April 9, 2012

Toad Hall PT II

If you didn't catch the first part of this story, check it out here. As you will understand what's happening in this segment.

So it had been a few years since we saw our fury friend. And it had been awhile since I went to the dilapidated house. At this time, I was on break from college. A five hour drive away in Pittsburgh. With me this time was my girlfriend. Such a sweet girl, but never innocent. Tara had an aura about her the first time I had met her. And we had been together 3 years to this point.

One Saturday we were sitting around the house, grey clouds in the sky and rain that didn't seem to want to stop. Not much to do where i'm from we played the NES for a good part of the day and sat on the porch and talked for the rest. It was during this period that we began to tell more of our "stories." And she always had some great ones. But this time around, I feel I got one up on her. You could tell she was highly interested.

The next day, bright sun, cool breeze, typical summer day for NY, we headed up the hill. It's about a 30 minute drive. Once you veer off the beaten path, it's nothing but oaks and pines and a road full of feet deep ruts. So unless you have a shitty beater of a car or a four wheel drive, it's not a trip i recommend taking.

Now, just a quick history between this lovely lady and myself. She's a trooper. She's solid, had little fear. She was sometimes more adventurous then me. There was one night in Pittsburgh, where her roommate, herself and me were walking home to my place and we came about 30 seconds from being jumped by some crazed freak strung out on what it he had access to. Trying to protect them, i positioned myself behind them and in front of this guy. All the time, squeezing her hand tighter and tighter the more the guy pissed me of. My military ring cutting her hand, I could feel the blood trickling down my fingers. If it wasn't for the "street walker" seeing all of this, who knows who would have ended up dead that night. Today this day, I've never been able to thank that lady for what she did. All this time Tara held it together. I was more afraid then she was.

We had stopped for about 20 minutes at the stone cross. Though we looked, so much brush had grown since my last trip, I couldn't find access to the cemetery for the area. We were both a little displeased. But things happen. Like any other day, the cool draft was flowing in the valley. Though due to the normal breeze, the valley breeze was a lot stronger today. And it had a strange smell with it, that I do not recall smelling before, or have since. Such an odd odor, that I can't even compare it to anything except sweet decay.

Slowly I pulled up into the drive. All the glass had been broken out of the windows since last time I was here. The lawn had been cut though. Which was odd, because the house, regardless of how much one would spend to fix it, is not habitable. One other thing I noticed about the newly kept grounds was a patch of white wild flowers that had never appeared before. Small and dainty, like new life was trying to be added to this place.

No signs of toads hanging on the door. No signs of anyone, however there was a gathering of butterflies in the back lawn to the side of the house, hovering above the creek. Though the wind was slightly strong, you could hear the water trickling over the rocks.As i watched the butterflies or a few minutes, as being an outdoor person, I hadn't recalled the last time I had seen so many in one place. And they all stayed with what seemed a three foot diameter. It was at this time, I had also noticed something else. No Tara. I mean, she didn't disappear. But she had gone silent. She wasn't one for over talking but we had been discussing a friend of hers and some issues she had gotten into.

I turned to find her standing in front of the door. About two feet away, she was still like a statue. Being behind her, all i could catch was the sun glistening off her dark silky hair. Her clothes swayed in the breeze but she didn't move. As I stood next to her, I glanced over. My stomach hit my throat then it disappeared. To this point in life, I had seen a lot of unexplainable things. But this?

Tara had gone pale white. She wasn't one for a sun tan, but her skin had gone the color of that of someone in a casket at a funeral. She was sweating. Well, not sweating, but her skin was very moist. Like it is when you're very ill. And her eyes had a glaze over them, like that I've not seen before. Almost like a muddy haziness. But what scared me the most was she was crying. Tears flowed down her cheeks to the corner of her mouth. All the time she was rock still. She wouldn't answer me. She just kept staring about waist high at the door. In the years we had been together, in the moments of fear and frustration we've had, not once had I ever seen her like this.

It took me a good five minutes to get her to come to and into the car. The whole time, she wouldn't take her eyes off the door. Finally in the car, the AC was blowing, I turned it toward her, hoping that the cool air would help. She looked at me with utter fear and muttered "Get me the hell out of here."

That night, she didn't sleep. She was a good sleeper. She could lay down and in about ten minutes, she would be sound off into dream world. but not tonight. And not the night after. She just laid there staring at the ceiling. No matter what I did, she wouldn't speak to me. I had the silent treatment for two days. She wouldn't warm up to me. She would even look at me. She even shrugged off my mom, which she never did. They were like best friends, plotting my demise all the time. What the hell happened up there at the house that did this to her?

Finally the day we were getting ready to head back to Pittsburgh, she started talking. She recalled everything, but she would not speak of what happened. Or at least what she may have saw. If I tried to bring it up, I got the silent treatment again.

So has I packed the things into the car, my mom and brother had come out. As they climbed into the back seat, Tara had turned her gaze toward the field behind the house. But I paid it not  a lot of attention. I was just piling our stuff in so we could get on the road.  As I put the car in reverse, my little brother gasped and called to me. He just said look at the tree. Now, there is a massive oak tree in the side lawn next to the drive. Maybe 150 years old at least. It was heavily damaged in the ice storm of 92'. But she stood there day after day in all her glory. I couldn't see anything. He said it again. This time Tara had pointed out toward the field. So I looked.

There she was. Sitting on her hind haunches, just like last time. A vision of pure snow in the middle of summer. Same spot as last time, same rigid stare. I put the car in park and got out. I recall a vague statement from my mother, but I cannot recall the exact words. I slowly lingered toward the fence, which at this time was electrified due to the cows being in the upper 40 of the field. I stopped  few feet short of the fence and locked eyes with our guest. Time seemed to stop. It was all like a dream. Everything around her dimmed and she was left all alone in the shadows of the tree, seemingly growing.

I heard the horn, and turned. My mom leaning over the seat, waving me to go. I turned and watched as she just stood. Slowly, she turned and headed up the hill toward the fence on the left side of the field. I watched as she gracefully jumped the fence at about the spot where the small hunting cabin in the woods was. Like she appeared, she was gone.

As i got to the front of the car, I looked at Tara. Her gaze still fixed on the field, I could see tears running down the right side of her face. Curiously, I glanced back at the field, no wolf. As i got in the car, i locked the doors and put the car in reverse again. But I hesitated. I turned around and looked at my brother. We both had a look of what you might say is confusion. We didn't speak, we didn't nod. But you could see what were thinking in our eyes. I pulled out of the drive.

It wasn't until maybe an hour outside of Pittsburgh that Tara had started to speak. She slept most of the way there. She was exhausted. She looked like she had been in a battle that aged her a few years.

To this day, though Tara and I are no longer together, we are friends. We call each other on the holidays and wish each other a happy birthday. However, in the last year together and the sixteen years since this had happened, not once has she told me what she saw at the house. Not once did we ever speak of it again. Maybe we never will.

And since that time, her and I had gone on other adventurous outings. Walking across a dilapidated train trestle about 200 feet up, going into abandoned buildings, even a few things I cannot put here. To her, it was like that time never existed.

This would not be the final time I would see my friend. And I would make one more trip to Toad Hall. A trip that I will never forget.

To Be Continued:



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