In the void of the late evening’s twilight, a lone fire pierces the darkness. The crackling of burning logs snapping from the heat breaks the cacophony of silence. A solitary figure sits, warming himself by the flame, his weather-beaten face mangled by decades of hard living. He sits, hunched over, his broad shoulders and coarse beard gives off a dark, grizzled appearance. He sits, and he waits…
CHAPTER ONE: DEATH OF THE FATHER
HERE LIES HAYDEN GREYSON
DEVOTED HUSBAND AND FATHER
I stood in silence, motionless, as I peered with some reverence at the tombstone. My father had seem so, incredibly healthy. At 46, he was in better shape than most atheletes. The only thing stranger than his uncanny conditioning was the grizzly method of his death. That’s not right; Fact is, I’m still coming to terms with the reality of his, “death.” The article I read only a week ago, now holding station in my wallet, yielding more questions than it did answers, flashes to mind:
“…LOCAL INVESTMENT BANKER FOUND, DEAD
His body was found on the outskirts of Dante’s woods, broken and battered; His torso and neck, broken. Investigators are unsure of the circumstances surrounding the death. The victim was found with several bite marks on the neck and back…”
I remember the detective in charge telling my mother how he left out the “sensitive” details for the sake of our family and mutual respect for my father. I wondered what he meant. The official report is bear attack, but what are the sensitive details? Was the old man having an affair? Was it a mistress that found the body?? Was he alone in his final moments? Or could it be he…
“Dabari, time to go, sweetie,” my mother so eloquently ejaculated, successfully stirring me from my reverie and killing my train of thought.
“Few more minutes,” I stated solemnly. She nodded.
Iana Greyson. Not my biological mother-she died giving birth to me-but she’s the only mother I’ve known. Of my parents, she was the compassionate matriarch. My father kept me at arms length, I’m not sure if that was the source of our tension or a product of said tension, but needless to say, we bumped heads… A LOT! But I’m left with unresolved issues, an endless array of questions, and no starting point for a resolution.
I resigned from these thoughts and committed myself to the drive home
“This should be fun,” I mused sarcastically, finally heading up the hill to my mom awaiting me in the limo. No doubt she is already pondering a myriad of ways and professionals to help me cope with this loss. Granted I am sadden by this loss, but I’m more angry than anything. And curious! Who dies from a bear attack nowadays? And what was an investment banker doing in the woods? I conceded to the ride home and surrendered in exhaustion to the swirling maze of questions that will no doubt haunt my efforts to sleep tonight.
Home and mom didn’t hesitate to probe me with indirect questions about my feelings, and my understanding of what has happened. I can’t be mad at her, she means well. A loving woman, she’s gotten me out of many punishments, often scolded for being too soft on me. I do question my own sanity; he was my father. I should be in deep sadness right now; a ball of tormented emotion and rage, yet, the only thing I can think of is what to eat for dinner.
“Dabari! Have you heard anything I’ve said?” Another successful return to the present, compliments of Iana Grey.
“Honestly, no maam,” I admitted distastefully. Surely she can’t expect me to be focused on her barrage of questions, considering my assumed emotional state! “Mother, I love you. But clearly I have more pressing things on my mind right now. May I be excused?, I queried woefully.
“Yes you may”, she sighed grudgingly. I wish I could tell her not to worry, but that would make me seem a bit heartless in regards to my father, and I wouldn’t want to take away from her planning the next five years of my life. Finally alone in my room, surrounded by what can only be defined as the macabre; Posters of various fictional creatures, books on folk lore, and mythological animals of the ancient world. A hobby my father and I shared, in fact, the only thing we could agree on. We’d sit for hours and debate various tales of vampires, werewolves, succubus, ghosts, ghouls, and so on. My father seemed to be an endless wealth of knowledge in this regard.
The vibrating of my cell returned me to the moment. The caller id displayed the beautiful visage of Scarlett Meril; clearly calling about the homework assignment from Mr. Durant. She’s such a bookworm.
“Hey, Scarlett; no Scarlett, I have not done the assignment yet. I haven’t even began to..” as I begin to spoke, she interjected.
“Do you honestly think I’m calling about homework?!?”, she said in disbelief. “Your father was buried today! I was calling to make sure you were ok!” As the words dripped from her lips to the receiving end of the call, I realize the ass I just made of myself. How could I not see that coming!? Of course she’s calling about my father; she’s known me and my family since I was little!
“Scar, I’m..”, but before I could finish the apology she hung up. “Damn.. Dabari Greyson, you are an idiot”, I confessed. Clearly not thinking well, I decided it was best if I turned in early. Kicking off my pricey and extremely uncomfortable dress shoes, I loosened my tie, and collapsed, face first, into my pillow. I didn’t even realize it, but I must’ve been exhausted. As I closed my eyes and drifted off, my fading consciousness hears my heart beating. Rather intensely. Though I’m fully at rest, it sounds as if I’ve been running. The newspaper article returns to mind.
2 A.M. I awoke to the noise of crickets and a distant owl, hooting at a bright moon. Making my way downstairs for a glass of water, I found mom, on the couch, covered in photos. She clearly had cried herself to sleep, looking over old photos of the man she’d spent the better part of 15 years loving. I never thought to think what she must be going through, dealing with. And to think, now she’s stuck with me, a kid, not even hers, whose the spitting image of a man, no longer living. Suddenly, a fog of sadness washed over me. Tears begin to escape from their ducts, racing down my face. Covering her with the throw blanket, a light from the corner of my eye caught my attention. It was the desk lamp from my father’s study. Clearly mom had been in there reminiscing no doubt, and forgot to turn the lamp off. No biggie. As I stepped in the office, I realized I’d never been in father’s study without him. The moment was both inauspicious and foreboding at the same time. At a glance, you’d see a space dedicated to the life of an investment banker; pictures of his family on his desk. A bookcase shelved with manuals, and books on regulations, laws, policies, and so forth. But a closer look revealed the meticulous nature of my father; everything, every book, had a place. Nothing was ever out of sorts in his office. As I surveyed the immaculate space of flawless order and symmetry, imagine my surprise when I found a small, leather-bound book, imperfectly nudged in between two encyclopedias.
“That’s odd,” I mused, and so unlike the man I knew. The surprise would soon turn to shock as I removed to book and opening it to an inscription on its first page that read:
“TO MY SON,
IF YOU’RE READING THIS, THEN I AM DEAD, AND HAVE SURELY FAILED TO PREPARE YOU FOR WHAT MAY COME. I AM SORRY. BUT I HOPE THIS BOOK CAN BE A GUIDE IN MENTALLY PREPARING YOU AND GIVING YOU THE KNOWLEDGE YOU’LL NEED. KNOW THAT ALL I’VE DONE WAS TO PROTECT YOU AND KEEP YOU SAFE.
LOVE, YOUR DAD”
As I read the words over and over, I was left in disbelief!!! What the hell was he talking about! I quickly turned to to the subsequent pages. All were blank, save for the very next page which had an entry written in my father’s hand that read;
“Legend Tells us of King Lycanos; The King who, believing his house guest to be an immortal, tried to feed the stranger human flesh. The stranger was none other than the King of the Gods, Zeus. Realizing Lycanos’ treachery, the god transformed Lycanos into a wolf, cursing him to forever devour human flesh. No one can corroborate the validity of this myth, but what can be ascertained is that “werewolves” have been around since the the beginning of civilization…”
As I stared blankly at the page, “What the hell,” escaped from my lips. What was my father trying to tell me. What was he talking about?! And what did Greek mythology have to do with it?? Defeated by the puzzle of my father’s journal, I returned to my room, book in hand. Laying in my bed, I stared at the leather-bound curiosity. I noticed a symbol that seemed to have been tooled into the upper right corner of the book. It was a circle interlocked with a triangle and in the middle was an old-english “G.” Though it was foreign, I found the symbol to be oddly familiar. But why?...
The next day in class, we had to submit our reports to Mr. Durant, a disciplined task master if you ask me, but he was fair, though I felt a bit harder on me than most. Before my father passed, he helped me dig up some research on my topic of discussion, we had to pick something thought to be fictional or mythical. Initially choosing Greek Gods and Gods of the ancient world, I decided against it at the urging of my father.
“It’s a pretty broad subject,” he said delicately as I presented my idea at the time. “Why not concentrate more specifically on something? Why not one of your dark interests,” he chimed in with that devilish grin that always seemed to be mocking me. The memory made me smile. I almost didn’t hear Mr. Durant calling me to make my presentation.
“MR GREYSON! If you please,” He exasperated.
“Uh, yes sir,” I quipped as I collected my note cards and made my way to the front of the class. “I submit to you, for your edification, the tale of Peter Stubbe. A man convicted of 13 murders, including women, children and even cracking the skull of his own son and eating his brain.”
The class gasped and moaned uncomfortably, Mr. Durant began to shake his head in derision. I couldn’t help but crack a smile, as I continued.
“Very little was found of his victims as Peter devoured most of his victims’ bodies. At his trial, he was asked what compelled him to commit such atrocities, Peter smiled and said..”, but before I was allowed to continue, Mr. Durant ended my presentation prematurely.
“That will be enough Mr. Greyson. If anything, I am thankful to be edified by your indulgence of the dark and gruesome nature of the human condition,” he spoke with much flatness in his voice. “You are rewarded to return to your seat.”
The classroom rumbled with chuckles. The grizzled, disheveled teacher peered over his spectacles at the classroom, ebbing with summer excitement. Most likely reminiscing when he was on the other side of someone else’s glasses, waiting with baited breath for the final bell of the school year to ring as well; none more so than I.
An above average student, with a more than normal curiosity for the morbid and supernatural happenings of the world, whose latest affinity of finding the truth behind supernatural superstitions, with a father who encouraged his odd interests, despite his strict manner in which he ran his household. As the next student presented their presentation, it would appear things were as typical as any other day. The final day of the school year.
Class and, subsequently, the school year ended without a hitch. As the bell rang and the droves of students made their exodus thru the various exit points of the school, reconvening on the campus lawn to exchange numbers, facebook names, take pictures before the leave, or more immediately, making plans for the upcoming weekend; I unnoticeably made my way down the street.
“Dabari, wait up!” exclaimed a loud alto voice that was unmistakable. As I paused midstride, without needing to look back I replied, “What’s up Scar?” just as Scarlett ran up alongside me.
“How’d you know it was me,” she said with a gushing smile.
“You serious with that,” I said flatly as I cut my eyes at her with a look of sarcasm. Changing to subject, I knew I need to apologize, “hey, Scar, listen.” But before I could finish she stopped me.
“I know, Dabari. You don’t have to,” she smiled, giving me a sideways hug. That was the thing about Scarlett. She just, got me; and I, her. We rarely needed more than a few words to communicate, unless we were seriously debating some topic of note. We continued our walk discussing plans for the summer. More like her plans for the summer, I listened, smiled at key points when it seemed she was making a vain attempt at a joke in the hopes to make me smile. I didn’t want her worrying about me. Plus, my thoughts were still swirling around the blockbuster from last night. I wonder if Mom knew about Dad’s journal… Of course she knew I thought dismissingly. But then, why leave a journal in his study?
Before I knew it, we’d made the appropriate turns and were heading down our own block. Just a few houses away from our own domiciles, Scarlett began to wrap up whatever it was she was going on about, “Okay, so tonight at eight, right?” she queried. I was immediately taken aback. Do I commit to something I had no idea about or do I admit ignorance? We’ll go with ignorance for five hundred Alex
“Uh….,” I stammered. But from her expression, Scar knew I wasn’t listening, or maybe she felt I was still in mourning over my father’s passing. In a sense I guess I was. “Tonight, I’m going to come over to keep you company, and you can help me with my research,” she iterated. I retorted, “research for what? It’s summer vacation! Shouldn’t you be making plans to make bad decisions?” Clearly she didn’t agree nor find my joke at all humorous as she glared at me with eyes like daggers.
“Okay, tonight at eight. What’s the research on?”
“I’m doing an in-depth paper on the lunar cycles and the moon’s association to folk lore, social behavior, and the juxtaposition of lunar cycles vs astrological zodiacs and their impact on human character traits in the hopes of either proving its validity or confirming the fallacy in putting stock in such ideals,” she ejaculated with bated breath. Clearly awaiting me to ask that question, knowing I was attentive this second time around. As I stared at her and drank in all that was just relayed to me, I stood there, nodding my head at her as if I were in agreement of her proposed argument, and came to a finite, one word answer.
“What?!?” I exclaimed. “Man, I’m not doing that with you!! You must be crazy; that sounds like school work! Hell no,” I ranted as I continued to walk, but Scarlett knew my weakness. She ran in front of me, blocking my path, grabbing me by the hands, “Please, Barry,” she laughed knowing I hated that name; a mispronunciation of my name she acquired when we were little because she couldn’t say Dabari. But as much as it irked me to no end, she knew I wouldn’t say no. And I didn’t. After a very brief pause, I nodded grudgingly; she beamed, took me by the arm squeezing so tight she could’ve cut off the circulation and not have known.
We reached our respective homes, with the agreement to reconnect later in the evening. I walked in greeting what I assumed would be my mom sitting on the couch or off in the kitchen preparing dinner. What I found was an entirely different situation. As I walked into the living room, I found mother, Iana, sitting in Dad’s favorite chair entertaining a guest. A well dressed man. At a glance from behind, his build would’ve suggest a man of late thirties, but as he turned around, no doubt preparing to greet me, I seen that he was much further on in years than I’d assumed. As I began to speak, he stood up outstretching his arm, surrendering his hand to greet me. I couldn’t help but notice, this man’s hands were massive! As I stepped back, I realized this man posed a formidable frame; six feet, broad shoulders, and an apparently solid frame!
“Dabari, this is, Fenrir, an old friend of your father’s” my mother interjected. Old is right I thought. “Hello, Dabari. A pleasure to finally meet you, You can call me Fen” his voice strong, low, and earthy. As I reached out, taking his hand I replied, “Like Huck Fin?” As he shook my hand he began to squeeze. His hand was like a vice! I tried my best not to show it, but I was sure this guy was going to crush every bone in my hand, but he immediately released my hand, placing his own in the pockets of his slacks. “Similar only in sound,” he said as observed me, before turning to my mom.
“Thank you, Iana. I think I have all I need. I will make the necessary arrangements. And I will call you once I’ve located a buyer.”
“A buyer?” I interrupted. “Yes,” my mother stated. “It seems your father inherited an estate in Europe. Mr. Fenrir has been kind of enough to manage the upkeep and costs of the estate, but as your father is no longer with us, the money stopped coming and I don’t think we can afford the maintenance of the estate on one income.”
Paps own an estate?? How big was this place that it had to be called an estate!? Where’d he get it; how come we never heard of this estate?? Was pap’s tips to Europe to this estate, and for that matter, who was he taking to this estate because it clearly wasn’t his family! As I stood there drinking in this information, Fenrir must have seen the anger in my cheeks as his next words broke the silence and caught me by surprise.
“Dabari, your mother informed me that neither of you knew of the estate, House Grey. If you’d like, I invite you to come and see it for yourself. It’s the summer, so stay as long as you like, and then, if you and your mother still want to sell the estate, I will look for a buyer, in the meantime, shall continue to care for the estate as your father intended me to do.” His kindness even caught my mother off guard, the shock and disbelief on her face said it all. Whatever was the cost to run this place must have been expensive. I honestly didn’t want to turn down such an amazing offer, but there was no way my mother would go to Europe at a time like this.
“Thank you sir,” I replied respectfully. “I’d love to go and see this place of my father’s, but I’m afraid we can’t afford such expensive air travel right now.” Dad’s death benefits not yet finalized, mom was already barely staying afloat.
“You misunderstand,” he said as he shook his hand, dismissing my declination. “The offer is for you and your mother to come stay at House Grey. All expenses are of no concern of yours,” he began to move within just a few feet of me. “All you have to do, son, is say yes.” As he stood in front of me, I cut my eyes at my mother looking for some sort of reassurance or disapproval and was dismayed be her response.
“If you want to go, Dabari, we can. I think it may even be good for you.” I’m not sure what mom is playing at, maybe this guy is fancy head shrink, but I’ll play. “Can I bring Scarlett?” clearly my mother was not going to allow that, but before she could even cast a disapproving eye, Fenrir exploded in a boisterous voice, “OF COURSE! The more the merrier! It’s settled, you’ll come stay at House Grey this summer. I’ll make the necessary arrangements and you’ll be so informed.” He gave my hand another bone breaking shake, bowed to my mother who was remarkably speechless, and departed. As he left, I wasn’t sure what had just happened. In fact, I so inclined to my mother, “What just happened??” As she strained to erase a look of bewilderment currently draping her countenance, she replied sheepishly, “It appears you’ll be going to your father’s place of birth this summer..”
I noticed, as she spoke the words, there was more to her intent. Not to mention my father was born in Prairie, Mississippi. “A little town with two roads and one stop light,” I would tease him all the time about. Not nearly worth driving through, let alone making arrangements to deliberately go visit, nor the excitement and presumed fan fair my father’s associate planned to make about the visit. What am I missing?