The following are handwritten journal entries found in an attic trunk.
On Monday, June 3rd, 2015, the body of a man presumably named Rudy Bine was found hanging by the neck in his bedroom. The cause of death was ruled a suicide by the coroner.
Rudy Bine was, by all physical accounts, a recluse. His neighbors describe him as something of an enigma, rarely seen outside the home. One neighbor stated they had once witnessed Bine outside at 2:00am sitting in his yard, audibly weeping. This was some years ago.
Another neighbor, in looking for her missing cat, knocked on Bine’s door to ask if he’d seen it. Bine answered the door brandishing a handgun and telling her to leave his property at once.
Police were called, but the gun appeared to be legally owned. Since the neighbor was on Bine’s property and Bine indicated he’d felt threatened, nothing could be done. Police advised the neighbor to keep away from the old man. Post-mortem, Bine’s paperwork for the firearm was discovered to be a forgery. The police report for the incident also describes Bine as constantly on-edge, a paranoid man in his 80s, deeply suspicious of all who came near, but also very somber in his mannerisms. Further notes indicated Bine was mumbling inaudible words to himself.
The neighbor’s cat was later found unharmed, under a bed, having died peacefully there of natural causes.
That’s it. Those are all eyewitness accounts of Rudy Bine in existence, at least to my knowledge. Hopefully more surface.
As for living records, none exist. At the time of Bine’s death, his fingerprints had been long-since burned off, likely three or more decades prior. The coroner’s report indicated a blowtorch was likely used to achieve this, though didn’t specify how such a conclusion had been drawn.
No family, no friends, no dental records, no hits for relatives from DNA results. Bine’s house, a rental, was acquired from a landlord in 2001. Upon moving in, Bine paid seven years worth of rent, in cash, to the landlord.
After the seven years passed, Bine prepaid for another decade. All his utilities were registered under the clearly fake name of Raoul Duke and paid in cash, in advance, no exceptions. His only mode of transportation was a bicycle, which no one recalls ever seeing him riding.
Rudy Bine was ostensibly a ghost, in life. In death, he’s a distant echo, barely reverberating across time.
Yet he did exist.
His writings refer to having been a journalist during the era of McCarthyism as well as during the Greensboro Civil Rights Protests in the 1960s. No major publications or small print publications have any records of a journalist named Rudy Bine writing for them.
In his attic, a large trunk was discovered. The lid was closed and padlocked, but upon opening it, it was nearly overflowing with handwritten papers.
Everything from by-the-numbers local news pieces dating back to 1949, to indecipherable gibberish. The most recent work was dated December 5th, 1987 and is completely incoherent. Some of the entries seem angry, some forlorn, it’s clear whoever Rudy Bine was, he was a troubled man.
The collection of handwritten works also included many bizarre sketches. Strange depictions of scientific concepts, more science-fiction in nature than actual science. These included depictions of time travel and images of otherworldly creatures.
The FBI took over the Bine case rather quickly and as such, agents have taken possession of all records regarding Bine’s death, presumably kept under lock and key since late-2015, if not destroyed altogether. More curious, all press — online or otherwise — regarding Rudy Bine’s death seems to have been scrubbed from existence. I myself recall reading news headlines about the suicide discovery and its mysterious nature, when it was making the rounds at news outlets, but nothing can be found as of now.
The only remaining documents of Rudy Bine’s existence are facsimiles of the raw copies of his hand-written works and his suicide note.
Only a small number of selected notes were salvaged, accounting for less than 50 pages out of the nearly 30,000. However, as I understand it, the retained documents were among the most intriguing of the bunch. These copies were obtained by nefarious means, as someone working for the local police department investigating Bine’s death, scanned and copied the papers, keeping them in a personal safe.
This person has since relocated from that area.
While researching a completely separate true crime case in New Orleans, Louisiana, I met with a person of interest who had some information I was seeking at the time. After a lengthy conversation, we’d established something of a quid pro quo. This relationship led somewhere I couldn’t have imagined. This was in fact the owner of the Bine documents.
Having heard faint whispers of Rudy Bine in writer’s groups for about a year, but not thinking much of it, I admit, I got curious. The owner of these documents did verify to me, in private, the authenticity of the facsimiles, as I was initially skeptical. However, they do not wish to come forward, nor are they willing to make the documents publicly available. I was allowed to read with my eyes, denied access to any electronic devices while I looked over the documents, and permitted to transcribe using only a pen and paper.
Simply put, there is no tangible evidence of Rudy Bine ever existing, nor any evidence of these documents, nor of his death.
As such, journalistic integrity dictates that I must present this as a work of fiction.
I declare to all reading, this should be taken as a work of fiction. Full stop.
As extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, this case has quite a great many extraordinary claims, and no evidence to corroborate it, at present. I will reveal none of my sources, nor will I produce any documents in relation to this piece, nor could I if I so desired.
The editorial staff at 25YL has no more background on this piece than its audience does, so please do not bother them for information as they do not have it.
To Ms. XX, thank you for what you have shared with me. This is truly something special and I will always appreciate what you have risked.
To reiterate: for all intents, for all purposes, what follows my signature below, is presented as a work of fiction.
March 4, 1960
It’s quarter past four and I’m indifferent to the fact that he was supposed to be here at quarter-to.
It’s not in me to be bothered by tardiness as I’m content to sit here and slurp down my fourth bottle of RC cola. For the past fifteen or so minutes, I’ve been partaking in the consumption of a suspiciously delicious meatloaf, half-drowned in brown gravy. Saying this Serling fella never shows up, I’ve wasted the day at a curious place which self-identifies as Johnny’s Restaurant.
Humble people, these. Preparing food of a quality far exceeding what outward appearances indicated. No one sells the food here because no one has to. A day here isn’t wasted, broken appointment or no. Truth be told, this man’s blatant disregard verges on admirable.
From this clothed table, an unremarkable view of a weeded landscape, ugly as Mabel’s soul. Some field rendered a grid as filtered through grease-caked window screens and I’m surrounded by the unfamiliarity of God Knowhere. How many miles from home?
This many, and—as is becoming apparent—but for a single afternoon chow.
This whole situation falls within a certain class of absurdity I’m likely never to regret. Besides, I’m on my editor’s coin. They call this allotment a ‘per diem,’ and I think I’ll spend it on every RC and every ladle of sticky brown gravy I can manage.
Say what you will of my proclivities, but don’t let anyone accuse me of having ever been a professional.
March 4, 1960
My editor’s name has escaped me for the past month or so, since I was forbidden from covering a protest of nation-changing potential. This protest was going on in Greensboro, North Carolina at a Woolworth’s department store.
My colleagues refer to the protestors as “negroes,” some of them well-meaning. Lately it’s a term with which I’m becoming less and less comfortable, given its impersonal nature.
Four of them, men the same as I, unwilling to accept further shaming of their dark skin, defiant in the face of inequality. These men were now refusing to leave a store counter reserved for other men—men of a skin-color closer to my own. Of what difference might skin color make in terms of humanity? As well we have legally recognized brunettes-only beauty parlors. This refusal by the black man to continue accepting segregation as a norm… that’s a thing worth writing down, worth reporting.
I told the editor I’d be back in a week, as the day was finally upon us and I was headed out to cover the revolution. Were I the kind of person to don a hat and coat, I likely would have grabbed them on my way out the door.
I never reached the door.
One would think an editor might be pleased by such initiative, but instead I was told to park it.
“We’re a decent publication and won’t be covering such vulgarity”
Unbeknownst to him, my editor had spent the last few years building himself up in my eyes as one of three people on the planet I admired. With one declaration, the gutless tyrant revealed himself as the water on Lady Liberty’s knee.
I’ll forgive a strained budget at a publication and maybe even a poor sense of priorities, but something I won’t abide is my own editor, a mentor and a friend, descending the stairs of intellect and then laughing heartily at me from the basement. Joyful stupidities impalpable. I hope one day his soul finds him down there. Mabel’s never did.
My initial intention was to set fire to his desk and urinate on the floor in defiance as the rotund bigot scrambled to extinguish the flames in what would have surely been a delightful reaction of horror and confusion. But what does this do for the Greensboro Four? Little, I suspect. I haven’t spoken my editor’s name aloud in well over a month. I’ve revoked all prior respect for the pseudo-journalist and coward, whom I now refer to as Clucky, after a character I observed in an animated film I saw in theaters a couple of years ago. I predict another two or three weeks of this will be tolerated before Clucky fires me.
This also won’t do.
A few days ago I received a letter from a gentleman I’d never spoken to before. I’d just been asked to cover a story from some of our sources confirming a probable incoming divorce between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Nice people I’m sure, but is such gossip worth covering when the incoming equality of black Americans is so clearly upon us? I opened the letter addressed to me, which was in response to a piece I’d written a few weeks prior on the subject of fascism. A man by the name of Rod Serling was asking to speak with me. I managed a phone call to the gentleman and he arranged for me to meet up with him at Johnny’s Restaurant, his favorite place to eat. This location was a drive and not much of a compromise.
Here I am.
I came down under the guise of confirming a source on the Lucille Ball divorce, but I think the divorce is as good as wrapped up. They’ll notice, I’m sure. Instead, I decided to meet Mr. Serling, today. Clucky will have my job for it. I’ll come back with a story he can’t refuse, but will no doubt refuse anyway.
Mr. Serling arrived at 4:33PM, a fella of striking demeanor, difficult to put into words. Logical, a calculated man. Remarkable in vocal inflection, perhaps bordering on monotone, but there is a sharpness to his delivery. A serious man, no-nonsense to be found, yet unmistakably empathetic. I sense kindness beneath the surface. He speaks with a cadence that sends a chill across the back of my head. I don’t sit up straight for anyone, but Mr. Serling’s presence commanded I did as much. I’m not sure why, as we’d never met. He’s not as tall as a man of his intimidating nature should be. He sat across from me, burning one cigarette after another and speaking of things I don’t altogether understand, nor do I have any hope of understanding. Mentally and emotionally entangled by such a strange moment gone by, I remain thirsty for further confusion. And for another RC Cola.
The following is a transcript of our conversation, which I saved on a tape recorder and am about to play back.
A man walks through the door wearing a crisp black suit. He looks around for a moment, but I don’t think he’s looking for me. He seems to be taking in his surroundings. Without acknowledging my presence, his seemingly indifferent presence becomes one of purpose as he walks in a beeline to my table at a brisk enough pace I wonder if I’m about to be assaulted. He stops just at my table.
Man in suit: Mr. Bine.
Myself: Rudy. Hello, and you’re Mr. Serling, correct?
Mr. Serling: Rod Serling, that’s right. But you’re doing fine with Mr. Serling, let’s keep it at that.
Myself: Man of formalities, then?
Mr. Serling: But not you.
Myself: How’s that?
Mr. Serling: A writer of your caliber is intelligent enough to know a man of formality will wait to be asked, before sitting down.
Myself: And a man sharp as yourself didn’t realize such an informal fella wouldn’t consider it? Nor would he acknowledge it if he had.
Mr. Serling: I’m seeking out a man bearing the gift of the written word, to document, but more importantly to perfectly express a new project I’m undertaking.
Myself: Mr. Serling, I’m here for the paper, on assignment. I was expecting a discussion and perhaps a demonstration. Now, I’m here for the night and some of tomorrow. More to the point, you’ll find me a particularly adventurous man, harboring little in the way of inhibition and with no capacity for fear. But it sounds like you’re looking for an ongoing freelance writer. I don’t do freelance work.
Mr. Serling: I won’t ask the same question twice, Rudy. I trust you understand I’m a man who values his time.
Myself: You haven’t asked a question since you walked through the doorway. You speak only in declarative sentences. In my experience, it’s indicative.
Mr. Serling: In that case I’ll depart, indications in tow.
Myself: Explain the project.
Mr. Serling: I need a writer, Rudy.
Myself: There’s more than one kind of writer, Mr. Serling.
Mr. Serling: Maybe so, but every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull. No variance there. I’m looking for a writer who first and foremost sees eye to eye with me to a reasonable degree. I won’t work with a racist person, nor with a coward. Your piece about the potential for fascism in America showed a progressive view, but was also calculated and well executed. Your previous work from years back criticizing Senator McCarthy’s crusade against freedom showed a fearlessness rarely demonstrated in American journalism. I waited with marked anticipation on your take of the protests in Greensboro. When they didn’t come, I wrote. You’re the best writer I’ve come across, Rudy. Now that’s the simple truth. You decide where to go next.
Myself: Why don’t you go ahead and have a seat, Mr. Serling? Surely you’re tired of standing.
Mr. Serling: Don’t mind if I do.
Mr. Serling is now sitting across from me. He pulls a cigarette from his jacket pocket, puts it between his lips and lights the end.
Myself: Editor pig. My own editor defends segregation. Says coving the Woolworth protest is an exercise in vulgarity.
Mr. Serling: Keeping the gates well guarded. Leave it to an editor.
Myself: Great writing is becoming incidental. In my experience, the primary job of an editor is to assert himself onto my work as much as possible. Remind me they know best.
Mr. Serling: Worse yet, yours is a hard partisan antithetical to your values.
Myself: Prejudiced. The day of the hard partisan appears to be upon us, arriving just in time to deny the black man his day.
Mr. Serling: No, Rudy. I’m afraid tribulations haven’t begun. The day of the hard partisan, as you so eloquently put it, is half-past midnight at best. The rivers of progressiveness will continue to flow, however slow the motion. But the stagnant marsh waters of the fearful will remain stagnant. They recede by evaporation, only to come back down as a rain storm no one was expecting
Myself: I’m not a marked optimist, but not so cynical as that.
Mr. Serling: I don’t deal in cynicism. This is a cycle that will take generations to break, but we will break it. It starts with writers, artists. Maybe by our fifth great grandchildren will utopia be fully realized.
Myself: The segregationists will never come around, on this we agree.
Mr. Serling: Not so long ago, today’s segregationist would have called you an abolitionist. The parties have changed on issues, but the sentiment at the center of their hatred remains unchanged across centuries. A fear of outsiders, of intruders. Yearning to isolate their own from the unknown. Molded like clay, by propaganda, the fearful will only grow firmer as they set. I cringe at the thought of bearing witness to what canyon this crack has become in another fifty or so years. These absolutists exist in a world of sight and sound. As such, their ideas are reactionary. The artist resides in a world of mind, considering observation only the first step in a long process of understanding, rather than the last step before coming to a swift conclusion. Do you understand?
Myself: Yes, every writer understands that. What about men of science? These are valuable people, too.
Mr. Sterling: Our expression of science is a beautiful art form indeed. A scientist is the universe’s paintbrush, his conclusions a work of indescribable beauty, each and every one.
Myself: Even when he’s wrong?
Mr. Serling: Especially then.
Myself: I’m going to order another RC. Let’s talk some about this project.
At this point I ordered another RC and changed the tape. When I hit record, Mr. Serling was mid-sentence.
Mr. Serling: [unintelligible] find a middle ground. A happy center somewhere between objective science and total superstition [unintelligible] the far right of course. A literal manifestation of man’s paranoia.
Myself: A series, then.
Mr. Serling: Of sorts, yes. But it will not involve cameras. Your job would be to go to a specified location. Observe and report, courtesy of the printed word. You’re to send me your reports, I’ll read over them, they’ll be translated into a script, which will be used for the show.
Myself: When does this show air?
Mr. Serling: Officially, October 2nd, 1959.
Myself: That was last year. You mean October of this year. Seven months from now.
Mr. Serling: No, Rudy. That’s not what I meant.
At this time the waitress brought me a glass bottle of Coca-Cola, popping the lid and setting it on the table.
Myself: Ma’am, I ordered an RC.
Waitress: [quiet] ‘scuse me?
Myself: This is a Coke, I ordered RC.
Waitress: Sir, we don’t serve RC. I’ve never seen that here.
Myself: What? Your co-worker just brought me four. This should have been number five. Is she taking a break?
Waitress: Sir, I’ve been waiting on you since you got here. We do not serve RC cola.
Behind her, an older waitress overhears and comes over.
Waitress #2: Honey, did you say RC cola? Shooo weee. We ain’t served that in I don’t know how long. That’s way back when we was called Johnny’s Restaurant.
The waitresses laugh together and walk away.
Myself: This is a problem for me, Mr. Serling.
Mr. Serling: It’s 1975, and hundreds of miles from here, I just died of a heart attack. We can travel to any point in time, at any time we choose. Backwards, forwards, even parallel. If you’re interested, I’d like to set your first assignment for the same day we met at Johnny’s Restaurant. You’re going to be reporting from a nearby town in a neighborhood on Maple Street. How does this strike you?
Myself: Mr. Serling, you have my attention, I’m interested, if it pays. Unfortunately we’re already off on the wrong foot, so you’re going to have to pay me well. Because as amazed as I probably am at the prospect of having seemingly travelled 15 years into the future, I’m equally nonplussed at the prospect of this subpar beverage before me. Get me to whichever year has an RC Cola and we’ll talk.