Walking in the fresh air and avoiding tea houses for a few days seemed to have stopped the visions. At least for a time.
Then they returned with a vengeance, almost as if their source was aware that I had attempted to shut them off. The fact that I had done just that ate at me, and likely fueled their attack once it came. But then, I seem to be central to this tale, so perhaps that is just what must be.
The alternative is to be just a puppet dancing on the strings of an unseen puppeteer. As if I were nothing more than a character in someone else’s story. Worse, perhaps even designed with reactions calculated to advance the plot. But if that is the truth, it is unthinkable. So it cannot possibly be true.
I am not a puppet. I have free will, and freedom of action. My intentions will carry on past my own demise. I’ve seen to that.
When the letters I’ve left scattered to the winds are gathered together, the truth will be evident.
Of course, actually doing the heavy lifting myself to bring the bright light of justice on those that set me on my current path sounds like hard work, and I don’t have the patience for that any more.
So I leave it to the world to work out the details.
I’ll be here.
Here, battling the visions from the deeps. Deep time. Deep space. Deep water. Deep and dark places where men fear to tread. Places occupied by things better left in the dark. Things that want out. Things that want to step off the page and settle in other minds.
Things that might have found a new home, if my trap has worked.
He sipped the fragrant tea and let his mind wander.
There was a time when he couldn’t have let it go far. But he’d come a long way in his practice of tea shop meditation. He found it easier each time to let go of the present and wander more freely in other times. The past came easiest for him, as it does for most aspirants. Learning to trigger memories of future events is a more advanced skill, one that might come with time and practice.
He sipped the tea, and remembered.
He remembered a child that was always careful to get the last cookie. A young man that easily manipulated circumstances to get the better seat in class, the better seat on the train, and the first pick of the box of kittens.
Wait. That bit about the kittens wasn’t actually his own experience. He never had a kitten, it was always dogs. Wasn’t it?
He sipped the tea.
He sipped the tea and wandered into the cloudy corners of his mind.
No, he never had a kitten.
But there were fish. Endless fish. Fish with large, lidless eyes staring at him while he did his homework. Watching him as he read. Staring at him as he slept. Everywhere he looked there were fish watching.
He took a deep breath, and sipped his tea.
Eyes. There were always eyes.
And occasionally a tentacle.
He dropped the cup and hurried out of the shop. Perhaps a walk through Ipswitch would clear his mind without calling attention of any old ones…
We called it the birdcage. It wasn’t, really, of course. But that’s what it looked like, so it got the name.
It was a natural formation of tree branches partway up a trunk, with room inside for a prisoner. It was high enough up to make escape in one piece tricky. In any case, it gave us somewhere to park anyone that got in the way of a mission until they could be wrung dry.
It opened easily enough, if you had the talent of talking to the trees. A talent which had been lost for generations, so we were confident we had the only one who could do it. If you had the talent, and the trees liked you, naturally. Our enemies were no friends to the trees either.
This made the escape of our last prisoner interesting. Now we not only wanted to know what she knew, but we wanted to know how she had escaped.
It wasn’t going to be easy.
The tree was a little chagrined, and had clammed up.
The cage was simply empty, except for a note that said “gild it next time, and I might stay”.