Grace's Journal hasn't changed since she ran away from home, taking one she'd gotten the year before. The binding is cheap and purple, splattered with pink and white dots and emblazoned with the head and neck of a unicorn. The unicorn's cartoonish pink hair, blue eyes, and rainbow horn are eerily offset by the bloodstains and waterlogged quality of the book itself.
On the first cover page, a blank for a name is filled in with "Grace Richardson". Grace's handwriting can be observed to improve from uncertain scrawls to careful notes and recollections. A few dog-eared pages are scattered throughout with the sorts of logs you'd expect to see in a Book of Shadows, while the margins occasionally show bled-ink doodles up until a certain point. The book is kept in a waterproof bag of its own.
Living in the woods kinda sucks. My friend has been helping me know what to eat and what not to eat, and stuff like that, and we've been catching small things to eat which I really hated at first cause it's gross and I feel bad for the animals but my friend says I have to eat cause I'm still a human. I'm learning how to pay attention more to what I can catch and what I can't, but sometimes even when I find something, I freeze up... my friend gives me a nudge. She's telling me right now that it's okay to be nervous. She said that she'll take care of me. She said you don't have to write that down, Grace. Oh. Sorry. She said
My friend introduced me to her cat. She asked me to get a ball of yarn, and we were able to get one from the store cause we made sure it was when there wasn't a lot of people around and we sat in the river (which took a bit but we found somewhere shallow so I wasn't so scared) and everything so we didn't smell bad and people didn't go wow what's that smell, and look over at me. But I put the yarn in my bag and walked out behind a family, and after all that we got back to the woods and she guided me around shaking the yarn and calling for her cat, who actually came! He's all ashy, and ghosty like her, and his name is Horatio. She said Horatio is a good kitty and he'll be helpful for us if we have to do more dangerous things. Maybe he can scratch people? My friend can talk to him, but I can't. She tells me what he says, and sometimes we bring him out to play. Thank you for listening Dear Diary.
We're back in Jersey. Horatio has been coming around more often, catching us things to eat in adition to what we can catch. After we'd caught what we needed for the next day or two (we learned that things get... gross after too long of being dead), we were playing with Horatio, a game I called Copycat. My friend says Horatio doesn't like that. I do it anyway. So the game is that whatever Horatio does, I do, right? Well Horatio was batting at a beetle in the air and I did the same thing, and I didn't FEEL myself touch the beetle but it came down. Horatio looked at me and I looked back at him, and he went into the bushes to get another beetle, put it in front of us, and meowed a bunch- my friend translated, he was telling us to try again. So we did! We brushed the beetle away without touching it, and I felt woozy the same way as I do when we call Horatio- I think it's my friend getting tired.
We gave ourselves time to rest between our trials for this, so it took awhile, but I watched carefully: what happens is my friend moves her hand faster than mine, on her own, which still kinda worries us, cause I don't want to be separate from her and she doesn't wanna be separate from me. But we're pretty, pretty sure it's fine.
Also, we got new books. If we go in the library when old Miss Gallagher is there and nobody else, nobody bothers us. Miss Gallagher can't see well enough to be freaked out by us, but she does clean her glasses a lot, cause I guess we look like a smudge. We got books on all the ghost type stuff we can, not like, Goosebumps, but the ones that look more like enci encyk encyclope dias. We're doing our best to remember everything useful.
We're getting better at this. Not necessarily the "games", like the liar in the top hat said, but living in the woods. Remember the beetle thing? We learned to grab bigger animals with it, and our normal traps get things more often instead of falling apart. I'm learning how the animals work, like what squirrels are from deeper in the forest and all jumpy, and which ones have been living closer to the city, more used to humans. We've gotten more books from Miss Gallagher, and we can read them faster... I figured out how to use an index and an appendix. It would feel a lot better, but...
I'm running out of the money I had when I was walking home from school a few months ago. I don't want to steal from people, even though my friend says she knows a bit about it, cause she knows a bit about everything after being around here for so long. I stopped risking getting candy in busy stores, but I can still pass outside the vending machines on the street, and pick up funyuns or snickers. I miss Mr. Goodbars, they aren't popular enough to put in the machines...
What else? We decided to catch a raccoon and try to keep it. One of the ones that digs in the garbage and lives in the city. It hissed at us a few times, but we had Cheetos and I guess it really liked Cheetos, cause we got him to follow us back to a place we set up some blankets and bags where we keep our food. We got him to stay for awhile, but when we woke up, he was gone. I should have given him a yarn collar.
I didn’t get time to write about what happened in between games this time. I needed to walk home from the fundraiser, and that’s what I started on doing… so was walking and there was a piece of trash, a candy wrapper? I think a Snickers. It was shiny, so I watched it go across the road and when I looked back up, there was a guy walking with me. And again, not a regular one. I said normal too much for the writing I did for the fundraiser itself. Right, the guy:
He looked like an actor from the 90s, including the black and white screen. He was a gentleman, kinda like those people too. Frank Sinata or something? It was nice to meet someone who didn’t feel kinda crazy or violent. No top hats or guns or anything.
So this guy, he was super nice, and he went back and he bought me funnel cake! Which I think makes him my favorite person I’ve met here so far. He told me he had a job, which I guess I should have expected but it was super soon after the other one which was new. It ended up being saving another little girl, but more on that later. We walked for awhile and he dropped me off near this kinda fenced in clearing, and wiped some cake off my face with a glove on, and told me to be safe and that something was important I think. I guess I should stop there.
Comatoes, or commatose, or comatose? That’s what Mister Doc said I was. I think I may have woken up and fallen back asleep. I don’t remember much… Horatio said he watched over us when he could; there were some points where I saw empty rooms, sometimes there were people there. I remember a man seeing me wake up once, walking towards me, but I fell asleep again before he got there. There were needles in my arms, the little bags and the wires like the ivys on Grandma last year. I was… in a hospital dress, and I didn’t see that it was blue until I woke up completely.
When I did, I got my clothes and my stuff from a locker. I was blurry for the most part, for awhile, but I WAS walking. I met up with Mister Doc, and we needed to get to London, which I think is near England. Buuut Mister Doc and I can’t really get anywhere on planes, can’t walk or drive there- but I had this card from that guy on the bus with the fair game, remember? The bussiness card. The one that says The Talent. We found a phone and we called him. He sounded all surprised we did, but we explained and he was really helpful- he brought us to London for free, said he wouldn’t bring us back, but I mean, that’s fine? Probably a lot better for me since nobody knows me there, and I think London is maybe bigger.
I made my way to a national park close to London. I had to find a tourist center place and looked for pamphlets until I could find where one was: Surrey Hills Area of National Beauty or whatever. It's really nice here, I'm in the woods like in Jersey, but the air's cleaner and there's more trees and more places to explore. Still having trouble catching squirrels, but...
I'm getting better at being sneaky. I got a big jacket, my friend doesn't really like it and I don't either but we can't go out without it if we don't want to freak people out. We get protein bars, candy, water, stuff like that. The way we can move things without touching them helps for distractions, like we'll knock over things so the store people go and pick them up and then our big jacket's got big pockets for stuff. We sneak out after big groups of families, stand behind them in line sometimes to pretend that's where we belong.
We haven't been able to find a library yet. Haven't looked much in the first place. We've been more busy trying to figure out how to survive out here, and it takes awhile to get ourselves out of the woods and to the stores, but I do like walking in the woods. Maybe it's cause of my friend and her tree, but the plants here always feel extra nice to be around. I have noticed I'm kinda off balance since being in the coma, though. I hope I feel better soon.
I found a ponytail holder on the walk home. It was dirty and pink. I think another girl dropped it. The thing about ponytails is that it’s not smart for me to wear them. My hair is long and messy. It helps us hide, it goes in front of our eyes and on the sides of our face to add cover with the hood so that it’s harder for people to notice my friend. My hair was all stringy and wet in my face, which like I said before, was cold but it was more… solid? So that helped. We washed the ponytail holder off in a water fountain outside and held it so that it dried on the way back to Surrey Hills.
When we got deep enough in the forest (cause if you walk around far enough, you don’t gotta pay to get in, cause there’s a spot I found where the security cameras don’t see you) I was putting the ponytail in my hair since we were hidden and I got distracted and stepped in a hole, which I think is the dumbest way I’ve gotten hurt. I stopped, sighed all deep, and turned around to walk back into town… I was thinking I’d get a first aid kit.
About an hour later I come back to Surrey Hills with my first aid kit and I get to where we were set up. I left some of my yarn in the trees to get me back to it. And THEN I realize that there’s nothing in the stupid first aid kit to even help my ankle, and I read the little book in it and all it says is to stay off it and elevator or whatever. So now I’m sitting with Horatio on our lap, I couldn’t climb a tree so I’m on the ground with a bunch of leaves and stuff piled under my leg, and I’ve been reading the first aid book and writing this and what I told you about the old lady in Soho.
I’m going to send Horatio out to try and get a bird soon. I’m not even sure if he can… my friend says he can do it, never mind then. Good kitty.
(-There's a drawing of Horatio at the bottom of the page, holding a bird in his mouth with x's over the eyes.-)
I think that gold coin Mister Edgar got us to keep… the chance to keep? let us keep miiight have made me a little obsessed with shiny things. I had a rock collection back home, and bottlecaps and puffballs and googly eyes and some nuts, the little circle ones. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for awhile after I got back to Surrey. So I’ve been spending awhile exploring, looking for things to make another collection.
But then I realized I needed a place to PUT all the stuff cause I found more bottlecaps and some newspaper but I ran out of room in my pockets. And then I realized I need a place to put ME. So we kept exploring… there’s this old broken down stone building that looks like nobody’s been in it forever. I made a circle out of rocks and put my other stuff in it, and my blanket, and took a bunch of leaves and moss and stuff and made a nest for Horatio. He said it looks like a bird nest but he likes it anyway, I can tell.
This place doesn’t really have much of a roof. When it rains I sit in this one corner- my friend says south east- and I wait it out unless I feel like I need a shower, but mostly I just use baby wipes I got from a lady at the park. She looked like she could afford more… I smell weird all the time now, but I’m clean. And I have my rocks. And people don’t bother me out here.
Also, I’ve been borrowing apples from the farmers market stuff to eat with the candy bars. (They’re protein bars, but I pretend they’re candy). I used to eat apples a lot after school- now they remind me of that when I eat them. But yesterday I thought about it too much I guess and got pretty… sad? I try not to think about it most of the time, but I feel secretly kinda bad about Horatio’s bed even though he sleeps with me most of the time if he’s out then and I used to have this fish named Harry and he didn’t have a bed but it still reminded me of him and I miss MY bed and Quest bars are really gross and definitely not Snickers and I feel so bad watching the bees be mad in the rain, I wanna make friends with them but they don't like me and (-The text here is too scratched out to read-)
The apple started glowing and crackling on the inside when I got worked up. I ate it and it fixed the headache I gave myself crying, and I had some blood on my hands from squeezing with my nails too hard. When I scrubbed the blood off, there weren’t any cuts underneath. I’m tired of writing for now… I need to go to bed.
(- There’s a sketch of a building at the bottom of the page. Grace has added grass, flowers, rain, and an angry bee. -)