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The Tower part 1


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This is one I've been working on lately.

 I'm not a professional by any stretch.  

It's just a kinda hobby for me.

 

It is a bit long, so I broke it into sections, chapters, if you will.

 

The Tower

 

I

 

The light was dim, and the music loud.  Karl took a sip of his beer and had a look around the place.  It had been Harry’s idea to come here.  Of course Harry was off chatting up a couple of girls at one of the tables, while Karl sat at the bar by himself.

 

In a way, he was jealous of Harry’s success with women.  It seemed natural for him, whereas Karl always felt awkward in these situations.  It wasn’t that he didn’t like women, he got on well with his coworkers Cassy and Francisca at the deli.  But it was obvious that there was no romantic interest on their part.  He had tried to ask Francisca out one time, but she tuned him down, saying that he was “like a brother” to her.  He decided to take it as a compliment, and was just glad that he hadn’t offended her.

 

Karl had met Harry at the community college.  And he worked in another department at the market.  Harry had befriended Karl and was determined to improve his luck with the girls.  That was why he had talked Karl into joining him at the bar tonight.  “It’s a great place to pick up girls” he had explained.

 

When Cassy and Francisca heard about it, they were concerned.  “Well, as long as you won’t be alone…”  Cassy had insisted that Karl text her when he had gotten home… “no matter how late it is.”  Karl promised, although he thought she was being silly.

 

 

Once they had gotten to the bar it was clear that Harry’s goal for the evening was to get laid, and he expected the same for Karl.  As soon as they entered the bar Harry had singled out the two women and suggested they join them.

 

When Karl protested that they hadn’t been invited, Harry just rolled his eyes.  “If that wasn’t what they wanted, they wouldn’t have come here.”  With a pitying look at Karl, he sat down and introduced himself.

 

Karl wandered over to the bar and ordered a beer.  And now, here he was, alone.

 

 

He had almost finished his beer, and was wondering if he should just go home.  He wasn’t looking forward to what Harry would say at work.  But he was off for the weekend, and wouldn’t see Harry till Monday anyway — plenty of time to think up an excuse.  As he drained the last of the beer, he noticed a middle aged man had taken the barstool beside him.

 

“Leaving so soon?” the man asked.  “Let me buy you one last shot.”  Before Karl could object the man had called the bartender and ordered two shots.  One for Karl and one for himself.

 

Karl studied the man while the bartender poured the shots.  He was likely in his early forties, and probably spent time at the gym.  He was casually dressed, but with high-end brand-name clothing.  He had that confidence that comes with a successful career.

 

“Jeffery” was also a witty conversationalist, and several more shots of his top-shelf whiskey followed.  Money seemed no object to Jeffery.  It was strange to Karl to be treated like this.  And despite his misgivings, he rather liked it.

 

It was when Jeffery excused himself to use the restroom, that Harry tapped Karl on the shoulder.  “Don’t you know who that is?”  When Karl shook his head Harry continued, “Jeffery is as gay as they come.  I’m sure he has plans for the night, and you’re part of them!”

 

Karl was shocked.  He might not have had much luck with girls, but he was definitely not into guys.  “You need to get out of here,” Harry said, “before he gets back.”

 

Karl got up.  He was a little tipsy, but Harry led him away from the bar and helped him call a Uber.  On the ride home he berated himself.  How could he have been so stupid?  But Jeffery had seems nice.

 

Back at his apartment Karl fumbled with the key.  He was a lot drunker than he had thought in the bar.  He had a quick shower, and lay on his bed.  He wondered if he should have stayed.  What if he had gone home with Jeffery?  Could a person be gay and not know it?

 

These were his thoughts as sleep took him.

 

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Here is the 2nd part of Karl's adventures.

He thought a walk in the woods would be safe enough, but maybe not…

 

II

 

The sun was already high when Karl woke.  His mouth felt like crap.  Really he felt like crap.  He wondered just how many shots he had done with that man last night.  What was his name…  Jeffery?  That was it.

 

Well, it didn’t matter now.  What mattered was coffee!  Karl stepped into the tiny kitchen and punched the button on the coffee maker.

 

He saw his phone where he had laid it last night and cussed.  He should have charged it.  Plugging it up, he remembered he had turned the ringer off last night at the bar.  Checking it now, he noticed a number of unread texts from Cassy.  She was berating him for not texting her last night.  He sent off a quick text apologizing, and telling her he was fine.  He had just had a bit too much to drink last night.

 

She was relieved, and told him to do to better in the future.  “We need to look out for each other” she explained.

 

The aroma of fresh coffee went a long way towards lifting his mood, and the first cup helped even more.  By the time he finished a late breakfast of toast with strawberry jelly — his favorite —  he felt surprisingly better.  Perhaps the weekend wasn’t shot after all.

 

The weather was expected to be unseasonably warm over the weekend.  He decided it would be an opportunity to get out of town for a bit of nature time.  There was a nature preserve just outside of town with a number of hiking trails along the river.  Karl put on some shorts and a teeshirt, and stuffed a sweatshirt into his daypack along with a bottle of water.

 

 

There was a picnic area at the trailhead, and several of the tables were occupied by groups taking advantage of the warm weather.  At the start of the trail, a group of three women were setting out a picnic lunch and enjoying the sun.  It looked like an older woman, with her daughter and granddaughter.

 

As he passed them, the youngest stopped him.  “Haven’t I seen you at the deli?”  She explained with a laugh that she was a friend of Francisca.  They offered him a cookie from the plate on the table, and exchanged a few pleasantries before Karl continued onto the trail and into the woods.

 

He munched on the cookie as he walked.  It was turning out to be a pleasant day after all.  It was a bit later that he realized it had not been Your Grandma’s Cookie — at least not his Grandma’s Cookie.  No wonder that girl was so giggly, he thought.

 

Well, that was okay.  He could still enjoy his walk — maybe even a bit more-so he laughed to himself.  Just be careful not to get lost.  But that shouldn’t be a problem.  The trails were well marked, and he had a trail map with him.

 

When he came to a fork in the trail, Karl turned to the left.  This trail led down into the bottomland along the river.  As the trail descended, he came to a place where he could overlook the river below.  With the trees not yet leafed out, there was a clear view of the area below.  And down there was something he had not expected.

 

Right on the edge of the river, stood a tower of some sort.  It looked like some kind of abandoned industrial facility.  But there was nothing else around it now, only the tower itself.  It looked like it was made of concrete, with one empty window near the top.

 

But then, he saw something move at the window… or did he?  He studied it closer now.  It just looked like a hole into a black space.  It must have been his imagination — or perhaps the cookie he had eaten.  But then, he saw it again… just a quick glimpse.

 

His brain slowly processed what he had seen.  It could have been a bird.  But more and more he was coming to believe he had seen a woman walk past the window.  And the more he thought about it, the more real it became.  It was only then, that he noticed a bit of fabric caught on a branch just off the trail.

 

Pushing through the undergrowth, Karl found what could have been a sash of some kind caught in the low branches.  And now, there appeared to be a path leading down towards the river — and perhaps the tower as well.  He didn’t understand how he could have missed it before.

 

Karl untangled the sash from the branches and started down the path before him.

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Oh this is good! You set up the scene and conflicts really well, and I already like Karl.

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In this part, Karl finds someone unexpected from his past.

 

III

 

The path had indeed led to the tower.

 

Now, Karl stood before a wooden door in the side of the tower.  The tower itself was made of concrete just as he had thought.  The only window was the one he had seen from the hill above.  It was imposable to see into it from below.  He wasn’t sure what to do next, so he rapped lightly on the weathered door — afraid to hit it too hard.

 

But it proved to be quite solid, so he knocked again, harder this time. Still there was no answer, only the  muffled echo of the empty chamber behind it.  Other than that, the only sound was the rippling of the river over the stones in the riverbed.

 

It felt almost sacrilegious to even speak, but he made a great effort, and called out —“Hello!”  But there was still no answer, other than the river’s passing.

 

By now he had convinced himself that he had been mistaken.  There was no one inside, especially not a woman.  He was about to retrace his steps back up the hill when he looked at the sash in his hand.  On a whim, he tried the lever on the door and was surprised when it swung open.  There were no windows, and the chamber was too dark for Karl to see inside much farther than the door.

 

But he was curious now, and stepped inside — carefully leaving a small stone to keep the door from completely closing behind him.  Then, he stood waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim light.  What light there was, came from the top of a narrow stairway that curved along the wall up to a doorway of some kind.  If there was anyone here, that was where they’d be.

 

He cleared his throat and waited.  When he still heard nothing he called again — “Hello!”

 

His voice sounded absurdly loud in the dark chamber.  And again there was no reply.  But since he had already come this far, he might as well see what was at the top of the stairs.

 

The stairs were a surprise, not being concrete as he expected, but flagstones.  It seemed odd.  And the higher he climbed, the more worn they appeared.  At the top he stopped and took in the room before him.

 

It was well lit by sunlight streaming through a window opposite the stairway.  It was clean, unlike the dust filled room below, and furnished with rustic furniture.  Sitting at a table, with her back toward him sat a young woman.

 

“Oh!  I’m sorry to intrude,” Karl began.  “I… I just saw this place…  I assumed it was empty…” He felt like a fool now.  “I did knock, and…  I’ll just leave now…”

 

“No,” she said rising and turning to face him.  “Don’t leave.”

 

“Really, I should go,” Karl began.”  I didn’t mean to disturb you, and…”

 

“You’re not disturbing me, Karl.  I’ve been waiting for you.  For a long time.”

 

Karl felt weak in his knees.  How did this stranger even know his name?  Who the hell was she?  He reached to steady himself against the doorway.  As she walked toward him now, he felt like this was his last chance to leave, but he was unable to move his feet.

 

She took his hand and led him into the chamber.  The touch of her hand was reassuring as she brought him to the window.  Below, the river flowed.  And from the tower they could look out over the valley.  The bare trees were beautiful as they waited in silence with the promise of lengthening days, waking them from their winter’s rest.

 

Near the table there was a fireplace set into the wall, which Karl now saw was not concrete, but fitted stonework.  The woman left him by the window and added a few sticks to the mound of coals on the hearth.  The she motioned for him to join her at the table.

 

“Don’t you know me, Karl?”

 

But he drew a blank.  He was sure she was his own age, and seemed just a little familiar.  But he had no idea why.

 

“We grew up together in…” she named his hometown.  She then went on to name people he knew from his childhood.  And things he thought only he knew about those times.  But he shook his head slowly, still at a loss.

 

“What is your name?” he asked timidly.  A name might help him remember.  But she laughed it off.

 

“Oh Karl, you know me…. I’m sure it will come to you eventually.”

 

She did seem very familiar to him.  But why couldn’t he place her?  As the conversation continued, they reminisced about their childhood, the town, and their school days.  Karl was amazed how much she knew about his life.  Who the hell was she?

 

“In middle school you drew away from me,” she said.  “I think you were ashamed of me.” There was sadness in her voice now.  “But I was always there for you if you wanted me.”

 

“I’m sorry,” he said shaking his head again.  It made no sense.  How could she know so much, and he still not remember her?

 

They had been talking for longer than he had realized.  The light from the window was growing dimmer now.  Karl looked up suddenly.  “I really need to go,” he said, standing up.”

 

“Don’t,” she said.  It’s already late.  It will be dark soon.  You’ll never find you way back now.”

 

Karl reluctantly sat back down.  The girl got up and placed a candle on the table.  “You can stay here with me tonight.”  She lit the candle with a taper from the fire, which she had now stirred into a flame.

 

“We should eat something.”  She set some bread and a wedge of cheese on the table between them.  And then opened a small chest that Karl hadn’t notice before, and pulled out a bottle of wine.  “I’ve been saving this for when you finally came to see me,” she said.

 

But he barely heard her.  He recognized the chest.  It was identical to the box he used to have under his bed.  In it he had kept his private things.  The things that were for him alone.  The little things he hid in the bottom.  Things that he had gotten from the girls he knew.  Things that were his secrets.

 

“It’s okay Karl.”  She set the wine down in front of him, and handed him a corkscrew.  “Would you do the honors Honey?”

 

His hands trembled as he pulled the cork.  The wine was one of his favorites — and one he could seldom justify the price of.  How could she know him so intimately?

 

But the wine calmed his nerves, and they enjoyed the simple meal together.  By the end of the meal, Karl found that he had become comfortable with this mystery woman, and actually enjoyed her company — even if she still had no name.

 

At the end of the evening, she insisted that he share her bed.  It would be cold on the floor.  And besides, it wouldn’t be the first time they had slept together.

 

And so Karl found himself cuddled up, under the blankets with this strange woman with no name, who yet seemed so much like a part of himself.

 

Now, he dreaded having to leave in the morning.

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This is the last part of Karl's story - or at least as much as I can relate.

I suspect there is more, but that's not really my affair.

 

IV

 

It was light outside when Karl woke.  It was chilly in the bed.  He reached for the woman he had been spooning with last night, but he was alone.  He quickly sat up to look around.  Something was not right.

 

Indeed, everything had changed.  Gone was the table, the chairs — even the fireplace was gone.  in its place was a mound of cold ashes and charred sticks on the floor.  And the floor itself had changed.  No longer flagstone, it was merely crumbling concrete — as were the walls.  Everything from last night was gone — including the woman!   

 

His bed was now a stained mattress with a moth-eaten blanket.  No wonder he was cold.  He groped around in his daypack for his phone.  As he feared, it was dead.  Well, he figured, there was probably no signal down here by the river anyway.

 

He pulled his sweatshirt from the pack and slipped it on.  But something felt wrong.  Well… not really wrong, just different.  He felt a bit awkward getting to his feet, as if his balance was just a little off.  Well, there had  been that cookie yesterday.  He must have been really stoned last night.

 

He straitened his hair the best he could, and fixed the ponytail to keep it out of his face.  “I need to get out of this place,” he said out loud — mostly to hear the sound of his own voice in the stillness.  But even that didn’t sound quite right to him.  I must still be a little high he thought.  Whatever was in those cookies had done a number on him.

 

And that dream…  What was with that?  It had all seemed so real at the time.  And he could remember every detail.  That never happened to to him.  Karl had never remembered his dreams.

 

Again he spoke out loud.  “I need to get out of these woods and find some coffee to clear my head.”  With a look back at the mattress, he added, “And  have a shower.”  Pulling on his daypack, he stopped and frowned.  He had to readjust the shoulder straps.  How had that happened he wondered?

 

The doorway to the stairs was no longer an arch of stone, it was now only rusted metal.  And the stairs were an industrial metal type.  Karl hugged the wall as he descended into the dark chamber below wondering what else had changed.  Was he going mad?

 

At the bottom, he could see a slit of light outlining the door.  The stone was still in place as he hurried out into the chill morning air.  Standing there he took a deep breath, relieved to be out of that place.  He ignored the unusual feeling of his chest as he kicked the stone away and let the door close all the way.

 

His heart was still beating wildly though.  “That place must be haunted.”  The sound of the words was reassuring, even though his voice still sounded strange out here.  It occurred to Karl that his voice had sounded just a little similar to the woman in his dream.

 

But he put that out of his mind.  “I hope that cookie hasn’t done any permanent damage to my brains,” he said in that strange voice-not-his.  He set the pack down  and reached in to get his water bottle.  Instead he pulled out the sash he had found yesterday.

 

“Oh wow.  How did that get in there?”  He was going to tie it to the tower door and leave it.  But the longer he held it, that just seemed wrong.  It was the sort of thing he would have kept in that chest that the nameless girl had last night.  Shaking his head, he put it back in the pack and got out the water.

 

Despite having resolved to not think about it, Karl could think of nothing else on the way back to his car.  How could the no-name-girl have known so much about him if she hadn’t been there?  And to even know about his secret box, she would have had to be a friend — a really close friend.  Someone it should be impossible to forget.

 

Had he really had a friend like that?  He would have loved to have a friend like her.  Hell… he would have loved to be her!

 

“Damn.  I’ve got to stop thinking like that.”  It was pointless.

 

After all, he did have friends.  There was Cassy and Francisca at work.  He reached for his phone again, but remembered the battery was dead.  “I’ll call when I can get to a charger.”

 

He was beginning to feel better now.  The morning was cool, but sunny.  In fact he felt the best he had in a long time.  As he walked along, he felt a new fluidity to his movements.  Maybe it was time to brighten up his apartment.   Perhaps a few potted plants would help.  Why hadn’t he thought of it before?  Why did he think of it now?  Well, that didn’t matter.

 

It was when he walked into the picnic area that he knew that something was wrong.  There were two police cars and a couple of cops by his car.  They were trying to unlock it with a slim-jim.  He hurried over to them.

 

“Is there a problem officer?”

 

“Is this your car ma’am?”

 

He admitted it, “Yes, officer.”

 

“Don’t you know there is no overnight parking here?” he was pointing to a sign right beside Karl’s car.

 

“I’m sorry, officer.  I wasn’t planing to be here overnight, but I got… ah, lost.  I had to spend the night in that old tower by the river.”

 

“Tower?  What tower?” the cop asked suspiciously.  There’s no ‘towers’ around here.”

 

She must be talking about the old Thomason plant,” the older cop said.  “It’s been abandoned for at least a hundred years now.”  He was holding a clipboard.  “I’m going to have to write you a ticket.  Do you have ID?”

 

Karl reluctantly pulled his driver’s license from the pack, and handed it over.  The cop looked at it, and then at him.

 

Another car pulled up, and Cassy got out.  “Oh, thank you officer!  You found her.  I was so worried.”

 

“Are you the one who called?” the cop asked.

 

“Yes officer.  A friend had seen her here alone yesterday, and when she wouldn’t answer our texts we were worried.”

 

Francisca had joined her now wearing shorts and a halter top.  It was obvious that she was cold in the morning chill, but it did have an effect on the cop.

 

“Well, maybe a warning would be enough,” he said turning back to Karl.  After a few scribbles on the clipboard, he handed him a warning ticket about illegal parking.  “You should be more careful ma’am.  These woods are not safe at night for someone like you.”

 

Karl was relieved at this.  He tried to stuff the warning into the ridiculously small pocket in his shorts, “Damn… useless things…”  Instead, he put it into the sweatshirt as the cops drove away.  He didn’t want to throw it away while they were watching.  Then he started to put his license away, but stopped.

 

“What’s wrong, Carla?” Cassy asked.

 

He didn’t answer.  He just stood there staring at the license in his hand.  The photo…  She was Carla, the girl in the tower last night……

 

*

 

Heh heh.  

This was fun.  You have to see the humor in how hard we try to escape ourselves sometimes.  Carla is lucky in that she does have her fiends to help her now that she has finally realized who that mysterious girl is.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I loved  the story and could identify with denying  about being a girl in middle school. Can't wait for the next story!

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      A euphoric event:   About a month ago I was taking care of an ER patient. I am openly out at work, but the organization insists that I use my legal name while working. I was finishing up with my patient and left the room. The nurse went back into the room with the discharge instructions and asked the nurse "why do you keep calling her Bill?" That floored me.    A day or two later, I had a patient come into the ER with a laceration. I had taken care of the patient for several weeks with a respiratory illness last year before I was clearly transitioning. The funny part was that after I was done, the nurse went back in the room. The patient asked if the NP who took care of him last November was still at the hospital...Pretty neat!
    • Heather Shay
      Yes....members of the future Foghat band played in Savoy Brown at this time.....  
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