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