Death of Leaning Birches and Company
Once, years ago I had a misadventure
in an abandon town. I will always believe that little town was taken
by something dark and years after the fact, that something scared
me out of my wits. I still get chills when I think about that place
and this tale about a Burial of sorts was inspired by the ride I
took one day. Every mining camp has its share of ghost stories.
This is mine. I hope you enjoy it.
Anita Marie January 23, 2005
of Leaning Birches and Company
I'm from a town called Leaning Birches;
it grew up seemingly overnight around a single mining a camp.
Like any other town there’s a church,
a saloon a school, a jail and shanties. There were houses on the
ridges and even a cemetery. A train comes through now and then to
take away the gold, sometimes the dead and it brings supplies too.
In the town of Leaning Birches men have
wasted away to nothing working in the mines, they don't think about
food or drink or even women when they hit those veins. No one there
can remember their life before the mines, it just isn’t as important
as what is under their feet.
In Leaning Birches in one way or another
the Mines have claimed or spawned what's now above ground.
Once I was lost in the Mines, it was
only for a little while though. I'm not sure why but I took my time
walking through the darkness to the entrance. I thought I saw Miners
down there, laboring, fighting, working, dieing. Only they where
nothing more then shadows and whispers.
Ghosts I suppose.
Along my way I also saw carvings on
the walls, in parts of the caves the miners had ventured into and
then abandoned. The figure was always the same, a woman with arrows
clutched in her hands. Corpses at her feet and a sly smile painted
across her lips. She had no eyes and a veil of long black hair.
Sometimes the figure was painted and sometimes carved. Sometimes
it was life sized and at other times she was no bigger then the
palm of my hand.
I don't know how long I walked before
I found my way out; I walked towards vaporous figures that became
more solid as I approached. Their voice became solid and real too,
not whispers or hints of sound.
" Christ almighty, " one said as I approached
" what the hell is down there? "
" Rats, " another answered " dead rats
and they must be waist deep in that one enclave, I ain't going in
there again the smell is God awful "
" You're sure Amory? They were all dead?
How can that be? We were just down there yesterday and everything
" " Listen Del, I’m telling you that
cave is full of them. They all went recent too, they're still, you
The voices retreated, and now I stood
near the entrance, I placed my hand against the hall and my fingers
danced...like spiders when they spin a web and when I took my hand
away the woman with the arrows in her hands was there.
And now, so was I.
I crossed the threshold and I was topside.
The town was very much alive, but I saw the shadows everywhere.
These shadows weren't shadows cast from
the Sun, they were cast from the darkness and they moved liked predators
stalking prey. They slid up and crossed the faces of men, women,
children, livestock and they nested there.
As the shadows become darker the figures
under them seemed to fade until nothing was left.
Sometimes they saw me through the Shadows.
I saw traces of their faces and I also saw their fear, I saw their
anger, I saw their regret. And sometimes I saw relief. They died
The road to the cemetery was traveled
almost hourly now, sometimes even at night. Later, when they all
became sick the entire town turned into a cemetery and the dead
were left to rest where they fell.
The town of Leaning Birches simply shut
its eyes one evening just before sunset and drew one last long rattling
breath and stopped.
It was done in less then 3 days.
That's how the town of Leaning Birches
died. It was murdered by my hand and what I brought from the Mines
with me. It was a Black Death that consumed them all. When I was
done I retreated back to the mines.
I'm still down here, wandering the tunnels
carved by the Miners and I still make my little drawings. Sometimes
animal ventures in and I take it, sometimes it ventures back out
alone and sometimes I go with it.
My little town is famous I've learned.
There's a legend that over 500 souls disappeared from it without
a trace over one night. The story says a surveyor came up and found
food set out on tables, half filled glasses in the saloon. Money
on the counter at the bank. He made it sound like all those people
and their animals just got up and walked away into the hills.
Of course he lied, I know because I
was there. As it would happen because I claim what is mine...no
matter how far I have to travel, I found him years later in another
country at another mine and I saw the look of regret on his face
in the last few minutes of his life.
I didn't begrudge him his tall tale.
He shouldn’t have and you shouldn't either.
He did come to the town and he sat on
his horse on the ridge above the town and looked down into the ruins
I had created. Bodies littered the street, the smell and silence
and ugliness seemed to reach up from below and grab him by his throat.
The horseman didn't see the corpse of
a ruined town; his mind simply refused to see it. I think he saw
one corpse in that valley. Not, buildings or bodies or decay. A
single ruined corpse.
"Somebody killed this town,” he said
to himself " as surely as if they put a rifle to it's head and pulled
Then he felt me. His hand went to the
back of his neck and he saw the hairs standing up on his arms on
that hot summer day. He nearly fell off his horse as he felt me
approach from the bluff below. His mind slammed a door shut so hard
in his own head that even I heard it.
Then I was next to him.
He couldn't see me, but he felt me.
His head snapped from left to right, he turned in his saddle and
his eyes were bright, defiant. I admired him very much. Which is
why I didn't take him that day.
Then his horse reared and threw him
to the ground. " Not here, Jesus Not here...Christ those poor people...God,
God in the streets like runned over dogs...God..." he was saying
from the ground. He was on all fours for a moment and then he was
on his feet and his horse tried to gallop away, but I put my hand
on it and it screamed in terror and stood still. It's eyes rolled
and its sides heaved but it would not move past me.
I'm not sure who showed him Mercy that
day but when he looked back down into the town he really saw the
tale he told all those years later. He didn't see death and decay.
He saw nothing except dust and empty buildings.
The town was completely abandoned by
the world once it heard about the sickness there. That tale didn't
come from the horseman, it came from a woman who escaped my attention
entirely and I'm not sure to this day how she managed that.
So the world never came back, my presence
you see...after all of this time you can feel it. You can see it
in the trees and grass that don't seem to be as green and alive
as the trees and grasses that grow on the opposite side of the river.
The air here is still fetid and dank.
The way it is in the mines.
Still, the explores come. They try to
stand in the places where buildings once stood and never seem to
venture very far down what was once the main street. They don't
go to the cemetery because, they tell each other, it's flat and
there's nothing to see. They don't even realize it is a cemetery
as all the markers were wood and when the Blackness came for them
the Miners and townspeople stopped using markers at all.
But there's plenty to hear and if you
can't hear it you can feel it.
That cemetery is never quiet and nothing
sleeps up there. Sometimes hikers happen by and so do the hunters
and the lost. But nothing stays here. The wind won't even travel
these streets and sunlight doesn't come any closer then it has too.
But I walk these hills and valleys and
sometimes I travel far away from this place.
But I'm from this valley and from these
Mines and I am always here; I will always be here.
Mine is the property of Heather Blakey and Miners who have generously
shared their work. Please do not replicate any part of this mine
without written permission.