Welcome to Harridan Bluffs

June 06, 2016
broken chair lift

Last week I found myself turning my car down a forgotten road in an attempt to reconnect myself with the story that owned two years of my life. Setting is an invaluable asset. It sets the tone, it invokes feelings, it grounds the story into a tangible reality, and every setting I describe within my pages is somehow connected to a setting I know in real life.

Harridan Bluffs is entirely fictional. It is an abandoned ski resort, overtaken by The Prophet, a frightfully charming three-piece-suit who manipulates his followers into unspeakable behaviour.

abandoned ski resort

Years ago, I remember adventuring with my husband and a friend down a wasted lane to a foreclosed ski resort. I remember the sense of abandonment that lingered, the trash littering the ground, the sadness that seemed wrapped around the whole mountain.

That is the memory that built Harridan Bluffs and last week I revisited it.

The access to the main lodge is blocked by a heavy gate now but a pitted dirt path leading up the mountain remains unencumbered so I coaxed the station wagon up the grueling incline.

Trees hung over the 'road', casting eerie shadows, threatening to swallow me into their creepy maws. I drove slowly, a knot of nerves in my belly as I recalled the scene when Reverend Greene went to investigate the place that scarred his lover.

As I reached the top, the trees opened up to reveal a gravel plain lined with cement stoppers. A red and white sign hung from one but I deliberately looked away. Plausible deniability and all that...

The Church in the Wildwood

I picked my way along the edge of the treeline and then out to the skeleton of the chairlift, feeling the weight of the place I created with the memory of the place in which I stood. It was strangely powerful—as if, somehow, I had written truth.

I lingered there (after texting my sister my location in case John Peter Roth, the prophet of Harridan Bluffs appeared from behind the trees to drag me into his complex). The view was incredible. The day was bright. The sun was warm. And I was moved, sitting in the untended grass, gazing on the place at the base of the chairlift where Roth buried the body of the woman who tried to escape him...


“Oh, Iris, you must stop this. He cares for us in his own way.”

Iris stopped in her tracks. “Does he, Mother?” She pulled her skirt high enough to show the fresh, raw cuts on her inner thigh. “Does he love me, Mother? Do you even care what he made me do last night?”

Her mother rushed back and wrapped her arms around her. “I have nothing to give you, Iris. I would give you the world if I could. I would fly you away to the moon just like your father’s song. This is what we have been dealt. We make the best of it we can. Do your duty.” She pulled back and tucked a strand of hair behind Iris’ ear. “You’re strange and precious, darling, just like the iris for which you’re named. Be strong.”

Iris buried her face in her mother’s shoulder. “You should have protected me from this,” she said around the lump in her throat. Her eyes smarted with hot tears.

Her mother held her for a moment, petting her hair and hushing her with tender sounds that reminded Iris she was still just a child, though she was expected to behave as a woman.

“I don’t know how,” her mother finally admitted. Iris heard tears in her voice.

“I will never have a daughter,” Iris promised. “I will never bring another girl into this life.”

Her mother remained silent, still smoothing her hair.

“Has anyone ever left?” Iris mumbled into her dress.

“Only one that I know of,” her mother said, unwinding herself from Iris’ arms, taking her hand and leading her to the opposite side of the building near the skeleton of an old ski lift. A small mound of dirt was visible through the weeds and a red cross had been painted on one of the old wooden crossbeams. “They ran her down with the pickup,” she said.

“Are you trying to scare me?”

“You should know the truth. Accept it. Make the best of it. This is our life.”

“I will leave here someday,” Iris told her.

“Then I will lay flowers on your grave,” her mother said sadly, putting her arm around her and pulling her close to her side before guiding her back up the path.


I all but lay my own flowers there. Now I wish I did. It would have been right...

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