.
I did not assemble his notes and outlines and writings into a book because I necessarily believe what he had written; rather, I put it together as a sort of litmus test for the reading public to take. In reading this book, I hope the same thing happens to you that happened to me as I compiled it: you either deny everything you have believed was “real” or you will confirm all of your beliefs. After all, it is the ranting of a recluse, the blabbering of a unique – maybe demented –mind, and its meaning is ultimately up to your interpretation.
Granted, he was not afraid of wild speculation. He did not seem to fear vast connections between disparate parts of our world. Like an autistic genius, he was able to make connections in things that no others were able to. His flights of fancy are sometimes epic, so take it as fact or take it as fiction. You have to decide, because, as I said, I don’t know what to think anymore.
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