Below is a Recollection–this is not a review, but rather a full spoiler walkthrough of the author’s experience in Have You Seen Jake’s second fully realized event: Water & Fire. As this event will not occur again, spoilers are not a concern. For the review, please see Water & Fire Review.
“Hi Taylor, it’s Buoy. I found your name and number on a flier for people looking for Jake. I saw him last week in Seal Beach—but didn’t even realize he was missing… or that it was this serious. If you’d like to meet with me on Sunday around 5pm, I’d love to discuss with you what I know. Let’s meet near the water at Seal Beach, maybe he’ll be there again.”
I received this call last week, and now I stand on near the water at sunset, waiting under four palm trees for Buoy.
I see a woman walking down a path. I recognize her—as if I have dreamed of her before. “Taylor?” She asks. “Hi Buoy.”
She thanks me for meeting her. And as we walk along the beach, she begins to share her story. She tells me she has a brother, Paul, who is the same age as Jake. Buoy is the extroverted one, while Paul is introverted. He mainly kept to himself—until he met Jake, a kindred spirit to Paul. And much like Jake, Paul would often disappear, not returning for weeks. But yesterday, she received a call. It wasn’t from Paul; it was from Jake’s parents—Chip and Lila. They informed her that they had Paul, and if she ever wanted to see her brother again, she would need to tell them where their son was.
“I’m sorry for lying to get you out here, but I have to get my brother back.”
Buoy seems lost, utterly heartbroken and desperate to get her family back. I feel her loss, and try my best to calm her—I explain that she didn’t need to lie to me; I will help get her brother back. I knew stories about Chip and Lila: secrets that Jake had told me, letters I had found hidden between book pages, and rumors whispered between friends. They were stories of an older couple that would wander the beach and pick up young boys from the beach. They were stories of the sexual games they would play with them back at their house. They were stories of the games they would play with Jake while he was in the bathtub and how Jake feared the water now. I would not share any of these stories with Buoy. They were far too heartbreaking.
I hear a gruff voice from behind me. A large man, built like a mountain, shines a flashlight at me from across the beach. He begins to approach us, and I realize a woman is with him. She is dressed in a long luxurious purple coat and gloves. She is much older than he is, and has a quiet frailty about her.
“You’ve come to the water,” he says to Buoy, “and who did you bring?” He puts his hand out, and I shake it as I introduce myself. I notice Lila is prominently displaying her bag, so I ask her if she has anything in it that she’d like to show me. She reaches her hand into it and produces a giraffe mask. Holding it up to her face, she kisses it—“It’s my favorite one” she exclaims. I look at Buoy disgusted. But Buoy is too frightened to even notice it. “Where’s my brother? Is he okay?” Lila rolls up her sleeve, revealing a card.
“This is the key to saving your brother. But first we need a little something from you. You need to tell us where Jake is.”
I tell them I don’t know where Jake is; I’m looking for him too. But they aren’t happy. If we don’t tell them everything we know, Paul is going to die. Buoy looks at me desperately—and I decide to lie. I tell them I don’t know for certain, but Jake was talking about the weather, and it matched the weather from his home—in Oyster Bay, NY.
Chip puts his hand on my shoulder. “Now that’s a good boy.” He squeezes his grip tighter until it hurts. “That wasn’t so hard.” Lila remains quiet, looking down, almost sad. “I feel like I could cry, I can finally see my boy again.” I almost feel bad for her, until I remembered that by trying to reunite her family, she was tearing Buoy’s apart.
Lila gives us the key—Room 330 at the Pacific Inn. “If he’s not in that room, you may want to try the room below it—the door will be ajar.” Her smile gives me chills, and we leave. The hotel is a few blocks away from the water. As we walk, Buoy and I share stories, some of Jake, some of Paul, some of Chip and Lila. I am frightened by the influence they have—she tells me that they were able to buy off the police to conceal their crimes. With this much power, I just hope Paul is alive when we get to him—not even considering the danger we could be in.
We arrive at the hotel. Buoy takes the room on the second floor, handing me the keycard for the third. I find room 330, and open the door. I step in and the door shuts behind me. I am enveloped in darkness. I fumble, looking for anything—but instead, a hand finds mine putting a small flashlight in it. I turn it on and find Tyrant—the frog-masked member of Them—standing before me holding a piece of rebar. And then I also notice a scared naked man handcuffed to a drawer in the corner of the room. I rush over to Paul and tell him I’m here with his sister; I’m here to get him out.
Paul tells me there’s a box that might help me. I find it—but it’s secured with an antique lock with Chinese symbols on it. I find a second box nearby containing a clue that I must find the scrabble pieces and put them in order. Searching the room, I locate three distinct scrabble pieces with Chinese symbols scrawled on the back. Arranging them by point value, I unlock the box, releasing a key. I rush over to Paul to free him—but I’m grabbed from behind.
“Always so close, Taylor.”
I throw the key to Paul, begging him to release himself as I am dragged backwards. Paul seems confused at my sudden need to leave—completely unaware of the animal-masked man pulling me away. When I reach the bathroom, Paul begins to scream in terror, “The key doesn’t work! Please come back, the key doesn’t work!!!” My heart sinks with each scream.
The bathroom is lit, and a woman in a bird mask stands near the toilet. I recognize her as BusyBody—a masked member of Them that does not speak. She holds a sign that says “Remove your clothes and get in the fucking bath.” I comply, getting completely naked and slip into the water.
The water burns like fire—but its ice cold. Bossman—the Koala-masked leader of Them—covers my mouth with tape. He fills a sponge with the frigid water, and then empties the water over my head. I let out a cry but luckily the tape muffles it. He then takes a pumice stone and begins to scrub my back with it until the skin begins to come off. “We need to remove the filth from your body, Sunshine,” Bossman says, justifying his actions. BusyBody crumples her initial sign and throws it into the water—replacing it with “We may need a stronger solvent.” Bossman complies and pulls out a bottle of Draino. He pulls my head back and pours the content over my face until I can’t hold my breath any longer and choke on the cold liquid. I cough violently as she throws some toys in the water for me to play with. I realize this isn’t bath-time with Them, it’s bath-time with Lila. She must have scrubbed Jake until he bled to remove the filth from his body. I feel sick, but BusyBody holds up another sign “Perhaps you would like to listen to some sweet tunes in order to relax?” I nod reluctantly, and she violently kicks a stereo into the water with me.
Bossman finally allows me to stand from the water and look in the mirror at my naked body. “How about Taylor and Bossman go on a special trip to the beach? Would that be nice?” I agree and he hands me a blindfold. I am led back to the bed, water dripping from my body. Climbing onto it, I realize it is covered in plastic and sand. The sand sticks to my wet body as I lay down. My legs and arms are strapped into the bed, and Bossman cuddles up intimately next to me, excited for the show I am about to see. He removes the blindfold and the room is filled with blow-up dolls and brightly colored lights.
A 1950’s-esque infomercial begins. A proper voiceover informs us: “The Man wakes up to go to work for the day.” I watch in horror as a male blow-up doll rises from the floor and begins to walk around the room. “The Woman then wakes up to prepare herself for the day.” A female blow-up doll rises and begins to put on pretend make-up. Bossman grabs sand from the bed and presses it into my stomach, violently rubbing it against my skin. The voiceover continues to describe the various tasks The Woman must accomplish throughout the day: hanging up clothes (in which she pins clothes pins to my toes and sides), repainting the walls (in which she runs a large paint roller against the walls, my chest, and my face), cleaning the house (in which she uses a plunger on my chest and face), and preparing for The Man’s return from work (in which she takes out a condom, puts it on a cucumber, and proceeds to practice oral on it). The Man then returns from his work of banging his head on the walls of the hotel room (symbolizing his mundane profession), and The Woman greets him by bending over. The Man proceeds to fuck The Woman mechanically.
“The Woman then offers the present to The Man.”
They turn their attention to me, and both begin to creepily crawl towards me. The voice-over gets stuck, repeating “Help me… help me… help me.” Until they get closer. “The present then exclaims ‘I want to die… I want to die… I want to die.’” Stuck in repetition again, I shout “I want to die.” And The Man and The Woman both put their hands around my throat, choking the life from me. This nightmarish Their dysfunctions play in my head as a hood is placed over me. I am left alone with my thoughts.
After a minute or two of nothingness, I feel someone climb onto the bed with me. They climb over me, and sit on my chest.
“Hello, Taylor. I hope you didn’t forget about me.”
I recognize the voice immediately. It’s She—and She’s actually in the room with me. She has only been a voice on the phone at this point—and is the most mysterious force in the search to date. “I’m getting closer; you can even feel me now.” She drags her nails down my arm. She places a small amethyst crystal in my hand, suggesting it might help me remember.
Bossman returns to remove me from the bed and instructs me to get dressed. I am pushed from the hotel room, with instructions to go out the way I came in.
I leave the hall and walk down the stairs. A woman is heading up the stairs and as she gets closer, I realize it’s Heather—one of Jake’s best friends. “Taylor, what are you doing here? Well this is going to sound silly—don’t judge me—but I’m about to go see a medium. Have you ever seen one before? Well I thought it might be worth a shot. Hey, do you want to come?!” I gleefully agree. And we proceed to Room 231.
Of course, Heather has a secret knock to get in, and a woman with a black hat, short pink hair, and one hanging triangular earing in answers. She introduces herself as Tiffany, and we enter. Sniffles—Jake’s sister—is already here, sitting on a pillow in front of a small table, already bored of the experience. Heather and I take our seats on adjacent pillows and we begin.
Tiffany hands me a small pouch filled with stones. “Think of a memory, a time, that is joyous to you. Hold the stones tightly, and let us close our eyes and think of that memory.” I grip the stones and warm feelings fill my body. I hand the stones back to her, and she is astonished at how warm they are. Sniffles scoffs at the idea, doubting it. Even Heather comments that they aren’t Arcane Stones but rather Rune Stones.
Tiffany looks defeated. “Great. The stones have cooled off now. Maybe we can try something else. Heather, did you bring items of Jake’s?” Heather puts the first item—a collection of EE Cumming’s poems on the alter. “Hmmm… Jake needed Rogaine?” Tiffany said with uncertainty. Sniffles laughed again and Heather said told her he didn’t, but offered suggestions, trying to make it work. She then puts a second item on the alter—a gigantic plastic cicada toy. “Hmm…. Jake wants to be an exterminator. It’s his life-long passion.” Tiffany guesses again, failing miserably. I offer words of support, but it does little to help.
Tiffany asks to talk to me in the bathroom. I agree, happy to help in any way that I can. She then tells me her story: she’s not a medium, she’s an espresso mixologist. She has no idea what she’s doing, but sometimes you do things because you need the money. Every once in a while something comes into her head that hits home—but if I could just play along, it would be so helpful for her. I agree: it’s no harm, we already paid, so why not.
Returning from the bathroom, we try one more time. This time, Tiffany sees silver trees. I nod at her approvingly and she continues. “He’s here with us. He’s here with us.” She starts getting louder. “He’s hurting… and he’s here with us!” And then a man appears from behind me, seemingly out of nowhere. He’s young, with torn clothes and large burns across his forehead and chest. His face and hands are covered in ash and soot. I can tell immediately it’s Chance Welton—the man who died in the fire that burned Chip and Lila’s house in Oyster Bay to the ground.
“She always made the pasta sauce too salty. But when you’re hungry, you eat anyways, even if it’s too salty.”
He’s scared, and doesn’t belong here. I look around the room—Sniffles has fainted, Heather looks like she’s going to cry, and Tiffany, well Tiffany looks like she’s seen a ghost. Chance grabs my hand and begins to recount his story to me.
He was once scared and hungry. He met Chip and Lila, and they offered him food. But in return, they made him partake in their games. Although he first despised it—he grew to like it. When Lila burned him, it would make him cum. He asks me if I can still look him in the eye when he tells he liked it. I can, and I do. He continues, telling me that he met a boy on the beach named William, and he was told to bring him back. At first, he refused; but when they threatened him, he complied. He did what was necessary to survive. With a true look of sadness and regret on his face, Chance once again asks me, can I look him in the eye knowing that he brought William in, subjecting him to the same fate as himself? I understand; he was acting with a survival instinct—so I continue to look him in the eye, squeeze his hand tighter, and tell him “I don’t blame you.” He looks reassured for a moment, and tells me of the night he died. He always dreamed of escaping. Sniffles, Jake, and he would look over maps, planning where they could escape to. Sniffles use to cover his eyes, shielding him from the pain. But that night he woke up to his covered, thinking it was her—but instead it was the fire. The Redlands surrounded him and he felt warm. He went to the window and saw Sniffles standing in the driveway as he burned. He was finally free.
Sniffles began to move, and I turned my attention to her as Chance disappeared back to where he came from. She burst into tears; her walls down for the first time since I’ve met her. She admits to setting the fire—she wanted to burn the house down, freeing them from their parents. She should have checked the house; she thought Chip and Lila would have been in it! But they weren’t—Chance was instead. And when she realized he was in the house, she did nothing to try and save him. With this, she cries harder. This is the first time we see the real her: no sarcastic or sass, just honesty. I understand her and what she went through and why she hides behind her walls, the booze, and the jokes. She continues to cathartically cry. Heather looks at me and we decide to give her a moment. We leave the room and Heather walks me to the street.
She thanks me genuinely for being there for Sniffles and her tonight. She doesn’t think she could have handled it on her own. I hug her deeply and tell her that I truly appreciate her friendship. She returns to take care of Sniffles, and I walk back to my car, reflecting on what I felt.
This experience was truly an emotional journey. I felt the pain of a mother looking for her son, of a sister looking for her brother. I felt the remorse of a young man who brought in a kid from the beach, only to have him face the same torture that the young man endured. I felt the heartbreak in a young girl who set a fire trying to save those she loved, but ultimately failed—killing someone she deeply cared for. And I felt the fear that two monsters are still out there, still walking near the water at night, looking for young men to bring back to their room to dance among the fire with them.