I was fifteen or so at the time, and thought I knew it all. What teenager doesn’t? What made this adventure different was the lesson at the end.
The day was a wet one, three days of hard rain will do that sometimes. The tree branches were drenched with cool water, and the gentle breeze awarded a misty shower. The snow was almost gone from sight, except for the small patches of the cold stuff that lingered in the low lying valleys and ditches.
I took out my trusty three speed, and without packing a lunch, I bravely (or stupidly) took off on a spring adventure. The road out of the community led to a road called Igloo Road. Back in the late fifties, the Ernest Harmon Air force Base was in full swing in our town, and the army created underground bunkers to store stuff. Stuff was what my dad said was stored in those buildings which were built of concrete with grass for a roof. Anyway, the underground bunkers, which were referred to as ‘Igloos’ lined either side of a dirt road directly across from the tiny community in which I lived.
It was always an adventure riding on Igloo Road. You never knew what you would find in the areas around the igloos. In the early seventies, the town stored many items in the igloos, and from time to time, someone ventured inside those dark cave-like hideaways and threw out good stuff. My friends and I made trips to the igloos in search of hidden treasure on many occasions. I once found an old kaleidoscope that I treasured for many years, and wish I still had.
Me and Ricky went to the igloos once, and we found a naked couple sunbathing right there on the ground, even with snow patches everywhere. We had a laugh throwing icy cold snowballs at the naked couple, who quickly gathered their belongings, cussed at us, and exited the scene.
This day was quite different than the time me and Ricky ventured to the igloos. On this day, I would carelessly go to the igloos on my own. I didn’t even tell mom or dad I was going. I was excited to get the best treasure for myself, so I anxiously paddled to the site. There was a large box near the entrance of the door, which was left open. The box was empty, its contents strewn from the box to deep inside the igloo. Foolishly, I followed the litter until I was inside the igloo, when suddenly the wind blew the solid steel door shut.
I was in complete blackness, locked in a cement dungeon, alone and afraid. It was so dark that I had no idea where the door was, where the walls were, or what lie in front of me. I stumbled across the floor, tripping over a long object wrapped in a carpet like covering. Crawling to recover my footing, I thought I felt an arm on the floor next to the object, and feeling my hand along the side of the object, I know I felt hair and a head. I screamed, but my scream went nowhere. I was trapped with a dead body, in complete darkness.
In my horror, I heard a squeal from behind me, as a large rat (at least I thought it was a rat, God only knows what it was in this darkness) brushed along my arm, sending goosebumps up my spine. I was in hell.
I remember crawling and feeling along the floor for a rock or a brick. I was a bit hesitant to move, fearing the chance of finding yet another dead body; God knows, one dead body in a dark, spooky cave is enough. I climbed up to damp wall, feeling the moisture and maybe even mildew with my hands, and my touch led me to a person standing next to me. Horrified, I tried talking to him, but no response. I leaned to touch the person, and he and I fell to the ground. I was so scared, I began crying out. During my descent to the ground, I happened along a brick like object, and using the brick, I pounded on the walls, making my way through the darkness until I found the steel door that had trapped me in this dark grave.
I pounded on the door, in a pattern that my dad taught me. Bang Bang Bang (quickly) Bang Bang Bang (Slowly) and then Bang Bang Bang (quickly again) in an SOS pattern. I must have been doing this for quite some time because I still remember the pain in my arms from doing so.
In what seemed like an eternity, I thought I heard something outside. I hollered and cried and continued banging on the door, and all at once, my dark grave opened to a sunny day. The cool rays from the sun illuminated a dusty trail in the air, and my lungs breathed the clean air. I fell to my knees as I noticed my dad standing at the door, pipe wrench in his hand, with a look of worry I have not seen in some thirty or more years later.
“We were so worried when you didn’t make it home for supper.” he said, in a tone that was both worried, relieved and severely pissed off.
“I asked Ricky where he thought you might be, and he directed me right here” he said.
I didn’t care if he would ground me until I was fifty, I was just glad to get out of the dark hell of an igloo. Peering into my captor, I spied the bodies that lay on the floor and stood against the wall. Apparently a clothing store must have been storing their supplies in the igloo, and the dead bodies I thought I found were nothing but lifeless mannequins. Thank heavens for that one. I was, however, right about the rat. The place was crawling with them.
I sure learned a valuable lesson that day. Never go anywhere without telling anyone where you are, and always have a friend come along…and never, never go inside one of those dark igloos for any reason. The rest of my summer was spent near the house, grounded…with a fear of dark places that would last another five years, and don’t even mention the word ‘Mannequin’, I still fear those things.