I was exhausted. There was too much here to absorb in a hundred sittings let alone one. Sore eyes begging, I set the books aside after having closed the garage door to head into the house for some much needed sleep. But while closing the second diary, a name caught my attention that stopped me dead in my tracks. The name was very familiar to me. My hands shook rereading the name hoping I had read it wrong. The woman’s name was indeed Rachael. My mother’s name was Rachael.

      The section described a woman and her small child. Apparently, the main character did them no harm, but shadowed them for days, watching her while assessing the baby boy. The baby’s name was Jeff.

      The monster had followed my mother and me for days when I was but three years old! 

       Careful not to be noticed by either, he began by ensuring that the woman and child were who he thought they were.  He followed them to the store, to my grandparent’s house, even to church! The audacity of the man; the monster entered our House of God to watch me inside and to see the reactions of those there to my face.

       It’s been said that anyone who has hiked through a deep mountain forest has been watched by cougars. The experience is described as the unknown terror of having been stalked, contemplated, and even strategized over. Then passed over and allowed to continue, to live, but forever ignorant of the precariousness of life at the moment and forever thereafter.

       Just like that big cat, he waited each night outside our house while we slept. At least that’s what the diary said.

        The contents of the diaries had now suddenly taken on a completely different perspective. The now maybe not-so-long-dead ancestor had changed from historical fiction to first-hand threat.

       He watched me as a child!

       Wait a minute, I told myself, the New York Times had written of his execution and immediate burial on their front page. Their reporters had claimed to have watched him twitch hanging by the rope in final life… and then certified his death.

        This was a lie. 

        Balanced again, I read on, shocked to find him describing me as a small boy. It was almost as if he were reviewing my qualifications for an upcoming event. He mentioned my stance, my strength, my coordination. He even created special situations to allow him to observe my reaction to certain stimuli. The texture of my flesh, muscular makeup and reaction to pain were next. I was three years old for Christ’s sake!

         How close had he come to me and my mother? He answered that next. He touched us both trying to ascertain the level of my temper at mere prodding and poking. He received none, endearing me to him further, and then immediately apologized to my mother for the inconvenience.

        The final page was a debate, actual pro and con, about his estimation of my character; my character to do what?

        He didn’t answer, but I had apparently passed with flying colors. His last comment about me was simply:

        “Yes, the boy will do nicely,” then, “I expect much of him.” The author’s words implied I had little choice in the matter. The words more resembled a father’s after seeing his boy pitch a no-hitter at little league. A dad puffed up with pride and eager to tell the whole world that his boy had accomplished such an amazing feat and that great things awaited him. 

         In the twenty minutes it took me to read these pages much of what had hung unanswered over the forty years of my life began to fall into place. Answers were being generated to too many of the questions my mind had debated over ever since I was a boy; those sometimes shocking things that periodically bumped around late at night in my head. Before the books, I would tell myself, “No, don’t go there, they’re nothing but nightmares. All men have them.” Now I wasn’t so sure. 

        No matter how hard I tried to convince myself that I had nothing to do with any of this, I couldn’t wash away the suddenly personal aspect to this thing. My mind turned somersaults assuming that had I failed his tests, we would have been put down in order to sanctify his line. Holmes never allowed loose ends to exist.

         I went into the bathroom and threw cold water on my face. Looking up, I saw myself for the first time since finding the books. The image brought me up short. Heaven help me, but I had no idea whose white, detached face was staring back at me. My features were more distinct, all edge and angle, more purposeful than I could ever remember them being before. The face in the mirror reminded me of the condemned man’s in a movie.

        Running back to the garage, I slammed the book shut, but right then, as if to signify the coming fight, it happened. The closed book’s cover, flat on the deck, caught again on my shirt sleeve. Jerking my arm free, the snag dragged the book open to a page near the very end. Despite fearing, perhaps even knowing, what I might find, I couldn’t resist reading the page. It was different from the others. Instead of describing his day or an event that had piqued his interest, this one was a note from the author to the one reading the book. While not mentioning me by name, there wasn’t any doubt who it was meant for. The note began by describing what I had felt upon first finding the books, my initial doubts and the small changes that had occurred as I slowly began to find my place within the pages. His descriptions of my feelings were terrifyingly accurate.

         The note further advised the reader to put the books aside and seek help. He actually said to seek help, and to do so without delay. The words warned that it was a matter of life and death.

        Whose death? Mine?

        What was clear was the choice he was giving me– to either continue down the rabbit hole, or seek salvation.

         Ignorant, I turned away from the warning, believing myself stronger than all this. Supernatural things were a figment of man’s ridiculous imagination. There were no such things as spirits, curses, the devil and pure evil. 

         So in the coming days I kept reading, but while doing so, one thought continued playing over and over again in my head— the image of me marching down a long corridor, in the cowardly lion’s footsteps, to see a Wizard.