Sunday, February 02, 2014
Nobody Ever Goes There
The viewpoint character for the story is a young man named Mark Banion, who grew up in the town of Trimble North Carolina, hearing the stories about the abandoned textile mill on the opposite side of Catch River in the shadow of Music Mountain. The people of Trimble did not cross the old river bridge to the mill. Nobody ever went there.
Mark learned a few things about the mill from one of the town's older citizens, mainly that the native Indians who once lived in the area had been afraid of something in the spot where the mill had been built, and that one night everyone who worked in the mill and lived in the houses that had been built by the owners had simply vanished. An entire small community gone.
Mark left town on a football scholarship but eventually wandered back to take a job as a coach at the local high school. Here he met pretty history teacher Ruth Covell, a young woman with a burning curiosity about the old mill. As you can probably guess, Ruth makes and ill-advised trip over the Catch River bridge, but not before she and Mark run into a stranger who's using an old wood-shop in town to repair his guitar, an instrument with silver strings.
When things turn bad, John goes into action, but the reader doesn't learn his name until the very end of the story. When NOBODY EVER GOES THERE made its original magazine appearance, many probably didn't realize it was a John the Balladeer story until they were halfway through. At that time (1981) Manly Wade Wellman was writing a lot of Southern Mountain horror tales that didn't feature any of his series characters. I first read the story in the Paizo collection of John the Balladeer stories so I wasn't surprised when John showed up.
Anyway, this wasn't John's last appearance, and later stories went back to the original format so as I said, this one's an interesting anomaly.