Hail! Treasure seeker. What is it you seek? Ephemeral images, or perhaps just the story of a wandering soul? Mayhap I can give you both, Have a seat on the Small Pile of Rocks with your back resting against that large tree with the vine growing around it and listen to my tale. How did I come to be this battered shell? I was once a man of some renown and power but have been reduced to this wraith you see before you by a foolish son. When you realize whom you are speaking to, you might wonder why one such as I, with my reputation for quick anger and with no time for foolishness, would deign to speak to one such as yourself. Well, I have nothing but time now, and death has mellowed the fire within me.
My story? Ah, yes. My toil on the mortal coil ended in the year 1796. It was the dreaded gout took my life. Cursed disease. I died at Presque. Yes, I was a soldier and far from home. They buried me under the blockhouse flagpole, and there I lay for 13 years. My soul was not at rest so far from home, and, perhaps because of the atrocities I committed in my life, I was not admitted to paradise but forced to wait until my sins had been fully repented. But, as stubborn in death as in life, I would not submit to judgment for my perceived sins. Now it is too late and I am forced to wander.
As I said, my body lay in my grave until my son Isaac drove into the fort in a small trap. In the back of the cart was a small wooden box. The so called physician and well known drunkard, Wallace, came out to meet him, and together they went off to his quarters for a glass or two of port. When they returned to the block, several enlisted men accompanied them carrying shovels. At last I should be returned to my beloved home. They dug up the casket. They pried open the lid and, much to the consternation of the assembly, they found my body uncorrupted by the grave.
My son in his short sightedness had brought only a small box to carry my remains, thinking I should have been reduced to nothing but bones by the worms. Well, fool, you will have to use some of your inheritance to buy a buckboard to carry home the casket.
Wallace and Isaac conferred for a time, and then Isaac returned to the Dr.'s quarters alone. Wallace stripped off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and, as he did so, called out to a nearby soldier. The man went off to the cook shed and returned dragging the largest cauldron the army could muster. As they built up the fire and filled the cauldron with water, what was in Wallace’s mind hit me like a bolt of lightning. Damn his eyes! He could not mean to do this thing!
The men lifted the body from the casket and laid it on the ground by Wallace’s feet. He was gripping the ax used for splitting wood. He raised the ax above his head. I cried out in horror and desperation. But, alas, my howl was only heard as a slight rise in the wind. The ax came down with a sickening thud. One of the men turned and relieved himself of his lunch. You appear a bit green around the gills, Seeker. Do you wish me to stop? No? I shall continue then.
I stood frozen and could not look away as the grisly work continued. The smell was horrid, like the very brimstone of hell itself. Sweat poured from Wallace as he toiled. The macabre work continued well into the small hours. As dawn broke, the job was finished. The bones, polished clean, fit neatly into the small box. Isaac, in a hurry to be on his way, could not wait for nails to be found so the lid could be fastened.
But what of the “soup” left in the pot? With much heaving of arms and stomachs the mess was poured back into the hole left by my now empty coffin. The earth was shoveled back and patted down. With the last pat of the shovel my fate was sealed. My body thus separated could not be brought to the gates of heaven, or of hell for that matter. I had waited too long to repent and now must wander for eternity between my two graves.
Isaac proceeded southeast in his trap, bumping along the rutted road. The lid popped off at regular intervals, spewing small parts of me willy-nilly. I railed at him, but he only heard the sighing of the wind. After many days he finally arrived at my beloved home. My bones were not to rest here but in the graveyard of our parish. At least part of me would rest in sacred ground.
My head was filled with turmoil! What was I to do now? How could I ever find rest! I must look for other spirits, my old comrades in arms. Surely not all had gone to glory. I sped from my home to the northeast, where we as a ragtag army had spent a hard winter.
The huts where the men under my command had bivouacked were still visible. The woods nearby bore my name. If I had been on horseback I could have seen my home to the southwest. There were no kindred spirits here. The air was still. I was frantic. What if there were none of my kind in this whole valley? I proceeded to the west, following the curve of the road. I reached the valley and its creek. Which way? My choice? Abject despair or happiness? I chose the latter. The stone stairs up the side of the mountain were unused for some time but still passable. I struggled up the hill. There were sharp switchbacks and the trail was faint. On one switchback the trail was blocked by 4 or 5 small downed trees. These I scrambled over. I passed several smooth skinned beeches. Over a log and up a switchback the trail failed. I could not guess which way to go. I stopped at a biggerish tree about three quarters of the way to the summit. Due east were two other biggerish trees, one with a pile of logs at its base and another a little further on with a large vine. Here I stopped. What was the use in going on? I was truly alone. And so, Seeker, you find me.
I bide my time waiting for the apocalypse and the end of time. And you, Seeker, what of you? You have what you want from me, a small inked image and a tale of woe. You have provided a distraction for me and brightened my bleak existence. There are more treasures for you that may never be found. Does that lessen their value? It is for you to decide.