TALES FROM HAWTHORNE: AN ANTHOLOGY

“Tales From Hawthorne: An Anthology” is a collection of five short stories all taken place in Hawthorne, a fictional town located in Scotland. Each story is individual, and specifically set in a different place in Hawthorne and at a different point of time, surrounding from 1970s to 2010s, with different storylines and characters.

By WRITER team - SPECIALIST

HAWTHORNE /haw-thawrn/: A small town located in the Northeast of Scotland. It situates near the city of Aberdeen to the north, and borders the North Sea of the Atlantic Ocean. Its population is approximately 20000.

(HAWTHORNE’S GEOGRAPHICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA, BOOK I)

 

Hawthorne, Scotland

Sunday, 1979

It was a lengthy path, separated from the outside world.

North is the entrance, South is the exit.

He was supposed to head North, back to home.

He was occupying himself in the car, waiting to turn the key.

She was expected to join him, and she was nowhere to be seen.

Alone in the tunnel, he befriended with darkness.

They were gossiping his name and his crimes. Them entities.

What came next was within his foresight.

And it began from the South. Them entities. And their whispers.

Clawing his flesh, choking his throat, in a tardy fashion.

The deep tunnel was devouring the man.

And left behind a fearful memento.

                     …

It was 3 a.m and the sun was still sinking in an ocean of dreams.

August’s clothes were awfully moist, so was his tanned skin. He put his curly brown hair into both his palms, trying to swallow the terrifying nightmare. His tongue moved between the lips, murmuring the number of times he got haunted by the very dream of terror. When calmness returned to fill the gap in his mind, it was when he had the strength to leave his bed and headed to the living room. Before letting the weight of his warm body drop on the tender surface of the sofa, he came to the stereo player which was placed near the TV shelf. He grabbed a 

mixtape from one of the drawers, and scratched the dust away from the reel using his thumb.

Put the tape into the slot, then he closed the lid and pushed the green triangle button…

His cigarette was lit, and he settled down on the sofa…

Drownin’, in the sea of love…

She loved to hear the song every day, every night. Maybe she and August actually had a true connection, or maybe it was just a lucky coincidence. He still had her stereo player going good, and the sound was just as pure as yesterday, spreading its vibration around the lonely living room…

Where everyone would love to drown…

It was harsh to listen and kind of uneasy to let it pass away. Human beings tend to hold on, linger the past as a memoir, a type of preservation. To move two steps forwards, it requires one step backwards; to shape the future, there must be a practical use of history… that’s what she told him, and he knew that she was right.

“♪ But now it’s gone, it doesn’t matter what for…♪ ”
What happens in the past stays as a ghost, drifting in a fixed point of history. It’s true that we should be heading to what lies in front of our life, not just freezing our feet at one particular destination. There are places to visit, jobs to finish, lists to fulfill. That’s what he’d been doing for years and years, and he never stopped doing it. Certainly, he wanted to move forward, but move forward to what?

“♪ So when you build your house, then call me home…♪ ”
Home, it once belonged to him. Home, not anymore. It becameone with history, and history is what the past stands for. Maybe Stevie was right, it doesn’t matter what for, because 

it’s gone, out of his reach forever. Four years, four straight years, and that glimmer of hope in his heart was fading out continuously along with time.

He approached the operating stereo, pushed the red STOP button and exhaled heavily.
“1460 days, over a thousand times of horror.
1460 dreams. 1460 horrors.
I never lose count. How can I?”

Sunday morning, when everyone had a day off to go fishing or hunting, he chose to resume his job as any other days of the week. Although his retirement was two years ago, his skills were somewhat intact enough to help him open a private investigator office right on Main Street. Day in day out, he wore the same dark blue jacket, his casual brown button-down shirt and grey pants. He never forgot to bring along his black leather briefcase which the Department gave him as a farewell gift before his badge and gun were returned to them. After having his bacon and eggs breakfast, he walked out of the door, picked up the daily newspaper lying on the doorsteps, and checked his moldy red mailbox in the hope of new news. In most cases, apart from some brochures and crappy invitation letters, it remained 

desperately blank, and that Sunday was almost no difference if it hadn’t been for the letter from his old cousin Dale, stating his unexpected diagnosis of cancer and its final stage. Perhaps after today’s work, August would pay the man a visit, and he was determined to do so, because it was family that stayed on top of his priority.

Getting into his 1969 Ford Thunderbird, he adjusted the radio statics to let some broadcast channels in but failed, then powered on the engine. As he steered the wheel to make his way to the office, he gazed at a row of semi-detached houses on his left through the front view, and noticed the children were following their parents to the church nearby. August used to come there and pray every Sunday morning, but since the incident happened, he had gradually lost his faith in God and at last, he dropped out of the habit as he considered it was pointless and utterly nonsense.

God listens to your begging, and he decided to keep his mouth silent and not give a damn.

As he made a turn at the crossroad, August figured out old Paul’s Diner had been closed and     Mr. Paul himself was loading his stuffs into a truck parking on the pavement. Once upon a time, August used to be a loyal customer of the diner, and usually took a seat in the far corner where he and some his friends would be sitting underneath a large oil painting. Unfortunately, the last few months had been an excessive downfall for Paul and his wife: Christine. Christine was seriously ill because of the flu, and Paul tried to make some more money for her expensive treatment in Glasgow, and debts stuck to the poor man every second until he declared bankruptcy. Such a tragedy for his family and the four-generation business.

At least, Christine was well and back to his life again. What can be more precious than that?

One last turn and he should reach his workplace. Before that, he made a quick stop at the bulletin board in front of the Town Hall – a cream-painted building which shows a row of six colossal rocky columns elevating the roof on the front and five entrances symmetrically sneaking behind, on top of the concrete triangle roof comes a flying flag of Hawthorne’s symbol: a waterfall. He swiftly left his front seat, opened the briefcase to pick out some freshly printed posters and headed toward the broad. There, he stood still for a minute, scrutinizing all the headlines on the cork surface:

HAWTHORNE’S NEW MAYOR ELECTED AFTER EVAN CAIRSTINE

LACHLAN FOREST TO BE PRESERVED BY THE GOVERNMENT

THE ROAD TUNNEL UNDER RECONSTRUCTION

HAWTHORNE’S POLICE DEPARTMENT CONTINUES THE HUNT FOR “THE UNSEEN WITCH

He glanced around the board, and his eyes hadn’t caught the item he wanted to see from these posts. It took him a while to find out that there was a hidden sticky poster behind the Police’s post, and when he took off the annoying post, he was finally able to see it, the picture and the following lines:

MISSING

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL?

PLEASE CONTACT THIS NUMBER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU HAVE

How long has it been there? He wondered. One, two, three, four years. He counted. He couldn’t afford to lose count, because it was significant to remember. He then got rid of other post papers to reveal his forgotten posters. They all looked ancient, dirty, yellowed and crumbling. The printed ink was disappearing and the image was barely visible as its colors were dying out. He felt powerless and yet his lungs breathed as if it was a normal thing to do, to witness his work being ignored by the very people of this town. Nonetheless, he flattened the new posters and began sticking them up on the board, eventually overlaying the town news. As always, he managed to do the job gently and carefully, until there was a trembling voice behind his back, apparently calling for his name:

“Excuse me, August, hey, August Sylvester! What are ye doin’ there lad!?”

As August turned around, he noticed the thick, black and silver beard of the grumpy sheriff whose grumpy face and blue eyes were hard to miss. At this time of day, the sheriff must carry out his duty to drag around and inspect anything going on in this town. August, back in his police officer days, under the previous sheriff’s command, had to travel from the southeast radio tower to the northwest one in order to complete the dull task. It was when he learned to accept every single thing even though it was not within his job description or his ranking, and he then learned how to quit and left those days behind as soon as he realized his ineffectiveness in the end.

“Nice day isn’t it, Joe?”- He answered the man tonelessly.

“Naw, August, it never is. But ye can help make it better if ye just stop doin’ that. Why are ye so determined to  keep  doin’ the same thing after such long time?”     

“I told you, Joe, none of your business.”

“Ay, in fact, it is. I’m gonna level with ye, August. If ye don’t cease it, then I’ll be forced to do the laws on ye.”

“We both know you won’t, Joe. You won’t.”

Old Joe never underestimated the ongoing crisis that August had to confront and the relentless efforts August had put on those rigid posters. He knew at one point he had to obey the mayor’s complaint over the bulletin board being converted into a “personal grief display”. However, that would be cruel for the retired officer to witness his work thrown away into the garbage bin. So he neglected the man, let him do what he should or he thinks he should. God bless the man, he whispered. And, without a reply, Joe sped up, leaving the area.

August put his focus on the board again, this time, he put four posters in four corners of the cork surface, then he shoved the rest into his inner jacket pocket and walked away in silence, eyes staring at the dusty pavement. He got back to the car and sat still for one or two minutes before he directed the vehicle to his office entrance. On his way, the radio kept crackling endlessly.

He turned the doorknob tightly to let himself in. The room was a mixture of a pile of ancient documents and a bunch of Polaroid photographs lying on his desk. He made his way to the rack and put his jacket there, then paced to the dresser and put the remaining posters into the first drawer. He proceeded to the shabby swivel chair, and rested on it. His brown eyes glared at the ceiling, to the point of beyond vastness.

“What is troubling you, my dear August?”

“Nothing. I am okay, sweetheart.”

“You’re a bad liar, don’t you know that?”

“Well, you got me again, sweetie. You always got me.” – He chuckled tenderly.

“Then tell me, I can’t help you if you hide from me. Tell me, August.”

He shut his eyes firmly to end the conversation as he was in no mood to talk about anything. He took a glance at the files on the desk, going over the names of clients and their specific request: cheating, possible fight, secret plans… He pulled out the Polaroid camera from underneath the desk, readied the film tray and cleaned thoroughly the lens. August searched through the mess to pick out a photograph depicting a couple were making out behind an unfinished billboard panel, which he snapped yesterday afternoon, and inserted it into an envelope with name and destination address already written on. The last thing it needed was a stamp. So he left his seat, and moved to the double-sided board standing inches away from the rack. The surface was without writings or notes. It wasn’t this side that he came for the stamp, but the other.

He flipped the board.

On this side, there were hundreds of pinched papers of investigation reports, images of different areas of the town, posters of a teenage girl, and they were all connected together by a single red thread line, creating a big circular perimeter. His eyes rolled slowly around the perimeter and averted to avoid the center. In the center, surrounded by these items, hung a large framed portrait. And above the portrait, lied a row of various stamps dating from 50s to 70s, he grabbed the one painted in red and yellow in the middle.

His heart started to pound, his pulse was racing steadily. He tried to avert his sight, but ended up being unwillingly attached to the framed black and white photo.

“Darling, relax. You’re hurting yourself.”

He looked down on his palm which was clenching so hard that he could sense his fingernails penetrating his dry skin.

“I am fine, sweetheart. It’s just… nothing at all.”

“Don’t torture yourself like that. She’s gone, maybe for good. Maybe that’s it.”

“No, maybe she isn’t. I just have to work harder and perhaps…”

“No more perhaps, August. You’ve done everything you could. You did the best you can.”

“You don’t know yet. She doesn’t know yet. I am not there yet.”

“Then what is it, August? She’ll forgive you. She’ll understand.”

“It’s been four freaking years, sweetie. Four years, and she’s still out there waiting for me, waiting for my rescue.”

“Look, August, you have to…”

“ENOUGH!”

He slammed against the board furiously right at the center, staggering it. It was when his fist felt the clinking sound of broken glass, he realized what he had done. Tiny bits of glass fell down on his dark shoes, accompanied by small, dripping drops of blood.

When his mind came to clearness once again, through the cracked layer of the framed portrait, he saw the past reflected on his pupils:

DIANE J. SYLVESTER

Born 1958 – Hawthorne, Scotland

Age: 17

“She’s gone. August. How many times have I told you, have us told you? She’s gone. Even these posters can’t help you alter the fact.”

 She can’t be. She can’t be gone.

My daughter will never come back, won’t she?

“Where else can she be, August? Can you tell?”

“No…” – He was trembling – “I don’t know where she is…” – Tears were forming beneath his eyes.

I was so irritated. So resentful.

It was my fault. My fault all along.

NOUNS

Foresight: tầm nhìn xa, sự đoán trước

Entity: thực thể

Memento: mặc niệm

Crossroad = Junction = Intersection: giao lộ

VERBS

Devour: ăn ngấu nghiến, tàn phá

Linger: chần chừ, nán lại

Flatten: làm phẳng

Avert: quay đi, ngoảnh đi

ADJECTIVES

Tardy: trì trệ, chậm trễ

Moldy: bị mốc, mục nát

Resentful: căm giận, tức tối

AUTHOR: HOÀNG PHAN ANH TUẤN

AUTHOR: HOÀNG PHAN ANH TUẤN

From Specialists


Spelling and Grammar Checker: Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn
Vocabulary Editor: Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn
Executive Supervisor: Nguyễn Dương Trung Tín

The Anthology created by: Võ Thường Hằng, Đào Thanh Ngân, Danh Nhật Sang, Đặng Tiểu Bảo, Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn from Specialists

Posted by Duy Nam from Communications