April 1st, 1989 began just like another early spring day for Mike Thorn. He woke up at 6:30 am to the sound of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire blaring from his radio-alarm. “Augh, not again!” Mike grumbled and threw his pillow at the noise. Then a thought came into his waking mind sending a thrill of happiness throughout his whole body. He threw off his covers, jumped up out of bed planting his bare feet onto the cool wood floor, and began dancing around singing, “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the worlds been turning…”
The thought that came to him and sent Mike into his happy place was that about a girl. Not just any girl there was this one particular girl, Kelly. Kelly was this 15-year-old red-headed bombshell sophomore at Eastern High and tonight she and Mike had plans.
Mike had turned 16 back in August and his dad had got him this old 1979 Trans Am. The car was a bit worn but what it lacked in pristineness it made up for in sheer power. This car had the Pontiac 400 engine in it, giving 280 horsepower, which made it a thrill every time you stomped down on the gas.
Mike began his morning routine before heading out. His routine was like any other typical 16-year-old boy of the time: get up, flip on the tube, make some breakfast and coffee, get showered, and dress; then his favorite part giving Kelly a good morning phone call.
“Good morning Kell, my beautiful Angel. How are you?” Mike playfully asked into the phone when Kelly picked up on the other end.
“Mike, my sweet. Hey baby.MMM…Oh I’m so excited! I can’t wait for tonight! Whew, aren’t you?”Kelly replied in a giddy-excited tone.
“Yea, I guess so. Geez, just another night I guess.” Mike returned in a melodramatic boring tone. He could hear the disappointment in Kelly’s breathing on the phone.
“What! What do you mean you guess so! Just another night! Why, how could you!” Kelly at first screamed into the phone and then was starting to whimper in sobs.
“Whoa. Whoa. Hold on, babe! I’m sorry…I’m sorry. April fools! It’s April 1st Kell, I was just joking. Of course, I’m excited. Can’t wait! Me, you, James, and Christa going to hang out at the spot. It’s gonna be awesome! James even told me he got a little smoke if you know what I mean? Hehehe.” Mike giggled trying to soothe Kelly down.
“You better, you jerk. Oh, you had me so mad for a minute. But that’s right it’s April fool’s day, who knows what will happen.” Kelly began to perk up and even laugh. “Look you don’t need to pick me up this morning, Christa is picking me up she wants me to check out some stuff with her probably about tonight. Then they’ll give me a ride out to the spot later, where I will meet you my darling.”
Mike finished off the morning conversation, “Sounds good. I’m sorry I gotta deal with this parenting shit today, but promise to make it up to you later. I’ll see you at the spot tonight; should get there about 7 just in time for sunset. Love you, sweets. See you soon.”
The spot was where the local young couples went to hang out, make out, party, or just be young. It was a secluded place in the rugged desert hills along an unimproved road. The road was an old mining road that serviced an old abandoned mine in the mountainside. That’s how you knew you were close to the spot, once you passed the old mine shaft and workings it was about another quarter mile up the mountain. There was a large open flat area that the road ended at near the top of the mountain which gave a great view of the sunset and the lights of the town as it got dark. Everyone knew about the spot it had been a local favorite probably since the time the mine was abandoned and local law enforcement mostly didn’t bother the kids unless trouble was reported. Perhaps an occasionally bored patrolman may take a cruise up there just to check on things. Not too often though, a person could drive it in a car but the road was rough and very dusty with wash boarding. Not many troopers cared making the journey up and back then have to go spend time washing the squad car afterward.
Mike had to spend the day with his parents. His mom and dad were getting a divorce so he was going to be spending some time with them at the lawyer’s office so that he could understand as much as possible about the upcoming split up. It wasn’t a nasty divorce but his parents had been done with each other for several years and they were trying to make it until Mike either went off to college, went into the military, or just got out on his own. That wasn’t happening so instead of things turning volatile between them they decided it was time and Mike was old enough to understand.
His mom was keeping the house that he had grown up in and his dad was getting an apartment downtown. Mike had decided to stay at his old home to finish out school even though bach’n with dad at a flat downtown sounded fun, he was more comfortable at his old home. It was decided that custody would be 50/50 and it was understood by all that he could go stay with his father anytime for visiting.
Kelly was off on a regular school day. She was being picked up by her best friend Christa. They were both excited about the upcoming night. The school day seemed to take forever though it was a fun day seemed everyone was playing April Fool’s jokes. Even the teachers got in on it. In Kelly’s history class, everyone was at their seat at the bell but no teacher was present. A note on the chalkboard read “I’ve decided to leave for the rest of the day. Just spend the time catching up on things. Mr. Biddle.”
Everyone was fine with that and were soon all clumped together in their usual clicks chatting away when in about 5 minutes Mr. Biddle burst through the door. “April Fools!” he laughed. “Not so lucky guys, had to go meet the Principal for a bit so now knock it off and get back to where you belong.” This was met with disdain by the students but the day went by and soon they were all out the door.
Kelly met Christa and James out by their cars after school. James had a truck so they were going to take that up to the spot but there was still time to kill so they first took Christa’s car home. They told her parents they were all going to the mall for a bit then going to catch the last half of the basketball game at the high school followed by pizza at Mikes’s then be home by 10pm. Her parents gave their approval grudgingly knowing full well what they were probably up to and just reminded them sternly, “10 pm missy. 10 pm”. Off they went to the mall for a couple of hours before heading out for the spot.
After the mall, they headed out for the spot. On the drive-up, James revealed to Kelly that Mike had called him in the morning and asked him to drop Kelly off at the mine works to meet him. Kelly wasn’t taken on the idea at first. “The mine works, that ole creepy place? Really?” Kelly whimpered at the idea.
“Ahhh, come on Kell. It’s not that bad and besides, you remember the old shack building outside the tunnel? Some kids have kind of dressed it up to make it a little make-out place anyway” James said to reassure her.
“Yea Kell, You and Mike will have it all to your lonesome and hopefully me and stud here will have the spot to ourselves since it is a Tuesday night,” Christa added her support.
“Ok, true. I haven’t seen it since they’ve been messing with the shack. Heard some of the other gals talk about it. Sounds kind of sleazy though but at least I’ll have Mike to myself” Kelly started sounding reassured.
James and Christa dropped Kelly off at the mining works on the way up to the spot. The abandoned mine was a collection of ruins from 19th-century mining works. There was one remaining shack that was still standing, an open mine shaft, and mine tunnel heading into the side of the hill. The rest of the area was a scatter of wooden beams and rusted metal artifacts of unknown purpose strewn all over the area.
James pulled up as close as he could get to the shack. He and Christa got out and walked with Kelly over to the entrance. The door to the shack had been jerry-rigged back onto the doorframe creating a somewhat functioning entranceway. The shack was all wooden and must have been a hundred years old. It was dusty, dirty, and often covered in packrat nests. They went in and James explained, “Good looks like guys have been busy up here getting her in order for the summer season.”
They looked the place over and there were signs that it had been recently swept out and somewhat picked up. It must have been an old office building but all that remained was an open front room containing a very old wooden table and another room in the back that now contained a mattress on the floor, a couple of camping chairs, and a wooden crate as a makeshift table. Signs made from poster boards hung about the interior that mostly noted some good Samaritan rules like “Please Clean Up After Use”, “Bring your own sleeping bags/bedding or other gear”, and “Feel free to donate to others by leaving goods in cabinets in front, but make sure they’re sealed. Pack Rats!”.
All three of them were joking around about the place and with each other when James spoke up after their inspection “Doesn’t look too bad. You should be fine Kell. It’s only 30 minutes till 7 so Mike should be along anytime, I’d bet he’ll be early. Just chill out and check stuff out, but I wouldn’t go into the tunnel, it can be dangerous. But if you do decide too there’s a lantern in the cabinet.”
Kelly half smiled and nodded in partial disgust of the place. “Can’t believe Mike picked this place, but it is kind of cool. Anyway, you guys go ahead. I’ll be fine, maybe do some touching up.”
James and Christa gave Kelly a thumbs up and good luck wishes as they skipped out holding hands. They jumped back into the truck and before they took off, they looked at each other and laughed. “I told Kelly about the shaft and lantern; she’ll definitely go there now,” James said cracking up with Christa.
“Yea, you know how curious she is as soon as you plant something like that in her head, she’s all about it, just wish we could watch the reaction!” Christa replied still laughing. James started up the truck and they took off for the spot.
Kelly began going around the shack checking everything out. She found the lantern that James was talking about. It was a Coleman kerosene lantern. She checked it over and it looked to be in good shape. She took out a box of matches from a drawer and lit the globes of the lantern then adjusted the brightness. Curiosity had got ahold of her since James had mentioned the mine tunnel. She figured just going to take a look wouldn’t take but five minutes and maybe she could even April Fools Mike when he showed up and thinking she wasn’t there.
She took the lantern and headed out back toward the hillside that the mine tunnel entered. The way towards the tunnel was dusty, rocky, and scattered in shrubs, cactus, and metal trash. She passed the mine shaft just outside of the tunnel. The shaft was an open hole in the ground with nothing other than slight mounded-up rock and debris around it. She stood on the small raised-up hump edge and peered down into the dark hole. There were wooden beams set into the sides of the hole some were nearly falling out of the walls. She picked up a rock and dropped it into the dark hole. She could hear the rock bouncing off the wood beams then the side walls as it fell into the abyss sending echoing sounds that got quieter and quieter as it fell deeper and deeper.
She gave a slight cringe just thinking about falling into the thing, then turned back toward the tunnel and headed for its entrance. The sun was starting to set and the daylight was getting dimmer.
The entrance of the mine tunnel was braced by wooden beams and rubble from the walls and ceiling had accumulated on the floor of the entrance. A modern metal sign was posted outside declaring, “Warning! Dangerous Mine Works. Do Not Enter!” followed by a skull and crossbones image. The sign was riddled with bullet holes. Her curiosity got even stronger and she lifted the lantern above her head and crept in slowly.
As she went in, she started seeing signs of an old iron rail track. It was a wreck, most of it had been pulled up with just sections still in place. The ceiling beams of the tunnel were sagging. Some were broken in the middle and had fallen to the rock-strewn floor.
Then she heard a low growl ahead in the distance. Startled, she stopped in her tracks frozen as the hair on the back of her neck began to rise. She peered as far as she could into the edge of the twilight of her lantern, barely making out rock piles ahead. “Grrrr..rrrr” again she heard the growl coming from the beyond. Images of mountain lions and bears danced in her head for she knew such animals were out here in the desert mountains. Her fear gripped her completely and passions of fight or flight rose within her.
It was the overpowering want for flight that won out. She turned around and sprinted toward the entrance that was still visible in the disappearing daylight outside the mine. As she bolted out of the mine, she swore that the growl turned into a screeching yelp that almost sounded like laughter. No matter she was gone and in a hurry.
Earlier that afternoon Mike had arrived at the mine site about 20 minutes before the rest of the crew had. He had gone over everything with James and sure that he had filled Christa in with enough information to get her in on the April Fools prank. Mike had left his Trans Am at his dad’s place and borrowed his old Ford pickup to come up the rough road in. He had parked the truck behind a large rock outcrop not far from the mine but out of sight from the shed and mine tunnel. He then looked at his watch checking the time, grabbed a flashlight from the glovebox, and headed into the tunnel to find a close hiding spot.
Mike had found a nice pile of rubble to hide behind and wait on Kelly. He thought about the prank and that it might be mean but the end result was to be good. Mike was going to ask Kelly to go steady and give her his high school jacket after he spooked her, then they could share some alone time at the shack. It would be perfect!
Mike saw the light of Kelly’s lantern and her shadowy figure coming into the tunnel when he began to growl. Once she took off running, he couldn’t help to laugh so hard that he screeched. It took him a second to collect himself and chase after her. As he got to the entrance, he heard a blood curling scream. He saw Kelly ahead of him, then she disappeared as she fell into the vertical mineshaft. He got to the edge of the shaft, fell to his knees, but all he could do is yell out Kelly’s name into that dark pit with no reply.
Mike would spend years in therapy after the event. There he developed a new habit. He would never play a part in a prank again and every April Fools he would seek to do good for others no matter how much he hated that day.