Youth is Just a Dream
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Michigan 2008, Part 1:

An Ordinary Day

By DrAnnoyingDog

“‘It was a dream,' said John quietly. 'Everybody's youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness.'” ~The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, and Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald


An Ordinary Notebook

The attic was dark and damp. The single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling did little to fix the former. Nothing could fix the latter. Xander didn’t care about the shadows or the cold. The object in his hands held all his attention. It was an old composition notebook. The cover was black, and what was left of the binding was white. Everything about it was unassuming. Ordinary. Except for the name written on the front. “Lizzy Stanford.” Elizabeth Stanford.

Elizabeth is Xander’s mother. Or she was. Three weeks ago she lost control of her car while driving home from work. It slipped of the road into a tree. They wouldn’t let him see her body. Not that he wanted to. He didn’t want to remember his mother as a corpse.

Xander had found the notebook while cleaning out the attic. He and his father were moving away. Away from the memories of her. He was looking through a cardbox box that had belong to his mother. The notebook was mixed in with an old Walkman, a bunch of postcards, and too many calendars. Xander would’ve put it aside without a second thought, if not for the name on the front. No one called her Lizzy, not him, not his father, not even herself.

So why did this ordinary notebook have it written on the front?

The outside of the book kept the answer to itself, so Xander decided to ask the inside. There were several pages ripped out inside. On the first page was what appeared to be a diary entry. The handwriting looked almost familiar, but not quite. Xander began reading.

March 8th
Robby was finally able to find the time to pick up a notebook for me. He’s been super busy trying to get everything together for the ritual on Saturday. Writing should be the perfect way to pass the time until then. I’ll have to find some way to pay him back. I wonder if he’d like some help. I’ll ask him when he gets back from his trip into town.

March 9th
In four days we’ll summon the entity. That looks weird written down I wish I knew what its name is. Does it even have a name? It probably has a name. Everything has a name, right? Possibly? I don’t know. Just in case it doesn’t, I’ll name it Chance. Actually, I don’t think it really matters in the end. It’ll only be here for an hour.

March 12th
Tomorrow’s the day. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. This is the first time we’ve tried summoning anything. I don’t even know if it’ll work or not. I’ll go to the Library later and see if I can find any books on summons. It’d be easier just to ask Robby to look at his books, but he’s still pretty busy. Mel might have some books on summons, I should go ask her.

Xander was confused. Had his mother written this? The handwriting didn’t look like hers, not to mention that it had a nickname she never used on the front. But it was in her box. Even if she had written it all, they still gave him more questions than answers. A lot of the things she had written down didn’t make any sense to him. Xander didn’t know what ‘the entity’ or ‘summons’ were, or who Robby and Mel are. His curiosity begun to subdue the sorrow that had filled him since that day three weeks ago.

Closing the notebook, Xander climbed unsteadily to his feet. The lightbulb flickered as he started towards the stairs. He looked at it in confusion as it continued flickering, before shrugging it off and descending the stairs. Reaching the bottom, Xander walked down the hall to his room, where he sat down at his desk and pulled out his phone. His first instinct was to ask his dad about the notebook, but he was busy at work and probably wouldn’t want to be disturbed.

Looking through his contacts, Xander settled on his friend Jordan. He hit the call button and put the phone up to his ear, waiting for her to pick up. Jordan was his friend, she would listen to him.





“Hey Jordan.”

“Hey Xander! What’s up?” Jordan asked him cheerfully.

“Nothing much. Hey, do you wanna hang out, like tonight?”

“If I didn’t know better I would think you were asking me out.” The cheer was still there.

“You’re funny. No, I just need someone to talk to. Is that okay?” He asked.

“Yeah, it’s no problem. I was bored out of my mind anyway.” Jordan paused. “So where do you wanna hang out?”

“How about Bloom’s Cafe? Over on Wealthy?”

“Yeah, sure! That’ll work. Hey, is it okay if Chris comes too?” She asked.

“Of course. He’s our friend, why wouldn’t it be okay if he comes?” Xander asked, puzzled.

“No reason. I’ll be there in about half an hour, be ready by then or it’ll be me and Chris hanging out!” She said.

“I’ll be ready. —And, thanks Jordan.”

“Like I said, it’s no problem. Bye!”


Xander hung up, putting his phone on the desk next to the notebook. He would have some time before Jordan showed up. Opening the notebook, he continued reading where he left off.

March 14th
Yesterday was a disaster catastrophe mess. The summoning was a failure. It started out fine. Chance actually showed up, but didn’t go straight into the entrapping sphere like it was supposed to. Instead it went straight to Robby and murdered him. The portal imploded without him holding it open and knocked everyone out. When I woke up the entity was gone, and Robby’s body was laying against the far wall. We had to bury him this morning. Everybody was there. Even some people who I didn’t recognize. I’ll miss you Robby.

March 19th
It feels likes someone’s smashing me in the head with a hammer. I hope getting knocked unconscious didn’t knock something loose in my head. I need to go get some more Ibuprofen.

March 21st
Something’s wrong. I don’t remember any of yesterday. According to Mel, I wandered around aimlessly for most of the day. Then I collapsed and she had to drag me back to my room. I’m going to the Library today to see if I can get some help.

Did this “ritual” make his mother go insane? Why would Elizabeth go to a library for help? Xander couldn’t make any sense out of it without the whole picture. He flipped the page. There was a single entry left. The handwriting was nearly illegible.

March 22nd
I went to see Ms. Rurisdottir yesterday and she told me what’s happening to me. Chance didn’t leave after we were all knocked unconscious. It found its way inside my head. I have to stay with her until she can get it out. I probably won’t be able to write anything else. She doesn’t want me to take anything but the clothes on my back. I’ll come back for you notebook. I swear it.

Xander closed the book and leaned back in his chair. Putting his hands on his face, he thought about everything he had just read. He had to figure out what happened. Reading this notebook was like having his mother back, and Xander didn’t want that feeling to end. Not yet.

Standing up, Xander walked over to the window and looked towards the Grand Rapids skyline. The few skyscrapers stood tall among the skyline. He stood at the window for a while, before noticing the old pickup pulling into his driveway. As he was about to look away, a piercing pain rocketed through his skull. Holding his head in his hands, Xander fell to his knees, and waited for it to end. The pain slowly fell away, leaving a dull throbbing in its place. He climbed to his feet, using the windowsill as support.

Grabbing the bottle of Aspirin from next to his bed, Xander took two.

An Ordinary Photograph

Xander hurried down the stairs, stopping briefly to grab his jacket, wallet, and keys. Locking the front door behind him, he walked over to Jordan’s pickup. The old truck had seen better days, and the rust was proof of that. Jordan rolled down her window and yelled over the engine:

"Hop in the back!"

Xander opened the door and climbed into the back seat, sitting in the middle so he could see out the windshield.

"Hey Jordan, hey Chris." Xander said.

"Hey Xander." Jordan still seemed cheerful.

"What's up buddy?" Chris asked him.

"Not much, I've been busy packing." Xander replied.

"Are you okay?" Jordan asked him. She put the truck into reverse, backed out onto the street, shifted into drive, and started towards the main road.

"I dunno. I feel better than I used too." Xander said. He looked out the window.

"That's good." Jordan was silent for a while. "What did you want to talk about?"

"I'll tell you when we get to Bloom's. Okay?" He looked down at the notebook in his hands.

"Sure thing Xander, tell us when you're ready!" She said cheerfully, before pulling out onto the main road.

"-And then it just ends, there's nothing else afterwards." Xander told Jordan and Chris.

They were sitting outside of Bloom's Cafe, a fairly recent addition to central East Grand Rapids. Xander had told Jordan and Chris everything as they sat silently. Jordan was the first to speak.

"Damn. That was a trip Xander. If I didn't have the proof in my hands, I wouldn't believe you." She flipped through the pages of the notebook.

"I wouldn't believe myself either." He replied, rubbing the back of his head.

"I would have believed you." Chris said with raised eyebrows.

"Really?" Xander looked at him in surprise.

"Nope! I'm just buttering you up so you'll buy me another strawberry shake." Chris said with a smirk, sipping the aforementioned strawberry shake.

"So Xander, what do you want to do next?" Jordan asked, scratching her arm.

"Isn't it obvious?" Xander leaned forward. "I want to know where this all went down."

"What?" Asked Jordan and Chris in unison.

"I can't go on with all these questions bouncing around inside my head. I need answers." Xander said quietly.

"Xander-" Jordan looked him in the eye. "-how would we even begin to figure out where this all happened?"

Xander didn't have an answer.

"How about we use this picture?" Chris held up a polaroid and handed it to Xander.

"How the-" Xander began to say.

"Did you guys seriously not look through the whole thing?" Chris sipped his strawberry shake once more. "It was in the back of the book."

Xander looked at the polaroid. It showed a group picture of 7 people standing in front of a towering old house. Looking closer at the people, he saw that one of them was his mother. She was younger, maybe in her early twenties, but it was her. There was no denying it now, the notebook belonged to Elizabeth. Xander flipped it over and saw that there was writing on the back: "The Canine's Claw in front of the Smite house. 6/19/1980 Pinery, Michigan."

"Well that's convenient." Xander said, passing the polaroid to Jordan.

"Where is Pinery though?" Jordan asked, reading the text on the back.

"It's up by Marquette, I think?" Chris said, rubbing his chin.

"That's like a four hour drive." Jordan handed the polaroid back to Chris, who put it in the notebook.

"Guess it'll have to wait until tomorrow." Xander said, defeated.

"We could be there before it gets dark if we leave now." Jordan said, checking her phone.

"You want to do this tonight?" Xander asked her.

"I mean I have nothing going on." Chris shook his shake before putting it on the table. "And my mom is always telling me to get out more."

"Yeah, we want to help you, Xander." Jordan put her hand on his shoulder. "We will always be here if you need help."

"Thanks guys." Xander said, smiling a little.

Chris stood up and threw his empty shake cup away. He then stretched and put his hands on his hips.

"Let's get going, before I decide my bed would be a better choice." Chris said, smiling.

"You'd choose your bed over me?" Xander replied, lightly pushing him.

"Break it up ladies, or I'm leaving both of you behind." Jordan said, pushing both of them towards the truck.

An Ordinary House

Xander spent most of the drive staring out the window at the passing landscape. Jordan and Chris spent most of the drive talking about this and that. Xander barely listened. That feeling of curiosity had died down since he read the notebook. The sorrow crept back in. He started second guessing this whole trip. Was this a good idea? Should I have just stayed in the attic packing? He pushed those intrusive thoughts out of his head and focused on what was outside the window.

He saw a sign on the side of the road. "Mackinaw City Village Limit" He looked out the windshield and was just barely able to make out the support towers of the Mackinac Bridge in the distance.

"Hey Xander?" Jordan looked at him in the rearview mirror.

"Hm?" He responded.

"I'm going to have to stop for gas before we cross the bridge." She said. "Chris is going to go inside and grab some snacks."

"Do you want anything?" Chris asked.

"No, I'm good." Xander continued looking out the window, trying not to second guess their journey across the state.

Jordan pulled the truck into the gas station, stopping next to a pump closer to the store. Chris asked him once more if he wanted anything. Xander replied with no, and both Jordan and Chris headed into the gas station. As soon as they were out of his sight, a weird feeling came over Xander. Almost like someone was watching him. He did a 360 in the back seat, looking all around.

There was no one around.

He sat back in his seat and tried to figure out what the feeling could be. And then a familiar pain raced through his skull. What wasn't familiar were the images that filled his head. A wooden room with the roof caved in. A group of people huddled around a grave. A lone person placing a bouquet of flowers on that same grave. A city separated into two halves by a long wall. A dark figure wearing a wolf mask. And lastly, a burning car on the side of the road.

Xander curled into a ball, clutching his skull. The images stopped filling his head, but the pain only grew stronger. It felt like something was trying to rip his skull open. He opened his mouth in a silent scream. The pain continued to grow, and then it was gone, leaving a familiar throbbing in its place.

"Xander? Are you alright?"

Xander looked up

The rest of the ride was in silence.


Grand Rapids Panorama
Burning Car