Last September, the wife and I decided to take a drive, which has become one of our favorite ways to spend time together. This particular trip took us south, traveling the (at times) confusing Interstate 35, beyond Dallas, beyond Hillsboro. Our journey took us to Waco.
While driving down Waco’s pretty disappointing Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (elaboration on significance at a later date), I told her the story of David Koresh’s Branch Dividian complex from the perspective of someone who has lived in Texas. Whereas she remembers from the news, I remembered from class. She found the twisted tail of a religious zealot and master manipulator to be more compelling from my end, prompting the activation of the GPS to a new address: 1781 Double EE Ranch Road.
The following story was written literally right after we left the site. It has not been edited in any way since that night and contains no filler, just my words and feelings as I tried to process my experience.
As we approached the compound, I began to feel heavy, like I had swallowed a ball of lead that sat perfectly positioned in the pit of my stomach. My breathing became slightly labored, and the eerie flora and desolate dirt road seemed to emulate pairs of eyes that followed every movement… like the site of the massacre itself was watching us.
We continued down Double EE Ranch Road until it thinned out and became misshapen — a hazard for any vehicle following its decrepit physique — yet, that weighted feeling seemed to dissipate the further away we were from area 1781. Making a very cautious bid to turn around, we headed back, weaving the same potholes and deformed rocks back to the spot we had initially set out to find.
Within a moment, we returned. The sense of desperate sorrow and concentrated despair had returned as well, more powerful than what I had initially experienced.
As soon as the car turned off, it went black, like when one flips the lights in a small bathroom void of windows. With a sound recorder, flashlight, and a useless video device in hand, we exited the vehicle, taking our first steps into the land that forever carried the sins of David Koresh. I slowly approached the path that notified all seekers to the entrance of the Branch Dividian, recorder in full activation, listening to the symphony of crickets and gravel crunching underneath my sneakers. Turning the slight corner manifested in front of me, I saw it…
The dilapidated, metal gate seemed to peer into me as I approached, staring me down and evaluating my arrival. I stared back, fully consumed in the feeling of suffering around me. A lake of tears and agony, or like standing underneath a waterfall composed of anguish and lament. Approaching the gate, I noticed the feelings intensifying, two-fold with every step.
It was at that moment, a mere nine or ten feet from the gate, I felt stopped. I could feel hands thwarting my approach, desperately informing me not to enter. To my left came a rustle from a large collection of brush. An animal? It couldn’t be. The duration of the rustling did not cease and no scampering could be heard. The dread pooling in my body — my blood and tissues feeling comprised of ice — forced my attention back to the gate.
With the aggravated foliage to my left still seizing, the gate looked different, like its observation of me once attributed to the steel itself had become the observation of a figure — its outline — staring at me in complete disapproval. It was tall and blended into the darkness, yet partially visible. It seemed determined to not allow my admittance.
For a brief moment, my curiosity peeked and my attention moved to beyond the gate and its possible keeper. Underneath the moonlight and with flashlight assistance, my vision caught the appearance of more figures out amongst the small, wake-like hills of 1781 Double EE Ranch Road. They were like jangled silhouettes, barely discernible, but too fluid to be written off.
At that moment, my blood completely froze.
My eyes returned to the gate and the hands pushed me once again, accented by the rusting brush, who’s scratchy echo seemed to radiate between my ears and burn into my senses. I had gotten the hint. I was not welcome here.
Calling to my companion, I backed away, turning around to leave the ghosts of the Branch Dividian to themselves. While the car retreats back to civilization, the heaviness continued to build, as I once again felt the observations follow me. This time, not from the road or the trees or the crickets, but from the Dividians themselves.