Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Wilderness Haunted


 “Some people swore the house was haunted; but just maybe, it was the landscape that surrounded it.” whispered the old timer living just outside this West Virginia wilderness area silently crouching beside the campfire alongside my tent site.

“I’m not sure what you mean?” was my uneasy response to this eerie figure. “This landscape is haunted, as well as haunting to those of us who know the story. We feel it; smell it; see it. Stories get passed down, but to you visitors, ya weekenders, you don’t know ‘em.”

“Know what?” I asked as the winds blew up across this high tundra plateau with its grassland open meadows, and low growing spruce, pine, and hemlock along with massive moraine debris spewed throughout the thousands of acres of dry landscape, like a bowling ball boulder graveyard formed into cliffs, and riverbeds. We sat upon stool sized logs watching the dusk turn to complete darkness as the campfire flames bent east then south following directional winds arching like the organically fluid body of a modern dancer.

A planetarium of stars and constellations exploded upon the all-connecting giant sky from every direction flickering and pulsating the heartbeats of heaven. Green valleys and forested mountaintops lay just beyond the veil of darkness.

“Near this spot a frontiersman handcrafted a stone and timbered cabin which to hunt from and tan hides that he sold to villagers below. Bear, deer, bobcat, and panther roamed this wilderness. It been a frightening landscape to most livin’ in the hollers and hills aneath. But he came here alone lookin’ for somethin’ he didn’t share with no one.”

“You say it’s haunted. What was haunted?”

The old timer answered, “The cabin was haunted. And because the cabin got haunted, the whole place turned haunted. This entire wilderness became a haunted land.”

“What haunts the earth here are the spirits of dead bear. The restless soul of a single dead bear, it is said, callin’ the souls of other dead bear to bellow from aneath the trees when the whistlin’ winds blow down from the North.”

“The stories tell a time when bear roamed this landscape. These were huge and powerful bear with the blackest fur polished shiny by the starry Gods forming Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. They ruled this landscape feedin’ off of the deer and foolhardy men who thought they were a match for these divinely hallowed creatures.”

“The legend has it that a lightnin’ fire struck a stand of dried out pine and spruce spookin’ the wildlife to run for safety. The frontiersman smellin’ the smoke from inside his cabin saw a furl of flyin’ flames in the distance. A storm began to blow in from the North with high winds pushin’ the burnin’ South away from his cabin.”

“What he didn’t expect to see was a scorched giant black bear coming out of the forest leapin’ over boulder piles as if they didn’t exist. Seein’ the frontiersman, the massive creature reared upon its hind legs, bellowed a deadly roar and rushed toward ‘em.”

“Upon fearin’ for his life, he ran into the cabin closin’ then latchin’ shut the thick solid wooden door. Armin’ himself with his single shot rifle and attached bayonet, the bear lunged through the door as the man unloaded into the bear’s skull with both the blade and the bullet.”

“The giant bear then fell upon the woodsman, buryin’ its teeth into his skull. The two died together. Their restless souls intertwined occupyin’ the space and the land forever. And nothin’ was the same again after that.”  (596 words.)

[This was written for the “3-Minute Fiction’s 5th round contest sponsored by NPR radio. The parameters were the story had to be under 600 words and use this sentence as your first sentence, “Some people swore the house was haunted.” And, for your last sentence you were instructed to use “And nothing was the same again after that.”]

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