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Number 363: The Notes Themselves

<p>We’ve all read the notes and now we see the real world.</p>

I forget the first day.

You’d think I’d remember it but, truth be told, too many of the things have come through now for me to remember the first. And no, I don’t know where they come from. Only that they’re here and there’s precious little to be done about it. It’s strange that so many of them should foretell the end of the world, because I think the notes are going to end it themselves.

I do remember that, at first, I found them in books. Like loose pages. But these were typed by hand – most of the time anyway. There was handwriting here and there and sometimes, whole sections torn out from other books and tacked on the back. Other books that I couldn’t find anywhere else, written by people that didn’t exist. And yes, they still don’t exist. Hardly makes the story convincing, does it? But what does that mean, ‘convincing’? Evidence is for experiments, proof is for judge and jury – people out here believe all kinds of things, real or otherwise. Eyes and minds are fragile organs. We talk about things being tricks of the light but I can’t help wondering if we’ve got it the wrong way around.

After a time, I didn’t just find them in books. They’d be in newspapers or waiting on a park bench. I once opened a desk drawer and 30 or so pages spilled out, brushing over my hands like the skin of something else. I read them all, of course. How could I not? Looking back, that’s probably why I ended up here. Reading something I shouldn’t have.

There’s that story about those guys who write about a world in such detail that it becomes real and swallows them up. These pages weren’t always detailed but they were enough, you know? The one about the fog, the one about the dead psychic, the one about the scarecrows with human eyes. They’re like jokes without a punchline. Unless it’s ‘something is coming’.

I found them under the bed and in my pockets, falling out from behind opened doors. I found one in a cereal box. It was about these bees – only they weren’t bees because they could sing –

and anybody who listened would go missing. A composer tried to take down the music and she went mad. I didn’t eat the cereal. I didn’t eat a lot of things – I was worried I might bite down on a scrap of paper. The one about the family that ate rocks didn’t help. The rocks changed them, you see, made them invulnerable to fire and stuff like that. If they touched someone, a bit of rock would burrow under the skin and change that person too. Like a crystal plague. Like ‘The Great Newspaper Plague’, that was another one. I could relate – I couldn’t move for the paper in my house, it just kept coming. But I had nowhere to go. Until, of course, they brought me here.

I would go out and see clocks running backwards and shadows moving on their own. A little boy once held out his hand to me and there was a mouth in it. A mouth! I ran back home, to the notes and found accounts of the things I was seeing. Had they always been there? Wouldn’t I have noticed skeletons waiting in the hollows of trees? Wouldn’t someone have mentioned the bees that could sing? Or the pages that came from out of nowhere and told you about ghost horses and missing astronauts and a cancer that deteriorated a person’s dimensions until they were just lines and angles? Drinking blood was the only cure for that last one. Yes, there were stories about vampires. Vampires and clockwork and things the colour of midnight. I started collating them when I realised they wouldn’t stop coming. I traced names and places between them, linking all these pages together. Like they were one big map of a hundred other worlds. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat… until you came to take me away. Who sounded the alarm, out of interest? The neighbours? My mother? Try calling them back. Or do you already know that they’ll have disappeared? Seems to be happening a lot these days…

The pages didn’t follow me here, of course. Like in the movies, when someone says they’ve seen a monster and they lead everyone to the spot and – surprise! – there’s nothing there. But of course the monster is there, waiting, playing the game. If I went back home, I’d find more. I’m certain of it. Did you find any fresh pages when you went looking? Or did you just find the ones you think I wrote myself?

I won’t tell you not to read them, not to print them if you really want to. I watch through the window here, and now I can see the shapes thrackling and brewstering just out of sight. I’m not the first person, to be brought in, am I? There’s the woman down the hall and the man you keep locked up downstairs and everyone else you interrogate. We’ve all read the notes and now we see the real world. The new world. It’s like I said: something’s coming. Something’s coming to cut you down or swallow you up or disappear you altogether. It’s out there, wide and dark and hungry but strangely beautiful. The vanishings, the lights in the sky, the music on the wind. It’s not at all cruel… it’s just the passing of something. And in its place, something different. Odd. Unorthodox. Weird.

There’s poetry to a strange end. Or at least, I think there is. And sometimes, thinking is all we’ve got.

Reality and unreality have no clear distinction in our present circumstances.

Doom Patrol #21, Grant Morrison  


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