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.”
“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