Monday, September 19, 2011

Demon Dancing

A few posts ago I shared a story about finding a tunnel that led us to an abandoned coal mine. I actually spent many long days and a few nights in that coal mine. Above ground not below. I have shared several stories that are true to the best of my recollection. I thought today I would share a true story but the eerie part was just my imagination.

I was about nine or ten when my brothers finally let me go camping with them. There were times way before then that we would go as a family but either my brothers didn't want the responsibility or my parents didn't trust them... Either way it ended up with me being left behind on their overnight adventures.
I did get to go once I was old enough and one of the first trips was to the Valier Coal Mine. My parents thought we were staying at Sesser Lake but we decided to be more adventurous instead.

Valier Coal Mine is a largish place. When I was a kid, the old dilapidated structures were rusting out and falling apart. The buildings and shafts were lost amid miles of gob. Gob is what mining companies previously to dump on the ground because it was not usable.
When in the deepest part of the gob piles, small mountains in the eye of my memory, you could look about and see nothing living from one horizon to the other. Certainly this was an illusion brought on by the heaping mounds but it was intimidating and exciting all the same.
You could climb one hill and look into the valley beyond and there were wide lakes of rust-brown water (blood red at the right time of day and season). The shores consisted of a slickly yellow paste that burbled and popped as you walked near. The entire place smelled of sulfur and was hell on your shoes and clothing.

On this particular night, we camped on the edge of one of these lakes. My brother and one of his friends had found an old wooden boat on one of these lakes and had "repaired" it. The repairs included a dented Folgers coffee can to scoop out the toxic water as it seeped through the slats that had been patched and puttied. I scooped the water out as quickly as I could too. My brothers had convinced me I would get scabs and horrible diseases if it touched my skin for more than a few seconds.

We came to a little bay on, as I had come to think of it, the Lake of Death. It was impossible to get to this location any other way than by water. It was surrounded by sheer cliffs of crumbling black cinders and refuse minerals of dubious content. Thankfully, I only had to stay in the boat for one crossing that night. The older boys shuttled back and forth at least five times.

We were set up and digging around in the shallow caves and adventuring around in the area. We had a fire built from the logs my brothers had hauled out there. It was breezy and a bit chilly. I was bored and poking around in the coals with a long stick.
I looked out to the distance as the sun was setting. The skeletal girders of the old structures silhouetted against the darkening sky. Atop the highest one, there was a winged man dancing. At first I thought it was an angel. But as the sun's last rays changed the shadows, I saw it for what it really was... A demon. It danced and bobbed on the corner. I looked like it would fall then with a twist and a half-step it would right itself and flair its wings.
I had already been teased and bullied into silence. I didn't want anybody to think I was a baby. But I wanted to go home. I just knew that demon was waiting for full dark and it would climb or maybe even fly down and search the abandoned gob piles until it found me. Once it had me, it would swoop into one of the old mine shafts and keep me there as a prisoner. I knew it wanted to eat me only a bit at a time. It would start at my toes the first day and my hands the next. It would keep me for weeks until it ate my face and heart. I was afraid and to embarrassed to say anything to the older boys around me.
I didn't sleep that night.

The next morning in the safety of full daylight, my fear abated and I looked to the girders of the tower. I then saw the demon for what it really was. It was an old piece of tin that hung on by one tattered corner and it bobbed and twisted in the breeze. But I still, to this day, can see it for the demon it was.

This was certainly a product of my very active imagination. But what if it was a small glimpse into what might have been or what could have been in a world just like ours that was only a half-step to the side of our accepted reality. Could it have been a tragic example of magic in our world?

Until next time.... READ!

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