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Chills in the Canyon

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Back in November of 1995, my friend Matt asked my friend Jenna and I if we wanted to go for a drive up one of the canyons. It was late fall and we had just passed midterms in school, being teachers it was a stressful time for us. Our papers were graded, our records turned in and the students had already gotten their report cards. It was late Saturday morning and the last day of parent teacher conferences was the night before. We had all slept in. Being high school educators it was no longer just a question of pass or fail, good or bad and what parents could do to help their children excel. It was us on the parental chopping block due to football champs, cheerleaders and other “exceptional” students being taken off of the teams because they assumed they could coast through their senior year just like they did everywhere else in life. But of course it was Mr. Belmont, Miss D’s, and Mrs. Smith’s fault. To them we were ruining scholarships.

We were eager to forget about work.

Excited for a little rest and relaxation we packed for our day trip with enthusiasm, as if we were going on a weekend getaway to the Bahama’s. We packed a lunch of sandwiches, seasonal fruit and a warm thermos of hot chocolate. We brought cheese and crackers for snacks along the way. We stuffed warm blankets in the empty back seat of Matt’s car in case it got chilly. We liked to drive with the windows down as long as we could to enjoy the autumn air as we enjoyed looking at the fall foliage as we cruised by. The yellow and red of the leaves were a fantastic way of bringing us back to basics, back to appreciating the world we lived in. We had decided to leave around 2:00 in the afternoon because we had all woken up so late. Late lunch, late trip and no tardy slips. It felt great!

Matt took the wheel and we began our adventure… we drove south and headed to one of the lesser traveled canyons in the area. We started to wind up the old Millcreek Canyon Road. Winding and turning. We were chatting about our families and our summer vacation plans. Keeping the conversation light and friendly; avoiding the topic of students, school or anything else related to the daily grind. We stopped lunch around 3:45 at an out of the way spot where we could get in tune with nature and enjoy the fresh air. We then resumed our trip.

We slowly drove up the mountain.The temperature dropped several degrees. Far colder than the heater and the blankets could protect us against. We rolled up the windows and turned up the heater, snug under the blankets we continued chatting. Conversation waned and the atmosphere in the car became very heavy. The air was stifling and thick. We all were riding in silence, afraid to admit to the others that we all felt the same sense of fear that was contaminating the area we just entered.

Jenna finally broke the silence, “Something’s not right. I don’t feel right about this.”, she whispered.

Matt eased the car to a stop. Looking straight ahead he admitted that there was something strange going on.

Jenna said “We should go home now, we should turn around.”

We all agreed.

Mr. Belmont started easing the car into a three point turn and turned us around in the direction we came from. Relieved we were headed back and away from the ominous unknown we turned on the radio in hopes that the orchestrated music would bring calm to our spirits. Matt kept glancing back in the rear view mirror. Over and over, I turned around and didn't see anything. As I turned back around Matt’s eyes met mine as he was glancing in the mirror again. Silently we understood that we should remain silent until we dropped Jenna off. Matt and I started talking, struggling to revive the chipper mood of earlier without much luck. We gazed out the windows not really seeing anything and letting the previously enjoyed scenery go by unnoticed. In all actuality, Matt was driving too fast for site seeing anyway.

We made it back to Jenna’s street in half the time it took to drive up the canyon. We pulled into her driveway and parked. I helped her with the stuff she had contributed to the trip. The blankets were hers. I walked her in carrying two of the blankets. She carried the other blanket and her purse.

“I’m really sorry”, she said, offering and empathetic apology, ”I felt really uneasy up there, something is going on in that canyon that is just… not good.”

I assured her that she was fine and how I felt it to. I gave her a hug and said goodbye. I walked down her driveway and got into Matt’s car. It was my turn to be driven home.

“So…”, I stalled my thought for a moment, ”what was that about?”

Matt hesitated,”I saw something, someone ran across the road when I turned around.”

I allowed him a moment of silence.

“It was a figure in white, I saw it flit across the road about 15 yards back when we were driving away.” He informed to me. His voice wavering. Seemingly unsure if he should even tell me.

I remained quiet.

December had come around, life was bright and cheerful and I had yet to meet my future husband. I was single. I was young and looking forward to romance to blossom! With Christmas looming I was yearning for love and to be with someone. I was pouring my heart out to my best friend, Kate, on a Friday night at our favorite watering hole. Sipping cocktails and ogling the local guys, we were feeling good and opening up. We started sharing secrets, the way best friends do when they get into the girl talk. Kate admitted to going to a psychic, she wanted to see if there was anything behind it and she wanted a look into her future. If anything she just went for the entertainment of it. She thrust the psychics card into my hand and insisted I try it.

“You must! If only for the kicks”, she insisted and grinned.

I wasn't really surprised that Kate had gone to a psychic. Kate was always talking about energies and crystals and the mystical of life. She was a modern day hippie to the core, minus the opium. I loved my flower child friend but it wasn't something I’d do. I was being kind and I took the card from Kate. I put it in my purse and I forgot about it.

A couple of weekends later had nothing to do on a Saturday night. I was anxious, I had gotten a number from a guy and was hemming and hawing on whether or not to call him. He had asked me out on a date and we had had a fantastic time the night before. I dug through my purse looking for the treasured piece of paper that held the digits that would connect me with the subject of my crush. I couldn't find it. I turned my purse upside down and shook. The contents toppled out and I searched through the mess. I found it. Not the number of the guy but the card my friend Kate had given me with the name and number of the psychic imprinted on it. Instead of calling the love interest I held off and I called the psychic on Monday morning. I had an appointment that evening.

Madam Mooney was a middle aged woman with red hair and 14 cats. She had a set up in the back of her husbands travel agency, under their home, so the cats roamed freely around both businesses. She rambled on about how they had inherited the travel agency from his dad. The building used to have separately owned apartments above but the dad had been a genius with finances and he purchased the entire building and him and his wife lived there for years above the travel agency, while running the family business until they decided to up and move to Vermont.

“Vermont!” Madam Mooney exclaimed, “Most go to Florida! I know I would!”. She plopped down in her chair, “Give me your left hand she demanded.”

Through a series of ooh’s and ah’s she told me of my love life to come. How I would have a long, happy and successful career as a teacher.

“You can tell I’m a teacher?!” I asked shocked.

“No”, Mooney replied, “Kate told me.” She admitted, then smiled bashfully.

She continued regaling me with my future and my children to be and how my future would lead me down a path of happily ever after. Forty five minutes later I was handing her 30 dollars, I got a discount for being Kate’s friend.

While I was bundling up in my coat and scarf I was reminded of the drive up Millcreek Canyon and how the temperature had dropped so suddenly. I decided to tell her about the foreboding atmosphere, the terror we felt and the white robed figure that Matt had seen.

The Madam froze. She stopped picking up the Tarot cards off of the table and stood up straight looking me in the eyes.

I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Madame Mooney clicked her tongue. “That’s scary” she whispered. “Last week I was reading in the paper how they have been finding dead chickens and goats and other animals up in Millcreek Canyon. Turns out there was a coven of witches up there. You are lucky that you turned around. They were just arrested for murder. They could have been hunting that day.”

I shuttered.

She whispered, “You were meant to be next.”

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