November 20, 2022 at 7:27 pm #37398Danial BeardModerator
Yeah. I know. This is a month late, and it relates to Amateur Radio precisely somewhere between diddly and squat, in my own defense, I was going to do this sooner … but … I clean forgot to post it on Oct. 30. So, mentally roll your mindset back to the end of October when you read it.
The Scandal of The Accursed Wood
October is nearly spent now, and with it most things autumnal are manifest. Temperatures are beginning to moderate enough to eschew the heavy duty refrigerated wind-jammers in favor of a simple box fan to circulate the evening cool throughout the house. The leaves are beginning to turn, the grass is taking advantage of the late rains to heave forth one last growth spurt before hunkering down into the dormant season, and the hard drone of countless cicadas is giving way to lazy chirrups of scattered evening crickets.
The change of season brings other changes, too.
In the dark woods up along the Red River, an uneasy silence falls with the sun this time of year. Where the big multi-century oaks guard the land ‘neath tremendous canopies of impenetrable green, things thrive which are best left beyond the prying eyes of men. There, massive arms of ancient strength sustain a connection with a past both jealous of its secrets, and unforgiving of intruders.
The legend of the place simply states, “Beware ye streaks of silver in the October moonlight, and venture not into the Accursed Wood.”
When locals speak of it at all, they only say, “There be nothing there found decent for the likes of men. Nothing there of this time. Nothing there of this world.” Yet, the secrets kept of that place are only accidental to the doings and calendars of men. But it is perhaps all the better a warning for it. The coincidence of the warning rituals of All Hallow’s Eve and the realities of the denizens of the Accursed Wood is fortuitous, but not causal. They serve prophetic only by chance. When pressed, the grey and wrinkled ones living near those woods — and given to such things as wary respect for voodoo and the black arts — will only say, “Heed the ancient warnings! For some creatures emerge to feed but once a year … and size does matter.”
Interesting words, indeed! Almost as interesting as the tale told to me early one Monday morning by a man lingering over a cup of coffee at a corner cafe.
A ruddy glow grew in the eastern sky, and the scant remains of a number three breakfast special congealed on his plate. My own repast had yet to be delivered. In the manner of making casual conversation, I asked of his day’s destination. With a watchful eye on an over-loaded rental truck in the parking lot, he sipped and unwound the following tale in the tired tones of a man who knows he is doomed not to be believed.
“To be honest, no one remembers his name. They remember him, his sneering sarcasm and the contempt in which he held local legends and the people who both recount and believe in them. They remember he called himself a reporter, and came from San Francisco. They remember he didn’t tip well, and complained about every business he took advantage of. They also remember he came in a fancy rented car. They also remember the day the wrecker came from the city to retrieve it. But his name has been lost. And that’s probably not accidental.”
He said he came from the Examining Enquirer, and he said it in such a way that presumed nothing else would be, or should be, needed to stamp bona fide to his credibility. He wore his hat and fancy camera like a uniform and a badge – determined to root out simple-minded legends in favor of what he called, “the plain truth”. Unfortunately, to most of us down here, credibility and tabloids tend to be mutually exclusive terms. Mix that with his insufferable arrogance and it was a fairly safe bet the man’s visit would not go well.”
Stories differ on how long he was here. Some say a couple of days, some say as long as a week. But the consensus is, it took the guy a while to build enough courage to explore the Accursed Wood for himself. The time he spent interviewing and openly mocking folks isn’t remembered for its duration so much as for its unpleasantness. By the time he prepared himself to do his own homework, everyone was heartily sick of him and didn’t bother disguising it. But that didn’t bother him much. As a matter of fact, he seemed used to it. We surmised it wasn’t the first time the man had worn his welcome thin.”
The official sheriff’s report says that on or about the afternoon of the 30th of October, the man had a late lunch at the Borderline Cafe and announced his intention to ignore the best advice the locals could give and camera hung around his neck, crossed the Black Prairie grasslands and jumped the fence into the Accursed Wood. But by then, no one in the cafe could find it in themselves to once again repeat legend – nor warning.”
Nobody was surprised when the man failed to re-emerge over the fence that night. Nor were they expecting him after the sun colored the clouds bright orange against fading purple the next morning. The bottom line was, if he hadn’t come out the night before – screaming – he wasn’t going to come out at all.”
Someone had the presence of mind to call the Sheriff, but by convenient interpretation of the rules of missing persons investigations, and perhaps more accurately the slow timid return of evening cricket song to the area, three days passed before anyone went in to look for him. Then several local VFDs were called in to help. What they found – or maybe what they didn’t – was the root cause of a stir the likes of which hadn’t been seen around here – since the last time the Accursed Wood claimed a man back around the turn of the century.”
The north end of the county suddenly erupted in a flurry of badges, vehicles of every sort with lights flashing and sirens wailing, and the drone of low flying aircraft syncopated with the heavy thump-thump-thump of patrolling helicopters. But for all that, nothing was ever found save his hat, his fancy camera – broken – and a deep hollow dark among the oaks where the hounds simply could not be forced to go, and no man nor beast was willing to stay.”
Three days, much coffee, more money and wary and bone-tired men after that, the words “damned hoax” were fired into the waiting lenses and microphones of a resentful press briefing. Inarticulate threats were leveled with trenchant scorn – and directly the furor was over almost as fast as it had begun. Some of the more pragmatic folks around said, if you were willing to ignore what caused the ruckus in the first place, it was quite the boon to the local economy.”
Sure, there were any number of theories and explanations for the man’s disappearance swatted about in any group consisting of more than one person. Some accused him of setting the whole thing up in order to sell his story, and bets were made about when it would appear, and in which tabloid. Others said he was on the run from an ex-wife, and was hiding out in Old Mexico. A few had him buried in a shallow grave near an illegal pot farm. But no one who had been on the search team was willing to discuss the matter, much less speculate about the man’s eventual whereabouts. And to a man … none of them ever stepped foot into the Accursed Wood again. Indeed several have since moved out of the area entirely.”
In particular, the man first to quit his job, pack up his family and leave, was the deputy who stumbled upon the camera. I got a chance to talk with the man before he left, and what he told me, and what he showed me that day have a lot to do with why I’ve sold my house, and found a new job high up in the clean thin air of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where the altitude keeps the critters decently small.”
You see … you can either choose to believe it all or not. That’s your right, and your business. But as far as I’m concerned, the common saying that, “They grow ’em big in Texas,” just has a whole different meaning to me now.”
But … I’ll let you decide for yourself. That missing reporter’s camera took one last photo when it slammed into the ground that night, and ever since I saw that accidental exposure … I’d just rather be somewhere else.”
He tucked a twenty under the edge of his plate and slid off the stool. As he turned to leave, he plucked a single folded page from his shirt pocket, and dropped it on the counter beside me. The image it held had obviously suffered from the photocopying but the contents were still easily and quite disturbingly discernible.
Y’all have a nice night, now. Ya hear?
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