A Faraway Song (Part 8)

With that she leaned back heavily into the cushions of the sofa, her eyes closed tight.  Over the course of the next thirty seconds her face relaxed completely, the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth smoothing out slightly, her mouth sagging open just a bit.  I wanted to ask her to repeat what she had said but instead stood up and walked out of the house, taking care to lock the door behind me.  It was still early in the day, the cool air from earlier still lingering around especially in the shadows of the trees in her yard.  I sat underneath one of them and thought about what to do next.

On top of all of the other weirdness about this  place I now had the cryptic question from Eyebrows to ponder, even though I thought it possible it had just been the ramblings of a tired old woman.  I needed to find someone in the area who would tell me about the actual history of Clyde Forks, not just when people were born or to whom they were related.  Most of the residents seemed to be poor conduits for this kind of information and I eventually decided that finding a local church might be a better option.  Surely a pastor or priest who had been in the area for awhile would have some good historical details to share.  I had no idea where to find one but it seemed to be the only plan I had so I started driving back east on Clyde Forks Road.


I had only gone a very short distance, and was just coming around the soft curve near Cemetery Road when I saw Brown Suit turn right off of that road in a Mercury Colony Park Wagon.  At least I was fairly certain it was him as the fedora and color of his clothing seemed unlikely to be repeated in this small place.  Tossing aside my other plan I made the decision to follow him.  I did not think he had seen me as he had completed the turn and was already looking east when I came around the corner.  There was very little traffic in this area, and long stretches of open road, so I believed that I could hang back a good distance and remain unobserved as I followed him toward wherever he was going.  And then we drove for a very long time.

I later knew that it had only been thirty-two miles or so as the crow flies, but that is not the route we traveled.  The roads meandered all over the wilderness out there, cutting back north and south as we picked our way east, passing through small villages and scattered towns.  We also passed through the much larger municipality of Mississippi Mills before turning right onto Upper Dwyer Hill Rd.  This was the only place where I almost lost him, as I stopped to let a young boy on a bike cross the road and ended up trapped at a stop light that Brown Suit had just passed through.  I did manage to catch up though, and finally, after one hour and ten minutes of driving, and a final turn onto a dusty dirt road, he came to a stop.

I had been hanging well back and being cautious yet I still almost went too far, stopping just as the rear bumper of his car came into view, the vehicle parked on the far side of a small group of cedar bushes.  Feeling I was too close, I put my truck in reverse and eased back up the road, going about five hundred feet and pulling into a break in the tree line.  Grabbing a jacket I had stuffed behind my seat, I set off carefully back toward where Brown Suit had parked.  When I got there, he had already exited his car, but I caught sight of his fedora fading into the shadows of another tree line about four hundred feet east of the road.  I did not think he knew I was there but I still wanted to be careful in following him now that we were on foot.  Waiting a few minutes, I then walked in the general direction I had seen him go, doing my best to stay in the shadows as I walked along.  The first few minutes were easy as the land was relatively clear, but then I had to plunge into woods, which were close in places and then would fade to scrub brush and collections of dead fall.  I could hear someone ahead of me making plenty of noise, and I assumed it was him as that was the only guide I had to go on.  My own steps were tentative and light and I felt that I was falling further behind.   Ten minutes later the sound ahead of me stopped just as I climbed over the trunk of a large, dead oak tree.  I froze, the rough edges of the decayed bark pressing against my palm, a mosquito buzzing around my ears.  Slowly I lowered myself to the ground and looked around.

Everything was screened by the trees and I could not make out anything other than the gentle swaying of their branches.  I tried standing up a little bit more but the results were no different.  I needed to be much closer to wherever Brown Suit was in order to figure out what he was doing.  Without the sound I had no idea which way to go, but I did at least know the general direction it had been coming from before it stopped. Starting off toward that location, I crept along in a crouched position, pushing branches aside carefully when I could not avoid them, stepping down gingerly on the twigs and leaves that littered the ground.  After four or five minutes of this I caught sight of him, leaning down to take something out of a large green sack on the ground.  My view of him was screened by the heavy, drooping branches of a white pine tree and at first I thought he had brought out a fur hat, which seemed like an odd thing to be carrying into the woods.  That was quickly corrected as he turned more in my direction and I could see that he was holding a rabbit.

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 7)

I felt the pause that followed, and the silence that accompanied it.  It mirrored my own mind, which I think had actually blinked in shock when she said that.  This certainly seemed like an out-of-the-way place but for no one to have moved here in forty years seemed almost impossible.  Maybe she was just exaggerating for effect, or pulling my leg.  I mentioned both but she just shook her head slowly in reply.


“Yes indeed. Curious isn’t it?”

“You know I ran into a guy who lives down Cemetery Road, kind of a big guy.  He lives in a trailer over there.  He didn’t seem to be more than thirty or maybe thirty-five.”

“Was that you he was shooting at yesterday?”

“Well, yes.  But still, he seemed younger than forty for sure.”

Eyebrows got up and refilled both of our coffee cups, her hands trembling a little bit as she did.  It seemed to offend her that I noticed so I looked back out the window toward the side yard which was lined with Large-toothed Aspen’s that framed a magnificent Chestnut tree.  I heard the kettle click against the stove top as she set it down and turned my attention back to her.

“He was born here, right in that same trailer.  In fact his father died right on my kitchen floor here a long time ago.  He’s not a very friendly type is he?”

I shook my head and she continued.

“You know, I expect that you think maybe all the folks around here aren’t so friendly, and in that you might be right.  But I would caution you against judging the lot of us too harshly.  This is a strange place to live and it kind of turns you into a rascal after awhile, even if you set out to avoid it.  Do you believe that?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it other than what I told you about this being a spooky and weird place.  I don’t think I am judging you all as one.  I mean you seem nice enough.”  I gave her what I thought was a convincing smile to back that up but the old woman did not seem to buy it.  She stirred her coffee for several long moments after that and then spoke.

“So, you want to know about this place then?”

“I do.”

“Well, let’s go look at some pictures.”  With that she led me into the living room area and bent over to pull a large chest, covered in chipped yellow paint, out from underneath a table.  I made a move to help her but caught the look she gave me and backed off.  This was a woman who was both strong and also unwilling to deal with whatever frailties may have crept in on her over time.  She sat down with a small grunt on the yellow and green sofa and motioned me into a armchair.  As she opened the chest I expected to catch a hint of mothballs or old paper but instead smelled rosemary, which was quickly explained by the sachet the woman pulled out from the inside.  She waved her hand toward the chest.



“Go ahead, look around in there.  I keep all my pictures in this chest, every one I ever took since we moved here.  It might help you understand this place.”

Reaching down I picked up a few of them, mostly three-by-five inch black and white photos, many of them posed images of people.  I turned one toward her.

“Who’s this?”

The old woman's husband

The old woman’s husband

She smiled.  “My husband.  Doesn’t he look grand in that suit?  He only ever had two, the one he married me in, and that one.  He had just bought it about two weeks before the picture was taken.  That’s later of course, back here about ten years after we moved in.  He’s standing on a pile of railroad ties that we walked past one day when they were doing repairs.  Isn’t it silly how you can see my shadow in the picture too?  I wasn’t much of a photographer, was I?”

I had not even noticed that so I turned it back to look again.  “Oh, well, I wouldn’t feel too bad about it.  It’s nice picture.  What was he all dressed up for anyway?”

She sighed before replying.  “He always wore a suit on Sundays.  I buried him in it too of course.”  She was rubbing her hand along the arm of the sofa, another awkward silence building, so I returned to the pictures.  I went through the entire set of them, hundreds if not close to a thousand, and asked questions once she seemed to be paying attention again.  I got a lot of information but it was mostly just people’s names and sometimes  a reference to how they knew someone else, or were related to them.  I pressed several times for more details, asking about the few pictures that showed old buildings, or large groups of people, but Eyebrows usually deflected those questions with stories about her husband.  When I had finished I could tell that she was tired, her eyes closing slowly a few times before jumping back to focus on me.  I was about to shut the top of the chest when something struck me, a fact which had been skipping around at the edges of my mind while I poked around in her pictures.

“You know, I didn’t see one single picture in there of a child, at least not a young one.  I mean, all the younger people in those photos must have been at least sixteen I think.  What is that, some kind of other rule around here?  Don’t take the kid’s pictures because you steal their soul or something?”  I laughed but stopped when I glanced over at the old woman.  She looked angry and was standing up now, very straight, her angular features darkened by the shadows from the partially closed curtains.  I took two steps back toward the kitchen and stopped, caught in-between fear and incredulity.  We remained there, locked in a stare-down, for a full minute before she collapsed back onto the sofa, clearly exhausted.  She said something but in a voice too low for me to hear.  When I failed to respond she motioned me closer, which I declined to do, instead eyeballing the distance to the door.  I looked back at her and she looked so frail, so old and weak, that I obeyed her second summons, kneeling down next to her.

“Do you know where the red crow goes?”

A Faraway Song (Part 6)

I puzzled for awhile as I sat there on the side of the road, catching my breath and running through the events that had just occurred.  I found it hard to believe that this day had included me being shot at and also trapped, or at least thinking I was trapped, in a strange man’s house.  That was a far cry from poking around the Canadian wilderness for an abandoned mine.  Thirty miles was what Brown Suit had said when telling me how far off I was, and that seemed like a very long way away.  I hung there on the side of the road, long past when I had recovered my breath, wondering about this strange place.  It was more than the three weird inhabitants I had encountered so far.  There seemed to be a murky sense of secrecy about the place and a stillness that almost felt out of time.  I was repelled and intrigued all at the same time.  Finally, with evening setting in, I walked back to my truck and laid down to sleep once again in the back.

Morning, cool and bright, brought me the clarity I had been unable to find the night before.  I really wanted to try to figure this place out, to determine just what all the strangeness was about.  I decided to first investigate whether this small enclave made up the entirety of Clyde Forks, or if there were other pieces of it scattered around the densely wooded areas along the road.  I had come in from the east, passing over a river that I believe fed into a lake that was simply named after a man named Joe.  There had been very little in the way of structures back that way so I drove west on the road.  I soon realized that there was in fact another small group of houses and out-buildings just around the corner from Cemetery Road.  These stretched out about one-fifth of a mile.  After that there was again nothing, so I decided to call that the extent of the town.  I started at the green house which was furthest away down Clyde Forks Road, getting out of my truck and knocking on the battered wooden door.


the yellow bungalow

the yellow bungalow

There was no response there, even after several attempts at knocking and one at walking around the side.  The backyard was inaccessible due to a rusty chain-link fence.  Three more houses yielded the same result, and then I came to a two-story bungalow with faded yellow paint and brown shutters.  My knock there was responded to by a cheerful voice from around the south side of the house, and was followed soon after by the appearance of a woman who seemed to be about seventy years old.  She was tall, maybe six feet or a little more, although she leaned forward as she walked as though her back was hurting.  Her face was round and pale, with bright blue eyes and bushy, rather distracting, white eyebrows.  Another odd character but at least this one seemed friendly.

“Hi ma’am, how are you?  Sorry for coming on your property unannounced like this.”

“It’s alright sonny boy. I don’t get many visitors so this is a welcome change in the daily routine.  You must come from very far away, don’t ya?”

“Well, yes, but how, oh wait I get it.  My accent?”

She laughed at that and squinted at me.  “Well, that would’a done it I suppose but I was talking about those clothes.  Nobody around here dresses like that, do they?”

I looked down at myself.  Blue jeans, hiking boots, a black tank top. I had traded yesterday’s t-shirt for something lighter as it seemed like the weather was trending towards warmer.   I did not see the relevance of the woman’s comment, which was apparently obvious from the look I gave her back.

“We’re more decent around here then to be walking around with our shoulders exposed, aren’t we?”

“Well, I guess, I don’t know.  I guess so, huh?”  I could tell I was blushing as I answered although I hardly understood why.  Tank tops did not seem so risqué to me.

She laughed again.  “But it’s okay for sure, after all you aren’t from around here obviously.  Come along into the house.  Coffee for ya?”

“Yes, that would be fine.”  I rubbed my shoulders as I entered, unable to get the image out of my mind of how this woman viewed me, as some kind of partially-clothed weirdo.  We sat down at her table, surrounded by doilies and lace curtains, and I told her how I happened to have come up to the area.  I also related my experiences the day before down on Cemetery Road.  Eyebrows sat silent the whole time, stirring her coffee with a spoon when she was not drinking it.  When I stopped talking she sighed.

“So, you want to know where that mine is then?”

“I thought so, or I guess maybe I still do.  But the real reason I started back at poking around here today is that I just want to know what this place it all about.  It seems strange, or weird, or spooky.  I don’t really know how to explain it and I suppose you don’t feel it because you live here, but it’s an odd place.”

She cocked her head at me, her face serious but her blue eyes twinkling as she spoke.

“I feel it plenty sonny.  I have felt it every minute of every day since I moved here with my husband forty years ago.  I’m not from around her either, ya know?”  She giggled a little at that and then continued.  “Or maybe I am, now I am I suppose, but I wasn’t back then.  We moved up here after the wedding, he was from Flower Station, born and raised as they say. “

She stopped talking and ran her hand back and forth along the lace tablecloth, continuing to do so long enough that the silence became awkward.  I looked around and could tell that no man lived here anymore, the rooms I could see filled completely with items a woman would favor.  She seemed to realize what I was thinking.

“He’s dead of course, almost twelve years now, went peaceful as can be in his sleep one November night.  And I stayed right here in our home, secure enough from our savings to pass my remaining years away in the garden.  But to get back to your point sonny boy, I can still feel the strangeness after all of these years.  If you aren’t from here it is as obvious as pants on cats, isn’t it?”

I had to laugh at her reference before answering.  “Yes.  Why did you stay then?  Why not just take that money you had saved up and move somewhere you felt more comfortable, maybe back where you came from?”

“That is a good question but you wouldn’t ask it if you knew more about this place.  There are things, well let’s just call them unwritten rules, about living in Clyde Forks.  It kind of makes you stick around once you move here.”

“You mean you’re not allowed to move?”

She squinted at me again but her eyes were sad this time.  Her voice was soft but clear when she spoke.

“It’s something like that I suppose, but it’s not like anyone here is physically stopping me from leaving.  It is just this place.  You don’t leave and for the most part no one ever moves here.”

“I could see that.  It’s a small place, far away and all that.  Probably not many people are looking to live this far from civilization.”

“You don’t realize, do you?”

I answered her with a look of confusion so she continued.

“Me and my husband were the last people to ever move here.”


…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 5)

A flicker passed across the man’s face, something more than sadness.  It was anguish I thought, or some deeply personal pain.  Then it was gone though and I was not sure if I had judged it correctly.   He did not reply at first but just stood up and walked a few steps away.  Then he turned and spoke.

“So now you know the story.  You need to stay away from that mine.”

“What about the sixth person?  Who was that? Someone you knew?”

Again there was just silence although I could not see the man’s face this time.  He had turned to look out the window where the cat was sitting.  I pressed on.

“I hear what you told me but it doesn’t change my mind.  Sure those people disappeared but I mean, how many people do you suppose have been at that mine in the past fifty-plus years?  How may people worked there?  How many have just been near there?  I mean,  even I heard about someone who went there and came back.  It isn’t like everyone disappears.  Those people all probably got lost, or attacked by some wild animal, or injured,  or something, whatever else that might happen to a person out here.  They just died in the wilderness and no one ever found their bodies.  I wouldn’t call that exactly a mystery.  I figure my chances are pretty good and I’m not going to take any crazy risks.  I’ll be careful, I promise.”  As I said that I did not even know why I was taking the time to make promises to this old man.  It was not like I owed him anything in particular.  But he did seem very intent on keeping me safe, or away from the mine anyway.  Maybe I just wanted to try to make him feel better.

Brown Suit turned back toward me slowly and removed his fedora.  Even though he had a fair amount of hair left for his apparent age, I could still see a long scar that ran across the left side of his head, crossing over his temple and then bending behind his ear.  It looked faded and worn, but must have hurt like hell when it happened.

“It’s not that I care about you in particular young man, but I don’t want to see anyone else taken away by the presence that haunts that place.  It is an evil thing.  Evil and hungry.  It doesn’t matter how careful you are, it will get you if it finds you there when it is hunting.”

I could feel that B-grade horror thing edging back into my conscious mind.  This guy seemed to have a talent for giving me the creeps.  His story still bothered me enough that I needed to take another shot at getting an answer from him.

“So, the sixth person, the one that you obviously don’t want to talk about.  Is there something else I need to know about what happened to that person?  Something that might convince me to stay away from the mine?  Because with what you told me so far, I’m not convinced.”

I finished with a partial wave of my hand toward Brown Suit, almost an offer to have him tell me whatever it was that was going to make me change my mind.  I was not sure why, right in that moment, I felt like maybe I needed to be convinced to stay away from it, but I did feel that way.  He just stared at me though, and my stubbornness returned.

“Fine then, I’m going now.  Someone will tell me where that place is.  Thanks for the water though, and for trying to warn me.”

As I turned a savage growl erupted in my ear and I jumped to the side, wildly flailing out with one arm at the unseen thing behind me.  Crashing into a chair, I caught myself on a small, blue table and looked over at the man.  He stood exactly where he had been, a good fifteen feet away from me.  He had dropped his hat; however, and now his hands were extended before him, fingers arched out like he was trying to strangle me from a distance.  His face seemed clearer, less full of crags and crevasses, and he was staring right at me.  I heard his voice, angry now and harsh, clearly in my ear.

“You, boy, do not know the power of that place.  You do not  understand it’s ability to reach out and take away from you what you care about, to take away life.  It is dark and evil.  And it is very, very hungry, all of the time.  Hungry for spirits that it needs to quench its desires.  It cannot be kept always at bay.  Eventually it strikes out and takes someone.  Stay away!”

I ran at that moment, overcome by the horror vibe, and even managed to get the door open with only a few shakes of the handle.  In my haste to get away, I turned the wrong way out the door and had made it to the back edge of the house where I stopped short before running into a tall chicken-wire fence.  It was not actually the wire that stopped me, as I was running too fast to really register its presence in my head.  It was the rabbits that did it.  The wire enclosed a space that was about one hundred feet square, basically taking up the entirety of what would have been a sizable backyard.  Within it, there were hundreds of rabbits of all colors and sizes.  There heads were in profile, ears up and alert, seeking out the danger that was only me.  It was an eerie feeling as my hand reached up to catch the edge of the fence before I ran into it and I noticed all of those small, dark eyes staring at me, one each from the side of every rabbit’s head.   I stood there for a moment, until the old man came busting out of his back door, yelling at me to stay away, not from the mine this time, but from the rabbits.  Taking in a few deep gasps of air I jogged back onto the road and kept running until I was back up at the Clyde Forks Road intersection.   Turning to look back down Cemetery Road, it seemed much more eerie than it had just a few hours ago.


…to be continued