Steve shrugged and launched into the story. “Hezekiah Romer was a prospector that came to Sage City- or the loose collection of people that would become Sage City- during the Silver Boom here in the 1870s. A lot of folks came, and it was a rough town. In the fall of 1876, an early snowfall and subsequent avalanche blocked the township off from aid. The blizzards were relentless, and food got scarce. Some folks started to turn up dead and apparently…somewhat consumed by something or someone. Then more and more. Before long, there wasn’t many folks left. One was a local pastor that had come to town to save them from “greed and damnation.” Name of Horace Goodley. People started to suspect it was Goodley that was killing and eating folks. Legend has it, the town asked Hezekiah-” Eli laughed a dark laugh and looked at Steve, shaking his head. “–Okay, volunteered?” Eli looked back to the rubble, still shaking his head. While Eli had been showing his disapproval of this revisionist history, one of the “geologists” walked to the rubble. He then inspected it close enough to touch- which he did despite Eli’s warning- near the mineshaft opening. Sawyer caught this quick approach, but he was the only one. By the time Eli turned back to his vigil, the man was a reasonable distance away. And backing up.
“Anyway,” Steve continued, “Hezekiah acted as bait and got the pastor to chase him up the mountain to this mineshaft they had just opened before the snow started. We only have Hezekiah’s account, but apparently, there was a struggle, and Goodley was knocked into the open mineshaft. Then Hezekiah blew it shut with dynamite. Apparently, they felt guilty about outright killing him, so they decided to lock him in a cave and let him starve to death far enough outside of town they couldn’t hear his screams.”
Furr was shaking his head. “Human nature. It’s a funny thing. Of course, the irony that they killed the cannibal by starvation has a nice poetry to it. So, how did you happen to get this land where your ancestor proved himself such a hero, Mr. Romer?”
Eli clearly wouldn’t answer, so Steve did. “When Sage City was incorporated, the town charter decreed that as long as an heir of Hezekiah Romer lived and wanted it, this land was theirs for a homestead. Eli here is the fifth generation to call this land home. You could say it us his birthright.”
Sawyer noticed that Eli was looking at him, and in a flash of realization, he understood that Eli was the man in the dream he had just had. There were no snowdrifts, but it was the location, and Eli was the man.
Just then, a single snowflake landed on Ranger Steve’s shoulder. It was followed by a couple more friends, then a full-on snowfall.
Ranger Steve looked up at the white stuff coming in from the sky. Then he looked at his watch. “Yep, October 25th, right on time for the first snowfall. And by the looks of it, it’s going to be a big–”
An explosion from the mineshaft cut Ranger Steve off. In slow motion, Sawyer saw everyone around him seem to lift off the ground and fly away from the flames and advancing rubble flying through the air. He hit the ground about ten feet from where he was and slid into a pine tree trunk. As he lost consciousness, he saw the hole where the mineshaft and scratched stones had been.
He thought he saw eyes-green eyes- from inside the dark hole.
Then everything was just dark.