Copyright David A. Kearns
2:39 a.m. June 30, 2011, Florence, South Carolina – Ryan used to tell me there was a bullet out there for each and every one of us, looming in the statistical ether. And it’s like I can hear him now expounding on it in that frazzled way of his, with the staccato laughter; when he was off his meds and really jazzed about something.
“It’s a mathematical fact, Tim. No shit. Think about it. I mean, why? What is that?”
He was an engineer of course, so he loved his math. You could write a formula to express it and he’s right; that bullet is out there, waiting to do its dirty work on you, me, everybody. Let the quantum mechanics run long enough and everyone who does not exit this world in another way, should meet up with it eventually.
Well, Ryan found his. Now he’s dead, at forty-three.
So, you get the word, and you deal with it. Isn’t that what best friends are for? Yeah. They say he took a thirty-eight caliber standard Smith and Wesson, and fired it into the back of his own head. The back, mind you, not the front. But see, he’s a smart guy, well read and so forth. He would have known that at the base of the skull, it’s an instantaneous deal. They say he had been depressed and drinking a lot, lately. Well, I can only imagine given the date with July nearly on us.
They say there were no powder burns on the hands. But you know how it is; that’s just detail for cable shows anyway, and not everyone has them. And the fact he died on the beach, why, any old somebody could have come along, someone with a dog perhaps who had licked those hands clean. And of course, the police didn’t bag the hands, because they don’t do that anyway in these cases …or so they say.
Sometimes I get sick and damn tired of those they and all the bullshit they say. I know Ryan was.
He was watching his own son Kyle, come into that very tender age of thirteen. And in all likelihood Ryan Cogswell was no closer to making sense of what happened to us in our thirteenth year, than he had been in 1981. It is no wonder he started to lose it this summer, thirty years later, because he had every reason to suspect whatever this thing was that he experienced, it would be passed down to his own children; that being the operative method - that being precisely what had happened to Ryan - in this strange, hereditary nightmare. And in a way, society began covering up for the phenomenon, sweeping it all under the rug, despite the alarming rapidity with which is happening again.
Ryan predicted this of course. He said with population explosion and the advances in technology, if the sort of thing that happened to us were repeated today, it would be worldwide news instantly without a countermeasure to suppress it. It stood to reason more of it would go on happening, so what is that countermeasure from their perspective?
“Take your pick, Tim. Take your pick.”
Your freaks, meth heads, zombies ate up with pederast tendencies; have you noticed these seem to abound lately? Yeah, they say that’s just normal, kids disappearing, and when they are found, they look like mutilated cattle yeah…been happening for ages, they say. You know, it’s only now with instantaneous media we hear about it, no big deal.
….or so they would have it.
Ryan was on about this too, how parents can’t take their eyes off their kids anymore during summer. That fits in with the plan.
Nine times out of ten, the children are either locked inside playing video games or shuffled off to activity camp where they never get a moment’s peace. If we do let them out of our sight for that rare second, we tether them with electronic tagging devices that may or may not be giving them brain cancer, may or may not be rendering them sterile; devices that may or may not be telling these beings precisely where to find our spawn. But the choices we face now are unbelievable when stacked against those of our sweet, bygone age. And it all fits too perfectly doesn’t it; the devices, and the needs of these things, whoever they are?
This was what Ryan had already figured out; the way they work, operate and so forth; fitting everything together into a nice plausible story, a story that makes you seem crazy when you wake up and realize what’s really going on. It’s the old adage; drop the frog in pan of boiling hot water, youch! Out he comes. But, set that frog in pan of warmish water, and turn up the heat ssssslowly, he hardly notices a thing until his flesh and brains are boiling in it. Yeah, that’s us; the collective frog.
Ryan was really pissed off about that; supremely so, as if he could stop it, or do something about it. It came down to the natural order of things that had been shifted, and stolen from us.
Is Ryan crazy? People who have had similar experiences are always labeled as paranoid, was he? Or was he onto something?
The summer we had that year, that gorgeous summer of 1981, should have been a gift we gave to our own kids and so on, and so on, but the world evolved down a darkened path, and what does that tell you? And we all know that Ryan is now dead; we all know he was at the heart of this thing, whatever it was, and what does that tell you? And maybe, he felt cheated too. Maybe more cheated than any of us.
In some ways this was bound to happen to a surfer, but on the other hand, maybe it had been a mistake for them to pick on a group of them. Surfers are tribal; we don’t forget what you do to one of ours, and Ryan knew this.
Surfers watch the sky, and they can tell when something looks out of place, like a cloud in the shape of a perfect isosceles triangle; a stubborn one that doesn’t want to move along with the rest of the bunch. He hated it when they did that. It was like they were daring him to notice and say something. He considered these little intrusions of theirs as insult to injury after 1981; as though they were egging him into slow insanity through his teens, and early twenties. I was always there with him in our younger days surfing. I had been through what he had, so I could listen to him bitch about it, and – at least during those days of our youth growing up in Melbourne Beach – I didn’t think his ideas were half-baked. I know I tried to dissuade him from the rampant paranoia The Big Lie engenders in later life, and by doing so, I had offended him lately. I hope not too badly. I hope now, as I prepare to head south for his funeral, his last act wasn’t for my benefit.
It is with a view toward fully remembering what exactly happened to us in 1981, I begin to write this, because at the very least Ryan would want me to. I am the only one who deeply understood him, and if there was a message in his last act, I mean to find it.