It is a plain brown leather journal, medium sized with a leather thong that keeps it closed
I have documented my experiences being pulled out of Bastogne by the monster who calls himself Flagg. I now sit here in a hospital and attempt to recall the last few days of being in the year 2021, almost 80 years since my encounter with Flagg.
My first recollections were of bouncing up and down in the seat of a moving transport. My prewaking thoughts placing me in the back of an Army transport with the rest of Easy Company. I expected to smell cigarettes. To hear subdued conversation with spots of banter mixed in. Instead I heard children laughing and the voice of a scolding mother. The oddity of it woke me at once. I was staring at the back of a bus seat, the seat next to me empty except for my medical bag. I was in the middle of the bus and looking around quickly, noticed the bus was a little less than half full. I saw the mother with her two small children. I saw the elderly black couple and the young mexican man. Everyone was dressed in bizarre, informal, almost obscene clothing. The men wore no hats. The women wore no dresses or skirts. The colors were flashy and attention grabbing, many of them with words written on them. Like 'Juicy' across the back of a woman's pants. I looked down expecting to be dressed in similar clothes, but found myself wearing what I had been wearing the day I arrived at boot. A button down shirt and slacks. Sitting in my lap was an unsealed envelope with "Doc" written on it. Inside was a scrap piece of paper with the words "get off at the next stop" and the names and descriptions of the three individuals I would be meeting when I got off. A man covered in tattoos, a teenage boy and a little girl. It seems a bizarre combination of people and I'll admit to my brain automatically assuming the two children belonged to the tattoo'd man. Maybe I was meant to help them, like the creature called Flagg said I would do.
The bus slowed down and the lights in the cabin came on. The doors opened and the driver looked back at me, his eyes never blinking. I folded the piece of paper and envelope into my pocket, grabbed my medical bag, slung it around my shoulder and got off.
After being discharged from the hospital in West Virginia, I was placed into a mental ward of sorts, along with the little girl Grace. I didn't see much of her as they apparently had a children's wing, or at the very least, was kept seperated from the adult population. We were both visited by a man who instructed us to go to London, England but provided us with no means to get there. Grace luckily knew a person who could get us there and called them. I was not so much eager to find myself once again in a position of trying to hold together blown apart bodies and skulls, but I needed to get out of this hospital. They thought I was a looney apparently when I related my story of how I came to be there. They never even bothered to look up my name or service number. They just referred to me as a 'John Doe' and assumed I was a crazy person off the street and a threat to myself and others. But Grace's 'person' came through and whisked us off to London in an eerily similar manner to how I was originally brought here from Bastogne. There must be others like Flagg. I'll endeavor to learn more.
When we get there we're told that all we had to do while we were there was to get our books signed by the author who was giving a presentation here in London. We were already at the fancy hotel that the presentation was being made at. All we had to do was get tickets and wait.
Of all the wounds I'd incurred since Bastogne, this one was the most debilitating. Even after spending an entire month in the hospital, I was still pretty injured and was now in physical therapy. My right shoulder doesn't have the same range of motion it once had and pains me occasionally. I got shipped to Las Vegas from the small town health clinic I was dropped off at after getting shot. Once again, I kept my mouth shut about where and when I was from, not wanting to end up back in a mental hospital. Instead I was treated as homeless and the bare minimum was done to keep me alive and in good health. If it wasn't for the compassion of a nurse in Las Vegas, I wouldn't have even gotten into physical therapy and would have been kicked out immediately after they knew I wasn't going to die of sepsis. So bless that woman.
Shortly after arm stretches, I got back to my room and barely had enough time to sit down when a familiar sensation of being between worlds occured. I expected to see Flagg, but instead saw a different man but one who seemed more like Flagg than many of the others had. Again, I was offered a job, this time in El Paso, Texas. I was also offered pain medication that would alleviate the throbbing in my shoulder (I still was not 100%, more like 60) for the duration of the contract. I took the job, and I took the medication. El Paso was not far from my home in Bayou Chene. This was the closest I had come to being home since I left for basic training.
From El Paso, I finally made my way back home to Bayou Chene, Louisiana. Well, the area formerly known as Bayou Chene. It turns out, in my absence, that the town went under. We never had much of industry or commerce, but it's still odd to think of an entire town you knew just gone. Most of the little towns near the bayou still exist and are apparently where everybody moved off to. My mamaw and papaw died there in their house by the big cypress tree. You can't see the house or the tree anymore since the entire area is now under 12 feet of river silt. My parents and siblings moved away when the school and post office closed down in '52 off to St Martin, where I'm living now. I got a job working at the feed store, and the owner set me up a little cot in the back for me to sleep in. The money's good (I think) and nobody asks me much about where I came from or anything. They can tell from my accent and my name, that I'm a local boy. But nobody brings up that nobody seems to know me.
So it's been a good month. First time since Bastogne that I haven't spent all my time off in the hospital. I could get used to this. The feed store owner says I should train to be an EMT, or go to nursing school, since fellas do that these days. It ain't a job for women anymore. I know from my time in hospitals that I've seen plenty of women doctors. Most of them seemed to be from India or Pakistan, but they knew their stuff. There were a bunch over in France, but I always assumed it was because all their fellas were off fighting the nazis like we were.
And one day, just like all the others, a man found me while I was on my cot in the feed store and offered me a job. This time in New Orleans, so not too far away. We had to get our fortunes told by a chinaman named Mr Lung. I agreed.
Since being pulled from the world I knew, these contracts have arrived fairly regularly. Monthly, sometimes bi-monthly.
I've been picking up the pieces of my life in the meantime. None of my family remain, at least none that I knew. Working at the feed store and making conversation, I've come to meet a couple of people who are relatives of mine. one a grandniece, the other a second cousin. but my parents, my brothers, sisters and cousins are all dead. Their children, whom I never met, are elderly. Their children's grandchildren are my age. I asked about relatives they had who fought in what's now called World War 2, and they told me they had a relative who died in Belgium, but his body was never recovered. He was mourned for dead and their lives continued as the lives of the living do.
I still use the surname Roe, and if any of these decendents knew who I used to be, they would wonder why this man at the feed store shares the exact same name as the relative they lost in Belgium and why he looks exactly like the enlistment photo in an old family album. I suppose if any of my siblings were still alive, they might make the connection. but I never met their children, and anyone younger than that simply wouldn't even remember hearing of a family member named Eugene Gilbert who went missing in World War 2.
I debate staying here in this place I have a distant connection to from a past life. Bayou Chene isn't even a town anymore, it's just a body of water with the same name. The people here are similar, yet different. Much like the man I see in the mirror.
I've been thinking about New York lately. Having dreams about it. Manhattan, specifically. I keep dreaming about a vacant lot and a rose. And then I'll have nightmares about a house full of doors that's haunted. I can't go there yet I know. It's not time, but soon. I know that in my bones and know it as well as my face in a mirror. I can't quite explain it. I mentioned these dreams to one of my coworkers, an older black woman who had lived there when she was younger. She brought me a travel pamphlet for Manhattan and said if I keep having dreams about it, I should go visit. I seem like a local to her, with my accent, so she assumes I would probably never move away from here. And before and during the war, she would have been right. I never had any ambitions beyond getting back home to Bayou Chene and being with my family. Marrying some girl I met at church. Working my own piece of land with her and our children. But then the war happened. Then Flagg happened. And now I'm here in a Louisiana I don't recognize, in a time I don't recognize. My home destroyed completely by flooding about a decade after Easy shipped out to England to run drills for the invasion. What they call now D-Day. My family long dead. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of the people I knew left in their place. People I'm related to by blood, but who I've never met before, who have never met me. And have probably assumed me dead in Belgium many years ago. Assuming they even knew about me at all. Some would say such revelations would make them feel free. Unattached. Free to do what they wanted in life rather than what their limited imaginations from years prior had conjured up. But instead I feel empty and alone. Ungrounded. With nothing left but dreams of Manhattan and a vacant lot, and nightmares of a mansion with too many doors.
I write this journal entry as I sit on a bus headed for New York, New York. I made up my mind and the dreams and nightmares I've been experiencing have been growing stronger. There must be something to this vacant lot and rose. There must also be something to this horrible mansion full of doors. I know they're near each other, but I also know deep down they're not from the same source. The vacant lot and especially the rose fills me with wonder and calm. Like sitting on the lap of God while he reads to you from the bible. The mansion reminds me of Flagg. Horrible, but useful in it's own demented, terrible way. After I arrive, I'll need to start looking for these places.
I've been told that Manhattan is extremely expensive to live in and that I need to find work quickly. And that I might have to take up residence nearby first. Somewhere cheaper. Possibly even New Jersey, but I hope to avoid that. My friend told me before I left that if there was anywhere in the world you could get lost in, and stay lost in, it's Manhattan. There are people there who live on the streets who have no government numbers and go their entire lives hiding in plain sight. I found this remark from my friend strange.
But for now, it's the beginning of a journey. One with no known ending and one that takes place in a brand new world, far from the familiar bayous and avenues that I've known.