I was dropped off at the entrance to Hummel Park just prior to dusk last night. Sleeping bag, flashlight, salted snacks, half pint of Knob Creek whiskey, pistol. Wound upward through the gloaming guided more by memory than eyesight. I’d been here before. That’s why I spent last night there.
Wrinkled, faded, dying and dead, the crushing leaves counting my steps. Twigs snapping like brittle old bones. Blood orange rays, the last vestige of day and all that is good, giving way to other things.
Things remembered. Things to be faced.
Not the pavilion, or the haunted stairs, this night destined for deeper and darker. Off the trail proper now, eyes straining for landmark. Three cairns. Aligned and pointing to the mouth of the sepulchar. Where I must. The opening to the cave, larger than a breadbox, revealed only after pulling stringy, ratty tangles of overgrowth aside. Quiet thank the gods.
On my belly and into the monument. Entombed, 1968 rushing back with paralyzing grip. A young boy, struck dumb. A late afternoon with family. Wandering the woods, finding this cave. Entering with images of hideouts and hidden treasures. Only a few arrowheads and the bones of several hospiced coons or possums. Then hearing guttural celebration, more growl than voice. Peering out, changing my life forever.
Trying to answer the question now, 48 years later. Apparition, shadow, or imagination?
Linda picked me up this morning right where she dropped me off last night. I threw my bag in the backseat, hopped in the front. Took off my ball and cap Linda screamed like a Banshee.
My hair has gone completely white over night.