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.
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