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This essay was written following the Summer Creative Writing Intensive’s visit to the Deserted Village in Watchung Reservation on July 23.
Through the bus window I can smell the unmistakable, impenetrable scent of soil. As we climb out, the heat and humidity stifles us, like a woolen blanket over mouth and nose, cloaking all our other senses into disorientating confusion.
Beginning at the first house, I cannot help but notice that it is starting to look like the forest it hides in. The collapsed roof is covered in moss – a plant that we later see does not discriminate when it comes to other buildings on the premise. Beneath the overhang are four small glass windows, and beneath them are four larger ones, shielded with glass so dirty it is impossible to see inside.
The middle house is identical, but displays a tapestry of tangled dark green ivy repelling from the side. Dotting the plant, small orange flowers smile like stars on a clear Maine night. Both porches are empty, save for the ghosts milling about, leaving slight breezes behind like worn letters on a gravestone, but the third house is different. Flowers and old relics clutter the front, sides, and back of the house, on which a rusted wheel props itself against, and in front on the road stands a white mailbox with a number 10 clearly printed in black on the door.
Next we’re keeping our balance on a steep downhill, and we duck under widow makers, taller than any house, that have fallen like toy soldiers, and whose stumps look like a giant’s ankle planted in the mud. Cicadas murmur and leaves rustle in the zephyrus wind that refuses to meet our sweaty faces, sounding like how the stream below us would run if it weren’t dried up.
We finally approach more level ground, and a black car is parked wearily adjacent to the dirt road, which leads us to more ancient houses. What used to be a wrap-around porch but what now is a termite infestation ensconced in rotting wood dresses the biggest of the homes.
We crowd around a graveyard, which looks more like a single plot with three extra rocks than a true cemetery. Four names wear away on the faces of the graves, three sharing a surname, two sharing a maiden name.
After a while, we depart from the sad forest, ready to continue with our own small timelines. As we drive away, the air still smells like soil, the sun still glares over the mosquitoes, the leaves still rustle, the cicadas still whisper, and the village, abandoned like the unknown faces polluting the gravesite, still sprawls alone, crumbling with only silent spirits as company- a small capsule of decaying eternity.