"What the hell is the rock crusher?" I asked dismissively.
"It's like, this big building in the middle of a field!" My friend Brandon replied.
"So why would we want to go there?" Jim chimed in.
"Well what else are we gonna do? Spend another night sitting in this parking lot until we're hungry enough to go to Denny’s and end up sitting there till 2am while we 'think of something to do'? Fuck that shit, man."
Brandon had just brought up a valid point while trying to convince Jim and I should that we should come with him to this hangout of his. So far the first summer of our adult lives had consisted of wandering from parking lot to parking lot. We would stay only long enough to be kicked out, or until we got hungry or bored enough to buy food, and to be honest, it was becoming a bit hard to tell the two part from each other. Like suburban nomads we traveled from one spot of cracked blacktop to another, trading our graduation money for gas to aid us in our never ending quest for amusement. Most nights began and ended at the same place, the empty parking lot between our Denny’s, Walmart, and Hess. Valuable strategic placement for kids like us. They would also begin and end with the familiar complaints; namely, "there's NOTHING to do in this town.” To which I would dutifully reply to whichever of my friends was near the breaking point of boredom at the time, "I'm telling you, there's nothing to do anywhere." This was a discomforting enough idea that it was summarily ignored, but today Brandon was incensed enough to try and change my mind with the suggestion that would change our summer, "We could go to the rock crusher."
This time, Jim beat me to the punch with the pessimism. "So you wanna sit in a field instead of a parking lot, is that it?"
"Fuck you! Its more than just a field, it’s got the remains of these old buildings scattered all around, there are trails through the woods and even some tunnels."
"Well if its so great, why haven't we ever gone there before?" I asked.
"Because Paul’s a pussy. The cops kicked him out of there 2 years ago and he wont go back. But he’s working tonight so fuck it, lets go."
Brandon’s hard work was beginning to pay off; mine and Jim’s resistance to the idea was beginning to fade. I mean, tunnels, trails, and its illegal to be there? Sounds like it might not be that bad. Of course if he had said his next sentence in the beginning he would’ve convinced us much sooner.
"Plus, its fucking haunted. Like the most haunted place around."
"Why the hell didn’t you tell us that sooner?" I was a bit angry now. "How much gas have we wasted this summer driving up and down haunted roads not seeing shit?"
"Hey its not my fault. I thought everyone in this city knew, its a famous story. The place was a munitions storage site in WWI. It blew up in 1918 and the shockwave was felt all over the city, 50 men were killed, most of the bodies vaporized and now they say that you can see ghosts standing on top of the only building left standing and in the tunnels. Plus there’s supposed to be some time-vortex. But that's bullshit. People also say shit about satanic cults worshiping there, but that’s not real either."
Jim and I were now sold. Maybe there was something interesting in this town after all. But we'd have to hurry to get there before dark. We piled into Brandon’s car and made our way to our destination, and my expectations were not quite fulfilled when we pulled into his driveway. "We've gotta walk from here." He quickly explained, "the only reason Paul got in trouble was that he parked right in front of it, so the cops knew some kids were in there." The walk lasted just long enough for Jim and I to begin complaining.
We were again disappointed when Brandon announced we had arrived at our destination: a private road blocked by a yellow gate. As we walked up the steep road, we noticed the pavement under our feet slowly give way to gravel, then dirt, and by the time the road evened out, it was grass. After a quarter mile we had gone from suburbia to wilderness. The field that stretched out before us in all directions was dotted with sparse trees and bushes, surrounded by steep cliffs, topped with a forest on 3 sides, and on the other a sharp drop into a valley some 100 feet below. As we walked further we saw our destination pushed against the far cliff wall.
Looking more like an ancient temple than an abandoned building, the "rock crusher" towered above us some 8 or 9 stories, made entirely of stone with two adjacent slopes on each end that looked like a cross between Egyptian pyramids and staircases. When the slopes reached their highest point, a wall sprung up between them. Upon close inspection it was revealed there were actually 3 walls, providing the brave and stupid ample fun to walk on. In between the slopes was a small plot of land littered with junk, most of which had obviously been thrown from the top. All this was impressive enough, but paled in comparison to the two gaping tunnels at the foot of each slope. As Jim and I took this sight in for the first time, we knew the parking lots of our city would be emptier after this day.
Inside of the tunnels the temperature dropped sharply from the sunny summer day outside. Looking up we could see open ceiling stretch into darkness and the wood beams supporting the walls fade as they climbed higher. The walls were covered in the kind of tags that made you hate people who tagged, and water dripped over them, coming down from the top. We ventured forward with only our cell phones lighting the way, bumping into walls, beams, and each other as we stumbled over the rocky terrain. After a few minutes we emerged from a hill a ways away in the field, feeling like we had just used a secret escape tunnel in a movie. As we made our way back to front of the Crusher, we realized there was more exploring to do than could be done in the hour or so of daylight we had left. Climbing the cliff wall behind the crusher we found what we assumed was the perfect place for a bon fire, with the back side of the structure to one side, still a good 20 feet above our heads, and a forest of trees on the other with a path running through. Happy with our new hangout we made plans to get gasoline from Brandon’s house and to gather a few more friends and meet back in an hour.
Our combined enthusiasm had enabled Jim and I to convince our friends Brian and Mike to join us. With the sun now set, we were climbing the hill back up to our spot. The field took on a new aspect at night, with the moon lighting up the center and huge Crusher extending its shade well out into the middle. Walking towards it we recalled the stories Brandon had told us, of the dead workers standing on top of the building we now walked towards, glowing from the chemicals of the explosives that had killed them. Climbing the cliff we found Brandon waiting for us, and as soon as we caught our breath we began building the fire. The fire was soon raging, lighting up the area around us and we soon forgot any of the ghost stories about the place and began our usual routine of jokes and arguments.
After a half hour or so, there was a lull in the conversation, and as we all relaxed and watched the fire burn, we heard a cracking sound out of the night. Recalling the story of Paul and the cops, and realizing our fire may be noticeable from the street we hatched a plan for Brian and Mike to climb the structure behind us and take a look for anyone in the field. We gave them a boost and as they relayed that the field was empty we convinced ourselves that the crackling fire and our jangled nerves had played a trick on us. That’s when we heard a whistle, clear as day from the path in front of us, with footsteps soon following.
Jim, Brandon and I ran so fast that by the time we realized we had left Brian and Mike trapped on top of the building we were on the other side of the field. We called their phones and got no answer, our panic was growing and we were becoming more convinced with every call that they had been caught by the police or someone who owns the land. That’s when we noticed another fire spring up not far from where ours was, and soon after, the faint but distinct sound of drumming. As images of our friends being sacrificed in some Satanist drum circle filled our heads, two figures came running out of the darkness. Brian and Mike were alive, and as they explained, had hidden on top of the building as a group of people put out our fire and had gone on. After our heart attacks faded we all made our way back to the gate, and civilization. As we walked back on the street to Brandon’s house, our adrenaline gave way to exhaustion, which in turn gave way to laughter as we realized this had been the best night of the summer, and as the sheer ridiculousness of the situation hit us, we began our plans for the next weekend.