Feeling a little unnerved, I walked slowly toward the man who now stood with his hands clasped behind his back. As I approached, a few more details about him became evident. He was old. Very, very old, or at least looked that way. His face was deeply wrinkled, in a way that made it difficult to distinguish his exact facial features. It just looked like a huge mass of deep valleys and ridges, with stark black lines marking the boundaries. His nose was strangely unwrinkled and looked odd jutting out from the crags of his face. Blue eyes, almost midnight blue it seemed and wiry grey hair poking out from underneath a fedora were the last things I noted before I stopped about ten feet away from where the man stood.
“Were you talking to me? Was that actually you? Because it sounded like you were standing right next to me.”
The man did not answer, but just cocked his head a little bit to the side.
“Can you hear me? I asked if that was you talking to me?”
“Where did you come from?” That was his reply, delivered in a soft voice that still sounded like it was being spoken right into my left ear. It actually made me turn my head, looking for someone else standing next to me, even though I could see his lips move with the words.
Finding no one there I replied, “How do you do that? It’s really freaking me out.”
“Where did you come from,” he repeated, this time turning to face me completely.
I rubbed my ear in reply, some weird reaction that I suppose was my attempt to get his voice to seem farther away. It did not work.
“Are you afraid to tell me where you came from?”
“No. This place is just weird. Really weird so far. And your voice in my ear isn’t helping.”
He just kept staring at me, so I told him the whole story about coming to find the mine, getting lost, and my adventures up the road with the two people I had now nicknamed Window Man and Mr. Shotgun. It was at that point I realized that people must have real names around here.
“What’s your name sir?”
No reply, just the stare. Finally he turned and said, “Follow me.”
He walked toward the side of the house and I followed. It was apparent that the front door of this place was not in use as it had a large dead tree branch blocking access to it. From the fact that the branch was very decayed, and that the tree which is apparently had belonged to was now just a withered trunk, I figured that entry had not been used in a long time. As the man opened the door and stepped into the house, he waved his hands in front of him quickly. I thought I heard a chair push back inside, but when I also stepped through the door the room was empty and all was quiet. We had entered into the kitchen, and it’s neat and clean appearance was a surprise given what I had observed outside the house. The appliances were old but well-kept, and the small table was set with placemats and silverware for four. The man opened a blue and green Westinghouse refrigerator and pulled out two empty glasses from the top shelf. Filling them from the faucet on the cast iron sink, he put one down on the table and pointed at it.
“Drink some, it’s plenty warm out there.”
I raised an eyebrow at that, as I actually thought it was a little cool out, but I was thirsty anyway and complied. Placing the glass back on the table half-empty I tried moving my head around to see into some of the other rooms. Had someone else been in the kitchen before I entered? And if so, why had the brown-suited man shooed them away. Brown Suit. That was apparently going to be my nickname for him, as it appeared he was not going to give me his actual name.
“So, can you help me find the mine? Is it nearby or was I way off?”
“The mine is closed and dangerous. You need to stay away from it.”
“I know that. It’s the whole point of why I want to go there. You know, cool old mine, explore the darkness, you get it right?”
“It’s closed. And dangerous. You need to stay away from it.”
I sighed. “So, I guess that means you aren’t going to tell me how to get there?”
Brown Suit started repeating himself again but I cut him off.
“Fine, I get it. I’ll go ask someone else.” I stepped toward the door but suddenly the man reached out and grabbed me, his long fingers wrapping around my forearm in a tight, vice-like grip. As he did so, a shiver shot through my body, like when you touch a live electric wire, and I almost lost control of my bladder. I yanked my arm but the man’s grip held. His voice, still soft but hissing now, was loud in my ear and each word was accentuated very clearly. As he spoke he stood up, his wrinkled face coming very close to mine. His eyes seemed to be sparking as he spoke.
“You must stay away from there. It is dangerous.” His grip got even tighter on my arm and I started yanking again, pushing back at the man’s narrow chest.
“Let me go! Let go!”
Finally he did and I staggered toward the door, my balance upset by his sudden release. I turned the knob but the door would not open. The voice was in my ear again.
“Have a seat.”
…to be continued