Rebecca’s eyebrows arched upwards, at the crossroads of natural fear and her inborn sense of adventure.
“Take us up there?” John asked Matai.
“Yes, we’ll take the company truck.”
Rebecca reached for her bag and jacket.
In the truck, Matai gives instructions.
“Head towards the Baisoara ski area.”
In a few minutes they are off the highway and in the Western Carpathians, on a stone road left by the Romans.
It led them into an area where a heavy mist hung in the air. Dark crevasses between jagged outcroppings, and rock ledges that evergreens hung to and over. There is something about the dead quiet of this forest that gave it a haunting feel. We parked the truck and took a short hike up the overgrown service road leading to De Blocare. Flatter and fairly clear at the base of the structure, John was able to quickly deduce its outline by the foliage following straight lines at either side where it met the outcroppings. This in spite of there being only small patches of the brickwork visible at all through the dense overgrowth. At least 100 feet wide and almost as tall he thought.
Gaps in the mortar lines where evident over a wide area, wherever you could see brick there were signs of erosion. John examined the brickwork closely, “This was built to last,” he quipped. John and Rebecca both stood back to view the entirety of the structure.
Rebecca takes a bucket from the back of the truck and fills it with a sample of the soil at the base of the wall.
“I like where you’re going with this Ms.Kavner. I see your soil sample analysis and raise you one slip circle,” John mimicked a riverboat gambler.
“Now what are you two up to?” Matai questioned.
“This soil is not native to this area,” Rebecca answered
“The builders of De Blocare needed a base to start from. They brought sand and gravel here and steam rolled it into place. That gave them a nice flat surface to start construction of the wall,” John added.
“Back in those days though, they did not know much about drainage,” Rebecca advised.
“I’m not sure I understand,” said Matai.
Water gets between the stone of the mountain and the gravel and slowly washes away the gravel from underneath, eventually the whole thing gives way,” Rebecca explains to Matai.
“And that my friend is what we call a slip circle,” John adds.
“So the base is eroding causing the wall to collapse,” Matai summarizes.
“Correct, exactly,” John confirms.
It was getting dark and John grabbed the soil sample and put it in the truck while Rebecca cleared a few bushes away from the steel door leading into De Blocare and snapped a couple of photos.
They all get in the truck and drive off.
The next day, Rebecca takes the soil sample to the geotech’s lab and orders a full analysis.
John makes a visit to the sanitarium. The nurse at the front desk was polite and spoke English making it easier for John to be transparent.
“I’m with a company that may be putting a proposal to repair De Blocare,” John advised.
“You know what that is, I’m sure?”
“I’ve heard of it, of course as many men who worked there are with us here now.”
“I know, and I would like to speak with any one of them.”
“I’ll have to ask my superior,” She rose and walked into an office just around a corner out of site.
John could hear the Doctor exclaim “De Blocare?!” but then only lower incomprehensible tones.
“Come in, Dr. Arco will see you.”
John walked into the doctor’s office and confidently announced:
“Thank you for seeing me today Dr. Arco,” wanting to make the impression that he knew who she was already.
The doctor was in her sixties, and seemed headstrong and suspicious of John. It took some convincing that he was genuinely interested in what the workers could tell him about De Blocare before she finally agreed.
“There are one or two you may be able to talk to, most are catatonic, have psycho-motor disturbances, symptoms similar to colica pictonum, but we have not been able to ever establish or confirm this diagnosis.” John nodded and hmm’d at what he hoped were the appropriate places, having only the faintest idea what she was saying.
The hospital was a depressing place. Everything looked out of date, metal cabinets and steel bed frames that looked like something from the forties. Medical equipment at least thirty years old. It occurred to John that seeing this in color was no advantage over seeing it in black and white, it was so drab.
“Dina,” the doctor tried to get the patient’s attention.
“Dina you have a visitor. This is Mr.Tkhaos who wants to talk to you today, okay?”
“O k a y,” he responded slowly.
“Hi, how are you today?” John asked.
“O k a y,” Dina answered slowly again.
“I have heard that you worked on the de Blocare project.”
“Y e s.”
Dina then took the index finger on his right hand and licked it, then carefully drew a slow and precise horizontal line in the air just in front of himself.
“Like this, we would smooth the mortar joint like this,” he said.
“I see,” John replied.
“We would all do it like this, for quality, you know, this was important.”
“Yes, quality is important.”
“Janusz, he fell in, right near it. He was never the same,” Dinu looked down.
“Yes, I’m sorry, I heard about Janusz, when I saw him walking past where I am staying.”
Dinu leaned forward and touched John’s knee, then his hand.
“What happened to us? Do you know?” In traumatized tones he said, as if there was still a little piece of a man that once was somewhere in there.
Dinu then slumped back while the doctor motioned with her arms it was time to go.
Next post the soil analysis reveals something very unusual, and John and Rebecca receive a request from the Mayor that leads to an terrifying adventure inside De Blocare.