The  Long  Blink
by
M.D.  Parker

 

The cloud reminded him of twirled cotton candy at the fair. It even had a straight tail to make the stick that would become coated in the sugary goo of a young child’s fingers. He inhaled deep and instantly he felt the sharp edge of pain. 

Blood had dried and soaked through again on Joel’s shirt. It had been a light tan color. He had snagged it from his closet without thinking about where he got it. The logo of his favorite show was faded. He had nearly forgotten she had gotten it for him; once, long ago. Maybe if he hadn’t been the way he was, she’d be sitting here with him now. Maybe if she hadn’t been the way she was, she would have wanted to say goodbye. 

He looked up in time to see the cotton candy cloud turn itself into something that resembled a mangled car. He felt the cool damp on his right hand. 

“Guess we should be honest in times like this ‘eh girl?” She licked his hand and looked up at him. “Yeah, we should. I was as bad for her as she was for me. Don’t matter though. I mean, well, not anymore, I guess… right?”

Her blue-gray eyes stared at him and he wondered if she was asking him for clarification, or giving him the eye of approval. Seven years. It would have been eight in less than two months. His longest relationship outside of his parents, he mused. Joel lifted his hand and stroked the line of white that broke the gray and black patches of fur along her back. He had always thought it looked like those Olympic ski jumps when she reached out her front paws stretched her back. 

Joel looked down at the mess that was his left side. 24-36 hours they say. No watch, no phone, nothing but a necklace around his neck, his pants, shirt, and Laskie with her leash. The sun was getting lower. It had been just before midday when the things got to him. 24-36 hours when it is passed on by bite or scratch. 

He felt tears welling up again and hugged Laskie closer, she made a cooing sound and rolled herself over demanding that Joel rub her belly instead. He complied and the tears held their place inside the well without overflowing. 

‘Laskie’ – what a silly name in hindsight. He had thought he was so clever when he came up with it (Lassie-as-a-husky), and she had lived up to the name; She followed him everywhere. Joel found himself only going to this bar-n-grill down the road from his apartment. They had this nice covered outdoor section that was dog friendly. Also in hindsight it was one of the reasons he annoyed her so much that she left. He never ventured into new places, and Laskie got more of his attention and care than she had. 

“Can’t change that now can I?”

Laskie responded with a soft yowling sound he’d come to associate with approval. Laskie’s approval was important. 

24-36 hours they say. When the blood becomes infected through a cut or bite, it takes a little longer. More direct transfer of infection is quicker. If their blood gets in your mouth or eyes; less than 12 hours that way. Happened a lot during the first couple of days. People thought the movies were finally coming true. Zombies they said. Except they weren’t, were they?

A distant explosion, loud enough to break his trailing thoughts, but far enough away to not be felt rattling the ground beneath him, echoed around. Every muscle in Laskie’s body tensed.

“Betcha that was the gas station.”

Laskie looked at him. Eye to eye he saw her twitch and her eyes turn away as they darted around.

“It’s okay girl. Doesn’t mean anything to us right now.” He rubbed her head and the muscles slowly eased up. she vocalized her concern followed by an approval of Joel’s method of calming her. She nuzzled his hand when he stopped. He wondered how blood shot his eyes were getting. 

“We should get somewhere.” He looked around, wondering what was next. The sun touched the western horizon. Seven or eight hours, he thought, still got time. 

He stood, the ache grew heavy and his head light. 

“Not far, girl, we should… jus…”

He swore his lips still moved but the sound stopped. His knees filled with jelly and lowered the rest of his body back to the earthen floor beneath him. Sound returned as his breath grew louder in his ears. Each inhale stabbed at his lowest rib a little more than the breath before. The pain rolled out in waves blanketing him as he exhaled. She licked his face. 

Tears had slipped from their ducts and Laskie was removing them, as gently as she could. Using the grass as leverage, Joel pulled himself back against the tree, and she curled around his right arm and leaned into him. His eyelids slammed shut not even allowing for a single bounce in his nodding off. Laskie, laid across his knees, drifted in and out as the sun surrendered to the moon. Her eyes snapping open with each sound or scent that was not his or the tree and grass they laid upon. 

Joel dreamed. His mind taking a surreal journey and twisting every moment into one where he found himself dying over and over again. Laskie whimpered each time he mumbled or cried out. She never moved, he didn’t wake.

The first ray of sun came through the trees to the left and Joel’s eyelids began a slow march that matched the pace of the sun as it cleared the hills in the east. His thoughts a fog of presents turned into explosions and dinners that turned bloody. 

“Still light out. I must’ve-” the fog parted as a certain synapses found a path through, letting him know the sun was on the opposite side from where it used to be. 

“Fuck!”

Laskie jumped up. A single bark and the line of white down her back became rigid as she landed in a sitting position watching Joel. He ran it through. 

“Ah, Jesus. Oh, fuck… fuck. That’s what another, maybe, like nine hours?” He looked at Laskie, her head unwavering as her eyes followed every moment of his mouth. 

“So, um… let’s see – eight hours. Right, we’ll say a full eight hours before, and nine more now. SHIT!” He slowly lifted the tattered shirt. The blood was no longer free flowing but the wound was open. The edges were swollen and red with yellow puss the consistency of gravy. Deep, dark lines radiated outward from the wound stretching across his entire torso like a road map of the Los Angeles freeway. The hole itself, the torn bite, was blackish red and reminded him of the time he found a rotten London Broil in his fridge after returning from a camping trip. He was rotting. The flesh in and around the wound was dying, or was it already dead he wondered?

No.

Not dead. They all said zombies, but they weren’t, he knew that. No one was actually rising from the dead; they were just going brain dead from the infection. Brain sections shut off like switches. Joel didn’t understand it all, but he knew enough. Seventeen hours or so in.

“By tonight, I … Ah, fuck, I don’t wanna go, girl…” he stroked her head as the tears chased each other down his cheeks. Cries turned to silent sobs and he no longer cared about the pain his left side used to conquer the rest of his body. 

His vision began to change; a pinkish-red tint colored one half the world. The left side, always the left. They couldn’t explain it and he had no ability to understand their phony excuses. The blood vessels in the left eye were bursting, coating his eye in red as the tiny vessels leaked their content across the wet optical globe. Soon it would bulge and then would go dark, but only on the left side. This was it, he thought, the final hours have come. 

“I don’t wanna… Oh God, I don’t want this to happen.”

She licked his hand before her head spun. Laskie’s legs went taut as she leaned into the barely audible growl. 

“Hello?”

A voice called from somewhere behind him. Joel tried to turn his head, but the sound was coming from his left, back where they had already been. Laskie stepped between him and the sound. 

“Easy boy… I’m not gonna hurt ya.”

“She. She’s a girl,” Joel said with a cough.

The owner of the voice stepped into view. A large man with a face as round as his belly. His black hair disheveled, and a patchy stubble that covered his face betrayed any argument he may have given to being able to grow a full, even beard. 

“I’m Enrique.” he started to hold out his hand and step forward but snapped it back as his eyes grew to saucers and expanded his round face. “Oh shit man. Did they get you? You okay?” 

Joel didn’t move as Enrique jumped back. A haze was creeping into the space between his ears. Not like this, he thought, please go away before it…

“… is too late.” He didn’t even realize the last words of his thought had been spoken aloud.

“Shit man, they got you? You’ve been bit?” Enrique asked as he pointed to the drying blood mess of a shirt covering Joel.

Laskie stood firm but the growl had ceased. Her eyes did not leave Enrique and she held position between the two men. Joel nodded, or at least hoped he nodded. He tried to move his arm, but nothing seemed to happen.

“How long ago?” Enrique asked his right hand held by his side as he took one more subtle step backward. 

“Not sure, not… much time… left.” Joel felt his breath getting shallow. 

“Your dog?”

“Yeah. Her name… is Laskie.”

Laskie’s head turned to Joel, and back to Enrique.

Enrique held out his palm, “It’s okay girl.”

Laskie turned again to look at Joel. He nodded, this time he could feel the muscles in his neck work. He tried to speak, to tell her it was okay, but no sound came from him. She gave a long blink, a look Joel knew from every time he told her to do something. She would give him the blink and then turned to do whatever had been requested. She swung her head around and stepped forward sniffing at Enrique’s splayed fingers. She leaned into him as he moved to stroke her head. She licked his hand and he smiled, accentuating the uneven stubble across his cheeks.

Laskie turned away and stepped back to Joel, laying beside him as he spoke again, “She says… you’re okay.”

“She’s a good girl, I see, guess I’ll take that. Better than what some people think o’ me anyways.”

The two men half-chuckled. Joel broke into a serious of coughs. The ribs stabbed sharp with pain. Tears leaked from his eyes again, and he was sure that he would die from the pain alone.

“If only,” he said, again not realizing he’d given voice to a thought.

“What’s that?”

Realizing he had spoken, Joel tried ‒ and failed ‒ for a deep breath. He looked the man in front of him over with his one remaining eye. He was younger, by a few years. A backpack was slung over his shoulders and a large knife was at his side, flopping from a belt that held his baggy chinos up. His shoes, which under normal circumstances cost nearly as much as Joel’s car, looked brand new; barely touched by the dirt of the world in which they walked. 

“Hey man, I, I… I don’t wanna be cruel man, but I ain’t gonna stay here. You’re

 sick and, well, ya know what I mean?”

“Yeah… I know,” Joel said. 

Enrique shifted the pack on his shoulders and offered his hand out to Joel. Laskie leaned in faster and licked his hand.

“Wait. Please… can you… do 

something? For me?” his eyes fixated on the knife at the man’s side.

“Oh shit, are you askin’… I um…”

“Yeah.” Joel could see he was no longer looking at him. His eyes cast downward towards Joel’s feet.

A long silence hung in the air. Laskie stood again and faced Joel. Enrique stepped in and knelt before him.

“What’s your name, bro?”

“Joel.”

“Joel, I… I am very sorry for what happened to ya. Shit man, ain’t no one deserve this shit.”

Joel coughed as he tried to nod. The half the world that was not tinted red swam in a darkening haze. Laskie licked his face. He lifted his hands to her head, rubbing her face. She licked as she whimpered.

“You… be a good… girl, okay?”

Laskie’s eyes blinked slowly.

“Now?”

“Now,” Joel said as his eyes half closed. His eyes were too dry for tears to flow. He had not seen Enrique slip the knife out and into his hand, but he felt the point as he reached him. His eyes closed and his hands wrapped around Enrique’s. Laskie began licking furiously as the larger man leaned into the blade. Both sets of hands guided the shimmering steel into his chest. Aiming for Joel’s heart, Enrique closed his eyes and turned his head. 

Joel’s last gasp was lost in the sound of the long howl Laskie released. Her head leaned back to the sky, and the ski-slope stripe down her arched back shivered as the blade’s hilt stopped when it made contact with the skin. 

Time changed as they sat unmoving. When Laskie’s howl came to an end, Enrique, with one hand still on the blade reached up and stroked the face before him. He closed Joel’s eyes the remainder of the way. 

Laskie licked Joel’s face clean. When she dropped to her haunches before him, the stains of tears and dirt had all been removed. She threw back her head again and released one more low, mournful howl. Enrique, with knife still in hand, stood. He felt the tears run down his face.

“Shit, man I’m so sorry… I hope you rest easy, bro.”

He stared at the lifeless body before him. He scrunched up his face and took a deep breath. He hadn’t noticed Laskie move until she started licking his empty hand. He looked down at her and rubbed her head. 

“I’m sorry girl. Laskie? Right?”

She sat down beside Enrique’s leg, looking at Joel. He pulled out a rag and a water bottle. He washed his hand and wiped his knife as clean as he could. After examining his hand ‒ no cuts or scrapes ‒  he slid his knife back in its sheath and looked down at the dog with the white stripe breaking up the even blotches of gray and black beside him.

He turned and began walking away. Turning his head back to the man under the tree, he looked at Laskie sitting there, watching him.

“Well, ya comin’ or what?”

She climbed in Joel’s lap bringing her face up to his. Her wet nose touched his. She stepped gingerly off his lap and turned towards Enrique. Her eyes closed and opened in a long blink.


Follow M.D. Parker on Twitter @MDParkerwrites      

 

 

The Silver State

Hamilton, Nevada 

 

The journey is just as amazing as the destination
Mule deer

Back in the second half of the 1800’s people were finding silver in all the nooks and crannies of Nevada, which caused mining towns to erupt from the desert landscape. People moved in from all over to stake their claims of the not-quite-gold riches that Nevada had to offer. In 1873 the federal government demonetized silver, creating the gold standard in the United States. After that all of those booming mining towns began to dry up and blow away. And that is how the state of Nevada now has more ghost towns than populated towns. 

One of those ghost towns is Hamilton, Nevada. In 1867 silver was discovered on Treasure Hill, which is an area located above what would become the town of Hamilton. Treasure Hill contained a lot of silver and a lot of caves. Treasure Hill became known as Cave City because most miners opted to live in the caves due to the lack of building materials in the area. Once the word got out about the lodes of silver that the cave dwellers were finding, then more people moved into the area and the need for an established town became evident. 

The Leaning Tower of Hamilton
They even had homes for short miners!
Hmmm. Tracking the big bad wolf.

The town of Hamilton quickly grew into a desert metropolis. By 1869 the population was over 20,000. Hamilton had banks, schools, a skate rink, dance halls, two newspapers, breweries, an opera house, a soda factory, and many churches to attend to ask for forgiveness for attending any one of the over 100 saloons within the city. 

Just uber a stagecoach to the Hamilton Wells Fargo bank.
Round…things.
Plenty of shade…tree.

By 1870 the silver mines were picked pretty clean, so some residents relocated to the nearby town of Ely. When the demonetization of silver happened in 1873, the population dwindled to just 4000. 

One of the remaining wooden buildings. Perfect for a handyman!
I believe this was the gynecologist office.

Later in 1873 a shop owner attempted to burn down his own shop to collect insurance money, but the fire took half of the town with it. Population shrunk to a mere 500. 10 years later the remaining residents had to vacate Hamilton as another fire claimed all the wooden buildings that were left. 

Saloons? Shops? Mortuaries?
Hamilton Cemetery
Is this rickety fence to keep visitors out or residents in? They don’t call ’em ghost towns for nothing, right?


Resting Place 

Pretty sure this isn’t an 1867 model.
People tracks. Yay.
Let’s go out to this wonderful historic place in the middle of nowhere and toss around some red solo cups because we are a-holes! Yeah! Let’s do it!

 

For More Information:

TravelNevada.com

Atlas Obscura 

 

Drift Creek Landing RV Park

We stayed at Drift Creek Landing RV Park near Waldport, Oregon in the spring of 2020. We were already a few months into the real 2020, which started sometime back in 1987 I think. I don’t know. Time doesn’t seem to flow correctly this year. It’s all timey wimey, but not fun at all. 

Wiggly-wobbly, timey-wimey

Anyway…we stayed there during May. It was more than reasonably priced at $450 for the month for full hookups. They don’t have any age restrictions on RV’s and since we drive a 1991 TropiCal,  we really do appreciate that. 

Views from the RV Park

There are a lot of long-term residents, but there are many short-term spots too. We stayed right on the banks of the Alsea River, with beautiful river views out our bedroom window. 

Alsea River

This is not an RV Resort by any standards, but it is great for those of us that like to spend as little as possible on space rent, so that we can spend more on local experiences, exploration, and restaurants. 

Rusty and Milo loved the RV park for the setting of their new album cover for ‘Good Boys are Bad Asses.’
Lily pads on the river bank
Duck, duck…duck!

When we find ourselves back on the central Oregon Coast area, we will definitely stay at Drift Creek Landing RV Park again. 


For more information 

Drift Creek Landing RV Park & Marina

3851 Alsea Hwy

Waldport, Oregon 97394

541-563-3610   

 

 

 

Winter is Coming to…Austin, Nevada?

 

The Nevada portion of U.S. Route 50 was named the Loneliest Highway in America by America by Life Magazine in 1986. While driving across the bare land of central Nevada we noticed that people must have embraced the name and celebrated by moving away. Ranches do come into view occasionally, but the majority of the population consists of birds, reptiles, and four legged mammals. 

I looked, and behold, a white horse!

On a steep hillside above Austin, Nevada is Stokes Castle. The castle was built in 1897 by Anson Stokes as a summer home for his affluential family. The Austin area was in a mining boom, and Stokes owned several mines in the area. When the construction was finished, his family stayed in the castle for only a  month before moving away. Stokes’ adult children did return later for a short time, until they discovered that high desert winters were not all sunshine and cacti. Stokes sold the castle in 1898, but it remained empty. 

In 1956 a cousin of Anson Stokes purchased the castle, but never took up residence. Although it is still privately owned, no one has lived there since the Stokes family in 1897.

The castle has three stories, built by locally mined granite that was lifted onto the hillside with a large hand winch, which still stands near the castle. 

All natural air conditioning, but the balconies do look a little unstable.
Sadly, not the fun catapult that I thought it was. Just a winch to move gargantuan granite slabs.

The first story held the kitchen and dining area, the second and third floors consisted of two bedrooms. Each floor had a fireplace, plate glass view windows, and the upper two stories each had their own balcony. Stokes lavishly decorated the interior of the castle, and the entire building was influenced by Roman Villas in Italy. 

Nice neighborhood, doors are always unlocked…
Inside the kitchen and dining area. Who doesn’t love a fixer-upper?
2nd floor, minus the floor
Needs some roof work.

Stokes castle is an impressive sight even now. The castle is the first thing you see as you enter Austin from Highway 305. It looms high on the hillside above the town like a medieval beacon leading you to the Vale of Arryn in Westeros. 

 

And as they fled the high desert the Stokes claimed….”Winter is coming.” 

Links to more information

Stokes Castle

Nearby Campgrounds:

Hickison Petroglyph Campground – 32 miles east of Austin, NV – This is where we stayed. You can stay up to 14 days for free. About 15 – 20 campsites, and trails to Native American Petroglyphs.

Bob Scott Campground – 15 miles east of Austin, NV

 

Camping inside the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge

Virgin Valley Campground is a free campground in the middle of Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northern Nevada. The campground is first come, first-served, and you can stay up to 14 days. There are about a dozen spaces to set up camp in, and most have a picnic table and a fire pit. Pets are welcome, and much to my delight, there is also a Little Free Library on site! 

Virgin Valley Campground. I was delighted to find that purity was not a requirement to camp. Sorry about the lack of a beautiful sky, but 2020 was being all 2020. 
The smoky skies are due to someone failing to rake their forests all along the west coast, and therefore turning California, Oregon and Washington into an inferno.

But the real gem here? The geothermal warm springs that have been piped into a pool in the campground. There is also an open bathhouse with hot showers. There are no hookups, but potable water is available. 

Not quite skin melting temperatures, but lovely anyway.

Virgin Valley is a great base camp for exploring some of the 900 square miles of wildlife habitat inside the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to a variety of birds, butterflies, snakes, lizards, rabbits, deer, wild horses, bighorn sheep and more.

Wild horses, Couldn’t drag me away, Wild, wild horses, Couldn’t drag me away – The Rolling Stones
Pronghorn

Make sure to bring all your supplies with you, because there is not a whole lot of shopping nearby. About 30 miles east of the campground is the small Denio Junction, which has a bar, and a small convenience store/gas pump/bar/motel. Winnemucca is the closest town with grocery stores, and it is about 130 miles away.

We got plenty familiar with the drive to Winnemucca and back, due to a broken motorhome door. Then we bought the wrong shit to fix the door. We had to make the drive three times over three days for various annoying reasons. After all that quality time trying not to get irritated and bite each others’ heads off, we finally managed to get Matilda’s door back in shape.

A neighbor dog completely appalled at the Mr.’s ability to make up swear word combinations on the fly while working on…anything.

After all the frickin’ door fun, we wanted to move down the road to find a new view out our newly fixed front door. We were looking for a little more seclusion and decided to try out off-grid camping along the Bog Hot Springs Road, which runs alongside the (aptly named) Bog Hot Springs. You can find Bog Hot Springs Road off of highway 140, about 10 miles west of Denio Junction.

Dry camping along the Bog

Being under-educated on Hot Spring etiquette, I was only slightly alarmed by the old man baring his wrinkly, pale ass right in front of me. And by “only slightly alarmed,” I mean VERY red-faced. Apparently, clothing is optional. It seems to be a popular theory that soaking in the 111℉ geothermal hot springs while naked is good for your body…and the hot springs. The claim is that soap and detergents in your clothes are bad for the springs and the natural algae that only grow in them. It was a pretty steady flow of people coming and going. Some just stayed for a few hours, and some camped along the hot springs like we were. It did seem that most of the people we came across were polite and friendly…at least I think so. I avoided eye contact and admired the horizon quite often. 

The hot springs…and the horizon
This pump is used to get water from the springs and spray the roads and brush nearby. A bit more helpful than the slacking forest raker.
Hippie Heaven

While we did not participate in the naked soaking, we did soak; shorts and tank tops are welcome too. The temperatures were in the 90’s during the day, so most soaking was early morning or in the evenings. It was relaxing…and, well…boggy. The floor of the hot springs is super thick, sandy mud that WILL squish between your toes (and probably other things).

Oh! Henlo! Crusty Rusty here! They tried to trick me into a bath, but I’m too stinkin’ smart for them.
Matilda enjoying the view of the horizon

When the time came to get back on the road, we headed down the familiar road to Winnemucca to restock Matilda, and wash all the mud from our clothes, dogs, car, motorhome, and selves. 

But our drive to Winnemucca was interrupted by a flat tire on our tow car because we are disaster magnets. We managed to get the tire fixed quickly and headed south toward Austin, Nevada and Stokes Castle. 

See you there in the next blog post!