When I was in 7th grade, I lived in San Francisco. Towards the end of the school year, my class took a trip to a state park (I think it was called Pinnacles State Park, but I'm not sure). It was a weeklong trip, where we arrived on Monday and camped for 4 nights before leaving on Friday.
Now, I'm sure this will be hard for you all to accept, but I was a bit of a troublemaker back then. I just wasn't really in to following directions. My friends, Chris, Grant and Peter, were of like mind. Well, not Chris so much, but he was a decent guy so we let him hang with us. We were supposed to just stick to the established trails, and in our defense we did...for the first 3 days. But by Thursday, we were just bored. We had been told that there were 3 things we were absolutely not to do: 1) hike through the forest off the trail, 2) climb any rocks and 3) go into any of the caves. Well, hiking through the forest didn't sound like much fun anyway and we hadn't found any caves (yet), but there were quite a few rock formations around...
"Hey, what do you guys think is on the other side of those rocks?" I asked, with a big grin on my face. A grin that quickly appeared on Grant and Peter's face and more slowly on Chris's. Of course, within minutes we were about 50 feet up in the air (reflecting back on this, I wonder if it was really that high, but I was shorter back then, so it sure seemed like it). It was the perfect place for climbing, more like a 70-degree incline than truly vertical. We were just about to the top when...
"What the hell are you boys doing?!?" the voice belonged to my English teacher and basketball coach, Mr. Ferguson (note this is not his real name, I'm not trying to protect his identity, I just don't remember his name, except that it started with "F").
"Uh...just seeing what was up here, coach" "Well, get the hell down and go see Dr. Miller at the campsite. I'll make sure he knows all about this," he said. We were busted. But then for some reason, he took off instead of waiting for us. To this day, I don't know why he did that.
Anyway, a short argument broke out: "Well, I guess we better go back." Chris said. Grant chimed in with "I want to see what's on the other side." "But, Mr. Ferguson said..." Chris started. And then all 3 of them were squabbling. Finally, I broke in with "Look, we're almost to the top and we're all ready in trouble. What do we have to lose?"
This even made sense to Chris, so we continued upwards. When we got to the top...wow! It turned out that the rocks we were on were part of a larger, kind of donut shaped formation. As we stood at the top, a lush, seemingly virgin valley sprawled out before and below us. As far as we could tell, it was completely enclosed within the rocks. This was something I just had to check out. I started down the other side, with Grant and Peter following.
"Hey, we gotta go back. Mr. Ferguson said." Chris said, practically whining at this point. Now, I have not always been the paragon of maturity that you all know and love (laugh here), and at the age of 12, I was as quick to turn on my friends as the next guys. The next guys of course being Grant and Peter. A rousing round of "Mr. Ferguson said! Mr. Ferguson said!" mocking quickly broke out. Chris gave us the finger and turned back. He was quickly out of sight, and very shortly after that, out of mind.
None of us knew it at the time, and even if you had told us we wouldn't have believed it, but Chris Brown was by far the luckiest one of us that day.
We were in heaven. I mean, what could be better for a bunch of 7th graders? Off by themselves, in a place that was not only new to them, but also very possibly unseen by anyone for who knows how long. We got about half way down the rocks before we ran into our first obstacle...a sheer drop off. I'm talking edge of the cliff stuff here, people. But, my god, the view. So we stopped for lunch. We ate peanuts and bananas and ham sandwiches while we gazed out over what the guy who coined the phrase "nature's glory" must have been thinking of.
After lunch, we backtracked a little and found a way that lead down to smaller cliff, about 10 feet from the ground. We managed to jump down without too much trouble, but we weren't getting back that way. But we didn't give it any thought...we had made it down to the valley floor. Much to our disappointment, it was NOT the exotic jungle we had hoped for. In fact, it was very much like the forest on the other side where all of our classmates and teachers were. The forest we were supposed to be in. But still, the fact that it was "our" forest made it special and we started off through it. We hiked for a few hours before we came to our second obstacle...another cliff, but this time we were at the bottom.
At first, we thought we were had reached the other side of the valley. But then we realized that this wall was made of dirt, not rock. It was also covered with moss. Again, we were boys so we did the natural thing. We climbed it, the moss soft enough to carve out hand and foot holds. No sweat. And we started off again. Eventually we came to a stream.
By now it was getting later in the afternoon and we realized that, as much as we were dreading the punishment we were sure to get, we couldn't stay out forever. We knew that the caves that we weren't allowed to go in were formed by running water, so we followed the stream hoping that it would lead us to an exit from the valley. We thought it might even be the same stream that ran besides our campsite. Well, it made sense to us at the time.
And as it turned out, the stream did lead to a cave. Not that it looked very inviting. It was narrow and jagged and wet. In fact, we'd actually have to walk in the stream to go into the cave. But we needed to find some way out.
"What do you guys think?" Grant said, looking like he hoped we wouldn't want to go in. I don't want to come off as trying to sound all macho, but I honestly don't remember worrying about the cave at all. I was always stupid like that.
"Come one. This is our way out." Peter said. He wasn't too smart, either. So we went in, Peter leading the way and Grant following behind me. Within a few yards, the cave had twisted and turned enough that we couldn't see the entrance. After a few more yards, there was no more light at all. Breaking out our flashlights (required gear for all of us campers), we continued on.
By now, we were cold and wet from standing in the stream and also bruised and scraped from navigating the narrow cave. The whole scene was getting creepier by the minute. Light and shadow played off each other forming shapes that became any number of scary images to our young minds. Talking was no reassurance as the echoes distorted our voices beyond recognition.
Suddenly, we turned a corner and the cave abruptly widened into a chamber. A surprisingly well lit chamber at that. The walls of the chamber were imbedded with a vast array of what looked like crystals. They were the source of light. It was by far the most beautiful thing we had seen on that day. Unfortunately, it also seemed to be a dead end as the stream lead right up to a wall and disappeared. We wouldn't be getting out that way.
Stepping out of the water, we looked around for another exit. Or at least Peter and I did. When I looked over at Grant, he had pulled out his buck knife and was trying to pry one of the glowing crystals out of the wall.
"What are you doing, man? We gotta find a way out of here and get back to camp. We don't have time for those rocks." I said. "I want to take one back with us. I've never seen crystals that glow like this." "We don't have time..." Peter chimed in. But at that point, the crystal Grant was working at popped free of the wall. And all hell broke loose.
I don't know how to describe it. One second we were alone and the next...she was there. Standing between us and the way we had come in, was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. Although her hair was brown and not white and her skin was not marred by a single wrinkle, she held herself stooped as if her body carried the weight of old age. Her face was misshapen and her lips were curled into the sneer of disdain. Her eyes blazed with hatred and her arm was extended, her gnarled index finger pointing accusingly at us. Her voice boomed out, not the voice of a woman at all, but the voice of a god...or a demon.
"YOU HAVE DEFILED THIS PLACE. YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE COME HERE. YOU SHALL KNOW YOUR FOLLY."
She looked at Grant. I turned to him...and stopped. He had turned completely white and his eyes were wide with terror. His mouth was open, as if he were trying to scream but couldn't. He remained like that for a few seconds and then collapsed. I thought he was dead.
She turned and faced Peter and when I looked at him, he had the exact same look on his face. I mean, the EXACT same one. Pure terror. As he fell to the ground, I wondered what he could be experiencing that could do that.
And then she looked at me and I found out. I can only assume that I, too,
collapsed to the ground, but I do not remember doing so.
"Dei?" a voice said softly. I vaguely recognized it. It was my best friend, Grant. But what was he doing in my bedroom? And then I remembered.
I sat up to find that I was lying on the ground at the edge of the stream, a little ways away from camp. Grant was next to me, looking down at me. He stared at me with a haunted look. Peter was sitting a few feet away with the same look on his face. I knew how they felt. Once we determined that none of us knew how we had gotten there, we started to compare notes on what had happened.
None of us had a clue what had happened in that cave or what that "woman" could have been. The only thing we did know was that whoever or whatever she had been, she had cursed us. With knowledge. I guess that was what she meant by "You shall know your folly."
I can't explain how, but when she looked in each of our eyes, we had each seen a vision of the moment of our own deaths. We knew that the visions were absolutely true. We told each other the details of what we had seen, but agreed not to tell anyone else. Who would believe us?
When we got back to camp, we were in BIG trouble. It turned out that it was the next day and park rangers had had to be called in to search for us. We said that we had spent the night in the valley and didn't mention the cave at all. We had detention for the rest of the semester and were banned from all future class outings, not to mention the punishment our parents gave us. But, in light of our experience it just didn't seem to matter.
To this day I am not sure which of us was the worse off. It turned out that Peter and Grant had much less time than I did. They thought they were worse off, but for a long time I thought I was because I would have to carry this terrible knowledge longer.
Grant was the first to have his vision come true. On March 8, 1987, Grant Hayes was driving down I-5 just south of San Francisco. He had just had a huge argument with his girlfriend because he wouldn't drive her to the party they were going to. She told me later that he said he had to go alone and wouldn't say why. I knew why. A drunk driver who was driving North in the southbound lane struck Grant's car. He was killed immediately.
After that, any doubt that had existed in either Peter's minds or mine was gone. It had happened exactly as Grant had described to us on the bank of that stream 5 years earlier.
"I don't understand why he drove there, knowing he was going to die." Peter claimed. But really he did. That was the curse. We knew, but there was nothing we could do.
In early November of 1995 I received a phone call from Peter. We hadn't seen each other in years, but kept in touch enough to know where the other was. I also knew that tomorrow was his day.
"I'm scared," he said and I could tell he had been crying. We talked through most of the night. Finally, resigned, he said goodbye. I hung up the phone.
On the morning of November 12, 1995, Peter Caliguri approached the front doors of the Kay-Bee Toys store in Portland, Oregon that he managed. The store had just received a shipment of Beanie Babies and there was a crowd of hopeful parents waiting outside to buy the in-high-demand toys. He took a deep breath and turned the key to unlock the door. He started to open it, but the throng of people suddenly rushed forward. The door flew inward, knocking him to the ground. The toy-crazed parents rushed right over him towards the Beanie Babies display. He was crushed to death and no one even noticed.
It's funny, because when Peter told us his vision, we had all wondered "What the hell is a Beanie Baby?" I guess that if I had thought about it I probably could have made some money. But maybe not.
And me? Well, I've still got some time left. What I saw is as follows:
On June 29, 2015 while attending a party in Malibu, California in honor of my wife, the spectacularly successful superstar actress, Larisa Oleynik, I will be shot to death, point blank. Later, the police will discover the identity of the man to be Steve Abreu. It will be revealed that Mr. Abreu was a long time fan of Larisa's, often posting at Larisa.com under the name Zip-Six. When asked why he shot me, he will reply "To correct a horrible mistake that never should have happened. Larisa was supposed to be mine and now she will be."
Again, as with the Beanie Babies, at the time of my vision in 1982 I had no idea who Larisa was and in fact she was not even 1 year old yet.
After Peter's death, I was able to accept both the knowledge of my fate, as well as my inevitable end itself. And for what it is worth, Zip-Six, I forgive you.
Copyright (c) 1999 by Dei