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Journal of a Mad Writer

By J Campbell

By Joshua CampbellPublished 2 months ago 29 min read

Travis pulled up in front of the old cabin, ready to prepare everything for the coming weekend.

It would be nice to have the rental property again. It had been closed for the last eight months as the police combed over every square foot for evidence. Travis grimaced as he thought of it, cursing his luck at being out all that cash. He'd had a funny feeling about that writer type, but he'd needed the money. It had been a slow season, and he needed to make it up before the snows came. Who could have known that the snow would come so early that year?

As he pulled up, Travis saw that the place looked completely untouched except for the police tape that crisscrossed the door.

As the tape broke and the door came open, he breathed in the dust of the last few months.

Travis had been here only a few times since the investigation had begun. They had been searching the woods mostly, searching for the man who had been on the New York Times Best Sellers List for about six months a few years ago. He had disappeared sometime during the blizzard, and no one had any idea where he was.

Travis didn't much care if some city boy had wandered off during a storm, but he hoped that it wouldn't be something he'd have to tell people.

It would hurt his chances of renting the cabin again.

Travis grimaced as he saw the place, realizing that this would take more work than he thought. The front door was supposed to open onto the front room with a fireplace and some soft furniture. There was a kitchenette, quartered off by a kitchen island, and a ladder that led up to a loft room that overlooked it. It was all very cozy and very rustic, and the tourists loved it for its "country charm" as it said on his reviews page.

It seemed that the crazy writer had transformed it into a disaster zone. The carpets were stained, and by the way his boots crunched on it, Travis just knew it was going to have to be ripped out. The couch was flipped over, and one of the chairs was smashed to pieces. Some of those pieces were shoved into the fireplace, along with a hefty bag of trash and various other things. The fireplace was black with soot, the rockwork charred with ash, and by the smell, Travis thought he might have been cooking something in it. The kitchen was mostly okay. The refrigerator would need to be replaced, and the sink was full of sludge, but he thought the cabinets were intact until he got closer.

That's when Travis noticed that every surface on the dark wood had weird runes scribbled on them and would need to be ripped out.

The ladder was still there, and as he climbed up to the loft, the smell met him before the room did. The walls were scribbled with the same runes and symbols, and the bed was stripped of its bedding and pillow top. That, likely, explained what had gone into the fireplace, but it didn't explain why this guy had rubbed his excrement all over the bed. The mattress and the frame reeked, and Travis roared in rage as he realized there was no saving the rustic bed frame, something that had run him about four grand.

He kicked the end table, the drawer popping in, only to slide slowly back out again.

He shoved it, angry that it wouldn't go in, but realized something was stuck behind it.

Dragging the drawer out, he found a manilla envelope that someone had sealed up neatly and stuck in the back of the dresser drawer.

He blinked at it, unsure of what it was. How had the cops not found this? It wasn't hidden very well, and he would have seen it if it had been here before the writer arrived. It could only have been left by his last tenant, and as he split the seal, he was curious about what he would find inside.

Inside was a manuscript of about 120 pages and a salt and pepper mead binder. The front of the manuscript bore the same weird symbols as his cabinets and walls, and to Travis, they looked like a weird combination of hieroglyphs and nordic runes. Travis had a little more experience with runes, he'd hung out with some Odinists for the twelve months he'd been a guest of Stragview prison, but the hieroglyphs were only a guess from the mummy movies he'd seen.

The journal, however, seemed to be written in English at the start.

Before he opened it, he decided to go out to the porch and sit on the swing, wanting to be away from the smell of the cabin.

The first page was easy enough to read, the writing clean and clear.

November 28th- Day 1 of Writing

I can't believe I got this cabin for so cheap. I couldn't even get a motel in town for this price. It's the perfect place to start my next book, and I'm excited. I brought my typewriter, the only real way to ply my craft, and I've set up on the desk upstairs. From there, I can look out over the forest and the mountains beyond. These sights will surely push me on as I write, and I'm hoping to be mostly done by the end of the week. I told my publicist to watch my social media, and I turned my phone off for the week before leaving it in the car.

I want no distractions this week.

November 29th- Day 2 of Writing

Well, if this isn't a surprise.

I woke up this morning to find snow flurries. It's not sticking yet, but there's a weird wind blowing out there that makes me glad I brought my coat, just in case.

I brought the typewriter out onto the porch and was quite happy to be distracted by the falling snow. Even so, I wrote twenty pages before I turned in for the night. Chapters 1-3 are sitting on the nightstand, and I am pleased as punch about them. Ramsey Reed has found his latest case and has begun to chase the tail of this particular cat burglar. It'll be a great sequel to Ramsey Reed's first adventure.

I sat on the porch till dark, listening to the moths as they smacked against the porch light. It's peaceful out here, the quiet night disturbed only by the sound of the snow coming down. I will be truly sad to leave this cabin, as weird as that sounds. I love my little apartment in the city, but out here, amongst the hills, and the snow is truly spectacular.

It's a little strange, though.

As far up the mountain as I am, I felt like someone was watching me.

Sitting on the porch, drinking tea, and enjoying the quiet as I decompressed, I could swear I saw something out in the woods around the cabin. It was just a shape, nothing definite, but being out here always gives me Hills Have Eyes vibes. I don't own a gun, I hadn't even thought to bring my knife, and as I went inside, I was very happy for the chain on the door. It looked thick and sturdy, and I hoped I wouldn't need it.

November 30th- Day 3 of Writing

I finished another twenty pages today, and I'm glad I brought enough food for the week because I woke up to a surprise. I found the yard covered in snow and my car almost completely covered. The wind had blown it against the door deep enough to keep it from opening without a hard push. There must have been a real blizzard last night, which I seemed to have slept through because the snow is easily three feet deep as I write this. I'm sitting in the living room, watching it come down, and wondering how long the power will last. It's holding firm, but I've seen it flicker a few times. I went ahead and had the steaks I was saving for Sunday, but if push comes to shoves, I can put the rest of the meat out in the snow.

Despite the weather, I'm still impressed with how the book is coming. Ramsey has found the trail of his cat burglar, a true thief whose about to escalate in a big way, and soon their confrontation will be at hand.

Speaking of confrontations, I saw someone again through the window. It's still in the woods, but it's clearer tonight. The moon has come out, turning the falling snow into a field of diamonds, and I can see him at the edge of the woods, just watching the house. No, not the house. He's definitely watching me. When I stare at him, I can feel him staring back. I thought about pulling the ladder up behind me tonight but opted not to. I was not ready to give in to my paranoia, and the chains on the front and back doors were thick.

December 1st- Day 4 of writing

I only managed fifteen pages today, the snow distracting me as it came down. I was glad today that I brought the typewriter and this journal because the power went out at about noon. I've found a grate under the sink in the kitchen that I can stick in the fireplace and a big stack of wood under a tarp out back, so I won't starve. There's no way I can make it out in my little car; it's almost entirely buried by the snow now. The road was hard enough to get up without snow, but now that the roads are icy, I'd be in for nothing but a quick trip to the ground if I tried.

I had to move upstairs again. Writing in the living room makes me feel like something is watching me. Even during the daytime, I can feel eyes on me. It's very disconcerting. It's not as bad upstairs, but I had to move away from the window too. Something has noticed I'm here, and I don't much care for its interest.

I'll be pulling up the ladder tonight.

Silly or not, I don't like the feeling of being watched.

Travis sipped at his coffee as he read the journal, more and more certain it was the writers with each page he read. He did remember getting a refund from the power company for the power being knocked out up there, but it had only been for a couple of days, a week tops. The poor guy had probably had to cook over the fireplace until Monday or Tuesday of the next week, poor baby, and shiver under the extra blankets in the closet at night.

Nothing to whine about, Travis thought.

Trapped in a well-stocked cabin with a working fireplace and amazing views sounded like a fine vacation to him.

He flipped to the next page and read on.

December 2nd- Day 5 of writing

I cooked my first meal over the fireplace this morning.

Fortunately, the owner had left a cast iron skillet that I used to make eggs and bacon and some toast that was crispier than I strictly liked. I put all the meat in the freezer. It's been thawing slowly, but I think it will keep it fresh for a few days, given the weather outside. I only wrote a little today, five pages at best. I'm disappointed at the effort, but it was too bloody cold out there. I spent most of the day shivering under a thick quilt, jacket on, the cold eating at my bones. I stoked the fire, but it just didn't seem enough.

I had it blazing by bedtime, and that was how I caught my first good look at the creature that's been stalking me. I decided to get a good fire going and put the screen up, maybe building up some heat so I didn't shiver my teeth out all night. I didn't sleep well the night before; the cold was just too much. I woke up a lot last night as I pulled the blankets around me, and it hurt my writing today. After getting it going, I put a bunch of logs on and turned to climb the ladder when I saw a face in the glass. It was pale, too pale to be a person, and it was pressed against the window like a kid on a bus. It had long, greasy hair, its eyes were the color of molten pennies. It stared at me, and as it saw me looking at it, it grinned, showing a mouth full of gravel-gray teeth.

I screamed, almost falling as I scrabbled up the ladder and yanked it up behind me. I sat on the floor after I got up there, the firelight making shadows jump and jitter on the wall. In those lights, I could still see his face as he smooshed it against the glass. The thing could see me too, I knew it, and I drew the covers off the bed and pulled them around me as I sat watching him.

As I write this, I've been looking up to peek at him, but my eyes are getting very heavy.

I don't know how much longer I'll be awake to keep watch.

Travis saw a long smear of graphite on the page and figured he had lost the fight not long after. The tale was troubling, but Travis felt sure that his door would hold off anyone trying to come in on this guy. He'd built those doors to hold up against bears when the cabin was empty. The doors were still there, so unless the writer was dumb enough to let the thing in, he would be safe till the snow melted. The snow had actually melted some the following Tuesday before dumping another five feet on them over the coming week after that. The writer could have left by Wednesday at the latest, so where had he gone?

Travis read on, becoming intrigued by the mystery here.

December 3rd

I can't call this one a day of writing.

I didn't write a single page, not so much as a sentence.

He was gone when I woke up, but I moved all the wood into the kitchen. The whole time I could feel something watching me from the treeline, and I wished I had a gun. It's weird to write that sentence, much less accept it as a statement of fact. I've always been staunchly opposed to guns, never so much as fired one, but I think I might be ready to rethink my stance after this.

As I moved the wood inside, I found something on the wood around the back door that made me think he's been hanging around the house for longer than last night.

The wood is marked with swirls and runes.

The runes don't look like anything I've read about in fantasy books. These runes are angry, pagan looking. I'm not even sure what he carved them with. The way they're done makes me think he dug them with his nails. It took up a lot of time to inspect them, and it distracted me from the feeling of being watched. The more I looked at them, the more they seemed to move and squirm. The story they told was something I couldn't decipher, but I could almost believe that, given enough time, I could have made some sense of them.

The next thing I knew, the sun was setting, and I'd been looking at the wood for eight hours.

He came back again that night.

I stoked the fire, but I scrambled into the loft without looking at the windows. As I write, I can see him peeking in. His pale face is hard to hide, and I know he knows I can see him. I can almost believe that he's naked. I know he can't be. It's freezing out there, but I can see his bare shoulders and hands with no gloves on them. They're sitting against the windows like pale starfish, and the fingers are just as pale as the moon.

I'm wrapped in the blanket again, and the shivering makes my writing so uneven.

What if this storm never ends?

What if I'm stuck here all winter?

What if I'm stuck here forever?

December 4th- Day 6 of writing

I managed two pages today, but I don't know how much more I'll be able to do. The story won't come anymore. When I sit down to write, I feel like such a fraud. It makes it difficult to string the words together. Am I even the same man who wrote Ramsey Reed's story? I'm devoid of ideas. I'm a hack! I can't keep writing this story. Better to turn it over to someone else. I don't deserve to write this story. I shouldn't have come here. This was a mistake. Frost talked about the bleakness of the forest and the harsh beauty of nature, but I thought it would help inspire me to continue this series. Instead, it's just shown me what a hopeless fake I am.

Fake fake fake fake fkaek feak fkea fake fak fec fak fake feak fake fake fake

He had filled the rest of the page with the word Fake or some misspelling of it, and Terry could see that some of them had nearly gone through the page. By the date, he had written this Monday night, so tomorrow's entry, if there was one, would probably be him leaving and heading back into Cashmere. He'd feel like a horse's ass as the weather rattled down and be on his way, though clearly, that hadn't happened if the cops were still looking for him.

Travis turned the page, and what he read made him blink.

There was indeed another entry, but not what he would have expected.

December 5th

The snow is back in force.

It's blowing a proper blizzard out there, and all the windows are covered in frost. It does stop me from seeing the man, but it's also a little scary. I'm wondering when this will end, but I just can't see an end in sight. The snow is up the door now, completely covering the porch. I can look through the front window and only see out of the top of the glass pane.

I'm running out of food. I was supposed to leave this morning, place clean, and key under the mat, but I can't get out either door. I could climb out the loft window, but I'd still have to walk down the mountain. That seems like a bad idea in this blizzard. Luckily I moved the wood inside, cause I'd have to tunnel out in order to get it now. The fire is burning, keeping some of the chill out, but it does little to turn the frost away from the windows.

Despite the cold, he came back tonight.

I could see him pressing his face against the top of the window, and I was hiding under the covers as I write.

It's all been a bit too much today.

Travis furrowed his brow. That was wrong. The storm had ended Sunday, and the snow had mostly melted by Tuesday morning. The temperatures had been in the low fifties, unseasonably warm for the time of year, and the snow had stayed away until the next week. There should have been no snow to hold him up. What was he talking about?

Travis flipped to the next page, but the next three days were little more than footnotes; until the ninth, that was.

December 6th

Burned the last of the wood.

Food running low.

Cold is creeping in.

December 7th

So cold, food running low, burned the bedspread and the pillow top. It made a lot of smoke but not much heat.

I have another day's worth of food, at best.

This snow has to end, or I'll die up here.

December 8th

Food is gone, wood is gone, smashed up the chair and burned it, no hope, no hope.

December 9th

This may be my final testament or my suicide note, or whatever you want to call it.

I don't have much choice. I have to leave and try to walk down the mountain. I'm out of food, out of fuel, and out of options. I have to walk down the mountain and get some help. It's about a 5-mile hike through the snow, and I've taken all the provisions I can find. Water, the last of the food (which is about two granola bars and a pack of trail mix), and a tube of toothpaste (for emergencies) are my only supplies, and I have my jacket and two pairs of pants on.

If I don't come back, I hope someone finds this and looks for me come spring.

Travis expected that would be the end, but there was more.

A surprising amount of more.

As he flipped through the pages, he could see that almost the whole book was full, though some of it were those weird scribbles he'd seen on the walls. The writer had apparently lived through the hike and come back to tell the tale, but Travis wasn't sure it was just him that had come back. The writing from here on was rougher, less neat, and he thought maybe something had happened on that hike.

As he read on, he discovered he was right.

December something

I dont know how long I was in the snow, but somehow, I'm back in the cabin.

I woke up in the loft, lying on the floor, without my backpack.

I didn't dream the descent from the mountain. I can still remember it so vividly. I set out in morning, crunching through the snow, sinking up to my knee as I tried not to break a leg. I should have made town by afternoon, but the forest just went on and on. The snow was high enough that I had dropped from the loft window and not gotten hurt, and it seemed to take forever to make any headway. As the sun set, I became aware that I was going to have to camp out here, and I increased my plodding in the hopes I would get there quicker.

That was when I fell.

Suddenly the snow was moving under me and I was falling off the mountain in a jumble of arms and legs. I went above and then under, above and then under, like a wave trying to hang on to its rider, and I blacked out before I came to a stop. I didn't expect I would ever wake up, just freeze to death like Jack Torrence at the end of the Shinning, but I was not so fortunate.

Someone found me.

I woke up under moonlight, and he was standing over me.

He wasn't pale like I had thought. His skin was like ice, though still very much malleable. He was naked, as I had thought, but he lacked definition. He had no genitals, no nipples, no tone to his body or features other than his face. He was like a manikin made of ice, and when he leaned down, I thought he was going to kill me.

When he touched my forehead and a lance of cold agony shot through me, I wished he had.

I blacked out again, and when I woke up, I was here.

It's getting dark, but I'm not cold anymore.

I guess I'll just get some rest.

First Day of Writing

I woke up today and felt inspired!

The house is still snowbound, so I took out my typewriter and started writing again. I tried to write Ramsey's story, as I had done before, but the words don't seem important. Theres a new story now, something different. It's about something older, something that lives in the forest, something that only comes with the snow. I started writing, but the words didn't look right. The words aren't right. The words aren't His words.

I threw the typewriter into the snow and started writing by hand.

Whatever that thing did when it touched me, it taught me how to write to Him and tell the story He wants me to. It taught me how to write those weird scribbles on the back door, and now I can properly tell His story

Second Day of Writing

I'll use the old words here, just in case I happen to lose these new words.

I wrote fifty pages last night by hand!

I haven't written that much by hand since High School when Mr. Kimbler insisted that all our essays and dissertations be done by hand. "If you would speak as the bard speaks, then you must speak from the hand, not from the tapping of so many keys," he would so often say. I get it now. The human language, the language I once wrote in, cannot convey this story. People do not have words for the places and things He has shown me. The old words tell about things we cannot dream of. Places and creatures and ideas so foreign that a sea slug at the bottom of the ocean might as well try to understand a car and how it works.

I've been writing all day, writing all night, and I don't even think I'm a quarter of the way done. This may be the greatest work of my life. This may be the thing that ultimately destroys me.

Third Day of Writing

I talked to the creature last night.

I was writing, the pages really stacking up, when I heard someone knock at the door. It was the thing, that featureless thing that met me in the snow. He had a deer slung over one shoulder, a huge and bleeding buck, and when he came in, he threw it on the floor and just looked at me. I guess he didn't see any of the fear or uncertainty he'd seen before because he asked me if the work was proceeding? He didn't say it like that, not necessarily, but I understood what he meant and I nodded, showing him the pages. He said the deer was for me, and I realized that I hadn't eaten anything in two days. As I ate the deer, raw and oozing, he told me about Him, the master we now both serve. I suppose I serve Him. I seem to be serving Him with every scrape of my pen, and to say otherwise would be false. He told me of His time, he told me of His home, and he told me of His enemies.

I asked who He was, for he never gave me a name, and when he laughed, it sounded like glaciers colliding.

"You know him, Harold. He has chosen you, taken you as his chronicler, and if you don't know him by now, then he will surely destroy you before you can."

We talked all night and he left as the sun rose.

I wrote this journal entry before beginning my writing for the day.

I haven't slept since I came back and haven't felt like I needed to. That should scare me, but it's honestly invigorating. My writing is becoming less coherent, at least where these words are concerned. I don't know how I feel about that. My words have always been what I have, my talent, and to lose them is scary. What I have found seems better, but it scares me too. It raw and primal, and the words are like the ones I saw on the back door before I knew them. I kind of want to go see what they are, but the house is almost completely under the snow now. I write in darkness, and yet I see. This house is like a tomb, but I think, perhaps, its also a cocoon.

I hope I'm the butterfly and I might emerge changed.

I pray its not a wasp nest, and I'm a dead bug waiting to be eaten when the eggs hatch.

Travis didn't like what he was reading. It sounded like this fella was losing his mind. He had taken a spill out in the snow, somehow returned home, and started going cabin crazy. Travis still couldn't understand why. The days he was talking about had been sunny. The snow hadn't come back until the week after. If Travis hadn't been visiting relatives in Asheville then, he'd have been up here to make sure the place was clean before the cops called to ask about his missing renter.

That had been a whole mess too. The man's editor had called when she hadn't heard from him by Monday of the next week, and the cops had been unable to do a well check as the new snow started falling. They had gone up after a week of frantic calls in a snowmobile and found the house destroyed. They had called Travis and started going over everything, but that had been the start of this whole endeavor. Now it sounded like the guy had just sat up in his house and wrecked the place, maybe suffering from a concussion or some kind of mental break.

Travis turned the page, but it just kept getting rougher. It started to look like charcoal markings, and the guy's new writing style only got sloppier. Travis didn't know who this mystery fella was, but it sounded like the police might need to know about him too. Travis had lived in Cashmere his whole life, weird shit was just kind of part and parcel for the town, but this was something else. The mountains had always been a place where Travis came to get away from the weirdness for a while. They were a place he could hunt, fish, sit on the porch, hike the trails, and just forget about all the crazy stuff he lived with in town.

As he read on, he started to feel the tickly feeling the writer had talked about.

Suddenly, Travis didn't want to be on the mountain anymore.

For Day Writing

He came back again.

HE brought meat, and I ate. We talked about the creature, HE, and he red over my notes. He liked them, he said I did good. He told me that he was once like me, person trapped in the snow, until someone like him came and helped.

He is Brogen, one of His helpers.

I will be Brogen, he says, but I don't know if I believe.

Made seventy pages, but there is a problem. I am running out of paper. My pen stop working today, but I held it over the fire and got the ink to work again. I'm finding it difficult to make words today for this book. Though my hands write the older words with much speed, these words feel stupid and heavy as I make them.

The pen must be saved, so I will stop for today.


Burned pages of old story in fire.

Old story not good, new story is better.

Paper gone, am wrting on wall now. Wall will be book now, Him book.

Words hurt head, need write here, but hard.

Watched pages burn, felt nice to see.

Pages old way, new story is new way.

Day thre

It make me spinny to write this, but had to get some of myself again. I think it's been thre day since I write, but I can't sure.

Some time in last few day, I have changed. I am diffrant. I am like Brogen when I see him in woods. I am smooth, my definition has gone. I'm trying to get mysef together, but I don't think I cn.

Muck right, mus rite stories.

Ms stp old wrds.

Last entry

I'm in the batroom, and dnt no how long door wil hld.

Earlier today, cut myself on pen as rote. I just did it again, and it clear head some.

Something came last nght. It saw what I done, and it liked it. I'm bleeding prtty bad from my other hand, but I need to keep enough witts to rite this down.

He rode horse, and he carried a sword, his eyes fire, his skin green. Brogen say He is Him, Green Man, and that now I go with them.

I don't think I cn say stop. I want go, but I want not. I will hide this somewhere for someone to find. If find, take it to police. Let know what happnd.

I go with Green.

Travis jumped as he caught sight of something in his peripheral vision.

He had been so enthralled by the last few entries the thing had damn near snuck up on him, and now it stood halfway between the woods and the house like a kid playing redlight/greenlight. It was human-sized, naked, and pale as the late afternoon sun beat down on it. Its hair wasn't straggly like the one the writer had described, cut into a short red flattop that was going wild quickly. His face was somewhere between doubt and a grin, like someone who's been caught but isn't sure if you're going to scream or invite them in. He looked familiar somehow, like someone he'd passed on the street but never bothered to talk to, and as the minutes ticked by, Travis tried to remember who he was.

All at once, he got it.

He had never seen the guy in person and only talked to him on the phone a few times, but the police had shown him a picture from a recent speaking engagement at one of the colleges in the area. He'd looked different in his fresh flattop and charcoal suit, but the look on his face was an exact match. It was a look that said he was surprised to be here but pleasantly so, and he was just waiting for someone to throw him out.

It was the writer.

Before Travis could call out to him, he backed away slowly, each step seeming like a cartoon skit. Before he stepped back into the woods, he tipped Travis a wink, and even from the front porch, that wink was icy. It said that it was okay, they'd meet some other time. He'd see him again. It was just a matter of time.

Travis wasted no time getting back in his truck and leaving the mountain.

He would drop this journal off to the cops so they could start searching the woods.

He might stop at Roy Millers Realty and tell him how he wanted this cabin on the market yesterday, so he never had to come up here again.

He might even stop at that new clinic in town, Doctor Winter's Forgetful something, and see if they had any appointments available.

Travis never wanted to think about what he'd read again, and he would never set foot in that cabin again for the rest of his life.

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About the Creator

Joshua Campbell

Writer, reader, game crafter, screen writer, comedian, playwright, aging hipster, and writer of fine horror.

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