unsolved

He grew up in a haunted house so each new place he moved to he was open-minded to the possibility that it too would be haunted.  He looked for signs.  He watched for movement and listened for unexplainable sounds.  He waited patiently for the ghosts to show themselves but they never did.  Then, one night, nine plus years after having moved into his current home, he heard her voice coming through the shower pipes.

He dismissed it at first.  Ghosts don’t just show up unless something happened to invite them in or to keep them from leaving.  Nothing tragic had happened in the house or nearby.  There was no reason a ghost should have chosen that specific night to reach out.  But, she continued to talk through the pipes when the shower was running and that made it so he couldn’t ignore her.  Besides, he’d waited for so long he didn’t want to.

Her words were garbled.  The water made them impossible to understand but her voice only came through when the water was turned on.  No matter what he tried, he couldn’t understand her.

It was disconcerting to have her chattering away while he showered.  Though, once the initial shock wore off, he tried to engage her in conversation.  She didn’t respond to any of his questions in any discernible way.  It didn’t seem like she cared what he said because her tone and the pacing of her words never changed.  He grew used to having her voice in the background as the days passed, until it no longer seemed strange and he no longer even tried to understand what she was saying.

And then, one morning during his shower, her words turned to screams.

He called out to her, asking fervently how he could help, what was wrong, what she needed.  When there was no change, he turned the water on and off, hoping to get a break from the onslaught.  Hoping the cycling of the water might help or reset the scenario or anything that might break off the noise.  He turned on different taps and called out through them.  But, when the water was on in the shower nothing stopped the screams.  Nothing he tried did anything to diminish her wails.

He had to turn the water off.  Even at a trickle her cries of anguish came through at piercing decibels.  He felt bad about it but he had to go about his life.  He couldn’t leave her screaming while he wasn’t home.  He couldn’t leave her screaming while he was trying to get things done around the house: eating, sleeping, …

He turned off the tap and left it off for several minutes.  The silence was nearly as deafening as her screams had been.  Nearly.  For the first time since her sudden arrival, he was scared.

What would happen when he turned the water back on?  What if she was still screaming?  What if she wasn’t?

The unanswered questions couldn’t wait forever.  He only had one bathroom in his place.  Eventually, and sooner rather than later at that, he would have to turn his shower back on.

He couldn’t face it naked, though.  Though he had mostly dried in the process of running around trying the other taps in his house, trying to get to the women, to help her, to get her to calm down, he still had soap on him.  He didn’t worry about that, though, as he finished toweling off and put some clothes on.  Then he walked back into the bathroom, haltingly, timidly.  And with his heart racing, he pulled the lever that would turn his shower back on.

Water poured forth but nothing else.  No screaming.  No talking.  Just water.

He stared at the drain as the water filled around the edges before being pulled away, forgotten, lost forever.  Where had she gone?  Had he imagined the whole thing?  What was he supposed to do now?

He shut the water off and then immediately turned it back on.  Still, there was no hint of his ghost.  With a frown he turned off the tap and left the bathroom.  He had to get to work.  The mystery would wait until he got home later and could see if she had returned.  Then again, perhaps he would never know why she had come, why she had screamed and why she stopped…

Truth and Fiction 6

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Should I just break down and call this Truth and Fiction month?  Probably not…  I’m fairly sure this is the last of these completely misnamed posts.  I’ve reached the end of the photos I’ll be sharing from my recent trip into the mountains.  I’ve been having fun writing and sharing pictures though so I’ll see about digging up some other ones to keep scheduling these posts out for a bit.  Okay, yes, that was me mostly rambling.  That’s the way it goes sometimes.  Anyway…

The Truth:

The six pinecones were arranged from largest to smallest on a flat rock in the middle of the camp.  The odds against the placement having occurred naturally were larger than I cared to even contemplate.  The simplest explanation was likely the correct one, someone who had camped there before us left them.  The who and when and why will forever remain mysteries.

We left them too.  While we ended up needing the rock as part of our dinner prep, we carefully transferred the cones to another location and kept them in the same order.  Thus, we added to the unknowns of their existence for future travelers to attempt to unravel should they wish.

I was far more curious about who would find them next and what they would make of the six arranged pinecones than I was about how it was we had come across them in the first place.

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The Fiction:

The message was left where those who would know its meaning would be sure to see it.  That was, unless the markers were moved accidentally, or purposefully, in the interim.  The possibility of sabotage, remote at best, was a real concern.  However, once the message had been left and we vacated the area the success of our mission was out of our hands anyway.

The days that followed were full of guilt and worry.  Had we done enough to secure the message?  Had it gotten through?  Was there more we could have done, or could still be doing, to further our cause?  The answers to these thoughts were always just more questions.

It had all seemed so straightforward when we discussed the plan ahead of time.  We just had to get to the rendezvous point and leave the message we’d been given to pass along.  But, no amount of talking could have prepared us for the actual task of forging across the land to make it to the designated spot in time.  Also, nowhere in the discussion regarding the message had weather been discussed.  Wind and rain were common enough and the slightest shift in our placements would confuse the intended directions.

We had done our part though.  It wasn’t our place to question the rest.  That truth did little to ease my troubled mind.

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And so it was that here, at the end of this series, I finally delivered one complete truth and one complete fiction.  Though, perhaps the pinecones were a message for someone…  If they were, what do you think they said?

Truth and Fiction 3

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The Truth:

We were lost, not for the first time on this trip and not for the last time that day, but we weren’t really lost.  We had a map and a compass and a pretty good idea of where we were and where we needed to be even though the trail we’d been on had led us astray.  We took a moment to study our situation next to this glass lake, its mirrored surface only being scuffed by the occasional splash of sunlight filtering through the trees behind us.  The pristine reflection of our lake, courtesy of the calm nature of the morning, echoed our own state of being.  It was early, we didn’t have too far to go, and we would make it there eventually.

We did, of course, make it to our next destination.  After taking our bearings, finding some landmarks we could match up on the map, and determining the most likely way to the correct trail, we headed cross country in search of it.  The gentle rise of the hillside between the layers of lakes was accepting of our meandering and we found our correct path exactly where we knew it was supposed to be, without ever really determining how we had missed it in the first place.  The unsolved mystery was just part of the adventure of it all.

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The Fiction:

Two trails led to the same lake.  We took one trail the day before when we were just out exploring the scenery, deciding the other branch must be our route out only to discover that they ended up in the same place.  My feet have left their mark on many miles of backcountry trails and never before have I come across a trail intersection that ends up headed to the same destination.  Making trails is hard work and it doesn’t make sense to waste that kind of duplicative effort and energy.

But there was a lot about this part of the wilderness that didn’t make sense to me.  The trail signs always seemed to only be visible if walking one direction, and somehow that was always the opposite way from how we were headed, so we were always missing our junctions and having to backtrack.  Sometimes the trail would just disappear and we’d have to scout around to pick up again in the absence of cairns or other identifying markers.  And, then there were the instances of the cairns that led nowhere.

We missed this lake when we were supposed to hike by it, but then found it later when we went out looking for it specifically, though it took a long time and we nearly gave up.  Then we found it again later easily when we were trying to get to a different lake and hadn’t intended to swing by it again at all.  I couldn’t explain what happened.  None of us could.

…..

I had every intention of actually telling a fiction story this time, but then the truth came out again.  Perhaps I’m just in a truth telling mood… or, perhaps the fiction is the fib that I’m going to tell you an untruth…  Or, perhaps I’m just tired and still on the mend and none of this makes any sense to anyone but me.

Jesterly Challenge Month – November 22nd

My Cousin Cathy challenged me with a picture prompt.  Tell me what you think of my story and tell me what you would have written instead in the comments.

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Ireland 2015 Cathy 558

The proof was there.  I pointed it out but nobody would believe me.  They claimed I’d made the footprints and I was just trying to rile them.  I am many things, but I’ve never been a prankster like that, and at the time I wasn’t sure what hurt worst: that they didn’t believe me or that they didn’t know me as well as I had thought.

I’d seen the creature walking in long strides through the forest.  The movement and the brown colored fur caught my attention immediately and froze my forward steps.  When I focused in, I caught the features of a distinct face rather than snout and my jaw dropped.  I’d wanted to call out then but had been so filled with awe and terror that I couldn’t find the air to push from my lungs.  Perhaps that is how it has gone hidden for so long – those who see it are struck dumb by its size, power, and beauty and that allows it to escape before it can be witnessed by others as well.

It smirked at me.  It was a definite twist of the lips upward in a rueful smile, and that’s what finally broke my trance.  My feet stumbled backward first, caught off guard by the emotional expression, hinting at playful intelligence and humor, and that terrified me more than its presence.  So, my steps falteringly lurched backward until I ran against a tree.  Luckily, I didn’t hard enough to do any damage, but, unfortunately, it was a loud enough knock that the beast decided to vacate the area more quickly.

Bounding forward in giant strides, longer than before, it disappeared quickly.  Unsure why or how, but knowing, I guess, that I didn’t want the experience to end, I gave chase.  As I dashed forward, slapping away long hanging branches, I called out to the others, “Bigfoot!  Bigfoot!  You guys!  Hey, you guys!  Bigfoot!”  I didn’t wait for any responses.

It moved so quietly I couldn’t follow it by sound.  It moved so quickly it was well beyond my ability to keep up with its pace.  I managed to catch glimpses of its fur as it moved further and further away, and then I saw it duck into the small ravine and I lost sight of it altogether.  When I got to there, the wet footprints where it had first entered the water glistened on the stone steps lining the middle of the creek.  I wanted to follow, but by then I could hear the crashing behind me of my friends getting close.

Grunting and panting from the excursion, they all hunched down and peered around me to see where I was frantically pointing.  Then with scoffs and shakes of their heads they turned around and made their way back to our camp.  Not a single one of them believed me.  Perhaps that isn’t fair.  Perhaps, it is more that they were afraid to believe me.  I’m not sure.  Not that it matters anymore.

It was the stones, arranged so aesthetically down the middle, which made me linger long after the others had left.  Who had placed them there?  Where did they lead?  Thinking back over the trail map, I didn’t remember seeing the small stream anywhere near our camp.  Perhaps it was too small for the makers of the map to want to include, but that didn’t ring true in my heart.

I carefully lowered myself down to the first stone I could reach and stepped from stone to stone until I came to this archway.  If you’ve found this note, that means I haven’t come back through yet.  I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t know what I will have found on the other side or if you should follow me in or not.  But, I suspect if you are here, then you are like me and will need to know what’s on the other side, where the creature went, and what comes next.

I wish you safe travel and good luck wherever your path leads you, and perhaps I’ll see you on the other side.

Hear The Song

Image Credit: Bushnell

A gentle breeze sets the leaves whispering and bends the bows closer to hear their secrets, but the whistling rustle holds no truths beyond the ones they’ve heard countless times before.  Corresponding actions and routines transpire throughout the shaded forest, from the ears perking to tall grasses stirring.  The wind is the fortune-teller of the wild places, bringing tidings to those who care to listen, and those who know best always care to listen.

A raised snout follows the perked ears to taste the air and confirm the spreading rumor: night is coming.  Padded feet tread softly on well-worn paths to the singing rock, where the head will tilt again and raised voice will call to brothers and sisters in celebration of the coming hunts.  That running of brotherhood and survival is still some hours away, though, which is fine because the rock always takes time to climb.  Its layered granite can shed and splinter under paws scrambling for purchase.

A winged neighbor cries as it swoops low overhead, angry over being trespassed against, and then perches out of reach of snapping jaws to continue its admonishments.  This too is routine, and while not completely ignorable, is easily pushed from racing thoughts as the path curves to rockier terrain.  The squawks quiet and then disappear altogether behind heavier pants and the high pressure of the evening breeze sweeping across open land.  Small creatures scurry to safety, under rocks and into holes, as the singing rock comes into view.

A deep orange spreads from the edge of the world as the fiery orb of light slips from view.  The time is nearly right.  As purple caresses the edge of the color splashed heavens and then devours the sky, the breeze quiets and the forest below revels in the momentary silence and in anticipation of what is to come.  Padded feet carefully scale the ancestral trail and emerge on the smooth overlook.  The voice sounds immediately in songs of freedom and wildness, and the brothers and sisters respond in echoing fashion until the whole valley vibrates in beauty.