Hello my spooky friends. Thank you so very much for staying with me during my 31 Days of Spook. We really hope that all of you are shaking and shivering by now with our scary stories. Here at the Hotel Thompson, we just want you to enjoy every single spooky day that October has to give!
Today, we have another guest story submission. This one is from my friend Lori. Do you know Lori and her ducks? If you don’t know them, you are definitely missing out on beautiful pictures, wonderful stories on her ducks. You just have to go visit their blog. Please make it a point to visit my friend Lori – tell her that Bacon sent you. This is her tale – enjoy my friends!
Christmas at Hanging Rock
By Lori Fontanes
There’s a visitors center at Hanging Rock but on that stifling day right before Christmas, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. I vaguely recall one other couple, possibly on their way out, but after that, no one. And it really was hot, even by Australian standards, and even though antipodal December means the end of spring, it must have hit triple digits. That year, summer had come early, or maybe only at the Rock.
I’d wondered about the strange site known as Hanging Rock ever since watching Peter Weir’s lyrical film, which takes place on its stony peaks. “Picnic At Hanging Rock” dreamily reenacts the supposed real-life disappearance of a teacher and her students on Valentine’s Day in the year 1900. The girls and their chaperones go for a picnic but some don’t come back. They disappear between the silent stones, without explanation. Where did they go and why? If they were taken, why not the others? Since the movie doesn’t provide answers, we’d decided to see for ourselves. One hundred years after the alleged events, we thought it would be fun to pretend to investigate. We left our rental car in the parking lot, grabbed two water bottles and started climbing.
I’m not really good in hot weather. It’s my husband who thrives in the heat. Like a desert creature, he absorbs the radiance and turns it into useful energy. I wilt. As we slogged our way to the top, weaving among the huge boulders, he tried to joke me out of my increasingly foul mood. It had to be 100 degrees or close to it and I felt thirstier than our water could satisfy. Nonetheless, I suggested we ration the supply carefully. Since it wasn’t supposed to be a long hike, my husband merely shrugged. See, he’s the optimist and I’m the realist. I like to be prepared; he likes to leave for the airport at the last minute. And there we were, alone, on this weird outcropping of volcanic rock in the middle of rural Victoria.
As I think about it now, I realize that no one knew where we were. We didn’t tell the hotel staff, our families were celebrating the holidays thousands of miles away and in these pre-smartphone days, no one expected you to stay in constant contact. It was 2000 (yes, Y2K) so I guess we had a cell phone but I doubt we could have gotten reception. Hanging Rock is that type of lonely, an inland Bermuda Triangle, buzzing with insects, desolate and blistering. In fact, I wonder if the igneous formations hold a sort of magnetic charm that distorts compasses and makes minds struggle. That day, I told myself it was just the heat. It’s hard to think straight when the mercury hits those highs.
About halfway up, when it didn’t look like we’d meet anyone else, my husband started in with his silliness. I guess you could call it romance. Either way, it was the last thing I needed so I ignored his playfulness.
“Let’s keep going,” I said.
“Let’s go this way,” he said.
His way didn’t feel right.
“No, I think the sign says this way,” I demurred.
He wouldn’t listen. I hung back as he entered a small archway that somehow I knew wouldn’t work. Stubbornly, I stood there and watched him go. I don’t remember the details. He may have cried out. Like I said, I can’t remember.
He emerged pretty quickly.
“You’re right, it’s not the way,” he said.
I moved past him to see. The path he’d chosen led to another opening and then, a sheer drop. He must have stopped in time but he may have slipped because somehow he lost both bottles down the slope.
We kept going.
I tried not to think about losing the water. We had a distance to hike before reaching the top. Or should we turn around now? Should I say something? Would it matter?
And then, we arrived. It looked like the summit or close enough. Was there a rock like an altar? A platform? Or maybe nothing at all, my memory doesn’t say. All I know is how bright it was and still. Quiet, like the inside of your breath when you hold it. I didn’t know what that quiet meant.
My husband tried to kiss me. I sidled away. It didn’t seem like a good idea. I might have said, are you crazy?
He might have said, yes.
I kept my voice as weightless as possible. Bugs sang in counterpoint to my clattering heart. I walked quickly in the direction of escape.
My husband made an off-color comment then followed. I fought my rising anxiety, wanting to read the path with clarity, not fear. We decided to go down a different way. He might have suggested it. I might have agreed.
It might have been the heat.
We came to an intersection where once more, he wanted one way and I, the other. I don’t know how I knew it but on this point I’m perfectly clear: If we’d gone his way, we might not have come back. At that moment, I felt completely certain that the Rock wanted him to stay. And I couldn’t tell him that. So I had to convince him to follow me. I ignored the insects, the heat, my thirst, our dusty isolation and said, in my calmest voice, “Let’s go this way.”
The words hung for a moment.
“Okay,” he said.
Copyright 2014, Lori Fontanes