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No part of this poetry should be reproduced in any form without written consent from the author, Joe DiMino, who retains all rights: contact firstname.lastname@example.org
"A Camper In Paradise "(Halloween Tale) by Joe DiMino
Camping has been a longtime passion of mine. I can't begin
to count the times when, directly from the brokerage, where I'm
employed, on a Friday evening I've hopped into my van-always kept
ready with camping equipment and some non-perishable food supplies-and
set out for one of my favorite' campgrounds, my intention to spend
a quiet weekend in close harmony with nature.
If one has ever worked and lived in a thriving metropolis, for any protracted length of time, one's passion for the outdoors, in particular, the solitude that such natural settings offer is quite easy to understand. Though large cites are mentally stimulating, culturally innovative and prosperous when stars align, the price one pays for the lack of solitude, and recuperative quiet, can be deadly to the mind as well as the body, the Immune System's negative response to stress.
Delighting the lungs, a rural environment is far less smelly. No exhaust seeping into one's bedroom at night. No police or fire sirens screaming through the streets to startle a soul from a pleasant dream-oh Mary! Had I known at 14 what I know now sadly, I was too much a child for your throbbing beauty. But I digress. Back on topic: Yet, to be fair, though the wild outdoors can be much more beneficial to health for the lack of irritating bustle, quiet can be just as disconcerting for the novice. If one is not accustomed to sleeping under the stars, with crickets chirping, the owl's eerie call-a host of other invisible nocturnal jostling one hears but never sees to identify as familiar-can be unsettling. However, most wild creatures really are quite timid. Except for the new mother-bear fearing for her cubs' safety; not to foolishly exclude the infrequent mountain lion with a hunger-ache in his belly, attracted to human scent. And one must not relegate the wolf, our darling best friend's canine ancestor, Riding Hood's nemesis as well an injured hikers worst nightmare, to the realm of the mildly incidental. All that having been said, most woods' critters are quite harmless on any chance encounter, when compared to a ravaging night in a multifaceted city. Along with the joyful theaters, and rapturous dance-halls, common human predators, praying savagely on the weak and unsuspecting also come out to stage their array of bloody scenarios. None-the-less, the cold wind of a shooting star's spirit-like passing can keep a Green-horn tossing and turning restlessly in his sleeping bag all the longer for the sensed, unnerving, fearful chatter of near clouds, causing the camper to imagine his self somehow fallen from Heaven's protecting favor.
As for myself, the nightly-buzz of a forest has become a serene lubricant for city-chafed eardrums. And that particular evening, as I drove across the George Washington Bridge, in route for the Jersey Alpine, I wanted especially to get as far away from the hectic New York Rat-race as was practical to do. With the Jersey Palisades just across the Hudson River, and with only a weekend excursion of allotted leisure, my course seemed predetermined. When the sun had fully set, I was already at a campsite, with my tent set up, dinner on the fire-beans and franks the traditionalist I am-and a lantern lit, alongside a good novel which I had been trying to get to for ages-"The Wilderness Murders."
However, as I settled down and began to read my thriller, with a chilling breeze seeping into the tent causing the kerosene lantern lamp to flicker appropriately, I had no way of knowing that the mental patient, escaped this past Tuesday from Pilgrim State Mental Hospital on Long Island, while eluding authorities undetected had made his way to the Jersey Alpine. And was thwarting capture by remaining within the limits of the dense park' preserve, the demented being meagerly subsisting on wild berries and roots.
Now the patient in question, was by no means a typically disturbed personality. To the contrary, the extraordinary circumstance leading up to his first being committed, some ten years prior were quite unique, and had been of great interest to the medical community at large. His bizarre, criminal behavior, grotesque carnage had been discussed at length in the medical journals as the very public trial unfolded; horrific details associated with the case all the more intriguing for their supernatural aspects.
Rodney Runninggrave, the name of the accused, had been employed for fifteen years as a Preserve Ranger for the County of Onondaga. He was well respected and liked by the entire community. And one need only imagine the shock of all concerned when following an unsolicited confession by Runninggrave forty human skeletons were dug from the soft earth surrounding the lone Ranger' Station where he worked and lived in isolation.
Thus started one of the most complex cases ever to transfix the entire nation, no less the rural community where the grizzly crimes had taken place.
Runninggrave, a full blooded American Indian, was born and raised on a local reservation. From his first encounter with school it was clear to educators that he possessed above average intelligence. He excelled throughout grade school, and upon completion of high school had earned himself a scholarship to Radcleft University. His tribe feeling certain that their beloved son was destined for great things in the world outside.
Runninggrave chose for his major, Political Law; and as expected, upon Completion of his first year at the university, he was top of his class. However, the following semester he began to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Naturally, his grades suffered, though his average still reflected remarkable potential.
Drunken brawls became common place. And after one particularly violent episode, Runninggrave seriously injuring a fellow student, he was arrested. Through the grace of God, the injured student quickly recovered-his Christian Nature speaking to his heart he petitioned the court to be merciful, while also begging the school to show leniency. Thus, the university prescribed only a leave of absence, Runninggrave told that he would be allowed to return if he sought medical help and adhered to the required therapy outlined by his physicians.
He returned home soon afterward largely due to the intervention of County' Advocacies, in particular, the court responding positively to the heartfelt appeals of the group that had first sponsored his scholarship. After extensive medical evaluation, it had been determined that he was suffering from Bipolar disorder, the consequence of a rare form of organic brain disease. Sadly, the progressive nature the infirmity would ultimately lead to his complete mental obliteration, an unavoidable consequence. However, with the pressure of school no longer upon him, medicated seeming successfully, Runninggrave soon regained equilibrium and once again appeared his more than rational self, no longer to be feared.
After a year he showed no indications of his ever having been ill, and the town determined to let the unfortunate part of the incident sink into the annals of bad and best forgotten history. Soon after, Runninggrave was offered a job with the forest preserve, as a ranger-a post which he accepted-and functioned so well at, that in several years he was once again a pillar of society-at least, so it appeared on the surface. However, the county soon experienced a series of mysterious disappearances exhibiting certain elements of Primitive Mysticism. It was the circumstances surrounding each bizarre case that aroused supernatural speculation. Take for instance the first disappearance, back in the fall of 1964. Two Albany business men were suspected to have fallen to foul-play, when reported missing by their families after they were late returning from a short excursion into the wilderness.
Authorities tracked them to the vicinity of the Onondaga Preserve. And after an extensive search, their camp was located; and it was apparent that the two men had left in an unprecedented hurry: Expensive camping equipment found scattered about the area of their camp. A full pot of dried, bug infested beans sat on the cold remains of a campfire, valuable personal items discovered in disheveled bed rolls.
More doubts for their safe recovery increased when not far from their camp, in a small clearing, two stakes were found standing upright in huge ant-mounds. More terrifying the fact, large pools of blood were apparent at the pylon bases, the length of the wood stakes themselves thoroughly saturated with the same precious substance.
After an extensive search, an investigation that lasted for several months, the two men remained missing; and as a consequence, their case went into the ominous file of The Unsolved. Now during the entire investigation, Runninggrave had been of great help to the local authorities, guiding them in and about the wilderness skillfully, for doing so, rewarded with praise. Add to that Runnnggrave's always exceedingly normal appearance, not to overlook an obvious lack of motive, rendered him above suspicion. Thus gave opportunity to a potential Serial Killer. A short time afterwards an entire troop of Boy Scouts vanished from the same section of wilderness. Again authorities were led to an abandoned but undisturbed campsite. At intervals in the near woods, pairs of trees were found stripped of branches and their bark till all that remained were strong yet highly flexible trunks. It appeared that the trunks had been tied together at the tops with rope, and then cut loose, tearing apart whoever had been bound between. Blood and body parts were splattered everywhere. Globs of human reticular hung from nearby trees; autumn ground-cover profusely speckled with blood, the gruesome signature of primitive but highly effective execution. However, again after extensive investigation, the authorities remained baffled, and once more the case went into the now growing file of unsolved murders. And so the mysteries mounted, for a total of fifteen years and 40 campers who were unaccounted for. Till one spring afternoon when Runninggrave walked into the Local Sheriff's Office.
The sheriff said that Runninggrave, looking unusually calm, as he stood in the doorway-with the sun behind him, an angelic glow about him as if a benevolent spirit and not the deranged maniac that he apparently was-proceeded to confess his guilt. later, seated calmly with the Sheriff's Secretary taking his statement, Runninggrave, with that same sereneness, began a broader narrative of his crimes, with special attention paid to the torturing of his victims. He informed the sheriff that the charred bones of the missing campers could be found shallowly buried in soft earth surrounding his Ranger station, having scattered their ashes to the wind for good fortune and protection against demons. Thus started one of the most sensational trials ever to be followed by the Press. Upon its completion, Runningdove was handed over to Pilgrim state hospital, to be confined in the ward for the Criminally Insane where he would live out the remainder of his twisted life. And on that April evening, as I settled back in my cozy sleeping bag, absorbed in my novel, safely wrapped, as I thought, in the arms of mother nature, how could I suspect that at that very moment a crude arrow fashioned from a tree branch, drawn back in a bow of similar construction, was aimed directly at my head.
As I said, I was reading a gruesome tale of horror, "The Wilderness Murders." To give a brief summary: The tale is about a demented killer stalking unsuspecting victim's though campgrounds of the semi-wild North Alaskan Highlands. And it just So happened, as I approached a part in the text where it states, "and he heard an ominous moving about in the near darkness, which reminded him of the slithering human reptiles who had sought his extinction in the jungles of Nam, I too began to sense a foreboding stirring emanating from bushes close on my left. "And out of the same confounding darkness," the tale went on, "he became aware of heavy breathing ." Myself damned certain that there was something out there, near to the touch-hyper-ventilating, salivating; its long black tongue moistening equally hideous lips-whose ice cold stare tightened upon my flesh, the vice-like grip of rabid teeth soon to be applied. With that last thought, I sprang to my feet in a fury of anticipation, just in time to hear a projectile wiz past and my ear and tear into my sleeping bag where my head had rested an eye blink before. The arrow was directly followed by a wild hoot; and then a disheveled creature bounding out of the bushes appearing more like a nightmare than a human. His clothes were tattered, hanging more off than on, and fluttered in his dash toward me giving the illusion of some spider-like apparition or mythical beast. As for his eyes-those horrible orbs of torment, those wretched windows of madness-they added to his tortured expression the manifestation of a screaming Banshee.
We struggled for quite a length, knocking over and kicking most everything in sight. The flaming lantern shattered upon a boulder, after just missing my face, having been heaved in my direction. The campfire dislodged by feet in the scuffle, spewed fiery logs and hot coals in all directions, the ground appearing as if a scene out of Dante's Infernal. At one point, when Runninggrave was about to dent my head with a huge rock, lying wasted on my back at his feet, to my bewilderment he froze in his motion. His head began to tilt oddly from side to side. It appeared as though he were listening to something. Perhaps listening to some strange voice or enchanted music coming from far off, a time and dimension that only he could communicate with. In the next instant, he threw the boulder to one side, to my relief, abruptly rose and dashed off into the woods.
Several hours afterwards he was apprehended by the authorities while doing-get this-a rain dance in a cave; and I was none for the worse, barring a few cuts and bruises. However, I must confess, one stigma has since remained with me.
On several occasions I've tried to finish that novel-in the safety and comfort of my apartment. But it seems when I approach the part in the story, "and he heard heavy breathing coming from somewhere in the near darkness, "
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