Last Saturday morning, my dear big Shelby and I awoke well before dawn (as in way too long before dawn), and drove into the South Carolina mountains (translation: giant hills. But they’re still wonderful.) Our mission: to watch the sun rise at Pretty Place, a place beloved by Furman students and people in the surrounding Greenville area. My personal mission: to make a time-lapse of the sun rising over the mountains.
Neither of us had ever been before, so laden with coffee, cameras, a tripod, and several sweaters, we started driving north into the oppressive night, full of expectation. Conversation was great, as it always is, (but I still consider this to be an impressive feat at 5:30 in the morning). Everything held the promise of a successful morning, of an escape. At least, until we got into the YMCA camp itself.
We were driving, chatting, mostly reiterating how wonderful early-morning drives are and promising ourselves to do this more often, when, all of a sudden, a flash. It didn’t make any sense. It happened again. And again. It seemed to be coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Shelby was the first to be brave enough to acknowledge it with a casual “Hm, I wonder what that was?”
My mouth: “Er, I don’t know…” My brain: It’s aliens. It has to be. Or maybe it’s demons. Is someone taking pictures of us? We’re going to be the stars of one of those horror movies with a foreboding preface that reads, “Based on true events.” We are two girls alone in the middle of the mountains. That is just begging to be made into a horror movie. It’s almost too good.
It just kept happening. We’re both trying to play it cool, and I’m tearing through everything in the back seat trying to figure out where the heck this light is coming from. I’m whipping my head around, looking for some kind of source, all while planning escape routes from this tiny, winding, dirt mountain road, when I look up and see it’s just a tower.
Cue a sigh of relief.
It’s just like antenna at camp. It’s totally fine.
So of course, what’s the natural reaction after this kind of experience? Let’s share ghost stories and freak ourselves out even more! (Rational, I know.) We swap a few, laughing nervously, and I’m trying to covertly wring my hands and somehow will my heart rate to go down and act like the mature adult I’m supposed to be (ha!), when suddenly this man appears. Just walking. I, of course, jump out of my skin and try to stifle some sort of expletive from escaping my mouth. We laugh again and complain that random men shouldn’t just walk on dirt roads at 6:14 in the morning. It’s simply unacceptable.
We keep driving, and we see several more men walking along the way. What in hell are all these men doing?! At least they’re solid. Definitely not ghosts.
Several long minutes, wrong turns, and uncomfortable chuckles later, we finally arrive at the chapel. Since I’m still a rational adult, I think, It’s a chapel. We’re safe. No demons. Look, there’s even a cross! (I’ve seen one too many demon movie previews. Not even the movies themselves, just the previews. And that’s more than enough, in my humble opinion, thankyouverymuch.) We laugh, gathering our things, and walk into the dark confines of the chapel, when out of nowhere,
"Good morning," a man (in flannel that looks like he just walked out of one of the Friday the 13th movies) whispers hoarsely.
This time I really do mutter an expletive, but try to pass it off as some sort of nervous sneeze. (I don’t think it worked.)
He continues, as if nothing happened, “We’re hosting a service at 7 this morning, and you are more than welcome to join us.” We mumble hasty a hasty “thank you” and continue walking down the middle aisle of the church, and I keep my eyes determinedly fixed on the cross. You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine…
We admire the scenery, the vast expanse of mountains for a moment, and then I start to set up my tripod for the time-lapse. Once again, the man appears just behind me (no crunching footsteps of warning, no signaling cough, not even a breath), and says “We’re going to have to ask you not to take pictures…” And proceeds to explain that it would be distracting during the service, et cetera. I nod, frustrated, still terrified, and hastily pack up my things. We move out of the way, out of the confines of the church that is most certainly no longer inviting, sit uncomfortably on some rocks a few feet away, and scramble quickly out of there as the service begins. “Welcome to all who are here, especially our guests…”
Yeah, I’m very welcome, thanks, I think sarcastically, bitter that I only got one picture, thankful that the sun is finally rising, and ready for a nice, long nap.
Well, we can’t say it wasn’t an adventure.