The woman drove me out to a secluded shack in the woods. I had been involved with this group for a while now, a little over a year probably. It had started out as simple casual friendships, playing cards in the kitchen or sitting around watching TV with dopey boredom waiting for someone to show up and drive somebody somewhere. In other words, it all seemed perfectly normal and innocent enough. But gradually it became clear after a while that there were ideas and perhaps even beliefs that bonded these people together, something a little off the beaten path. They were a “Group” with a capital “G.” Sideways glances and conspiratorial whispers in back bedrooms hinted at these things. Finally it became clear that I was picking up on these secrets, and a decision was made to initiate me to the next level. That’s when this woman with the dark hair took me for a ride out to the woods.
The shack was made up like a roadside motel room. There was a queen-sized bed in the main room when you came in the door. There was a little kitchenette in the back with a louvered window that looked out onto the woods. The dark-haired woman pulled a large white envelope from her coat and tossed it down on the bed. “These are the pictures of the people who run our group.”, she said. “We only show this to people when we’re completely sure they’re ready to see it.” She paused, perhaps wondering if she really was sure. “The last pictures are of our leader, an extraordinary man. He has lived for 60,000 years and he has a hard time maintaining human form, so I have to warn you that you may be disturbed and confused by what you see. But we have decided that you’re ready.”
She directed me to the kitchenette in the back, because she said that I had to view the photographs privately. She went back to the front room and left me there as I sat down and undid the clasp on the envelope. It contained a stack of large glossy photographs. The first couple looked normal enough, like smiling photos from a senior yearbook. Then I came to the end. These were smaller, loose pictures, taken with a common home camera. They were pictures of a small baby who showed clear signs of some kind of congenital birth defects. I’m not sure exactly how I could tell that. There was something wrong with the eyes, something wrong with the face, something dull and slack and wandering that suggested brain damage. I stared in horror at the pictures, not because of their subject, but because of what they told me about these people. I had to get out of there immediately.