A Brush with the Past
8 August, 2016
For most of my life, things were fairly normal. I had a few friends and a goldfish. I shared a log cabin with an old guy who used to work on a gold dredge. He didn't like to talk about the "good old days" because he said there was nothing good about them. He had a paranoid streak and would stand outside the front door everyday. "They are coming," he said.
One morning, out of the blue, he asked me if I'd like to see where he used to work. I had nothing better to do so I said yes. We rode his beat-up Ford pickup over miles and miles of torn up highway. It took half the day. Finally we reached a little town. "We're here," he said.
He pointed over to the ancient structure sitting lopsided on a hill and said he'd meet me over there. The clouds were gathering and it looked like we were in for a storm. I walked around the dredge, now dilapidated and consumed by weeds.
I took one step toward a broken window in an attempt to see inside. Suddenly I couldn't move. It felt like something had a tight hold on my legs but I didn't see anything. I began to panic and called out for help. No one came.
Time passed and I couldn't get unstuck. Winter came with more snow than I had ever seen. I didn't feel the bitter chill but everything around me was frozen and white. It all melted in spring and I watched the fireweed flower and wither over the short summer. Debris fell from the dredge, small at first but then large steel beams came crashing down.
I felt the grass growing inside my body. The dirt moved its way through my veins. Years came and went until time itself disappeared into oblivion.
I sat on Robert Service's wooden chair outside his cabin. I didn't think he'd mind. I was waiting for a sign from him but was greeted only with silence. Actually, the neighbor's dog was barking, spoiling the moment but I mostly managed to tune that out.
I stayed there for the best part of half an hour until I felt like it was a good time to go. I wanted to read a book on the deck but had forgotten to put it in my backpack. I thought reading the book would inspire a short poem in his honor but I had also forgotten my notebook and pen. Basically the whole plan was aborted.
There was nowhere to get breakfast this early so I thought I'd stand by the street corner and watch people go by. That was fine until I began to look suspicious so I thought it best to move on.
I saw a man spill out of a bar and try to maintain his balance. He looked lonely and pathetic as he stood there with no apparent purpose.
Heading towards Front Street I was afraid to get too close to Saint Andrews Church. It looked like it was going to collapse at any moment. I wondered what this town must have been like when it was built back in 1901, all greed and debauchery. Maybe some of those sinners repented here.
The sun forced its way through the clouds and a distant bell chimed. It was 8 o'clock and I caught a whiff of freshly brewed coffee.
While out walking one morning I had a vision. Someone appeared to me. He looked strikingly like me only a more ghostly and ominous version. I couldn't make out what he was saying except for his final two words, "Go home".
In the course of my journey, I had landed in a strange town, not quite lost but somewhat displaced. After this encounter, I began to have doubts. Should I not be here? Is that why I was directed home?
I passed the Canal Trading Post. There was someone sitting on the bench by the front door. The building looked like it had been shut down for years. I'm not sure what he was doing there. He looked like he was waiting for something or someone. I wasn't in the mood for conversation so I didn't ask.
Just down the street was another store, all boarded up and abandoned. It had two Coke signs at the top. It made me want a Coke but I knew that wasn't going to happen.
What followed was perhaps even more odd than my aforementioned vision. I noticed there was no one else in the whole town except for the owner (I think) of an old gas station. I asked him a question. I don't even remember what it was. Anyway, he didn't answer me. It wasn't that he was rude. He just sort of stood there blankly, like a ghost. Maybe I should have talked to the other guy instead. I don't know.
I saw a silver coin on the ground and went to pick it up. At that moment, I thought I heard my mother's voice so I slowly raised my head. The scene had dramatically changed.
There, in front of me, stood the place where I was born. My home where I spent the first twelve years of my life. Except...it was never here.
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