I know it's been some time since I wrote, but I just thought I'd ease back a spell and give you a little time to respond, just to make sure our letters weren't crossing each other in the post. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any letters from you yet, so I thought I'd write to let you know that if you've been sending them, I have yet to get any. I just hope this letter finds you out there.
I wish I had better news to report, Jim, but things back home have soured something considerable.
The situation with Big Uncle Jack has been mighty queer indeed. I always used to think it was a curse, having these two uncles here of such slim use. Big Uncle Jack with that giant head, couldn't say a word but at least he could chop wood. Little Uncle Jack, just tiny and always terrified, cowering and weeping all day, but at least he didn't eat much more than grass and seed. Both of them mutes, and neither one with any more sense in their minds than a little baby. It seemed like such a burden on our lives, and I suspect it was one of the reasons you chose to leave home, but now I pray to God for a return to that kind of simplicity.
Last time I wrote, I was telling you about all the untoward things that seemed to be occurring. Ever since Big Jack got bit by that snake, he's steadily become like a whole other person. First he spoke to me for the first time in his damn life, telling me he had strange powers from the snake bite--that was bad enough, mind you, because when I have occasion to hear words emit from the mouth of my mute uncle, I'd prefer them to be a trifle less damned ominous and unchristian--then it all became even more perverse.
There was the matter of Little Uncle Jack's arm. I believe that in my last letter I told of how his arm seemed to be gone, gnawed off by some animal or God knows what or who else, then it was right back on him the next day, all clean and fat and mottled like a baby's skin. And I believe I told of how, throughout this brief ordeal, Big Jack's mouth was covered with blood and flecks of meat, though I hesitated to draw any conclusions linking the missing arm and the bloodied face together, and I figured I'd do just as well to forgive the whole matter once the arm seemed to return of its own free will.
I don't know why I see any need to remind you, since the matter is queer enough that I doubt you'd forget it between my letters, but I mainly compile these facts here just in case my last letter didn't reach you.
A short while after I last wrote, I began to have an awful dream, the same one every night. I dream that I'm walking through the field, out west of the uncles' cabin. It's night time, but bright enough to see without a lantern. The moon is up and it seems like there are more stars in the firmament than I'd ever seen before. Thousands of them, lighting up the whole sky's expanse. It's beautiful. I look at the stars a while, then from the corner of my eye I see men moving by Pa's resting place. I suspect that they intend to rob his grave. I give a holler to try to run them off, but they don't pay any mind. I find that I have Pa's rifle in my hands, so I resolve to walk up and scare them with a warning shot, but I'm so nervous I can hardly walk on account of the trembling.
I get closer to the grave and I see Big Uncle Jack and Little Uncle Jack digging there with a spade as if he's in a tremendous hurry to get something out of the ground. I've never seen Little Jack do any labor before, but for the first time he doesn't seem to be terrified. I lower the rifle on account of they're no threat to me, and I yell out, "Big Jack, you get away from Pa's grave!" And he stops his wicked endeavor and looks up at me with a terrifying smile across his giant countenance, his eyes glowing like coals, and he says to me, "It's time for him to come back, Jesse."
And he lifts his hand up above the grave, and Pa rises out like a marionette puppet or a charmed snake, and he's got the same terrible smile as Big Jack. Only I know it ain't really Pa, since he's never smiled like that in his life, and his skin is all ruddy and babylike, just like Little Jack's arm after it came back. And the awful false Pa says to me, "Jesse, you've got to--" but he's interrupted by a rifle crack and I see that I've shot him through his head.
But they're gone, Big Jack and Little Jack and Pa, and the grave is undisturbed. The gun ain't even in my hands. I contemplate the stars for a moment, but then I hear Big Uncle Jack's voice right at my ear: "Jesse." The stars jerk across the sky, then spin and rush away, as if the whole Earth broke from its moorings and is falling down into nothing. It doesn't feel like I'm falling, but I can feel myself land, and it knocks the wind right out of me. And then I wake up.
You say collaboration like it's a bad word.
The ocean is full of the stuff of nightmares and, no thanks to all that water, you can't even kill it with fire.
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