“It’s over there.”
The old man sat in a chair, leaning back on the south wall of the local quick mart. It was a plain concrete block wall, not painted. The owner felt it wasn’t necessary in such a remote area. As the old man sat, dipping tobacco, he watched people as they walked by; some went to the fuel pumps, some went to the bathrooms around back, and some walked right passed the mart into the woods surrounding him. Two women had approached him, seeming confused and wondering what was happening. He figured they were there for the same reason as all the others he’d given directions. The women were dressed differently than all the others, he noticed. These women looked professional and even though they looked lost, they knew why they were there…just maybe not WHY they were there. He sensed a feeling as if they had been forced to go appear against their will and better judgment.
“Thanks. Has there been many to come here today?”, they asked.
“There are tons every day. I don’t understand it, and quite frankly, I don’t want to. I keep to myself and don’t worry about anybody else’s doings”, the old man replied, wiping sweat off his forehead. The temperature in the area had risen a few degrees within the past couple days, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
“Is this the only approach trail or is there a way to get to it from another direction?” One lady acted as the spokesperson as the other gazed around her at the other women who were walking passed them. “This is a pretty steady flow of people.”
The old man, putting his chair back flat on the floor, stood and walked to the end of the building. He could now see the line of women entering the woods, one after the other in single file. “From the looks of it, one would think this is the only way in. There’s a road not too far through them woods. This trail has been here for years. Used to, someone every now and then would walk down it. I used to walk on it when I wanted to get some fresh air. It goes back in there a ways. It was nice until a little while back. There was some disagreements in the town when the owner of the land decided to clear-cut the timber. It messed up the scenery and it destroyed the trail. No use for me to go back there anymore, but obviously there’s something these women want to see.”
“Well,” said the lady. “That’s what we’re here for. Our bosses have heard about this stream of women and they want to know what’s going on. People have complained about an unusual amount of people coming into the area. For this size place,” she said as she looked around, “you wouldn’t think people would be driving in from all around. Not saying it isn’t a nice place, but just doesn’t seem to be the vacation destination to me.” She gave a small smile that had no effect on the old man.
“If you need something else, just give me a hollar. I’ll see what I can do. There’s bathrooms around back and coffee inside. Seems like those are the two most important things here the past few days.” The old man turned, nodded his head, and walked inside.
The two ladies walked toward the trail head at the edge of the woods. There wasn’t much talk in the crowd, but for some reason, there were a few women in tears with others consoling them. They decided that the crowd was moving at a steady pace and they would probably avoid confrontation if they took their place at the end of the line. Looking around, they noticed some women had looks of discomfort or pain in their faces. When asked if everything was OK, the ladies only shook their heads and averted their eyes.
Ahead, in the distance, a clearing in the woods could be detected. The daylight was visible through the trees as they walked further down the trail. The trail had been going uphill for a short while before taking a downward slope and continued downward for the length of the trail in site. Sounds of crying, laughter, and loud talking filled the woods ahead. Whatever was in these woods and whatever their bosses wanted to know, the two women were completely unknowing. Hopefully, within a few minutes, they would have answers.
With only a few yards left before the clearing, one of the ladies, without warning, began to cry. Not hysterical, but a steady stream of tears were rolling down her face. Her coworker looked at her with bewilderment as she handed her a napkin. They laughed a little bit at the idea and took a few more steps. The temperature had increased as the day progressed, making the women hotter than the heat they were already feeling. Shirts were beginning to disappear and there were even a few who were a bit bold and were walking bare-chested. Thankfully, someone had brought along a box of tissues as more and more tears were being shed and everyone was drenched in sweat.
The woods opened and the smell of freshly cut trees and upturned roots filled the air. Not a tree was standing for at least a half mile. A wider road was entering the clearing from the opposite side. The entire clearing was in a gulley or depression with a small creek, barely flowing, at the lowest point. Whoever cleared this property, the two ladies shared, had no respect for environmental laws regarding clearing around streams or creeks. That was the least of their concerns as when they reached the clearing, they were stunned to see just how many people had gathered. A multitude of thousands of women were grouped together in what seemed an organized circle around a midpoint. Because of the crowd’s density, they could not see what had drawn everyone’s focus to that point.
“The trail leading to this place wasn’t so bad, but it’s going to take us forever to reach that point. We’re in for the long haul”, said the spokesperson to her coworker. “We might be here till tonight.”
…..to be continued