There's a strange newspaper that's only delivered at midnight - Chap 9
I have decided to transcribe my father’s journal. I figure it’ll help me understand what was happening to me and what is now happening to everyone in my neighborhood.
My dad was a quiet, reserved, and no-nonsense kind of guy. I didn’t really get to know him much, so this is a way for me to get in touch with him, to hear about his life, to hear his voice, even beyond the grave.
I hope that you get to know him too and that, together, anyone who has gotten a Midnight Paper learns a little more about it.
This is what was written in the first section of the journal:
Son, I know that, if anyone’s reading this, it’s you. I hope you aren’t. I hope that this notebook and all the others get thrown out once you sell our house. If you are reading this…well I guess I can’t stop you from reading this.
I know that there’s a good chance that you found this notebook after reading a Midnight Paper. If you haven’t read one, listen to me very carefully: DO NOT READ THE MIDNIGHT PAPER.
If you’ve only read one, listen to me very carefully: DO NOT READ ANY MORE.
I’m not sure, but I think that reading the Papers makes the things in them real. Some of the articles that I’ve read have already come true. Some people are already in danger, hurt, or dead.
I may have found a way to stop this.
First, though, I’m going to transcribe all the Midnight Papers I received. Some of them I have transcribed already, across several notebooks, and I’m just copying them here. Some of them I haven’t gotten yet, but I know I will.
I’m no writer. I never went to college. But here’s my version of what happened anyway.
The first time I saw a Midnight Paper was when I was 18. In 1969. In A Shau Valley, Vietnam.
I haven’t talked about my time in the war much. I never felt that I had to. I’m not going to go into much detail here, just what’s necessary.
I was a Leatherneck with the 3rd Marine Division, part of what they said was called Operation Dawson River. For us, though it didn’t matter what you called it. We were just wading through miles and miles of water and elephant grass.
I’m from Brooklyn. I used to think the summers there were hot. This was something else. The heat was like a living thing, you’d feel it wrapping around you, squeezing the air out of your lungs and the sweat out of your skin.
We mostly did a lot of walking. I’m not gonna talk about what we did when we weren’t walking.
During the day, we stayed quiet. All you’d hear was the sound of the feet of the guy in front of you working into the mud, the feet of the guy behind you, and your feet.
We’d eat as we walked. No talking there either. You got used to it.
There were a few good times. We’d join some other groups of young guys at FSB (fire support base) and talk shit, smoke weed, listen to music, play cards…be kids again, for a bit.
That’s where I met Ty.
I was 18, but big for my age. Most guys thought I was in my late twenties. Ty was the opposite. It was impossible to look at him and not think he was 16. He was skinny, wore glasses that were always scuffed up or caked in grime, and had the deepest voice I’d ever heard. The guy sounded like Leonard fucking Cohen.
Anyway, Ty was popular with the guys because he had somehow managed to smuggle in a bunch of comic books, had them mailed to him too. People would trade him a beer, some beef jerky, or even a joint for a Captain America or an Archie. Most of the time, people would pretend to be older than they were, would pretend that they were men, not boys. With Ty it was different. He was like everyone’s little brother, and it was cool to sit back, light up, and hear the kid talk about what I’d always thought of as the funny pages.
Then one day, Ty got something that wasn’t a comic book in the mail.
We were on patrol, and we’d set up our RON (rest overnight) spot. You slept sitting down, with your back to another Leatherneck so as to watch each other’s six. I was back to back to Ty and he woke me up by muttering something.
I didn’t quite catch it, but it sounded like “not here” or “out here.”
“What?” I asked, turning around to see what he was looking at. There, in front of his feet, was a bundle of black paper. At the time, I thought it was some kind of nap-sack.
Ty ignored me. He just set his M-16 and used a knife to cut the little bundle open. It unrolled itself slowly and there, at the top of what I could now see was a page, were the words ‘The Midnight Paper.’
“What is that? A newspaper?” I asked.
Ty nodded. “I was getting them back home for a while. Real weird. Always shows up at midnight. They knock on your door, three times. I felt something hit my boots three times too. Guess I didn’t wake up until now.”
It was almost dawn, and just bright enough to make out the words on the page.
“Come on,” I said, “read it out loud!”
Ty didn’t look convinced. “I don’t know if I should,” he said.
I lunged like I was going to grab it, and Ty held it at bay. He may have saved my life.
“Fine,” he said.
Ty read the following out loud:
“TREE HEAD:” PARANOIA ON THE BATTLEFIELD?
After several reports of a ‘strange creature’ in the hills of Vietnam, military officers urge all members of the armed forces to remain calm, but vigilant.
The first sighting occurred several weeks ago. ——— —— ——- stationed at —————-, reported it to his commanding officer.
“I thought it was just a tree at first,” —— ——- said, “I don’t know what kind. Just the type you always see out there. But it kept moving like it was following me around. The first few times, it was sticking out of some tall grass or some bushes, so I couldn’t see where it ended. But I saw it standing out in the open once. It’s a man. The tree trunk’s growing out where the neck should be. It’s this huge fucking tree, like 20 feet tall, covered in leaves and everything, like all the other ones out here. But it was coming out where the head shoulda been. The thing was wearing a uniform too. One of theirs. It had arms, legs, even fucking sandals! It was just like a normal guy with a giant tree where the head should be, you know? I lit the thing up, but it didn’t make a sound or nothing. They called me out about shooting without reason, giving away our position. I don’t give a shit. Now, every tree I see I’m keeping my gun on.”
The bizarre ‘Tree Head’ phenomenon was even cited as being the cause of a helicopter crash. “The thing took out a fucking Huey!” said one witness, “the tree part of it was maybe 15 feet at one moment, then it grew to what must’ve been 100 feet tall. The Huey slammed right into it! Then it shrank back down, like that was what it wanted to do all along!”
Those in command are convinced they have an explanation for the uncanny sightings. “It’s paranoia. Plain and simple,” said —————, a —————- stationed at ————. “We’ve got people out here who’re sleeping two to three hours a night, if at all. These men are trained to look for enemies in the trees or the tall grass. Seeing an enemy in the trees when he’s not really there isn’t anything new. Seeing that same enemy as a tree is a natural extension of that.”
The men on patrol, however, are convinced that ‘Tree Head’ is a real threat. They have started blaming disappearances on the creature, and even casualties in battle.
“The goddamn thing’s a killer,” said one alleged witness, “its head may look like a tree, but that don’t mean it’s a normal fucking tree, right?”
Indeed, there have been reports that, during a firefight, the creature known as Tree Head alters its ‘tree’ in all manner of deadly ways….all to defend the Viet Cong. Some men have reported seeing the branches of Tree Head’s ‘head’ extend and skewer men. Some have reported witnessing Tree Head grow vine-like protrusions to lift men who wander too close to it, swallowing them into its ‘leaves’ so that they’ll never be seen again. Still, other witnesses have reported Tree Head showering troops on patrol with strange spores. The men covered in these spores have all been killed within a few days, always by incoming enemy fire. “It’s as if that shit attracts bullets somehow,” said one witness.
Despite how interesting these reports may be, all evidence points to the being known as Tree Head simply being a hallucination brought on by sleep deprivation and anxiety about enemy forces. Still, it may be wise to stay away from any unidentified vegetation.
Ty put the Midnight Paper down. I burst out laughing. “What is that, man? An arts and crafts project? Did Jamie put you up to this?”
Ty shook his head. He wasn’t smiling. He was pale. “This’ll come true,” he said, “just wait and see.”
A few weeks later, Ty was gone. He didn’t go out during combat. He just up and vanished one night. Some people say that he went out to take a piss and stumbled upon a foxhole or an enemy patrol. Maybe he was taken prisoner or killed outright. To this day, he’s listed as MIA, part of the around 1,600 MIAs still unaccounted for in the conflict.
Funny thing is, he was right. A week or so after I read that strange newspaper, people really did start saying they saw ‘Tree Head.’ Back then, I thought that Ty had told them about it. Now I know better.
Because the next Midnight Paper I got was delivered to my front door.
That was the first entry in my dad’s notebook. I’m going to keep reading. I know that most of my neighbors, if not all of them, are getting Midnight Papers now. I have to find a way to stop them from being delivered. Finding out more about the Papers is the only way to do that.