I'd like to start by saying there's a nightmare at Dawkson's Creek.
At least, so my secular friend tells me.
My friend, David Tabler. The man is a drunkard; belligerent and disgruntled as they come. He spends most of his time at various bars around the city, downing glass after glass in a pitiful attempt to drown his troubles.
And this is the story of how he ended up like that.
It was a Thursday night. I entered my favorite bar, not expecting him to be there. But he was; drunk off his ass, as usual.
On the few times we'd see each other in the same joint, usually things would become a philosophical, yet hilariously drunken (at least on his side), debate of religion.
But tonight, he stopped me. Tonight he told me why he didn't believe in God.
I walked into the bar, and almost immediately saw him over at the counter. He rolled the ice in his empty glass and ordered another.
"Don't you think you've had enough?" the bartender girl asked him, a serious glare of concern in her eye.
"Lady," he replied with drunken slur. "When you've seen what I've seen, enough is never enough."
I stepped up and told her the usual thing when I met him.
"Don't worry. I'll take him home if he gets too bad."
I sat down beside him, and ordered a ginger ale. Ironic that I had a favorite bar, yet didn't drink much more than an occasional mild beer. Our night began with the usual banter, a laugh at a few jokes here and there, and his terrible attempts at flirting with the bartender.
But, after awhile, he turned to me, and asked:
"Did I ever tell you why I don't believe in God?"
The question was point blank and straight as an arrow. I had thought he was going to start yet another debate about it with me, knowing he had never said anything to me about why he didn't believe. I figured he would respond with "Logic" or "Reason". Casual and normal reasoning of a secularist.
But it wasn't.
"No, you haven't," I answered calmly.
He turned all the way towards me, rotating the chair in a drunken haze. I could smell the beer and vodka on his breath as he looked me in the eye and began to respond.
"In Ohio, there's an unheard of town called Dawkson's Creek. It's a nice enough little hamlet, but a boring place for a tourist. Hangs off an unmapped mountain, and to get to it, you gotta use an unmapped road.
"You know, I used to travel the country. Back when I believed. I would go to all them caves, old forts, shit like that - I found it interesting, exploring the deepest parts of American history.
"One day though, my truck had broke down just outside of Dawkson's Creek. I was out on the road to California when I was there; didn't even know it existed while I was struggling with Onstar; found out right after their local mechanic rolled around in his tow truck.
"He gave me a ride, towed my truck to his shop, and told me I was gonna spend a good three or four days there. Nice fella he was. Paid for my stay at the local motel."
He swallowed down his last bit of vodka and ordered another glass. The bartender brought it to him, and told him it was his last.
He grumbled, and turned back to me.
"As I said though, it is a pretty boring little place. Not many sights to see. But, I decided on the second day to go for a walk around town; maybe go to a bar or some shit.
"That was when I overheard a couple of the locals talkin' 'bout a cave off the mountain just outside of town. They said it was somewhere off the old dirt road to the west of the place.
"Hell, I knew where I was going. Dug through my bag for my ropes and my flashlight, and I went off toward that cave.
"The moment I walked inside I shoulda known somethin' would go wrong. It was colder in there than usual; a cave is always a solid 60 degrees. Never above or below, accept by one or two degrees at most. But this cave - This cave was fucking freezing.
"Still though. Kept headin' in out a sheer boredom.
"There were a few slopes. I put some stakes into the rock - which was pretty weak for any cave rock, really. Attached my rope, and went. Left them there with some marker lights.
"The cave itself was pretty damn interesting, to say the least. Pretty dank, had nicely sized stalagmites and stalactites. What was getting me though, was that there wasn't a single cave animal, and it appeared that I wasn't the first person to go in. I wasn't too surprised by the latter concern; town knows 'bout it, so somebody had to go in there right?"
He put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it. He exhaled the smoke, sending the wisps through the air of the bar.
"I went through a few different little areas, no trouble. Just fucking cold.
"Then, I could've swore something fell in front of me. Something that looked human, something that I could've swore screamed bloody murder on its way down.
"But, I could only have swore. When I ran toward it, it was gone."
"Just like that?" I asked, peculiarly interested.
"Just like that." He took another drag from his cancer stick. "But that's the thing about caves. When you're in, the only light is what you take with you. It gets so dark you can't even see your hand in front of your face. It ain't hard to get paranoid in there; and it ain't hard to start seein' shit that ain't there either.
"I kept moving in. Goddamn, was I a stupid young guy." He chuckled.
"Anyhow, that's when I screwed up. I tripped. Didn't even notice the damn hole or the slope right in front of it. Tripped right off a fucking ledge, without even a rope on.
"And then I heard my bone crack."
I cringed, imagining that.
"My leg was broke. Real broke. Bone was sticking out in two places. There was no way I was getting out of there. Did I mention that it hurt like hell? Well, it did.
"I remember sitting against the wall, picking up my light so I could see what was around me besides the damn blood from my leg.
"And I remember screaming in fear as much as I did pain." He stopped for a moment. "Right in front of me. She was right in front of me."
"Who? Who was she, David?" I snapped my fingers in front of his face.
He pulled his head back a slight bit.
"I don't know. I could just tell it was a girl. Or at least, what was left of her. She was a skeleton. A fucking skeleton in female cave gear. Just fucking laying there.
"I was out of breath. Breathed in, breathed out, trying to regain my composure. Crawled towards her as much as my broke leg would let me. Trying to see who she was, I guess. Or do something like that. There was nothing.
"Now, as I said, it ain't hard to see shit in a cave that ain't there. Well, I shouldn't have to say it ain't hard to hear shit either. I was over the body, and I heard an ear-piercing scream, and then, a thud!" He banged his hand on the table, surprising the bartender. "It was like somebody fell off of a ledge. Like someone other than me. Like-
"Someone like this girl. I hadn't even touched that body. That pile of bones. But it moved. The goddamned skeleton moved! One minute, the hand was above the head, the next, touching my leg. Touching my goddamn broke leg." He began to drunkenly cackle.
"I moved back toward the wall as fast as my body would take me, breathing in pain. Damned leg. And I sat there.
"That was when the worst possible thing that could happen, happened. My light went out. The battery died - while I was sitting in a fucking hole. A dark and cold fucking hole! Didn't even have my pack. And then, I heard it again, and again, and again, and again and again and again!
"Same damned scream, same damned thud. But, that ain't it. It was getting closer. The goddamn fall was getting closer and closer. I spent what felt like years down there listening to it.
"And then I felt it. I'm absolutely sure I felt it."
He cackled again, and took another swallow of vodka.
"The damned skeleton. It was touching me. I could've swore it was touching me. I could feel it. That wasn't a damn hallucination. I prayed to God that day more than I ever did in my life. Called to a higher power more than ever. Just praying, just hoping, to get away from that damned hole; from that fucking skeleton."
He calmed down for a moment, and breathed - out of breath from his hyperactivity.
"Then I remembered the lighter in my pocket. I fingered for it, and struck it.
"Just like I thought. That damned skeleton was there. Hand on me, and all. It was facing toward me, and I saw what made me realize, that God was not there for me...
"There was a cross around her neck.
"It was one of those ones that a church gives ya. Little gold plated thing that some of em give out.
"I could've swore, that the skeleton was moving right in front of me, and I heard a laugh, some kind of cackle or laugh or something. And it was coming right from that skeleton. The jawbone was going up and down and up and down, over and over again. And that's when I gave up hope. I was gonna die in there, and right beside that damned skeleton."
"But you didn't. You're still here."
"Bullshit." He chuckled. "Look at me. I'm a drunken, soulless, old man."
"But," I replied. "Is that cross the only reason you lost your faith?"
He chuckled again.
"No. What made me lose my faith was the questions I asked. What kinda 'lovin' god would put someone through shit like that? What kinda 'merciful' god would allow that shit to happen? Even the devil couldn't come up with something as torturous as that. I remember it. Every night, when I sleep. I see it. The damned skeleton is in my dreams, driving me insane. Every night, the same damned laughing skeleton.
"That cave...what it contains is so evil, in my opinion, that Hell itself spat it back out. After you've seen somethin' like it don't take no logic or reason to stop believing in the higher powers. You just know; they ain't there.
"That girl. She had to have been a Christian. A believer, just like me at that time. But her rest didn't come. She didn't get to go to no eternal paradise.
"She's simply in that cave. Fallin' over and over again. That torture - it drives your very soul insane. What kind of god would abandon his follower like that? Reliving a fall over and over again, long after your death - terrifying, that is. And hitting the ground like that - the way I figure, if you're already dead, there ain't nothin' that'll take the pain away. Imagine, hitting the ground over and over again, but you just can't die. You're already dead; and unable to do anything about it.
"And the worst part is, she didn't die instantly. When I had my light, I had noticed something beside her. She used one of her stakes and carved the stone beside her.
"She carved only three words.
"'God help me.'
"God didn't answer her prayers. He left her there. God abandoned her." He cackled again, the look on his face a mix of drunkenness and insanity.
"But, how do you know she was a woman of faith?" I asked, blank-minded as to what I could say in response.
"Other than cross and words she carved? I heard her prayers. I tell ya, I heard her prayers same as I heard her fall! She cried and cried for God to help her. Prayed she would be saved and rescued. She begged forgiveness for her every misstep, everything she could remember. I could hear her crying all throughout her praying, suffering from the pain of the fall and being trapped down in the cave. I could just imagine sitting there, holding onto that cross, before finally giving up and carving those words into the stone in a desperate attempt to get God to help you. After every fall, every time, a prayer. Same phrasing, same words, same female voice. Hearing those things, hearing that desperation, I just can't see it any other way."
He swallowed down more of his cup of vodka.
"I see. But, how did you survive?" I asked, curious.
"I don't know. Was told it was a rescue team. I'd passed out not long after. Woke up in the hospital, my leg bandaged up. I asked them for the names of the people who got me out of there. They gave em to me, told me to thank em, and I did. But, I was wanting more to ask about that skeleton.
"First one I went up to, I thanked him, shook his hand, and asked.
"And his reply solidified to me that there was no God.
"'What skeleton?' he asked me back. 'Sure you weren't seein' things? Can get pretty damned dark in those caves.'
"I would've believed him. I really would've. But I know what I saw. That wasn't a hallucination. It was there; she was there."
He took his last swallow of vodka, and said, "But of course, it ain't hard to see shit that ain't there in those caves."
Written by Senjumaru Shutara