Wednesday 3/13 – Thursday 3/14 Providence, RI – Warren, MA
The first stop of the vanish journey was the lovely Providence Rhode Island, best known to me as the first and last home of the charming HP Lovecraft, father of C’Thulu and the like, and best known to Ana as the current home of a good old friend.
Yesterday that good friend and his lovely roommate gave us a tour around Providence, during which we stopped at the self proclaimed largest entirely carpeted American mall. There we were drawn, primarily by a quality scubas t-shirt, into a Lovecraft goodies store. I understand that Providence hosts the annual NecronomiCon, a community with which this shop was clearly associated. Upon entry we were greeted by the soaring Doom Metal jangjigijangijangijang of Sweetish sweet boys Ghost.
And now’s when the story gets spooooooopy kids, so gather round. As Tobias Forge reached the second chorus, that wonderful shrill screech of RRRRRRATS, our hearts and feats simultaneously hiccuped. A beat. A gulp. A shared glance, and that back of the neck sensation that any fans of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor know not to ignore. But, as is all too often often the case, that unfortunate bit of awkward – bit of fear of the spoken word – bit of over belief in the well organized and catalogued world held our collective silence. And so we left the store with that feeling still in our back pockets. That not quite mistakable presence.
Today we woke up in the relative morning ready to make our departure from Providence. We’d both slept rather poorly, kept awake by our hosts’ wee freak of a cat Neo, and some unsettling dreams, no doubt full of subterranean whispers. Our slep, conjoined with a lack of coffee filters, made breakfast something of a groggy affair. The mood was reaffirmed when I brushed my teeth with some diaper rash cream instead of good ole Colgate (I challenge anyone to pick between those tubes in poor lighting). Our exit was awkward and understated and we headed off down Pottuckett Road for the thumby peninsula of Rumstick Point aware of manic exhaustion riding our back bumper.
By lunch time, it had overtaken us, and with our mental defenses lowered, the surreal enveloped Slugger. The sun slipped out of the pot too early, left in a fat, squishy overeasy. The trees turned green, the cats screamed murder, and the Beatles’ undeniably freaky Honey Pie cut on the radio. Without so much as a warning lion statue, we found ourselves in the netherworld of the crustiest Northereastern burbs. Wrought iron gates trapped those poor perfectly bread and pure behaved golden g’boys, Pi Sig bound Platinum blonds practiced on their private courts, moms waved at us with horrifyingly welcoming smiles, and we watched our street friend, and all black SUV, park in an I shit you not stone tower.
Needless to say we fled with all haste, pursued down America the Beautiful Boulevard by a school of Vineyard Vines whales. Our salvation was the last homely town North of the Massachusetts border – Warren Rhode Island.
Now, I feel compelled to speak a few words on the topic of Warren. The tragic events which follow might lead one to characterize Warren as a dark place, an evil place, a necronomicon place even. I, however, do not believe that this is the case. Who can say where and why one hears whispers of the old forgotten things of our world. Blame not the bearer, blame the woofer as I’ve always said. I found Warren to be a lovely place, a place where people paint their houses purple with purpler trim, a place where one might pass two young punks discussing the intricate differences between chaotic neutral and true neutral, a place where smiling at a baby in the PriceRight parking lot makes the baby smile back, which makes the baby’s mama look in the direction of the smile, understand the smiling causal chain, and smile at you herself. I do not believe such people should be blamed for the evil within their midst. I do not believe they should be blamed for Imagine.
At the heart of Warren, flanked by a unitarian church, and a Dunkin’ Donuts (incidentally, my travel mate and lover has been known to refer to Dunkin Donuts as D&D, this cannot stand) lies Imagine. The building is genuinely out of proportion with the rest of Warren. It is hulking and lurid. It stinks of psychedelic skunks and scaly skins. It is powerfully and palpably irresistible. On its doors stands the proclamation. One of the 25 greatest gift stores in the state of Rhode Island.
Ana understood before me. She could feel that we should not go in. I think some part of me knew that I should listen, but the thrill of our near escape from the burbs was still within me, and I thirsted for more. And so we knocked upon the gates, and deep beneath us, deep within us, the mad laughter rang.
The store is ultimately quite cute I think. Its aesthetic is properly Blue Meenie, its candy section is extensive, and in the summer it apparently serves ice cream. At the door we were greeted by an elderly gentlemen dressed in a too red NEW ENGLAND beanie and matching scarf. His face was primarily schnoz and bushy eyebrow. He stood to our right, a silver tray held out to us. It held a card which read Hi I’m Mr Lyric I would love to have my picture taken. At his heel stood a short stoot blue oxe in a viking helmet. He winked at me and said in thick Bahstonian well well welcome ahll to Hahvahd Yahd.
We proceeded cautiously, passing the standard fare – playmobils, and leggos, and shit that beeps and lights up and whatnot. I was comforted by a strong selection of Hufflepuff memorabilia. Besides ourselves and our welcome party, the place was absolutely empty. On the back wall stood a door. I’d always expected such a door to be adorned by carved serpents and ancient runes or at the very least to pass through the mouth of a weirwood, but this was pretty standard brown fair. If only I could say the same for that which lay within.
The room was dusty blue glow, shiny black floor, unnatural quiet – department of mysteries all the way. On each wall stood tapestries. Huge. Horrifying. Beautiful and yet terrible to behold. And they looked upon us. Standing proud at ship’s head like Washington on the Delaware, or marching across Abbey Road to lay claim upon the worlds of man. The players of the 2019 New England Patriots.
Oh how I screamed then, how I cowered, and flailed. I wept and I felt my very soul pouring out over my cheeks. All my dreams and memories, all those private places within my mind were laid bear and Belichick looked upon them with nothing but dispassion. Never have I so wished for the touch of a dementor’s lips, to rip soul from mind, to become nothing at all.
I know not how we left that foul place, how I came to be in the passenger seat of Slugger. I know that FML (the FML of Kanye’s Saint Pablo) was playing, and I know that the Weeknd was singing. I know that I was eating the peperoni we’d bought at PriceRight, and I knew even then that I was not yet out of the water. Not by a long shot. Because, no joke, the street to our next destination was Asylum Road. And, no joke, the car in front of us had both a blue lives matter bumper sticker and Krampus Society of New England bumper sticker. And, no joke, that next destination was Colt State Park. Colt Park. Cult Park.
Soundtrack entirely cuts, this silence is the first moment that the audience realizes the outtro to I Want You (She’s so Heavy) has been playing for the last several scenes. Its absence is far louder.
After a properly lengthy beat we’re back.
As can only be expected, Cult Park is quite nice. There’s an above average beach, a fun size skate park, a rec center with twice a week zumba, eerie bag piping, and an awesome view of the sunset on Mount Hope Bay. There’s also a parking lot with no clear signage forbidding overnights, an apparently appropriate spot for the first run of the sleeping platform. We spent the remainder of our daylight in beach side hammock, reading, napping, and trying to ignore thoughts of the Ancients Ones. We’d left any capacity to cook back in Imagine, so we drove to a pizza store near the park, and bought 5 dollar gyros.
At about 8 we drove back to our lot, which we found blessedly empty, and set about putting Slugger in sleep mode for the first time. As I was locking the bikes to a nearby tree the first cop pulled into the lot. He stopped next to me and asked my business. I gave him my best law abiding grin and told him all is well in the world my brother, go forth and share the message of love. Only after he left did it occur to me it might have saved us later trouble to ask if we could sleep there.
Our nightly preparations complete, we cozied into the ole slug bug (notably, the set up is really quite cozy, score one for vanish living). Sleep hopped in after us, and got about nestling in atop our mattress topper, but alas, not quite quick enough. The second cop brought significantly more headlight with him, and drove right up to slugger, lighting her up like the CR V super star she is. He was less interested in the message of love. He told us the park was closed after dark, and that we must be gone from this place lest the cruel hordes of the Outer God Nyarlathotep find us. We made a good show of bustling exit, but pulled the ole shneeky shneeky, initiative evasive maneuvers, cut main power, and with only the use of rear thrusters managed to bait the oinker away.
Before we’d quite resettled, a new vehicle entered stage left. It parked a good distance from Slugger, lights off, driver window down, and, in a ritual intimately familiar to any purchasers of illicit materials, another car soon pulled up beside him.
The third cop roared into the lot like the first chorus of Death Grips’ I’ve Seen Footage.
Pedal crunches metal, the soundtrack kicks back in with force enough to blow the theatre’s speakers, the tires screech, and we are fucking out of there, tearing out across the Massachusates border, making the meaning of haste quite clear.
Now, I must say C’Thulu is not entirely unfamiliar to me. I’ve slain my fair share of D&D cultists, I’ve watched hours of Lovecraft Mythos videos on Youtube, indeed I’ve faced the Old God within the Temple of Ahnn’Qiraj and lived to tell the tale. I think that I know better than most how long C’Thulu’s reach truly is. However, when we finally felt safe enough to pull Slugger into a cute neighborhood, about 15 minutes out from the dangers of Warren, and find a little piece of street to make our inconspicuous bed, I will not pretend that I was prepared to look upon the street sign and find that somehow, many miles and many turns from Cult Park, we were back on Asylum Road. Somehow we’d moved nowhere at all.
At this point, there was really only one thing to do. We sought refuge with a force older and stronger than even the necronomicons. We drove to Walmart. There we set back up the slug, too tired even to watch Doctor Who, and spent the night sleeping safe behind the great thick walls of the capitalist nation, letting overbright parking lot lighting cleanse us of our curses.