Lawrence slides his arms out of the shoulder straps and unzips his daughter’s pack, lifting out the water bottles he filled at the subterranean lake and standing them up.

He takes one, unscrews the cap, and turns the bottle upside down. When he’s emptied them both, he throws the bottles out into the cavern, the plastic banging invisibly against the rock.

And Gloria and Lawrence gaze into the dark, thinking of a son, a daughter they will not see again, the images swarming and vivid, inlaid at once with such beauty and unbearable regret.

Chasing her little boy through an alpine meadow, sunlight caught up in his rusty hair, his high, small laughter resounding off the mountains as she tickles his ribs.

His little girl in his lap, turning the pages of some long-forgotten book whose words would crush him if he could remember.

Both, in their own way, thinking, This is hell—the absolute loss borne from all those slivers of perfection that passed unnoticed, unrelished.

In true dark, there is no gauging of time.

It moseys along and dawdles and hints at the horror of eternity.

At length, Lawrence folds the backpack into a pillow and settles down beside the bones of Gloria, whose shattered heart quits beating.



he following books were indispensable in helping me to understand and create the world of Abandon: Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps by Sandra Dallas (photography by Kendal Atchison), The Mining Camps Speak by Beth and Bill Sagstetter, Images of the San Juans by P. David Smith, Tomboy Bride by Harriet Fish Backus, Mountains of Silver: Life in Colorado’s Red Mountain Mining District by P. David Smith, Silverton—A Quick History by Duane A. Smith, Colorado Mining Stories: Hazards, Heroics, and Humor by Caroline Arlen (editor), Dictionary of the American West by Winfred Blevins, Rocky Mountain Medicine—Doctors, Drugs, and Disease in Early Colorado by Robert H. Shikes, M.D., and Doctors of the Old West—A Pictorial History of Medicine on the Frontier by Robert F. Karolevitz.

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