Village of the Full Moon Curse
Carl Grogan of Fairville, Alaska, drove his Dodge Ram 1500, standard cab, 4×4, with its hemi V-8 engine, into the driveway of the local truck stop named Webster's for breakfast, with his good friend and passenger, Brian Griffith, who was also from Fairville, before beginning their 200-mile journey together, from Fairville to Circa, on a three-day hunting trip for caribou. Webster's had a restaurant, store, and fuel pumps, making it a very popular public place for truck drivers, touring companies, and tourists, along with the general population of Fairville, a city with a diverse population of around 100,000 people. Circa's population, on the other hand, was only around 300 people, and was comprised mostly of Athabascan Indians.
Circa was a remote village, located at the very end of the Reese Highway, northeast of Fairville, and ended at Alaska's largest river, the Yukon River. The Athabascan citizens who live there survive mainly on a subsistence lifestyle of harvesting berries and living off the land. This includes smoking and drying fish, like salmon caught from the Yukon River during the summer months; which helps preserve it for winter consumption, along with meat from various animals like moose, bear, caribou, and ptarmigan taken during the autumn and winter months. But other types of food, vegetables, and fruit, along with important and often necessary supplies, including medical and fuel, were usually transported to Circa via trucking companies, once a month if needed, or barged in on the Yukon River when accessible. Circa also had a small runway for small airplanes or helicopters to access if a medical emergency should arise.
Fairville is Alaska's second largest city, which is located in the central interior, approximately 400 miles north of the Pacific Ocean. It has all the modern facilities needed, like medical clinics, a hospital, malls, restaurants, churches, schools, an airport, and even a university, although one would only need to drive for ten minutes away from Fairville to find wilderness, if he or she preferred solitude. Fairville is a popular city for tourists in the summertime, when temperatures can climb as high as 90 degrees F on occasions, and daylight reaching up to twenty-four hours per day in June. But on the other extreme, it also considered a forbidden city in the wintertime, when temperatures can dip to -50 degrees F, and daylight as low as three hours per day, in December and January.
It was Thursday, 4:30 AM, and Brian still felt subdued by his early morning drowsiness, and in anticipation of the hot cup of coffee that he desperately needed and craved.
"I'm hungry and ready for a steak and egg breakfast," said Carl. "I could eat a moose right now!"
"I can tell. I've been hearing your stomach growling since the time we left your house fifteen minutes ago. Besides, you shouldn't underestimate yourself, as you could probably eat two moose," quipped Brian.
"Yes, you're probably right. I'm a growing boy, a very hard worker, and I sure could use the protein," replied Carl, chuckling. "Certainly, much more is needed than if I had an easier job, like yours."
"I don't know how anyone can eat such a large breakfast this early in the morning. If we get a caribou, I hope you don't eat the whole thing down right there on the spot," Brian said, smirking with his clever response.
They were both taunting each other in jest, with provoking comments, as they walked into the restaurant.
"Smoking or nonsmoking?" asked the waitress. "Oh, hello, Grizz," she said to Carl when her eyes saw his familiar face and 5'11", heavyset, burly, 250-pound rugged frame. She recognized him instantly, for Carl was a thirty-six-year-old fuel truck driver who went by the nickname Grizz for his CB handle, because of his large size and touch of grey hair on top of his dark, thick, curly-haired head. He frequently stopped at Webster's for breakfast or lunch on a regular basis.
"Hello, Wendy," replied Carl. "We'll take nonsmoking."
"And bring us a lot of coffee please," said Brian.
"Please follow me this way, guys." The waitress guided them to a table in the back corner of the restaurant and seated them. "Would you like to order now, or do you need a few minutes?" she asked.
Brian didn't have a second to respond before Carl quickly replied, "I'll take my usual, steak and egg breakfast, medium rare on the steak, home fries, wheat toast, and easy over on the eggs."
The waitress chuckled and asked, "Don't you mean over easy on the eggs?"
"He's really hungry and ready to pass out," said Brian, amused with his own saying. "Bring me the scrambled eggs and bacon breakfast, with hash browns and sourdough toast, please."
"Your coffee should be here in a minute and your food in ten minutes," said Wendy as she walked away toward the kitchen with their order.
"I sure hope we didn't forget anything and brought everything we need for our trip," said Carl. "I'd hate to drive all the way to Circa and realize we'd forgotten several things. I've gone over our list a hundred times in my mind, from food, winter clothing, sleeping bags, and the tent, to our hunting knives, rifles, ammunition, the binoculars, matches, two five-gallon gas cans, and ibuprofen. Heck, I even checked the weather forecast, along with the road report, and it reported clear skies and good conditions for the next four days, with only a thirty percent chance of flurries on Hawk Summit, and temperatures not expected to dip lower than 35 degrees F."
"I'm sure we at least got all the important things anyways. Circa has a small store, which is decently stocked with supplies, if we ever get into a bind," replied Brian, as he eagerly begun to sip on his hot coffee that quickly arrived at their table just seconds earlier.
"That sounds good to me, Buzz," said Carl to Brian, which was a nickname he had given him back when they first met, four years earlier. Brian, being a thirty-six-year-old professional pharmacist of eleven years, was working the evening when Carl showed up with a doctor's prescription for twenty-five tablets of Percocet. The painkillers gave Carl euphoria and a buzz; hence, the nickname "Buzz" was given to Brian by Carl. The two of them began talking that Saturday night about hunting, fishing, and their families, quickly bonding and hitting it off, realizing they had very similar interests, were of the same age, both married, and had a lot in common with each other. The only things the two didn't have in common with each other was their appearance, being different sizes and having much different hairstyles, as Brian, weighing only at 190 pounds, was much leaner for his 5'11" height than Carl, with his hair being a very short military style cut, and brown in color also, but with no grey hairs.
They had been friends since when they first met, and tried to get together for hunting and fishing excursions, along with family gatherings with their wives and children, on the holidays or whenever possible. Carl tried to avoid calling him Buzz too much, though, as Brian seemed a little sensitive to the controversial nickname. Brian viewed himself as a professional, strictly-by-the-book pharmacist, and not someone who would dispense painkillers for fun or recreation.
The two of them finished their breakfast at 5:30 AM, with Brian picking up the tab and leaving a $6.00 tip on the table for Wendy.
"Thanks for buying the breakfast, Buzz."
"No problem, Grizz. We better top your truck and cans off with fuel before we hit the road for Circa. I heard that the price of fuel there is outrageous, and there's only one fuel pump in town!"
"Agreed," replied Carl. "I'll pull up to the gas pumps, fill them up, which should easily give us plenty of gas for our trip."
The two of them started to feel some excitement engulf them, in anticipation of their traveling hunting trip up the Reese Highway toward Circa and the approaching caribou hunt that they were about to embark on. Carl finally finished fueling and they were on the road at 5:45 AM, and hoped to be in Circa by 9:00 AM.
"I may have to make a few pit stops in the bushes along the way," quipped Brian as they left Fairville. "I drank a lot of coffee this morning, and I am sure it will pass through me fairly quickly."
"Not a problem at all," replied Carl. "There are plenty of places to pull to the side of the road on the Reese. I've hauled a load or two with my Peter built to Circa on a few occasions, and there are no houses and often no traffic for many miles, just nothing but trees, meadows, mountains, and wilderness. It's paved for the first fifty miles before narrowing and turning into a dirt road for the last 150 miles. We also just need to keep an eye out for moose hanging out near the roadside when were driving. They can sometimes run or leap out in front of oncoming vehicles, and it's hard to see them when it's dark, especially with all the corners and sharp turns that the road has as it winds through the mountains. Moose are often unseen in the dark, just right around one of those sharp turns!"
Brian hit the load button on the CD player in Carl's truck and dropped in a Hank Williams Jr. CD.
"Then I guess we better play some good music to help carry us safely through, and help us feel and see the road, dude," quipped Brian.
"Fantastic!" exclaimed Carl. "It's very difficult to receive radio stations on this road, and usually lose them all after going over Hawk Summit."
"No one is happier than me, hearing that the weatherman was predicting good conditions on the summit," said Brian. "I've never driven over it at any time during the winter, but only once in the summertime many years ago, and even then, I got a little spooked and nervous when getting too close to the edge of the road. I remember that it seemed like a long way down to the bottom, if someone were to accidentally and tragically slide off the edge!"
"That actually happened to a truck driver who drove for our fuel company, about ten years ago," replied Carl. "Around a year before I started working there, so I never knew him, but I do remember hearing the story from coworkers of his tragic accident. His name was John, and he was returning from Circa after hauling and delivering a load of heating oil there. It was in January, the darkest, coldest, and riskiest month of the year to drive this road. He tried to drive his truck back over the top of the summit during whiteout conditions, but instead slid off the side of the road, crashing to the bottom of the mountain. Coworkers were expecting him to spend the night in Circa and return the following day, but he instead came back early, so no one realized that he was missing until it was too late. They found his badly injured and bloody body frozen to death inside his cab, nearly two days later! Authorities estimated that he cruelly suffered for at least twelve hours before mercifully dying from hypothermia!"
"Horrible way to die," replied Brian. "Horrible!"
Hawk Summit had a peak elevation of 3,800 feet, and was in the center of the Black mountain range, 150 miles from Fairville on the Reese, which could be very unpredictable and dangerous in the wintertime when crossing over. The conditions could be calm and clear, with good visibility one hour and instantaneously change two hours later to high winds, blowing snow, and drifting, with poor visibility and whiteout conditions. The highway was narrow, akin to a small road, and icy on top of the summit, with steep sides that dropped hundreds of feet to the bottom of the valley, and it had no guardrails. Highway maintenance road crews attempted to keep the highway plowed and accessible as often as possible, but sometimes found their efforts a futile attempt, when high winds caused bad drifting, often just minutes after the highway was plowed. On rare occasions, the Reese Highway had been closed for safety purposes or from occasional avalanches.