The Town of Amonyah

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A last trip before entering adulthood turns into a horrible experience for these youths as they investigate the ruins of an abandoned town.

Submitted: November 12, 2018

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Submitted: November 12, 2018

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The Town Of Amonyah

May, 1989

Sugarloaf Mountain, California


 

The four young men, freshly graduated from high school, had spent most of their summer vacation partying, traveling, going to the beach, barbecuing, bungee jumping and bike riding. The amount of time they had spent enjoying themselves was because it just might be the last time they would ever be together as a group. In a month, Steve Radcliffe was leaving for boot camp in the Marine Corps. A week from now, Johnny Magaña was leaving for college back east. Two weeks from now, Micah Beckham was getting married then moving out of state for his new job and the following week, Jeff Tolbert was starting his internship at a hospital in San Diego.

The four of them were separating from each other for the first time since elementary school. Of course they would stay in touch, but getting together was going to be tough. They knew time was running out, so they decided to spend a weekend exploring the mountains on a hike.

Johnny had found a book on long lost towns and had located one in Sugarloaf Mountain. There was no road leading out to the forgotten town; they were going to have to hike there. The plan was to leave early in the morning, reach the location by sundown, spend the night, explore the ruins for most of the day, then hike out back to their vehicle before nightfall.

They were all chattering excitedly about finding the abandoned town of Amonyah.

Johnny was filling them in on the details about it he had found, “Supposedly, the town used to send a wagon down the mountain to Seven Oaks for supplies once a week. The wagon didn't show up for a few weeks so the locals got a rescue party together to investigate. There was a total of twelve families up there, plus a few single adults for a total of about seventy people living in Amonyah at the time.”

“That many?” Micah was amazed. His short dark hair was so well cropped that it looked as though he, not Steve Radcliffe, was the one joining the Marines. Micah was African American, medium height with a husky build. He had light brown eyes that, when struck by the right lighting, appeared golden.

“So what happened?” Steve asked, his eyes wide with anticipation.

Johnny was Mexican American, tall, and wiry. Although he weighed less than his companions, he was one of the strongest. He kept his black hair spiked up with hair products. His dark eyes were ominous, “They found the entire town dead.”

“No way!” Steve exclaimed.

“The whole town?” Micah was dumbfounded.

“Bullshit,” Jeff said.

“I'm dead serious,” Johnny assured them, “Everyone was splayed out, as though they were trying to escape something within the town but didn't get far. Since there were no signs of murder, no marks on the bodies, the locals figured it must have been some type of viral outbreak. They immediately left Amonyah, not touching anything, not bothering to take the time to thoroughly examine the bodies for fear of infection. The road was forgotten, the trail became overgrown and to this day, no one knows what killed all seventy people in Amonyah.”

“That is the freakiest shit I ever heard in my life,” Steve admitted. He was the biggest in the bunch. At six two, he was built like a linebacker, had dark hair, blue eyes and was quick to smile.

“So this place could be haunted?” Micah demanded, “I'm not sleeping in a fucking ghost town!”

Jeff laughed. He was considered the smart one of the group. He had sandy blonde hair, brown eyes, a medium height, thin, with a serious penchant for playing lots of video games, “Relax, man. How long ago did this happen Johnny? Did you find that out?”

Johnny nodded, “Yeah. This all happened over a hundred years ago.”

“Jesus!” Micah exclaimed, “If its that old, there ain't no way it's not going to be haunted, bro.”

Steve led the way down an overgrown gravel path. The weeds were choking what was left of the well worn trail, tree roots growing beneath made the surface unlevel, fallen rocks, from the cliff to the right of the path, littered the way and in some spots, small landslides forced the four of them to climb over the rugged berms.

In an odd way, the trail was sad and forlorn. It was obviously forgotten and had been overlooked for decades by the majority of people who lived in the area and visitors who came to appreciate nature's beauty.

“You guys think we're the first to use this trail in over a hundred years?” Jeff asked them.

Steve shook his head, “No. There are a few old shoe prints already here. This road is rarely used now, but its still traveled on.”

The steep cliff on the right hand side of the path eventually leveled out to a climbable mountainside but the four of them kept on the trail. After a few more miles, they reached the remains of an old wooden covered bridge reminiscent to the one in the story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

The boys stared at the ruined structure in awe. They moved closer to get a better look at it.

“Whoa!” Micah said, “I didn't think we had any covered bridges in California!”

Jeff was also impressed, “I didn't either.”

Steve was accessing the damage to find a way across using what was left of the ruined structure.

“Let's go around it,” Johnny offered.

Steve frowned at him, “We'd have to climb all the way along this embankment until we found a spot low enough to climb up to the other side. That could add hours to our travel time.”

Johnny said, “I'm getting bad vibes from this bridge, man.”

Jeff was studying the bridge too, “It looks sturdy enough to hold our weight if we can just figure out a way to get across the middle section.”

The once magnificently crafted covered bridge had sagged in the middle and had eventually collapsed there, pushing both ends of it up slightly higher than the road in an uneven 'v' shape. The split bottom of the bridge was still not touching the ground. They were going to have to climb down toward the center of the bridge, then jump across the splintered and broken part to the other side. If one of them accidentally fell, it was only about eight foot drop from the bottom of the sagging bridge but it was all rocks below. One of them could easily break a leg there.

Steve, who was the heaviest, slowly put all of his weight on it, testing the strength of the remaining floor boards, “They're still pretty solid.” He started descending toward the center bridge, carefully choosing his footing and hand holds.

Micah followed closely behind.

Jeff was about to climb onto the bridge too, when Johnny pulled on his backpack, keeping him from getting onto the bridge. Johnny yelled, “Damn it! Didn't you guys hear me? Get the hell off the bridge!”

The emotion in his voice spurred Micah into heeding his advice. Looking up at his two friends, Micah hurriedly climbed back up toward them. Jeff reached downward to help his friend up. As they locked arms, Micah's eyes went wide as the bridge beneath him collapsed out from under his feet with a loud sickening crack. His feet dangled as thousands of pounds of wood, metal and concrete tumbled down in the gorge beneath him.

All three of them were screaming over the roar of the collapse. Johnny and Jeff both pulled, tugged and dragged Micah to safety. A massive wave of dust shot out from the gorge below as the wreckage smashed into the rocks beneath. It was one of the worse sounds they had ever heard.

Johnny rushed to the edge of the cliff yelling for their friend Steve.

Micah looked at Jeff, eyes wide with fear, “Oh my God. Steve!”

“Steve!” Johnny hollered again.

Micah and Jeff rushed to the edge, looking down at the pile of twisted metal and bristling wood. They both began shouting for Steve as well.

The dust slowly cleared and Steve was there, standing on the other side of the gorge, waving at them. The boys called out happily to each other. Looking down, they could see that only half the bridge had collapsed. The far side of the structure was still intact. Apparently, Steve had managed to jump to the the other side before the nearest side had given way.

“You are one lucky son of a bitch!” Jeff yelled over to Steve.

“Yeah!” Steve agreed with him, “I think I soiled my shorts though!”

They all had a good laugh. It took the three of them an hour to walk up and around the ruined bridge, but they managed to get to the other side of the gorge.

From there, the trail continued as before. On their left, the terrain dropped down an embankment to a dry riverbed and on their right, the terrain was steeply higher. After a few more miles, the sun was swiftly setting. The boys pulled off their large backpacks to set up camp.

They built a proper campfire and within an hour had their sleeping bags and tents set up. There would be two of them to a tent. After roasting hot dogs over the fire and screwing off for a few hours they decided it was time to go to sleep.

Micah was just about to go inside his tent, but he hesitated. Micah said, “Did you hear that?”

All four of them froze. They listened quietly for a few minutes, but only heard an owl hooting and the wind gently caressing the trees' leaves high overhead.

The earlier ruckus the boys had caused while they ate had been a mutual effort to shake off the feeling of unease that they were all experiencing. They had engaged in an unspoken agreement that they would ignore the eerie woods and try to enjoy themselves no matter what. They had laughed and joked, acting like children, embarrassing themselves and behaving sillier than they normally would, all with the intent of getting through the rest of the evening without being anymore unsettled than they already were. Micah had just shattered their attempt.

“What did you hear?” Steve wanted to know.

Micah didn't answer him. He looked at the rest of his friends, eyes wide with fright, “None of you heard that?”

“I did,” Jeff admitted.

Johnny poked him, “What did you hear?”

“Laughter.”

Micah nodded in agreement, “But it wasn't just laughter. It sounded like children playing.”

Johnny felt his skin break out in nervous goosebumps. Children playing? Miles out in the woods? No. There was no way, “You must have misheard something that only sounded like kids playing.”

Micah shook his head.

“I know what I heard,” Jeff said quietly, “It was children playing.”

Steve sighed, “Since you guys are so freaked out, I'll just stay up for a bit and keep watch.”

The rest of the boys nodded in appreciation and shuffled off into their tents.

Steve stoked the fire and added a log. After about twenty minutes, he heard it too. The unmistakable sound of a small group of children playing. They laughed and giggled, calling out to each other and squealing with joy.

Steve wasn't frightened by the noise, he was saddened by it. If it were the children of Amonyah playing in the hollows of the forest, they had been there a long time, forever locked in their games, trapped in this area for an eternity.

Something moved within the dark trees, a flash of movement. Steve stood up quickly, watching the trees closely. What startled him, making his hair stand on end, was that, to him, it looked like someone darting between the trunks wearing a white sheet like a ghost.


 

* * *


 

The other three woke up to the wind up clock alarm at around 6am the next morning. They rose decently rested to find Steve up and brewing coffee over a still burning campfire.

“Morning, losers,” He quipped.

Jeff said, “Did you stay up all night, man?”

“Yeah. Couldn't sleep.”

They all assailed the coffee pot as if dying of thirst.

After they packed up camp, the boys continued on their way. They were behind schedule, but the Town of Amonyah should be close by. They could spend several hours investigating and exploring before having to hike back to the car. If they timed it right, they should reach their vehicle right at sundown.

They only had about a mile to go further around the steep ridge before they saw what they had been looking for. The town of Amonyah. The only sign of the long abandoned town they could see were stone chimneys lining the large clearing like tall pale tombstones.

There were massive ancient pine trees here and the ground was a flat carpet of brown fallen needles. The needles were piled deep. They crunched and broke underfoot. The conifers were so vast that the entire town seemed to be cast into shade except for the very center, where no trees had grown.

As the boys got closer, they saw another type of foliage blanketing the ground. Ivy, but it wasn't like any other ivy they had ever seen before. The vines were an inch thick and the dark green palmately lobed leaves were nearly a foot wide.

The boys hesitated at the odd sprouting of ivy. Since some of the stalks stood a couple of feet high at places, the vines were so dense and the leaves were so large, they couldn't see the ground beneath. For some reason, the boys uniformly found this very macabre.

“Is that ivy?” Micah asked.

Jeff answered him, “Yeah, but its giant. I don't think this is a known genus.” He reached out to touch one of the leaves.

“Don't touch it!” Johnny warned.

Jeff frowned at him, “Why not?”

“You said it yourself. It's an unknown genus.” Johnny told him.

Micah spoke in support of Johnny, “He's right, Jeff. What if its poisonous of something?”

“Even if it is poisonous, it should only give me a damn rash, not kill me,” Jeff argued.

“It's a lot bigger than normal ivy though. What if it has a lot more poison too?” Johnny reasoned.

“Either way,” Jeff told them, “If it is poisonous, our trip is going to be cut really short. The foundations of the old homes, that we want to check out, are all covered by this ivy. If we're too afraid to get through it, we may as well just go home right now.”

“Just lightly stroke the back of your hand against it,” Johnny suggested.

Jeff did. There was no burning or stinging sensation. The boys made their way through the ivy vines, some of which came as high as their waist.

The first home was a bust. The foundation was crumbling and the fireplace was empty. No bones, no treasures. Nothing.

The second showed some promise. There was a indentation within the earth, the remains of what could have been the entrance to a cellar. The ivy had grown into a sort of dense curtain, covering the entrance. The boys had pulled the clinging vines aside and saw the the entrance was completely collapsed.

Johnny sighed, “Oh well. Let's keep looking.”

The sunny center of town was interesting. From the flat area of where the town plaza would have been, they could see the small marketplace, surrounded by what would have been the tiny community of homes encircling it. They only remnants of the town were a few stone structures, a few low stone walls, some stone foundations that peeked up through the forest of ivy and the reaching stone chimneys.

After a few moments of appreciation for the quiet tranquility, Jeff said, “I wonder how all those people died out here.”

“No clue,” Johnny said, “It seems so peaceful.”

The boys spent a few more hours investigating the area. The strangest thing they managed to find was from where the ivy was growing. After tracing all of the thickest vines, which sprawled out hundreds of feet, back to a central area, they discovered that the main vine was growing from a raised spot on one of the foundations near the center of town.

It was a sort of stone table and on top of the table, there was an old wide chest that would have been used to store blankets and kept at the foot of someone's bed. The chest's lid was open and it was completely filled with soil. This is where the massive ivy was growing from. It was one of the strangest things they had ever seen. They believed the roots must have grown into the stone table and down through the stone foundation, deep into the earth for the ivy to be so massive.

“You think the roots grew all the way through this stone table?” Johnny asked, skeptically.

“That's the only thing that would explain it,” Jeff said.

Micah worked his hands through the thick vines and grasped the tool box firmly, “Come on, Steve. Help me try to move it.”

“Not me,” Steve said, shaking his head.

Johnny got his hands on the box opposite of Micah and together, after a lot of heaving, they managed to slide the box back and forth on the table a few times.

Jeff was incredulous, “So the entire root system of this massive ivy plant is completely encased within the chest? No way!”

They were all amazed. To make sure, Jeff also took hold of the tool box. The branching vines made the chest much too heavy to lift up but they managed to tip the chest enough to see that indeed, the bottom of the chest was intact.

“That is the craziest shit I've ever seen,” said Micah.

It was afternoon when they decided to start back to the vehicle. Since Steve didn't take the lead, Johnny followed the mountain which had been on their immediate right side the entire trip. Heading back the way they came, the mountain should have been on their left. Going under the heavy trees and over thick carpet of pine needles, he came to a steep drop off with jutting jagged stones. The trail was gone.

“What's the hold up?” Jeff wanted to know.

“The trail is gone,” Johnny said. He was busy studying their surroundings trying to see where he had made a mistake. Perhaps there was a second ridge line they had been traveling along but he couldn't see one. The town of Amonyah was nestled at the foot of the very mountain base they had followed on the way in.

“No it's not,” Jeff said, pointing to the steep decline, “This was the way we came in.”

“We didn't have a steep climb over jagged rocks to get here,” Micah told Jeff, “We followed a flat trail.”

“Exactly,” Johnny confirmed, “This isn't the trail we came in on.”

Jeff grew impatient, “We followed the mountain in. This has to be the way out.”

“It should be,” Johnny said, “But it's not. I can't explain it.”

“Well, I'm going this way and following the mountain out,” Jeff announced, “If you want to try and find another trail, be my guest, but I'm leaving.”

He started picking a trail over the jagged rocks and heading down toward the bottom. The rest of the boys reluctantly followed him.

After reaching the bottom of the steep decline, the pine trees remained very thick overhead, casting them into deep shade. None of them could remember this part of the trip on the way in either. Nonetheless, Jeff pressed on, keeping the mountainside on his left. After walking one hundred feet or so, they could see the stone chimneys in the distance, reaching for the sky like the thick white antennae of some gigantic dead insect.

They had arrived at the plaza of Amonyah.

“What the fuck is going on?” Jeff demanded, “How in the hell are we back here?”

“Maybe that's what killed the villagers,” Steve said ominously.

His friends stared at him apprehensively.

Steve continued, “Maybe they couldn't leave to get supplies or hunt for food and they starved to death.”

Jeff disagreed, “People back then always kept food reserves for lean months and winter time. They stored food in jars and dried out their meat. They wouldn't have starved within a few weeks. It would have taken them months to run out of food.”

“Yeah,” Johnny said, “They only missed their supply shipment for a few weeks.”

“Maybe time stops here,” Steve said, “Maybe it seemed like only a few weeks everywhere else but here, it was for much longer.”

“You're freaking me the hell out, bro,” Micah said.

Jeff told them, “Let's keep our heads and look at this logically.”

“Logic doesn't explain how we left the town only to arrive right back again,” Johnny pointed out.

“Let's try it again,” Jeff said, “We must have just got turned around.”

Try as they might, they kept arriving back at the plaza. They even split up, heading out in different directions all at once, only to arrive simultaneously back at the center of town. After a few failed attempts, they were all on the verge of panic.

“If time stops here,” Jeff asked Steve, “Does that mean outside this area, we may have gone missing for several days even though its only been a few hours to us?”

Steve shrugged, “I didn't have a logical explanation so I just started guessing at what might have happened back then. Don't look to me to explain things.”

“Oh man,” Micah lamented, “My girl is going to be so mad at me.”

The sunlight was fading from the tops of the tall pines. Each of the boys knew instinctively that spending the night in this accursed town was going to be hell. They elected to get out of the ivy choked town and set up camp under the boughs of the pines. They had to dig up nearly two feet of pine needles before they reached the dirt beneath.

“Can you believe this?” Johnny asked the group.

“What?” Micah wanted to know.

“Look at how deep the pine needles are. It would take forever to get then layered this deep,” Johnny said, miserably.

“So time really does stop here?” Micah asked him.

“Apparently so,” Jeff chimed in.

“We're fucked,” was all Micah could say.

They cleared a spot large enough for a fire, making sure none of the dried needles were close. The needles were dry and highly flammable. Starting a forest fire would be deadly enough but it would be certain death for them since they couldn't escape the area.

They got a campfire going and set up their tents on the thick carpet of needles. None of them joked much or even talked. They just huddled around the fire as though the flames were their only salvation as the sun disappeared and the night took over.

It wasn't long before they could hear phantom noises coming from the trees surrounding them. They could hear the hooves of horses, the squeal of wagon wheels and people talking. Worse yet, they heard the ghostly children again, playing among the shadows as if they were having the time of their lives.

As the noises grew louder around them, the boys huddled even closer together, terrified. Only Steve remained standing, watching the woods closely as if almost daring one of the specters to show themselves.

“This is the only way for you to escape,” Steve said suddenly.

The three boys looked at him curiously. Steve had been behaving strangely since the night before. He said very little all day while they explored the town and didn't seem very frightened by the haunting noises the phantoms were making around them.

“At night. It's the only way. You have to overcome your fear,” Steve said.

Johnny asked him, “You're talking as if you know what's going on.”

“I have no idea how this place became cursed,” Steve said, still looking out into the trees, “I have no idea what's making all this noise or if its dangerous or not. All I know is, if you leave now, you can get out of this town.”

Micah's voice was pinched with fear, “You're talking crazy, bro! Why do you keep saying you? You're not coming with us or something?”

Steve finally looked at his friends and smiled, “You bet you're ass I'm coming with you but we have to leave. Now.”

The boys put out the fire and began to break down their tents. The noises stirred, growing louder. It was as if the ones making the noises had suddenly become aware of them and were approaching their camp. Even the children stopped playing and were calling to each other, “Did you hear that?”

Another child asked aloud, “What is that over there?”

Yet a third said, “Let's go have a look.”

The boys were panicked as the trees around them came alive with movement. They saw flashes of white, fluttering white forms darting between the thick trunks of the pines.

“Oh my God! What the fuck are those things!” Micah yelled in terror.

“Leave the tents behind!” Steve commanded, “Let's go!” He took off toward the trail, the mountainside was clearly on their left.

As the boys hurried after him, the movement in the trees continued to close in. The fluttering white forms seemed to follow in pursuit. The forms always remained just out of sight, never giving any of the boys time to get a good look at whatever they were. The white ghostly figures were coming from every direction, even from ahead of them. They could hear phantom voices communicating back and forth, “There they go! What are they up to? Don't let them get away!” The voices were of young men, children, older men, young girls and old ladies. They were all speaking at the same time, all discussing the boys flight.

Johnny had never been so afraid in his life. His entire world was falling apart as the trees were a mass of movement, strange flashes of spirits seemingly behind every tree trunk. Regardless of how afraid the boys were of running into one of the phantoms, Steve led them on, calling to them, urging them forward.

Eventually the trail came into view and they ran full speed back to the collapsed bridge. The forms of dangling white were still in pursuit, moving from one tree to another, just out of sight. The boys could hear them calling to each other, women and men and kids all yelling the same things, “They're getting away! Stop them! How did they escape? Where are they going? After them!”

The phantom voices were crying out so loudly and from every direction, that the boys could barely hear one another. Once they reached the bridge, Steve yelled as loud as he could, “ Go up and around the bridge! Quickly! You'll be safe on the other side!” He was pointing to where the three boys had gone around earlier in the day to bypass the bridge. Steve didn't take the lead.

“What are you doing?” Johnny asked him.

“Why have you stopped, Steve?” Jeff wanted to know.

The voices seemed to grow even louder around them, all of them speaking and yelling at once so that it became a cacophony of noise. Instead of individual voices, the boys could now only heard a roar, an alien cry of anger blasting them with deafening volume.

“Go!” Steve yelled at them, pointing the way, “Don't stop! You can make it!”

“What about you?” Micah yelled.

“I never made it passed the bridge!” Steve told them.

Micah seemed ready to faint. Johnny was panicked, staring at Steve in horror. Jeff turned and started up the hill to get around the gorge. Did they just mishear their friend?

Jeff yelled back at Micah and Johnny, his eyes were wide with fear, “Come on!”

“Go!” Steve screamed at them.

Tearfully, Micah and Johnny followed Jeff through the brush, clambering over the smooth rocks, hurrying as quickly as they could to the other side of the gorge. Once they crossed the other side, the roar of the phantom voices died down then went away. They made their way down the rocks back to the trail on the other side of the collapsed bridge and could see Steve standing there as he was the day before. The moonlight illuminated the trail he was standing on, but now, in the darkness, they noticed an eerie white glow coming from Steve as he stood smiling at them.

Steve called over to them, “Tell my folks that I love them, will you?” His voice was sad and thick with emotion.

All three of the boys were crying. Only Jeff could speak. He promised Steve, “We will!”

“Let them know what happened here.”

“We promise, Steve.”

“I'm sorry about not telling you that I didn't make it,” Steve called over, “I just didn't want you guys going into that town without me!”

“Thanks for getting us out of there!” Jeff yelled. His voice was choked off. He began to bawl realizing that Steve had saved them despite being doomed himself, “What about you? What's going to happen to you?”

“I think I'm stuck here like the rest of them,” Steve said, forlornly.

The three boys took turns saying goodbye then watched as Steve turned and began walking away from them, back toward the trail, back toward the accursed town. Hopefully, Steve would only be trapped there until his body was recovered from the wreckage at the bottom of the gorge. The boys could only hope and pray that after a proper burial, their friend's soul would be released from the cursed Town of Amonyah.

 


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