I did what Mystery suggested. I went out and combed the area for something written, any shred of evidence that my memories weren't completely false and fabricated. I didn't hold out much hope for finding anything. With all the hell that's been going on, I figured this would just be the next thing to worry over. Well, I was right and wrong at the same time.
It took several hours, a lot of subtly asked (I hope) questions and even more walking, but I finally found the old man I was looking for. He's been ancient for as long as I can remember, but his memory is as sharp as ever. He also has a serious obsession with newspapers, events, articles, books... Think of a pack rat and scholar combined then add in a mix of mad scientist, and you have this guy. If anyone knew or had anything about the day of the accident or the day my house burned it would be him.
When I finally found his home, I hesitated. I didn't want to bring him into this. Chances are, if someone is trying to keep me from figuring out the real story, they would follow me and...No. I don't want to think about it. I finally knocked though, because I had to know.
He let me in and offered some coffee, which I gladly accepted. Of course, he didn't recognize me. I wouldn't expect him to even if the world hadn't gone to hell. He was more my father's friend, and I stopped seeing him when I stopped seeing my father. Years and years ago. He's not much of a talker, never was. A very hospitable man, but not a talker, and especially not to strangers. So we got right down to the point. I told him I was looking for a lost friend, that I wanted to get back in touch with him. I asked about myself, and that's when the old man started looking worried and not a little bit afraid.
>>Look, kid, I'd love to help you find your friend. But there's some strange things happened with that boy, and he's gone now, so I can't help you. Best run along.
> What happened to him? Gone?
>>You heard me he's gone. I don't know what happened. But there's an investigation and I'm not to talk about it until the case is cleared up. Go or I'll call the sheriff. Get!
> Wait, wait. Curtis. Talk to me please. You know something and I need to know what it is.
>> How the hell do you know my name? No one knows my name! Who gave it to you? Are you one of them? I already told you, he hasn't come here! I haven't seen Brendan since he was a child and that is that!!!!
He started becoming very agitated. My suspicions were confirmed. Someone had already been here asking and threatening. Shit, shit shit.
>Please. Curtis, it's Brendan. It's me. I know something is going on. Something isn't right. I need your help to find out what is going on.
His eyes opened wide, like something had snapped into place. I hadn't noticed, but they looked slightly foggy before.... >>Brendan? My God boy, it is you! You need to go from here. Why are you here anyway? HE is after you. HE wants you. THEY want you. You have to run.
>I know. I know they want me. But I can't go until I figure out what they're doing to me. I need to know what you know about the accident I was in, or the night my house caught fire. You're my last resort. I'm sorry I came here but I need your help.
>> Well, all right. I'm not sure you want to know, but since you asked, I'll go get the paper. THEY asked for it, you know. I gave them two other copies but I managed to keep one.
He went into his back room and a few minutes later came back with a tattered newspaper that had a different front and back cover glued on. He opened it to the news of record and handed it to me. The look in his eyes said everything, but I read it anyway.
Tuesday, May 03: News of Record
A house fire in the northwest section of [town] has resulted in the death of one of its residents, Brendan August Johnson. The fire is believed to have started in the owner's bedroom on the second floor. Fire crews reached the scene in time to save the southern section of the home, but were unable to save the resident, whose body was found near the window. Electrical surge is suspected, though an investigation is still pending.
>> I'm sorry kid. I know this wasn't what you came here to find. But you have to go now.
>Who is it that came? When did they come?
>> A man came in late yesterday afternoon. He gave me the name Hypnos. Typical proxies, choosing the names of gods.. He was burned in several places and appeared to be wounded in the leg. He demanded that I give him all evidence of your existence. I have known about HIM for many, many years Brendan. I thought that when the proxies came rolling in, that they'd be coming for me. It was shocking to me that they asked for you.
>Holy shit, Curtis..I'm sorry. I'll go now. You should too. They'll come, and they'll know. They'll hurt you.
>>I'll be taking my chances here kid. I've lived here for 72 years. My old body couldn't take running. I'm glad to see you alive kid. Now get.
I'm dead. Dead. Not missing. Not even presumed dead...I'm DEAD. They found a body. Whose body. They killed someone and substituted them for me. The first of the people to die because of me.
'Hypnos' is alive. Hell of a name. Stay the hell away from us, or I'll stab you myself next time.
We're leaving in the morning. I'll carry Eternity if I have to.
Skan, I think I'll take you up on your offer. Tell us how to get to you and get past the Rake, and we'll get there.