William’s head reverberated off the train window so loudly that it woke the baby sleeping in its mother’s arms two cabins down.
“Sir, are you alright?,” asked the man across from him.
“Ya, ya just been a long trip.”
It really hadn’t been but William didn’t care to explain. To express his want to be left alone, he picked up his bible that had fallen onto the seat next to him. It opened naturally to the page where he had left the letter that had sparked this trip. William glanced through the first line of the page:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”
He unfolded the letter and reread it once more. It explained that his closest friend, Robert, had passed away in a car accident and that he was needed to settle Robert’s will. It instructed him to immediately travel to Trinidad, a small whaling village that he, like most people, had never heard of. The letter had arrived just two days after his research grant at Berkeley had dried up. He was almost relieved that tragedy struck when he had nothing occupying his time. He had slept for only a few hours since he had read that letter for the first time.
William and Robert met while they both were studying chemistry at university and they had roomed together for three years. Once Robert left to help with his father’s business, they had taken every chance they could to visit each other. William had never met Robert’s father, Henry Hopshire, and had no idea how Henry had found his address or even knew who he was.
William stared out the window and this time rested his head against the wall. The drizzle gently tapped on the window as tree after tree flew by. It seemed to William that trees grew wider as the train made its way north. William let himself drift back into dreamy memories.
When he awoke the only light was a faint blue backlighting the trees. The cabin was dark and William’s cabin mate had left to let him sleep without bother. William continued to watch the trees. It was calming to him to watch a tree go from a blur in front to shrinking away in the distance. As he watched, his mind grew calmer than the scramble that went on while he was sleeping.
The train began to slow and he knew that they were drawing close to his stop. The trees were no longer blurry but just drug by calmly. A vibrant orange light began to light up the window. William let his eyes defocus and paid no attention to the light until he realized the color was emanating from fiver large torches that seemed to be floating motionless in midair. About six inches from each torch were faces of the like William had never seen. Twisted, vibrantly colored faces with horns protruding where normal bones should be. William watched in horror and amazement. The faces seemed to make eye contact with him and kept locked on his window until they were lost out of sight. William push his face up against the glass gaping, trying to get one more look as they faded into the distance.
The train jolted to a stop and snapped William back into reality as if he had been asleep. The train awoke with the sound of people filing out of their cabins. William began to collect his things. He was convinced that what he had seen was just a dream.
As William stepped off the train, his lungs filled with ocean air which triggered a wave of relaxation that rippled through his joints and muscles. He felt the worries lift from his body and for the first time since receiving the news, he felt safe.
The platform was small and crowded but it served its purpose well. Since whaling took ahold of this town, it seemed more and more people came and went. This small platform had met the challenge and valiantly held the masses.
As with any train station, there was the cry of, “Spare change!” For that particular day it was a woman who seemed to be just barely into her twenties yet she already looked haggard. William was always ensnared by beggars.
“I can spare a few pennies.” Her hands were dirtier than the coins. “God bless you.”
“I think god gave up on me long ago,” she said with a sneer.
William took a long blink and then walked away without rebutting. Since he had stepped off the train his exhaustion had intensified. He now longed for a deep sleep wherever he could rest his head.
The Pinnacle above the Trees
William had followed him for almost an hour now though hills and valleys that were thickly wooded with large redwood trees.
“Where the hell is he going?” thought William.
The unknowingly pursued was now starting a steep climb. William was not far behind but kept his distance so as to not startle his prey. He took the climb slower and made his way deliberately to ensure he was not seen. As he approached the summit a faint orange glow made itself visible. William crouched lower and crawled up to the precipice of the orange globe that was emanating from the large fire in the center of the singularly flat section of the mount.
Circled around the fire were ten dark shapes, five closer in and five further but aligned such that everyone could see the two shapes in the center. The fire raged as an easterly wind blew and William made out the same five twisted faces he had seen on the train. Williams heart thudded. ‘Was the train not a dream?’
All ten faces began to chant in a slow, throaty voice, “Ad unum.” The fire raged again this time unexplainably. William made out the two beings in the center. One was a face just like the others yet more somber and stern. The other was not a floating face but a nude woman. William recognized her as the beggar he had given change to at the station. She just stood there swaying slightly with a slight smile on her face and a glazed expression across her face.
The chanting suddenly ceased as the center face raised its hand.
“Baphomet vincet!” burst from the figure with strength and authority. The shape pointed at the woman. “Donatio ad unum!!” Then with one swift motion the woman’s throat was opened up. The rose colored liquid of life burst forth and rolled down her chest. Her face showed that she hadn’t registered what had just happened. She kept that satisfied smile as she crumpled to the ground.
William jerked away from the scene with the singular urge to escape the area. He stumbled back a couple of crouched steps and on his third he missed the ground entirely. He tumbled down the cliff with terrible trashing. Luckily for him, the chanting had started again.
“Ite etiussa facessunt!”
His tumble ended with his head slamming a rock and his unconscious bodily resting underneath a collection of huckleberry branches. The shadows dismounted the rock without noticing the stranger that lay in the bushes.
The rain was coming down in sheet now. The trail that had once been a nice walk was now acting as a stream bed for the torrents that were falling on the Head.
William made his was like a toddler does, slow, uncertain, and with his arms stretched out in preparation to catch himself. He had good reason to tread carefully for he didn’t fully trust the revolver in his right hand and he was not going to let himself make it all this way only to slip and shoot himself.
The white marble cross poked over the brush that surrounded the trail. It looked like a beacon compared to the darkness that was the night. The sky periodically lit up as the lighthouse lamp turned. William could make out Henry clear as day leaning against the great granite slab.
“Ahh my dear boy, William, you have finally made it.” Henry was calm and collected despite the chaos that raged about him. He was certain of how this encounter would end. “I’ve waited for this day for so long.”
Once William was within a yard he rose the revolver without a word and took aim at Henry’s head.
“No!! This is not how it is supposed to happen!!” Henry’s collectedness had broken into a frantic charge which resulted in William loosing grip of the pistol while the two of them slammed into the mud. Henry flurried punches into William’s face before regaining his calm, respectable manor. He stood up with a chuckle and gave an attempt at brushing the mud off his trousers before continuing on his stroll. Once William had regained his sense, he made off after Henry, forgetting that his only weapon lay in the mud. Henry turned the corner and seemed to have disappeared when William had rounded the bend.
William yelled into the darkness, “Come out and face me you coward!” With no response he continued, “You’ve hidden behind your henchmen long enough. I know everything!”
“Yes! Yes! I know! You have done so, so well. For a while there I questioned if you would have it in you but indeed, indeed you have passed the test! Ah yes! Finally, my work can be finished!”
Henry appeared out of the brush right in front of William. He moved too quickly for William to react and got so close that their noses were almost touching. “Oh don’t you see! You have passed the test!” Henry threw up his arms and broke down into laughter.
“Oh you’ll understand soon enough!” and with that he ran off towards the lighthouse. William pursued, confused but enraged. Henry composed up just in front of the door and very politely knocked. He then burst off towards the cliffs. As William caught up with him, Henry was right on the edge. His heels were dangling off. The lighthouse keeper came out startled and confused.
William stopped short. “What are you doing?!”
“Finishing my job. William, this is where my destiny ends and where yours begins.” With that Henry calmly leaned backward and tumbled off the cliff. William stepped forward and tried to grab him but he wasn’t quick enough. He watched as the great Henry Hopshire glided through the air and disappeared into the waves and rocks below.