By R. D. Flavin
Ridge was reached, his feet ached from the long climb and the two
of beer he carried in his knapsack had lost their chill. The
long-necked bottle gave up its cap with an unexpected spray of foam
drenched his face and chest. Bitter and agitated, the brew wasn’t
the cool refreshment he’d looked forward to, but his thirst was
sated and he commenced his work.
Rock,” the local name for the massive granite structure before him, he
reclined against a twisted and stunted pine, and took out a drawing pad
and a stick of charcoal. From deft swipes across the paper, the
of the stones began to appear, yet something was wrong. In
he could capture the general shape of the pile of rocks, but not its
presence. The rocks challenged their surroundings with mystery
stubbornly refused an exact translation onto paper.
again and again. All afternoon, he sketched, drew and shaded
Rock in dozens of depictions. He drank his other bottle of beer,
careful of the rebellious foam, and considered his labor and
His drawings failed to capture the imposing nature of the ancient
The essence of the stones escaped his artistic ability and creative
felt as if he’d wasted his time and materials. Looking at his
dry and chafed from the long climb, he also saw the beginnings of a
making its splotchy presence known on his arms. Working through
disappointment, he continued.
slick with perspiration, but Hank found her touch exciting. For
he’d asked her to accompany him to Lochan’s Ridge to view the old
ruins and for weeks she’d turned him down. Yesterday, for no good
reason he could think off, she’d agreed to go. As he led Karen
the woods, he was clear headed and determined to impress her, despite
previous night spent nervously tossing and turning in sweat-soaked
The sleepless expectation of spending the day with lovely Karen was
him and all he wanted he had in her touch.
Hank?” she asked. A few strands of her blonde hair stuck to the
on her face. He liked how the strands were richer in color.
It excited him.
He quickened his step and led them through a bramble in flower.
if they’d passed through a magic door, suddenly the shadows of the
were left behind and they emerged into a brightly lit clearing that
the base of Lochan’s Ridge.
we want to go,” Hank said, pointing to the top of the ridge.
a hard climb...” Karen squeezed Hank’s hand and said, “Come on;
up at the ridge, a dark shape stood out against the clear sky.
shape hoisted what appeared to be a bottle and began to drink from
He let Karen’s hand fall and turned and walked back into the bramble.
wrong? Aren’t we going up?” she called after him.
us to it,” Hank answered almost in a whisper.
returned through the woods the way that they had come. Karen was
still in a cheery mood, but Hank’s was dark. All of a sudden his
sleepless night was starting to catch up to him.
be disappearing behind the horizon soon and he’d still not produced an
adequate rendering of the stones. As mysterious as the sure
of those who erected the structure was, he found his annoying inability
to accurately depict the landscape before him, equally so. He was
perplexed and disturbed.
point on Lochan’s Ridge, he could clearly make out the steeple of the
Unitarian Church and the tall, brick chimney of Westmore’s largest
the Ackerman Shoe Works. His charcoal stick represented these
with two lines, one thick and the other thin, both heavily smudged to
the perspective of distance. But these features were not what
him about his chosen landscape, it was the pile of rocks itself.
He just couldn’t seem to capture its essence on paper.
his drawing pad and charcoal stick, with arms akimbo he approached the
large, black rocks to temper his inner fury. Round and round the
structure he walked, alternating between steps of genius and blind
He studied the grain of the granite, the eroded pits of time, a crack
and an unexplained stain there. His fingers caressed the huge
as if tenderness could coax the aged megalith to give up its secrets.
On the southern side of the stone he found something which made his
grow wide with amazement and his fingers tremble from an unexpected
Five deeply etched marks were underneath the stain of a great mass of
dead moss. His heart raced at the possible significance of the
grooves and his mind tried desperately to keep up.
was thought to be a glacial erratic; a massive granite capstone, a
from the last ice age, perched atop three small boulders. Many
people realized and balanced one stone on three or more to reach a
level. Sometimes it was to mark the land as a signal, or to make
a roof for a dwelling or burial, but the combining of stones to form a
structure achieved its most telling usage in Europe, where the French
the term ‘dolmen’, from the Breton ‘dol’, meaning a ‘table’.
and later ancillary and eclectic hobbies such as the near-worship and
for things Irish, he was somewhat familiar with the occult writing
of the ancient Celts, the alphabetic usage of notches and lines known
the Irish ogham script. A smile bent his lips as the import of
discovery revealed itself. He had come to Lochan’s Ridge to
an old coastal oddity, thought by most to be nothing more than a
curiosity, and now he left bearing epigraphic proof that the ancient
once walked upon New England’s pastures green.
haste, he quickly grabbed his charcoal and pad and drew a sketchy
of the five hewn lines. Sweat flowed in tiny rivulets from his
into his eyes, yet he endured the sting and the burning and completed
drawing as best he could.
On his way
Lochan’s Ridge, he anxiously wondered with who he could share his
and more importantly, with who from those he knew on the North Shore
he request assistance in the translation of the ogham. He dared
turn south to Boston or Cambridge for fear that jealous and immoral
would find some way of tricking the true location of the New England
from him, and he’d more than likely forever lose the opportunity to
something of importance to the study of New England and Celtic history.
with heavy porters and sweet stouts brought to mind a fellow imbiber of
dark drinks, Teddy O’Connell, the retired head of the North Shore
of The Royal and Most Ancient Order of the Hibernians. If the
Irishman was reasonably sober, he’d be able to use his background of
studies and help in the translating of the mysterious marks.
spent several evenings together drinking and talking about ogham,
and things Celtic, and he knew Teddy would be able to either help him
get him started in the right direction.
The sun set
at his back while he made his way through the woods. His step was
light and his head was lighter. The previous unrequited artistic
craving for creation had been tossed an eerie sop of discovery, as
of all amateur imaginings he’d stepped into a past beyond and retrieved
something of importance. He hoped that his discovery would be
to the researchers of tomorrow, as well as today, and as he imagined
his name would forever be associated with the find, his smile grew
and his step quickened.
since Sam Morison from his on-high at Harvard announced that the Norse
didn’t make it as far as New England, no one has taken seriously
discovered which suggested pre-Columbian explorations in the New World
by any seafaring Celts or other ancient peoples.” Teddy O’Connell
was not entirely sober, but his mind wasn’t exactly shrouded in an
stupor either. His ideas were concise to the point of being
and his pronunciation was both melodic and correct, put forward in his
usual overly stressed brogue. O’Connell was often heard to remark
that he had three things against him; his race, his religion, and his
and as not to expose himself to a fourth charge, he should at least
to speak English correctly.
young artist implored, “help me with the ogham, no matter how tenuous
think the evidence. I don’t care who wrote this, I just want to
if it says anything.” His head was no longer as light as it had
the previous evening, but his ardent sense of discovery was still
O’Connell said in his best tutorial tone, “there’s been lots of talk
that the Red Ochre Indians, the so-called Maritime Archaic, are
for all these dolmens and stone circles here in New England.
an extinct killer whale cult from thousands of years ago who sailed out
past Iceland to the shores of Scandinavia, England, and even pressed as
far as the coast of Normandy and into the Basque region of Spain.
The current money says that the Red Paints brought back the mound and
building technology and used it in New England and the Midwest.”
the update, sir,” the young artist snapped. “Now, if you would be
so kind as to assist me in establishing the correct translation of
he said while thrusting his drawing arrogantly in the old man’s face,
will most immediately appreciate it.”
would be so kind as to approach the bartender and fetch back a pint of
half and half, I’ll see what I can do for you,” he said pleasantly,
taking the drawing from before his face.
By the time
the young artist returned with both a partially regained sense of
and a tall pint glass of mixed stout and lager, O’Connell had a knowing
little grin planted squarely in the middle of many similar wrinkles
were to be found on the old man’s face. Although, none had the
of that sliver of his Irish smile.
ogham, before the Grecian inspired introduction of diacritical marks
vowels, these five strokes would have served to represent a word
of either one or more consonants supplanted by vowels of one’s own
and guess, in lieu of the original engravers intentions.”
sent a full fledged smile over the top of his half and half, took a
swig, and continued. “Now, having allowed my archaic Goidelic to
get a bit rusty from not having anyone to converse with in the Old
I can only say with just a tad of surety, what letter or letters these
marks might stand for. And, as far as spitting out an exact word
or phrase, you had best consult a Gaelic grammar dictionary.”
what letters you see,” the young artist pleaded with an edge of
balanced in his voice.
could represent a ‘g’ and an ‘n’ and any favorite vowels you might wish
to insert before, after or in the middle. Hence, my steering
a dictionary; there might be dozens and dozens of words with ‘g-n’ or
in Goidelic.” The old man’s tone was solid and serious, but a
flashed in his eyes which dispelled the failure of futility and plainly
denoted his private source of satisfaction. “The ‘g-n’ could
stand for ‘gaine’, meaning ‘incarnation’, and which might prove that
were ogham-employing Christian Celts; shades of the blessed St Brendan
and his wrong turn in the summer of A.D. 557, or was that 558?
I forget what guess I used to make...”
it could also stand for just one letter. Which one?” the artist
nervously, his voice taking on an embarrassing upwards lilt.
an adventurous alternative!” Teddy O’Connell boomed out loud and took
half and half in hand, sipping and spilling some of its contents in the
doing. “The five lines could also stand for the letter ‘r’ and if
the mind may be allowed to entertain ‘ruadh’ or any other variant form
of the word ‘red’, as they’re all pretty much the same anyway, we could
begin to approach all of the colorful and allusive possibilities and
of this mention. Why, perhaps we may even have a find of great
interest with possible sinister implications.”
the artist repeated in wonder.
affirmed. “‘Red’ could stand for the blood of sacrifice; the rock
could mark the spot where our pagan ancestors carved up the least liked
in the tribe or clan and offered up as a choice morsel or three to the
Sun and those above.”
say that you believe that all of the New England megalithic structures
were erected by some Red Paint Indians?”
‘red’ refer to them?”
his eyes stopped their flashing and he answered somberly, “I agree with
the disclaimers that say that most of the marks were probably caused by
plows or were tooled by bored Freemasonic farmers after the Salem
hysteria of 1692 and the Dunwich madness a few years later. Some
say it was the leisure before the Revolution. I think that hoary
Sam Morison was correct and the ancient Irish, like those of the
would surely as the Sun sets in the wayward West, be too drunk to sail
anywhere.” To which he quickly added, “Of course, if I had
tall half and half in front of me, so that I might quench my occasional
thirst, I might be open to a suggestion that St. Brendan himself
to South Boston and consecrated that miserable stretch of land to the
for all time.”
the artist scoffed.
so is all the speculation about pre-Columbian Celts in New England with
a hankering to leave behind grapholithic graffiti.”
out of this one, boy,” O’Connell advised. “If you wish to pursue
it, you’d better start thinking Amerindians or post-Columbian practical
jokes. The Irish in water, past some whisperings by the Norse,
hold water; so to speak.” And, as it goes, after the first laugh
it got worse. He bellowed out several lungfuls of laughter.
could not fathom the old man’s humor. A moment ago, they shared
the reconstruction of an ancient mystery and now the drunk retiree only
wished to get drunker at his expense and to sell his loyalty for
pint. The artist pushed away from the table to leave.
boy?” O’Connell asked with just the right amount of tenderness to put a
sarcastic twist to the question.
thank you,” the artist said, leaving.
“And a good
to you, too, boy!” Teddy O’Connell called out after him. The old
man added a final message in Gaelic, but the young artist couldn’t hear
it clearly and he immediately dismissed it as in all likelihood, a
or vulgar slur anyway.
the ardent inspiration that he’d previously felt. He glanced at
watch and walked toward the woods and Lochan’s Ridge. He figured
he had four good hours left in the fading Summer’s day.
breakfast and rose shortly before lunch. His mother tried but
convince him to stay and take something to eat with the family.
younger brother and his two little sisters giggled and guffawed as he
and bounced and tripped and fell, in his reckless hurry to leave the
to go visit with Karen.
home for supper?” Hank’s mother called out. No answer returned,
surprising her at all.
the top step of her porch and was nearly in tears from laughing so hard
by the time that Hank reached her. He was a mess; his hair was
his shirt-tail was out, his left knee was ripped from a nasty fall that
he had taken on rounding the last corner, and he’d forgotten to put on
his socks! Bruised, bleeding, tattered and tired out, Hank still
felt good enough to laugh along with Karen.
yesterday,” Hank said after the all-out laughing had been reduced to
the occasional chuckling.
a nice walk,” Karen said, giving her long, blonde hair a gentle,
toss while she spoke. She drew her hair away from her face and
in tease, “Even if we didn’t get to see any Indian ruins.”
today,” Hank offered eagerly. “It’s not too late!”
feel like going for a long walk and climb today,” she said with just a
touch of pout in her young voice.
feel like doing?”
played dumb with a smirk and waited for Hank to suggest something.
after a minute and said, “ How ‘bout I make you a deal?”
Karen asked, bringing her face just a few inches from Hank’s.
to go with me back to Lochan’s Ridge tomorrow and see the Indian
Hank bargained, “I’ll agree to do anything you want today...”
answered; a look of utter sincerity branded across his face.
thought Hank to be a fine lad when he got home from work and discovered
that the lawn had been mowed, the garage straightened out and the trash
carried to the street. Karen’s mother thought that Hank’s parents
probably didn’t feed him well enough, as he took seconds of everything
and thirds of what he really liked. Hank was happy to do some
for Karen because the next day he would go back to Lochan’s Ridge
hands with her.
prayed that this time, they would be alone.
waning spectacular of orange and blue over an encroaching background of
cold gray. It would be dark soon and the wind would likely shift
and blow in from the sea, bringing a cool ocean air far inland.
regretted not packing a light coat or jacket.
trembling in his fingers, he nervously reached out and traced the five
grooves on the large capstone. The sense of history was
as he stroked the lines with appreciation, becoming lost into a past
his previous imaginings. Slowly, he was drawn back from the hold
of history as he noticed that one of his fingers had been sliced open
the sharp ridge of one of the deep grooves. His blood had already
stained the stone bright red.
he mused out loud.
blood trickle down the face of the blackened granite and disappear
His vision was somewhat occluded by the growing dusk and he couldn’t
where the drops of his blood pooled at the base of the dolmen.
trail of blood left the mysterious lines and flowed down the face of
capstone and disappeared from view somewhere in the darkness of the
first, he bent his head and peered under the capstone, which probably
over two tons. Shadow and dusk had combined and draped the floor
beneath the dolmen in an impenetrable carpet of inky dark.
his eyes brought no further clues, so he climbed upon his knees and
his entire body into the space created by the structure.
his mind with the act of crawling to a sure and awful death if the
tremor teased the land and the heavy capstone slipped its three
and came instantly down upon him. His teeth gnashed together as
shifted uneasily in his stomach. First dizzy and faint and then
and self-conscious; by breathing deeply, he relaxed his panic and set
single shaking finger and felt the surface of the underbelly of the
capstone. The stone had the worn texture of rough ice, smooth and
cold to the touch. Though one hand was undoubtably still bleeding
from the gnash on his finger, he reached out with both of his hands and
grasped the span of the dolmen’s underbelly and gave the capstone a
hug, as if to test its steady balance on its base-stones.
groped free from the underbelly of the capstone and blindly felt around
on the opposite side of the stone’s surface from where he had located
five deep grooves. His heart suddenly skipped a beat in surprise
as his fingers traced out the outlines of five more similar
He had discovered another set of mysterious lines!
away from one another and his mind reeled, lacking answers and he laid
down with urgency on the floor beneath the dolmen and didn’t
Two sets of deep grooves appeared in his mind’s eye and he thought long
hard working and industrious Celts chiseling away some arcane message
primitive tools vanished from his thoughts and was slowly replaced with
another image; a darkness of no escape.
his ears of five long claws on one side of the stone and five long
on the other. He heard dull scraping and felt an impossible
in Lochan’s Ridge beneath him.
his ears in the darkness and clamped down hard, trying to stave off the
horrible sounds of his own mind bending and breaking. Still, the
sound of the scratching of something unimaginably hard against solid
got through. His eyes shut and the darkness took away
The sound of the scratching was gone and so was the sound of his own
Everything was gone.
up this time?” Karen asked, looking up at Lochan’s Ridge.
eyes with his hands and scanned the top of the ridge for any signs of
“I don’t see anyone up there, so it looks like we’ve got the whole
to ourselves,” he announced with a joyful sound of relief in his voice.
over and gave Hank a quick kiss on the cheek and then ran towards the
and began to climb. “If you beat me to the top,” Karen yelled,
can have another!”
and climbed after Karen, he called out in return, “What happens if I
two kisses!” And they both laughed, making the climb easier and
awe of Fisher’s Rock, the ancient and mysterious stone structure
seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
Indians with red war-paint built this?” Karen asked in earnest.
said excitedly. “There’s lots of red paint over there!”
towards the dolmen, stopping just short of all the red paint. “I
wonder if those are whale bones?” he asked.
at the red stains on the white bones and the black stones, Hank stared
at the clear blue of Karen’s eyes and the soft, new corn yellow of her
long hair and mustered up enough courage to ask for his two honestly
lips much more interesting than any old pile of Indian rocks.
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