It’s taken a while for him to realize that his interest in the unfamilar, defamiliarization, the inhuman, ostranenie, and the unheimlich (literally ‘unhomed’) or uncanny was tied in with Mississippi in some way. That interest unfolded through aesthetics, para-academic, and independent scholarship (perhaps sideways and atheologically through his grandparents’ interest interest in the hermeneutics of the Bible). Perhaps that is what all this archaeological excavation is about, some how, the demotic version of some of the para- forms above.
Here is part of something of the latter from perforations 6.
He got up from the little grassy hillock, closed the laptop, pushed the antenna back in, and gazed down the incline. The remains of a road were still visible, dual tracks in the white, sandy soil leading thru young bushy plants here and there, a few tall lanky wildflowers stretching up trying to catch a little sun between the large pines at the edge of the once-road. A few pine seedlings were growing where the ditches would normally be. A few thumb sized ones were growing in the middle of road. As he set off down the slight incline a whip-o-whil cooed mournfully in the distance; they always made him think of those old Hank Williams songs that always seemed to be twanging in his grandpa’s farmhouse, the little radio up in a perch in a corner by the kitchen. A bob white did its bobwhite sound to his right. What was the real name of the damn bird he wondered? Although he had left the tarmac road only about a half mile back, even the car noise had disappeared.
As he got further down in the hollow, clouds of huge dragon flies took off and flitted around confusedly, snapping this way and that for the mesquitos hovering over the small sluggish stream, which he could barely see thru the willowly ferns and tall feathery things. It all had a primeval southern gothic look to it, a setting for some cheap Peter Fonda movie about moonshiners and fast cars. He forded the stream on a few broken planks laying in the water and the corrugated metal of a collapsed culvert. He moved a few feet up the road to an outcropping of rock which had been exposed in the middle of the road. Do some hell on the undercarriage of a car now, he thought. As he reached it, the partial spoke internally, <<You realize that it will be dark in approximately 2.7 hours >> Never should have had the damn thing put in. He ignored it, sat down on the rock in the dappled shade and snapped open the notebook.
“My father certainly had that sort of worrying obsessiveness. But yes, worry, worry, worry, that’s what I do best sometimes I think…sometimes it doesn t even seem to have any content, just vague, persistent forboding. (in high school my friends used to kid me because my father would say — repeatedly of course — `if you don t get an education, you are doomed, doomed!’ As it turned out I was doomed anyway. And you know, my father was a teacher–an `educator’ he liked to say–but I never once saw him read a book. In fact, I don’t think he ever read an entire book in his life. At least I never saw him with one…of course I don’t count textbooks…) Well, maybe partly it s sort of a southern `wise blood’ disease passed mysteriously thru the generations A sort of Old Testament emotional plague and apocalyptic ferment coming from having to sit in too many tents, with sawdust scattered on the ground, and a couple of naked 60 watt bulbs hanging over a few scattered pews while some farmer/preacher harangues a few other farmers and their scrawny wives and their tow-headed kids, some of them still in their bib overalls, the preacher ranting and raving, a strange kind of energy emanating from the poor guy, despite his painful articulations. But my god how I despised that!! And hated it more and more the older I got. But you know it was part and parcel of life in the town generally…so I had no choice but to hate everything. But a lot of that came later. When I was a kid it was actually pretty idyllic, riding my bike out to the grandfolks farm, picking blackberries down by the stream. I remember the cows used to keep the side of the hill by the stream, down from the farmhouse, so clean, like lawnmowers had gotten to it…”
He looked up from the glowing screen — hmm, sun HAS gone down quite a bit — and glanced out at where the pasture used to be. nothing but piles of discarded pulpwood, scrub bushes, a lone pine tree here and there under the lengthening shadows
“…and collecting arrowheads from the hillside next to the farm (Chocta indians used to live at the end of the old dirt road. My grandfather used to catch possums, put them in a 55 gallon barrrel, feed cornmeal to them to `clean’em out’–scavengers you know–and sell them to the indians) while my grandmother made yellow cornbread on the old wood stove when I would arrive on my bicycle. Did all that shit really happen? No way to prove it…unless I go there–and what kind of proof is that, now? None. I could be sitting at home or be at the `farm’ typing this and it wouldn’ t really matter, would it? It just seems entirely too…too quaint maybe. I always used to fantasize about having an observatory on the side of mountain around the farm. Think that was some kind of escapist fantasy? Yeah, maybe…that’ s also the time I started reading loads of science fiction novels. Hey, sometimes escape is ok, you know? I may have quoted this to you before but I like the quote that goes something like: `those most intent on preventing escape are the jailers..’ and that just about says it right there. But there was always too much haze and humidity to look at the stars very much. Now New Mexico (or Arizona, or Nevada)…wow, stars like grains of sand, scanzillions scintillating away, seemingly a few feet from yr face…”
He glanced up to swat a mosquito, simultaneously hearing his partial <<Robert, You have 47 minutes, 18 seconds before sundown. I would advise returning now. You have dinner scheduled with your mother tonight and….>>
<<Yes, thank you Richard>> If he didn t respond the thing kept blabbing away…besides it was right. He abruptly got up, frightening something in the brush to his left, and headed further up the hill and toward the bend. He was determined to at least LOOK at the old farm, even if he couldn’t linger.
His boots slushed thru the foot tall new-green soft grass as he trudged around the bend, bending limbs from now-overhanging trees out of the way. Grandpa Taylor would certainly have been mortified if he could see the condition the condition of the road he worked on so hard by horse and by hand. A newer gate was set up five years ago to keep out hunters but of course it hadn’t done any good. Old beer bottles and cans were scattered around and even on the other side. Stepping around the gate, like apparently everyone else, he hurried through the rapidly growing gloom. Crickets, frogs, and few other unidentifiable scrapings were getting louder as he approached the old farm house….which was more or less completely covered in kudzu he could now see. A bit of chimney sticking out (he remembered the smell of hickory logs on late winter afternoons–the only heat for the whole house, other than the wood stove in the tiny primitive kitchen; couple of cats used to sleep under that stove. He remembered sitting on a tiny stool gazing thru the tiny mica window at the glow.) Can any of this be real? He looked up at a few early stars beginning to flicker thru the clouds. Sunlight still played on them, giving them a reddish tinge; a tiny sliver of moon was out simultaneously. For some reason he began remembering ghost stories from his childhood and he shook off a slight chill.
Privet hedge had grown up 10 feet high all around the front porch, mingling with the kudzu…where the hell had the kudzu come from? Never had been any on the farm that he could remember…. The whole scene began shifting, from external to internal and back again, getting into the pink 57 chevy, the old horse and buggy (fancy two-seated, black with red-stripping), the chickens roaming around the yard, like some fuckin’ computer simulation–or Twilight Zone episode. The place where he slipped off the horse because daddy didn’t cinch it tight enough; the attack of the giant rooster; all the barns, sheds…gone. He had thought about going inside but he couldn t bear it. The abrupt collapse of time was too much. All of a sudden the universe was entirely too malevolent, time an actual palpable THING sitting, hanging in the very air, in the gathering damp, in the goddamn stars that were now coming out entirely too rapidly, some ghoul intent on gathering HIM up in its damp tentacles, folks beginning to clamour for attention in his head, DEAD folks at that, just too much. He began backing up rapidly, stumbling over a fallen limb in what used to be the old sandy drive way (it had originally been U-shaped, with two gates; he had first learned to ride a bike in that sand). He turned and ran, around the gate, thru the grass, kcking up fireflies, round the bend, half sloshing, half jumping over the stream. Something big jumped into the water. Part way up the hill, he turned, shifted the notebook to the other hand, and breathing deeply, looked back over the decimated farmland, a blasted hell of redneck loggers, fires they had set, gotten out of hand…Ghosts–maybe they had killed all the ghosts–or at least driven them away. A dog barked in the distance as he turned and trotted up the hill, not quite so spooked now but still not very much at ease.