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After Dr. Carlson’s failed hypnotherapy attempts and before I went into Dr. McGrath’s inpatient program was when I made the trip back home to visit Pine Bluff Forest. I drove by my parents’ old house where I had grown up. That was a rather melancholic experience. I didn’t stop there; I just slowed down and looked at it as I drove by. Too many emotions were tied up in that place to acknowledge. I had enough negative emotions to deal with by going to the forest.

Why did I do it, then? I really can’t say. It was like an instinctual drive. An urge that needed to be satiated. Like the Murklor, having been named and remembered, was exerting its call again. All of that was an unconscious beckoning.

I think on the conscious level I rationalized it all away. I would go there, attempt to find a cave that probably didn’t even exist, and realize that it was all a fabrication of my deep, dark psyche. A phantom story that played some dark part in my addictions. Just a made-up story that contained symbolism and no substance.

Oh, how wrong I was! I parked and entered the park upon the trail. My feet walked it as if they had just done so yesterday, taking me far into the woods to the point where I needed to leave the path and begin my climb up to the cave. There was no deviation, no hesitation, or no confusion of the route. I didn’t even question this until I began to pick my way through trees, scrub, brambles, and stones. As my progress slowed I asked myself what the hell was happening to me. Why did I know this route so well after so many years?

I must have blacked out. My consciousness hit a zone of bizarre time warping and blurriness. The next thing I can distinctly recall is when I found myself standing outside the cave mouth and hearing the Murklor chitter, moan, and then move. That’s when I ran like a tortured animal escaping its prey.

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From the design journal of artist and sculptor Kennedy Fox. The piece is titled “Jeux”. It depicts two ciphers, one in cards upon a chessboard and the other in dice. The piece was to be made of wood, actual playing cards inlaid in the board, and actual dice arranged upon an adjacent frame.

The music starts with the bass guitar playing a D note in octaves. Then the organ enters softly. The drums and guitar are so soft as to barely be heard. Richard noodles around with the Phrygian mode on the organ while Roger occasionally inserts strange sound effects from his mouth that are reminiscent of some primal, haunting animal.

June 15th, 1975. Two boys have been reported missing in the Pine Bluff Forest National Park. The two boys, Eric Thompson, age 12, and Nathan Williams, age 12, were last seen Thursday, June 12th, after leaving their nearby houses around noon.

As the guitars become more prominent, David begins to accompany several notes with his voice adding to the growing mood of anxiety and surrealism. Roger continues to make breathing and crying noises interspersed with whispers of the title’s warning phrase.

A third boy who was with the two missing youths in the forest has said that they became separated while playing in the state park after lunch. Local police and park rangers have made several searches with no results thus far.

Suddenly, Nick’s drums erupt into rolls that usher in the wild screams of Roger and then the piece charges into a franticly haunting, psychedelic groove.

Authorities and volunteers of local residents are putting together a larger search that will canvas the entire park. This search will take place tomorrow, Monday, June 16th, at 10:00 a.m. Anyone interested should contact the Cumberland County Volunteer Hotline at 1-800-855-3220.

“Did you ever take anyone else to see the cave where the Murklor lived?”

That one simple sentence was like opening a floodgate. Dr. McGrath posed it and then just sat back and waited while I reeled from the bombardment of childhood memories that swarmed through my brain.

We waited till after lunch to meet up at the edge of the woods on the trail. Our parents wouldn’t expect us home until dinner time so that gave us a good five hours to make it to the cave and back. I was the one who discovered the cave; Eric and Nate hadn’t been there yet. I had actually been to the cave several times. I didn’t tell them about the Murklor. The Murklor had told me that he wanted to introduce himself in his own way. Left to his own devices, Eric would have never gone for this excursion. The only reason he was going was because Nate and I had insisted. He had voiced all manner of reservations and reasons why it was a bad idea, but, in the end, we drug him along. Nate, on the other hand, was all in. He was the most rebellious one of us and when I had brought it up, he was ready to leave immediately. I was the one who had to convince him that we should wait till after lunch so that our parents wouldn’t get suspicious.

Eric, always the thinker, had brought a backpack with a bottle of water and some snacks. He acted as if we were going on a two-day journey. The only thing Nate brought was a small radio. He was the music lover of the group and liked to have his rock ‘n roll wherever he went. I brought a hatchet and a flashlight. The two looked at the hatchet questioningly as I met them at the trail head. “The cave isn’t on any trail,” I explained. “The woods get pretty thick leading to it and we’ll need to clear a path.”

“Then how did you find it?” Eric asked.

“I was lost. I was trying to get up the rocks to get a better view of the park so I could find the trail again when I stumbled across it,” I lied, but it sounded good enough to keep them from prying further.

“Well, then, let’s get going,” Nate said turning on his radio.

We walked and talked and joked and sang and the afternoon was warm and pleasant. When we got to the place where we left the trail I deliberately took a path I hadn’t taken before so I could keep up the ruse of using the hatchet to clear limbs from our path. As we got close to the cave there was a change in the atmosphere. Suddenly the aura became somber. A shadow passed over the forest and things felt chillier and the trees pressed upon us more. The strains of Pink Floyd’s Careful with that Axe Eugene filled the air giving the scene a surreal vibe.

We stood before the cave opening and the Murklor hissed. I sensed Eric’s unease but Nate kept up a show of bravado. The Murklor stirred its appendages and a sticky, slithering sound escaped the darkness. I think Eric would have run at that point but I stood behind him urging him forward. Banded together, our fears were harder to act upon. It’s odd how the company of others will do that. Our trio edged into the cave mouth with the flashlight thrust before us like a mighty sword. The Murklor was not the least bit intimidated by us. If anything, he found us amusing.

A low, rumbling chuckle flowed down the passageway as the Murklor came to greet its new guests.

It was obvious that Dr. Lisa Carlson was in over her head. I was next referred to Dr. Seamus McGrath. He wanted me to go into an inpatient program that he would oversee. Great, another 21-day program that yields nothing but frustration. Let me tell you how these things go. The staff is so busy that they have no time to talk to you one-on-one. They medicate you to calm you down and you’re basically just a walking zombie whose moods have been so chemically neutralized that you don’t really care that you’re being shunned by the staff. They put you in the company of other people you find just as equally medicated but find just as irritating as the overburdened staff. You’re expected to participate in group sessions where you have no good reason to talk about yourself with complete strangers and when you are forced to answer a question you feel isolated and unfairly exposed. You don’t really care what others are going through because you don’t know them and you’re dealing with your own crap. In the end, you just tell the staff what they want to hear so you can get the hell out of the program. But Dr. McGrath was different.

He actually spent time with me one-on-one. He asked the right sorts of questions. He actually listened to my responses. He was keen. He was good at what he did. He approached my case as if he were trying to solve a great mystery. He knew the methods and tools to access the deepest reaches of the mind without having to use hypnosis or other crude trickery. Where Dr. Carlson was doing psychotherapy with a mallet, Dr. McGrath was doing it with a laser scalpel.

Which is to say that he managed to gain access into the lair of the Murklor. It was a place he had not bargained for. It most certainly was a place I never wanted to return to. I had repressed it from all of my conscious memory. What he uncovered there was twisted, dark, and disturbing. Things that he never expected to encounter. Things that would haunt his dreams as well. The Murklor would do its damage on his psyche as well before things were done. In essence, Dr. McGrath was in over his head too. But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?

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Form the design journal of artist and sculptor Kennedy Fox. The piece is called “Labyrinth”. It was to be made on a metal table with the Braille cipher encircling a wooden ball that would reside inside of the labyrinth.

Dr. Carlson: “Ken, I want you to close your eyes and relax. Turn loose now, relax. Let a good, pleasant feeling flow all across your body. Let every muscle and every nerve grow loose and limp. You feel warm and soft like melting chocolate. Beginning from your head, your face, your neck; every muscle is relaxing. Continue down your body, your arms, chest, and back are sinking into the couch. Your legs and feet are going limp. All your weight is being supported by the couch because all of your muscles are completely relaxed.

“Now just concentrate on the flow of your breathing. The rhythm of each inhalation and exhalation is deep and relaxing. Let your mind slip into the stream of the rhythm of your breathing. Droopy, drowsy, and sleepy. Calm, relaxed, and peaceful. Whatever happens you will not be harmed. You’re in a calm, safe place and your emotions are at peace. You’re detached from anything that happens like a disembodied spirit watching with no fear of being touched or harmed.”

~Later~

Dr. Carlson: “Ken, when you were younger, was there somewhere close to where you lived that had woods and a cave?”

Ken: “Yes, we lived close to a state park. There were lots of woods that all the neighborhood kids played in. And there were lots of hills and rock formations. The deeper into the park you went, the more mountainous the woods became. I wasn’t allowed to go too far into the forest, but I did it anyway. That’s how I discovered the cave. It was a scary place and I don’t want to talk about it.”

Dr. Carlson: “You don’t have to talk about it, but I think it will help. You’re in a safe place and there is nothing in the woods or the cave that can hurt you now. Was there someone in the cave that hurt you?”

Ken: “Yes. The Murklor. But I don’t like talking about him.”

Dr. Carlson: “And who or what was the Murklor?”

Ken: “He’s the darkness. The mouth of madness. He’s the personification of the abyss. The voice in your head that poisons your soul. He’s the one who wraps his long, thin tentacles around your body and makes you create. He’s the demon muse that drives you to the heights of artistic beauty and then demands that you repay him with blood and misery. He’s the conductor. He’s some strange entity that came down from the oceans of oblivion to lurk and wait for the moment to infect like a malignant tumor that will spread over the minds of its hosts. He’s the morphing, changing face of evil that is always nearby. He’s the creature in the labyrinth who is just around the corner while you run frantically like a mad rat. He’s insanity incarnate! He’s the face of hell – “

Dr. Carlson: “Mr. Fox! Calm down, Mr. Fox! It’s alright.”

Ken: “He’s manipulation and malicious misery! He’s the creature under the bed, the troll under the bridge, the spider in the web – “

Dr. Calrson: “Mr. Fox! Wake up, Mr. Fox! You are awake!”

Ken: “He’s the voice in the killer’s head! He’s . . . He’s . . . Of, God! Where am I? What is this place?”

Dr. Carlson: “It’s alright, Ken. You’re in my office and everything is alright.”

Ken: “I’m alright?”

Dr. Carlson: “Yes, Ken. Everything is alright. You were re-experiencing a bad memory. But it’s just a memory.”

Ken: (laughing crazily) “Oh, Lisa, don’t you see? He is real.”

The Nightmares are to be mentioned now. It is their turn to take the stage in this tragedy. The play would not be complete without their little number. And what a motley cast of performers they are, too. You’d think their costumes would be dark grays and blacks, but, no, they are actually an eclectic play of houndstooth, paisley, Jacobean, argyle, plaid, and herringbone, just to name a few. The Nightmares, with their skeletal faces, do bring things that are dark and gray and black and rotten and then the performance turns from burlesque to horror in no time flat.

The cave is a recurring motif, for sure. I mean, it wouldn’t be the Murklor’s handiwork if the cave weren’t a prominent feature of the plotless plot that is a bad dream. Most times I’m outside of it gazing at its limitless darkness. Other times, I’m just inside the mouth struggling to make my eyes adjust to something that is felt but not seen. And on a couple of occasions, I’ve been a feature of the wall – like a fly wrapped in a spider’s sticky web.

The groping appendage is a favorite of the Murklor, too. Most times, it’s a sickly, wet tentacle. Sometimes it’s an insect-like feeler with stiff hairs and pointy, bifurcated claws. It could be dead tree limbs, knotty roots, or thorny brambles. One time it was curling, elegant wisps or fog. The effect is usually the same, though.

Finally, there’s the voice. Not really a recognizable voice, but a sound of something inhuman, alien, and foreign. More of a sound that shouldn’t be. A language of madness. The communications of something so strange to the human idea of language that one is left feeling insignificant and frail before it. The best way I can describe it is what a human voice sounds like to an ant as the human crouches over the ant and narrates the act of squashing it.

I never see the end of their performance. I never get the plot, just the story arc. I never get a coherent whole. Just flashes, snippets, images, and vague feelings. I wake violently and then proceed to sit struggling with the demons of addiction. For it is at those times that I could use a good drink or a calming drug the most.

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From the design journal of artist and sculptor Kennedy Fox. The piece is called “Chronos” and depicts a clock with alchemical-like symbols. The cipher at the bottom is a mystery to be solved. It should also be noted that the built clock was to have the bizarre property of only chiming at the exact time of 2:20.

 

Murklor. The word crept around the corners of my brain for days since the first session. A gnawing, ever-present word that transformed and changed. Knowing the name had unlocked something deep within me. It had set things in motion. It inspired, bewildered, and left me feeling nauseous and mentally drained. It alluded to too many unpleasant ideas. It twisted the chains of thought back upon themselves and turned them into dirty, filthy non-sense. It “told” me strange things in many strange ways – like why is the root of terrible and terrific the same but one means fearful and the other means exhilarated? Terror lives even in the good times. It was deep and full like sub-bass groans that resonated in your chest cavity. It was flitting and sneaky like insects within shadows. It was mocking and irreverent like buffoons or jesters. It was downright evil like a serial killer with a high IQ. It was tall and grim like the undertaker of a dark, Western town. It was all that is wrong with the edges of a sinister world. Grimy, shadowy words latched onto the word Murklor leaving slime trails throughout my brain. I knew that there was a struggle brewing. A dark storm building in my life. But somewhere deep down in the bowels of the tempest resided a grotesque and misshapen mollusk with a pearl within it. And as I pried my way into that glimmer of light in the oceanic depths, the name hummed and thrummed like a chant of the Black Mass. Designed to instill fear, it was atomically just a word. Just a name. And I clutched onto that pearl of knowledge because my only true hope to escape the leviathan was to believe that by knowing the true name of something, is to possess the key to its power. Little did I know at that time that the Murklor knew my true name much more intimately and thoroughly than I could ever know its true name. In short, I was a damned, doomed fool.

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