Wells Astrological Society: Chapter 1

9:31 pm

The camera clips on but before anything can be established about where the recorder is or what is happening, the image spirals down. For a moment, it is unclear what is happening despite the various candles lighting the attic almost perfectly. There is a mass that is not distinct or easily describable as anything. It is best regarded as organic in appearance, though it looks nothing more like a wad of chewing gum the size of a reading desk. It begins to separate in strands, connecting to something just out of frame. Then, the shriek that has come to signify the end of our recorded echos through the closed space. It is not a sound distinctly feminine or masculine and, in fact, hardly sounds like a scream that could be made on human vocal cords. The shot lingers on the pile until, by means of its strange tendrils, it has dissipated itself. A foot comes into frame, bare and almost with a lack of detail aside from well-defined pumping veins that surge all across the flesh in ways that do not seem reasonable. Another, practically primordial howl, sounds, and this time is so powerful it begins to clip the microphone until the audio ceases. The candles are quickly snuffed out until only blackness can be captured by the camera. There is only a final brief instant when the frame spins about wildly, catching the moonlight again and again in its rotations. The form of the cameraman is impossible to see, and the owner of the barefoot can only barely be glimpsed as it shuffles away into the shadows of the attic, unidentified. 

“What I see, what the stars have shown me now, is not good, my friend,” remarked Clovis, the radio host, “No, no what I see come for you, not too far often either, is nothing you wanna know ’bout, young Keith.”

“Come on, I called in, and you said you could read my future. How does not telling me what it is count? You’re just saying it’s bad,” the caller remarked with a hint of irritation. He had been on the line for almost ten minutes, just long enough for Lyle to catch most of the broadcast.

Though it wasn’t really his thing, Lyle had gotten used to hearing the sporadic and rarely scheduled broadcasts from the Wells Township Astrological Society. Astrology, he figured, was something from hacks and frauds and people who couldn’t put their faith in church, so instead, they put it in the stars. The same kind of people believed it, Lyle guessed, that also put on this irregular broadcast that could only really get picked up out past town either when he was going or coming to work. All the same, despite the quirks, he found Clovis Jung’s ‘The Guide to the Stars’ to be at least entertaining when it failed to be intriguing. 

“Well, it goes like this, mister Keith. I don’t usually tell folks what be comin’ for them less it’s good, cause else you gonna try to buck it. And the thing ’bout fate is, it don’t like gettin’ bucked by no smalls fries. I tell ya, but when ya started wiggling, tryin’ get free from destiny like a worm tryin’ to pop off a hook, you’ll be sorry,” Jung remarked, as serious as he ever was on the broadcast.

The caller was silent for a moment but then retorted, as though in disbelief, “Go on then, you think you’re smart, tell me.”

“One of them sows you work with is gonna fall on ya, and it’s gonna seem like a regular old accident to everyone else, but your neck gonna snap like a twig. You ain’t gonna die, you gonna lay under that pig, laying in its waste as it squeals, for a while before your friends pull ya out. But you ain’t never gonna walk again,” reported Jung. The line began to erupt with profanity, but it was clear Clovis had hung up just seconds after delivering his proclamation. It was audible, the drag he took of his cigarette, before closing the show, “That seems to be all the time we got tonight, folks. Remember, the lucky numbers are twelve, thirty, seventy-four, and thirty-two, in that order. Until next time, keep your eyes on the stars, folks.”

Rolling into town, the broadcast cuts off just as the station that had been hijacked comes back in. For a few minutes, as Lyle coasts the final few blocks home, he doesn’t hear the music, just Jung’s voice in his head. He tried to memorize the numbers, not that he cares, but he’s started a small bet with himself. Putting his car in park, he digs a pen out from the passenger seat and quickly scrolls the numbers down on a receipt. He makes sure thirty-two came after seventy-four, expecting the order to have something to do with how prominent their appearance will be. It seems reasonable to say twelve or thirty would commonly arise, which is why they were first and second, but seventy-four and thirty-two were slightly more uncommon numbers that would be less regular in occurrence. If anything came up with the latter two, he might placate a strange suspicion, but he doubted it would be of importance.

The night was young, the coming summer sun hardly pressed into the evening of its sky, but Lyle knew he’d be out in only an hour. Keeping an odd schedule made for poor nightlife, but he had his options pretty plainly laid out in front of him. He could stay awake a few more hours before trying to get sleep later in the night, but that would only result in less sleep. Miss Jones’s kids in the neighboring apartment would be up with the rising sun and be just as abrasive as their cheers and shouts filtered through his window. If he went to bed shortly, he would get a full night’s rest and then have those odd hours before dawn as his private time.

He became accustomed to those twilight hours wherein very few stirred in the apartment building, if anyone, and just as few cars populated the roads. It was a time when running any errand was impossible, and television was nothing but infomercials, but there was something cozy about that time of day for Lyle. However, in that comfort, he found boredom, but that was quickly diminished by his freelance work.

Learning to edit film was not Lyle’s idea of working in movies or really any idea he had come up with himself. There hadn’t been money for him to go to school when he graduated, but his uncle had a friend who did freelance film editing for aspiring filmmakers. He wouldn’t charge much if anything, and Lyle had been convinced that the road to a promising career as a director would start in learning the basics. And so, two summers prior, he had taken Micheal up on his offer and learned how best to edit, amplify, and enhance film for some of the locals.

A lot of his work now consisted of touching up family gatherings and other such occasions for the types of people who filmed every birthday and track meet. It had become pretty humdrum, but it kept him busy and, whether he’d admit it or not, helped him hone his craft. Bringing up the lighting in a dimly lit dining room for the LeMuix’s grandson’s birthday, correcting the levels to make the priest’s voice more audible in Leslie and Jake’s wedding, and even cutting together bits and pieces of Leila and Maggie’s excursion down to Florida had all been worthwhile ventures. It hadn’t made him rich, it had made him some extra money, but it was nothing against what he thought it would bring in. The lack of monetary value in his work didn’t deter him, but Lyle couldn’t help but think he could make more of his talents. Just the right project could be his ticket out of an apartment in scenic nowhere midwest to his new home in silicon valley. He knew he just had to find the right film.

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