A quick re-visit to Absentia for the next few days …
If you remember, Harry was in a rush to leave the Asylum to find Mary, and to recover a bit of his sanity along the way. Sled told Harry that Mary was being held at Bone Dust Road in an abandoned trailer, and that he needed to hurry.
As Harry was leaving the asylum, he discovered that Sled’s money (the roll of bills he had swallowed) was in the possession of someone else, as was one of Sled’s teeth. It’s hard to argue with “finders weepers”.
If you’re a detail person, Harry and Sled’s conversations can be re-read at: Harry and Sled Talk, Harry and Sled say goodbye, and Harry leaves. Each link should open in a separate window, so this post will stay in an active window.
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Harry drove until he found Bone Dust Road. He drove on Bone Dust until it changed from paved two-lane to unpaved single-lane, then he walked a dirt path until the path dissolved, then he kept walking.
His trek dead-ended at the remains of what had been a mining operation, maybe for potash, Harry wasn’t sure. There, on the ridge, overlooking the rust and rot of equipment, was the white trailer.
When Harry was younger, he spent time hiking deep into the canyons of southern Utah, far beyond where the trail markings had stopped. That’s where he first discovered something unique about truly abandoned places. There was more to remote vacant spaces than an absence of sound. There was a distinct, perceivable presence of silence.
It didn’t follow him in along the trails. It was already there waiting, centuries before Harry or other hikers arrived, and it would stay, changeless, long after future visitors had made their way back to so-called civilization, or had died trying, caught by the canyon’s flash floods or just claimed by unforgiving canyons and mesas, and their 2,000-foot falls to the tiny peaceful valleys below.
Here at the abandoned mine, Harry had a sense that the place was absent of humans, but a presence was here, it was the visit of silence, and of something else. Back in his canyon days, it seemed that the silence, or whatever, was bent to conspire in his favor. The presence that he sensed at the abandoned mine was different. It was a part of a different conspiracy.
Harry climbed the makeshift stairs, and went inside the trailer.
Inside, Harry found evidence of life, if one could call it that. A coffee pot, three half-empty mugs, and plastic plates and forks. They were red. The overhead lights didn’t work. There was no furniture, unless he counted several metal folding chairs.
In the back of the trailer, a set of construction lights hung from stands. They were aimed to illuminate the back corner of the room. The construction lights were off but the lamp housings were warm to the touch. In the floor below the lamps was a stained mattress, and smells of human existence, if it could be called that. Next to the mattress was a tattoo gun and a small notebook.
Harry held the notebook to the window and read the cover: “Property Inventory”. Harry flipped through the pages looking for Mary’s name, but no names were listed. There were only bar code serial numbers, a total of 113 of them. Harry slid the notebook back under the tattoo gun.
The corner of the cover said #8. The eighth book containing an inventory of property? How many properties? How many books?
Only then did he become aware of another sound, a constant hum. The origin was behind the rear of the trailer. Harry opened the rear door and saw a gas-powered generator next to the steps. It was still running. Whoever was here either left in a hurry or planned on returning soon.
Harry stepped outside to exorcise the stale air from his lungs and purify them with new breaths.
Harry felt the cool of metal against between his ears from behind.
“Don’t look around, Harry, or I’ll blow your face off from the back, and it will land twenty-two feet in front of you. I know, because I’ve done the tests.”
Harry felt more than heard the next words, less than an inch from his ears. “I said, hands up. I’m not desperate and I don’t fear. So, there’s no reason to yell. But I’m only saying it once more, then I fire. So, hands up.”
Harry considered keeping his arms down to show that he too had no fear, but it wasn’t true.
Harry felt the nudge of the gun, first in his head then between his shoulder blades. Harry made his way, arms up, around the trailer and down the embankment to the old mining structure.
Harry started walking toward the loading platform, but the voice motioned him to continue.
Harry headed toward the chute of the main structure, expecting to be made to climb in. “Keep going,” the voice said. He walked a bit further, then the voice commanded him to stop.
Harry looked down at the remains of a dog or coyote and a bottle of wine at the bottom of a seven or eight foot pit. The voice said nothing for what seemed like several minutes, as if intentionally giving Harry time to think.
That is one of the most cruel acts a human can inflict on another. Time to think. Harry, being an animal rescuer, played out the most logical scenario. The wild dog or coyote must have chased a rabbit. Desperate, the rabbit jumped into the pit to escape. Then the canine jumped into the pit because it knew that its prey was trapped.
The coyote, Harry assumed that’s what it was, ate its final meal however many months ago. The bottle of wine? Who knew about humans or their true motivations? The pit could have been used a trash pit, an earthen container for empty wine bottles and rib bones from a take-out dinner. Or, knowing humans as Harry did, they may have lured a coyote into the pit for their own entertainment, and after they got bored, tossed the bottle in to avoid carrying it back.
“Arms down. Hands behind your back.” Harry’s wrists were tightly bound behind him.
“This is your final destination. Get in.”
Somewhere in his head, Harry heard the words of a flight attendant instructing him to buckle up and prepare for landing. Final destination took on a different meaning here in the middle of the desert, at the end of Bone Dust Road, where Sled had said he would find Mary.
Of course, Sled had told Harry to hurry. Of course, Harry had dragged his feet, because he was afraid of what he would find. This is what you find when you think you’re too late, he thought. You find that it’s too late.
“I said get in.”
Harry prepared to jump. He squatted and picked his landing spot. The voice’s foot took away Harry’s decision. Harry wasn’t sure which he’d become first, bait for a pack of hungry coyotes in the middle of the freezing desert night, or worse, entertainment for the ones who took Mary and 112 others, used them up, then branded them as property, then sold them.
It didn’t matter. At least this way, his face wouldn’t be blown twenty feet into the desert. Or was it twenty-two? Harry couldn’t remember. He waited for darkness and cold, and for the songs of the coyote, calling their kind for a new feast of fresh meat.
Harry looked up to see a masked figure looking down. The figure removed the mask to reveal his identity. Harry knew this would mean he’d never make it to out of the pit alive.
* * *
Somewhere under overturned dumpsters, behind a furnace, beneath the shadow of the Asylum and Crematoria chimney, in the midst of garbage, something stirred. Garbage shifted, cans rolled, rats scattered.
Then something rose from the garbage, at least partly, something that had a few fewer teeth than before, and one whose mouth still had the aftertaste of a roll of new twentys being forced out of his stomach, but it moved. Sled moved.
“Three half-eaten corn dogs,” Sled said. “Sweet.” He raised the first to his mouth and bit down. “Ouch ouch ouch. Chew on the side, Sled. Chew on the side.”
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