Every other year for Halloween I attempt to write a scary story for fun. This one came to me based off a Thrillist list called “The Creepiest Urban Legend in all 50 States.” I give to you: The Escalante Petrified Forest Of Utah. Legend has it that folks who steal petrified pieces of wood from the park end up cursed. Enjoy.
The envelope was addressed to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, 710 North Reservoir Escalante, UT 84726. The man put the small chunk of wood inside, weighing just under twelve ounces, ripped off the strip of paper covering the glue, and folded the envelope at its crease. He unbuckled his seat belt and got out of his truck, the hood bent in, an SUV smoking next to him. The same SUV that had just t-boned him at the intersection. The man began limping to the post office, his ankle sprained, a small spot of blood running down his temple. His collar bone broken. He heard someone yell behind him. He kept going. His resolve had never been stronger to mail an item through the United States Postal Service. He continued down the sidewalk, his cowboy boots clicking. He turned left at the intersection, then right, past a Chevron. The Arizona sun beating down. The smell of car exhaust and dry October grass. The blue roof of the Post Office came into in view. It’s white and blue sign. He continued through the parking lot, entered through the double set of glass doors. Opened the mailbox slot for small envelopes. Dropped the envelope inside and collapsed on the recently polished floor of the Page, Arizona Post Office, red smearing against white.
At first they thought it was another rock. Reds, yellows, oranges, blues, and blacks swirled in a ring of creamy white like a brightly colored geode. But it wasn’t of course. It was a petrified piece of wood. This chunk of wood had five points and measured four inches thick, with a slightly larger diameter. The bark was frozen. The surface polished. The weight light as a leaf.
Carmela picked a small chunk off the ground first followed by Ahmed, Mireya, and eventually, Brennan, even though the sign at the trailhead had strictly warned not to disturb the ecological surroundings in any way, including the theft of fossilized pieces of wood, which was strictly illegal.
“Finally! Only took three miles of walking,” said Carmela, holding the rock against the sun.
“I know,” said Ahmed, “I didn’t think we were going to find any.”
The four of them slung their packs down gulped down a bunch of water.
“Can’t wait to take this home and show Lisa,” said Mireya.
“No!” shouted Brennan. The three of them looked at him, startled. “Drop the wood.” Brennan dropped the small chunk he was holding where it fell on the red sand.
“I just remembered. These rocks are cursed.”
“They’re not rocks.”
“I mean wood, this petrified wood, people steal it and then weird shit starts to happen to them. They get in accidents, go bankrupt, get mysterious illnesses, break their collarbones and shit.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“No, its true, I read about it in the news. People will even mail back the piece they stole to the park to break the curse.”
Carmela snacked on a granola bar.
“Guys seriously, put the rocks down.”
“Fine okay,” said Ahmed. “We just wanted to see what they looked like in person. I mean that’s why we drove and hiked all the way out here right? To see a petrified forest and petrified wood?”
“Yeah, of course. I just mean, don’t take them home.”
The four of them sipped on water and munched on some crackers, cheese, and trail mix. The sun began to descend, clouds began to roll in casting a shadow over the sage and juniper. The heat of the early morning began to dissipate into the late fall afternoon. The air turning cold and crisp. The shadows descending. Halloween a few days away.
“Well, shall we?” said Ahmed, grabbing his bag.
The rest of them grumbled their agreement in unison.
“You guys first,” said Carmela. “I have to use the, um, facilities.”
As the three of them marched on, Carmela walked around the bend in the trail, turned to make sure they were gone, and picked up one of the pieces of petrified wood and placed it in her pocket. The four of them wound back down the trail. The return journey mostly mostly downhill, taking them less time. They climbed into the Jeep and sped off back towards home.
Nothing would happen, Carmela thought, riding in the back of the Jeep. She was sure of it. She thought her dad would appreciate it. Her dad. Who lived in Page Arizona. Her dad. Who was always wearing cowboy boots that clicked on the pavement.