The story is told by Adam Hayes, who makes an extraordinary discovery outside of his home in the Fall of 1963. Through his journal, the reader will experience his chilling memories of the events, and how it changed his connection to the world around him. An adaptation of a story told by my father for years, Silo is an integration of fiction and non-fiction elements to a story that is haunting, adventurous, and nostalgic.—
The previous year I was listening to Kennedy on television
talking about putting men on the moon. I remember thinking
how fascinating it would be to discover something of that
magnitude, and how badly I wanted to be an astronaut
looking back at our tiny planet hundreds of thousands of
miles away. The thought of discovery alone was instilled in
me at a very young age, and continued throughout my adult life.
Looking back at the summer of 1963, life was going good for me. I lived on 6780 Outville Road on the outskirts of our small town. Our ranch house sat on a 20 acre plot of land, which sat behind a long driveway that was lined with tall oak trees and an old tire swing. My parents had me plus company of two with my younger brother and older sister. Greg was the jokester, and hadn’t discovered his love for alcohol yet. Jody was the oldest and had become an adult earlier than she would have liked, having had to put up with Greg and me while mom was at work. It was easy to say we were a normal American family, growing up in an ordinary American town.
It wasn’t until sometime after the fourth of July when I realized how extraordinary 6780 Outville Road really was.
Unlike most holidays, the fourth of July was a celebration “fit for kings” at the Hayes residence. My father embraced the celebration opposite of what was taught to him by his dad, who was once stationed in Orange County, California as a Green Beret in the marine corps.
He celebrated the holiday by peacefully remembering all his friends who had died while fighting in Germany. While my father did so to ignite his own ego, and give us kids a holiday memory that he never had. I could never tell which it was, really. He carried that legacy into our lives for years. Typically, the holidays were a tense rivalry between my father and my peace-loving, yet fierce mother.
On a holiday like Thanksgiving, mom would be baking the potatoes while dad stole a fork full of half-cooked ham from out of the oven with ninja-like precision. Meanwhile, Greg and I would be running around the house with our Red Ryder BB guns, hurdling over the Tonka Trucks, and throwing rocks at Jodi until she would make an coup attempt to catch one of us. This usually started a war that could only be settled by a makeshift treaty written in by a compromised in heavily contrasting parenting styles. Holidays were a stressful time my folks, but the fourth of July was an excuse for dad to show us kids how to blow shit up, and I was always up for that.
Sometime around noon, dad would be setting up the ensuing chaos for his celebratory display of gunpowder and beer. Prepping the area carefully to match his meticulous eye for detail. This involved setting up the chairs at a safe distance that was acceptable for mom to be assured us kids were safe. This was not an easy task, it involved hurdling several standards and endearing a strict cirque that focused on the safety of us kids, and not so much how much of the fireworks we could see. Among that, he would rake up all of the loose grass in the event of a rogue firework igniting his well manicured lawn. “It happened before, and it’ll happen again if you’re not careful!,” Mom would say, citing the events of Summer 1961 when he set the grass ablaze. To his benefit, he drank a lot heavier then, and was far less receptive to what my mom would say to him. Needless to say, she was far less enthusiastic for explosions than Greg and I were. Jody just agreed with whatever mom said, so it was typically a battle of the sexes.
Awol, our dog, would chase us around the house too, causing further mayhem that drove my mom insane. His barking surpassed the sound of the explosions and parental bickering every year. A beautiful dog though. A golden retriever that was large enough to carry Greg on his back while he shot his bb gun at makeshift paper targets in the back yard. A photo that still hangs above my dads colonial desk in the living room. His fur coat was a long, golden brown that to this day, has not been rivaled with any such beauty. However, of all the holidays he had celebrated with us in the last 7 years, the fourth of July was by far his least favorite, as he was a lot more vocal about his displeasure with the fireworks.
“Five years this August!” Mom would say, “and you still insist on leaving Awol out in the yard while you blow up the neighborhood!”
“He deserves to see this celebration too!,” He would insist.
Awol’s leash was fashioned together by an old climbing rope whose red and white stripes had frayed on each end from gnawing scraping it against the concrete block that used to be the base of an underground basketball pole. The rope was tied to the end of the fallen pole that hindered his roaming area to a small semi circle that bent and discolored, and bent the grass. It drove my dad insane, which begs the question why he insisted on keeping him there. The discolored, bent grass was a shit stain on the freshly pressed underpants that was dad’s lawn. Those were his exact words, not mine.
Just before the sun had gone down, the rest of the family gathered to the back yard. This included grandma, grandpa, uncle Dan, Uncle John, Aunt Shila and Kim. Even the cousins came, and they were even more of a handful than we were. Last year they were banished from the house for months after an incident involving a bullfrog and an M80 firecracker. Kim and John showed up with a look on their face as if they had been drained of all composure and happiness. The moment their car stopped in the driveway it was off to the races with Chris and Ryan, who fled the car with an energy that explained the look on my uncle’s face. It was off to the beer cooler for them. Chris and Ryan would now join us for our childish antics.
We had all gathered in the strategically placed chairs that surrounded the firework launchpad. Adults in the front row, kids in the back behind them, and Awol further back on the pole, yanking and hunkering down as if he were anticipating the hell he was about to endure. Dad gets in his last swig of well deserved beer, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth while he yells “we’re off!”. The first firework goes off without error; “a sight to see!” many would say. An explosion of red, white and blue covered the sky, followed by ooh and ahh’s, and the occasional loud shriek from Aunt Shila, only to be paired by an even louder howl by Awol, who is stomping in his domain, furiously wagging his tail as if it were a propeller on a B52 airplane.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The lawn was littered with empty beer bottles, paper plates and discarded hot dog buns. All eyes fixated on the night sky, which was thick with the colored scent of gun powder and cigarette smoke. This went on for nearly an hour, our ears deafened by thunderous crackling and barking.
“It is time for the finale!,” Dad yelled, as he lit the fuse for the finale with his half smoked KOOL brand cigarette. I was eager for the grand performance to unfold. People for miles could admire this display, sitting on the hoods of their trucks all down Outville Road. Entertainment for the whole town, we thought. The boom of the fireworks echoed throughout the 20 acre plot and our attention was fixated upon the dazzling display of multi-colored fire, forgetting completely about Awol who had been wildly barking the entire performance, growing louder during the finale.
The radio, playing the sound of “Surf City”, by Jan and Dean was providing further entertainment. Lips were singling along, eyes still fixated upon the finale. Meanwhile, Awol had began to tug himself away from his rope so furiously that his collar that had kept him to his yellow grass prison all night began to tear. The act was a desperate attempt to escape the colored explosions he had been subjected to all night. With one more bark and bull-like charge, he sprinted away from his prison, causing his collar to tear off, which set him in a full charge around the house, towards the front lawn, making a scene loud enough to catch my dad’s attention as he screamed:
Leaping over the beer cooler that acted as a makeshift footrest, he began to run after him. We all followed. By the time we all made it to the front of the house, Awol had already made it down the driveway, kicking up dust and dirt as he sprinted as far and fast as he could away from the booms from the backyard. I still imagine his tongue hanging out of his mouth, swinging side to side in typical dog fashion as his eyes were fixated East,towards freedom and far from the roar, and thunderous sound of the shrieks and fireworks.
His out of character, but understandable escape ended quickly as he met a speeding Ford Mustang in the middle of the road. With a loud thud, the polished, blue mustang struck him like a mallet on a softened potato during mom’s Thanksgiving dinner prep. What was once our family dog became a thick red mist of blood and fur, twirling like a Japanese Gymnast in the 1960 Olympics, whose art form rivaled the fireworks exploding over the roof of our house. The loud pitch of screeching tires with screams from my mother still haunt me. As my father ran to the road towards the scattered mess that is left of Awol, the mustang had already fled and was a quarter mile down the road at the railroad track. Accelerating faster, the engine’s exhaust echoed as it sped away.
The soft sound of surf city provided a track to be paired with the cries from my mother that orchestrated devilish symphony I will likely never forget.
Looking East, through what was now somewhat of a crime scene, out of my wet, tear strained eyes, I saw a soft, blueish glow in the distance.
I hadn’t visited Awol’s grave for several months after the accident.
We buried him in the back yard by the tire swing with a headstone made of
wood that read:
“Our Beloved Awol - Rest In Peace”.
The headstone had hand painted roses and petunias that bordered the stained cedar plank. My mom did it, she was good with a paintbrush back then. I didn’t like going because I couldn’t grasp the fact that what was in Awol’s grave wasn’t really Awol, but a version of him that had been mutilated into something completely unrecognizable. Something still very present in my mind. For months I was sad, as were my siblings, and father, who never bared responsibility for the death of our dog. The sorrow that followed in the months after we buried him only turned to anger. Both about the accident and the man behind the wheel of the mustang who just kept driving. A part of me wants to say seeing that horrific incident at my age changed me, or maybe it gave me an excuse to act out of anger in ways I previously didn’t have any reasoning for. One of the first times I acted out on that adolescent anger was at the bus stop during one of the first weeks of 8th grade.
Meet Joey Briggs - a six foot tall fifteen year old who had spent more than the required amount of years in the middle school. He lived in the side of town that we called Cadillac Row — or at least my dad did. This undesirable side of town attracted low income families that were made up of joint-housing and broken down cars that lined the lawns of the decrepit houses.
The kids who were picked up from Cadillac Row were the same ones getting into fights and picking on the kids smaller than them for reasons that were too dark to understand at my age. Briggs was no exception to this stereotype.
Briggs was finding his niche of new kids to pick on, as the new year seemed to entitle him to. Today he was picking on Sam Newman - a kid in my class that I had once called my friend. In fifth grade camp we were partnered for making candles, and creating other arts and crafts together, and bonded on things like The Carson Show and Lucy Lou’s cleavage. Although we didn’t spend time together outside of school, watching him get tormented and pushed around by the bully from Cadillac Row was enough to set me off — even without the help of my Greg, who was skipping the day for a “toothache”, if I remember correctly.
Newman was a little smaller than me, and wore his pants tall that some might say were a great option during a flood. His curly, red, and disheveled hair was a juxtaposition with his thin, round frames that looked to be hand-me-downs from someone with a much larger head than his own. An easy target, to say the least.
A push turned to a shove and before you know it Newman’s books were scattered across the gravel and Briggs cackled his terrible laugh, exposing his rotten teeth that appeared iridescent from my much lower angle.
With a slight hesitation in my voice, I yelled: “Why don’t you leave him alone, asshole!” The hesitation was subtle enough for the veteran bully to pick up on.
“What?,” he said in a tone that consisted of surprise and hilarity “Which one of you losers said that?,” he continued.
“I did. I said Leave him alone!,” this time attempting to do so with more authority in my voice.
Typically on Friday there were a lot less of us kids waiting for the bus in the morning. Today there were about fifteen.
Despite the larger than usual crowd for this particular Friday morning, nobody defended me when Briggs stepped closer and relieved his surprised frustration with a balled up fist that he aimed directly at my nose. Luckily, my average frame and used-to arm motions deflected the would-be knockout blow and softened the landing to a place that settled beneath my left eye, causing me to fall down backwards.
“What are you going to do now, shit head?,” he yelled.
I was not effected by his punch as much as Sam would have been, as I was used to taking blows from my Greg and Jody. It was because of this that I couldn’t help but pick up on the unusual scent that he was wearing. The denim that cuffed around his worn Chuck Taylor’s was ripped and covered in dirt, presumably from lack of proper washing techniques that I would have otherwise not been able to see so clearly had I not been knocked on my ass. Cat urine.
Before he could get on top of me and begin his whaling, there was a sharp whistle that came from across the street.
There stood a brittle old man walking towards us, wagging his finger through his Friday morning casuals that looked to have been made a long time ago. The tan outfit almost looked as if was something a prisoner would be forced to wear.
“Is that Old Man Fischer?,” one of the kids whispered, with a tone that suggested he was seeing something out of a science fiction movie.
Let me explain. There wasn’t much to do in our town, especially not on the outskirts where there were cornfields and tractors that occupied most of the roads and land. Because of this, our imagination as a bunch of kids enabled us to take our boredom and use it to our benefit, typically at the expense of others. In this particular instance, it was the Fischer property. It was an old house that sat just across the road from our ranch that nearly cast a shadow due to its towering presence. The house was very old, and had only been seen occupied by the occasional visit by a much younger lady who always carried in a gift wrapped box. Us kids thought there was some kind of machine who lived there, perhaps a robot who was fed every month or so by the mysterious visitor in the Ford. It’s driveway was narrow, with a mailbox that had fading letters that read “Fischer”.
The overgrown gravel drive was surrounded by evergreen trees large enough that hid most of the left side of the old colonial house. The grass was tall and spotty, and the windows hardly ever showed light, due to the burly bushes that have been curiously watched by the older kids who mowed lawns during the summer. Their ads could been seen balled up and thrown into the patchy grass every year, only being moved out of place by passing winds. Whoever was living there, we thought, had to be someone, or something that didn’t care to be seen by any outsiders.
My parents once tried to deflate our imaginary tall tales by telling us kids it was a man and his dog that lived there, a man who kept to himself. Maybe mom and dad were in on it, we thought. Maybe. That would always be Greg’s imagination that went too far and made us snap back into reality. Even for just a moment.
It was a tall-tale for years, and was told well though enough to come as a shock to all fifteen of us who were at the bus stop that morning to see a human, not machine or robot, emerge from the house.
The attention that was drawn from the man emerging from the Fischer driveway was enough for me to push Briggs off me and square up to deflect any further attack by the much bigger foe. To my saving grace, the bus arrive just as the man had stopped what would have been a very bad morning for me. Although I did not get into any further altercation with Joey that morning, what came in the afternoon was arguably worse than any kind of physical beating.
Back then, my mother was somewhat of a peace loving warrior, who did not take too kindly to violence or cursing. Which made what happened that morning at the bus stop something that was completely unacceptable for her to hear. How she heard, I don’t know, but I got an earful when I got home. Explaining to her that I was simply sticking up for a smaller kid who was being bullied was water under the bridge, and did not help the sentencing from being handed down to me.
Grounded for a week!
Storming out of the house, I grabbed a flashlight, and yelled “I’m not coming back!”An empty threat, but a threat nonetheless. I heard Greg use it before and I thought “what the hell, I’ll give it a try.” That’s when I ran out the back door and stopped by Awol’s grave as I headed into the woods, towards the opening that lined our back yard.
Angry, frustrated, and a bit sad for storming out on my mother like that, I walked far enough into the deep, dark woods to vanish from the presumable eyes that were watching me from the kitchen window. We had a lot of land behind our house that ventured into the foliage. Nearly 100 yards in we had an old fire pit that dad carved out, and was bordered with rocks that he claimed were a part of an old Native American burial ground (so he said). Tall tale or non-fiction we didn’t know, but it made for good campfire stories. Greg and I built a fort out of old wood palates and sticks just beyond the creek on the other side of the woods, but I had no intention of going that far. I just wanted to give my mom a rise for yelling at me. Maybe I’ll just sit by the fire pit, I thought.
I sat by the fire pit for about an hour and threw rocks at the trees and old pop cans that laid in the brush from dad showing us boys how to shoot the .22 rifle. During the summer on my dad’s days off we would have competitions between Greg and I on who could be more accurate with our shots. The winner would be allowed to stay up and watch late night Carson with dad while the other went to bed early, in the dark, on the bottom bunk.
I had a better shot than Greg, which usually erupted a tantrum from the younger brother that appealed to my dads softer side. No matter the winner, a dad’s day off meant we’d all three be up watching the Carson show as we fell asleep on couches. The thought of that made me smile, and I began to sit back and doze off as I reseted my head on a stack of drying firewood.
When I woke it was much darker, and to my surprised there was no
search party looking for me. I think I was getting to the age where my dad
thought I should not be babied, and begin to fend for myself. I dusted off
my jeans and began to walk East. Remembering the glow in the Fischer
property after Awol’s accident, my eager, adolescent mind still had enough
adrenaline to explore.
Crossing the road about a half mile down from my driveway allowed me to get to the Fischer property undetected by my mom or any siblings eyes. I cut through the cornfield that surrounded the thick wooded area that was the Fischer property and headed towards the woods. It was getting dark and a bit chilly. Turning on my flashlight, I cleared cobwebs that hung between several rows of corn. I made my way towards the woods and brushed the goosebumps from my arms. What emerged from the edge of the field was a dirt path and overgrown brush that appeared to be absent of any footprints. Clearing the briar brushes and smacking the side of the flashlight that had started to flicker, I began down the path and made my way towards the Fischer property.
The air was thin and cold. I always hated to hear complaints of the autumn chill at night, and only started to call 60 degrees cold after I became a liberal adult and moved into the city. The property smelled of drying leaves, my favorite thing about autumn. As I made my way down the path with my walking-stick that my dad once taught me how to make, I noticed something ahead in the distance. There was something just beyond the trees.
What appeared to be a man wearing a long jacket stood before a tall, dark object that towered in the night sky. As I moved closer, he turned, looked in my direction and extended his hand towards mine as I moved closer. The dusty-looking, black material he was wearing glistened in the moonlight that seemed to only illuminate him and the trail behind him that led to the dark object. A long trench coat and a top hat — the man who emerged from the Fischer house during my altercation with Briggs?
Could it be?
I continued, towards the opening. “I’ve been expecting you,” said the man. The voice spoke with a sense of suspicion and curiosity that sent shivers down my spine.
“I’m the architect,” he continued, “I live across the street from you and your family. Real name is Nigel Fischer.”
“Old ma—,” I stopped, then continued with a simple “Nice to meet you.. sir.” I felt this would be a more appropriate greeting.
Extending my hand to his own, I felt a certain warmth within his when his hand touched mine. Such a contrast with the chill breeze that liberated the leaves from the ground beneath us.
“I’m Adam,” I said. “What is this place?”
He smiled. “That is a grand question that is my boy.”
Standing in the middle of the night in the September cold, being where I am most certainly not supposed to be, my patients and suspicion quickly grew into anger and uneasiness with this remark.
Before I could express my uneasiness and displeasure with his response, he spoke again, this time softer than before. An attempt to keep his words between us. But who is he keeping them from? These questions hinged at my curiosity and frustration.
“The better question is, what are they?” he said.
He began to walk towards the object, which I now can see was the silo I saw months earlier after the incident with Awol. He gestured his hand behind him in a ‘this way’ motion, and I followed.
Down the cool path of scattered leaves, as we grew closer, the wind began to howl, and caused the leaves to pick up around us, which formed circles around my feet before they fell back down and into the surrounding brush that lined the dirt path. His coat tails swirled forward and moved us as towards the clearing ahead, like two magnets being pulled together. Beyond the trees, outward from the narrow path, there was an opening. Dense with low fog and tall, weathered trees, my view was partially obstructed. The towering silo became more visible as I moved towards the center of the clearing.
The ground grew colder and I could feel myself begin to shake, but it did not feel like the sensation was coming from the weather, or from fear — but something else. I was terrified.
“Sir I have to—” I attempted to say.
“Isn’t it something?,” he interrupted. “It only seems to work at night.”
“In fact, it only works when the moon looks like that,” he said.
His bony finger, slightly shaking, pointed towards the full moon, that now illuminated his entire face, which looked remarkably youthful, and possibly younger than I had previously thought. He looked nothing like us kids at the bus stop had imagined. He seemed more interested in the silo than he was at destroying the world with the red machines that littered his back yard, too.
We stopped walking, and the man who called himself the architect came closer to me, as he could begin to see the fear in my eyes, as my body trembled.
“It is very much okay, boy.” he said.
“You are safe here, and it is okay to be afraid,” he continued.
“In fact, I wasn’t much older than you when I first discovered this silo.”
As we approached, the wind settled, and he waved me forward, his coat tails seemingly being pulled towards the silo again, by some sort of force within the walls of the silo. He scaled his hands along the shiny walls and walked around to what looked like an opening.
I followed, and extended my left hand to touch the walls. Although I perceived it to be a structure, and knew it had many physical elements that allow me to be believe it was only a silo, something its presence felt more of a sacred place. Its cold, hard walls grew vines that ran perpendicular to the ground below my feet, towering to the top of the south side of the silo. This was not a structure used to store grain, but something much more.
As I made my way to the south side of the silo where Nigel stood, his fingers ran over a carving in the wall that read ‘Nullius in Verba’. I didn’t have a clue what this meant, and was becoming more frightened by the questions in my head rather than the actual events happening in front of me. Nigel’s face hadn’t changed since he last smiled when I asked about the silo, but as he looked down below the words Nullis in Verba, another carving read “Mary”.
His face saddened, and he spoke again. “It wasn’t until twenty years ago that I began to understand its power.” he continued, and told me a story I wasn’t prepared to hear.
Walking back home I took a more direct path. It was late and the moon had already been covered up by the low hanging clouds that mocked the sense of direction I had requested from it’s brightness. I hadn’t thought about the repercussions of by disappearance until I got to the front of my driveway and noticed my dads truck in the driveway, parked in front of the garage. He was home from work, and if he was awake I was going to get a mouthful or even a belt because my mom was likely a nervous wreck. I walked through the back door which connected to the kitchen in hopes that it wouldn’t attract any attention to my dad who was in the living room. I could see the back of his head resting on the couch from peeking through the living room window. Tip towing through the back door and closing the door ever so slightly the damn hinges he promised my mom he’d fix let out a loud squeak that I’m sure he would hear.
I walked through he kitchen and noticed that there was a plate set on the kitchen table that had a note that read “Adam”. It was written in Jody’s handwriting but I knew it was from my mom’s kind, worried heart that she left it out for me. One of my favorite meals growing up was something my mom called “Chicken of the Gods”. Of the gods it was definitely suited for. A crumbled, pan fried chicken breast with Alfredo sauce topped with bacon crumbles is what sat on the plate that was positioned in front of the chair I frequently sat during dinner. I’ll eat it later, I thought. That’s when I noticed the clock. 10:30PM. On a school night this was definitely within reason of being grounded. Not only had I ran away, but now I was out past curfew after an argument with my mom.
Continuing my tip toeing through the kitchen I removed my shoes, one at a time as I slithered against the wall that was parallel to the living room that my dad inhabited just 10 feet away. Inching closer to the doorway I moved my head just far enough out that I could see into the living room where my dad sat. One shoe off, and the other just untied with it propped up on the coffee table. A cigarette butt - still smoking from recently being ashed sat in the glass ash tray that my mother kept outside for smoking. He must’ve recently fell asleep. Maybe he had no idea I was even gone. That’s what I had hoped. If he didn’t know, maybe my mom would keep it between us, forgive me, and never tell my dad. That would save me being grounded the rest of October and allow me to continue my half secluded social live with my friends and Greg.
Down the hallway I continued, shoes in one hand and my flashlight in the other. It had ran out of batteries just as I made my way around the back of the house just moments ago. I was thankful it lasted me that far. After the story I had just heard I needed to make it back to the house - and fast. Greg was fast asleep and was turned facing the wall on his lower bunk. This was a good thing, because he was going to give me close to the same hell my mom would’ve due to my disappearance all night. Leaving him alone at the dinner table with my mom and Jody to talk about god knows what girls talk about would be maddening. It’s happened to me before and I always delivered a brotherly jab to Greg’s arm when he has plans on the weekends and I don’t. It was not a brotherly like thing to do, leaving a kid alone like that. I moved my way up the ladder I had at the end of my bed to get to the top bunk where I could finally get to rest. It was just when my head hit the pillow that I began to feel uneasy about what Mr. Fischer had told me just minutes ago. The fear crept from my toes to the center of my chest. I grabbed the end of my sheets and pulled them towards me as I turned turned to face the edge of my bed. That is whereI saw two eyes beaming back at me with a lifeless stare, a face illumined by the skittish moonlight from the window behind me. The eyes widened and what came forward was a shocking punch to the arm from Greg who whispered in an angrily fashion “where the hell did you go all night?!”. I nearly wet the bed for the first time in my life.
That night Greg and I sat under our makeshift blanket fort illuminated by extra batteries we found underneath his mattress. To answer his question of where I was, I hesitated, and could only muster: “I’ve got a story to tell you.”
“Well it better be good because I had to listen to Jody talk about Ian Reedman all night and his dreamy British teeth.”, Greg said.
“I’m not sure if I should even tell you, this is no tall-tale shit.”, I said.
“Oh, come on!”, Greg whimpered, attempting to throw another jab in the direction of my left arm.
“You remember old man Fischer?”, I said. “Yeah? That nazi who turns bodies into slime with those rusted red machines in his back yard.”, he laughed. “Not even close.”, I said. “I just met him.”
I recited the story Nigel told me.
Years before the beginning of the second World War, Nigel’s father, Simon was a 20-something Jewish boy that stemmed from a poor, now deceased family in central Germany. Throughout his teens he worked in shoe cleaning shops just South of Berlin in a neighborhood called Tempelhof, saving each bit of money he earned.
This allowed him to flee Germany as tensions rose during the rise of the Third Reich. He became a refugee in the United States, settling in a community called Dover. With pennies on the dollar, he moved just above the barber shop in the center of town, working as a clean-up, household handyman. That is where he met Nigel’s mother, who was the daughter of one of the frequent customers in the shop who was impressed by Simon’s character. After being introduced, Simon and Claire would begin dating, soon marry, and move into the property her father left her in his will. This home happened to be the same home that now sat across the street from my own many years later. The Fischer property.
Soon after marriage, Claire would become pregnant with her first child named Mary, a sister Nigel would never meet, and a daughter Simon would never hold. Being drafted into the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, he would be held to fight in he same land he fled some ten years earlier, missing the birth, and death of his daughter. Years had passed in the war, letter after letter sent and received between Claire and Simon, as their love was pieced together through scraps of paper and polaroids that his mother hung throughout their colonial home. When Simon’s letters were delayed, even days, Claire would worry, and fear the worst; showing her panicky personality through nail biting and pacing to and from the mailbox that she painted the family name on.
It was when his letter did arrive that sculpted the scene for the death of her daughter, who was now four years old and playing with her dollhouse in here room when the mail man arrived. Leaping out the door, shrieking towards the mailbox that presented her with a letter stamped with ‘U.S. ARMY’, “ to my dearest, Claire, she fell and wept, Mary looking through the window at there mother, left her toys to comfort her mother, now kneeling in the front yard reading her husband’s letter. As she ran towards the staircase, her untied shoe that she had asked her mother to use as a bowtie in her hair slipped under her foot, causing her to fall forward into the open stairway, and fall to her death at the foot of the stairs.
That’s when the light came on in our room and my dad entered with a “What in the hell are you two doing up?”.
“Get to bed!,” he said. A tone that suggested he wasn’t aware I wasn’t here for dinner.
“Yes sir.”, Greg said, sheepishly.
After a quick head nod and “good” from my dad. The door was shut, and I continued the story to Greg, who looked at me as if I were in Village of the Damned.
“She was buried on the far right side of their property, under what would eventually be a Silo that Simon resurrected in the years after returning from war.”
“You’re full of it!”, Greg shouted. “SHH!, you’re going to wake up dad, idiot.”, I gave him a quit jab to the arm.
Rubbing the pain off of his arm he continued, “If she was buried over there, why would that old guy’s dad put a grain bin on top of it? They don’t even have a farm.”
The thing is, only Nigel’s mom, Claire knew she was there, because that is where she buried her. She told Simon she was cremated and held her in an urn that rested above their fireplace for years. Nigel himself only knew after his own mom’s passing and reading through her journal.
“Nigel?” Greg asked. “Old man Fisher!”, I explained, tapping the flashlight to keep it lighting up the fort we had assembled.
“So why is this crazy old guy standing out there at night, and why the heck did you go over there?”
“Remember the night Awol was hit?”
“No, I don’t remember my dog dying.”, Greg learned how to be great at sarcasm at an earlier age than I did.
“Shut up,” “That’s the first time I saw the silo. At least part of it.”
“There was some kind of light over there, and now I’m guessing it was coming from Nigel’s lantern” I could see the curiosity and interest forming in Greg’s eyes.
The door opened. It was our dad.
“I thought I told you two to get to bed half an hour ago!”, this time not being as laid back as he was before.
He turned on the light, and asked why my plate was still on the kitchen table.
“I, I, I wasn’t feeling well.”, I said hesitantly. Dad was good at picking up on lies, but not this time. “Well get out there and clean it up.”, He said.
I did as told, as did Greg, who was in bed before I got back to our room. Climbing squeaky wood ladder that brought me to the top bunk of our bed I finally laid down to get to
sleep. Before I did, a whisper from Greg came from under the bed and said “I want to see it.”
I knew I was going to go back, but I didn’t want to go alone.
“Get up and get ready for school!” mom directed her voice into our room the next morning.
I wasn’t grounded, and she wasn’t mad at me. It was a truce of no words, as I think we both realized we overreacted. The plate had my cold, unfinished dinner the night before was now holding steaming waffles with two sunny side up eggs. If it were my dad that I was in an argument with, and ran out of the house, it was sure to have had a few lashing of a belt across my back. It wasn’t absuive, things were just a different growing up.
Greg was at the other end of the table that morning, giving me a look of curiosity and excitement, as if he wanted to spill the beans of what I had told him last night. I knew if this happened, if my parents caught wind of our plans to explore this silo, and trespass into someone else’s property, it would be a much more difficult task, as they would be more vigilant of what we were doing, and maybe even ground the both of us for conspiring to break their rules, and the law.
“Mom guess what Ad— ‘WHACK’ I gave him a kick to the shin hard enough to spit the words right out of his mouth, and a bit of his egg.
“ADAM!” knock it off, my dad said, peering through the top of his newspaper as he took a sip of his black coffee. His coffee mug read “World’s Best Dad” and was a gift from Greg and I last fathers day, which was a compliment from the previous years’s tie and wrench set.
He quieted immediately, without any further questioning from my mom or dad for what he was originally wanting to say. This wasn’t uncommon, and it wasn’t a surprise my parents didn’t ask for any reassurance, as they were either just too tired, or figured something a 5th grader was going to say at seven in the morning couldn’t be that important.
The bus stop was quiet, and was without the presence of Briggs, who was presumably suspended for initiating a fight with Sam and me the day before.. Something we were all happy about, as it was hot out, and the bus smelled a lot better without him on it.
The Grove Middle School, covered in vines and partially obstructed by poorly trimmed bushes was on the cement pillar as the bus pulled into the gates where my school sat behind. Our school was built in the mid 1800’s and used to be a high school, and although it was way too much space for the amount of kids there were, it wasn’t kept in the best of conditions, and the third floor had become something of an urban legend. There were rumors of it being haunted, and even a few that suggested there were still charred bodies on the floor from the fire that almost brought down the building near the turn of the century.
My friend Rob once told me the third floor is where the janitors lived and at night they turned to wolves and pissed all over the teachers desks, explaining the ammonia scent that was overwhelming at the beginning of each school year.
At lunch I enlisted my co-conspirators for traveling into the Fischer property. None of my friends lived remotely close enough to me to sneak over at night, because I was on the outskirts of town and they all lived closer to central where there are neighborhoods full of ticky-tack houses and evenly cut lawns.
First, there was Rob Henderson. He lived about a mile away from me and had been my good friend since elementary school. He was a good choice because he could easily sneak out of his parents house because it was just him and his dad, who worked late as a conductor on the train station a few towns over. His mom had passed from some kind of cancer a few years ago and I always suspected it gave him the hard exterior he put on at school. Assembling this team was done carefully, and in a way that didn’t give away too much information about the eventual trespassing and possible spiritual encounters we were to experience.
Sitting next to Rob at the table was David Kelly, or DK, as most of us called him. He was the athletic one of the group, and a lot taller than most of the kids our age. He played football in the fall, and basketball in the winter. He didn’t live that far from me, and his parents were friends with mine so it was an obvious candidate for being a part of the inner circle. Although he was an athlete at school, we all knew him as the momma’s boy who had a comic book collection that would rival the Chicago School of Arts Library archive. He was one of us, more or less.
During 6th grade recess two years ago, he snuck out to Principal McKinley’s car and poured his milk underneath his seat cushions, a conspiracy and smell that lingers to this day. Although we were under the radar for that kind of assumption, DK was a usual suspect, and was eager to escape the watchful eye of McKinley after this year, moving into high school where he can be a burden on another school official.
I briefed Rob and DK about a sleepover at my house this weekend behind the basketball pole at recess. Completely avoiding the details were I would be sending them into private property where I wasn’t sure what would happen, I invited them to one final sleepover before it was too cold for that kind of activity. It was a good enough selling point for them, and I was sure it would be enough to convince my parents to have two friends over, even after last night’s fight.
Rob and DK were dropped off at my house around six o’clock. It was warmer than usual and partly cloudy out. I thought of what Nigel Fischer had told me about the silo only “working” when there was a full moon, or the moon was out. Maybe he was crazy, I thought. Maybe this whole plan to trek through his property in the middle of the night was not only dangerous, but foolish as well. Not to mention risky to be putting my friends entire Winter break in jeopardy, as to being grounded for sneaking out into the woods in the middle of the night, a place we most certainly were not supposed to be.
My dad helped me set up our tent before they arrived, and we also stacked the fire pit the “Cherokee way” that he preached to Greg and I for years. It was a teepee, but one that was built extraordinarily different from a normal teepee, enough to take on the name of the Native American tribe that used to own these lands that my house set atop of.
“This boys, is how you set up a campfire!”, he said, meticulously placing the wood in such a way he knew would be perfection.
Greg was smacking sticks against the trees and plotting his path to escape out of the house tonight to hear the rest of the story that ended abruptly nights before. He was not allowed out of the house as late as I was on the weekends, as he still had an elementary curfew, and after the murders of Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert being on the news for months, the folks were being extra cautious about letting us kids out of their sight. Granted those murders took place in New York City, and to two females, they felt the world was changing towards a more violent, cold place. At least my mother did. It was the contrasting beliefs that kept Greg and I having a semi-normal childhood, as my dad has kept an optimism that the world was always a dark, cruel place.
Our tent was big enough to fit 5 people, and we didn’t use any air beds, and definitely didn’t have any electricity. Our family was “old school” and didn’t catch on to the new-wave airstreams the way the kids in the ticky-tack houses did.
“Those aluminum wrapped baked potatoes take all the fun out of camping, Adam.”, my dad said, hammering the metal stakes, securing the tent to the ground.
I was impressionable, so I preached this same theory to my friends when they arrived. Camping was a way to connect man to the wild, and that is what we were sure in for tonight.
Just before they arrived, I had packed a few secret tools in my backpack without my parents knowing, as to avoid setting off any alarms. Behind my Beatles poster there was a hole in the wall which was put there by an accidental sideways thrust of a baseball bat that allowed me one hit in two seasons of junior league baseball. I played for Capuano’s - the best pizza place in town. I often hid items in there, and it was a safekeeping for secret things like Playboy Magazines, zippo lighters and unsent love notes to Susan Kelter. I packed a zippo lighter, a flashlight, and the nail that was laying at the base of the drywall.
Walking back to the woods, where my dad had left us boys to be boys, DK began telling us a story that he heart after recess in Mr.Green’s history class.
“Word on the street is Joey Briggs has you pegged!”, he said.
“What are you talking about?”, I asked.
“His little toady said he wasn’t at school all week because he was planning some kind of revenge on you for standing up for that dork at the bus stop.”
Well that explains a lot, because I hadn’t seen him at the bust stop since the incident. In fact, I didn’t see Newman at the bus stop. I hadn’t seen him at school on Friday at all.
I shrugged it off, thinking maybe his parents let him play hooky to prevent any further altercation.
“Did he say what he was planning?”, I continued, reverting my thoughts back to what it was Briggs had in store for me.
“Nothing, he just said he was planning something for you this weekend. Good thing you’ll have us around, right?”
He imitated a samurai-like motion with the stick he was carrying and swung it in front of him, missing Rob’s nose by centimeters.
“Hey, watch it, asshole!”, he jokingly shot back a jab in his direction, missing, which prompting a verbal jab back in his direction mocking his height.
Once we were at our fire pit where my dad and I set up the camp just hours earlier, DK moved his sleeping bag into the tent and declared the north side of the tent, furthest from the fire, to be his.
“CLAIMED!”, he shouted, as he threw down his bag and joyfully leapt onto his sleeping bag.
I tossed Rob my zippo as he tossed me his things to put in the tent. As he threw the bag my way a book that was strapped to a cargo pocket on the side of his backpack fell out. “Holy Bible” is what was on the cover.
“Rob? I thought you were a Jew!”, DK joked.
“Aren’t you supposed to call them Jewish?”, I asked.
“Open the book you wise-ass”, Rob said as he tossed it in his direction. It was bound by a rubber band that was preventing whatever was moving around inside from falling out. Snapping the rubber band, the cover came open and what was inside was a cutout photo of Nancy Perry’s breasts from the cover of August’s Playboy.
“Stole it from my old man after my mom threw it in the garbage.”, he said.
Reaching for my bag I uncovered what I had brought to the party and showed them my March 1962 Playboy which featured Cynthia Maddox.
“Now this is a campfire!” - DK shouted, and we all shared a burst of laughter that could probably be heard 100 yards away at my back porch.
The fire was roaring as it should, due to the cherokee-style teepee that my dad had set up, and the three of us gathered around the pit on our separate logs. Looking up, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the stars were shining clearly, but the dense overhanging tree branches, although bare of most leaves, blocked out any light attempting to illuminate the three of us below. It was dark enough that the only color was from the fire, which casted a glow on just the high points of each of our faces.
“Alright guys, I need to tell you something.”, I said.
“You’re not coming out are you, Adam? Because honestly, I can’t handle that right now!”, DK joked, pausing his hand into his bag of Lays potato chips that he has been eating the past hour. Rob rolled his eyes. “Oh eat your chips and be quiet.”, “What is it, Adam.”, Rob asked.
I briefed them on what I was told by Nigel at the Fischer Property. The look on their faces suggested that they were up for the adventure, and DK’s first words were “You met old man Fischer, and his name is what!?”.
What I hadn’t been able to Greg earlier, that I explained to Rob and DK is that Nigel had began to explain to me, or at least try to explain to me what the silo was capable of.
“A repository of some kind.” he said, his hands gliding across the smooth, almost marble like inside walls of the silo.
“I can feel her here. I can feel my late father too. It is almost as if their energy, or a part of them is left here, swirling in this silo like the wind that so anxiously wishes to penetrate these walls. At night, when the stars are out, there is a connection. A kind of presence that I can only feel inside of here. Most of my experiences have been pleasant, and I can connect with those who have left me, but there have been times where they were bad, and there have been times when they have been things of my nightmares.”
He paced around in circles, following the inside of the walls with his left hand extended, touching the walls only with his finger tips which bumped upon grazing the slight imperfections.
“A fine memory, tonight, Adam. A fine memory, indeed.”
He stepped out of the silo, which required me to reach my hand down at him and help him up. The ground inside the silo was a few feet below where the ground rested outside of the space. As my hand crossed into the silo, a coldness and chill shot up my arm like it was being submerged into freezing water, and I pulled Nigel up.
His bony hand moved back and forth on my hair in a friendly gesture. Very cautiously, he put his hand on my shoulder.
“You must come back another time. Come alone. It is better that way. But tonight, you must get back home. It is late and the clouds will be covering the stars soon.”
What he had told me that night hadn’t left my mind, and now that I had actually planned to visit the silo, I thought more and more about what he had said, to come alone. It was too late to turn around the plans now, as DK and Rob were already suited up in their sweatshirts with their backpacks around their shoulders.
“Alright, let’s head out. If we leave now we should be able to get there around 1:00.”, I said.
We kept the fire going, in case there was any chance of my parents looking out the window and wondering why the fire was out this ‘early’. Heading south, I lead them down the same trail I took days before, only this time making a slight detour and walking further south down Outville road before crossing into the field that surrounded the Fischer property. The corn was down now, so this allowed us to use the trees on the other side of the field for more cover, but also made for a much longer trip, as we had to walk about 500 yards east, then 300 more north, before heading back east towards the end of the Fischer property where the silo stood.
DK led us down the road, heading south, as his height allowed him to see further down the road to look for oncoming cars, if only a few inches.
“Flashlights off.”, he said.
Headlights approached from down the south, but weren’t close enough to see us. We moved down the valley to the side of the road, so the tops of our heads would only be just at the road level if we were to continue walking, which we did, cautiously as we knelt and stayed close to the brush and briar bushes that were on the outside of the fence to the now empty cornfield.
“That’s it just up there, cross by those trees.”, I said. As we approached the treelike, we threw our packs over and hopped one at a time, DK first, who helped rob down and then me, watching for headlights before completing the climb over the barbed wire fence near the post that had a sign that read “No trespassing”.
By the time the three of us reached the point of going north again through the back of the Fischer property, the batteries in my flashlight started to fail, and the light beam began to strobe. This was something that frightened all of us, but only Rob was showing any signs of this as his telling breath expelled into the chilly October air.
There was a feeling in the air we couldn’t explain. The cool breeze swept through the trees that were to our backs, and headed north we kept the empty corn field to our left and followed the tree line. We were almost there. Approaching the south entrance of the silo there was a very tall iron fence that was completely taken by the surrounding foliage. The only way into the back of the Fischer property was through a narrow opening in the gate to which DK proudly crawled through first. I was next, and handed him my bag as I brushed the leaves and what looked like poison ivy out of the way.
“Hurry up!, it’s creepy back here.”, Rob said.
As i pulled myself through the gate there was a sound of of a twig behind us set that set Rob in a frantic spin followed by “what the hell was that?”
“C’mon man, let me through!”, he cried.
As he lunged himself through the opening that I had just meticulously crawled through, he accidentally tackled DK, which caused his flashlight to fall on his on his striped canvas bag, throwing a path of light towards the trees that cut through the darkness. At the end of the light stood Joey Briggs.
“Boo”, he said.
Getting back on their feet, Rob and DK saw acknowledged I had frozen with fear, and DK quickly managed to grab his flashlight and hold it towards him as our breath increasingly sped up in the chill of the nights air.
“What the hell do you wa—“
“Shut up the hell up, sport-o”, Briggs said.
His right hand lifted, revealing a knife that spun out from a switchblade handle.
“You first”, he pointed in my Rob’s direction.
“We’re going to make a line, and you’re all going to walk to this little silo you spoke so fondly of at the fire. Then after that, I’m going to teach your friend here a lesson. Sticking up for the little jewish ginger is going to cost you blood.”
“Sport-o, give the flashlight to the jew, and you two follow. Now move.”
I gave them a look of assurance to simply do what he said. He stepped behind me and gave me a shove towards the path and pressed the tip of the knife against my spine that I was sure drew a bit of blood.
“Move”, he said, forcefully.
Rob began to walk down the path slowly, occasionally looking back at Briggs, who kept the tip of the knife pressed to me as we moved.
“Eyes forward, asshole.”, he said.
DK was uncharacteristicly silent, and he didn’t look back at me or Briggs, but was looking to the left of the path and down at his feet as we approached the clearing where the silo sat.
The breeze was cutting through the trees and as it had when I first approached the silo which picked up the leaves and carried them along the path at our feet like patrons at a beetles concert, rushing to get to the front of the crowd. I was looking at my feet and noticed what looked like blood on Briggs mud covered shoes. The pain of the blade was dull, presumably because of the adrenaline that was flowing through me.
To the rights of the clearing I could make out the lights that were coming from inside Nigel’s house. Although I did not see him through the trees or inside the windows as we made it to the clearing, I had a feeling he was awake.
“Over there”, briggs pointed with his knife over my shoulder, the tip displaying the blood that was trickling from the cut in my back.
“You two stand there, I’m going to teach you a lesson”, as he pointed the knife at my forehead.
He pushed me and I fell towards towards the silo, my hands pressed up against the brick and I braced myself for his attack.
“C’mon, don’t take the fun out of this.”, he said. “Let’s make this a fight! Only this time theres no old man to save you, and I’ve got a knife. What do you have?”
“I could kill you right here.”, he said. “I could gut you like a pig, and then kill your little jewish friend and bury both of you under this silo. Then I’d blame it all on the sport-o.” “Yeah, I walked up just as he was finishing twisting this blade in the jew’s stomach.”
He pointed the knife towards the entrance of the silo, where the brick had fallen from the outside wall.
“Is this your little fort?, is this where you homos come and jerk each other off and talk about boy problems?”
“Don’t go in there.”, I said, hesitantly.
“No? Why not? Are you going to stop me?”, he answered.
Putting the knife at his side, he turned and looked into the silo and put his feet close to the entrance, which dropped of at least two feet into the earth. At that moment Rob appeared behind him and swung a sizable branch he had picked up from just beyond the clearing. A loud WACK and a muffled shriek from Briggs sent him falling forward into the silo, dropping the knife where he last stood.
As he went careening in, I stepped forward and looked into the opening that was marked “Mary”, where he had fallen into. He gathered himself and rose to he turned in the direction of where Rob and I stood, DK’s eyes peeked through the corner of where a brick used to be on the wall and peered in. We all saw it. He was frozen. He stared blankly in our direction and he didn’t say a word. Now that there was a silent moment after what had just occurred we had noticed that the slight breeze had stopped and there was almost no sound coming from the dark woods that surrounded us.
“Holy shit, Rob!”, DK mumbled.
“Why isn’t he moving?”, he continued.
“Who’s who now you fuck!”, Rob shouted angrily, gripping the makeshift weapon like a baseball bat.
Briggs’ familiar jeans, cuffed at the ankles in mud and worn knee marks began to tremble as his eyes widened. The light colored denim began to darken around his zipper as he stood, frozen.
“He’s pissing himself!” DK shouted.
The urine was darkening more and more of his jeans. It soon trickled down to near his ankles and onto the top of his blood stained shoes, washing away the drips of my blood that fell just minutes before.
Briggs’ body was frozen, but his head slowly looked up at the top of the silo, where our eyes followed.
The stars in the sky were shining bright and illuminated his entire body like the headlights on a deer.
His mouth widened but he didn’t make a sound. He stood frozen for another minute or so, and his body began to shake heavily.
The trembling on his body became more apparent as his mouth let out a scream that made the three of us jump backwards. He yelled so loudly I was sure everybody in the city would hear, if not my parents and Nigel in his house just 100 yards or so away, which was now in complete darkness. The lights that had once illuminated the old tractor parts in his lawn were now hidden by the darkness that was shielded by the dense tree branches that littered his yard.
Briggs’ screams were blood curdling, and send goosebumps across my entire body. The sound was like nothing I had ever heard before, and suggested a level of fear I never wanted to experience. His mouth was open so wide I was certain his jaw was going to break. We were mortified, but we continued to stare at the scene inside the brick and foliage, not daring to move.
He yelled wildly “let me out! Help me!”. But his words were distorted by the opening of his jaw, not being able to form words. The wind had picked up, and roared greatly between where we stood. It appeared to be swirling around the silo.
The wind that was once outside of the silo had stopped, and for a moment, it was still.
At Briggs’ feet the loose soil began to stir, and the wind was swirling upwards, causing the dirt to form a kind of spiraling, spinning tornado that obstructed our view of his body. His yell continued, almost uninterrupted by any breath, like an horn being pressed without letting up.
“What the hell is happening.” Rob’s voice shakes, dropping the branch.
For a moment it was quiet, and the wind inside of the silo had ceased, and the dirt was still again.
Briggs’ head slowly looked down again, as if were being guided by a hydraulic pump. His mouth stayed agape, and he utter say a word.
The chill ran up my spine as he peered in our direction, as I noticed his eyes looked fogged over and dark. Dark like the scene woods around us, maybe darker. His pupils had taken over his entire eyes, which were once centered with a green iris.
“Guys”, I said, my voice shaking.
A sound came from the north and a figure appeared from the path into the clearing.
It was Nigel Fischer.