CJ Bernstein

CJ Bernstein

The Secret Society – Buzzed

So, I assume it goes without saying that I’ve worn my Herman pin every day since this all started. But Catherine found the last Woolie “clue” I haven’t felt the pull since I broke into what I assume was the Ackerly Green Bookshop where our “A.G” worked.

No pull until yesterday morning. I made the 10-block walk to my barber, and since I’d done it so many times, I wasn’t really paying attention. I passed a brick apartment building that had one of those old call boxes on the outside by the door. The kind with handwritten last names, apartment numbers, and a key pad to ring whoever you’re looking for? The kind that gives off that really grating BUZZZZZZZZ when the person you called unlocks the door? Is that only NYC?

Anyway, I passed the building, heard the BUZZ, which is pretty much background noise in the city, but I happened to look anyway, and there was no one trying to buzz in, butI honestly didn’t pay any attention to it. Until I was walking back post haircut (and beard trim.)

And I heard the door buzz again, with the telltale CLICK of the old metal door electronically unlocking. And the creepiest part: When the door buzzed and unlocked, an automated voice on the old crunchy speaker said “You’ve been granted entry. Please enter.”

As you know, I have literally broken the hinges off a cellar door in the middle of Manhattan in recent months, so walking into an apartment building where I don’t technically belong is basically child’s play.

I didn’t break into anyone’s apartment, let me get that out of the way (though I wasn’t 100% opposed to it.) But I did find myself drawn to the window at the end of the third-floor hallway. It looked down on an old courtyard that had probably been forgotten as buildings went up around it over the past hundred years. The hall was cold, but the space around the window was cozy, warmed by the old hissing radiator underneath it.

I was about to head downstairs and try to find a way into the overgrown courtyard, but I “felt” like I wasn’t ready to leave the window. So I started looking over the entire area, sure I was being drawn to it. Eventually, I found a little piece of card stock that had been folded up a few times and wedged between the two parts of the sliding window. It took a couple minutes but I managed to pull it out, and the window started rattling from the wind outside (I guess that’s why someone put the card there in the first place, who knows when…)

The card had a phone number. And the only reason I’m not sharing it yet, is because A) I already called several times, no one answered, and it went to voicemail with no message, where I left a non-casual message about hoping to get a call back, and B) I don’t want to spam whoever this is. Not yet anyway.

I was halfway home before I thought to check my phone, and sure enough, I’d gotten a notification from the app. It read “A light that both blinded me and made me whole.”

I’ve been waiting at the office ever since. Like, sleeping bag waiting. I’ll admit, I haven’t heard a peep from Woolie or the other Ackerly Green in months. I even kept paying for the old office on the other end of the floor because I was worried we’d messed something up by moving. But no sounds there either. 

I hope we aren’t too late.

Notable Replies

  1. He finally woke me up last night.

    I was camping in the office, and Woolie showed up around midnight, about an hour after I scared the hell out of the cleaning people.

    He was in terrible shape, flickering and faded. Distraught.
    What follows is what I pieced together from what I could hear and understand.

    “The light that drew me here is almost gone, and I feel myself breaking apart, turning to ash like embers on the wind. I was something real, but now I am vanishing. Held together with a light that wanes by the moment.

    I knock and knock to try and get back to what I lost. Who I left behind. But my hands pass through the doors like mist. I can’t return to her.

    Molly. My own Molly. The first of my guild who welcomed me. The girl who lived across the world, who I never would’ve laid eyes on had I not found Neithernor. The warmth of her hands. The light in her eyes. A light that both blinded me and made me whole. I never deserved her, but I feel as if I have somehow betrayed her, though I don’t know how, not by following through the open door, to the light of this place. No, it was before we were all made of mist. I broke her heart. The pieces here, still in my hands, but I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know much of anything anymore. All the warmth is fading from your world. Perhaps I belong here, having wronged the ones I love, though how escapes my mind.

    I will end here, in ash, undeserving of a way back home to her, and unknowing why.”

    Then he knelt in the corner of the office and wept in silence. It was heartbreaking.

    I sat beside him. I couldn’t touch him to console him, and he either couldn’t hear me or didn’t want to. I don’t know when, but I fell asleep there with him, and it wasn’t until the sun rose that I noticed he was gone and fragments of phrases had appeared on the walls. Written in what I think is ash.

    After a couple hours of toying with them, Catherine and I think this is the order they go:

    As the hunter’s moon ascends, find a feast for all the senses
    Seek a long-abandoned sun that’s now rotting behind fences
    Find a monument to travel and a way to let in light
    And a view upon a hilltop that once was used for flight
    Feel the wind over the water, where bodies lie below
    Then find the lonely, wayward stone where prairie grasses grow.

  2. Sooo… Hi! Super big fan. It’s so very weird to be talking to you all. You obviously don’t know who I am, but Mr. Rank sent you a transcript of a forum conversation I was having with some friends from the Low, almost a year ago?

    [The Fan Club - Marty Rank]

  3. OMG, 5 is asking me my guild!!! Hang on… I’ll join my guild group, I didn’t want to presume until you all met me.

  4. If you haven’t been following what’s going on here, go check it out.

    But, so, okay, remember the phone number I found in the apartment hall? I know what it’s for now.

    I mentioned I’d left a message the day I found it. I may have left a few more, and I just got a call back. The number was an old reservation line for tours with the New York Transit Museum. They’d put my name on a waitlist when I left the first message and were calling to tell me there’d had been a cancellation for the tour this Saturday and if I wanted it the spot it was mine.

    It’s a private, nearly-impossible-to-book tour of the actual City Hall Subway Station.

    I have been obsessed with New York’s history since I was a kid, and have dreamed about City Hall Station, this beautiful gem hidden underground for nearly a century. I dreamed about it long before we learned about Brandon Lachmann and his escape there.

    I have no idea why I’m being pulled there, but I’m going.

  5. Yes!!! That’s so cool! Keep us updated (I say as if that hadnt occurred to you)

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