09 September 2018

Disappeared (Part 5)

The morning was wrapping up well. Almost three hours in the erstwhile hinterlands of the factory complex, a multi-story portion with old stone, corroded pipes and tanks, and old riveted trusses. Numerous windows and skylights created frequent instances of intriguing light events. The upper floor in particular, with its roof of high gabled trusses that opened up overhead, acquired the air of a cathedral when the sun was out.

The camera work was completed. Cameras put away, bag hoisted, tripod slung across the shoulders, I made my way down the crumbling stairs to the lower, darker level. Having shot there just minutes ago, with no others about, there was no expectation of meeting fellow explorers. Or anyone else. I was abruptly disabused of that notion as I rounded the end of the stair wall to angle across the open concrete floor back to the exposed area some yards away. I heard voices, low. A few steps on, then “Freeze!” 

It was then I noticed the large man standing about twenty feet away, arms outstretched and locked. An intense stare tracked me as I walked.

He was pointing a gun at me. I blinked. I kept walking. “Don’t move!” he shouted.

I kept walking, wondering why he was yelling and pointing a gun at me.

Pointing. A gun. At me.

Finally it sank in, what I was seeing. The gun. About ten feet away, I came to a halt. “Good morning!” I chirped, nervous as hell and acutely aware of the pistol in his hands and the enormous duffel bag at his feet over which he had been leaning when I first came around the corner. The dim light was just enough for me to see that the bag held some more weapons, most notably a shotgun and what appeared to be long rifles of the hunting and assault variety. My confidence that this was going to end well took a nosedive towards the low end of the scale.

“What are you doing here?” he barked at me. The pistol never wavered. I was still having trouble processing the whole mess. The smartass in my head wanted to point at the camera and tripod over my shoulder and say “What the fuck does it look like I’m doing here?”. Prudence won out, and I replied that I was out taking photographs.

It was about that time I heard a noise off to my left, and also noticed the other equipment boxes strewn about. And the camera with tripod near to the man. I looked to the left, at a spot along the wall where not forty or so minutes earlier I had taken a photo of crumbling masonry, broken pipes. Standing there on a brick pile, illuminated in bright light streaming through a hole in the concrete slab above, was a tallish woman. Long blonde hair and Miami Beach tan, and camo pants with combat boots. She was staring at me with what looked like mild concern. I stared back.

She was wearing a bikini top and toting an assault rifle. She said nothing.

I did a double take, then turned back to the man. By this time he had lowered the gun. In a slightly less hostile tone, he said “Oh, okay. Well, be very careful around here. Lots of homeless and vandals.”

I didn’t say “And strangers packing small arsenals?” only “I will” and then I resumed walking towards the open area. It was then I finally noticed a badge, looking remarkably like a police badge, attached to a body armor vest laying on the floor. It dawned on me that the guy might be an off-duty police officer out doing some photo work, with “props” borrowed from the workplace. Seemed a good theory, at least.

My back itched the entire time it took me to clear the area. I walked up and out past what could only have been a truck belonging to that erstwhile Dirty Harry back in the factory. Festooned with flags and stickers emblazoned with various police-related slogans. A quick peek into the back of the truck revealed more camera equipment and gun paraphernalia. My feeling at the time was that those guns in the duffel and carried by Madame Camo-kini were probably not officially cleared for use. To each his own. At least I was not the victim of an accidental shooting, although I suppose I could have photographed it as I fell to the floor.

Life as a wildlife documentary. See the deer out on the icy river. It trembles. Can we know what is in its heart when the ice splits behind, the floe drifts off in the current? Soft eyes behold the black water canyon fracturing the landscape. The forest of home recedes slowly into cottony mist as panic seeps in. The deer stares, perhaps with only an inkling of the trouble it is in and the trouble that awaits. A cold syrup of river water surrounds the floating island, offering nothing but discouragement and a brutal path back to the uncertain terrain of what used to be before winter came.

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Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

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