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This novel might be a work of fiction. Names of characters, places, and incidents could be the product of the author's imagination, or they are not. All parallels to actual events, locations, or persons, living, dead, undead, or not alive yet, are intentional.

An original publication from Mudhill Publications

Copyright © 2018 by Eli William Fuller

Cover artwork copyright © 2018 Eli William Fuller

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Mudhill Publications at

First ebook Edition 2018

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This is dedicated to Jessi Lee Merschbach.

Without her love and support this would not be possible.

The Map

The Journals of J.J. McAlister

Compiled by Eli William Fuller

Chapter One - Other Earths

Thursday, January 14, 2010, 12:01 A.M.

Ill in torment, I scratch at my tombstone to appease the grip of insomnia, but I can not sleep. I hope keeping a journal will relieve the pressure on my consciousness. When I do drift out of it from torrid exhaustion, then I agonize through horrific nightmares. My wife grows weary of our restless nights. I toss and turn which concerns her, but my current state of health is not all of the negative ways I affect her well-being. The thoughts run on, as I try to sleep, but the ruminations twist and torture me to an endless relent. A life seizing obsession unraveled these last five years, and an increased narcissism within me wages war against my better knowledge.

Contrived into retirement from my career as a top astronomer in the field was the catalyst to a mysterious mind bending string of events. Along with the lack of proper rest, came the loss of appetite for food which was replaced with a veracious and insatiable craving to solve a series of mysteries. For the remains of my days and nights, I stand focused on a curse. With the discovery of answers to what, or why I can not escape, I do not know what inspires my needs the most. My lovely wife, Benni, knows how dedicated I am to my studies. Benni holds high interest when, in truth, I believe in something I am involved in, but she is reaching her wit's end.

Soon, I pray, I will find the final answers to the mysteries abound in my life. One conclusion looms; I have to write this story, while I still have sanity and stability. Now, I am a vessel for my habits and rituals. What self-control left, I hope will lead my way through this journal, and I can keep it up better than I can manage myself. With discipline thrown out the window, the shattered glass lay scattered on rain soaked sills. I wish burdens on no one, but who I am now, dreams my research will be continued to expose the truth of this infernal piece of fabric. Interaction with this artifact has plunged me into purgatory. Any pain it causes, it also relieves. It is a drug.

Other than the linguistics of printed text, this artifact appeared ancient yet unrecognizable as any document made on Earth. The name I gave this artifact is The Map, and the past five years I tried to discover the secrets it withholds.

Because of overwhelming stress, I must tell you what I have been through since the start of this journey. Then, maybe, I might understand and look upon these circumstances with a larger view of perspective. I wish I was strong enough to let The Map go, leave it alone, and forget it ever existed. My wife threatened to eradicate The Map, though I attempted to be its destroyer several times, and it does not respond to fire. The ink will not smear, nor will The Map let in moisture. At the large wooden desk in my den, I smoke tobacco, paw at my mind, and try to distract myself from the enthrallment of this idol I worship. Despite any aspects of free will which remain, it is outside of my authority. I need a drink.

Thursday, January 14, 2010, 3:23 A.M.

My name is James Josephus McAlister, I am forty-four years old, and I studied the cosmos for all of my life. Six years has passed, since Benni, and I relocated to a Victorian farm house, which sits on land rented to a local farmer for cultivation. Until the transfer, I received decent funding for my research, and I took one year off of work to settle into this new environment. The focus of my study was involved with the photography of new discoveries of planets and solar systems. I published my book, Other Earths, a few months before the career change. In Other Earths, I presented enough evidence to support the theories which suggested there were other habitable planets which orbited nearby stars. Even though my benefactors accommodated me with a financial promotion, they disguised the forced retirement package and shifted me to a less than mainstream observatory. My masters hoped I could not create too much controversy.

Friday, January 15, 2010, 9:01 A.M.

Last night, I got little sleep. Right now, I drink coffee, stare out the windows in my den, and I attribute any relaxation to exhaustion. The temperature rose just enough to melt small amounts of Winter's first snow. The last morning, I meant to write more but thought I had an epiphany which might lead to new breakthroughs with The Map. I was wrong. Two tools I can not afford to take for granted is time and effort. Before I fulfill my wish to go outside today, I want to begin this story, because it will aid me to relax more than usual, as it helped me yesterday.

I wrote before of my salary promotion, but within this relocation, demotion came from the mainstream field of astronomy. The scientific communities seem to always avoid controversy when it threatens to bring them financial troubles. Scientists fold under pressure and will not stand up for truth if it is a challenge to their stability. I learned how to play the game. Lucky enough to have friends who compromised along beside me, I saw great colleagues hand over every thing they worked for their entire lives. If it is considered too far out, controversial, or in dispute with what the powers want people to know, then a scientist's ideas and research are stolen and continued in secret. Money is used to control us, and scientists soon forget the reasons why they applied themselves in the first place. As long as scientists produce the facts and figures desired by their owners, then the funding continues and their children are fed. In some cases, calculations are fudged or just made up to appease the political spectrum. My concerns were immersed in my research which made me blind for a long time to anything else.

After the release of my book, Other Earths, I was moved to the outdated observatory in the wilderness. A good friend of mine contacted me and helped me get involved with a promotional interview on a late night talk radio program. Soon in touch with the producers, the interview was scheduled during a night when I happened to be in the same city. I could go to the radio show on Friday night, because I booked a lecture months previous for Other Earths on Saturday morning. With the hour long interview, I figured I could get enough sleep, but this is back when I was able to rest. I insisted on being at the radio studio in person, because I abhor to talk on the phone. The excitement built within me, as I prepared for this journey, and I felt my research was relevant, as it was important. To move forward with my career was enthusiastic and joyous despite the bleak opinions and stumbling blocks of the academic and scientific communities.

My lecture was held in the banquet room at the Grant Victorian Hotel, which is a restored exquisite masterpiece from the late 1800s. Benni, and I lived as guests for the weekend. After I dragged my feet and glared my way through ridicule and humility from the embarrassing change in my career, I lifted my head again towards the stars. I discovered an outsider-insider scientific community who believe the Earth is round, because it is provable. Meanwhile, others argue the Earth is flat, so they continue to receive money. I found acceptance in people who society calls crazy today but labels genius tomorrow. Other Earths represented my life's work, so to have a public interest was a fulfilling experience.

Benni, and I arrived at the Grant Victorian by early Friday afternoon and had a wonderful evening dinner in the elegant dining room of the hotel. I arranged a car service to pick me up around ten o'clock. In doing so, I might arrive at the radio station within thirty minutes before eleven when the show starts. I accepted the opportunity, because the host treats his guests with respect without a matter to how unconventional their ideas are. One question near the end of the interview has always rung in my mind as a vibration inside a struck bell. The question regarded a neighboring solar system, which we discussed from my book. Based on calculations and testable evidence, the solar system included a planet two-and-a-half times Earth's size which is habitable.

“Yes, but HOW do we get there? That, is what I want to know.”

This was the question the host asked, in his common fashion with endearment, excitement, wonder, and hope, which rings in my ears.

The interview turned out to be a terrific time and one of the best moments of my life.

After I awoke the next morning, I went to the banquet hall for the sound check of my lecture. It was a surprise and shock to see the multitudes of who came to hear a lecture on Other Earths. There were those who waited in the lobby, and the dining hall was full of fellow participants at breakfast. The owners of the hotel stopped me in my tracks to express their personal gratitude, because I brought in added business. After I talked with almost every person, I learned that I owed most of this new exposure to the listeners of the radio program from the night before.

The hotel staff seated attendees early, because their lobby is small, and many arrived and others finished eating. Seats were soon filled to capacity in the banquet hall. The manager did allow the rest in, and while they stood along the sides and in the back, were still under the fire safety code of the highest occupancy. So thrilled, I conversed with people while on stage, and this became the sound check itself. All flowed well right into my prepared research, as the last few members joined the audience. At first, I felt sorry for those who had to stand, but from the feedback I received afterward, they were more than satisfied. They viewed it as a metaphor of standing for the truth, in spite of bureaucratic bias. The general atmosphere was unified, and I made two hundred new friends.

Thursday, January 21, 2010, 3:53 P.M.

I am learning to keep a journal, but every day is difficult. I set sights on writing more when I begin, because my memories and thoughts duel with insanity, but I am a scientist. With certainty, and in a prompt fashion, a disciplined writer would be more effective to relay my story. Judy, our daughter, visited over this past weekend. I missed dinner on Saturday because of The Map, and Benni, upset over my absence, had a talk with Judy in regard to my work and obsession. Judy attempted to discuss it with me later on that night, which broke my concentration, which led all three of us into a heated argument. With a long night of troubled stress, I could not sleep, because I placed all of the blame on myself for the altercation. I know, I lost their support, and I fear I am losing myself.

Saturday's drama should have never happened, and I must gain more control. I want to cease the pain I inflict on the people I love, but I am so near to the promise of what I set out to achieve. This brings me back to the story.

Friday, January 22, 2010, 2:12 P.M.

When my lecture at the Grant Victorian began, after the last of the participants entered the banquet hall, I noticed one odd man who stood out from the standing crowd. Though I lectured without flaw, I must have been running on autopilot, because I could not stop my mind and eyes from being drawn to this unique man's presence. This man wore a tailored suit from the 1880s. He completed the ensemble with a top hat, a groomed thin mustache which hovered above his lip, and he beheld a cane from the Regency period. I convinced myself, he was an employee of the hotel. Maybe, they hire actors to portray authentic Victorian characters to create the theatrical experience and environment of the theme, and this man dressed for the part well. Even with this logical hypothesis, it still bothered me. An illogical and uncomfortable emotion moved over me, and drew to this man as two magnets. With his own gravitational pull, he stood still and stared at me with a wide smirk, as if he knew something elusive to the rest of us. Right hand over left, he gripped the silver head of his Regency cane and placed it in front of him as a claim stake; arms strong, as if he planted a flag on a moon. 

With the lecture finished and no one else to meet, I was hungry. Benni went shopping with old friends of hers which gave me two hours to myself. Tired of my obsession with astronomy, she hears enough lectures from me at home, which justifies her dipping out on one. The dining hall was full, but the host assured me they could clear a table soon. I said to the maître d', that I was not in a rush to eat, as I had practiced experience with not eating breakfast by fasting daily. The host let me know they will save the next available single table, and I may dine when I wish. After a quick admiration of the antique ambiance, I wandered in the hotel's Green Glass Tavern. Even though it was still in the A.M., I desired to have a drink. 

Upon my entrance to the tavern, I noticed a modest top hat which hung on a dark stained wooden hall tree. Leaned in the corner behind the stand was a silver headed Regency cane. I walked over to the large ligneous bar and greeted the tender who played his Victorian role well. If folks in ordinary clothing from the twenty first century did not dine and meander around the vintage scenery, I could have bought the slip back in time. I ordered a pint of porter, leaned against polished oak, and turned just enough to venture my eyes throughout the room. A short man in a suit with coattails walked in from an outside patio. With his nose raised, eyelids half closed, and lips in a smirk, he slipped white gloves over his elongated pale bony fingers. He strolled and wavered over to his right, and slithered between tables to an upright piano. As he sat, he flipped his coattails over the bench and played elegant music. I wished Benni was there, but when I shared the story with her later, she enjoyed it very much.

Soon after I lost interest in the piano player, and reveled in the classical music, my energy and attention were pulled towards the patio. Through stained green glass panes of thick black iron framed windows, stood the profile of the peculiar man from my lecture. Still as a statue in an old-timey black suit, he possessed a burning black cigarette six inches from his mouth and rested his elbow on the center of his being. The stranger stared into a weathered brick wall conquered by red ivy. When the sound of hard glass hit the bar, I spun to a fine chilled porter. While I leaned and sipped, I wondered why the man seemed so important. I moved forward a half of a step and contemplated for a moment, when I caught the emitted odors of tobacco and clove. A tall slender man's hand laid a small black box on the bar. On a left index finger, set on a silver ring, an onyx stone glowed as a tiny universe under the genuine gas lights. Pride flowed forward with three words.

Another mint julep.”

The bartender raised his eyebrows high and replied, “Yes, Sir.”

The eccentric man peered over at me, and in that moment, I realized, that I stared. One might think this performer could be accustomed to their theatrics being observed. It was clear he knew who I was but acted as he just noticed me there.

J. J. McAlister, it is both an honor and a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am E. J. Rothschild. I am familiar with your work.”

I did not believe he was knowledgeable of my work, and I assumed the hotel's manager sent him into my lecture to create this interaction. I thought it could be fun to indulge this character.

It is nice to meet you, Mr. Rothschild.”


It is my pleasure to meet you, Mr. Rothschild.”

This Rothschild fellow twisted and extended his right hand into mine with a firm grip. A welcoming surge of electricity ran up my arm and through my body, as if I wrapped my palm over an iron rail to feel if a train is coming. However, the electromagnetic field that emanated from him was a stronger vibration than a distant locomotive. As the energy transfer completed, our hands separated the circuit. I inquired about the black box, and Mr. Rothschild replied.

How vulgar of me. These are my cigarettes. They are a link to the physical world, a nasty ritualistic habit, and not as pleasurable as alcoholic beverages, now, are they?” While an eerie smile grew across his face, he put the black box in the inner pocket of his suit jacket.

Oh, that's okay.”

I paused at his choice of words.

Well, I love a pint of porter.”

Mr. Rothschild raised an eyebrow at my drink.

I see you enjoy porter, Mr. McAlister. Although, you ought to try that warm. Perhaps, you will drink something a tad stronger in the future.” He chuckled to himself for a moment.

Mr. Rothschild spoke with a faded British accent, as though he acted. His skin glowed pale with hints of blue tint and orange shadows, so much I thought he wore makeup. Shiny hair was slicked downwards with a small bit of curls on the sides above the ears, which was a result from wearing his top hat. Refined and independent, Rothschild was someone who appeared to be very important in a higher society set in their own ways enough to do as they pleased. A white streak of hair, combed to the front, reminded me of Peter Lorre in Alfred Hitchcock's, The Man Who Knew Too Much. I thought Mr. Rothschild was an actor who studied theater and early film for certain. When I mentioned Peter Lorre, he answered with strange and serious mannerisms.

Who is Peter Lorre? Is he a politician?”

I laughed and spoke within the confines of my mind.

Okay, okay, he is playing the part.”

However, the sincerity in Mr. Rothschild's voice of curiosity over my words intrigued me, but he let his question pass by unanswered. Instead, he indulged in details of my research, which no one else had known but me.

Monday, January 25, 2010, 9:47 P.M.

Nothing seems real to me yet today. I am not tired, even though I did not sleep again for the second night in a row. Life is as a dream while asleep, and I dreamt closer to a reality than this. I might wake up in bed at any moment, and this nightmare will be over. I smoked a cigarette, and there was no change. It is time to pour myself a drink.

Sometimes, my obsession with The Map leaves, and a few nights of relief and repose greet me with open arms. I do not have explanations for the warm embrace, but the cursed rolled up witch released its grip from my consciousness this past weekend and gave me a great deal of ease. As I loose more of this story out of a troubled mind, I hope it will be therapeutic to my current condition. Fascination drove me when I wrote in this journal the other day. I recalled visual accounts of memories, and I was overwhelmed with repeat emotions of the experiences from the times when they happened. Maybe, this writing is helping me deal with these pent up concerns.

Thursday, January 28, 2010, 12:05 P.M.

In the den for most of seventy-two hours, I combed through research. I littered the walls and all level surfaces with notes, photos, drawings, and telescopic imaging. The culprit behind the madness is lying on the center of my desk. Lost in a labyrinth of lust, I can not tell if I made progress. I am a tool, as my vessel is overtaken for a purpose which is not mine but another person's passion. It takes all that I have to try being myself, and then, the storm calms again.

Last night, as I walked among weariness, I made jokes of the tiring dangerous exhaustion that I experience. This aloof attitude which I expressed, had upset Benni, because she endures through so much worry and strife with all of this map nonsense. I cried myself to sleep, and as I awakened this morning, I regained clarity on the matter. The Bible tells of possessions, when cast out of you and into the abyss, they find no home. Then, when your guard is down, their dominion returns sevenfold worse. As long as I can write in this journal, I will not desist until the story is told. However, I fear what can become of me. As I free one of these possessors to seek a peaceful moment, then what will come after me?

At some point, during these last few chaotic nights, my possessor came back and brought six new companions along with it. These demons put together a team effort to profit from my work, my mind, and for quests which are not mine. I just want to relax and lift any pain from my wife. Family and friends left me with no one else to help. 

Five years ago, I leaned against the Green Glass Tavern's bar inside of the Grant Victorian Hotel. I held a pint of porter and tried to guess how an actor knew specifics of my research, to which I had the sole knowledge. I suspected one of Benni's pranks, but this Rothschild fellow knew details she could have never known either. Mr. Rothschild paused in the middle of his dissertation, raised a full glass, and swallowed most of the green cocktail. With his eyelids closed, Enlil J. Rothschild lifted his shoulders and leaned his head farther back. He rolled his head around left, right, and back again in unison with his wrist. Ice rattled in the beaker over a popping percussion of his vertebrae. After an extended exhalation and relaxation of his posture, Mr. Rothschild directed the conversation onward.

“There is no logical purpose for myself to inform you of your own work, however, I am well aware of your credentials. It is the interest of The Society to become an independent contributor to the continuation of your research. We are prepared to finance all necessary duties involved in your endeavor. As I understand, you are in dire need of new equipment. However, if you desire to befriend the man on the moon, you will search for skulls for the rest of your days.”
In my mind, I questioned, “What in the world is this guy talking about?” With an aim to move past Mr. Rothschild's eccentricities, I finished the last half of porter in a single motion. This was true, I could not continue my work without the proper tools and finances. The first proposition intrigued me, until curiosity stopped the daydream.

“Who are you, and how did you learn this information?”

Mr. Rothschild sipped the last of antiquated beverage, and the crushed ice met with the bottom of the glass on the bar.

“James, I will excuse and forgive your brutish behavior, because you withstood through turmoil of academic losses. A stranger offers such a shocking proposition...”

Mr. Rothschild tilted a glance of pride in my direction.

“...and in this fashion, I must add, I do understand. If you will it, I will introduce myself again. I am Enlil J. Rothschild. On behalf of the Order of the Freight and Rail Society, and rightful to personal interest of astronomical affairs, I am elected to offer the opportunity to further your passions. I am aware of your efforts from published scientific journals and my research into the plight of your current circumstances. However, I am disappointed you let mental vision blind you to a theory, that I am a thespian used by the establishment we now occupy. Within which, I am very comfortable visiting. Yes, I am."

Mr. Rothschild sighed and glanced down at his empty glass for a moment.

“Mr. Rothschild, I am sorry, that I offended you. Since the lecture, I have been on an adrenalin rush, and I am not used to all this attention and recognition.”
Enlil J. Rothschild halted my excuses with a slight tilt of his head and a far-reaching charming smile. The ambient voices of the crowded pub blended with each individual note played on the upright piano and toned together as church bells toll for the dead. I zoned into the vibrational frequencies which exist behind all of nature, and my ascending but diminishing focus brought all audible melodies to a ringing hiss.
“James, will you join me outside where I may smoke?”
I told Mr. Rothschild, “That is fine.”

Under his breath, he muttered, “Wonderful.”
Rothschild then spoke loud enough for the busy bartender to hear.

“Upon our return, there shall be one mint julep and a glass of warm porter awaiting our company.”
Enlil led the way towards the glass and iron doors before the patio. As I followed through the tavern, the small piano man in coattails continued to live in his own concerto fantasy. I remember thinking that the piano man imagined himself performing at a royal banquet inside a great palace, as he dreamed of aristocratic splendor. Enlil J. Rothschild became a posed monument in the same spot he stood when I arrived at the tavern, and peered at the bricks and vine leaves during a long uncomfortable silence.
“Oh, how I love a stone wall covered in ivy. It reminds me of those hanging gardens in Babylon.”

Mr. Rothschild said this with an intimate seriousness, then he slid his ring fingered left hand under the right breast of his suit and took out the black box. As Enlil caught me observing his every movement, he lifted an eyebrow and presented the package of cigarettes.
“Have you an interest?”

“Sure, why not?”
Mr. Rothschild boasted with pride, “Well, Mr. McAlister, you are free by the Order of the Freight and Rail Society to choose your preference from our box of black beauties.”

I took the box of cigarettes and folded back the top. Inside, were different kinds of the same brand as a variety pack. There were sixteen split into groups of four, and they were all black with a silver symbol. The one he smoked earlier was not there, and the three of those which remained had the face of what I assumed was a lion on them. Another group of four had a fancy J printed on them. The next set included an Eastern Asian character on the side, and the last quartet had the number 59, all printed in silver. Upon instinct, I chose one of those with the J on them, because my name is James Josephus. I slid out the thin lengthy smoke, and I handed the cigarettes back to Mr. Rothschild.

Then, I laughed and said, “I hope I did not take too much time to choose.”

“All of time is at my disposal, James. May I address you as James?”

“Please do.”

I held the J cigarette and passed it underneath my nose. Dried leaves which blow in the Autumn wind was followed by the sweet aromas of a passing woman and perfume. Enlil J. Rothschild peered into his black box and tapped his first two fingers on the tip of his thumb with repetition.

Love to try them all.”

Mr. Rothschild said this with lavishness and better to himself, and I noticed he chose a 59. He slipped the black box back behind his suit and retrieved a lighter. The lightation device had to be from the early time of its invention. Rothschild lit my cigarette first. I believe he did this, not to be courteous, but so he could enjoy the experience of lighting a cigarette without interruption. Enlil lowered both eyelids, took two quick puffs, and then sucked in a drawn out “drag” as we called it in my youth. With a deep held inhalation, Enlil J. Rothschild opened his eyes, stared at the wall of ivy and then exhaled plumes into the air. Trails of smoke seeped from his nostrils, as a dragon breathes. After my first drag, a billowing bluish apparition changed the dull atmosphere to a vivid reality wherein colors and clarity are altered and heightened. Mr. Rothschild awakened from his reverie, and his conscious attention directed towards me.

James, I insist on offering you a sincere apology for the emotional outburst I displayed earlier. I attempt to be a more lighthearted individual, although, there is not in existence, more nor less. The excuses I wed, are I am different, odd, and I mistook the scientific process personal and for granted. With sincerity, I hope you can find forgiveness in your heart.”

I assured Mr. Rothschild there were no worries between us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010, 2:12 P.M.

“Beyond the teeth of the canine lies the city of the gods.”

The Map showed many types of these riddled phrases during my journeys. I jot notes on scrap paper, move forward, and try to extract common sense out of the scribbles later. As I was Forced to retreat to a true retirement, I continue to study without a telescope. At the observatory, is a friend who helps me, sometimes, when he can, by taking coordinates I give him and uses the equipment to gain information I seek. I searched the cosmos for weeks without sleep and abused the privilege of using the telescope. More than I threaten to now, I could hate myself if he lost his career position on my account. The last time I binged, I damaged an expensive lens and was not able to afford the repairs. The finances from Enlil J. Rothschild ran dry, and I did not receive a word from the Freight and Rail Society for over one year. Why am I still doing the work Mr. Rothschild sparked within me? Maybe, I will find the answer to that question when I relay memories of this overtaking my life. 

Mr. Rothschild, and I stood silent on the hotel patio for a few minutes.

James, you will find me to be an odd person. I accept any judgment on your behalf, though I am far from the ordinary fellow and not made for these times. All of my eccentricities aside, I am an honest man, and the proposition is legitimate.”

Why do you want to fund my research?”

Let us allow our friend, the old bartender, to be our witness. Shall we drink? Business!”

With a slight bow, Enlil J. Rothschild waved his hands in a flamboyant nature towards the open doorway to the tavern, while blue smoke streamed through the air from his lit cigarette. A polished brass ash can stood in the path of where he walked, but he completed his dance with a push of the butt into a discarded pile. As I followed Mr. Rothschild, I glanced down at the ashcan and noticed the silver symbols were pushed into the sand in the order of “lion's face,” J, and 59. Back at the bar, a mint julep and a warm glass of porter awaited our return. I did not mind the warmth of the lager too much, but I prefer it chilled. Enlil hoisted his glass to an impossible height, closed his eyes, and spoke to the bartender.

A round of applause to our gracious host for a round of precious spirits for our precious spirits.”

Nobody applauded. Enlil J. Rothschild sipped his cocktail as proper as a gentleman.

Setting all details and formalities aside, are you interested in considering our offer, James?”

Yes, I am. I hope it is not rude for me to ask what do you, or your organization, gain from

funding my research?”

On the contrary, James, thank you for inquiring. The Society will be appreciative, and

grateful, if you will locate a planet for us.”

You want me to find a planet? How are you aware of what is yet to be discovered? Let me see, you want me to find Nibiru, Planet X, or something like that?”

As I said this out loud, it made me laugh. I still toyed with the notion that Mr. Rothschild was

not for real.

We do not entertain ancient fairy tales, James, and this you will figure out in due time. All your questions will gain answers, and all your answers will breed questions. Please continue on whatever path you wish to direct your research, and in these processes, if you discover the world of worlds, you will understand.”

This guy sounded like Willy Wonka or The Riddler from Batman. However, I pondered, if he was serious and if this was real, then what harm could it bring to accept the proposal?

James, I could spew fairy tales, as I am well versed in them, but we are men of science and technology. The Society has no interest in what you research for yourself. We all have reasons for our own quests. It is possible to bore you of my being a medium with anecdotes of inter-dimensional communication, but alas I am here on business. Maybe, some other time and somewhere else, we will become intimate.”

I thought you had all the time?”, I teased.

That is why, Mr. McAlister.”

Rothschild sipped quicker than before. Then, he told me that I should l hear from him soon to discuss further details. As a final act in a magic show, Enlil finished his drink, threw paper bills from nowhere onto the bar, and strolled toward the oak tree stand by the entrance of the Green Glass Tavern. Enlil J. Rothschild slipped on his gloves, slid the top hat down to where his hair curled, and picked up his Regency cane.

Ah yes, I had a terrible slip of memory, James.”

Mr. Rothschild glided back towards me with a wide charming smile, as his eyes gleamed in the glow of the gaslights. Rothschild drew closer upon me, and his smile shifted to a suspicious and sinister Risus Sardonicus grin. Enlil stopped to a mannequin pose and spoke with elegance.

“James Josephus, of the McAlisters, you will not ride into battle without the proper attire.”

As Enlil J. Rothschild bowed towards me with open arms, he held each end of his cane and presented it. He twisted the silver handle of his Regency cane, until a click of a lock popped it open to reveal a compartment. With the silver top between the three lesser fingers, he used the index and thumb to slide an aged, reddish brown, stiff rolled scroll of fabric out of the hollow cane.
“Your shield and sword, Mr. McAlister.”
“What is this?”
“It is a gift from The Society's private collection. Let our offering be inspiration as you go further on your journey through space and time. With this gesture, I bid you farewell and good luck.”
With a turn, click, and a lock of the silver handle back into the cane shaft, Mr. Rothschild placed the ferrule to the floor, bowed, and tipped his hat. Enlil strolled out of the Green Glass Tavern on top of the world. Then, my attention turned to the scroll, which he laid on the bar. Within that moment, I noticed the paper bills that Rothschild threw were British notes from 1919. When the bartender discovered the outdated tender, his cheeriness changed to fury. I thought it was outstanding, until the barkeeper showed me the tab. I told him I could pay it, however I did not believe the total. Enlil J. Rothschild drank three doubles of scotch on the rocks, and seven mint juleps. Not once, did he appear to be intoxicated, and he was not near buzzed. I paid the bill, picked up the antique notes and the roll of fabric, and I left to go dine.

Thursday, February 4, 2010, 1:47 P.M.

The “lion's face”, J, and 59 must mean something. When I finished writing the other day, I had to ponder over the symbols on the cigarettes in the ash can. With every phenomenon I have been through, I see no coincidences but plenty of signs and omens. I could not free one symbol from my head. The team of demons came for me again, but I still work to clean up from the last storm. Their invasion begins with a vibration which buzzes throughout my sinuses. A symphonic hum in my brain fades into a fugue of melodies. I pour a drink, light a smoke, and then, when my awareness returns, one day has passed. Mundane memories return before any important rise, and recollections of information surface. I remember moments from dinner and have flashbacks of a conversation with my wife. Our lips move, but what we talked about, I do not know. I do not even understand if I made any progress with The Map. There are pages of notes, but I did not read them yet. I need a break from this. Excuse me, if I do not continue the story today. I will write tomorrow.

Friday, February 5, 2010, 10:48 A.M.

I discovered many clues hidden among my memories. The mystery of The Map, which has been my major focus and obsession for the past five years, is dependent on the uncovering of hints founded upon its secrets. The Map is all I have left. Mr. Rothschild hired me to locate a planet, and I failed. I was forced to retire, banished from the observatory, and I receive not a word nor funding from the so-called Rail Society anymore. There has to be a purpose. Why would he give me this map if it was not important? Why are there signs within my memoirs which came soon after I received The Map? I figured out the significance of symbols on the cigarettes. Once the symbolism is decoded, and matched with the revelations from The Map, they lead me further into the labyrinth. As a consequence, it pulls me farther from real life on Earth. Though, what is real life? Maybe, everything is. I must write this story, because I believe it holds the keys to the right doors to what The Map is.

Friday, February 5, 2010, 2:09 P.M.

My last glass of porter was half empty, and I hate to waste a good drink. So, I closed my eyes and emptied it into my system; the way I do before I lay to sleep. I let the effects of alcohol rise while my consciousness fades. I picked up the scroll which Enlil J. Rothschild gave me, and I turned around with the intention to leave. Through the patio's doorway, past the trees, and beyond the front garden, two ebony thoroughbred horses reined a sable stained timber coach with raven leather. Inside the carriage, Mr. Rothschild sat with both hands on his cane head, and twisted his top-hatted face my direction. Enlil produced another wide charming smile intertwined with the grin I now fear. 

Friday, February 12, 2010, 11:30 A.M

I did not write for a week. Three days, I laid in the hospital after a collapse from deep excruciating chest pains on Sunday. The doctors performed all the tests associated with heart-related issues and sent me out as a dead man walking on Wednesday with no complications. The admitting physician said I suffered from severe stress and anxiety, and I need to keep better sleep patterns. Oh, just that? What could I say to him? Well, let us see, I have this map. It took control of my life, and I must decode it, but I do not understand its purpose. The Map is a key to solve the mystery of an eccentric group of people who search for a planet, which they know of its existence but is yet to be discovered. Oh, and this is where I enter the picture. I am the idiot searching the skies for them. What the fuck could I say to anybody, and who would listen? This is stress and anxiety. Sleep? Why, I should have figured that out myself. Now I know. I must have not noticed what I experienced for five years.

Of course, I did not say any of this. I swallowed my sarcasm and replied as dumb with the bullshit equivalent to, “Thanks Doc.” Stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are my masters; they are gods. Stress and Anxiety are idols I worship. So, I will just relax, because every thing is fine. My relationship with Benni is falling apart. Our son is a soldier fighting in Afghanistan for the American cause of freedom and liberty. Meanwhile, leaders in Washington fight to take the foundations of America and transform them into socialist ideals. Our omnipotent all-knowledgeable God does what? I guess, only God knows. Our daughter, Judy, does not understand what is happening, but I do not either, and she talks to her mother when she calls. When I was exiled from the scientific community, I lost my career, retirement funds, and all of my achievements. I abandoned my dreams, passions, and research, which included breaking my publishing contract, so the sales of Other Earths stopped. I gained a label from my peers as one in the “grassy knoll society,” and now, hospital bills add up, which I can not afford to pay. So, I am forced to support the big government expansion, as I accept help from the wonderful so-called healthcare system.

I compromised my principles and values and took a prescribed sleep aid the past two nights. There is an abundance of warfare between Benni, and I over my return to work with The Map. In an attempt to save our marriage, I resorted to drugs, and I take the sleeping pills in the daytime to sedate myself into a relaxed state. There was little resistance, when I convinced myself the doctor suggested this tactic. No stress and anxiety, right? The medication makes my stomach turn, but it has been peaceful at home since I swallowed my problems. The effects from The Map subsided for the meantime, but I can sense my adversaries nearby. The seven demons lurk behind every corner and jump from shadow to shadow. In between spaces they express their desires and protest a return to the arid places of the abyss. The chemical induced downtime allowed me to spend a whole day in front of the television which boiled rage inside. With what this country is experiencing, I fear the worst, but I might as well not care what happens now, as I continue to pursue The Map's secrets. Is there a point to living for other people if evil assumes control of society? I am not supposed to drink alcohol with the prescription. Fuck it. Benni is out of the house, and I am in the den, sulking, thinking, writing, and losing my positive outlook on life. I am stuck in this house, as I am trapped in a cage. Standing on the other side of the bars, is a man in a top hat swinging a large ring of keys. 

Friday, February 12, 2010 12:37 P.M.

Through the narrow view of the Green Glass Tavern windows, I watched a horse-drawn carriage disappear. Mr. Rothschild, a hired actor, played for guests at the Grant Victorian Hotel, and of this, I convinced myself. Out into the lobby, I walked underneath its bright lit chandeliers. The winding two way split stairwell beckoned a familiar world after the eternity spent inside that tavern. Positioned off to the side of the main staircase, by the front desk, the owner and manager of the hotel motioned me to come over.

Mr. McAlister!”

Exclaimed with an iffy toothed smile, it seemed a genuine enough gesture, but with a touch of the used force to please people every day. A habit, I guess, but it was not sincere. Although, I brought him an awful lot of business.

Thank you so much, James, for holding your lecture here. On behalf of the Grant Victorian, and myself, we welcome you back anytime.”

Thank you, it has been a wonderful experience.”

I handed him the large rolled up piece of fabric and said, “Here is your prop. I appreciate the entertainment and it was well done.”

“What is this?”

The owner looked at the scroll but hesitated and dared not to touch it. Then, his eyes rose up at me with confusion.

“Your character actor in the top hat gave it to me.”

The owner corrected me.

“That man is not employed here. He arrived this morning in a horse-drawn carriage of all things! I thought he was a real enthusiast. People who visit the hotel love to dress for the environment. Other than necessary staff, we have no theater actors on our payroll.”

I stood there dumbfounded in disbelief.

“Anyway, enjoy your stay, and give my regards to your wife. Benni, and I had a pleasant conversation earlier today. And again, thank you, Mr. McAlister. Whatever you may need or want, we will offer accommodations.”

The owner hurried off in a busy manner. As I stared at people, the ones who stood still blurred and moved in and out of view. I grew faint and looked down at the rolled fabric in my fist, but I could not grasp its weight. Through the front doors outside in the street, multicolored streaks trailed in both directions. After a few deep inhalations, I attributed my state to the effects of strong dark beer in an empty stomach. With a few more breaths, I regained enough composure to float over to the dining hall. The host escorted me to an ideal table near a flourishing garden. I cleared one side of the table, untied the blue ribbon which held the scroll together, and I tried to savor the fabric's release from my fingers. The Map snapped across the table without extreme force nor sound but swift movement. It allured me as an old treasure map captivates. In an instant, The Map had me entangled within its potential as a study combined with an uncontrollable urge to appreciate it for another time. 

The waiter arrived and said, “I see you brought your own place mat.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah.”

An incredible joy came over me, and I laughed hard from the gut. I realized that I had not sat yet. Maybe, this was an extraordinary gift from an uncommon individual who was interested in my success. While I pondered this point of view, I rolled up The Map, tied the blue ribbon, set it aside, and took the menu handed by the waiter. What I ordered and ate, I do not remember, but I recall how delicious it tasted. Senses churned as my eyes and mind wandered the garden to the right of me. Everything else to that wretched left side world, a dim dining hall and whatever fools it included, may not have existed anyway. My body fed itself, while I digressed in daydreams of imaginary futures. 

Chapter Two - Dogstar

Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 9:34 A.M.

Snowflakes fall and drift. A broken tractor does not throw snow, and access in or out of the driveway is impossible. A row of six trees further their threats to topple onto our roof or through a window or wall. These are hassles I do not stress, and I manifest the least, but Benni's fears are intolerable. The house is freezing cold other than the few areas we zoned for ten dollar electric heaters. One of three rooms upstairs is habitable. The bathroom and kitchen are The Elect ordained for heat due to avoid a burst pipe and for obvious practical reasons. I traverse the chilled wooden wasteland of a living room. The crooked settled doorways, and separation at corners and floorboards, add a funhouse effect, which I appreciate. Even though it is Hell some times, I love our old home. Benni is not employed, but neither of us can leave if we were. To use the propane furnace is unaffordable. I could coop up with her in the bedroom, freeze in the den, or creep into the front parlor, the only level room, to ponder existence. Over a century ago, the original owner's piano had been placed and stands in its indentations on the parlor floor. No matter how frigid Winter gets, when arguments become hostile, the parlor is where I run.

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