It was snowing that night on the mountain. The earth was frozen and too hard to dig so the Uncles brought the body to the sinkhole on the vacant property.
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It had appeared one day, a gaping mouth in the earth with jagged roots for teeth. Blackness stretching deep into the earth. The rocks we hurled in returned no echos.
The neighbors had called Uncle Henry. He nodded, and spoke a few words. He gave the signal to the twin Uncles, Jeff and George, as they drank from beer bottles with one hand and patted the inside of their coats with the other against the heavy metal. Uncle Henry nodded and quietly called the others.
The townspeople, who rarely came up the mountain, called us the "mountain mafia". I heard them whisper and then quickly look away, not brave enough to view us head on. "Johnnie Law" did not venture onto the mountain. They never knew what they might find, or where they might find themselves later. The Shenandoah river could be deep in some places, and the mountains held secret places still unseen by humans.
Uncle Jeff started the dumptruck in the gravel driveway, the diesel purred like a cat. The others gathered in the driveway. The full moon illuminated the nodding heads. Their number had grown to five.
They found her huddled on the floor next to the woodstove, a human apostrophe, semi-conscious. Uncle Henry lifted her with one muscled arm, defined by years of hard mountain labor. With his free hand he signaled the others and carried her out to the cab of the truck. Chuck, an outsider from Maryland, had been warned the last time.
"Next time....", Uncle Henry had warned him the last beating. Chuck, defiant, had sneered.
The first shot from Uncle George's 9 mm. bloomed like a rose on Chuck's chest. The other shots quickly followed popping like fireworks.
No lights came on at the neighbor's house. They knew. Of course, they would deny everything like they always did. Mountain law was different from the law in town and on the mountain we had our own law. The house was engulfed in flames by morning. The newspapers said the fire was probably caused by the woodstove. Chuck was presumed to have persished inside.
Two of the uncles had unloaded the plastic bundle from the back of the truck and tossed what was Chuck down into the seemingly bottomless sinkhole. The only light, the illumination of the full moon through the wintered tree limbs and the glow from the thick blanket of snow on the ground. Uncle Jeff used the yellow track loader, parked nearby, to push debris from the land clearing into the pit on top of the bundle. A layer cake of snow and trees covered the body.
Later,Regina, in her blind love, asked the uncles what had happened to Chuck. Her sobs and words muffled by swollen, split lips. The uncles didn't answer.
Chuck's family made some inquiries later about the cause of the fire. I suspect the Sheriff, knowing better, made up something good.
All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream....
Edgar Allen Poe