An hour and a half ago I followed the advice of Paradoxical Machinations and went down the path labeled Ordeal. They certainly named the path accurately. After I set out on the path it began to slope upwards, gradually at first but soon it became very steep and a hard climb. The path began twisting and turning so that clumps of trees hid the road ahead. I continued on with my hand on the hilt of my cutlass since the trees seemed ideal to hide an ambush. What I didn't expect to see on the path was Janice. I thought my quest had ended right there. I wish I could say I got her out and we were on our way back to Michigan but life just isn't going to be that kind.
When I rounded the curve and saw her standing there, in the pajamas she was wearing when she was taken, I expected her face to light up. I expect that she would be grateful that someone had come to bring her home. Instead she glared at me accusingly. Then she started to scream at me. "Why did you let him do it Mr. Carlson? Why would you let Percy take me away? You were watching the show just like us kids, you knew he was looking for me and you didn't do anything! You could have stopped him Mr. Carlson, you could have made him leave me alone. But you didn't! You let him take me away and I'm scared and I miss my mommy and my daddy. They could be hurting me right now and you didn't do anything to stop it!"
I tried to reach out to her. I tried to take her hand and tell her that it was okay, she was safe now and I would bring her home. That I hadn't meant for this to happen that there was no way for me to have known that the show was real or that she was the Janice Percy had been searching for. It was like trying to grasp smoke, she vanished at my touch. She had never been there, she was an illusion conjured by this place.
You know what is real though? The huge bottle of Jim Beam that appeared along side the road a few moments after she vanished. I can touch it. I'm cradling it in one arm like a child as I type. I've cracked the lid and smelled it. It's real alright. I haven't tasted it yet. If I do I'll probably drink the whole thing. It's so fucking tempting though.