The clouds grew dark overhead looking down on two boys in shorts ,tennis shoes, and torn t shirts. With dime store hunting knives and sheaths hanging at the belts around our waists, we sharpened our whittled spears. I know I put extra effort into its tip.
This wasn’t just another day in the life of a 16 year old and his best friend. It was a very serious moment. Robert and I scanned the field and entwined woods from our tower, a construct of junk lumber and plywood. It was 8 to 10 ft high, positioned at the very back of our property where the woods began.
We dropped to the ground and padded over to the beginning of the trail that opened into our back yard. There were impressions, we were sure, that looked out of the ordinary, like large footprints, and we knew this thing must be large.
So, like Indians we moved down the trail like we never had before, not just watching what was ahead but every detail to our sides. For our age we would have been a formibable pair, quite deadly for children. Not because of strength, but because of intent.
We had lived our childhood in the pursuit, not of posters for our bedroom walls or the regalia each kid amasses, but instead adventure and almost an unidentified calling. Bent low we moved through the trails that wound like a Celtic knot through the woods, an area that had been purchased as a housing area, that for some reason had been abandoned. The rough beginnings for basements had been carved here and there invisible in the labyrinth of overgrowth and trees that had grown back quickly in angry response to damage done.
Each bend in the trail or swell of darkness to one side of the other partially hidden by brush, was scrutinized. All possibilities of a tunnel or pit were talked about, as the slowly swirling clouds looked down darkly like a scowling parent. We wound our way down one side and across the creek, one that had become the final resting place for a girl just up stream.
We had, the summer before, drank from what we believed was clear waters until we heard the news of her hand being found in this same stream, only a few blocks north of our location., Then there was the subsiquent discovery of her corpse. We even, on one eerie day, met, unknowingly, the boy responsible for her killing. He was a mentally ill, semi retarded kid who had wandered out of the trees waving at us in his red windbreaker and then disappearing again just as quickly .
We worked through each pit like cellar and began moving down the north side of the area. We were only a hundred yards from my yard when we came upon the last hole and our resolve was fading. In the maybe 8 ft deep hollow there was a strange finding though, a huge rock maybe 6 to 7 ft wide with a cavity carved crudely out of it. There was a high back to it and sitting in it’s seat was possible though it seemed designed for a larger occupant.
This was our first real find , and as we examined it we got more quiet. There was no bravado in our voices, as the thunder began to rumble. We thought ourselves young men, but we were still children, and, I guess, even in seriousness of our hunt, it was all game face up to that point,
I guess, inside, there was a silent knowledge built from our exposure to too many corny horror movies, and the world around us that seemed a launching pad into life, one filled with excitement about very mundane things. We might have hoped in our immaturity that there were monsters, and even been strangely disappointed that there weren’t.
At that moment, as we talked of the possibilities of the that, at first flint stone like seat, now phrases like the devil’s chair had crossed our tongue, punctuated by the growing thunder and first bolts of lightning. Suddenly it was about time for us both to go home, and as we parted, Robert only living a street away, I’m sure we both were disturbed.
The next day found us standing on the hillside behind my house, like the guys in the cartoons who suddenly loose their head only to have it replaced by a large sucker. With pinched lips and definite disgust, we listened to my mom, come clean about her and dads little prank.
They had been laying in bed the night before our hunt, and were talking and noticed dad’s t-shirt on a hanger, hanging on the corner of the curtain rod. The light from outside was coming through it and the shadows created the impression of aTiki mask.
They had decided they would tell us they had seen a monster’s face in their window that night. Well, for my mom to say anything was proof it was somewhere in stone. We had no doubt she was telling the truth. She was telling a rather fractured version of it, but for Robert and I, who could count the feet between the ground and my parents window, this indicated a very large figure.
Her confession was laced with laughter, not cruel, but I’m sure inescapable being the spectator on our foray. All and all I think that was a turning point for me, where such subjects really became fantasy, and I gave more of my mind to other matters. Like artwork, which pretty much became the vault for all that was left of my interest in monsters. They all became, to a degree like the comic hero’s , and the knowledge I had of superstition became just worn out ideas of backward people. Maybe that was my moms plan all along.
35 years later easing, into a quieter life, one free of bars and hoodlum buddies, free of any desire to court the disaster that was my running mate in the election of life, I’m photographing flowers and squirrels and find a monster in my camera, and no memory of it. Within 14 months of that first journey into mystery, I have files full of the same and worse.
Robert and I have laughed over a beer many times, recalling that day , but with the experiences of this last year and half, I wonder when I think of that stone that looked so much like a viking throne, if the reasons the housing project failed were financial? Or if the whole operation had ceased over much different issues. My mothers prank,? Maybe it was strangely entwined as well with everything that’s led us to this day.