Some years ago, in a small town outside Salt Lake City, Utah, there lived a young man named Chance Young. He was like any typical boy in his neighborhood. He attended the local elementary school, went to church every Sunday, and participated in sports with his friends and family.
If chosen from a crowd of peers, there would be nothing about Chance, with his sandy blonde hair, hazel eyes, and freckled cheeks, that would stand out as different. He was ordinary in every way.
It was Autumn. The days had grown short, and by the time school had let out the sun had already begun its descent in the west beyond the Great Salt Lake. Chance had left with his friends and was making his two-mile trek home. They joked, played, and did all the things eight-year-old boys did while walking together.
As usual, they made their three o’clock stop at the drugstore on the corner of Main and State, purchased a bottle of soda and a candy bar, and continued on home. The boys, of whom there were four, went their own ways, eventually parting paths to their individual houses.
Chance’s trail home wasn’t far from where he and his friends had said goodbye to each other. He lazily strolled along the sidewalk alone, dragging his red backpack behind him and doing his best to take his time, prolonging the inevitable moment he would be forced to sit down and do homework. As was his custom, Chance made his way to the end of the street and crossed through a nearby field toward home.
This field, owned by Chance’s neighbors, was filled with large bales of alfalfa. A strong earthy scent of the recent harvest drifted on the cool frost touched wind, reminding all who tread there, of the rapidly approaching winter.
To this day, the exact events following the remainder of Chance’s journey home aren’t completely known. And though I have tried to piece together some semblance of a story, one which might make sense, I know I cannot.
It was well after sundown when the call came over my radio that a young man, whom I would later learn was Chance Young, had never arrived home from school. His parents were concerned, as he had never been late before, and it was out of character for the young man to go to a friend’s house, or elsewhere, without first notifying his family.
I answered the call, having been the closest to the Young residence, and immediately drove my cruiser to their location. Upon arriving, as expected, I found Mrs. Young in tears, and her husband doing his best to calm her. I followed protocol and asked the usual questions. Had they called his friend’s house? Had they called the school? Had they gone looking for him themselves? Was he likely to do something like this, or had something like this happened in the past? When the troubled couple answered, confirming that Chance was nothing more than a good boy, I followed up with the more serious questions, the kind parents rarely if ever wanted to hear. Had Chance been having trouble with bullies in school? Was there anyone who would want to hurt him? Had they seen anything, or had Chance mentioned seeing anything out of ordinary? Cars following him to and from school etc.
Of course, these questions upset Mrs. Young even more, and Mr. Young, while wearing the brave face of a father, was deeply troubled by the implications and answered no. I offered what comfort I could, and informed them that I would look into things. I did my best to let them know I would find their son and assure them that everything would be alright.
I asked for a recent picture of the boy and made my way back to my car. From there I called in the missing child and began searching for young Chance. Nothing troubles me more than cases involving children. I’ve seen my share of abuse cases, abandonment, and neglect. It pains me, even more, to see when parents who take care of their families, who love and nurture their children as they should be, are hurt by circumstances out of their control.
I drove the path from the Young house back to the school retracing Chance’s steps. I stopped and questioned his friends, spoke with the corner drugstore clerk and still came up with nothing. It was at this time I decided the situation was worse than I’d hoped for and called the station to apprise them.
For the next two weeks, we searched for the young man. Search parties were organized, and together with the police department, we combed the nearby woods, dragged the bottom of the nearby pond, and questioned suspects who might have had anything to do with Chance Young’s disappearance, all without so much as a shred of evidence or a clue leading to his whereabouts.
One night, following a long and tiring search of the local hiking trails, I received a mysterious phone call one which I will never forget. I was lying in bed, too tired to sleep, but too tired to move and had resigned myself to simply staring at the poorly plastered ceiling of my bedroom when the phone rang. At first, I had told myself to ignore it. I was too depressed to speak with anyone and too defeated by the direction this case had turned to optimistically answer without letting a “What the fuck do you want?” slip from my dry chapped lips.
Still, as I lie there, doing my best to drown out the monotonous sound of the repeated ringing, something nagged at me. Something deep in the back of my brain which told me to pick up the receiver. The harder I tried to ignore it, the more it nagged and the worse it became. Soon, the ringing had seemed to grow louder and the nagging was pulling at my skull so hard I had no choice but to pick up.
There was nothing. Silence.
“Hello? Who is this?” I asked, irritated and annoyed.
Still nothing. Then, after an endless pause of unsettling quiet, there came a whisper.
The voice was almost inaudible, soft and weak. Then the line went dead.
I can’t explain my actions, I can’t say why I did what I did, but looking back I’m glad I had done all that I had.
I whipped back the covers of my bed, pulled on my dirty uniform which still lay rumpled on the floor beside my dresser, and donned my belt and gun. In a matter of moments, I found myself driving up the road beyond Farmington Pond toward Patsy’s Mine.
The mine itself was well known to locals and had even been searched in the first few days of Chance’s disappearance. It had only been open for twenty years or so at the turn of the century and was run by a man named Patsy Morley, an Irish prize fighter who mistakenly thought the mountains were full of silver. Shortly after the mine’s closure Mr. Morley mysteriously vanished from town, presumed to have moved out west to California for better prospecting luck.
I myself had been to the mine many times, having found vagrants and juvenile delinquents causing trouble there on and off throughout the years. As my car pulled up the road to the bottom of the Flag Rock Trailhead which leads to the mine, a strange and sudden chill rolled down my spine. It was as though fingers made of ice had traced their way down my back, lightly touching my skin, causing goosebumps to rise up all over.
Cautiously I climbed from my vehicle and began the short hike up the trail. It was dark and difficult to see. The moon was hidden behind thick rolling clouds which threatened to let loose a storm of early winter at any moment. Even with my flashlight, I found it a challenge to climb the steep slope in the darkness, each exhale of cold steaming breath blocking my view.
Every step I took was a step closer to something dreadful. I knew, deep in my bones, that whatever I found at the end of this hike would be bad. I knew the way one does when you get a call about a loved who’s died. No one needs to tell you because the feeling somehow has already seeped into your soul. Your heart drops into your stomach, and your throat tightens.
Back and forth along the winding trail, I trekked, my mind racing. Who was on the other end of that call? Why were they whispering? What was I about to find?
After an eternity of walking, I found the entrance to the mine. It was nothing more than a dark narrow doorway cut into the side of the rocky mountainside. A black and gaping hole leading into the abyss. There were no lights, no items, no signs of life at all.
My breathing unsteady, my heart racing, I drew my pistol and slowly made my way into the cave. One unsure step after another. The entrance swallowed me whole like a massive stone maw eating me alive. The air inside the mine was cold and damp. The hair on my arms and neck stood on end, sending endless shivers down my spine.
A thought to call out for Chance crossed my mind, yet something, fear perhaps, prevented me from speaking. All that came out when I opened my mouth was a weak whimper, hoarse and dry.
As the tunnel wound around, moving further back into the mine, it began to open up, widening six, and then eight feet across. The ceiling remained low, forcing my six-foot frame to instinctively duck. The beam of my brilliant white flashlight bounced off the tan colored stone, reflecting flecks of malachite and azurite.
I knew the tunnel wasn’t long, no more than two hundred feet at most, but the further I went, the longer the tunnel seemed to grow. Then, as my light swept across the floor, I spotted something small and red. It was Chance’s backpack. And beside it on the floor, curled into a pitiful ball, dirty and starved was the boy. I rushed to him, holstering my gun and dropping my light.
He was breathing, if only barely. His skin was glacial and clammy. His face was gaunt and head to toe he was covered in dirt. With my voice croaking, I attempted to rouse him.
“Chance? Chance can you hear me?”
The boy stirred, but his sunken eyes remained shut. I knew he needed help. Placing one arm under his neck, and the other beneath his legs, I picked the boy up and climbed to my feet.
As I turned, my heart stopped, and my chest lurched as if all the air in the room had been let out. Though my flashlight remained on the floor where I had left it, and though it was facing the wrong direction, it cast enough light into the small space where I stood to see that something was in front of me.
It was taller than I and stood stooped over in a hunch below the low ceiling. It was thin, and skeletal, silhouetted in the darkness beyond my vision. Yet it was none of those things that caught my attention. It was the pair of gleaming reflective eyes staring straight at me. Those eyes that will forever be burned into my memory. They stared forward, blinking only once. The thing stood in my path, blocking the only exit. I knew I would have to get passed it, but how?
I took a step further before the thing clicked and growled, warning me, commanding me, to leave the child. The thing came closer, coming more into view. It had long slender limbs that ended in long bony hands and feet. At the ends of its fingers were dirty claws. I took a step back and the thing stopped.
Quickly weighing my options I made a decision. Unhurriedly I lowered Chance’s weak body to the floor. The thing took another step closer, clicking and almost purring in delight. I removed my hands from under the boy, and slowly drew them back. As my hand retreated back over my belt I quickly tightened a grip on my pistol and drew it.
In a matter of seconds, I raised the gun and fired three shots. The loud CRACK of the pistol echoed deafeningly off the close walls. The flash of the muzzle illuminated the creature for only a second, revealing vicious razor-like fangs and long forked tongue.
The thing screamed in pain letting loose a sound so unearthly it will never be forgotten. It dashed to the side, avoiding my aim, and opening the path before me. Still holding my gun in one hand I bent down and picked up the unconscious child in my arms before running.
I could hear the thing behind me, closing the distance as I blindly moved through the narrowing tunnel toward the exit. I could feel its hot breath on the back of my neck as I hurtled forward, pushing myself to go faster and faster.
I could see the light of moon breaking through the clouds as it filtered in from outside. I was almost there! Just a few more feet!
Then something struck me. A white hot pain shot up my back and shoulder. I fell. Chance’s limp body rolled along the ground in front of me. The thing roared over me. I rolled and fired my gun three more times. It screamed and writhed before slashing me again with its sharp claws. My shirt tore open and again came the searing pain. I fired again.
This time the creature moved back into the darkness out of sight. Without hesitation I scrambled to my feet, feeling a pain in my ankle as I moved. I scooped up Chance and moved toward the light. Without stopping I ran all the way out of the mine, down the trail and back to my cruiser.
As fast as I could, my foot flattened on the pedal, I drove back to the police station. All the while I looked into the rearview mirror behind me. Watching, waiting, praying not to see those evil reflective eyes in the darkness.
In time I would be praised as a hero for finding Chance Young. Of course, I never told anyone what I had seen, and thankfully no one asked for details beyond what I had given them. My explanation was simple. I had gone there on a hunch and was lucky enough to find him, weak and alone. As for my wounds, a tale of a mountain lion was enough to satisfy most. Explaining away how I had seen the large cat prowling near where I’d found the boy and fought it off. No one seemed to care too much about the truth, or simply couldn’t comprehend an alternative as frightening as the one I’d survived.
Chance claimed he was unable to remember exactly what happened. Most believed that the events of being lost had been pushed from his memory, protecting him from the trauma. There were times, however, when he and I would make eye contact, during press conferences, or school events there in town, when it seemed he knew more than he was saying. And every so often I would catch the boy looking over his shoulder, or going out of his way to avoid walking through dark places. A habit I too had unfortunately picked up.
As to what we had crossed in that mine, I’m sure I will never know. Whether or not it’s still there is a question I’m frightened to answer. Worse still, every now and again, I find myself stopping at night in the dark, searching for signs of those malicious, hungry, reflective eyes.
Written By Rick Bishop