TWO SOULS: INTO THE FIRE
Steve knocked on the door to Linda's motel room. She let them in, and he helped her get the kids ready to leave.
"Ok, who wants pancakes?" Steve asked.
"We do, we do," Stevie and Mandy hollered, as they jumped up and down.
Linda grabbed her purse, and they all walked over to the little diner. The place was filling up with hungry customers, already. Ghost was telling the kids about the banana pancakes that he makes at home, while Linda and Steve discussed the travel plans for the day. When their breakfast orders came, they dug in. Afterwards, they collected their things from their rooms, and were soon back on the highway.
They stopped at a gas station on the way out of town. Steve checked the U-Haul, and Linda's van for everything he could...oil, water, gas, and tires, then went in to pay.
"Where ya headed?" the clerk asked.
"Just trying to get across Arizona for today," Steve said.
"Well, ya better take along some jugs of water then, and some food...just in case," the man advised. "There isn't much between here and Flagstaff...just desert, and it gets hot."
"Oh, yeah, ok, I'll get those then," Steve said. He came out of the little gas/convenience store loaded down. He put some of the supplies in each of their cars.
"Ok, guess we're ready," he said.
"Lead the way," Linda said. She'd settled the kids in the back seat, with their DVD player going, so they were entertained for awhile.
Steve got back into the U-Haul, and drove on down the road. Soon they were cruising at a good pace.
"There's nothing out here," Ghost said, as he stared out the window. "It's weird."
"Well, it's a desert...you know...cactus and sand," Steve said, but he thought it was weird, too. "Nothing like home, huh?"
"We were gonna come here, before," Ghost said. "There's ghost towns, and UFOs out here. I can tell we're close to some."
"So, you want to stop and look around?" Steve asked.
"Can we? Can we find a ghost town?" Ghost asked, looking excited now.
"Well, that sign back there said there's one not too far out of our way. I could use some leg stretching time," Steve said. "It's a tourist place now, though, and surely they have a bathroom. Call Linda, tell her we're stopping there."
Ghost did, and when they got to the right turn-off road, Steve took it, driving them on up to what seemed a modern looking building. They all got out, and went inside, where it was nice and cool. It was a visitor's center, with a gift shop. They found the bathrooms, then asked the clerk about looking around the abandoned town. He gave them a pamphlet that included a map of the ghost town.
They were able to wander around, looking at everything, and taking some pictures. "Is this a real town?" Ghost asked.
Steve looked at the map they'd gotten. "It says here it was, way back when. These stores and houses were restored to what they were like, and some of the original furniture and stuff are what really was here."
They kept looking, peeking into the windows of the buildings in the little ghost town. The kids were having fun, running around. The farther they all got, away from the visitor's center, the more Ghost slowed down.
Steve was looking in the storefronts, reading the descriptions on the info sheet. He was imagining what it would have been like to have lived here. "Hey, Ghost, look at this one," he kept saying. He and Linda were chattering about it all, enjoying it. Ghost didn't seem interested.
"You gonna look at any of this, or just stand there in the street?" Steve asked. "It was your idea to come here, and I know you like history shit."
Ghost shrugged. "This isn't real. It's too neat and museum-y," he said.
"So...it's still how it looked back then. You know...then everybody just left, and it got abandonded," Steve said.
"I don't feel anything," Ghost said. "No spirits are here...it's not even where the real town used to be. They fixed it over here, closer to the road." He held out his arm, like a pointer, then closed his eyes, and slowly turned in a circle. When he stopped, he said, "The town was over there, past that...that cactus. It's down below there...there's a drop-off." He paused a second, listening. "Guess that's why they moved it. I'm going over there," he said, and started walking that way.
"Wait, wait...you can't just go walking out into the desert," Steve said. "How far is it, anyway? I don't see anything out there."
But, Ghost didn't answer, he just kept walking away from the little town. Steve looked back at Linda and the kids. They were still looking at the buildings, and weren't looking his way. He looked back at Ghost, who was getting farther away. He was afraid he'd lose him, if he didn't follow. Linda would be fine, even if she realized he and Ghost were gone. So, he ran to catch up with Ghost.
Panting in the heat, as he came up beside Ghost, he grabbed Ghost's arm. "Stop...there's nothing out here to see...and you're gonna get heat stroke...you're all red. We're going back, come on," Steve urged.
Ghost stopped, just looking out across the barren scrub land. He had a far-away look in his eyes. "They're out there," he said, pointing. "Not much farther, Steve. I have to go see."
Steve scanned the area in front of them. Sighing and shaking his head, he said, "Ok, but five minutes...that's all...then when I say, we go back...deal?"
Ghost nodded, and started walking again. Steve glanced back from where they'd come. The little town's buildings looked tiny now, they were so far away. Ghost was walking faster now, and then suddenly he stopped. Steve almost ran into him.
"Look, there it is, Steve."
Steve was amazed. Just a few feet from where Ghost had stopped, the flat ground dropped sharply, with no warning, into a sort of gorge, or valley...a canyon, maybe, he thought. It was not terribly long or wide, but still, about two hundred yards down a rocky cliff. At the bottom was what looked like a dried up river bed, and clustered up and down it's banks was the little town...laid out exactly as the one behind them. Except this one was the real thing.
Dilapidated, weathered, wooden structures, an old rotted wagon, and rusted plows were scattered around the area. There was the remnants of a long ago garden off to one side, that had lived and died, along with the former residents. It was stark and beautiful at the same time.
They stared in silence for a few minutes. "They're still there...the spirits of the dead. Not everybody just up and left. There's a graveyard, too." He closed his eyes to concentrate. "There's the bones of a couple of others that never got buried. They're in the root cellar...the last hold-outs." Ghost sighed, looking sad now.
"Wouldn't they have gotten them out when they re-did the place back there?" Steve asked.
Ghost shook his head. "No one knows about 'em...just us, 'cause the cellar got hidden when the house fell down, a long time ago, after they died...so it's kinda like their grave, anyway. But, I can find it...I hear them calling and calling for help...still..."
Steve shivered, despite the heat of the afternoon. "This is creeping me out...I gotta get outta here. Let's go. We can't help them, Ghost...let them alone...rest in peace, spirits," he said, out into the wind.
"I think they understand," Ghost said. "I told them how sorry I was that I couldn't really help them. They said they were happy to have someone finally hear their cries." He wiped a few tears from his own eyes.
"Aww, that's nice, Ghost. At least you gave them that," Steve said. "C'mon...let's go back."
They began the long walk back to the visitor center.
Next part coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing