Visiting Mayfield in the backwoods of Kentucky always brought pleasant memories to mind from my youth. My two sisters would spend hours in the library while my grandparents went about their daily activities. Ms. Cooper was always so helpful and knew just the perfect books for us to read where we could get lost for hours in endless adventures.
After our grandparents passed away, Mom and Dad always took us there each summer to visit our aunt Sarah. She was so cool. She had satellite TV before every home could get cable installed for $99.95 down and $29.95 per month. Speed Racer was my favorite. And there was Ultra Man to protect the world from huge monsters from outer space. Batman and Robin kept disaster from happening when the Joker, Riddler, Penguin or Catwoman plotted their devious plans with their inept henchmen. And, late at night, Aunt Sarah would stay up with me (the oldest) and watch old black and white horror movies… much to the dismay of my mom.
But, it was vacation. And even kids get to break the rules sometimes.
This trip to Mayfield was not as much fun. Maybe it was because we three kids were grown-ups now and taking a summer trip now meant working our asses off before we took vacation time and more when we returned. Plus, making sure the pets are boarded, house in order and enough cash in our pockets to travel, made the entire prospect of a vacation exhausting.
Or maybe it was the fact that this was the first time we’d seen Aunt Sarah in 10 years. Just shortly after our mom had passed away.
Dad came with us, and we brought three cars. Dad had to head back earlier than the rest of us, but wanted to be sure to visit and catch up on old times with family and friends. Mom’s death hadn’t been unexpected, and I suspected dad acted more composed for the rest of us. No doubt his trip home would be time to reflect and grieve properly.
Aunt Sarah was as beautiful as ever and still looked young. Her house was very cool with all sorts of nick nacks to look at, magazines to read and other things to distract someone from their normal lives – even as an adult.
We spent a few days hanging out and catching up. On the third day, the three of us kids went to the Library to visit the previous Ms. Cooper – now Mrs. Bennet. But when we arrived at the library, we found the entire thing being renovated. But, as we arrived, they opened the doors and told us where to find Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet was only 12 years older than me, but when you’re 12, that seems like 100 years. Now in my thirties, the age didn’t seem so vast. She toured us around and even showed us where one of my paintings was going to be hanging. I had completely forgotten I had sent one to the library after graduating from college. A painting of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn floating down the Mississippi on their raft.
The power flickered while construction was going on and we toured the building.
We invited Mrs. Bennet and her husband to come over, but she hemmed and hawed and got uncomfortable when mentioning Aunt Sarah. We let it go and said we’d stop by again before leaving town.
On leaving the library, the sky had grown dark and thunder rumbled in the distance.
When we arrived at Aunt Sarah’s, no one was around. Dad’s car was gone, so we figured they had gone to get food. While standing in the kitchen, drinking some wine, I noticed the backside of Aunt Sarah’s property for the first time. I remembered playing here, but didn’t remember the thicket of bushes before, I also didn’t remember what looked like a small building that now stood there.
I wandered out into the yard and pushed my way through the brambles and soon came upon a door. Shovels, rakes, and other gardening tools were propped up against it, but otherwise it was easy to push my way in. Inside was a room of considerable size for what had looked like a small shed. It was filled with six foot tall racks from which hung huge bulbous sacks about two to three feet across. A weird noise was filling the room. Like water running, but running over branches or rocks. The light switch didn’t work when I flicked it up and down, so I squinted and moved closer to one of the sacks. They appeared wet streaked with brown and white mesh material, and were undulating with the movement of something within them.
Like an idiot, I touched one. The skin of the sack was weak and I pushed right through it getting some sort of gelatinous goo on my hand. Then the whole sack started shifting and moving. Suddenly, small hairy legs started moving out through the hole I had created. Not just a few either. dozens. And then hundreds.
Hundreds of spiders.
Being completely terrified of spiders, I yelped and backed out of the room and the building. Those sacks held hundreds of spiders and there were dozens of sacks in the room.
I ran back to the house to get my sisters .
In a short time, we figured out a way to rid poor Aunt Sarah’s shed of these horribly scary pests.
We went back and used a couple of cans of starch and a lighter to ignite the sacks after cutting them down and letting them drop to the floor. My oldest sister and I did the hacking and burning. Our little sister would hit them with the fire extinguisher before it got too bad. We also had a rake and hoe to dispatch the other stragglers. Luckily the roof was high and there was a skylight we had opened to let out the smoke and fumes.
After an hour or two, we cleaned up to surprise our aunt.
Strangely, she was not pleased. She just stared at us blankly and unlike any way we’d seen her before and simply said… “You’ve killed my children.”
Totally confused, we realized Aunt Sarah was completely insane. The glassy look in her eyes revealed the old Aunt Sarah was gone. She walked over to a wall and turned the thermostat down, but instead of the air conditioner kicking on, a panel gave way to show a staircase.
“I’ll be right back.” She said as she walked down the stairs. Her voice echoed from the stairway as she approached the bottom, “You shouldn’t have killed my children.”
Panic set in. We were not in the right place at the right time. I told my sisters to grab their things. We were leaving right away. In moments, we had what we needed and didn’t care if we had forgotten anything. I stayed at the threshold of the door as Aunt Sarah reappeared.
“What’s going on? What are you doing? Where are you going? You’re not leaving yet are you? I wanted to show you something.” she said.
With that, I noticed the huge spiders crawling from over her back, onto her shoulders and down her arms. Plus, she was carrying two smaller version of the sacks I had found in the shed.
“What is that?” I asked as I began slowly backing out of the door.
“The only children I have left. They were hungry, you see.” That’s when I saw the small silhouette of a child inside the brown and white sack. I felt like throwing up.
“We have to go now, Aunt Sarah. I’m sorry about your…children. We thought we were helping.”
Aunt Sarah’s eyes flared. “Helping?!”
She brought the sack up in front of her, her mouth opened wide and razor sharp teeth exploded into view. A raspy guttural sound emanated from her throat and she ripped into the sack with sickening abandon as blood and visceral splattered all around.
I slowly stepped back out of the door, closed it and ran like hell to the car.
As I drove quickly away from Aunt Sarah’s, the only thing on my mind was, ‘What the hell was going on? What happened to Aunt Sarah?’
I told my sisters what had happened. We stop in at our favorite pancake house that we always eat at, but today, things were different.
We had just been in two days earlier, but now, everything seemed run down. Dirty. Empty. There was a strange odor in the air. The waitress came over to our table, but seemed out of place. Her stockings had fallen, uniform was wrinkled and dirty, and a huge bruise ran along her face from her temple, down her cheek and across her neck.
We placed our order wearily.
We all agreed it was time to get out of town. Thunder continued and rain started to fall. The power flickered. We all looked out the window and saw a bolt of lightning hit the library. Worried for Mrs. Bennett’s safety, we headed over to see if she was okay.
She wasn’t. And when we entered the Library, it had changed as well.
The new construction looked like it had been abandoned years ago. The walls blackened with mold and fungus. The books scattered and torn. We shouted for Mrs. Bennett.
Unlike most horror movies when things get weird, my siblings and I did NOT separate. We searched together and finally found Mrs. Bennette sitting in her office that was rotting around her. Blood ran down the right side of her face as if she had recently received a blow to it.
“Mrs. Bennett? Are you okay?” I asked.
She looked up from the book she was reading… her eyes white and dead. She smiled a rotten toothy smile.
Then the lights went out.
A hissing, guttural sound like Aunt Sarah made came from Mrs. Bennett’s location.
“SHIIIITTTT!” I grabbed my sisters arms and backed out of the room and slammed the door.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON??!!!” My sisters shouted.
The handle turned on the door and we quickly moved away to the other side of the hall.
Mrs. Bennett stepped out looking perfectly fine. “What is WRONG with the three of you?” She asked.
We blinked and stared at each other for a moment. The power came back on and the hallway was perfectly fine.
I grabbed Mrs. Bennett and told her she needed to get out of here because of the storm.
My sisters in the back seat kept cutting their eyes back and forth to me, each other and Mrs. Bennett sitting in the front. Meanwhile, Mrs. Bennett rattled on about the rain and how her sons were probably a little scared since they were young. I tried to tell her about Aunt Sarah, but she acted like she never heard it. Or didn’t want to believe it.
We took her to her house and once inside, her two YOUNG sons were pointing guns at us and looked more like older teenagers. The math wasn’t making sense in my head, but nothing was at this point. Mrs. Bennett calmly put her purse down and patted her boys on the heads.
“What is going on?” my young sister asked. It was becoming a mantra.
“You killed my children, actually, all of our children,” a voice said from the other room, “and murders must be punished, or better – sacrificed.”
It was Aunt Sarah. She looked horrible. The spiders were gone, but her visage was grotesque. She tossed me a cell phone, wet with blood.
It was dads.
“Bobby, take my young neice below. I’ll be with you in a moment.”
I was tense. One gunshot and my life would be over. My sister was just as tense, but she just looked pissed off. Not scared at all.
“You don’t belong here,” Aunt Sarah said, running her mottled hand down my face. It left a burning sensation, “But while you are here, we’ll make good use of you.”
As she headed below and closed the door she mumbled to Mrs. Bennett and her son, “Wait until the screaming stops and then bring them down.”
My sister and I cut looks at each other. ‘Shit.’
I heard another door close below and a strange sound like in the shed started. Muffled. But the same.
Mrs. Bennett prattled on, her son kept a bead on me.
My sister fell to the ground and the son shifted the gun sights. I leaped for him. The gun came loose. My sister grabbed it aiming at Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet just stood there. I grabbed some rope and tied them both up. They didn’t morph into anything evil this time. Just looked at us smiling. It was damned creepy and very peculiar.
We took them outside after finding the door to the basement locked. The wind had picked up and tiles on the roof were being flung loose and had come off. Lawn chairs overturned and something was flapping in the wind nearby.
We made them sit down and tried to find another way down.
That’s when the screaming started. It was coming from below but also from someplace else outside.
I looked around and saw it. A small platform with a stained glass top. Sheets of rubber helped keep it sealed and had come loose, flapping in the wind. I looked at my sister who now was afraid for our little sis and she said, “go.”
I ran for the glass and with a leap crashed through it falling some fifteen feet below.
I shook off the pain raised my gun and let my eyes adjust to the light.
The squirming sound was joined by popping sounds as hundreds of spiders broke through their egg sack and poured into the room I was standing in. I was surrounded by screens that formed a small room, maybe ten foot by ten foot littered with debris and the corners filled with mesh. The spiders stopped before reaching the screen. Further away. behind a glass wall, I saw my sister strapped to a wall. Blood dripping from her wrists and something, some kind of creature attached to her neck and head. Aunt Sarah stepped away from her as well as four other people, three men and a woman. They look terrified. One man stepped through a door and just stared at the hole I had made on the top. He looked upset and the spiders did not bother him.
“Let her go! And get that THING off her.” I pointed the gun towards his face.
The terror left his face and he said, “She will be fine. As you will be. The Alpha and Beta will explain it all to you.” He glanced over my shoulder and a wave of terror swept over me.
I spun around. I wasn’t in a room. I was in a nest.
In the corner, unfolding itself was an impossible creature. It’s body twisted and changed until it stood in front of me a good foot taller and a good hundred pounds heavier. Six arms protruded and it’s head and face were a mix of a spider, human and dinosaur. And then something else moved from another corner. Smaller but more deadly looking.
I started firing.
Oh ancient, Camenae, bless me with inspiration,
Detail of painting The Muses Urania and Calliope by Simon Vouet, in which she holds a copy of the Odyssey
so my creations are not all perspiration.
Though Homer asked for help from you, the Muses,
I ask for those named by Andronicus without excuses.
As I reach to the heavens for topics profound and entertaining,
I tend to blame the lack of time I face from work or just; it’s raining.
On this night in the first month and week of a new year,
I seek your guidance that you’ve given many, without any fear.
Shall I call upon the flourishes of Thalia, the Muse of Comedy?
Or ask Calliope, inspiration of epics? I can’t choose, for the life of me.
Urania could ignite a spark within me for cosmic sci-fi tales blazing,
But for millennia, Melpomene has given writers and singers lyrical phrasing.
Five more Muses there are, the sisters Camenae, to light my creativity.
Which could help me generate unbounded writing activity?
Clio, Euterpe, Erato, Polyhymnia and Terpsichore?
Surely one of the nine can change my habits heretofore.
But night falls heavy upon me this day packed full of duty,
I must retire to bed and curl up on this cold night with my cutie.
For even as I struggle to beat my midnight writing deadline,
I still made sure to create something today that was all just mine.
Featured image source
As I walk in nature, I often come across an abandoned camp site or a pile of stacked stones and I think about the people who had been there before me and left traces behind from their visit. Granted, the hiking trail is a constant reminder of years of use and people leaving impressions behind and I am aware of this too.I heard someone talk about the story and adventures of Gilgamesh the other day
Readers may know that mythology is an interest of mine as well as lost civilizations. There are so many traces of civilizations that have fallen, disappeared and been rediscovered, that last week alone saw at least three major discoveries of the ancient world. Tombs. Temples. Caverns. While some people go out and shout “Ancient aliens must have built these things!” I personally believe we are smart, creative and tenacious enough to do some pretty amazing things on our own.
How Long Does It Take to Lose a Civilization?
I was fascinated by a show called Life After People, a few years back, that explored how our modern civilization would fair over 10,000 years if we all vanished. To see a major collapse of buildings and bridges after two hundred years was stunning. To see how many things vanished over 2,000 was amazing. And to see how only the largest structures would still be seen after 10,000 was humbling. Nothing, save the Hoover dam, the great wall of China and the Pyramids would be recognizable. Nature is pretty persistent.
Recently, I heard someone talk about the story and adventures of Gilgamesh. They said that Gilgamesh was searching for immortality, although I haven’t been able to confirm this. The speaker was saying how that he ended up achieving a kind of immortality as his story has been passed down for thousands of years and continues on today. Gilgamesh, according to an entry in Wikipedia, was an actual historic figure as a king of Uruk, Mesopotamia, around 2800 and 2500 BC. But he is also the main character (two-thirds god and one-third human) in a Mesopotamian poem titled the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is considered the first great work of literature.
We are constantly finding more ancient sites ranging back 11,000-12,000 years or more. We were supposed to be simple farmers and nomads, but archeologists are finding full ruins buried beneath sand and dirt. Golbekli Tepe is one such site. More are being found in Peru and across the globe.
Geologist Dr. Robert Schoch (mentioned often on this blog), dated the Sphinx at 10,000+ years. A striking contradiction to the 4-5,000 years that Egyptian historians stick to as it’s age.
But why does it matter what we leave behind?
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
~ Pericles (495 BC-429 BC)
As I approach a half-century mark in years, I think about what I’m leaving behind. For a while, people were trying to convince me that we shouldn’t leave anything behind. Zero Carbon Footprint was a movement going around. It honestly pissed me off. I was born here and have a right to live. And while I tried to build more than destroy, the movement was almost saying that I shouldn’t exist because I was destroying the Earth. I have calmed down. I understand the goal. But I refuse to shrink.
Why does it matter so much about what we leave behind? For me, it’s easy. While the Ancient Greeks would ask about someone who passed away the question “Did they live with passion?” I think what I wonder most about is, “Did I make a difference?”
That is probably the biggest thing I think about looking back on my days is “Did I matter?” In the grand scheme of things, did my existence help, hinder or do nothing for our planet and the universe?
Now, many readers may say, “Huber, you’ve got many many years to go! Why so glum?”
Luckily, I am not glum at all. Rather, I want to consider that the next half of my life (should I be so luckily) is even better and more meaningful than what has come before.
Words, actions, and how you affect the world around you by your actions seem to last much longer than buildings (with a few exceptions from antiquity). I have discovered that I have helped many people in my life and didn’t even know it. I remember when I was growing up, unsure about my place in the universe or what God might have in store for me, I would often say, “God, I know you put me here for a reason that may not be anything more than to help someone across the street some day in the future, but would it be okay if I could stay around a little longer afterwards and explore and play?”
I’m not sure if I’ve done what I’ve come here to do yet. I have some new ideas. In the long run, whether we only leave behind footprints in the sand that are washed away by the tides of time or we create or inspire epics of song, story or poetry to be written that echo through millennia, we should share our gifts with others. Whatever talent, love or passion you have, do that as much as you can and you will end up weaving your essence into the lives of others and ripple outward and forward in time.
Travis Triplett walked his mutt of a dog four times every day, from his small cottage home tucked back in an early 20th century neighborhood to a nearby park, and dutifully picked up the piles of shit she left behind along the way. He didn’t mind it at all. After five years of this routine, he honestly didn’t even notice that he was doing it anymore as he walked along beside her all while kids and women stopped to admire his black Labrador mutt named Katey.
Katey had shown up one day after a viscous storm had blown through and sat on his door step looking wet, pathetic and hungry and so Travis gave her some scraps of ham that he was going to have to throw away soon anyway. The next morning she wasn’t there. He didn’t even notice her absence until that evening when he arrived home and found her by the front door wagging her tail and greeting him warmly. As he approached to enter his house, after collecting his office papers from his rather plain gray yet sensible hybrid car, he scruffed up the top of her head and said, “I don’t have any food for you today, dog,” he told the yet unnamed pooch. She just turned her head sideways and kept wagging her tail. Travis stood up and measured this situation with a similar head tilt. “Well, I do need to run to the store. Maybe I’ll get you something while I’m there.”
This went on for a few weeks until finally, as cold weather approached, he did the responsible thing and took the dog to be spayed, tagged and groomed. The vet had informed him that she had already been spayed and he spent the saved money on a rather stylish and slick bright green rhinestone studded collar. He decided to name the dog Katey for no particular reason, except perhaps her rich black fur color reminded him of his aunt Caty’s hair.
Katey was a funny breed of dog. She barked at odd things and often at new things in her environment. If Travis brought home a box from work, Katey might come around the corner, hunker down and bark menacingly at the intruder. Other times, you could put something new in a room and she never acknowledged it’s existence at all.
Five years of time had passed and Katey had never wavered as being less than a rambunctious dog. She frolicked and played with kids, other dogs and any playful teens at the park that was always busy no matter the time of year or the weather.
On one day, in the late afternoon, as a storm rolled in and the sky turned green with gusts of wind threatening to take down branches, Travis and Katey rushed to get their walk in before a deluge occurred or alerts and sirens start going off interrupting their normal schedule. During storms was about the only time that people avoided the park except for him and Katey. This day was no exception.
Thunder rolled in the distance and Katey dropped her head and ears as well as tucked her tail between her legs looking back at Travis to make sure he was still with her. A moment after Katey dropped her business in the grass, Travis turned out a doggie bag to pick it up and was ready to dispose of it in a nearby trash bin, when a thunderclap and bolt of lightning struck nearby causing both of them to jump. Katey turned back to the cottage and as Travis began to turn, he saw a wall of wind picking up leaves and debris right towards the two of them. Behind it was a wall of water pouring down and obscuring everything behind it in sight.
They both began to run, but within a moment, the wind caught him causing him to lose balance, spin around and knock him to the ground where he hit his head against the concrete so hard he felt dazed and unsure of what happened. The next moment, as he lay on his back looking towards the sky, buckets of water poured over him causing him to choke and have to sit up. It was so strong that it stung his skin. He sat there not quite sure where he was, water pouring across him, as lightning criss-crossed the sky above him causing such thunderous roars that he was unsure if there was a tornado coming or not.
Suddenly, it stopped.
Travis sat for a moment staring at the ground between his crossed legs where he sat and noticed something red dripping down from his head onto the ground. He reached up carefully and felt a painful and tender spot on his head. He pulled his hand back and found it covered in blood.
After a long while, he finally attempted to stand and noticed he still had Katey’s leash and that she had snapped her rhinestone covered green collar loose. She was no where to be seen. He decided she must have run back home. Slowly he woozily made his way back home as well.
Upon arrival, the first thing he noticed was that his car was no longer in the driveway. “Where the hell is my car?” he said confused. Some relief came, however, when he noticed Katey who sat on his door step looking wet, pathetic and, strangely a little bit hungry. Normally she spotted him a mile away, but this time she stared longingly towards the driveway.
As Travis started to cross the road, he saw his car pulling up into the driveway. “What the hell? Who took my car?”
It was then that Travis watched as a man stepped out of the car. A man that not only looked exactly like Travis, it was Travis.
Travis sat down hard and reached up to touch his still bleeding scalp and watched himself enter the house leaving Katey outside. She had tried to enter the house, a fact Travis now remembered he had quickly closed the door to keep her out five years ago. He looked down at the leash he still held and tried to figure out what was happening. He heard his front door open and watched himself toss some scraps of ham out to Katey who, once again, happily devoured them.
“How is this possible?” he thought as he slowly faded away leaving only a dog leash, collar and a bag of dog shit.