A certain death awaited him as his body slid over the edge of the quarry. With one desperate stab of his outstretched arm his fingers wrapped around the root where he'd found the eyeglasses. His lower body slammed against the stone wall just below the edge. The breath forced from his lungs from the impact he somehow managed to maintain his tenuous grip.
Though it seemed like an eternity, he dangled from the root for several seconds. Every muscle in his body ached as he strained to grab the root with his other hand. Some inner strength, adrenaline perhaps, allowed him to painfully pull himself back to the rim of the quarry. His foot found a jagged outcropping of rock which provided him with enough leverage to pull himself up and over the edge.
Steve crawled on his stomach until he was six feet away from the rim of the quarry. He rolled onto his back and breathed in heavily much needed oxygen. Ominous clouds were forming in the sky to the east. He rolled his head on the ground following the patterns of the clouds to the horizon. The panorama was interrupted as the barren limbs and branches of the large chestnut tree came into view.
Just the sight of The Hangman's Tree, the name given it by the locals, stirred terrifying images deep within his soul. Memories, long suppressed and best forgotten, percolated to the surface of his conscious thoughts.
Once the abandoned quarry was filled with water and its overflow filled a natural depression forming a large pond, the waters of which lapped against the edges of the nearby cemetery. In that setting the hilltop pond became a popular playground for the youth of Soddy-Daisy and the surrounding communities."Then one day they drained the quarry and they cut down "Tarzan's" swing!" Steve spoke aloud forcing himself out of the memory-plagued reverie into which he had succumbed. He was sitting up, his arms wrapped about his knees, staring blankly at the foreboding chestnut tree. He stood up and studied the spectacles he had found before putting them into his shirt pocket. There was nothing he was going to accomplish in that place, not at that time. It was time to leave that place.
....Twelve feet above the ground a large limb stretched from the chesnut to the edge of the quarry waters. From that limb someone had tied a rope with several knots spaced along its length. Many a time was it that some young "Tarzan" would swing from that jungle vine out and over the cold waters. Many times did the "Apeman" drop from the vine into those waters to single-handedly do battle with a giant crocodile lurking beneath.
....There were those nights that the teens would gather by the pond's edge across the way from the little cemetery. Sometimes they were there to watch the "submarine races" and other times they told scary ghost stories huddled around a cozy campfire.
....On dark cloudy nights with the light of the hidden moon glowing upon the edges of the clouds, there would be a strange purplish aura that befell the area. Upon the rippled surface of the pond there would be an other-wordly reflection of the grave markers and crosses where the dead slept.
....According to the locals, formless wraiths and gossamer figures could sometimes be seen drifting across the cemetery grounds, but there would be no reflection of them upon the pond. Some had said that only on those nights following a death could their reflections appear upon the waters.
Hiding behind a rocky edifice she watched as the handsome young man began his descent from the top of the hill. There was no doubt that it was Steve Cooper. She returned the binoculars to the leather case. With them she had been watching his curious trek to that place. It had been with great anguish that she'd observed him picking up Eddie's long lost glasses.
It had been with morbid fascination that she'd seen him slide over the edge of the quarry. She had been certain that she was witnessing another death at that very same spot. For the briefest of moments there had been a shameful sense of disappointment when he climbed out of the quarry to safety. For all concerned, perhaps it would have been for the better had he fallen to the rocks below.
She took a deep breath and reached into her back pocket for a cellphone. She punched in a set of familiar numbers. He was just getting into his car when her call connected.
"Hello?" A firm male voice responded.
"It's me. I did what you said ... And you were right. He went to the cemetery and to the quarry."
"Did he visit Eddie's grave?"
"Uh-huh. He got down on his knees in front of the grave. I think he still feels responsible," she replied. There was a feeling of pity in her tone and she hoped it was not detected by the man on the line with her.
"That's good. Anything else? What did he do over at the quarry?"
"You're not going to like this ... but he found Eddie's glasses!" She decided to omit the part about Steve's accident. She wanted no hint of compassion in her voice.
There was a long pause before the voice finally spoke, "That is not good. If his guilt starts to make him think about breaking our pact ..." His voice trailed off. He cleared his throat and continued, " ... Then I'm afraid we'll have to take some desperate measures."
To be continued..... Echoes of Eddie-5