The Place Without Recourse (I/I)

Posted on August 17, 2004 by Jenna

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My name is Train Morgan. This is my website. This page is the story of my brother Thomas. I am writing it so that people will know what happened to him.

Sam and Bird like to visit the abandoned facility on Elm Hill. They invited me many times. I only went once. I did not like it.

I told my brother about Sam and Bird. He thought it sounded cool. He went with them to the facility. He had bad timing. He was seen. He attracted someone’s attention. They did not like his presence. Now I have lost him.

The facility on Elm Hill has been abandoned. There is no machinery there now. There are no rats. There is no pain. There are no dancing Popes.

It is 2002.

“I don’t think this is a good idea, ” says Train. He’s a teenager. He’s wearing jeans and a skin-tight shirt. He’s got black hair and a tan.

Bird frowns at him. “It’s the coolest place ever, ” she says. “Just feel the air.”

Bird’s also a teen. She doesn’t look scared, but she is hanging, just a bit more tightly, on Sam’s arm.

“They had big ‘Keep Out’ signs,” Train points out.

Sam tilts his head to one side. “You’ll like it here,” he says.

Train rests his hand on the stained white wall. He looks uncertain. “What do you do here?”

“Commune,” Sam says.

“Listen,” Bird says. “Have you ever thought that there was something … bigger, in the world? Bigger than the ordinary way of being?”

Train listens to the air. Then he shakes his head. “I don’t, Sam. I don’t like it.”

Sam walks forward. With his free hand, he gestures to Train. “Further in,” he says. “It’s okay. I’m not so fond of this part either. But you’ll like Cheryl.”

Train shakes his head. But he lets Sam and Bird lead him deeper in.

He attracted their attention. So they found my brother.

They took him to a room. They asked Thomas, “Why do such terrible things happen in the world?” Thomas could not give them an answer. So they showed him the reason.

I was not there. I was in bed. I woke up screaming. I had lost my brother.

There are pipes on the walls. Sam’s flashlight plays over them as they walk. There’s a mist here, a condensation in the air.

Bird waves her hand through the mist. “This is Cheryl,” she says.

Train frowns. “Why do you call it Cheryl?”

Bird’s eyes are half-lidded. She’s looking upwards with a distant expression on her face. She sways slightly.

“It makes me feel lost,” Bird says. “It makes me feel alone. Like a dead girl might feel.”

Train looks at Sam, a little disturbed.

“Cheryl was her sister’s name,” Sam says. He closes his eyes. He wriggles his shoulders and his hands. “It’s good. Just … relax. Can’t you relax, Train?”

“I guess,” Train says. He closes his eyes.

“I’m not really real,” Bird says. “I’m just someone’s dream. I think that sometimes.”

“You’re real,” Train says.

He was not real any more. He was not a person any more. He was no longer my brother Thomas. He was. He had been. Now he isn’t.

There’s a chill in the air.

Sam says, softly, “The mist makes me think of a place far from here. A place where there is no recourse. It is not a place of the scholar’s books or the ancient memories of man. But it is known. It is seen between the ink and the white on the pages of a newspaper. It flickers on the dead channels of the television. It is something I have read of on the sides of a bus, passing by too fast to truly understand. Wouldn’t you like to have such visions, Train?”

“I wouldn’t,” Train says. “Not if I’d read it in the paper. Not if I’d see it on the television. Not if I’d read it on a bus.”

“There aren’t any people there,” Sam says.

“I wouldn’t like it without people.”

A mosquito lands on Train’s arm. He slaps it, then makes a startled noise. Its body is cold and the stain it leaves is black.

“Come on, Train,” Sam says. “Let yourself feel it.”

“I asked the mist,” Bird says. “I asked Cheryl, ‘Did you dream me?’ But it didn’t answer.”

Slowly, the three walk through the mist.

I saw his fate written on a milk carton’s back. Then I blinked and it was gone. It said:

Ii Ma, the Warden, keeps the place without recourse.

They sent my brother there.

“The place without recourse,” Sam says, “is a deep-walled valley. And each person who goes there is given a question to hold close to their heart. Until they answer it, they cannot leave. And because they can’t answer it, they’re not really people any more.”

They pass a room.

“That’s the Liril room,” Bird says.

Train looks in. Scratched in jagged letters, near the bottom of the wall, is the word LIRIL.

“It’s a palindrome,” Sam says.

“It’s like ‘Croatoan,'” Bird opines. “A mystery, left behind, to explain why the facility closed down. Are you the one who dreamed me, Liril?” she asks the air.

“I’d try to run,” Train says. “If I were in the place without recourse.”

“You could try,” Sam says. “But the valley walls are steep. And when you’d climbed until you could see the outside world, even as you crested the top and looked down at the paradise outside, you’d find yourself waking back in your bed, in the place without recourse. And you’d look at the dawn, and you’d say, ‘how beautiful.'”

There’s a spider on the wall. It’s hideous. Train recoils. Bird rubs its furry back with one long finger. “Did you dream me?” she asks it.

It scurries off into the mist. If anyone there knew the spider language, they might have heard its answer.

“I’d organize a rebellion,” Train says.

“You might,” Sam says. “And when you marched on the guards, you’d find yourself waking back in your bed, in the place without recourse. And you’d look at the dawn, and you’d say, ‘how beautiful.'”

They sent Thomas to the place without recourse. But he did not give up. He went to Ii Ma. The Warden is a squamous and amphibious beast with six great flippered legs and a face that drips black blood. Its eyes are cadaverous and filmed with slime.

“Free me,” Thomas asked Ii Ma. This is courage unparalleled. You cannot understand unless you have seen it. To speak in its presence at all shows courage. To make a petition of it, from a position of powerlessness—I am proud of my brother.

Thomas woke, in his bed, in the place without recourse. And he looked at the dawn. And he said, as he says every morning, ‘How beautiful.’

There’s a coughing sound in the mist. Train looks around.

“Hey,” Train says. He’s uneasy now. “Hey. Shouldn’t we be … communing? With something?”

Bird peers at Train. Her eyes have neither iris nor pupil. He realizes, in that moment, that they never have.

“Did you dream me?” she asks. “You’re a nice boy. I’d like it if you’d dreamed me.”

He shakes his head. “No,” he says, helplessly. “I’m just Train.”

“The air is full of answers,” Sam says.

“I don’t belong here,” Train says.

“It’s all right,” Sam says. They walk on down the empty hall. Finally, Sam points to the left. “You can go out that way,” he says. “We’ll stay for a while.”

“I’m sorry,” Train says.

“You’d like it,” Sam says. “If you tried it. If you just … let go.”

Train walks out.

I left.

Sam let me go. Bird let me go. If Ii Ma did not take them, they are now in twelfth grade. Sam will still be praising the virtues of the place. Bird will still be seeking whomever dreamt her.

Ii Ma did not let me go.

I dream of it. I know that it will come for me. It will ask me a question I cannot answer. It will take me away from the world to the place without recourse. And nothing I do, and nothing I have ever done, will matter again.

Perhaps I will see my brother. It would be kind. There is a great deal more cruelty than kindness in the world. But there is that hope, and so I tell myself:

I think I can endure.