06.13.2004 - 6:52 p.m.
I curled tightly on my side;
the night air was cool and our zipped-together sleeping bags
had gaps. Dog slept soundly at our feet, breathing slowly and
deeply. I should have felt nothing but comfort, but my body buzzed,
half-awake with the strangeness of sleeping in a tent.
Every sound, every raindrop
and every distant cracked twig, kept me blinking, dry-eyed in
The last goddamned thing
I needed was to focus on whether or not I had to pee. Because
the pit toilet was many dark, potentially woodland creature-filled
"Baby," I finally
whispered, rubbing JB's back. "I can't sleep." He yawned
mightily, stretching his hands towards the sky. He kissed me
gently on the cheek.
"You want a bedtime
story, darlin'?" he asked me.
I said yes.
And this, as well as I can
recollect, is the story he told me.
"Years ago," he
began. "Years ago, quite a few miners and loggers stayed
in this area. And there was a fellow, a fellow went by the name
of Kachess. Now, this boy wasn't rightly liked by most. Sort
of fella makes dogs raise their lips, was Kachess. Made everyone
uncomfortable, though they couldn't say why, exactly. Man went
from town to town, always a drifter, on account of no one carin'
for him all that much."
JB had somehow acquired
an accent of sorts.
I must also tell you that
we were camping in the Kachess Lake campground.
One other thing, we had
walked a trail earlier that had old stone stoves still in the
"Now it came to be that
Kachess came lookin' for work out in the country. He hadn't much
luck in Seattle, so he came out to the woods. First he tried
for loggin' jobs, but the loggers
well, they were family
sorts. They didn't much care for that look in his eye."
"No, you couldn't describe
the look. That look. It was - well, there was just somethin'
wrong with it."
I pulled the sleeping bag
up over my chin at this point. (JUST TO STAY WARM.)
"So Kachess went onwards,
and met up with some miners. Now, miners is a nasty lot, for
the most part, used to the dark and dirty work. And despite their
feelin's toward the man, they brought him on for the summer."
"Kachess never really
fit in. Like I told you, there was just somethin' wrong with
him. And night after night, sittin' around the campground, them
miner boys started bein' more and more uncomfortable."
(Was it just me, or was
JB's accent growing?)
"And one night, a dark
and windy night not unlike this one, they'd all been huddled
around the stove. And someone, no one to this day knows who,
someone started somethin'."
"They'd been drinkin',
drinkin' all night long and damn clear into the mornin', and
out in them woods
well, honey, I ain't got to tell you there
ain't no law. There's you and the woods and god, and between
them three, you can step in where you may. And a man's got plenty
of chances to become less of a man."
"Well, it started. Some
kinda fight broke out, and them miner boys turned on Kachess.
Just like they'd wanted to from day one. Men became animals that
night, and after all was said and done
they put Kachess
in the stove."
"Now, this was a stone
stove, burns a hell of a lot of wood, gets hot as Lucifer in
there. And that's where they shoved old Kachess's face, right
down in them burnin' coals, til his screams sounded like nothing
you've heard on this earth, til his face melted right off his
"And this is what happened:
Kachess, with his unholy shriekin' head of fire, turned and RAN.
Against all that was natural, he ran, and the miners - well,
the last thing they saw was the devil's head disappearin' into
the forest. The dark trees, just swallowin' that horrible, godawful
I carefully placed a pillow
over my head, here. (JUST TO STAY WARM).
"Them boys didn't sleep
much that night, nor the next. Each of them had a burnin' face
to accompany their rest. But enough corn liquor can scratch out
the worst of your thinkin', and that's what they did. Worked
themselves dry durin' the day hours, drank themselves wet durin'
"The first night it happened,
if you'd asked 'em, bet you a silver dollar they'd have told
you they forgot. Forgot about Kachess, because you see, it's
what they wanted. They wanted to forget, so bad. Was that their
failing? Or was it that they'd turned a demon loose on earth
through their own means."
"Only time will tell on
"That night, the camp
woke as one from a joyless drunk-sleep to hear screaming, the
likes no one had heard since
"Well, since Kachess,
"They rushed from them
tents to the woodline, and there was their buddy, in flames from
head to foot. And behind him, throwin' the miner's shrieking
doomed body to the pine-needle floor, was Kachess. Screamin'
and laughin' and makin' sounds that should never be heard on
this good land. His head blazin' like the fourth of July. Giant
black holes where his eyes should be. Flames cracklin' in that
cold night air. And then he ran, ran into the woods where his
rotted soul walked the grounds, walked without end, all that
night and forever on. Never resting, no mercy. That was - well,
is - Kachess."
"It didn't happen just
that night, darlin'. Every one of them miners died, and they
died hard, burnin', burnin' long and painful before their bodies
done gave up and let them have peace in death."
"All of those who forgot
Kachess was cursed to remember him. Remember him in flames and
agony. And that's why this campground is named Kachess. So no
one forgets, ever, ever again. Because baby, he still walks this
land, and you chance to see his bright flamin' face
that's goodbye for you."
Goodnight, baby, JB said,
and hugged me.
I didn't sleep for a long,
long, long, time.
(BECAUSE I WAS TRYING TO
last ::: next
comments so far.
I have moved. - 1.03.2005
Obviously, a work in progress. - 12.27.2004
Happy holidays! - 12.24.2004
Listen, I am not a complete dick, it's not like I want Joe to die alone surrounded by cats or something. - 12.23.2004
Plus I am convinced my butt is extra big when it's upside down. - 12.22.2004