’67 Nova Love and a Modern Day Ghost Story

So, apparently, I’m attempting to mirror my blog posting lapse with my dating life – few and far between and supremely unsatisfying. Much apologies. I’ll try to do better.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Scotty. I’m not sure if it’s my renewed love of the 80’s rock ballad or the fact that Halloween is upon us, but the true tale I’m about to tell is less about Scotty and more about one of our hang outs, particularly about one night. The events are exactly as I remember – which is very clearly, even to the point where I can still smell the air and feel the night.

Scotty was a sweetheart. He used to call me “Toots” and drove a ’67 White Nova that was jacked up in the back and fast as a mother fucker. On nights where our friends were piled 3-deep front & back, drinking Little Kings minis from a cooler in the trunk, a skunky-smoke-filled haze lingering in the air, I would be gleefully ripping posse traction with the night air blowing through my hair, a very noticeable twinkle in my eye. In fact, I would purposely keep the Little Kings at arm length just so I could drive that car. .38 Special, Journey, Cinderella, Motley Cruë, Great White and Whitesnake would blast from a monster sound system. When he would come to pick me up I could hear him coming long before he rounded the corner, either from the rumble of the Nova’s engine or from Skid Row’s, “18 and Life.”

Scotty treated me very well and we went out for several months. He was protective and solicitous and had just enough bad boy in him to keep me hooked for a smidge. We didn’t have much spark but we had a special friendship and a connection that I am sure will remain should our paths ever cross again.

Our group of friends would pile into a few cars and head down South River Road to a spot behind the State Hospital. Digression: Yes, I said “State Hospital.” I hold the dubious honor of growing up in a town that was home to the state mental institution. A large, rambling estate of early 1900’s era buildings, I used to get ooked-out thinking about the chambered rooms on the hospital grounds closed-off to modern-day patient care, where water torture, shock treatments and youdon’tevenwannaknow practices were used. It was rumored that the grounds were haunted by tortured souls and I have no doubt of the validity of that claim. What I am sure of  is that our town was haunted by the hospital population deemed fit to live in society and it wasn’t an uncommon occurrence to have a guy with a tin foil hat run up to you screaming that THEY are monitoring him with accusations that you’re a secret government agent.

Our spot had a dilapidated watch tower, once used to monitor the grounds for escapees. It resembled a modern-day fire fighter training tower yet it was made of bricks, no windows at the bottom and 4 windows at the top, with a single door formed in the brick. Brush grew up around the sides, small trees snaking out of the brick and ivy climbing up the sides. The tower was just south of a cemetary that was home mostly to former residents of the hospital. Many of the headstones were forged from rough stone or wood, many of them unmarked. We used drive past the cemetary and tower while slowly navigating the lane and there wasn’t a single time where, when we passed the tower, a shiver didn’t pass down my spine. The cemetery, tower and clearing were out in the middle of nowhere, the nearest house at least a couple of miles how the crow flies. Surrounded by corn and soy bean fields, in the middle of a thicket & woods, there was neither anything nor anyone else around. It was land owned by the hospital.

Now – and I know this is going to sound crazy but – I’ve always been kinda…..sensitive. I’m not claiming to be psychic or anything as drastic as all that, but I feel things a little more intensely than some of the population. I have a physical reaction to certain places, even with certain people, whether it’s inside a house, while walking down the street or shaking someone’s hand. The spot off South River Road? Definitely one of those places.

Let me also preface recounting these events by saying I’m not one of those people who get freaked out. I don’t scare easily and I don’t look for things where they don’t exist. I’m very matter-of-fact and find that almost everything in this world has some sort of explanation.

Almost.

We would gingerly pull into the lane, overgrown and rocky, and make our way past the cemetary and into a clearing, park our cars, crank the music and do our thing. Well…many things. *winkwinknudgenudge* Summer and fall were the seasons of choice and while most nights were without incident there were times where unexplained occurrences filled the night. Given that I was the one who basically stayed soberish – because, let’s be frank, I LOVED driving that car – I also observed more of what was going on around us than the others. They always chalked the nutsy stuff up to being high, but in my gut I knew better. While “parking” objects would get thrown at the car, once even chipping the windshield and dinging the paint. The fire would suddenly be extinguished – a bonfire that had burned hot for several hours – the embers cool with no water in sight. A high pitched, piercing, unearthly sound would sometimes come from the woods around us, from no discernable direction. The boys shrugged it off as an animal, perhaps a loon, but I never bought it, the nearest body of water at least 15 miles away. Beer cans or bottles would move. Where Scotty had placed his on the hood of the car to stoke the fire he would return to find it across the camp on top of a stump. A stump out in the middle of brush and sticker bushes where no one could walk without ripping their pants to shreds.

The quirks of our secret place would remain laughed off until one night we could no longer ignore what was around us.  It was toward the end of summer, still warm yet starting to cool as the night progressed. We sat in a circle around the fire for a couple hours, drinking, smoking, laughing. Out of nowhere 3 large sticks came flying from different directions, past our heads, into the fire, one grazing Scotty’s ear. The boys, fueled by beer, pot and testosterone were convinced someone was out there messing with us and grabbed the sticks and ran into the brush. My friend, Jody and I sat alone by the fire, huddled together as the boys shouted we’re-gonna-kick-your-ass taunts to the unseen aggressors. She became frightened and retreated to the car, clamoring into the back seat and locking the doors behind her.

To my right, about 100 yards away was the watch tower. Nestled in the thicket, surrounded by over grown bush and trees, only the silhouette was visible at night. There was what appeared to be a candle flickering in the top of the tower. I yelled for Scotty, told him someone was up there, and the boys changed direction.  I watched from a distance as the light continued to flicker and through squinted eyes made out a shadowed shape. Then another. The larger shape loomed over the smaller and there was a clear shadow of a large stick or club, methodically moving up and down, presumably upon the head of the huddled shape. I watched the blows, silent, frozen in fear.

As the boys approached the tower and I yelled out to Scotty to STOP. The larger silhouette halted, arms in the air, and at my scream its head turned in my direction and the light extinguished. The boys entered the base and were at the top within seconds. Scotty’s head emerged and he yelled that it was empty.

They trudged back to the fire and I sat frozen with tears in my wide eyes. Placing his hand on the side of my face Scotty asked me again what I had seen. Our heads close together, in a quiet voice I recounted my version. The other boys laughed at me, told me to “smoke another one,” yet I could tell Scotty saw something in my eyes. He knew I was telling the truth; we never lied to each other. He stood and took me by the hand, urging me to come with him to the tower so I could see for myself that it was empty. I was hesitant, but I always felt safe with him so I agreed. I needed to see.

We walked to the tower, his arm encircling my waist. As we approached the base I felt physically ill. Nausea welled up within me at the putrid smell coming from the tower. I stopped in my tracks. “Scotty, can’t you smell that??” He shook his head, smelled nothing except night air and bonfire smoke. With one hand I covered my nose and mouth, held his hand with my other, and we continued into the base of the tower. His lighter lit our way and I could see a set of dilapidated wooden stairs leading to the top of the tower. We started toward them, the nausea gripping me harder. I pushed through it and began up the stairs. The air inside the tower had become very cold and we could see our breath inside. I pulled his arms around me and we walked together up the stairs, step for step, my back against him. He held me tighter as my body shook. As we reached the middle of the staircase, my eyes level with the floor above me, I saw an empty room. I looked around for signs of a candle or even a club yet there was nothing except leaves, a dusty floor and ivy. I pushed back on Scotty and told him I wanted to leave, the sense of dread in me so strong the tears sprung to my eyes once again. We quickly walked down the stairs and made our way to the doorway and just as we emerged a gust of frigid air blew out behind us, extinguishing his lighter and almost blowing us to the ground. Immediately the smell in the air cleared and the dusky, still night air warmed us once again.  I could smell the fait smell of lilac wafting down from the cemetary. I remember clearly the stunned look upon his face and the tousled blonde hair upon his head.

We walked slowly back to the group, arm in arm, silent. When asked what we found, Scotty quietly said, “Oh.. nothing. Probably a ‘coon.” We all left soon thereafter and never spoke of it again. There was only one other time we returned to that spot and we didn’t stay long. There was an unspoken knowledge amongst the group that something big had happened that night, a quiet understanding that it was less about being buzzed and seeing things and more about something intangible we weren’t able to explain. There were a few times where the boys would wonder out loud who had been messing with us that night, speculation trailing from their lips along with their nervous laughter.

Several years later I attended a funeral service and the final resting place was in that cemetary. Even in the warm spring day, the sun bright, something else loomed on the lilac-scented breeze. The scent of lilacs was always very strong to me in that cemetary however there wasn’t a lilac tree within five miles. I was the only one who could ever smell them. Once the service ended I took a moment and walked, alone, to the edge of the cemetary. I stood before the trees and brush and knew that just beyond where I stood lay the tower. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it. For just a moment the breeze blew cold, so swiftly that it was gone in a breath. With a shiver I walked away, down the lane, and out of the cemetary, never to return.

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~ by cinderellawasdelusional on October 21, 2009.

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