(Topic ID: 96561)

Into the Maw of Despair -True account of my latest Craigslist Nightmare

By CoffinStuffer

6 years ago

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#1 6 years ago

Ok so this is long but needed to be done for posterity. Also please let me know if anyone else went to this craigslist post in in Monroe for a STTNG. I wrote this in 3 sittings and have just cut and pasted for everyone.

So I have recounted my story to a few people but I decided to leave a more detailed record for the group as a whole about my experience with a particular craigslist ad.

A few weeks ago I noticed a craigslist add for a Star trek the next generation pinball machine. This is a well liked machine and 1 of the few machines I want in my short collection but have always passed due to the cost of this machine. The ad listed it for $1500 which is a great deal but the distance was 5 hours away in Monroe. After a day or two of no one grabbing it up, I thought I would send a text to inquire about the condition and status. The response I got was a badly spelled mixed bag of pieces of words that were designed to be a sentence. I got two more attempts at communication from the craigslister that was in the same format. I responded thanks for the info and I set about spending a few minutes deciphering the information he sent. After a few minutes I stopped and realized it may not be worth the effort because he may be crazy and a 5 hour drive for crazy is nothing I want right now. So I let the matter drop. A few weeks pass and I find the post is still active on craigslist. That's rather odd since it's a great price and people from 2 states should have grabbed that by now. At this point my brother calls me and says he has been in contact with the seller and he is a bit crazy but he is really interested in having someone come see it. All he has had is people wanting to low bid him and not commit to driving to see it. He claimed to have PTSD and he can not take all the calls he has gotten and all the requests for pictures of the machine. I looked at the information at hand and reviewed the pictures I had gotten from my brother and started to wonder if this guy may just be older and have that oh so common old person texting syndrome. After a conversation I get the story that he had gotten the machine in trade for work he had done a few years ago and he really needed the money now and that's why he was selling it. During our conversation I got a few more hints of crazy but I had laid low most of my feelings of trepidation by convincing myself he is just an older guy on hard times and not be use to the craigslist bullshit that I know is more prevalent then flies on shit these days. After about a day I get my mojo up and decide to go all in by doing a 5 hour one way and 10 hour both drive to Monroe and blow $100 bucks on gas.

After committing in my mind to this monetary waste of funds with a some what ambiguous goal of success, I was left to find a secondary companion for this misadventure. Having gained valuable experience and life lessons over the course of my pinball collecting habit such as "this shits heavy", and "Damn is this thing in an abandoned bar next to the cement factory with two heavy hitters waiting outside"; I started my search for a strong backed, male companion. I had sent out feelers and hoped past favors may scrounge up a willing participant for my long journey. But as luck may have it; explaining the point of being trapped in a 10 hour drive with me going to an unknown location had not panned out very well. With my brother offshore I was left to contemplate what actual means I was left with to secure a some what willing passenger. After a few more dead ends I was roused out of my dismal search for my co pilot by a knock at my door. I opened the door and was greeted by my wife's nephew. Knowing at once this was the answer to my travel companion issue. He met all the important criteria; he was blood, he was male, and well.... to be honest there was some negatives to this choice; mainly he was lightweight, with back issues. But he met the most important ones, he was young, his mom wouldn't miss him for a day, he had never picked up a pinball machine to feel the weight, and he was susceptible to $100 bribes.

The next day after he called out to work we began our mission at 6am. My co pilot who was not so accustomed to early hours quickly settled into a nice driving nap while making easy money. I passed our long 5 hour drive with my invented game of searching for music stations on the radio that were not country or rap. Some may be asking well, why not a satellite radio app, I had left my phone charger and I needed to save my battery for the road which will play a part later in the story. The drive passed easily by and 5 hours later we were on the street the craigslister had given me the night before. Being close I decided to call him and make sure he was ready because I would be arriving at the 11:30am the time we had agreed on. Well to my surprise no answer twice. Oh well the ole knock the door should work if worst comes to worst.

With no answer on the phone I started the visual checking of mail boxes. Soon I found the house I assumed, it was missing numbers and there was a guy outside. I pull up and call out a healthy "Hello Greg how's it going". To which the guy gave me a crap stare and responded "Greg lives next door, this is private property stay off". I politely apologized to this strange grumpy old man and said thanks and hopped back in the truck to finish my mission. As I pulled out the driveway of Mr unfriendly, I headed up the road a few feet and found the driveway to my destination. The driveway turned out to be a small path with over grown bushes and plants on both sides of it. I attempted to use it as it was originally intended for but soon found after 15 feet my truck could not proceed due to the overgrowth and a chopped up brush pile in the middle of it. As my concern for the no answer phone call grew and my fear this was some bad joke at my expense to waste gas money by a person on craigslist grew; I decided to exit the truck and take a look at what was going on. My traveling companion's face began to darken as I explained my plan for him to stay in the truck while I checked this out to see if a house even existed. Having laid the plan out I ventured out of the safety of my known space and started my walk up this deep derelict "driveway". Most people would have scrapped this adventure and probably did but for some reason I would not be deterred, I would have something to show for this drive.

No structure was visible from anywhere as I walked up the road. Everything seemed like it was abandoned and there were large truck load heaps of discarded building supplies. Seeing 4 or 5 of these heaps started my mind racing on the idea that these might be the remnants of the house I was suppose to visit as a prank or robbery attempt. I put the thought of robbery behind me as I kept walking thinking back to Mr Unfriendly's remark that Greg lived here. Who would be dumb enough to have someone come to their house to rob them. As I continued on my path to find answers I turned another over grown corner and was confronted with more strange debris. This time the debris was hard to determine what it was once purposed for. Air plane pieces maybe, and mechanical parts, and in one area a half buried open tool kit with all the sockets and wrenches still in the case.

As I pondered the strangeness of all I had seen I soon found that there was a house here. In reality when I first saw the building I loosely refer to as a house, "my mind did not go oh here's the house" my response was more" Oh my god". As my eyes raised to see this place I was forced to take in the whole image in one frightful moment. Confronted by this in one massive dose I froze, like a deer in the preverbal head lights, I froze. Unsure of what I was doing or why I was here, I froze. Before me stood something no man, I say no beast could have dreamt of or made reality. But here it sat, like some holy land for the filthiness of the world. In one horrifying place every depravity had coalesced. This place, forsaken by the sight of normal men, had some how survived. The property was flanked by some unknown trailer of unknown construction with windows and doors open. It was in essence a shipping container with a door and a window. Sitting next to this was a 2 story house with a long porch that sat 3 feet off the ground. I use the word "house" loosely in my description. It had 4 walls and at one time a more humanoid being may have dwelt here. The yard was fenced in by a mix of different styled decaying fences holding something in or maybe holding something back I didn't know at the time. The yard was 6 feet high and had a plush sofa in yard with an assortment of animals using it as a home. After a few moments of taking in my surrounds I realized I was out in the open on some nightmare property.

I thought better than to get shot so I vocalized my presence with a "Greg you home" call while standing outside the gate of this nightmare hoping the gate may be some protection. Greg appeared out of the maw of "the home" wearing no shirt, no shoes, and no underwear. In that instant I knew something had gone wrong and a path had been laid before me. I ask you think about one of the sexy guys you see on billboards or magazines where they are almost naked except for shorts and the shorts are low so you can tell by the hips there's nothing there but those shorts. Now imagine a homeless man living under a bridge in filth, then a sewer explodes on him in the pose I just mentioned. My eyes began to swirl around as I tried to figure out my next move. There was no hand book for what to do in this situation and now I had drawn attention to myself for fear of getting shot. Greg locked eyes with me and headed my direction while extending his hand out to shake mine. My mind raced at any reason not to touch him but came up with nothing that would not turn this situation worse. I reached my hand out and made a mental note to touch no part of my body with that hand till I could get it sanitized. At this point the being I first labeled as the more rational of the bunch emerged from the trailer cave having pants, a shirt, but no shoes. My mind seemed to deem him the more rational being due to the extra pieces of clothing. Later I would find I was grossly mistaken on the rational account. Greg seems happy to see me and drops the comment that he missed the call because he couldn't wake up. I glance at my watch and notice it's 11:30 and file that information under problem. Seconds after doing introductions I am blind sided by a wasp who comes out of a bush and without me ever seeing him stings me in the back of the neck on my spine and my nerves flare with pain. My eyes flare to big round orbs as my brain takes in what just happened. I am allergic to bee and wasp stings. My brain is screaming oh my god you are screwed. I am in this nightmare and I just got stung in the neck. I tell my new found friends of my dire situation and that I will need to find Benadryl soon. After telling them I also hope in my deepest of souls they do not have any. I want to touch or use nothing here. As I walk up closer to the house I feel safe that they do not own Benadryl or well anything.

As I pass closer I see trailer dweller playing with a living wasp and talking to it. He turns to me and says ohh I remember you from last night. I kindly interpose that I just drove up here today. To which he says" I didn't say I meet you, I had a vision of you". Now that I have been dealt this trump card of insanity I know I am on precarious ground. Trailer Dweller then goes on a series of questions of what do I drive to validate his vision. I seem to pass the test and he says I am good. Trying not to dwell on this too much and focusing on being alert I follow Greg. I have no idea why I did not just throw in the towel and escape. Every cell in my body was screaming; tell them you will be right back and run. For some reason my life seemed to devalue in price compared to the reward of this STTNG pinball. So I follow Greg to the porch. As I turn left I see the trailer is as I pictured in my mind from a distance; a desperate attempt to plunge into filth. The bed I can see is 2 feet from the open door on the floor strewn with remnants of anything that ever passed through the door. The door has a sign on it saying biological hazard, enter at your own risk. Both guys are talking to me now and I am some how on the porch. Half the porch is missing and large holes are there from some type of fire. I see the remains of a box spring laying on the porch and half of a exercise machine. My brain is swirling from some smell I am starting to become aware of. I get to the front of the house and notice many windows are broken but have been expertly repaired by stuffing clothing in the holes. I snap too a bit and realize I am doing pretty well; I have not been robbed or murdered. I soon realize the game I am playing and know crazy can not be reasoned with. You just get on that train and go with it. With my new found understanding I walk by some of the craziest shit I have ever seen in my life. Part of your house burned down no shit, mine did too. Yeah some bones on the porch having the marrow eaten out by ants; I got that happening on my porch as well. With that I walk into the house and immediately almost vomit. Knowing any looking down on there situation may drastically put me in harms way I muscle through. The room is completely empty except for cat piss, shit, darkness, and the vilest of orders and decay.

After dealing with the smell he hits me with the machine is upstairs. My heart sinks at hearing it and my eyes bulge as he points to some hanging body bags that were keeping the upstairs and down stairs separated. I try not to look in the corners for fear I may see something and I continue stoically; yeah my house smells like the vilest things in the world were blended together too; I like how part of the wall is missing, really brings nature in. I step softly over pans on the floor either being drops of cat food or possible different drops of other things. As I pass through the main room I am confronted with there is nothing here, not furniture, not anything besides the vileness I step over. As I walk up the stairs I am gladly surprised that there is a machine in the corner. I do a cursorily look and notice he has nothing of value. I notice a microwave a bed on the floor, a computer desk with a computer. The working computer is there so that this place's craziness can reach the outside world. As I take stock of the situation. Greg asks what am I thinking about and I respond how I don't want to drag that heavy machine down the stairs. Greg seems to be waiting patiently but I can see he is nervous a bit. My situation has changed a bit from a possible buyer to I have to buy something. I have entered a Drug fueled maniacs home, who has sold everything worth anything in this place. He is living in the vilest of places and doesn't care if rats eat his toes. He knows I have some type of money. Either I buy something or I risk being pushed into a more mantic outcome. This machine would have been gone too if only he could lift it and knew where to take it. At this point I offer him $800 to close my deal and run out of there before the wasp stings kills me or he does. Greg agrees because he needs smack I'm sure.

I go retrieve my companion for help. As we walk to the house I whisper to him "don't vomit and be prepared for the unholy foulness". I see my companion is unsure how to respond and looks at me like I may push him at them as a sacrifice to free myself. My companion starts to have another look come over him as he sees where I have brought him and he whispers to me "why didn't the animals leave them and run away". I shrug but I am unsure as well.

To be continued.

So as me and my unwilling companion head back to the worst place on earth to go back inside the house, I am struck by how well he is taking the situation. Sure he is quiet and showing scared nervous eyes but he hasn't balked and run screaming back to the truck; good man. I see my co pilots eyes darting to all same tourist sites I took in; weird biohazard trailer check, unknown sofa in yard with animals check, burned up porch check, bones being eaten by ants check, and finally holes in house fixed with clothes shoved in check. We quickly pass through the first room trying my best to deny breathing and looking too deep into the corners for fear of seeing something I shouldn't. I head for the body bag currently on the stairs and allow my companion up to the pent house. Once again I see my companions eyes go wide as he catalogs the scenes of depravity in this new undiscovered room for him. I on the other hand accepted the reality of this nightmare and found narrowing my focus on just a 5 foot area was best; besides I did not want to see something I shouldn't and set the situation on a tangent path.

I start to look at the machine now and point out issues I will have to deal with. I can see Greg does not understand many of the things I am talking about and most likely his brain has shut down to process 2 words; money and drugs. I check on my companion for a minute he seems to be fine. He is staring at a single window AC unit that looks like it fell out of a building and was beaten with a bat in a drug fueled rage. He seems to linger on the huge cracks next to the ac that allows hot air to blow back around into the somewhat cooler air coming out of the ac.

Knowing in my heart it's time to start stepping back out of this filth covered nightmare I decide I must save this pinball machine and have to have something to show for this ordeal. Having endured the worst experience of my life and knowing my poor companion who is a germaphob is now scared for life I shoot him an almost half off asking price. He haggles for a minute but then comes to $850. I agree and once again shake the hand of the most unclean, making a note again to touch no other part of myself with that hand. I send my companion out to the vehicle to secure the funds; he is happy to leave and asks if he should bring half till we get it fully loaded. It's normally a good and smart tactic but against the eyes of lust and crazed manic drug desperation I decide better to give him the agreed price now and secure our safe return.

As I wait for my companions return I inquire if he has a dolly. Greg responds that he loaned it to someone and they never brought it back. I translate this comment, Check, sold it for crack, got you. I start figuring out the logistics of how to get this down and in the truck. My truck can still not make it through to the house by the use of the driveway. I inquire about his neighbor Mr Unfriendly since I see he has a straight shot through his property and I could get my truck back through there easy. At this point both of my new drug induced psychopath friends go off. Trailer dweller responds "Oh no don't you piss him off, you know how he gets". I am taken aback by this response. These two maniacs seem more scared Mr. Unfriendly, who I had met 30 minutes before. I start rectifying the situation by a means these maniacs understand; cash. Hey think I could offer him $10 to let me drive through his property for 5 minutes. Both of the unclean horde agree this may work and send me to negotiate.

As I walk back across this property of desolation and visit all the tourist sites once again on my way to Mr Unfriendly I am struck by how I am now enlisting the help of an even crazier person who the unclean horde fear. Lucky or unluckily Mr Unfriendly is not home now and I head back to relay this fact. Greg snatches the $10 bucks and responds" If he comes back I'll give him the $10" as I watch my money disappear down a pocket I will never touch. Oh well $10 is gone $860 machine now. With that settled I turn into a stealthily drive through Mr Unfriendly's land hoping to finish the task before I was discovered and start the next great war of the crazed and unclean. I wonder a bit about what power Mr Unfriendly might posses that would scare these immune to death or disease people. I settle on the idea that he is most likely armed and can call in the forces of the 5 O/pacman. At this time my co pilot arrives with my hidden stash of cash. I unfortunately have to dig around and pull out money hoping that Greg's averse eyes do not catch site of the higher possible benefit of robbing us now.

After clearing the barter we set about bringing the machine down stairs and my companion discovers what the heaviest pinball machine feels like. I feel bad about the realization he is going through but my choices are limited. Even with 3/4ths naked Greg helping, moving this would require Atlas. I settle into the realization that it must be done to secure our exit from these premises and I begin the idea of lift and drag. I ask a completely unneeded question of Greg out of courtesy. "Greg do you care if we drag it on the stairs, it may damage them". Of course he doesn't care, if he did he wouldn't use the floors as a latrine. I tie the head of the machine down with straps and take the front of the machine so that if anyone is hurt or crushed it will be me. To be honest if anything did happen my co pilot would have little chance without me. I am sure Greg even in his deliria of drug withdrawal would figure out quickly that if I was killed by being crushed it would be a lot easier to dispose of two dead bodies then to call authorities and explain the crushed man in this unholy house of the filthily, plus he would gain 2 pairs of pants, socks, shoes and shirts. I keep this unspoken truth to myself seeing my companion is struggling with holding enough weight so I am not crushed and trying with every drop of his soul to not have any part of his body touch 3/4ths naked Greg. Needless to say the stairs are not fully wide enough and I am nearly crushed 3 times by being on the bottom. But I manage to hold it with inhuman strength, my willingness to die here and be buried under the decaying sofa in the front lawn driving my body into dumping huge amounts of adrenaline into my system. Once we get it down the stairs we use the lift and drag technique to the door. I would never employ such techniques on a pinball machine in normal circumstances but in the situation I found myself in; I saw it more akin to dragging a wounded buddy with a sucking chest wound to safety through the middle of a raging firefight. A little damage was acceptable for a trade off of speed to reach friendly lines. At this point I am sucking wind like a marathon runner and I don't even notice the reek I am sucking into my lungs.

My companion is shell shocked from his ordeal and is talking gibberish about lifting the machine and walking 90 feet to the truck over uneven ground and 6 ft high "growth" through infested wasp land. I feel every inch of this 450 pound monster and know through experience this is impossible with me carrying one side and walking backwards through this. Still the sight of 3/4ths naked Greg and the cheers of trailer dweller telling us were amazing combined with the view of being able to see my truck galvanized me back into motion. So began the duck walk of pain. It was going well 30 feet into the trek. My eyes were still clear after being stung in the neck by a wasp, which I am allergic t,o and I was getting closer to the truck. Thirty feet from the truck I stepped into a pot hole and shouted a warning of the direction of where me and the machine were going "DOWN". I cushioned the impact with my mainly bags of water body and was surprised my legs had not sheared off. My co carries had let their end hit the mud. At this point I dragged myself out and decided sucking wind for a minute was a good respite for building my strength back. After a minute or two we dead lifted the pin and walked the remaining distance to the truck. Feeling that machine hit my truck bed was like crossing some imaginary finish line. At this point I had enough of a pinball machine to run for freedom. Greg found three of the legs and 3 bolts for the machine. I responded" Three is just right for the legs and I found all the bolts up there (I lied)". I had enough and nothing he could find or that I was missing was worth 1 more minute in this spiral into dysentery and disease. I waved to 3/4ths naked Greg and left trailer dweller to what ever hole he slithered back to. My companion had already entered our escape pod from madness. I hopped in the truck not even bothering to strap anything else down.

My mind snapped around to my new situation of driving through Mr Unfriendly's property. After a minute of calculation I realized this was probably a complete surprise attack and I would be in the clear since he would have to run inside to secure a firearm and by then I would be long gone on the road letting the horde of filth to deal with that. To my surprise the path was clear and Mr Unfriendly had not returned home. Me and my co pilot are giddy about both being alive and the taste of air not polluted by the decay of the most unclean. We laugh at our shared fear of catching something these mutants immune to death might have passed on when a thought hits me like a nightmare...

"Where's my tools" I scream and start pounding the wheel; knowing as I spoke these words they were awaiting a rescue mission at the top of the from house hell. My companion pleads with me to leave them behind that nothing is worth going back for. I see his logic oh so clear as well but I can not leave a man behind that's worth $700 bucks. I try and talk to him to get him back engaged in stepping back into the heart of darkness. I try telling him to just hop out and tell them I left my tools and grab it and run back to the truck. But my co pilot has been spoiled by the safety and comfort of the truck and friendly lines. I try explaining "Just do this for me I had to man handle that monster and barely can walk now" He says no he can't. He looks me in the eyes and says," they are probably already cooking up shit now". I try and reason that he is right but they would have to call someone first to deliver it, we have time. I try threating to cut his pay if he doesn't get out (which I wouldn't have done, just a tactic)" but nothing could jar him out of leaving the sanctuary of the truck and I knew he had been pushed to far and would not be able to endure it again. So I left him with a phone and the keys incase I did not return. As I approached this habitation for Nurgle, god of disease and derelict filth I knew quickly this was the worst mistake coming back and that my second worst mistake was going there in the first place...

To be continued.

Final installment- Maw of Despair

Just to recap, me and my companion had loaded up the machine when 3/4ths naked Greg had tried to add himself to my list of passengers in my truck with the statement " I'll be coming with you I need some cigarettes" I quickly avoided having any piece of this walking disease enter my escape pod with "I have to get straight on the highway and I am not going anywhere your headed". This seemed to leave Greg quiet but had the desired effect of saving us an smaller enclosed environment with Greg.

As my previous story had stated my tools were left behind at the House of hell on the 2nd story and I had to travel back to retrieve it. After trying everything I could to get buy in from my companion to reinsert himself into this rescue mission for my tools, I was left with realization this was going to be a solo mission. My co pilots traumatic experience into the spiral decline of human nature and vileness had eroded all but his sense of safety in my truck. As I left him my 2% battery phone, and heard him quietly mumbling "never get out the boat, never get out the boat"; I preceded to recover my tool box.

I once again pass all the famous cites of desperation and filth and shout out Greg's name. No answer. I get closer and repeat my call but again get the same no reply. All I hear is the absence of human noise. Fantastic. I want to get out of this place as fast as possible so I forge forward across this landscape of vile depravity and journey up the half burned 40 ft porch. I make it to the door of this nightmare house with pieces of clothes shoved between broken glass windows and knock. I get no human response again just the set off of 10 crazed animals that cohabit this hole. All I can think is great, great; the unclean horde has already fled this shanty to secure their smack. My mind quickly begins a risk analysis report on my options of quietly entering inside and grabbing my bag; when trailer dweller emerges behind me. At first I am pleased to see trailer dweller. I had not had as much conversation with him in my first encounter, having given up after he related having a vision of me but I had hopes this encounter would be fast and easier to deal with than 3/4ths naked Greg. Trailer dweller had more clothes on and I believe this transferred a possible higher status than 3/4ths naked Greg. He also seemed cleaner (if that term can even be used when dealing with a society like I found) and perhaps not as far down the withdrawal drug crazed maniac scale. Preferring not to have to enter their premises without invitation and face what that might bring. I explain my presence in small detail and my objective to get my tools back. Trailer dweller then asks if I had gone inside to get it. I respond "no I just knocked; I would never barge into someone's house, it's more respectful to knock". Trailer dweller then turns to me and responds" Your right, everything is respect and you don't want to do that here; Did Greg come down?". I think to myself hell no I don't want to do that here and no Greg didn't come down; did I hide him in a shoe box behind my back where you can't see him. I feel that slippery slope of insanity starting to turn the ground I am on sideways.

"No I have not seen Greg".

"Sometimes he lays down and has a hard time waking up"

I nod and translate that as he od's a lot when he has smack and often times dies for 8 hours but the earth refuses to take his body due to his immunity to death and disease so he returns to life later that day. Trailer dweller then takes initiative and opens the door and lets out that horrid stink of the most foul things alive in this world. I suggest that I don't want to disturb them and that I can wait outside if he just wants to run up stairs quick and grab my tools. This tactic to escape the horrific experience I had 40 minutes before is a loss. Trailer dweller says we can go get it together and starts a conversation as we enter Hell 2.1 revised edition; now upgraded with 10 somewhat living animals in the bottom """"living Room""" which is barren except for shit, piss, and indescribable foulness. I set into a prescribed pattern of the least amount of steps to enter the upstairs while trying to have my shoes land in what appeared to be the least violated areas of the floor. I quickly scoop up my bag and head for the door and I am on the porch in seconds.

I feel somewhat pleased with my second mission and set about making my good bys with trailer dweller. Trailer dweller has continued to carry on a conversation with me as I try to exist the situation. Trailer Dweller then explains he is going to carry my bag for me. I tell him I appreciate it but I am younger and it's heavy; I'll do it. He insists he is going to carry the bag for me. I now register parts of the conversation he has been having with me in the house and I start to asses my risk vs reward model again. I don't want to set trailer dweller off so I concede to his help. During this exchange he asks if we got 4 legs of the machine, and I tell him we had 3. I had forsaken 3/4ths naked Greg looking for the last leg in lieu of speed of escaping the trip before. My new bag carrying companion goes under the porch and produces the last leg from a brush pile. Well I guess that was where it should be. He hands me the 3 1/2 ft long heavy metal leg. I try to start our journey back but he stops on the porch and begins to explain some things to me. My progress stopped from my route of escape I stand next to him and listen intently because I realize my journey has hit a precarious part.

Trailer Dweller starts out into some weird hierarchy of jobs and god. He explains to me for years he just banged his head against the world. Then he found him and it all changed. Well at this point I am thinking; ok it's one of these found god, god is good deals. I am not to bothered by this but I play the good conversation partner and add in my little quirks to keep the story moving so I can secure my road home trip. "Yeah sometimes it happens that way" and the "You have to be open to see him". Well the conversation moves on and I decide best way out is to get on this train and follow it. At this point he starts in on how god crushes man like an insect and he I see him getting worked up now. He begins smashing his bare feet into the porch making the whole 40 ft structure shake. He goes on into how god crushes the blind men and the penitent man the same but he is more merciful on the penitent man. Trailer dweller is still punctuating his conversation with earth shattering feet stomps into the porch. I can feel the crazy trailer I am hijacked on speeding up. I know this game and it's either your in or your out and there's consequences for both. I mentally check off in my head that 3/4ths naked Greg probably was the better person to deal with then Psychopathic Dementia induced Trailer Dweller now; more clothes did not add any greater rationality to this situation.

I know the score and I have my eyes wide open looking at his bulging crystal clear stair of utter madness and return the look with a bright hard flint stare of unflinching calmness. At this point we head the straight away downward plunge of psychotic madness. Trailer Dweller stops to end the rant and begins " I am the polar opposite of god. God is positive and I am his negative. Jesus is my husband and the devil is my lover. And they are all inside of me here" as he beats his chest hard. As Psychopath Trailer Dweller opens the full the door to his mind to me and the crazy train I board derails completely I start to prepare. I start to let the pinball leg slide down my hand slowly till my hand is holding it at the base where the bolts go. I test the weight and feel of it in my hand by making very slow undetected movements to the slight left and right as my eyes are locked with my bag carrying companion. The balance feels good in my hand and I am confident that I'll walking out of here without a problem if it comes to it. If it goes it should just be two swings. Waiting to see how this who thing goes down I continue with my "that's a lot to think about" and " I know what you mean". I try and spure an escape by explaining I have to get my companion back home to his Mom( I act like my 21 yr old companion is 15 hoping he can't tell the difference). Trailer dweller thwarts my attempt with " I knew you were going to stay that, that's why I started walking" and true we started a slow walk through this forgotten lost land starting the 40 yard walk to the truck.

During this walk trailer dweller confides in me he was given a mission from god and the world is changing. My hand firmly on my pinball club I listen and come along. The poles have switched and he is to destroy all the money in the world and begin a nation of barter. He sees me and says he knows I am the right one. If I want a house I will have it. I am the man to manage it all for him. It's coming. Once again I try and break free and tell him he doesn't have to walk back with me to the truck he is bare footed and the place is filled with crap. He tells me he is protected by the holly spirit and he is infused and it will not harm him. He then walks down through a brush pile and jumps up and down in it proclaiming nothing will hurt him. Firmly held hostage in this crazy train we proceed. Being trapped in this situation for 25 minutes my 5 minute solo mission has collapsed. My companion unknown to me at the time is racked by confusion and fear of my death due to the time frame. He has contacted my brother, my wife and is 5 minutes from calling the police and leaving me. My companion is staying firmly in the safety of the trucking looking down the driveway when he sees only psychopath trailer dweller coming up the road with my tools. The thoughts going through his mind is unknown to me but I am sure his eyes were wide and I was about to be left behind.

Finally we reach the truck and he begins a final load rant with finger pointing at me which drives home my situation. My co pilot I can see in the truck on the phone is witnessing this display and he seems to be getting concerned because I can see him sitting up straighter and eyes widening. At this I am presented the offer to become a disciple of Psychopath Trailer dweller to help in god's plan in which I will be rewarded. I kindly refuse the job at this time due to me not being a crazy brick house shit rat and tell him he has given me a lot for me to think about. He tries to give me his number to so that I can contact him and return once I have thought on what he has said. I said no number was needed I have 3/4ths naked Gregs. He tells me Greg can't be trusted with something like this and I agree. I tell him I know where he lives now and I come back now. I get back into my escape pod and wave by and whisper to my co pilot to lock the door. Disturbed by the witnessed encounter he asks what's happening. I tell him he wants us to stay or wants to come with us. I also rely the instructions that if he tries to hope in push him off and I will handle the driving. My companion inquired about 3/4ths naked Greg and I responded " He had money in his hand when we left I am sure he ran on foot to the first drug dealer he knew and will be found in a ditch od'd in 5 days".

After departing this forsaken nightmare both me and my co pilot headed for the nearest truck stop. At which point we both took a somewhat military shower in the sink. After existing the bathroom we bought sanitizer and baby wipes and preceded to sanitize every exposed inch of our body even our lips and nostrils. I explained my ordeal to my companion on the drive home and he explained how he was going to leave me and call the police to recover my body. For the 5 hour drive home we nervously recounted the horrors we had seen and laughed that we had survived this encounter with this tribe of the vilest depraved land and people. My companion was paid his $100 retainer fee which I am sure was not worth the 1.5 hours of horror and disease he experienced but I am sure I have given him something he will never top. This type of degradation and slip into madness will never be topped by anything again. I would have no issue going into a crack house and sitting on the sofa to take a nap; it would be like a Ritz Carlton compared to the place we found and both left behind. In time my mind will block this event out for the security of my sanity I am sure. But here is a true account of this place where we met 3/4ths naked Greg and Psychopath Trailer Dweller and how they allowed us to enter into there most vile plunge into filthiest possible existence fueled by desperation of drugs and insanity.

#2 6 years ago

This is quite a read! sorry about your experience :*(

#3 6 years ago

Somebody post a cliff notes version of the original post.

#4 6 years ago

Any pics of the game ?

Nice adventure. Glad you lived to tell about it.

LTG : )™

#5 6 years ago
Quoted from LTG:

Any pics of the game ?
Nice adventure. Glad you lived to tell about it.
LTG : )™

There was a game?

#6 6 years ago

I think this is the longest post I've ever seen on pinside. The unabomber's manifesto looks reasonable in comparison.

#7 6 years ago
Quoted from Erik:

There was a game?

Yes, STNG. Life isn't just dueling banjos and pig farmers.

LTG : )™

#8 6 years ago

So, did you get the machine? If so, was it worth $860?

#9 6 years ago
Quoted from LTG:

Yes, STNG. Life isn't just dueling banjos and pig farmers.
LTG : )™

I will confess I haven't read yet, but I did search the page for "bottom boys" and was left disappointed

#10 6 years ago

I think you need to be on drugs to make it through that post. I tried, I just couldn't do it.

#11 6 years ago
Quoted from LesManley:

I think you need to be on drugs to make it through that post. I tried, I just couldn't do it.

You tried to do drugs or tried to make it through the post?

#12 6 years ago


Finds a sketchy post for a STTNG on criagslist
Despite his better judgment drives 5 hours with his skinny nephew to pick it up
The place is an empty, piss soaked, half burned, overgrown, countryside house
The place has dirty, mentally unstable, crack heads living there
He gets the pin into his truck without a dolly
He forgets his tools and goes back, and is succumbed to an insane god devil related rant of a crack head
He goes home

But the post offers more detail, and the OP tells it better!

#13 6 years ago

So... Wow. What shape was the game in? The story is even better if it ended up being in collector condition...

I laugh as I write this. I have a story not nearly as interesting as yours. Picking up a JP in Alabama. As I'm approaching the address I realize I don't belong there or anywhere in or near the area. Like you I proceeded and realized the thugs might be waiting. In my case I had the seller take a picture of a particular aspect of the game to prove at least the game was near the guy I was in contact with. The purchase and load was uneventful other than I paid him a bit too much for the condition.

#14 6 years ago

Yes there was a machine- STTNG and after a complete sanitize. I found it was only missing a power cord, a small cracked ramp which works, some of the toys are a bit yellowed, a normal battery holder that will be cut off, normal slightly toasted GI connector and the smell of death. It may be a undocumented HUO unit left in this crazy house. I put on my spare cord and was floored to see it power on and play after resetting the factory. Playfield is almost 90% great (neutral zone hole and a chipped plastic) and side art is 90% great after filth was wiped off.

Also my post was really 3 separate posts I wrote for a club I am in and just combined here. reading part as a weekly story about my horror people liked so I posted it here as well but unabridged.

As far as value I think after a few new toys and maybe a top head decal, I think its between easy 2500 to 2900k maybe. I'll post a picture of the machine but it looks like a nice STTNG. As far as pictures of this property my co pilot refused to take pictures because we would have been killed and I think they would think we worked for the government.

#15 6 years ago

Wow! Insane story but glad your all OK.~SpOoKy

#16 6 years ago

Oh, this must be the one I called about when I was in New Orleans and posted to the DFW Pinball and Arcade Club facebook page, right? lol. I didn't even read this, but yeah, if this is the one, the guy is a total f'ing tool and tried to screw over everyone that contacted him from our group. We were all over this thing like flies on SH....offered him 1500 CASH, people were trying to wire me money to pick this thing back up on the way back to dallas and the tool would not make it happen, then listed it on Dallas CL for 3500$.


#17 6 years ago

Pics or it didn't happen

#18 6 years ago
Quoted from Frax:

Oh, this must be the one I called about when I was in New Orleans and posted to the DFW Pinball and Arcade Club facebook page, right? lol. I didn't even read this, but yeah, if this is the one, the guy is a total f'ing tool and tried to screw over everyone that contacted him from our group. We were all over this thing like flies on SH....offered him 1500 CASH, people were trying to wire me money to pick this thing back up on the way back to dallas and the tool would not make it happen, then listed it on Dallas CL for 3500$.

Yeah it was listed for a few weeks and I gave up on the crazy but after it sat a bit my brother made some in roads with the guy. I am sure any person who made a drive there got to stage 1 of the impassable drive way and gave up. If not they sure as hell gave up on stage 2 -total view of insanity. I do not know why I continued even going into the house. Thank goodness I didn't bring my wife with me which I have done. I for sure wouldn't have gone in.

#19 6 years ago

Always a good idea to check out an address in advance. You can see almost any house, at least from the air, now on Google. Anyway, glad you made it out safe and seemingly sound.

#20 6 years ago

We were in a SUV...

Sorry bro, but if even 50% of your story is accurate, it wasn't worth the effort. Some things just aren't meant to be. I'm glad I picked up an EM in Tyler instead... jesus christ.

F--k that guy.... nut.

#21 6 years ago

Oh my freaking lord. I'm am SOOOOOOOOO incredibly glad that we were deprived of the opportunity of picking up this machine on the way home. We gave up and passed it off to the DFW group after dude (clothesless Greg?) started talking about going over to the Wal-Mart and getting a green stamp dot card so he could take more money from folks, although the machine was at his place of business and he didn't have any access to it until the weekend.

Guess "his business" translates to "his crib of much meth production". Who knew.

I'm glad that you're alive. I hope you're caught up on all your immunizations? Congratulations on the machine, it's a lot of fun!

#22 6 years ago

lmao that is one wild story man, I'm glad you made it out alive! So fill us in on the condition of the game! Does it smell? Is it inhabited by critters? You are defintely a much braver soul than I!

#23 6 years ago


Original Craigslisting monroe.craigslist.org link but its gone

Yeah Frax, a lot of people said I got a great deal...well maybe I did and maybe I didn't. I had to go through that situation to get it but I got it.

Here is the pictures of the pin after some cleaning

Yes smells like death and vileness and when I come in my garage I get flash backs from the smell. I have dryer sheets shoved everywhere in it soaking up that smell. After I vacuumed the broke fuses in the bottom the inside is super clean.


#24 6 years ago
Quoted from davewtf:

Somebody post a cliff notes version of the original post.

No kidding. I'm interested and want to read it, but I also have things to do tomorrow.

#25 6 years ago

Great story and you made out with a nice pin.

#26 6 years ago

It's long....but once I started reading, I couldn't stop & I had to know how it was going to turn out. In my head I could only picture the house from the last episode of "True Detective"

#27 6 years ago
Quoted from Slugmeister:

You tried to do drugs or tried to make it through the post?


#28 6 years ago

Yeah, but see, I already HAVE a STTNG. We bought our first one for 1400, sold it, then bought another one for 3k, and frankly, both were smoking deals for what and how we got them. I was gonna buy this one to clean it up and sell it at a semi-reasonable price...once I found out the guy was trying to scam us into using that Green Dot card thing, I put it on our group to see if anyone wanted to pay cash for it.

Doesn't look too bad. I've been inside and out of just about every nook and cranny of STTNG. Once you get the smell out you'll have a good game. There's just no way for me that would've been worth the effort..even if one of our locals had paid me 300 bucks to pick it up and transport it for them. Ugh. No...way...in...hell!

#29 6 years ago

no other pictures? I feel geraldo'd

#30 6 years ago

I sure am glad that it is a slow day at work today! Read the whole post, hilarious!! Hats off to you sir for taking the risk and bringing a machine back from certain death!

You really should have had your co-pilot take some pictures of this house from the car! I can't believe a functioning pinball machine could be found in a place like that. Congratulations you have one of the best pinball stories there ever was!

#31 6 years ago

TNG is only 350 pounds.

#32 6 years ago

Full disclosure. I brought a jar of moonshine and bag of kettle corn into the room, kicked on the laptop and found this post:

1) I read every word
2) I'm totally hammered
3) The bag of kettle corn is gone and my wife's going to be pissed.

Thanks a lot! Great score by the way

#33 6 years ago

... And you couldn't have paid me $850 to get a game from a place like that!

Congrats on your deal and determination (or stupidity?). Certainly glad you are safe.

#34 6 years ago

Give this man a Pulitzer. Awesome story.


#35 6 years ago

Holy smokes, I LOVE these stories... Hindsight anyway, after everyone is safe... Holy crap, I saw you in a vision... See ya! LOL, nice score bro!


#36 6 years ago

Awesome story. I read every word.

Now you've got something to tell your grandkids one day!!


#37 6 years ago

Over the time of my pinball collecting I have found people on craigslist do a 3 step program.

1 They buy or have an expensive pinball machine (almost any pin is expensive I feel)
2 They buy/own or have a burned out cracked out far away place they own.
3 They put this pinball machine in here and list it on craigslist for someone to visit

My other bad craigs were a pin in a boarded up old bar with a dirt floor that required me to come around back where I could not be seen next to a cement factory with 2 very large dudes with wife beater shirts who were selling the pin for grandma. It was a highspeed 2 and I met grandma.

A D&D in a messed up house used for storage

and my other 4 were relatively normal people.

If anyone wants another picture I'll post one tomorrow. But thanks for all the comments.

The house could not be seen from the street you had to walk 60 feet before even seeing it.
Also I don't know how much STTNG weighs but its damn heavy and I can normally move a pin by myself.

#38 6 years ago

Wow, what a crazy story! You're a very talented writer. I loved the Apocalypse Now reference.

#39 6 years ago

Awesome post. I couldn't stop reading either. The game will mean so much more to you now, because of the effort involved lol

#40 6 years ago

Thanks for posting this. I texted back and forth with this guy for a couple of days. I knew something was way off about him, certainly not to this degree...lol His texts were like nothing I've ever seen.

#41 6 years ago

Crazy story man!
Ps. When it comes to long posts HOP is a chicken MCnugget and your a BigMac

#42 6 years ago

Vinegar soaks up weird smells and so does charcoal. Don't wipe vinegar on the game... just put a small bowl of it on the inside. And do the same thing with charcoal. It will get the smell out but will take a few days.

#43 6 years ago

I have a story I'd like to share: The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.

The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.

The Director of Companies was our captain and our host. We four affectionately watched his back as he stood in the bows looking to seaward. On the whole river there was nothing that looked half so nautical. He resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthiness personified. It was difficult to realize his work was not out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, within the brooding gloom.

Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns--and even convictions. The Lawyer--the best of old fellows--had, because of his many years and many virtues, the only cushion on deck, and was lying on the only rug. The Accountant had brought out already a box of dominoes, and was toying architecturally with the bones. Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzen-mast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol. The director, satisfied the anchor had good hold, made his way aft and sat down amongst us. We exchanged a few words lazily. Afterwards there was silence on board the yacht. For some reason or other we did not begin that game of dominoes. We felt meditative, and fit for nothing but placid staring. The day was ending in a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance. The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marsh was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds. Only the gloom to the west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more sombre every minute, as if angered by the approach of the sun.

And at last, in its curved and imperceptible fall, the sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men.

Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity became less brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories. And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, "followed the sea" with reverence and affection, that to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea. It had known and served all the men of whom the nation is proud, from Sir Francis Drake to Sir John Franklin, knights all, titled and untitled--the great knights-errant of the sea. It had borne all the ships whose names are like jewels flashing in the night of time, from the GOLDEN HIND returning with her rotund flanks full of treasure, to be visited by the Queen's Highness and thus pass out of the gigantic tale, to the EREBUS and TERROR, bound on other conquests-- and that never returned. It had known the ships and the men. They had sailed from Deptford, from Greenwich, from Erith-- the adventurers and the settlers; kings' ships and the ships of men on 'Change; captains, admirals, the dark "interlopers" of the Eastern trade, and the commissioned "generals" of East India fleets. Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth! . . . The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires.

The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman light-house, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway--a great stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars.

"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth."

He was the only man of us who still "followed the sea." The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them--the ship; and so is their country--the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same. In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny. For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.

His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence. No one took the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very slow--"I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago--the other day. . . . Light came out of this river since--you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker--may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine--what d'ye call 'em?--trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries--a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too--used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here--the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina-- and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,--precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay--cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death--death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes--he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga--perhaps too much dice, you know--coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him--all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination--you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate."

He paused.

"Mind," he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower--"Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency--the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force-- nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind--as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea--something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to. . . ."

He broke off. Flames glided in the river, small green flames, red flames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking, joining, crossing each other-- then separating slowly or hastily. The traffic of the great city went on in the deepening night upon the sleepless river. We looked on, waiting patiently--there was nothing else to do till the end of the flood; but it was only after a long silence, when he said, in a hesitating voice, "I suppose you fellows remember I did once turn fresh-water sailor for a bit," that we knew we were fated, before the ebb began to run, to hear about one of Marlow's inconclusive experiences.

"I don't want to bother you much with what happened to me personally," he began, showing in this remark the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would like best to hear; "yet to understand the effect of it on me you ought to know how I got out there, what I saw, how I went up that river to the place where I first met the poor chap. It was the farthest point of navigation and the culminating point of my experience. It seemed somehow to throw a kind of light on everything about me-- and into my thoughts. It was sombre enough, too--and pitiful-- not extraordinary in any way--not very clear either. No, not very clear. And yet it seemed to throw a kind of light.

"I had then, as you remember, just returned to London after a lot of Indian Ocean, Pacific, China Seas--a regular dose of the East--six years or so, and I was loafing about, hindering you fellows in your work and invading your homes, just as though I had got a heavenly mission to civilize you. It was very fine for a time, but after a bit I did get tired of resting. Then I began to look for a ship--I should think the hardest work on earth. But the ships wouldn't even look at me. And I got tired of that game, too.

"Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, `When I grow up I will go there.' The North Pole was one of these places, I remember. Well, I haven't been there yet, and shall not try now. The glamour's off. Other places were scattered about the hemispheres. I have been in some of them, and . . . well, we won't talk about that. But there was one yet--the biggest, the most blank, so to speak-- that I had a hankering after.

"True, by this time it was not a blank space any more. It had got filled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes and names. It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery-- a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird--a silly little bird. Then I remembered there was a big concern, a Company for trade on that river. Dash it all! I thought to myself, they can't trade without using some kind of craft on that lot of fresh water--steamboats! Why shouldn't I try to get charge of one? I went on along Fleet Street, but could not shake off the idea. The snake had charmed me.

"You understand it was a Continental concern, that Trading society; but I have a lot of relations living on the Continent, because it's cheap and not so nasty as it looks, they say.

"I am sorry to own I began to worry them. This was already a fresh departure for me. I was not used to get things that way, you know. I always went my own road and on my own legs where I had a mind to go. I wouldn't have believed it of myself; but, then--you see--I felt somehow I must get there by hook or by crook. So I worried them. The men said My dear fellow,' and did nothing. Then--would you believe it?--I tried the women. I, Charlie Marlow, set the women to work-- to get a job. Heavens! Well, you see, the notion drove me. I had an aunt, a dear enthusiastic soul. She wrote:It will be delightful. I am ready to do anything, anything for you. It is a glorious idea. I know the wife of a very high personage in the Administration, and also a man who has lots of influence with,' etc. She was determined to make no end of fuss to get me appointed skipper of a river steamboat, if such was my fancy.

"I got my appointment--of course; and I got it very quick. It appears the Company had received news that one of their captains had been killed in a scuffle with the natives. This was my chance, and it made me the more anxious to go. It was only months and months afterwards, when I made the attempt to recover what was left of the body, that I heard the original quarrel arose from a misunderstanding about some hens. Yes, two black hens. Fresleven--that was the fellow's name, a Dane--thought himself wronged somehow in the bargain, so he went ashore and started to hammer the chief of the village with a stick. Oh, it didn't surprise me in the least to hear this, and at the same time to be told that Fresleven was the gentlest, quietest creature that ever walked on two legs. No doubt he was; but he had been a couple of years already out there engaged in the noble cause, you know, and he probably felt the need at last of asserting his self-respect in some way. Therefore he whacked the old nigger mercilessly, while a big crowd of his people watched him, thunderstruck, till some man-- I was told the chief's son--in desperation at hearing the old chap yell, made a tentative jab with a spear at the white man-- and of course it went quite easy between the shoulder-blades. Then the whole population cleared into the forest, expecting all kinds of calamities to happen, while, on the other hand, the steamer Fresleven commanded left also in a bad panic, in charge of the engineer, I believe. Afterwards nobody seemed to trouble much about Fresleven's remains, till I got out and stepped into his shoes. I couldn't let it rest, though; but when an opportunity offered at last to meet my predecessor, the grass growing through his ribs was tall enough to hide his bones. They were all there. The supernatural being had not been touched after he fell. And the village was deserted, the huts gaped black, rotting, all askew within the fallen enclosures. A calamity had come to it, sure enough. The people had vanished. Mad terror had scattered them, men, women, and children, through the bush, and they had never returned. What became of the hens I don't know either. I should think the cause of progress got them, anyhow. However, through this glorious affair I got my appointment, before I had fairly begun to hope for it.

"I flew around like mad to get ready, and before forty-eight hours I was crossing the Channel to show myself to my employers, and sign the contract. In a very few hours I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulchre. Prejudice no doubt. I had no difficulty in finding the Company's offices. It was the biggest thing in the town, and everybody I met was full of it. They were going to run an over-sea empire, and make no end of coin by trade.

"A narrow and deserted street in deep shadow, high houses, innumerable windows with venetian blinds, a dead silence, grass sprouting right and left, immense double doors standing ponderously ajar. I slipped through one of these cracks, went up a swept and ungarnished staircase, as arid as a desert, and opened the first door I came to. Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting black wool. The slim one got up and walked straight at me-- still knitting with downcast eyes--and only just as I began to think of getting out of her way, as you would for a somnambulist, stood still, and looked up. Her dress was as plain as an umbrella-cover, and she turned round without a word and preceded me into a waiting-room. I gave my name, and looked about. Deal table in the middle, plain chairs all round the walls, on one end a large shining map, marked with all the colours of a rainbow. There was a vast amount of red--good to see at any time, because one knows that some real work is done in there, a deuce of a lot of blue, a little green, smears of orange, and, on the East Coast, a purple patch, to show where the jolly pioneers of progress drink the jolly lager-beer. However, I wasn't going into any of these. I was going into the yellow. Dead in the centre. And the river was there--fascinating--deadly--like a snake. Ough! A door opened, ya white-haired secretarial head, but wearing a compassionate expression, appeared, and a skinny forefinger beckoned me into the sanctuary. Its light was dim, and a heavy writing-desk squatted in the middle. From behind that structure came out an impression of pale plumpness in a frock-coat. The great man himself. He was five feet six, I should judge, and had his grip on the handle-end of ever so many millions. He shook hands, I fancy, murmured vaguely, was satisfied with my French. BON VOYAGE.

"In about forty-five seconds I found myself again in the waiting-room with the compassionate secretary, who, full of desolation and sympathy, made me sign some document. I believe I undertook amongst other things not to disclose any trade secrets. Well, I am not going to.

"I began to feel slightly uneasy. You know I am not used to such ceremonies, and there was something ominous in the atmosphere. It was just as though I had been let into some conspiracy-- I don't know--something not quite right; and I was glad to get out. In the outer room the two women knitted black wool feverishly. People were arriving, and the younger one was walking back and forth introducing them. The old one sat on her chair. Her flat cloth slippers were propped up on a foot-warmer, and a cat reposed on her lap. She wore a starched white affair on her head, had a wart on one cheek, and silver-rimmed spectacles hung on the tip of her nose. She glanced at me above the glasses. The swift and indifferent placidity of that look troubled me. Two youths with foolish and cheery countenances were being piloted over, and she threw at them the same quick glance of unconcerned wisdom. She seemed to know all about them and about me, too. An eerie feeling came over me. She seemed uncanny and fateful. Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall, one introducing, introducing continuously to the unknown, the other scrutinizing the cheery and foolish faces with unconcerned old eyes. AVE! Old knitter of black wool. MORITURI TE SALUTANT. Not many of those she looked at ever saw her again--not half, by a long way.

"There was yet a visit to the doctor. A simple formality,' assured me the secretary, with an air of taking an immense part in all my sorrows. Accordingly a young chap wearing his hat over the left eyebrow, some clerk I suppose--there must have been clerks in the business, though the house was as still as a house in a city of the dead-- came from somewhere up-stairs, and led me forth. He was shabby and careless, with inkstains on the sleeves of his jacket, and his cravat was large and billowy, under a chin shaped like the toe of an old boot. It was a little too early for the doctor, so I proposed a drink, and thereupon he developed a vein of joviality. As we sat over our vermouths he glorified the Company's business, and by and by I expressed casually my surprise at him not going out there. He became very cool and collected all at once.I am not such a fool as I look, quoth Plato to his disciples,' he said sententiously, emptied his glass with great resolution, and we rose.

"The old doctor felt my pulse, evidently thinking of something else the while. Good, good for there,' he mumbled, and then with a certain eagerness asked me whether I would let him measure my head. Rather surprised, I said Yes, when he produced a thing like calipers and got the dimensions back and front and every way, taking notes carefully. He was an unshaven little man in a threadbare coat like a gaberdine, with his feet in slippers, and I thought him a harmless fool.I always ask leave, in the interests of science, to measure the crania of those going out there,' he said. And when they come back, too?' I asked.Oh, I never see them,' he remarked; and, moreover, the changes take place inside, you know.' He smiled, as if at some quiet joke.So you are going out there. Famous. Interesting, too.' He gave me a searching glance, and made another note. Ever any madness in your family?' he asked, in a matter-of-fact tone. I felt very annoyed.Is that question in the interests of science, too?' It would be,' he said, without taking notice of my irritation,interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot, but . . .' Are you an alienist?' I interrupted.Every doctor should be--a little,' answered that original, imperturbably. I have a little theory which you messieurs who go out there must help me to prove. This is my share in the advantages my country shall reap from the possession of such a magnificent dependency. The mere wealth I leave to others. Pardon my questions, but you are the first Englishman coming under my observation . . .' I hastened to assure him I was not in the least typical.If I were,' said I, I wouldn't be talking like this with you.'What you say is rather profound, and probably erroneous,' he said, with a laugh. Avoid irritation more than exposure to the sun. Adieu. How do you English say, eh? Good-bye. Ah! Good-bye. Adieu. In the tropics one must before everything keep calm.' . . . He lifted a warning forefinger. . . .DU CALME, DU CALME. ADIEU.'

"One thing more remained to do--say good-bye to my excellent aunt. I found her triumphant. I had a cup of tea--the last decent cup of tea for many days--and in a room that most soothingly looked just as you would expect a lady's drawing-room to look, we had a long quiet chat by the fireside. In the course of these confidences it became quite plain to me I had been represented to the wife of the high dignitary, and goodness knows to how many more people besides, as an exceptional and gifted creature-- a piece of good fortune for the Company--a man you don't get hold of every day. Good heavens! and I was going to take charge of a two-penny-half-penny river-steamboat with a penny whistle attached! It appeared, however, I was also one of the Workers, with a capital-- you know. Something like an emissary of light, something like a lower sort of apostle. There had been a lot of such rot let loose in print and talk just about that time, and the excellent woman, living right in the rush of all that humbug, got carried off her feet. She talked about 'weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways,' till, upon my word, she made me quite uncomfortable. I ventured to hint that the Company was run for profit.

"`You forget, dear Charlie, that the labourer is worthy of his hire,' she said, brightly. It's queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset. Some confounded fact we men have been living contentedly with ever since the day of creation would start up and knock the whole thing over.

"After this I got embraced, told to wear flannel, be sure to write often, and so on--and I left. In the street--I don't know why--a queer feeling came to me that I was an imposter. Odd thing that I, who used to clear out for any part of the world at twenty-four hours' notice, with less thought than most men give to the crossing of a street, had a moment--I won't say of hesitation, but of startled pause, before this commonplace affair. The best way I can explain it to you is by saying that, for a second or two, I felt as though, instead of going to the centre of a continent, I were about to set off for the centre of the earth.

"I left in a French steamer, and she called in every blamed port they have out there, for, as far as I could see, the sole purpose of landing soldiers and custom-house officers. I watched the coast. Watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. There it is before you-- smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering, `Come and find out.' This one was almost featureless, as if still in the making, with an aspect of monotonous grimness. The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist. The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. Here and there greyish-whitish specks showed up clustered inside the white surf, with a flag flying above them perhaps. Settlements some centuries old, and still no bigger than pinheads on the untouched expanse of their background. We pounded along, stopped, landed soldiers; went on, landed custom-house clerks to levy toll in what looked like a God-forsaken wilderness, with a tin shed and a flag-pole lost in it; landed more soldiers--to take care of the custom-house clerks, presumably. Some, I heard, got drowned in the surf; but whether they did or not, nobody seemed particularly to care. They were just flung out there, and on we went. Every day the coast looked the same, as though we had not moved; but we passed various places--trading places--with names like Gran' Bassam, Little Popo; names that seemed to belong to some sordid farce acted in front of a sinister back-cloth. The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the uniform sombreness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion. The voice of the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, like the speech of a brother. It was something natural, that had its reason, that had a meaning. Now and then a boat from the shore gave one a momentary contact with reality. It was paddled by black fellows. You could see from afar the white of their eyeballs glistening. They shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with perspiration; they had faces like grotesque masks--these chaps; but they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf along their coast. They wanted no excuse for being there. They were a great comfort to look at. For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long. Something would turn up to scare it away. Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech--and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives--he called them enemies!-- hidden out of sight somewhere.

"We gave her her letters (I heard the men in that lonely ship were dying of fever at the rate of three a day) and went on. We called at some more places with farcical names, where the merry dance of death and trade goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere as of an overheated catacomb; all along the formless coast bordered by dangerous surf, as if Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders; in and out of rivers, streams of death in life, whose banks were rotting into mud, whose waters, thickened into slime, invaded the contorted mangroves, that seemed to writhe at us in the extremity of an impotent despair. Nowhere did we stop long enough to get a particularized impression, but the general sense of vague and oppressive wonder grew upon me. It was like a weary pilgrimage amongst hints for nightmares.

"It was upward of thirty days before I saw the mouth of the big river. We anchored off the seat of the government. But my work would not begin till some two hundred miles farther on. So as soon as I could I made a start for a place thirty miles higher up.

"I had my passage on a little sea-going steamer. Her captain was a Swede, and knowing me for a seaman, invited me on the bridge. He was a young man, lean, fair, and morose, with lanky hair and a shuffling gait. As we left the miserable little wharf, he tossed his head contemptuously at the shore. Been living there?' he asked. I said,Yes.' Fine lot these government chaps--are they not?' he went on, speaking English with great precision and considerable bitterness.It is funny what some people will do for a few francs a month. I wonder what becomes of that kind when it goes upcountry?' I said to him I expected to see that soon. So-o-o!' he exclaimed. He shuffled athwart, keeping one eye ahead vigilantly.Don't be too sure,' he continued. The other day I took up a man who hanged himself on the road. He was a Swede, too.'Hanged himself! Why, in God's name?' I cried. He kept on looking out watchfully. `Who knows? The sun too much for him, or the country perhaps.'

"At last we opened a reach. A rocky cliff appeared, mounds of turned-up earth by the shore, houses on a hill, others with iron roofs, amongst a waste of excavations, or hanging to the declivity. A continuous noise of the rapids above hovered over this scene of inhabited devastation. A lot of people, mostly black and naked, moved about like ants. A jetty projected into the river. A blinding sunlight drowned all this at times in a sudden recrudescence of glare. There's your Company's station,' said the Swede, pointing to three wooden barrack-like structures on the rocky slope.I will send your things up. Four boxes did you say? So. Farewell.'

"I came upon a boiler wallowing in the grass, then found a path leading up the hill. It turned aside for the boulders, and also for an undersized railway-truck lying there on its back with its wheels in the air. One was off. The thing looked as dead as the carcass of some animal. I came upon more pieces of decaying machinery, a stack of rusty rails. To the left a clump of trees made a shady spot, where dark things seemed to stir feebly. I blinked, the path was steep. A horn tooted to the right, and I saw the black people run. A heavy and dull detonation shook the ground, a puff of smoke came out of the cliff, and that was all. No change appeared on the face of the rock. They were building a railway. The cliff was not in the way or anything; but this objectless blasting was all the work going on.

"A slight clinking behind me made me turn my head. Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path. They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on their heads, and the clink kept time with their footsteps. Black rags were wound round their loins, and the short ends behind waggled to and fro like tails. I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking. Another report from the cliff made me think suddenly of that ship of war I had seen firing into a continent. It was the same kind of ominous voice; but these men could by no stretch of imagination be called enemies. They were called criminals, and the outraged law, like the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery from the sea. All their meagre breasts panted together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily uphill. They passed me within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages. Behind this raw matter one of the reclaimed, the product of the new forces at work, strolled despondently, carrying a rifle by its middle. He had a uniform jacket with one button off, and seeing a white man on the path, hoisted his weapon to his shoulder with alacrity. This was simple prudence, white men being so much alike at a distance that he could not tell who I might be. He was speedily reassured, and with a large, white, rascally grin, and a glance at his charge, seemed to take me into partnership in his exalted trust. After all, I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings.

"Instead of going up, I turned and descended to the left. My idea was to let that chain-gang get out of sight before I climbed the hill. You know I am not particularly tender; I've had to strike and to fend off. I've had to resist and to attack sometimes--that's only one way of resisting-- without counting the exact cost, according to the demands of such sort of life as I had blundered into. I've seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men--men, I tell you. But as I stood on this hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly. How insidious he could be, too, I was only to find out several months later and a thousand miles farther. For a moment I stood appalled, as though by a warning. Finally I descended the hill, obliquely, towards the trees I had seen.

"I avoided a vast artificial hole somebody had been digging on the slope, the purpose of which I found it impossible to divine. It wasn't a quarry or a sandpit, anyhow. It was just a hole. It might have been connected with the philanthropic desire of giving the criminals something to do. I don't know. Then I nearly fell into a very narrow ravine, almost no more than a scar in the hillside. I discovered that a lot of imported drainage-pipes for the settlement had been tumbled in there. There wasn't one that was not broken. It was a wanton smash-up. At last I got under the trees. My purpose was to stroll into the shade for a moment; but no sooner within than it seemed to me I had stepped into the gloomy circle of some Inferno. The rapids were near, and an uninterrupted, uniform, headlong, rushing noise filled the mournful stillness of the grove, where not a breath stirred, not a leaf moved, with a mysterious sound--as though the tearing pace of the launched earth had suddenly become audible.

"Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair. Another mine on the cliff went off, followed by a slight shudder of the soil under my feet. The work was going on. The work! And this was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn to die.

"They were dying slowly--it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now-- nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom. Brought from all the recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenial surroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, and were then allowed to crawl away and rest. These moribund shapes were free as air--and nearly as thin. I began to distinguish the gleam of the eyes under the trees. Then, glancing down, I saw a face near my hand. The black bones reclined at full length with one shoulder against the tree, and slowly the eyelids rose and the sunken eyes looked up at me, enormous and vacant, a kind of blind, white flicker in the depths of the orbs, which died out slowly. The man seemed young-- almost a boy--but you know with them it's hard to tell. I found nothing else to do but to offer him one of my good Swede's ship's biscuits I had in my pocket. The fingers closed slowly on it and held--there was no other movement and no other glance. He had tied a bit of white worsted round his neck--Why? Where did he get it? Was it a badge--an ornament--a charm-- a propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all connected with it? It looked startling round his black neck, this bit of white thread from beyond the seas.

"Near the same tree two more bundles of acute angles sat with their legs drawn up. One, with his chin propped on his knees, stared at nothing, in an intolerable and appalling manner: his brother phantom rested its forehead, as if overcome with a great weariness; and all about others were scattered in every pose of contorted collapse, as in some picture of a massacre or a pestilence. While I stood horror-struck, one of these creatures rose to his hands and knees, and went off on all-fours towards the river to drink. He lapped out of his hand, then sat up in the sunlight, crossing his shins in front of him, and after a time let his woolly head fall on his breastbone.

"I didn't want any more loitering in the shade, and I made haste towards the station. When near the buildings I met a white man, in such an unexpected elegance of get-up that in the first moment I took him for a sort of vision. I saw a high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clean necktie, and varnished boots. No hat. Hair parted, brushed, oiled, under a green-lined parasol held in a big white hand. He was amazing, and had a penholder behind his ear.

"I shook hands with this miracle, and I learned he was the Company's chief accountant, and that all the book-keeping was done at this station. He had come out for a moment, he said, to get a breath of fresh air. The expression sounded wonderfully odd, with its suggestion of sedentary desk-life. I wouldn't have mentioned the fellow to you at all, only it was from his lips that I first heard the name of the man who is so indissolubly connected with the memories of that time. Moreover, I respected the fellow. Yes; I respected his collars, his vast cuffs, his brushed hair. His appearance was certainly that of a hairdresser's dummy; but in the great demoralization of the land he kept up his appearance. That's backbone. His starched collars and got-up shirt-fronts were achievements of character. He had been out nearly three years; and, later, I could not help asking him how he managed to sport such linen. He had just the faintest blush, and said modestly,I've been teaching one of the native women about the station. It was difficult. She had a distaste for the work.' Thus this man had verily accomplished something. And he was devoted to his books, which were in apple-pie order.

"Everything else in the station was in a muddle--heads, things, buildings. Strings of dusty niggers with splay feet arrived and departed; a stream of manufactured goods, rubbishy cottons, beads, and brass-wire set into the depths of darkness, and in return came a precious trickle of ivory.

"I had to wait in the station for ten days--an eternity. I lived in a hut in the yard, but to be out of the chaos I would sometimes get into the accountant's office. It was built of horizontal planks, and so badly put together that, as he bent over his high desk, he was barred from neck to heels with narrow strips of sunlight. There was no need to open the big shutter to see. It was hot there, too; big flies buzzed fiendishly, and did not sting, but stabbed. I sat generally on the floor, while, of faultless appearance (and even slightly scented), perching on a high stool, he wrote, he wrote. Sometimes he stood up for exercise. When a truckle-bed with a sick man (some invalid agent from upcountry) was put in there, he exhibited a gentle annoyance. The groans of this sick person,' he said,distract my attention. And without that it is extremely difficult to guard against clerical errors in this climate.'

"One day he remarked, without lifting his head, In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz.' On my asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he was a first-class agent; and seeing my disappointment at this information, he added slowly, laying down his pen,He is a very remarkable person.' Further questions elicited from him that Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading-post, a very important one, in the true ivory-country, at `the very bottom of there. Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together . . .' He began to write again. The sick man was too ill to groan. The flies buzzed in a great peace.

"Suddenly there was a growing murmur of voices and a great tramping of feet. A caravan had come in. A violent babble of uncouth sounds burst out on the other side of the planks. All the carriers were speaking together, and in the midst of the uproar the lamentable voice of the chief agent was heard giving it up' tearfully for the twentieth time that day. . . . He rose slowly.What a frightful row,' he said. He crossed the room gently to look at the sick man, and returning, said to me, He does not hear.'What! Dead?' I asked, startled. No, not yet,' he answered, with great composure. Then, alluding with a toss of the head to the tumult in the station-yard,When one has got to make correct entries, one comes to hate those savages--hate them to the death.' He remained thoughtful for a moment. When you see Mr. Kurtz' he went on,tell him from me that everything here'-- he glanced at the deck--' is very satisfactory. I don't like to write to him--with those messengers of ours you never know who may get hold of your letter--at that Central Station.' He stared at me for a moment with his mild, bulging eyes. Oh, he will go far, very far,' he began again.He will be a somebody in the Administration before long. They, above--the Council in Europe, you know--mean him to be.'

"He turned to his work. The noise outside had ceased, and presently in going out I stopped at the door. In the steady buzz of flies the homeward-bound agent was lying finished and insensible; the other, bent over his books, was making correct entries of perfectly correct transactions; and fifty feet below the doorstep I could see the still tree-tops of the grove of death.

"Next day I left that station at last, with a caravan of sixty men, for a two-hundred-mile tramp.

"No use telling you much about that. Paths, paths, everywhere; a stamped-in network of paths spreading over the empty land, through the long grass, through burnt grass, through thickets, down and up chilly ravines, up and down stony hills ablaze with heat; and a solitude, a solitude, nobody, not a hut. The population had cleared out a long time ago. Well, if a lot of mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons suddenly took to travelling on the road between Deal and Gravesend, catching the yokels right and left to carry heavy loads for them, I fancy every farm and cottage thereabouts would get empty very soon. Only here the dwellings were gone, too. Still I passed through several abandoned villages. There's something pathetically childish in the ruins of grass walls. Day after day, with the stamp and shuffle of sixty pair of bare feet behind me, each pair under a 60-lb. load. Camp, cook, sleep, strike camp, march. Now and then a carrier dead in harness, at rest in the long grass near the path, with an empty water-gourd and his long staff lying by his side. A great silence around and above. Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive, and wild--and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country. Once a white man in an unbuttoned uniform, camping on the path with an armed escort of lank Zanzibaris, very hospitable and festive-- not to say drunk. Was looking after the upkeep of the road, he declared. Can't say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, upon which I absolutely stumbled three miles farther on, may be considered as a permanent improvement. I had a white companion, too, not a bad chap, but rather too fleshy and with the exasperating habit of fainting on the hot hillsides, miles away from the least bit of shade and water. Annoying, you know, to hold your own coat like a parasol over a man's head while he is coming to. I couldn't help asking him once what he meant by coming there at all. To make money, of course. What do you think?' he said, scornfully. Then he got fever, and had to be carried in a hammock slung under a pole. As he weighed sixteen stone I had no end of rows with the carriers. They jibbed, ran away, sneaked off with their loads in the night--quite a mutiny. So, one evening, I made a speech in English with gestures, not one of which was lost to the sixty pairs of eyes before me, and the next morning I started the hammock off in front all right. An hour afterwards I came upon the whole concern wrecked in a bush--man, hammock, groans, blankets, horrors. The heavy pole had skinned his poor nose. He was very anxious for me to kill somebody, but there wasn't the shadow of a carrier near. I remembered the old doctor--'It would be interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot.' I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting. However, all that is to no purpose. On the fifteenth day I came in sight of the big river again, and hobbled into the Central Station. It was on a back water surrounded by scrub and forest, with a pretty border of smelly mud on one side, and on the three others enclosed by a crazy fence of rushes. A neglected gap was all the gate it had, and the first glance at the place was enough to let you see the flabby devil was running that show. White men with long staves in their hands appeared languidly from amongst the buildings, strolling up to take a look at me, and then retired out of sight somewhere. One of them, a stout, excitable chap with black moustaches, informed me with great volubility and many digressions, as soon as I told him who I was, that my steamer was at the bottom of the river. I was thunderstruck. What, how, why? Oh, it wasall right.' The manager himself' was there. All quite correct.Everybody had behaved splendidly! splendidly!'--'you must,' he said in agitation, `go and see the general manager at once. He is waiting!'

"I did not see the real significance of that wreck at once. I fancy I see it now, but I am not sure--not at all. Certainly the affair was too stupid--when I think of it-- to be altogether natural. Still . . . But at the moment it presented itself simply as a confounded nuisance. The steamer was sunk. They had started two days before in a sudden hurry up the river with the manager on board, in charge of some volunteer skipper, and before they had been out three hours they tore the bottom out of her on stones, and she sank near the south bank. I asked myself what I was to do there, now my boat was lost. As a matter of fact, I had plenty to do in fishing my command out of the river. I had to set about it the very next day. That, and the repairs when I brought the pieces to the station, took some months.

"My first interview with the manager was curious. He did not ask me to sit down after my twenty-mile walk that morning. He was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold, and he certainly could make his glance fall on one as trenchant and heavy as an axe. But even at these times the rest of his person seemed to disclaim the intention. Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy-- a smile--not a smile--I remember it, but I can't explain. It was unconscious, this smile was, though just after he had said something it got intensified for an instant. It came at the end of his speeches like a seal applied on the words to make the meaning of the commonest phrase appear absolutely inscrutable. He was a common trader, from his youth up employed in these parts--nothing more. He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Not a definite mistrust--just uneasiness--nothing more. You have no idea how effective such a . . . a. . . . faculty can be. He had no genius for organizing, for initiative, or for order even. That was evident in such things as the deplorable state of the station. He had no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come to him--why? Perhaps because he was never ill . . . He had served three terms of three years out there . . . Because triumphant health in the general rout of constitutions is a kind of power in itself. When he went home on leave he rioted on a large scale--pompously. Jack ashore--with a difference-- in externals only. This one could gather from his casual talk. He originated nothing, he could keep the routine going--that's all. But he was great. He was great by this little thing that it was impossible to tell what could control such a man. He never gave that secret away. Perhaps there was nothing within him. Such a suspicion made one pause--for out there there were no external checks. Once when various tropical diseases had laid low almost every agent' in the station, he was heard to say,Men who come out here should have no entrails.' He sealed the utterance with that smile of his, as though it had been a door opening into a darkness he had in his keeping. You fancied you had seen things--but the seal was on. When annoyed at meal-times by the constant quarrels of the white men about precedence, he ordered an immense round table to be made, for which a special house had to be built. This was the station's mess-room. Where he sat was the first place--the rest were nowhere. One felt this to be his unalterable conviction. He was neither civil nor uncivil. He was quiet. He allowed his `boy'--an overfed young negro from the coast--to treat the white men, under his very eyes, with provoking insolence.

"He began to speak as soon as he saw me. I had been very long on the road. He could not wait. Had to start without me. The up-river stations had to be relieved. There had been so many delays already that he did not know who was dead and who was alive, and how they got on--and so on, and so on. He paid no attention to my explanations, and, playing with a stick of sealing-wax, repeated several times that the situation was very grave, very grave.' There were rumours that a very important station was in jeopardy, and its chief, Mr. Kurtz, was ill. Hoped it was not true. Mr. Kurtz was . . . I felt weary and irritable. Hang Kurtz, I thought. I interrupted him by saying I had heard of Mr. Kurtz on the coast.Ah! So they talk of him down there,' he murmured to himself. Then he began again, assuring me Mr. Kurtz was the best agent he had, an exceptional man, of the greatest importance to the Company; therefore I could understand his anxiety. He was, he said, very, very uneasy.' Certainly he fidgeted on his chair a good deal, exclaimed,Ah, Mr. Kurtz!' broke the stick of sealing-wax and seemed dumfounded by the accident. Next thing he wanted to know how long it would take to' . . . I interrupted him again. Being hungry, you know, and kept on my feet too. I was getting savage.How can I tell?' I said. I haven't even seen the wreck yet-- some months, no doubt.' All this talk seemed to me so futile.Some months,' he said. Well, let us say three months before we can make a start. Yes. That ought to do the affair.' I flung out of his hut (he lived all alone in a clay hut with a sort of verandah) muttering to myself my opinion of him. He was a chattering idiot. Afterwards I took it back when it was borne in upon me startlingly with what extreme nicety he had estimated the time requisite for theaffair.'

"I went to work the next day, turning, so to speak, my back on that station. In that way only it seemed to me I could keep my hold on the redeeming facts of life. Still, one must look about sometimes; and then I saw this station, these men strolling aimlessly about in the sunshine of the yard. I asked myself sometimes what it all meant. They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. The word `ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I've never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.

"Oh, these months! Well, never mind. Various things yhappened. One evening a grass shed full of calico, cotton prints, beads, and I don't know what else, burst into a blaze so suddenly that you would have thought the earth had opened to let an avenging fire consume all that trash. I was smoking my pipe quietly by my dismantled steamer, and saw them all cutting capers in the light, with their arms lifted high, when the stout man with moustaches came tearing down to the river, a tin pail in his hand, assured me that everybody was `behaving splendidly, splendidly,' dipped about a quart of water and tore back again. I noticed there was a hole in the bottom of his pail.

"I strolled up. There was no hurry. You see the thing had gone off like a box of matches. It had been hopeless from the very first. The flame had leaped high, driven everybody back, lighted up everything-- and collapsed. The shed was already a heap of embers glowing fiercely. A nigger was being beaten near by. They said he had caused the fire in some way; be that as it may, he was screeching most horribly. I saw him, later, for several days, sitting in a bit of shade looking very sick and trying to recover himself; afterwards he arose and went out-- and the wilderness without a sound took him into its bosom again. As I approached the glow from the dark I found myself at the back of two men, talking. I heard the name of Kurtz pronounced, then the words, take advantage of this unfortunate accident.' One of the men was the manager. I wished him a good evening.Did you ever see anything like it-- eh? it is incredible,' he said, and walked off. The other man remained. He was a first-class agent, young, gentlemanly, a bit reserved, with a forked little beard and a hooked nose. He was stand-offish with the other agents, and they on their side said he was the manager's spy upon them. As to me, I had hardly ever spoken to him before. We got into talk, and by and by we strolled away from the hissing ruins. Then he asked me to his room, which was in the main building of the station. He struck a match, and I perceived that this young aristocrat had not only a silver-mounted dressing-case but also a whole candle all to himself. Just at that time the manager was the only man supposed to have any right to candles. Native mats covered the clay walls; a collection of spears, assegais, shields, knives was hung up in trophies. The business intrusted to this fellow was the making of bricks-- so I had been informed; but there wasn't a fragment of a brick anywhere in the station, and he had been there more than a year--waiting. It seems he could not make bricks without something, I don't know what--straw maybe. Anyway, it could not be found there and as it was not likely to be sent from Europe, it did not appear clear to me what he was waiting for. An act of special creation perhaps. However, they were all waiting-- all the sixteen or twenty pilgrims of them--for something; and upon my word it did not seem an uncongenial occupation, from the way they took it, though the only thing that ever came to them was disease-- as far as I could see. They beguiled the time by back-biting and intriguing against each other in a foolish kind of way. There was an air of plotting about that station, but nothing came of it, of course. It was as unreal as everything else--as the philanthropic pretence of the whole concern, as their talk, as their government, as their show of work. The only real feeling was a desire to get appointed to a trading-post where ivory was to be had, so that they could earn percentages. They intrigued and slandered and hated each other only on that account-- but as to effectually lifting a little finger--oh, no. By heavens! there is something after all in the world allowing one man to steal a horse while another must not look at a halter. Steal a horse straight out. Very well. He has done it. Perhaps he can ride. But there is a way of looking at a halter that would provoke the most charitable of saints into a kick.

"I had no idea why he wanted to be sociable, but as we chatted in there it suddenly occurred to me the fellow was trying to get at something-- in fact, pumping me. He alluded constantly to Europe, to the people I was supposed to know there--putting leading questions as to my acquaintances in the sepulchral city, and so on. His little eyes glittered like mica discs-- with curiosity--though he tried to keep up a bit of superciliousness. At first I was astonished, but very soon I became awfully curious to see what he would find out from me. I couldn't possibly imagine what I had in me to make it worth his while. It was very pretty to see how he baffled himself, for in truth my body was full only of chills, and my head had nothing in it but that wretched steamboat business. It was evident he took me for a perfectly shameless prevaricator. At last he got angry, and, to conceal a movement of furious annoyance, he yawned. I rose. Then I noticed a small sketch in oils, on a panel, representing a woman, draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch. The background was sombre--almost black. The movement of the woman was stately, and the effect of the torchlight on the face was sinister.

"It arrested me, and he stood by civilly, holding an empty half-pint champagne bottle (medical comforts) with the candle stuck in it. To my question he said Mr. Kurtz had painted this--in this very station more than a year ago--while waiting for means to go to his trading post. Tell me, pray,' said I,who is this Mr. Kurtz?'

"The chief of the Inner Station,' he answered in a short tone, looking away.Much obliged,' I said, laughing. And you are the brickmaker of the Central Station. Every one knows that.' He was silent for a while.He is a prodigy,' he said at last. He is an emissary of pity and science and progress, and devil knows what else. We want,' he began to declaim suddenly,for the guidance of the cause intrusted to us by Europe, so to speak, higher intelligence, wide sympathies, a singleness of purpose.' Who says that?' I asked.Lots of them,' he replied. Some even write that; and so HE comes here, a special being, as you ought to know.'Why ought I to know?' I interrupted, really surprised. He paid no attention. Yes. Today he is chief of the best station, next year he will be assistant-manager, two years more and . . . but I dare-say you know what he will be in two years' time. You are of the new gang--the gang of virtue. The same people who sent him specially also recommended you. Oh, don't say no. I've my own eyes to trust.' Light dawned upon me. My dear aunt's influential acquaintances were producing an unexpected effect upon that young man. I nearly burst into a laugh.Do you read the Company's confidential correspondence?' I asked. He hadn't a word to say. It was great fun. When Mr. Kurtz,' I continued, severely,is General Manager, you won't have the opportunity.'

"He blew the candle out suddenly, and we went outside. The moon had risen. Black figures strolled about listlessly, pouring water on the glow, whence proceeded a sound of hissing; steam ascended in the moonlight, the beaten nigger groaned somewhere. What a row the brute makes!' said the indefatigable man with the moustaches, appearing near us.Serve him right. Transgression--punishment--bang! Pitiless, pitiless. That's the only way. This will prevent all conflagrations for the future. I was just telling the manager . . .' He noticed my companion, and became crestfallen all at once. Not in bed yet,' he said, with a kind of servile heartiness;it's so natural. Ha! Danger--agitation.' He vanished. I went on to the riverside, and the other followed me. I heard a scathing murmur at my ear, Heap of muffs--go to.' The pilgrims could be seen in knots gesticulating, discussing

#44 6 years ago


#45 6 years ago

With all the general grumpiness on Pinside lately I thoroughly enjoyed your (horror) story. Nice to see it had a happy ending, I was seriously getting worried for you. One question, did your adrenaline fueled fright feast overcome the wasp sting allergy? If you had collapsed you might have awoken to some grotesque mouth to mouth rescue effort from one of the resident freaks.

#46 6 years ago

Great story! I think I would have smacked the guy with the pin leg just out of adrenaline and ran. I would have been convinced I was dead unless I killed him first. Lol

#47 6 years ago

Coffinstuffer you write a lot like Hunter S.thompson did.I couldn't stop reading it.

#49 6 years ago

Dude you should make a comic book out of that story.

#50 6 years ago

Holy shit, that was a long story.

At least you got a $860 Next Gen out of it!

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