Miner Claim
Anita Moscoso


Beneath the Cafe, probably right beneath my Curio Shop are the Mines. People here have brought some wonderful things from them recently. But I was in another place for a while and what I brought back wasn't so wonderful. What I've brought back is a warning.

Last summer I went in search of a town called Abandon.

I knew what I would find, because I had been warned. It haunted me as promised because it's full of ghosts. It's in my dreams now, because it's the stuff nightmares are made of.

I had nightmares about Abandon before I set one foot in it.

In my dreams Abandon appeared as a man. His face was pale, his eyes were flat and without color. . In my dreams he stood at the end of a neglected set of railroad tracks. They were broken, splintered and useless. He was waving at me from his ruined world, and I use to think he was screaming. I realize that now maybe he was laughing.

Despite my dreams, Abandon was a real town and its history was as dark and twisted as the mines that ran under it.

In the late 1800's people went into Abandon to work the mines because riches were guaranteed to be found.

There were no paupers working the mines of Abandon. The strange thing about these new Millionaires was that they would leave their gold from the mines lying out in the open in their tents, shanties and in sheds. The gold would leak from the torn burlap bags and the other makeshift containers they used and the elements or even the birds carried some of it away.

The next day and the day after they would return to the mines and bring the gold back up and leave it where they dropped it and go into the Mines again for more.

Nowadays people wonder if there was something in the water or food that made the people of Abandon act so strange. The simple fact is that Abandon has as many strange stories surrounding it as there was gold coming from its mines.

There is a story about a man from foreign parts went to Abandon to find his son. His son was a goodhearted person, a big gregarious young man with a big laugh and big appetites and had seen much of the world before he turned 25.

The man found his son at shift change.

What was left of his son anyway.

The tall thin cadaverous creature that appeared from the mine was a cruel caricature of the man's son. His hair was coming out in patches; his face hollow and his big dark eyes were empty and dull. When he saw his Father waiting for him he looked at him, and said in an old man's voice, " run Papa, run while you still can " and that was the last the man ever saw of his son. Because as his son walked away from him the shadows seemed to break him apart bit by bit until there was nothing left of him at all.

There was also another story about Abandon; it gets told a lot around here and like the real Abandon you might not realize what it's really about, if you don't understand what Abandon really is.

When our state wasn't even a territory yet two brothers got lost in the valley that was the home of the first mine called Leaning Birches. Beyond that another mining town called Lawton Ridge. They roamed around these parts for a while and spent most of their time lost in the high desert country...an inexplicably dry barren place in the midst of evergreens and rivers. Nothing grows up there, its dead. Completely dead, to this day its some sort of natural wonder because it's not a desert...there's all sorts of life in the desert, but not in this place. It's void of any life at all. I've been there, sound doesn't even carry far up there and for all that dust and sand you'd expect it to be warm, but it's not.

The brothers were lost up there for almost 2 months and when they were found they were changed men. That's what the wife of one of them said. She said that at her trial; that when her husband came back he never slept, he talked to himself all of the time and that she never saw him eat. Not a morsel of food, not a drop of water.

The worst was when he and his brother would lock themselves in the library and talk. She insisted she could hear a third voice at times...but she assumed that the third voice could easily have been the two brothers talking at the same time.

She insisted that as the days wore on her husband changed more and more until ' he was completely gone...it started with his hand, then it was the way he walked, the color of his eyes and hair, the shape of his nose. It was like each day a part of him disappeared until one morning she woke to find a stranger looking up from her husband's favorite book, wearing her husband's clothes and trying, without success to wear her husband's face. He was a stranger she insisted that had ' killed' her husband and taken his place.

She lived with this creature, as she called him for two days. Then one evening as he sat, pretending to drink from a glass of wine (he simply raised the glass to his lips and pretended to drink) she came up from behind him with a knife and buried it into the back of his neck at the base of his skull.

The woman was hung for not only the murder of her husband, but his brother as well. She dispatched him with an axe. Then she quite calmly confessed to her crime and asked for no mercy. She wouldn't even defend herself. Suicide was against God, she said and she no longer wished to live. She welcomed the hangman's noose. It wasn't the guilt of the murders she couldn't face, what she could no longer live with was the memory of her victims who did not not bleed. She insisted they simply leaked sand.

We used to love to tell that story. But I know now itís not a story about a woman who went crazy and killed two people. It's really the first story to be told about a monster that became a mining town called Abandon.

My story is now among these others, and this is how I came to know Abandon.

Zev has been my best friend our entire lives. He moved in next door to us a week after we came to Seattle. My family fascinated him; we were big, loud, colorful and Filipino. His family was small quiet and reserved and from Virginia.

He also set my teeth on edge and I would punch him or trip him every time I got into striking distance. Finally my mother promised me that if I were to stop picking on Zev for everyday I was a good girl she would buy me a treat or a small present.

Then one day Zeví s mother showed up at our door with a tearful Zev in tow. I went slamming into the house just in time to hear him tearfully tell my mother " Sarah doesn't like me anymore and I don't know why she won't talk to me. I didn't do anything to her, honest! "

We were inseparable after that day. I called him Monkey Boy and he called me Boss and we both thought I was pretty darn wonderful. Destined to be friends, that's what we were.

He was one of those friends I didn't need to see or be with everyday. Something as simple as years apart couldn't change the fact he was a part of my heart. My true friend, my best friend. I would do anything for him.

So when his wife came to me two weeks ago with his journals and a picture of a ruined set of railroad tracks running across a barren plateau and begged me to find Zev I agreed. I don't know how it happened or why but somehow Abandon took Zev.

Among his notes in his journal I saw that Zev had become fascinated with Birches, Lawton and Abandon. I've heard of the other two places as well. They're infamous around here not because they were part of the gold rush but because for reasons no one understands to this day somehow the inhabitants were exposed to something that was very much like the Bubonic Plague. All of the residents in both towns were suppose to have died within 72 hours.

I asked his wife, Amelia, how did a man who taught high school English end up in these towns? What was he looking for? And she told me she it had something to do with a field trip he helped chaperone for a photography class. It was when he got back that the dreams came. The obsession started. It was like he was trying to remember something he'd forgotten Amelia told me. Then the picture of the railroad tracks came back from the labs...a picture that was suppose to be of an open field. He didn't know where it came from, he told her. They hadn't been anywhere that desolate looking.

A week later he was gone. Amelia woke up to find the picture taped to the bathroom mirror with one word written across it..." Abandon".

I'm holding the picture now, and at the end of the tracks if you look carefully you can see what looks like a shadow. A shadow of a man, with his head thrown back...like he was screaming or maybe laughing.

It took me four days to hike up here. I came up alone and I'm glad because a few times I've screamed out loud when it felt like someone rested their hand on my shoulder and sometimes Iíd answer questions even though I never actually heard anybody speak them aloud. Sometimes for no reason at all I close my eyes and walk carefully across treacherous ground because I know better then to actually look at the things I can hear calling to me from the shadows and from up in the trees and sometimes from right next to me. So with my eyes shut firm I walked across deadfall that served as bridges across bottomless canyons and I refused to open them no matter how insistent the voices are.

They weren't warning me or trying to scare me away. No, they were urging me on...to hurry and I did.

Abandon came to me on that first day I arrived. I stood at the ruined tracks and look into the horizon and saw a sun that deathly pale and to small moving across the wrong direction in a blazing blue sky. Then from behind me a train hissed its way up and when I looked to where the ends of the tracks were a moment ago I now saw a town. There was a church on a hill, stores, houses and even people. They were shadows, solid and almost without color but they were people. When they walked their feet didn't touch the ground and when they talked their mouths didn't move but I could hear them all the same.

Then I saw him walking down the other side of the street, the man from my dreams. Abandon. His feet did touch the ground and he was looking at me with what I though were dark black eyes. It didn't take me long to realize he didn't have eyes, just blackness where there should have been eyes. He rose his hand in what I thought was a greeting of sorts... I knew he was looking for me. He was trying to feel me, the way you raise your hands to a flame to gather the heat. That's what it looked like he was doing, searching for warmth...searching for something alive, like me.

I kept walking and he raised his face to the sky and I thought I heard someone say my name from behind me. I knew better then to turn around, I knew better then to answer. I kept moving down the dusty road, towards the Mine, towards the entrance way for Abandon.

I don't know how long I waited on the Ridge above the Mine, the Sun moved in the wrong direction and it glowed blood red as the Moon rose above it. I don't know if the sun was raising or setting when the Miners started to come up out of the Earth at first it was just the one shadow-man followed by another and then another.

Some glided along the top of the ground and sometimes I saw them walking, their faces were covered with shadows and I couldn't really see their features. I'm not sure I wanted to. I think the shadows were consuming them, eating them alive and the worst part was, they didn't care.

Then I saw him, I saw Zev slowly come from the Mine surrounded by the Shadow people and he walked very slowly and clumsily like he was having trouble balancing on his own legs. When I called to him I saw him brush the side of his face, like he was brushing something unpleasant away from himself.

He was having trouble seeing me, and I'm not sure he could hear me at all. He squinted, trying to focus on my face as if I were standing away from him at a great distance instead of a few feet away. His voice sounded faint, weak " Sarah? "

I reached out for him, afraid to touch him " I'm right here, come one, just walk towards me. "

" I can't see you very well Sarah, my eyes aren't working right "

" It's okay, we'll fix them later. Just come to me, okay? "

He did and heaven forgive me, I didn't want to reach out to my own friend and feel that emptiness under his skin, to look into a changed set of eyes or no eyes at all. I didn't want him to reach out and grasp my hands.

Then he did reach out to me and I felt his swollen, cut worn hands grasp mine and they were worn and ruined and warm but they were his.

It was Zev.

I knew we weren't going to just walk away from Abandon and we didn't. It was waiting for us in the town.

He stood at the end of the railroad tracks at the end of the world under that sickly sun setting on the wrong horizon. " You can stay here Sarah, if you'd just open your eyes... the wonders you would see" it told me. " Just open your eyes. Ask your friend about the wonders he saw Sarah. "

I looked into Zeví s filmy clouded eyes and shook my head no.

Then Abandon was at my side, whispering into my ear, " just go into the Mines Sarah, it's all there just waiting for you...secrets Sarah and treasures beyond anything you could imagine. "

" And all I have to do is go into the Mines..."

" That's all you have to do, one step at a time Sarah and every treasure you could ever imagine could be yours...for the taking. "

And I considered it, then I thought about all the treasures to be had right up here where I could reach out with my own hands and see them with my own eyes and I could take them or leave them and every desire in my heart would be my own.

My own desires and not some living nightmare dreamed by a monster from the darkest corners of this nightmare world.

I looked back towards the Mine and I caught a brief glimpse of the adventures that were there and Abandon was smiling at me. It was in my head and then I got angry. " Okay, that's it, no more trips through my head. Zev, we're going home. "

Abandon's hand was in my hair, pulling my head back his face inches from my own " Do you think you can just walk away from ME? Do you think it's as easy as that? "

" I think it's as easy as that. "

And it was.

The trip home was harder because Zev wasn't in good shape. Neither of us paid attention to the horrible apparitions that called to us, the nightmare voices that whispered to us and the awful way the moon and sun seemed to be linked together as they rose and set.

Then one night the moon rose all on it's own and we were home.

We went to my Aunt's house because I knew she would be waiting for us. She was sitting on her porch smoking a thin cigar and by her side were some glasses and some wine. " Honey Bunny! " my Aunt Akela called as we stumbled up the drive " how was the trip? "

" It was hell. " I told her.

She exhaled some smoke rings and winked at us "Not this time Bunny but I think you were close really close to it this time, really close. "

Working the Claim

Death of Leaning Birches and Company

The Alluvial 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.