A Faraway Song (Part 13)

He stood up and retuned the flask to it’s hiding place within his jacket.  I remained sitting, looking up at him as he started to walk away.  He did not look back, content it seemed to leave it at that, so I challenged him with a question.

“Why did you agree to take me out here?  I mean, if you are so afraid of this place, so afraid of whatever it is you think you heard, why come out here with me?”

He stopped and turned around, standing there with his hair backlit by the sunlight.  Before replying he rubbed his face a few times, seeming to be considering what to say.  He was looking past me, back at the mine entrance, when he finally spoke.

“I think I was hoping that someone, you, could confirm it for me.  Or maybe not, I mean, not confirm it.  I think I just wanted someone else to come out here and see if they heard it too.  Then I would know if I was just crazy or if all of the stories about this place are actually true.  Checking on my own sanity I suppose.   And that’s all I can say.”  He turned back away from me, heading up the small incline.  I sat for a few more minutes before my brain had processed his last few comments.  Then I took off after him at a run, catching up and pulling at his arm.

“What stories are you talking about?  I thought you didn’t know anything about this place, or its history?  You told me that you knew nothing about this mine expect its location.  What did you mean back there?”

Pulling his arm away he stalked off, muttering, “Damn, I said too damn much,” to himself.  Those were the last words he spoke all the way back, although he did manage to drain the flask along the way.  I followed along, asking questions to his back for awhile before finally giving up and then spent the remainder of the time trying to puzzle out whatever lessons I had learned from the day’s adventure.  I also resolved to not let the reverend off easily.  We reached the driveway for the church and he turned in without offering a goodbye or even a glance back at me.  I suppose he thought I was going to keep on going down Clyde Forks Road toward my truck, but I turned into the driveway right behind him.  When he realized this he turned around.

“Don’t follow me in here.  I’m done for the day.”  His words were spoken with just a little bit of heaviness, the edges of the alcohol showing through.

“I want an answer to what I asked you.”

“We already talked about this.”

“No we didn’t.  You walked off and haven’t said a word since then.”

“I meant before that.  I told you what I knew before and that’s all I know.”

“I don’t think so.  I think you know more than that.  You were talking before about how secretive everyone here is, and it turns out you are too.  I just want to figure out what is going on in this place.”

He smiled at me, in a sad and condescending way.  “No you don’t.”

“I do.”

“You aren’t even from anywhere around here.  You’re just a kid on a temporary adventure.  This place will mean nothing to you when you leave.  So go now, and just forget about it.”  He turned and walked away again.  I followed him and a minute later we were standing in the small office area of the church, the reverend staring up at the ceiling in exasperation and me standing resolutely right inside the doorway.

“How about you just tell me what you heard in the mine?”

He waved me toward a chair.  “Fine.  I’ll be back in a minute.”

I was excited as I sat there waiting for him, hoping that this was where I actually started to learn something about the place.  Maybe this one story would lead to another, or to some actual fact that I could check, or maybe to a piece of information I could use in my investigation.  When he came back the reverend was carrying a bottle of whiskey.  He sat down with a long sigh, then opened the bottle and poured a rocks glass halfway full.  After taking a long drink he started talking.

“Ok, so here you go.  Take it for whatever you will and then leave  me alone.  It was the third time I hiked out there, the other two times I had just poked around the entrance a little bit, pulling back the branches, not going in.  Like I said, I’m not much of an adventurous type.  I prefer things normal and easy.  So, that third time I kind of dared myself to go deeper, to step into the mine itself.  I guess it was a self-improvement kind of thing, overcoming my fears.”

He took a small drink of his whiskey and then resumed talking.  “So I did it, I had those branches pulled back just like the other two times, but then I stepped in and let them drop behind me.  My heart was racing, I mean it too, it was beating like a hammer in my chest so hard that it almost hurt.  I just stood there, right up against the branches, sticking my fingers back through them toward the outside.  It made me feel just a little bit better you know, like I could escape easily if I had to.  It seemed so quiet in there and dark.  I mean, it was darker than outside of course, but I could see things scattered around on the ground, although I couldn’t remember any of the details later.”

He stopped talking again and finished off the remaining whiskey in one large gulp, pouring another half glass right away.  He traced his left index finger around the rim of the glass for a moment before continuing.  “After a couple of minutes my heart had calmed down and I was about to step out, figuring I had conquered it, that I had stood there and nothing bad had happened.”  He ran his right hand slowly though his hair, his voice dropping to a murmur.   “It was like a whisper, just a really faint whisper.”

He stopped talking then, for several long minutes, sipping slowly from the glass which he kept held up to his mouth.  Finally I prompted him.  “What whisper?”

A sigh escaped his lips before he spoke.  “The voice, her voice, it was just the faintest whisper.  There was no wind outside, and the mine was still, but that voice came from inside there, from somewhere deep inside there.  I’m coming, that’s all it said, maybe four or five times just repeating itself, like she was calling to someone.  I’m coming.  I was so scared that I ran for the outside.  I didn’t even pull the branches back, I just ran through them, and I kept running until I couldn’t go anymore.  I must have covered a mile or more through that forest, face all scratched up from the branches I ran through, knee banged up when I tripped over some roots, I kept going though until I couldn’t hardly breathe.  Then I just collapsed in a small clearing and I was still shaking in fear as I recovered.”  He poured and drained another glass of whiskey and then just stared at me.  My skin was tingling from the story, the hair on my neck raised up and my mind racing.

“That voice you heard, who was it?  Could you tell?”

The reverend blinked a few times and then answered.  “It was a little girl.”

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 12)

We started out walking southwest down Clyde Forks Road, an easy path to follow, and the reverend and I chatted as we went along.  I tried asking him a few more questions about the history of the area but he proved to be as unknowledgeable as he had claimed.  After that we mostly spoke about the surrounding scenery and I told him a few things about myself.  Eventually we got to a point in the road where the reverend indicated we needed to head off into the woods, which we did and emerged fifteen minutes later in a large clearing.  He explained to me that this was the former railway bed for the K&P line and that it now was used mostly as a trail which extended for many miles north and south.  We took a quick break there as he indicated that the upcoming part of the hike was going to be the hardest and then we set off again.  By the time we reached the beginning of the mine system I was in complete agreement with Reverend Currie about the difficulty of the hike.  The forest we came through was thick and constant, broken only a few times by two-track roads and once by what appeared to be an old logging cut.  I sat down on an old tree stump to rest and take some long drinks of water.

“Quite a hike, isn’t it?” The reverend was also sitting down, in his case on a large boulder next to several oak trees.

“Damn right about that.  Oh, sorry.”

“It’s okay.  I don’t really object.  Quite frankly, damn by itself is not religiously dangerous.”  He laughed a little at his own joke.

I had taken my boots off to rub my feet and replied as I did so.  “Couldn’t we have just driven over here on that two-track?”

“Not really.  You didn’t see it the way we came but that road is not continuous all the way through the forest.  There are a few creek beds in there, and several large old quarry pits, that it does not cross.  Besides, the walking is good for you.”

“Tell that to my feet,” I replied as I checked out the surroundings.  About fifty feet away from where we both sat there was a short path heading down through the forest to what appeared to be a small clearing.  Everything else around us was just trees and bushes.  I pointed at the path.

clyde forks mine path courtesy-dualsportdiary-com

clyde forks mine path courtesy-dualsportdiary-com

“Is the mine down there?”

“It is.  There is a small campsite down there also, seems to get used a little bit.  About a month ago when I came over here it looked like someone had just left a few days before.”

“Hmmm, interesting.  Do people go into the mine?”

“No idea.  I don’t that’s for sure.”  He shrugged and finished with, “I’m not much of an adventure seeker.”

“Right.  Let’s go check it out.”  I tied my boots back up and walked slowly down the path, slipping several times on the dense leaf litter that had accumulated in several places.  At the bottom, the clearing was larger than it had looked, although still closely crowded by the surrounding trees.  A black mark in the middle, surrounded by a ragged circle of small stones, marked out a place for a campfire.  There were several other well-worn areas that seemed to verify that the place was visited and used with some regularity.  The reverend walked over to the edge of the clearing and pointed into what looked to me like just another bunch of bushes.

“It’s right there.”

I peered in closer but still saw only the bushes. “Huh?  Where?”

“Stand over here and look closely.  You see that dark patch in the middle?  That’s the entrance.”

clyde forks mine entrance ref ontarioabandonedplace.com

clyde forks mine entrance ref ontarioabandonedplace.com

I still could not see it but wanted to get closer anyway so I headed down the small incline toward the set of bushes he had indicated.  He called a warning to me to be careful and then sat down on the ground, his back against a tree.  I was almost on top of it when I could finally make out the actual entrance.

Hidden by a screen of wispy branches, the kind you can pull back without damaging, the cluttered space beyond them made me pause.  It was dark and earthy, smelling like mildew and old, damp firewood.  The ground was littered with various pieces of debris along with rocks of various sizes.  There was even an old cast iron skillet hanging from a nail on the entryway frame.  It looked too new to have been leftover from the active days of the mine, but it still struck a chord with me, something about old-time miners and days spent out in the wilderness.  The space itself was both mysterious and lonely, a kind of sad junkyard of days gone by.  I stepped further in, letting the branches fall back behind me.

It was dark inside there behind the screen of leaves, but enough light filtered through to allow me to pick my way forward.  I ran my hand over the rotting wood that made up the walls of the short entry way, the logs smooth and dusty under my fingers.  After several more steps I was past that part and into the passage beyond, one that quickly faded into blackness as it got further into the earth.  I turned my flashlight on, shining it down the shaft but the darkness seemed to eat the light, the gloom impenetrable.  I remained standing there for several minutes, breathing in the musty air and wondering about how much effort, money and planning it would take to explore the place.  Probably a lot, more than I could afford, spare or come up with anytime soon.  I walked out, back into the light, and sat down besides the reverend.  He spoke as soon as I sat down.

“Did you hear anything in there?”

“Huh?  No, it was totally silent, eerie kind of.  Why?”

“I, well,  I thought I heard something one time.”

“You heard something inside there?  When?  And I thought you weren’t the adventurous kind?”

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.  “I’m not, not at all.  I was scared both times that I did it.  The first time was kind of a dare I gave myself.  To overcome my fear, ya know?”

I nodded and kept listening.  The reverend’s face was pale now and he looked afraid.

“You know, I shouldn’t be talking about this.  It was just the wind, I’m sure it was just the wind.  Had to be.”  He bowed his head down and shook it slowly side to side.  Then he reached inside his jacket and took out a silver flask, opening it and taking a long pull.  He spoke with his eyes closed.

“We should probably head back.”

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 11)

Brown Suit drove past me, into the driveway and then around the back of his house, the vehicle disappearing from my immediate view.  I wandered off a little more to the south and could see some faint motion back in the trees, and then another building into which the vehicle drove.  A few minutes later Brown Suit was walking toward me, a good one hundred yards away still but his voice was right in my ear.

“What do you want?”

I waved feebly in his direction.  “Hi, I’m just checking out something I thought I heard.  It seemed to come from this direction.”

“What’s that?”

“A voice, a kid’s voice, kind of shouting like kids do when they play.  Is there one around here?”

The slightest tick had whisked across Brown Suit’s face when I mentioned the child but it faded quickly and did not return.

“No children here.”

“You sure about that?  I’m really sure that I heard it, pretty clear too, and it was definitely coming from somewhere down this road.”

“I told you that there ain’t no kids around here.  These woods play tricks with sound all the time.  You probably heard something from far away just echoing around.  Happens all the time.”

“So where are these kids then?  Where do they live if they aren’t here?  I’ve been around this place a bit and haven’t seen many houses nearby, especially any close enough for sounds to carry over here.    Or any children.”  I realized as I spoke that I was standing like an old-time Western gunslinger, feet spread apart and hands on my hips.  It really did feel like a showdown as I was certain about what I had heard.

“You’ve been in these parts a few days and you know everyone here?  You really are some kind of detective aren’t you?  I told you, there ain’t no kids.”  That last sentence was loud in my ear, almost screeching in it’s tone.  My head twisted a little in shock, instinctively turning away from a sound that it really could not avoid.  I shook my head and replied.

“I know what I heard.  I’ll find that kid.”

“Don’t threaten me, boy,” Brown Suit angrily answered back.  Then he spun around and walked quickly into his house.  I turned to look west, contemplating my next move and was greeted by a fierce but distance stare.

Standing out on the road, parallel  with the location of Shotgun’sproperty, was an older man, about six and a half feet tall and wearing what appeared to be very dark blue overalls.  He stood there, ramrod straight, with his thumbs hooked into the place on the overalls where the bib fastens at the front.  He was staring right at me with dark eyes, a look that was clearly challenging even at the distance we stood apart.  He had long grey hair and a bushy beard, one that cascaded down his chest in various shades of white.  Shaking my head to clear it I shouted a greeting at him but he did not reply, remaining as he was and continuing to stare me down.  I took a look back at the old building on Brown Suit’s property that had caught my eye, the one with the flash of red, and then I started walking up toward Mr. Overalls.  As soon as I did so he turned and walked off the road, into the driveway of the garage I had seen with all of the automotive parts piled inside of it.  I kept walking and so did he, passing by that garage, and the house it was attached to, finally disappearing through a break in the cedar bushes that surrounded that neat, split-level brick house which I had seen on my first trip down Cemetery Road.  This was the man from that house apparently, the one set far back off the road and wrapped in a strange aura of secrecy.  That intrigued me and I stopped in the road, right where he had been standing and staring at me, shouting after him that I just wanted to ask a few questions.  I still could not see him but several seconds later a door slammed from the general direction of that house and I stopped yelling to consider what to do.

There was obviously another property between me and the split-level brick house, and I also had Shotgun’s place directly behind me.  I glanced over that way and was relived to find that so far all my shouting had not brought him, or anyone else, out to check on what was going on.  I did not feel much like risking any kind of trespassing violation, especially in light of the “Beware of Attack Dog” sign posted on the garage full of auto parts.  It looked like an old sign, faded and with broken corners, but around here it seemed possible that warnings like that were meant to apply forever.  Resolving to come back tomorrow after my hike to the mine I walked back up the road toward my truck.

I awoke the next morning to the slightly disconcerting sight of Reverend Currie standing off to the side of my truck bed.  He smiled back at me as I sat up.

“Good morning!  I figured you wanted to get started early, and I always try to hike before the sun gets too high in the sky, so here I am.”  He smiled at me again, almost too nicely.

“How long have you been standing there?’

“About forty-five minutes.”  That just seemed odd to me, to stand there instead of maybe leaving a note for me, or going for a short walk and then coming back to see if I was up yet.  Why would you just lurk there?  That train of thought gave me the creeps so I buried it.

“Ok, give me a few minutes to try to get myself together.”  As I pulled my boots on I caught a whiff of myself, a rank odor that made me realize a shower was going to be needed very soon, today really.  I definitely felt the grubbiness of the last few days all over me.  Lacing up my boots I asked the reverend for a favor.

“You have a place I could grab a shower later on?  Like maybe at your office?”

He smiled at me yet again. That was getting pretty irritating but his answer was better than expected.  “Yes, actually I do.  Because there have been so many ministers in and out of this place over the years, my office has a small apartment attached to it.  I don’t use it, but there is a working bathroom in there.  You’re welcome to it whenever you care to use it.”

“Thanks,” I replied and then stuffed a few granola bars and three bottles of water in a small backpack.  “Let’s go check out that mine.”

…to be continued

A Faraway Song (Part 10)

Maybe I should have been surprised, or insulted, or mad even at that point but I really was not that put off by this revelation.  Enough odd things had happened that I guess a lie about the mine’s location was not that remarkable.

“So, do you know exactly where it is?”

“I do.  I’m a bit of a hiker and stumbled across it on one of my early walks around here.  Don’t feel too badly about whatever resistance you are getting about collecting information.  I haven’t got a straight, or even a partial answer, about that place from anyone around here either.  I picked up a few details here and there I guess, but mostly all I know is that it is an old mine.”

“That’s about all I know too.  I did a little research on the area before I came up here but not enough to locate it myself.  Would you show me?”

“It’s a bit of a struggle to get back to,” the Reverend replied.  “Are you sure you’re up for it?”

“Yes.  Can we go now?”

He smiled back at me but shook his head, explaining that he had another appointment to keep in about thirty minutes.  He offered to go with me the next morning, an offer I eagerly accepted.  I had thanked him and was almost out the door when I turned back.

“Can I ask you something else?”

“Sure.  What is it?”

“That old woman told me that no one ever moves here.  That she was the last one.  Is that true?”

He paused before answering, looking past me to the trees that framed the property.  Then he replied.

“This is a bit of a static community.  Not much change, not many new faces.  They seem to like it that way.”

“And children?”  I explained to him about the pictures Eyebrows had let me look at and also that I so far had not seen any children in the area during my explorations.  He was turning away from me, walking back toward his office, as he replied.

“Yes, there certainly aren’t many children.”

That was obviously going to be the end of our conversation for the day, so I called out another thank you in his direction and returned to my truck.  It was later now, too late to do much of anything else, so I parked my truck in a pull-off near Cemetery Road and sat in the bed, eating granola bars and just absorbing the evening.

double crested cormorant

double crested cormorant

It was calm and cool, the sky kind of a dusty blue with a few clouds hanging near the western horizon.  Bird sounds were everywhere and I could pick out the calls of loons, cuckoos and woodpeckers.  A flock of cormorants flew by overhead looking in flight like a formation of futuristic aircraft.  The air was clean and fragrant, full of all kinds of outdoor scents; pine, rosemary, grass, and that musky smell that water gives off when it is jammed up with old wood and debris.  It was peaceful and relaxing to me even as my mind was racing through all of the new information I had collected during the day. It was right then that I heard it, the most unexpected sound.  I heard the shout of a young child.

I stood up in the bed of my truck upon hearing it, turning slightly to face the direction I thought it had come from.  I waited for several long moments and then I heard it again.  This time it was more than a shout, it was a series of sounds, just like you might imagine a child making as it played outside.  The sounds seemed happy, the usual youthful excitement of being outdoors and feeling free.  It stopped and I waited again, two minutes, then five but it seemed to be gone.  I did know though that it had come from somewhere down Cemetery Road and I jumped out of my truck to head in that direction.

I walked rapidly but stopped at every piece of property I passed; waiting for about a minute, listening, trying to peek around buildings, and watching for movement.  At the home of Mr. Shotgun I made sure that I was standing near a tree, just in case I needed it for cover, but even there I managed to get a fairly good inspection done.  At Brown Suit’s house I walked stealthily over to the rabbit enclosure, figuring that might be something a child would be excited about.  Ultimately I found nothing at all, no trace of a child and no more youthful sounds.  I did not even see a toy, a swing set or any other item that would indicate a child was in the area.  I was still very sure of what I had heard though, and I stood at the end of the road, right in front of Brown Suit’s driveway, wondering just what this new piece of strange information meant.

The sun was in my eyes, dropping quickly toward the horizon to set, so I turned and started pacing back and forth, waiting, hoping that I would hear the child again.  Eventually I knelt down at the south edge of the road, back to the sun, looking toward the trees that surrounded Brown Suit’s property.  I was preoccupied but my mind registered something out of place.  It was a flash of color, a faded red, something on the side of a very old building that was buried behind scrub trees and scrawny bushes.  It was difficult to make out any details, but it looked like a sign maybe, or a picture that had been painted on the building.  I was contemplating whether I should walk over to investigate when I heard a vehicle on the road.  Turning around, I saw the Colony Park Wagon coming toward me.

…to be continued