The breeze finished with it's blustery invasion and exited leaving my skin feeling as though I
had been slightly touched by a bare electric wire while I stared out the windshield wondering why I didn't see tail and running
lights barreling westward into the now dark landscape.
Reaching out to turn my headlights on,,I realized Johns mom was saying,,"It's okay,son.Every things
fine." but it didn't cause me to pause even a little.Popped on,,they illuminated dual ruts slicing through a dried mud path
about 10 foot wide divided by foot high grass growing between the ruts stretching out into the stark shadows they cast by
blocking the yellowish-white artificial light.
The small doe and it's fawn didn't seem to be scared even though the light framed the larger,,though
still small,,6 point buck in a cone of light the likes of which tends to send deer running like a cougar was after them.Their
eyes glinted,, reflecting the bulbs light back at me in colors predominatly red with flashes of yellowish gold as the angle
changed slightly with their eyes movements.
A couple of heart beats later the buck decided this location was not a place he and his should
be.After sounding a sort of shrill yet softish whistle followed by an atypical bark of alarm,,he turned and followed his family
which had taken off down the rut track into the darker gloom beyond my headlights reach as soon as a sound had come from him
and vanished in less than a heartbeat.
Johns mom said,"Beautiful,,aren't they?" to which I didn't respond since my fractured feeling minds
attention was now on the tawny colored shape indistinguishable from an odd hued shadow but for the white tipped black tuft
on the end of a slender tail alternately waving and flicking behind it that melted away into invisibility,,undoubtedly with
the deer as the object of it's desire,down the left rut.
"Ooh,,I hope they get away." she said after witnessing the cat's vanishing act and then continued
with,"Now,,turn the lights off and let's go.We don't want to be rude do we?"
I looked at her and said,,"I don't want to turn them off." to which she quickly responded with
'Boy,,ya better turn them off like I told ya for I swat you up side yo head." which she got out right before a very strong
loud male voice came through the dark,,cutting through the cricket,frog, nightbird,alligator,assorted other varmint vocalisations
and watery splash sound filled night saying,,"Put that light out!" followed by an even louder "NOW!" which I unthinkingly
Sitting there with those 'multi colored,globbly balls and streaks of light' that often afflicts
the eyes with the replacement of bright light for deep darkness filling my vision,,my mind connected that with the memory
of that long ago night when a ouijie board was instrumental in an event of high strangeness that seemed to be a beginning
point on the path that led to this one.
That dread feeling I experienced and had been reminded of by recent events,,the one that sent me
sprinting the rest of the way home that night.That agonizingly horrible feeling of something right in front of you,,obscured
by those amorphous lights,,right there,,sent me into a rush to step out of the car and face whatever it was.The 'self defense'
mechanism that was born that long gone night,,which energized those prepubescent extra weight carrying,tired from a terrified
flight through a dark suburban night,set of legs,,to run directly at the 'perceived location of the threat',,spurred me to
grab the door handle and surge out of the car as though I were 10 foot tall and made of tool steel.
Doing so,,as usual,,seemed to destroy the 'overwhelming quality' of the dread and,,unusually,,seemed
to cause a memory cascade of of events,feelings and thoughts from life since that night during my childhood to fall through
Just flashes of them though,,like the glimpses of pictures in a book one gets when flipping quickly
through it.A veritable kaliedascope of images carrying feelings wrapped up in racing memories of words.Clearer images stood
out like rocks in a stream of rapidly passing swirls of words on which floated bubbles of emotions.
Pretty much unrecognisable but infinitely familiar,,the maelstrom of memory elements seeemd to
build up to now then instantly became suffused with the idea of a large white book that appeared to be basking in a pleasant
blue glow while serenaded by a choir of voices singing an incomprehensible yet obviously joyfull song which became punctuated
with the sound of what seemed to be someone knocking on a jalosied door,,the glass panes rattling with each rap of their knuckles.
Unconsciously I had turned to face away from the car and placed my back against the open window
framed by the car door and roof edge,,and with that,,the realization of lights off to my left field of view snapped me out
of the sudden mind consuming reverie.
"That was Hiram." brought my attention to Johns mom who had exited from the passenger side of the
car causing me to recall hearing not only mine but her door shutting during the mind riffling fugue I had experienced.She
was visible standing near the rear of the car by the ambient light from the moon,stars and small lights scattered in a rough
trail from a point where a man could be seen standing on a foot bridge crossing the canal directly in front of the little
house to it's door which was framed by two windows lit with a golden glow suffusing through thin cloth curtains blowing slightly
in a gentle breeze.
The mans shadowy form,,strangely not as visible as one would think he should be considering his
proximity to the small torch flames on the bridges waist high rail,,was waving his arm to us in a beckoning motion.
That gruff,thick voice rang out over the assorted night sounds again saying,"Come on,,if you're
"Let's go,young'un." Johns mom said.Grabbing my hand she began pulling me to the bridge and the
guy on it.Getting across the rut path and down the short bit of steps leading down to it allowed for a closer look at him
before he seemed to motionlessly step to the far side of the bridge and into the deeper shadows on that side.Even so,,the
look I got at him caused me to pull up short from the final step down on to the bridge surface.
Pale,,greyish skin with what seemed to be dirt or sores,,scattered over his face,neck and exposed
skin below three quarter rolled up shirt sleeves.Extremely dark eyes,,no whites glimpsed in the available light,,set in a
face deviod of emotion,,stringy hair falling out from under a dark colored tattered looking mesh backed cap with an unidentifiable
logo of some sort on it to cover his forehead and eyebrows.
Shabby looking greyish zippered sweatshirt with dark patches on it draped baggily down to equally
saggy dark colored pants.Something about the way he moved seemed stilted,sort of jerky,,just seemed buglike or something equally
Johns mom,,still holding my hand,,felt me stop.Tightening her grip,,she turned and said,,"Don't
let him bother you.He's just one of Hirams,, uh, um,,well,,workers.Come on.,now.",,then tugged on my hand causing me to step
down onto the bridge deck almost against my will.
Continuing to pull she began stepping across the fairly narrow bridge as the fellow stepped a little
to one side and grabbed a rope I had not noticed before.Following it upward with my eyes I seen it threaded a stay-pulley
attached to a cross beam and then down to each side of the bridge,revealing it as two wrapped together.It was draw bridge
Looking back down as we cleared the last few feet of bridge I could see nothing but absolutely
dark shadow under the level of the bridge.Unable to stop because of Johns moms insistent grip on my hand I followed her off
the bridge and onto the path to the house outlined by little torch sconces about 2 feet tall.
That brought me within a few feet of 'Hirams Worker' and into an allmost solid wall of stench not
unlike the smell of the thing in my trunk,,but somehow not quite as rotten seeming.None the less,,it was disgusting and made
me want to retch as soon as it slipped into my nose and mouth.
If not for the hand pulling me I would have stopped and puked right then.Luckily as my friends
mother must have known,, based on her letting out what sounded like a released held breath,,the stomach churning odor vanished
to be replaced by the much sweeter smell of the swamp flavored night air as quick as it's assault had began.
Looking back as she led me on,,I watched the strange looking man tug stiffly and slowly on the
drawbridge rope with one hand.As the bridge moved up in response and his other hand grabbed higher to tug down it became apparent
the guy was obviously a lot stronger than he looked.
As the end of the bridge rose it revealed a frame constructed from logs.Looking to be about a foot
in diameter the log visible had to be heavier than such a slight man could lift with both arms and a buddy,,not to mention
there had to be at leat one more at least close to it's size on the other side,,it was plumb astounding to see it rise in
response to his motions as though it weighed no more than a bundle of the saw grass growing on the sides of the canal it spanned.I
half caught my heel on the ground so I turned to pay more attention to my steps.
Getting almost to the steps that led up to a porch about 4 or 5 foot wide that ran the entire length
of the house we were suddenly illuminated by a glaringly bright white that shot from the abrubtly opened door silohuetting
a mans form.
Both I and Johns mom had to pause and blink a few times.As soon as I did the light was gone along
with the form in the door.Replacing them was a view into a room that looked like it was decorated in 1910 or so.The warm glow
that lit the room from some light source out of my angle of view matched the glow from the windows.
"I never get used to that and he allways does it,,everytime.Every darn time." said Johns mom.Whether
to me or to herself I will never know because she immediately changed from the low,,allmost to her self tone to a louder more
strident tone that I was very familiar with,,"Hiram,,yo old coot.Why do you have to blind folks when they come to see you?"
and let go of my hand.Clomping up the steps and across the short porch she made me think that Hiram was in for a swat,,based
on seeing her step like that to her son,,and me on many occasions.
Her disappearence through the door and out of my sight brought the realization I was still standing
out side.Casting a quick look behind and around me,,and not seeing the cadaverously thin bridge tender anywhere I hastily
Stepping into the house felt like stepping into my grandmas house in Louisiana.From the low ceiling,the
slight give to the wood floor when you walked to the furnishings and even smell,,it could have been a neighborhood house in
the little backwoods place my father grew up and where I spent many a summer vacation in.
Johns mom was releasing the man named Hiram from a hug as I walked in.They weren't saying a word
but were smilingly looking at each other in the face and it felt as though the air was full of cheerful love filled words,,just
without the sounds.Strange as that was,,the oldish looking man with steel blue hair turned eyes the same color on me and I
turned and shut the door.
He said,"Thanks,young'un." then turned and sat down in a rocker next to a fireplace that had a
rather large fire burning in it.Amazingly,,the room was pleasantly cool despite the,,now that I paid attention,,soundlessly,,roaring
fire.Johns mom was looking at me with a little more than a little concern on her face as she sat down in another rocker and
motioned for me to have a seat in a similar one to her left.
As I sat down in the indicated chair the old man said,,"You didn't bring the board that goes with
the planchette?" , "Uh,,no sir,we couldn't find it." I replied.
Looking at the old man with the steel blue hair one would be really hard to place his age except
as somewhere between a hard 45 and a good looking 100.Shirtless muscles that many a younger man would love to have rippled
under skin that one would have said was leather if it wasn't on a living human.The craggy face was a study in what many years
on this planet can do to one yet even through the sun dark skin a ruddy youthful look shone through.That was shockingly juxtaposed
with the way time itself seemed to pour from the shiny steel blue eyes.
Like twin pools of liquid metal reflecting receeding tunnels of puddles of centuries they seemed
to also have an inner light that added to the glow bouncing off them from the strange fire.
Sticking an ancient looking oddly carved pipe in between strong looking teeth he bit down and puffed
I set the trash can down on the floor and took my pocket knife out to cut off the duct tape that
inexplicably fell off as soon as the point of the blade touched it.Putting my knife back I took the lid off.
Dropping the planchette into the strange fire I was puzzled by the absolute lack of heat or pain
felt from the bright yellowish white flames licking around my right hand.Even though having burned it pretty bad with gunpowder
during an ant hill destroying campaign with my oldest brother that left my right hand rather numb to heat pain,,this fire
should have been charring the flesh from my bones from six inches away.The planchette apparently didn't have a comparable
invulnerabilty to the bright soundless flame since it turned to ashey looking smoke with a squeeling sound like air being
squoze out of some kind of rubber bag and blew upward in a blast of disappearing smuttyness.
Turning to watch the tender pull the drawbridge back up I opened my car door,slid in and cranked
the Buicks engine.
I then looked into my rearview through the bright allmost noonish hot sunlight to check westbound
traffic and hearing Johns mom say,,"It looks clear to me." I pulled out behind the passing semi followed by two small cars,,the
lead one seeming to be trying to 'ride the vaccum' of the semi since it was so close.
I accelerated up to the speed limit quikly while Johns mom turned on the radio to let the sound
of "Wheels In the Sky" to come softly from the speakers.We listened in silence until she said,,"You can turn around at 512,right?"
"Yes,ma'am,,I can." was my reply as the road to the north came into view.Letting off on the accelerator
until I needed to brake,,my thoughts seemed to come out of a fog as though waking up from a nap in proportion to the amount
of speed dropped.
Looking in my rearview to check traffic apparently prompted my narrator voice into saying,,'there's
nothing back there but a whole lot of weird'.Now,,since that was patently wrong,,and the vehicle visible about a mile back
proved it,,I asked it,'what the hell was that?' which got me the quick snippy response of,'if you don't know,,how should I?I'm
just a voice in your head,dude.' Telling it,,'shut up then.' I rode the brake untill I turned off .Since there was no traffic
on the road,I did a quick u-turn and pulled up to the stop sign to wait for the car I had seen to pass while keeping an eye
out for eastbound traffic,,which seemed nonexistant.
Johns mom asked,,'Are you okay,son?" Looking at her,,I said,"I don't know.Am I?" which ellicited
a bit of laughter from her before she said,,"You'll be fine."
"How long where we there?" , "As long as we needed to be." , "Do you remember everything?,,because
I sure don't."
Putting her hand on my arm she said,,"You will when you need to.Otherwise,,just relax,,you'll be
okay." , "If you say so."
The oncoming vehicle turned out to be a dark green Dodge Power Wagon with a cowboy hat wearing
man driving.As he whizzed past us at much more than the speed limit,,his head swiveled showing me he probally recognised my
car from earlier today.
Glancing back the way he came to make sure it was safe I pulled out quickly and came down a tad
harder on the pedal than I planned which opened up the big block a bit,,causing Johns mom to say,,"Hey,,what'd I say about
that?" but without any anger at all.A few moments later though as the trees overshadowing Hirams house were about half a mile
away,,she did exhibit a bit of displasure when she asked,,"How fast are you going,boy?"
Glancing down at my speedometer I realized I was doing about 30 miles an hour over the speed limit
which is not a good thing to be doing with Johns mom in the car,,let alone as you approach Vero coming west on route 60.
Letting off on the accelerator I said,"I'm sorry.I guess I just wanted to get past the house as
quick as I can." , "Don't worry.We don't have to stop so just drive right by,nothing will happen.Okay?"
Not saying anything I let my speed drop down to 55 and held it there as Hirams house came up on
the right.A compulsion to stare at the house made keeping my eyes on the road rather difficult.As we came up on it,,the weeds
and brush in the canal and on it's banks blocked the view until we were pretty close so to suddenly see Hiram and the disheveled
bridge tender standing on the tree shaded porch was rather startling,,to me anyway.Seeming unsurprised,,Johns mom started
waving like a teenager would passing by girlfriends walking down the street.
Hiram,,arms folded across his chest now covered in a shirt that matched his pants and with a well
worn short top,small brimmed tan and sweat streak colored cowboy hat on his head,,moved not a bit while his bridge tender
waved his right hand stiffly and slowly in the air.
Looking as stiff as a board the intent was clearly meant to convey a cheerful aknowledgement of
us passing by even if it made me think of every zombie movie I had ever seen.
Adding to the stangeness of the tableau,,,as they pair were revealed to our eyes the words from
the Steve Miller song now playing on the radio 'I'm gonna fly like an eagle to the sea,,I'm gonna fly like an eagle,,let my
spirt carry me,' seemed to get about ten decibels louder while my nostrils quivered with a sea-salty fresh smell like one
might catch on the beach,,a little wood smoke,,something like a girls perfume that seemed familiar and much to my amazement,,heavily
laced with the thick aroma of some good weed!