Sunday, October 28, 2012
The hard packed driveway turned into a scree field, two tracks created a crushed rock path down the slope, I moved the truck cautiously into the ruts, then pulled into the slim gravel parking area at the base of Martins Boardinghouse, Eureka, Colorado. I turned the truck off. The Animas River rushed into my ears, racing from the first few snow showers that swept through earlier in the day. There was nothing else. I heard nothing else. Silence and darkness filled the space around me. The sky, filled with angry clouds, let the almost full moon spotlight the stonework on the building, the clouds shifted abruptly and the landscape was blanketed with darkness again. I sat and watched objects appear like snapshots. A lengthy tin roof materialized, then blackness. Looming pine trees manifested, then blackness. A flash of weathered boards, speckled with swatches of wet snow, reaching three stories high, then blackness. Small windows set high sucked the blackness inside, then darkness prevailed again.
The truck chilled. I grabbed a heavy set of keys, adjusted my headlamp, grabbed my pack and shoved open the truck door. I exhaled when I noticed I was holding my breath and I softened my jaw. It was going on two in the morning, I stood alone, before an isolated haunted mining camp, and my courage was expiring like my plummeting body temperature. It was spooky.
The cold settled into my fingers, it took several minutes of fumbling to disengage the lock. I shoved open the wooden door and tripped up a set of tiny steps, my headlamp bounced off the narrow walls. Justin's voice crept into my head, 'Miners first hotel, well a boardinghouse really, built in the late 1920's. Man could bring his wife, and one miner did, fathered a child right on the third floor...'
I dodged thoughts and made my way into the kitchen. Tomorrow the room would be filled with soggy gear draped on every available space, the wood stove cranked to capacity, staff will be chatting, sleeping, reorganizing, eating and swapping stories. Tonight it was dusty, cold and a wind shifted through the cracks in the walls, creating a hissing whistle.
Heat. A stack of wood sat near the wood stove, I opened the door and arranged the kindling, the dry wood caught quickly and I fed the fire until it was substantial. A droopy couch pushed up against a wall would serve as a bed tonight. Weariness flushed over me. I rummaged my pack, yanked out my sleeping bag, squirmed in, and curled up on the couch, wormlike.
Justin's voice rooted in my head once again, ' 'Miners caught the flu and it spread like wildfire. That little baby died, and the Mother couldn't get over it. She killed herself by jumping out the third story window. I haven't witnessed it, but rumor has it that you can still hear her rock and sing to her baby. Sometimes you can see her silhouette by the window in the hall. No one ever goes into that last room, crib still there and everything.'
I had looked. Last time I was here, I walked to the end of the hall and opened that door. The hand carved crib lay coated in thick ribbons of dust in that last room. One of the staff had added a rocking chair to the end of the hall as a joke. Haunt ambience.
My eyes shut, the room was beginning to heat. I slipped my headlamp into my hand. I needed sleep.
An overhead door slammed and I every component of my body froze. My heartbeat was so prevalent in my ears, I strained to hear something scurry. Nothing. Silence. A minute passed. I did not breathe. Then a faint creaking in the distance. Floorboards giving way to a weight. The swaying grinding rhythm of a rocking chair. I heard a rocking chair. I heard a rocking chair.
I slept in the truck.