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06.13.2004 - 6:52 p.m.

Sunday

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 darkness.

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 yards away.

"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 ground.

Anyway.

"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 skull."

"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 sight."

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 night."

"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."

"Hell, honey."

"Only time will tell on that one."

"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, I s'pose."

"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….well, 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 STAY WARM.)



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14 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

yay, diaryland