Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Hunt - Short Story

A dark shadow descended upon the small valley.  Albert looked up, "this shouldn't be happening" he thought to himself,  there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was midday yet the sun seemed to be getting darker.  Albert had heard stories about the days when the sun would go dark,  followed by the terror.  Nobody could remember the last time this had happened,  only the terrifying results.
Albert looked up the valley and the trees,  he knew there was no chance of getting to his home quickly,  it was just to far away.  Every second he stood still,  the sky got darker and darker.  He knew he had to move quickly,  but where he asked himself. Suddenly,  it came to him,  he remembered a small cave in the woods,  he used to play there with his brother many years ago.  For a split second, painful memories filled his head,  the terrible sickness, refusal to eat,  and watching his brother waste away to nothing.  There was nothing the Elders could do for him,  they had tried all the brews, the spells, the potions, and even bleeding him but nothing helped. The Elders finally said he was possessed and never came back.
Albert turned and started running as fast as his legs would carry him.  He knew it was a long shot but the cave was much closer than his house.  He also hoped the cave would offer him more protection against,  he stopped thinking at that point,  he couldn't finish that thought because he didn't know what he was running away from.  
It seemed like it was no more than a minute that he noted the sky getting darker,  he was running for all his might, but the darkness was encroaching ever faster.  He tripped over a rock and when he got up,  it was almost pitch black.  He tried to orientate himself but it was hard,  he got turned around and no longer knew in which direction the cave was.  He looked up to the sky,  hoping the stars would provide some help but all he saw was darkness.  It was now so dark that Albert couldn't even see his hand.  He listened,  but heard nothing,  nothing but silence,  no animals,  no birds, no rustling of the wind thru the trees.  It was like someone,  or something had cut off all of his senses.
Albert found himself on his feet once more,  walking at a brisk place,  hoping he wouldn't trip again.  He hoped he was going in the right direction. It was so dark,  he didn't know how he would find his way to the cave.
He had been walking for about 5 minutes when he first heard it.  It sounded like nothing he had ever heard before. It was barely audible. It seemed to be coming from behind him,  Albert picked up the pace,  now running at a slow jog. His eyes now accustomed to the dark, he could just make out the tree line up ahead.  He looked behind him but could see nothing.
He had just turned around when he felt a sharp hit across his head.  He fell to the ground,  jarring his shoulder.  His senses told him to move but his body refused to obey. He lay there for a minute,  trying to regain his senses. As he lay there,  he could hear the noises again.  They were still faint,  he listened intently, they seemed to be getting closer.
Albert slowly got up, putting his hands out.  His hands touched something hard,  a tree he thought.  He had made it to the tree line,  he knew it wasn't much further from here,  but the darkness,  he wondered if he would be able to find the cave in this darkness. He started walking slowly,  more carefully,  trying to remember the way and not run into anymore trees.  The ground was uneven and with every step,  he need to concentrate so as not to fall.  The trees muffled the sound but he could now hear it much more clearly,  it was getting closer,  much closer.  Too close he thought and tried to walk a bit faster.  Branches tugged at his sleeves,  brushed across his face.  He could feel,  and taste the blood seeping from the many scratches on his face but he kept moving forward,  fearful of the unknown. His hands extended forward,  feeling his way thru the dense forest,  he moved at a snail's pace.  Not fast enough he thought as the noise got steadily louder and louder.  He just wanted to stop,  sit down and let whatever it was take him but his brain refused to give in so onward he crept.
Suddenly,  the underbrush gave way to a clearing,  there weren't any more trees.  He now knew where he was,  the cave was just ahead under the rock outcropping.  He could make it,  he thought.  The noise was now loud,  very loud. He couldn't hear himself thinking but he kept moving, he had to. His hand came up against something hard,  rock! He made it.  He moved to the right and the rock gave way,  he entered the cave,  feeling his way along one wall.  He kept moving deeper and deeper into the cave,  carefully placing his feet on solid ground so he wouldn't fall.  He knew how sharp the rocks were.
The sounds gradually receded,  he made it.  He sat down,  only then realizing how badly he was shaking from the ordeal. His hands were shaking,  he was winded.  He sat down,  only then realizing how tired he was.  He leaned against the back wall,  closing his eyes for a minute.  He listened but the only noise he heard was the thumping of his heart. Gradually,  the thumping eased, his mind relaxing, and then the rhythmic breathing as Albert fell asleep.
Albert was suddenly and roughly awakened , something had grabbed his foot and was dragging him out of the cave.  He couldn't get up and the sharp rocks were leaving deep gashes in his back. He started screaming and trying to kick but to no avail,  his captors were too strong. He could sense he was outside by the cool air on his face but the darkness was absolute.  He had no idea who his captors were,  of where he was being taken. The pain in his back was unbearable,  the open wounds dragging across the ground was too much and he passed out.
When Albert came to,  he was in a small cage. It was still dark and he had no idea where he was. He reached out and touched the bars of the cage.  They were warm to the touch,  neither wood nor steel.  He could not tell what they were made of but he knew he had to get out.  He tested the bars but they didn't move a bit,  they might have felt flimsy but they were strong. He tried kicking the bars but the only thing he did was to hurt himself.  He thought he heard breathing but when he called out,  he was met with a sharp prod and an excruciating pain he had never experienced before in his life.
Albert didn't have any sense of time,  it was dark,  and time seemed to drag.  The only indicator of time was his stomach, and his stomach was in a constant state of Flux.  He was hungry,  thirsty and afraid,  afraid of what might come. Minutes later,  he heard a commotion,  voices,  screams and the noise of cage doors opening.  It was still dark so he couldn't tell what was happening.  Suddenly,  he heard the door of his cage being opened.  He felt a rope slip over his head and then was pulled roughly out of the cage.  "This is it" he thought to himself.  He was pulled this way and that way for what seemed like hours.  The only thing he knew was that the hard ground had given way to a grassy field. He also heard heavy breathing coming from others nearby,  but remembering the last time he called out,  he felt it prudent to keep quiet.  Apparently,  the others thought the same way.
The pushing and pulling stopped,  the rope was removed from around his neck.  Albert stood still,  aware of others around him,  the heavy breathing,  the sobs, the smells. Suddenly,  a shrill whistle sounded,  startling everyone.  Then he heard a strange voice cry out "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!". At first nobody moved,  like Albert, afraid of the repercussions,  until the voice rang out even louder "RUN!" This time,  it was accompanied by a sharp rap on the back with a metal rod.  Albert almost keeled over but managed to keep his balance as he started to move away,  slowly at first,  then running as fast as he could.  It was still dark but the sky seemed to be getting lighter,  barely,  or was it his imagination. Albert looked behind him as he was running and what he saw,  or thought he saw scared him.  It looked like a line of 20 or 30 creatures, hairy creatures hunched over all lined up,  jumping up and down, waiting.  Waiting for what he thought?  Suddenly,  the realization hit him,  the old stories of man eating creatures,  the black night they called it where people just disappeared.  
Albert now understood what he needed to do,  he somehow found renewed strength and started running like the wind.  He knew where he was,  he knew these hills,  the woods,  and more importantly,  the caves. He had been running for about a minute when he heard a loud noise from the back, followed by yells.  He instinctively knew what that meant and he redoubled his running,  running for his life.
The tree line was just ahead,  Albert ran for it.  Running between the trees was difficult but becoming easier as the sky was getting progressively lighter. He could hear the death curdling screams of those less fortunate who couldn't run.  He recognized this place,  he turned sharp left and followed a trail up the hill.  If only he could make it over the ridge,  there was a cave there that went deep into the hillside.  He knew he could hide there, if only he could make it.  He could hear the sounds of his pursuers close on his heels,  the constant screams.  Suddenly,  he heard something to his right that gave him cause for fear, a fear in the pit of his stomach  someone,  or something running thru the woods, close by,  too close for comfort he thought.
"Help me" he said.  Albert froze for a split second. He recognized that voice,  "Jason" he asked" "Is that you Albert". "Quick,  follow me and don't make a sound". Albert continued running up the hill,  then turned when he reached the ridge.  A minute later,  he disappeared into a small opening,  Jason right behind him.  The cave was pitch black,  Albert whispered to Jason,  "put your hand on my shoulder and follow me". Together,  they slowly made their way deeper and deeper into the cave.  The sounds from outside giving way to silence.  After a few minutes,  he stopped and sat down.  Jason followed suit,  fearful of making any noise at all.
They had no sense of time but they knew they must stay put.  After what seemed like two days,  their stomachs rebelling at the lack of food,  their throats parched from lack of water,  they slowly made their way out the cave,  afraid of what might be waiting for them.  As they approached the opening,  they could see daylight.  
They cautiously made their way down thru the trees, into the open valley. Blood stained grass attested to the macabre events that had happened.  They were both too shocked to say anything.  They saw cages,  whips,  stages with ropes but no sign of life.  Whoever,  or whatever had done this was gone.  Albert made his way to his house, hoping his parents would be there.  Jason had taken a different path to his house without saying a word.

The house looked empty,  the fire was cold and the door wide open.  He had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, he called out.  No answer,  he called again.  He thought he heard muffled voices coming from the back.  He moved quickly to the back to find a large tub turned over,  his parents coming out.  When they saw him,  they ran up to him,  pulling him deep in their arms. There was no need for words,  just tears of joy, they had survived the dark night.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The House - Short Story

The large house stood proud perched atop a knoll overlooking downtown Clairville. Susan was relaxing in the den,  sitting in her favorite chair with a glass of Chardonnay trying to put the days events out of her mind.  Her work as public defender demanded all her time and energy. Being home before 10 at night seldom happened but when it did,  Susan took advantage of those few minutes of calm before retiring for the night.  There it was again,  or so she thought.  She held her breath,  sat perfectly still and listened but there was nothing.  A figment of her overactive mind she thought.  
The house was a large manor style built in the early 1960s for a wealthy businessman.  He had wanted many children and built a house with enough rooms to accommodate them all.  Tragedy fell early when his wife died in childbirth for his first child.  He fell into a deep depression and reclused to the house for many years.  One day,  the front door left was open but he was nowhere in sight,  and was never heard from again.  His nearest relation,  his brother shuttered the house and it sat unaccompanied until Susan traced the owner and made an offer.  The house seemed in remarkable shape,  considering that it sat empty for over 50 years. It stood three stories tall, an imposing structure in its day and still remarkable.  The original 5 acres had since been parceled off and smaller dwellings now surrounded the majestic house.  Many rumors abounded about the secret rooms and passageways but were never proven as the builder handed over the only drawings to the owner and they were never made public. Susan often thought of these rumors and noted many of the rooms seemed smaller than they should be but she never gave it more thought than that.  
The weather had turned and fall was in the air. Leaves were dropping and the wind was howling this night.  She dreaded this time of year and vowed to get a lawn care contact to deal with all the leaves. The builder had seen the need to plant nice shade trees all around the house and they were a Godsend during the summer but not so during this time of year.  There is was again,  she swore she could smell cologne, or perfume.  It was something.  She stood up and,  picking up her empty wine glass,  walked barefoot to the kitchen.  She looked around,  half expecting to see her ex boyfriend cooking up his favorite meal,  veal parmigiano. No,  she need to put that thought  out of her head,  Dave had left her two years ago,  or was it the other way around? She remembered the constant fights over her long hours,  the missed dates,  and finally him walking out the door,  never to see him again.
Susan made her way up to the bedroom,  crawled under the down duvet, and was asleep in minutes.  The alarm made a shrill cry deep in her head,  the glowing red numbers reading 05:01 far too early she thought. Susan had a deposition this morning and she needed a few quiet hours to finish the required paperwork.  She made her way to the bathroom,  brushed her teeth and got into the shower.  She made the water as hot as her skin could bear it and stood under the rain head,  closing her eyes and planning her day's activities. Stepping out of the shower,  she dried herself and reached for her brush.  Her movement was automatic,  reaching on the right side of the sink,  but it wasn't there.  For a minute,  panic set in,  then she glimpsed her brush on the left side of the sink.  She must have been tired yesterday,  she always put her brush on the right.  
Half an hour later, Susan was enjoying a nice cup of freshly ground coffee with a croissant. She knew she needed to lay off the croissants every day but it was one of the few indulgences she gave into. Finishing,  the dishes went into the dishwasher,  and a few minutes later,  the front door closed,  the deadbolt latched,  and quiet one again engulfed the large house.
A few minutes later,  a creak broke the silence of the house. In the den,  an innocuous wall panel opened, slowly, cautiously.  Darkness from within was broken by the light filtering in thru the open curtains. A small figure of a man slowly emerged,  his bare feet shuffling on the floor.  He was hunched over,  the clothes hung off his emaciated frame. Every step was calculated, timed to conserve as much energy as possible.  The cadaverous skeleton of a man slowly made his way to the kitchen.  A normal 30 second trip took him almost 5 minutes.  Inside the kitchen,  he slowly made his way to the garbage.  He knew the present tenant often threw away a half eaten sandwich.  He also knew she wouldn't miss anything from the garbage can.  He opened the lid but to his dismay,  it was empty.  He went to the fridge and looked inside.  He knew he could take a small amount of certain things without raising suspicion.  There was a half eaten salad,  he carefully took a few lettuce leaves,  a small piece of tomato,  two pieces of cucumber and a bit of carrot.  This would have to do him until tomorrow he thought to himself.  
As he closed the fridge,  he caught sight of fresh croissants on the cupboard. He had seen them before and knew Susan indulged frequently.  He had heard her talking when she had company and knew her name,  knew her business,  her thoughts. He would often lay on the floor when he heard her talking,  listening to her every word.  He heard her singing when she was in the shower.  How he longed for companionship once again. However,  right now,  his stomach was once again protesting, and protesting loudly. He could no longer bear it.  He remembered two months ago when he took her croissants, he heard her rummaging thru the kitchen loudly, cursing like a common dock worker, looking for her croissants.  Finally,  he heard her mumble something about losing it, about being time to cut back on her hours and then silence.  Silence until he heard the door slam as she left the house without eating.
His hands were resting on the tasty treats, he could almost taste them now,  it seemed like he could taste them thru his fingers.  His mouth was watering,  savoring the potential treat.  His stomach could take no more,  he was just about to take them when he heard the key in the door,  the deadbolt unlatching, then the front door opening.  Fear gripped  him,  but he knew he was far too weak to make it back to the den so he froze, not knowing what to do.
Susan silently cursed herself as she reached the bus stop.  She had left the house far too preoccupied with the day's upcoming events that she had forgotten her brief on the desk in the den.  She made a quick call to her intern explaining that she would be a few minutes late and started back for the house.  In her high heels,  walking anything but at a normal stride was all but impossible so she didn't even try.  She resigned herself that she would be late.
Arriving at the house,  she quickly unlocked the door,  then the deadbolt and made her way to the den.  She quickly snatched up the manila folder, dropped it in her large purse and made her way back to the front door.  She had just finished locking it and was at the bottom of the steps when she remembered her intern probably  hadn't eaten and there was a croissant on the cupboard.  She hesitated for a minute,  calculating the extra time needed to go back in the house,  plus the pain of climbing those 10 steps to the front door and then turned to go.  Something was gnawing at her, she couldn't quite place it. There was something in the house that seemed out of place.  She decided to climb the steps,  fumbling in her purse to find her keys seemed to take forever.  She need to get a better system she thought,  one of those keyless combination type entry locks.  After what seemed like an eternity,  she found them and opened the door.  She made her way to the kitchen and saw her croissant right where she left it.  She grabbed it and put it in he purse. As she was leaving,  she poked her head in the den,  nothing out of the ordinary she thought.  A few minutes later,  she was walking down the street with her brief and croissant,  thinking that this would be a good day.
He heard footsteps making their way to the den.  He had left the hidden door slightly ajar and hoped she wouldn't see it.  More importantly,  he hoped she wouldn't come in the kitchen.  A minute  later, the footsteps retraced their route back to the front door,  then the familiar latching of the deadbolt.  Gathering all the strength he could muster,  he shuffled as quickly as possible back to the den.  The adrenaline from almost getting caught gave him new found strength and a short time later,  the panel closed.  
Susan got home earlier than usual,  her deposition had gone better than she had hoped and she had decided to celebrate by quitting early and opening a nice bottle of Chardonnay,  ordering an all dressed pizza and sitting by the fire in the den.  She enjoyed the silence,  the break from the hustle and bustle of the busy Law office where she spent more time then in her house.  Work weeks of 90 or more hours were not uncommon and were expected by the senior partners. She gazed into the fire,  burning brightly,  the dry wood crackling and spitting out burning red embers. She needed this to put the day's hectic events out of her mind. What she also needed was a man holding her,  listening to soft music.  Well she decided that if there was no man,  then at least she could listen to some soothing music.
Susan made her way to the bookshelf behind the desk.  She pressed the power button,  tuned to her favorite station and thought to herself,  today was a good day.  She turned to return to her seat when she saw something that didn't look right.  The wall panel seemed to have separated from the wall.  She walked over,  thinking that she would now need to find a handyman to repair the wall.
Susan went over to investigate,  seeing if perhaps she could just take a hammer to it but upon closer investigation noted that this wasn't a wall panel. She put her fingers into the opening,  this isn't a panel she thought to herself,  it moved.  She started pulling gingerly,  afraid the entire wall might fall down on her but to her surprise,  it moved like a door.  It was a door she saw,  but what would a door be doing here she said to herself.  She continued pulling and the door opened fully revealing darkness.  She did notice a sweet sickly smell,  the same smell she had experienced several times before.  Her mind was racing,  wondering what she had discovered.  What secrets lay in the darkness.
Darkness enveloped her as she stepped thru the door.  She put her hands out and walked forward about two steps when her hand brushed against a large spider web. She pulled it back quickly and backed out. The light from the den did little to penetrate the dark.  Susan thought to herself that she needed a flashlight,  something she didn't have.  She would have to get one tomorrow and then she could investigate.  After leaving the door slightly ajar she returned to her chair,  her Chardonnay and her pizza,  planning her adventure on the morrow.
The next morning,  Susan checked on the secret door before going to work.  It was still slightly ajar,  just as she had left it. Susan had a hard time concentrating at work,  her mind was elsewhere,  elsewhere on that door,  and what lay behind it. She quit a bit early and rushed to the local ACE hardware store where she bought a high intensity 11 led lantern.  She also bought an extra set of batteries on the recommendation of the salesman.
Susan unlocked the front door and rushed into the den.  Her stomach clenched, blood rushed to her head,  she felt panic and fear.  The panel was closed,  she looked around the room,  expecting to see someone but there was nobody.  Somebody had to be in the house she thought.  Susan took her shoes off,  her instincts on high alert,  ready to sprint at any minute.  She turned,  trying to act normal,  and made her way upstairs to the bedroom.  She was trying to stay calm, easier said than done she thought. She knew exactly where her handgun was,  and she had the lessons to show how to use it.  She had spent many hours of practice at the local range.  
When she reached the relative safety of the bedroom,  she felt like she could finally breathe. She opened the door to her night table and there was the glock,  right where she left it.  She checked the magazine,  it was full,  inserted it,  and loaded the breach. She now felt safe. She changed into an old t-shirt and jeans and made her way back to the den.   She ran her fingers along the moulding and pulled lightly.  She could feel it give slightly, then it opened fully. She switched the light on and entered a small narrow hallway. Cobwebs were everywhere but the main path was clear,  as if someone passed here regularly.  She had gone but a short distance when she encountered stairs.  The steps were narrow and steep with no handrail.
Susan reached the narrow landing and followed the aisle to the left.  What she saw astonished her,  she came out into a small room furnished with a small bed,  table and book case,  filled with pictures.  On every wall hung several pictures of a young couple,  or of a young woman.  Susan suddenly felt like she was intruding on someone's private life.  But then she thought "this is my house". She felt she had the right so she moved forward.  At the opposite side of the room,  she saw another narrow opening. She was wondering what she would encounter.  Her light in one hand,  her protection in the other,  she moved forward,  forward into the unknown she thought and silently laughed at the absurdity of what was happening right now.
The small opening led to another set of stairs,  these ones even steeper than the last.  She had to hold onto the wall to keep her balance so she put the safety on and put the handgun into her waistband.  Just like the thugs she thought and once again,  she silently laughed.  She slowly started up the steps, amazed at this unknown secret hidden right under her nose.
She finally reached the top and once again, turned to see another opening just ahead.  Cautiously,  Susan moved forward,  taking baby steps. When she reached what looked like a small room,  she held the light out and screamed. There,  lying on the floor was what could only be described as a skeleton. A small frail looking man with long white hair,  clothes that hung off his emaciated frame, lying on the floor.  Susan was sure he was dead,  the stench was unbearable but then she detected movement.  She moved closer,  trying not to gag and called out to him.  The body didn't move but she was sure she heard a whisper, a whisper for help.  Susan took out out her cell phone and dialed 911.
It was Sunday afternoon and Susan was in the den, a fire helping to ward off the winter chill.  She was curled up in her favorite chair reading the latest edition of the American Bar Association Journal. She was engrossed in the story of the former judge who had been sentenced to jail for 5 days for contempt. The initial sentence of one day had been extended to the present 5 for being defiant in front of the trial judge and despite repeated warnings, he had kept talking. For his own protection,  he was being held in a single cell. Susan had heard of this judge,  knew of his antagonistic attitude in the court room and had silently hoped she would never have the occasion to meet him.  
The doorbell rang, bringing Susan back to reality. She opened the door to find two sharply dressed men, one elderly and one middle-aged holding a large bouquet of flowers.  Upon seeing them,  she smiled and went out and hugged the elderly man.  He was still a bit unsteady on his feet but he now had a bit more meat on his bones.  Susan invited them into the den. The den had been redecorated slightly,  with pictures of a young couple prominently displayed either side of the fireplace.  This did not escape the elderly man's gaze and he nodded approvingly. The middle-aged man stood up,  put his hand on the man's shoulder and said,  "my brother would like to say something."  In a soft voice,  barely audible, he said "I want to thank you for finding me when you did,  my life was over.  I now have a wonderful family to help me and I think I have also gained a new daughter". He then pointed to the pictures,  pictures of a much younger him and his new bride. "I could not bear to go on with my life after the love of my life died" he continued.  "I hid in this house and wished the world would just go away and leave me in peace but people would always stop by so I figured the only way to get peace was to pretend to go away. Once everybody thought I was dead,  I was finally alone,  which is all I wanted. I lived by scavenging at night but when you moved in,  my movements were curtailed.  Now I see what I did was wrong and wish I could somehow start all over again.  When I heard you talking,  my thoughts went back to many years ago,  to happier times." Susan was watching him with keen eyes, she could see the tears in his eyes,  the pain that he suffered all these years.  Susan said" you are most welcome here anytime you wish." With that,  he thanked her many times,  then with the help of his brother,  slowly made his way out the door.  Susan never saw him again,  but she did hear from his brother on occasion, he went on to live for another 15 years with his new family.

The End.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Island - Short story

Sometimes at dusk we would see him come out from the hidden interior of his island. For years we had no idea who he was or what he did until the darkest night of the year.  It was the summer solstice and there was no moon that night.  A light breeze was blowing and the night air had a slight chill to it.  We left our small cabin in the woods early that night,  thinking that this would finally be the night when our questions might be answered.
Several years ago,  we bought a small cabin in the woods on Beaver Lake.  It was our weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives in the big city.  A small getaway with a loft bedroom looking out over the lake.  We would light a fire and sit by the window enjoying the calm serenity of our &escape from the city& cabin as we affectionately called it.  Only one bedroom with a primitive kitchen and outhouse, water was drawn from the nearby well and brought in by hand.  A far cry from our luxurious  penthouse in the city but we somehow felt more at home here than our city digs.  
It was a cool November  evening when we first saw the stranger emerge from within the Island,  or so it seemed.  We had just bought the cabin and were determined to use it as much as possible.  At first we thought we were both imagining things but the shape and movements confirmed a man.  He seemed a small man,  hunched over and he seemed to be carrying something over his shoulder in what seemed to be a bag.  The bag was almost as big as him.  At first,  we both thought we were imagining things.  He seemed to float across the water and disappeared into the far woods.  We never saw him come back.
The Island was fairly large with no buildings and near the far shore.  It looked like the Island was connected to the mainland by a shallow causeway. We had hiked around the lake when we had first bought the cabin and noticed large no trespassing signs on the island.  We didn't dare cross with those menacing signs promising that trespassers would be shot.  Some of the signs showed bullet holes in the rusty metal.  
This particular night,  we scouted a small hidden alcove in the trees where we were sure we wouldn't be seen.  Our only companion was a small bag of trail mix and a bottle of water.  We had been crouching in a cramped position for what seemed like hours and felt foolish spying like this.  Suddenly,  we heard a rustling of the bushes and could barely make out the silhouette of the man carrying a bag in the darkness.  He had a slight limp,  favoring his left foot. He seemed to be laboring under the weight of the bag. He moved slowly,  as if thinking where his next step should be. It seemed like hours before he disappeared in the thickness of the trees,  winding his way up the slope. Just before we lost sight of him,  he stopped in his tracks,  slowly turned around and then it seemed like he was looking directly at us.  A shiver went up my spine,  thinking that he had somehow spotted us. It was almost as if he knew we were there all the time. After what seemed like an eternity,  he turned and continued on his trek. When we were sure he was long gone,  we scurried out from our hiding spot and ran back to our cabin like a couple  of scared teenagers found out for the first time.
Back in the safety of our small cabin,  we feasted on granola bars and opened a bottle of white wine. Not exactly gourmet fare but we were grateful for the cool wine.  We were determined that we would find out when he returned and more importantly,  eventually where he went.  We mounted a vigil by the bedroom window where we had an unobstructed view of the island. We didn't dare light a fire to ward off the chill for fear he would somehow see us spying on him.
It was nearing daylight,  the first signs of light showing in the eastern sky when we finally spotted the stranger making his way back to his Island.  Somehow,  he seemed to have more energy,  his limp seemly having been miraculously cured during the night.  Of course this was improbable but didn't stop us from coming up with all sorts of strange reasons the following day. He was just about to disappear back into the darkness of the woods when he stopped and looked directly at our cabin.  It seemed as if he was looking right into our eyes.  We both looked away and ducked below the window, like young children caught in the act. After a minute,  we mustered up the courage to peek and noticed he was gone.  We looked at each other and thought there was no way he could have possibly seen us.  All the same,  why did he stop just then and look right in our direction?  That question would haunt us all day as we went for a cooling swim in the cool clear lake water and again over dinner of barbecued hamburgers and cold beer. Our curiosity peaked,  we were determined to solve this mystery. The fact that he somehow seemed to know exactly where we were didn't deter us and we made up of minds to go out again soon.
That night,  we didn't dare go out for fear he would be more attentive of his surroundings and be on the lookout for us.  The following day,  shortly after breakfast,  we loaded up the back packs with ample water and snacks and set out.  Our goal was to try to see where he went and more importantly what was in that sack he carried.  After a few false starts,  we found a well worn trail thru the woods that seemed to come from the direction of the Island.  Our hopes piqued ,  we set out at a brisk pace.  The trail seemed to take the longest route possible but upon closer reflection,  made good use of the terrain so as to eventually reach the summit of the hill with barely a slope.  We had reached the summit barely winded but to our consternation,  couldn't see the destination, only a narrow winding trail going down into the thickly wooded forest.  
An hour later,  we could see what appeared to be a clearing a short distance ahead. We pressed on,  our curiosity piqued with renewed vigour. As we stepped out into the small clearing,  we both stopped at the same time,  our jaws dropping and wondering if the incredibility of what met our eyes was indeed real.   Nestled in the small clearing stood a small Tudor style house built entirely out of stone.  A smaller building partially finished stood off to the side with a pile of rocks ready for the last wall.  The walls were crafted expertly with each rock seemingly fitting perfectly with its mate.  The front door was hand hewn from a single piece of white oak, with two letters exquisitely carved into the front,  C.D.. Openings either side of the door were provided for windows,  not yet in place. The roof shingles seemed to be individually hand made.
Looking at each other,  we knew we had to explore further.  We walked up to the door expecting it to be locked, but it opened effortlessly on well oiled hinges. We entered a well lit room with dark paneling and a large fireplace.  There were signs of burnt wood embers still in the hearth. The room was completely bare but for one large wooden rocking chair facing the far window.  Questions went thru my mind,  wondering why this hermit of a man would build such a cabin so far out in the woods. We were about to leave when we heard a noise behind us.  Turning at the same time,  my heart stopped when,  standing there was the hermit of the man looking at us with disdain in his eyes.  What are you doing here and who are you he bellowed.  I'm sorry I proffered, we didn't mean any harm.  We were just curious my wife added, she went on to explain where we lived and how we saw him on many occasions going into the woods at dusk. I added that the workmanship of the cabin was second to none,  a real beauty and that he should be proud of himself.  At this point,  he seemed to exhale deeply,  as if he was somehow relieved. He walked over to the far wall and sat heavily in the rocking chair. Up close,  we could tell he was quite old with a weather beaten face.  It was like the weight of the world was lifted from his shoulders.
Many years ago he started, I bought this land with my wife and I promised her I would build her a cabin in the woods where we could retreat from the noise of the city. She wanted a stone cabin and the only place where we could find just the right stones were on that little island.  We both cleared the land and started hauling stones every time we came up. About 10 years ago,  she fell sick and never recovered.  She made me promise to finish the work without her.  Last year, I fell and broke my leg.  It took me 3 days to reach help. Since then,  I haven't been able to carry on as before and now, I fear I may not finish. We could see tears welling in his eyes,  knowing how important this project was to him.
For the next few hours,  we listened to his story,  realising the hard life Andrew, as we found out what his name was,  endured.  An immigrant from poor Polish parents,  he made his life by opening a small shoe store. Devoutly Catholic,  he met his wife at church and the first time they spoke, it was evident they had a lot in common.  
Later that afternoon, as we made our way back to the cabin,  we vowed to help Andrew realize his dream.  We would use our vacation time to help him finish his work. The next day, we put on our dirtiest, grubbiest clothes  and made our way to the island.  Standing on the far shore,  we called after Andrew but there was no answer. Making our way across the shallow causeway, we followed the well worn trail until we came to a natural rock quarry. There was no sign of Andrew,  no sign of a cabin or life on the island.  As we had come this far,  we put as many rocks as we could carry in our backpacks and started toward the unfinished cabin. We were half expecting to meet up with Andrew along the path but we were disappointed.  We were grateful for the gentle slope while carrying the rocks and made good time to the cabin. There was still no sign of Andrew so we left our bundles of rock in the small pile that he had started.
For the next three weeks,  we repeated the same task,  hoping that we would meet up with Andrew again.  By now , there was quite a sizeable heap of stones,  more than enough we were sure to finish the last wall. Under a tarp behind the house was mortar,  sand and a wheel barrow. We could only imagine how many trips were needed to hand carry everything this far into the woods.  Two weeks later,  we stood in front of the finished shack.  Still after all this time,  there was no sight of Andrew.
Later that night,  as we sat by the fire looking out over the lake,  our thoughts went out to Andrew, wondering what had become of him.  The cabin in the woods was finished,  dedicated to the woman he loved.  Autumn came and went and still there was no sign of our friend.  We closed up our cabin for the winter and set off back to the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Spring came late this year and we were anxious to return to our home away from home. The cabin was just as we had left it. We were hopeful that we would meet up with Andrew,  wondering what his reaction to the finished cabin would be.  Spring and summer passed and still, there was no sign of Andrew.  Several times during our stay,  we would make the long trek to the cabin in the woods only to find it exactly as we had left it. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that something had happened to him and that he would never see his dream of the cabin finished realized.
Autumn had arrived and the leaves on the trees had turned and fallen.  We had decided that on our last day before leaving, we would make one last trek to the cabin.  Upon reaching the clearing,  the distinct smell of smoke assailed our nostrils. We both looked at each other, wondering if Andrew had returned.  We ran to the cabin and saw smoke coming from the chimney.  Our hopes restored, we knocked on the door only to have them dashed when a middle aged man opened the door.  We stood there dumbfounded for a minute until he spoke.  He addressed us by our names yet we had never seen this man.  He went on to explain that Andrew was his father and that he had fallen ill last year.  It was only then that he found out what his father was doing and promised to fulfill his dream. He went on to say how dumbfounded he was when he first came up mid summer expecting to start work on the cabin only to see it finished.  He took a picture and showed it to his father one week before he passed away.  He said he seemed to finally be at peace once he saw the finished cabin. We went on at length about how we first met Andrew and when we no longer saw him,  how we undertook to finish his cabin,  which he built in the memory of his wife.
We left the cabin late afternoon and wound our way back to our small cabin.  Closing up for the winter one more time,  we reflected on how our lives had been enriched by this chance encounter with the man on the Island.

The End.

Monday, August 3, 2015

to market, to market

I would never have believed this if I hadn't seen this with my own eyes.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Short Story - The Car

The Car
The car was running,  the driver door was open but nobody was nearby.  Mike was walking down the road when he came across the car. Shivers went up his spine when he saw a dark shadow running into the bushes.  Running might be the wrong word,  it was more like a wounded animal limping into the bushes dragging a heavy weight. It was a moonless night and there were no street lights but Mike was still able to see it.  It was large, and seemed to be covered in hair.  It quickly disappeared from sight and Mike was wondering if he had really seen what he thought he saw.
He walked over to the car and looked inside.  The first thing he noticed was the overbearing smell of musk.  It was so powerful,  almost cutting off his wind.  The car was empty,  except for something on the floor.  He bent down and felt something like a bag.  He picked it up but when he got it out of the car,  he immediately dropped it,  turned and promptly lost his supper.  He just realised that what he had picked up was a human arm,  but without the rest of the body.
A short time later,  Mike was sitting in the back of an ambulance,  repeating for what seemed like the tenth time,  the events of the night.  It seemed so incredulous that even he thought it was far fetched and unbelievable .  He could only imagine what the police thought of his account of what had happened.
Sleep did not come easy that night so the next morning,  he called in sick.  Sitting in front of the tv with a large cup of coffee,  he tuned in the local news to see if there was anything about last night.  The local news anchor glanced over the story,  simply stating that there was a missing person and the police were asking the public for their help in locating her.  There was nothing about the arm,  nor about the strange creature,  or whatever it was. He was starting to doubt what he had actually seen,  it was so dark and everything seemed to be a blur. But no,  he was sure of what he saw.
Feeling refreshed after an invigorating shower,  he left his loft apartment and made his way to the municipal library. After finding the newspaper microfilms, he sat in front of the reader and started to look for anything out of the ordinary.  Three hours later,  he found what he was looking for.  Buried in the last page of the newspaper was an article about a sighting of a strange hairy creature. The tone of the article left no doubt that the author didn't put much credence in the sighting. He made note of the author and left the library on his way to the local newspaper.  
The newspaper office was located on Main Street,  The Dover Gazette.  The small town of Dover had a permanent population of 1,500 but during the summer months,  the population nearly doubled because of all the cottagers spending time by the many lakes nearby. The newspaper had a permanent staff of three and a half.  The half was Mrs. Wensel who had probably  been with the newspaper since inception back in the early 30's.  She normally came in midmorning and left just after lunch,  thus the half person.  She was as tiny as can be but  feisty and you didn't want to get on her bad side. She was a fixture at the office and could recall almost all the newsworthy events in the past 50 years.
Mike opened the old wooden weather beaten door. It let out a screech from hinges that probably hadn't seen a drop of oil since before Mrs. Wensel's  time.  Mrs Wensel was at her desk and gave Mike a cursory glance before returning to the task at hand,  the morning crossword puzzle.  Mike stood there for what seemed like an eternity before she looked up and finally acknowledged his presence. All the townsfolk knew better than to disturb Mrs Wensel while she was doing her crossword. Mike inquired if Joe,  the author of the article was in,  to which she replied yes.  Mike stood there for a minute in silence until she added,  "Did you want to talk to him?"  Mike thought it went without saying but didn't dare say anything for fear of incurring her wrath. "Yes please" he responded. A minute later,  Joe emerged from the back and upon seeing Mike,  flashed a big grin.  Joe and Mike were friends since school started and probably even before then,  having grown up on the same street just two houses down.  But then,  everybody knew everybody else in town,  and Mrs Wensel knew everybody's business.
Joe invited Mike into the small coffee room and after pleasantries were exchanged,  Mike came right to the point.  He detailed the events of the previous night and it was obvious that Joe had some misgivings at first.  When Mike mentioned the previous article that he found in the library archives, Joe got quiet for a minute as he thought back all those years,  trying to recall the events of that day.  "For years,  I thought of what happened and tried to make sense of it" he said "but now,  it only gets more confusing."  
An hour later, Mike was on his way out the door to see old Mr. Evans.  Mr Evans was going on 90 now and Mike hoped that he would be able to recall the events of that night so long ago.  A short time later,  Mike was pounding on Mr Evan's door,  since he was hard of hearing and everybody knew that this was the only way he could know that someone was at the door.  After what seemed like an eternity,  a frail old man opened the door and smiled when he saw Mike.  Mike explained what he was doing there and a few minutes later,  they were both sitting in the parlour discussing at length what Mr Evans saw that night.  Although it was quite a long time ago,  it was obvious that his memory hadn't diminished with time and he vividly recalled the events of that night.  When Mike outlined what he saw the previous night,  minus the body parts,  Mr Evans sat up ramrod and stated that it was the creature.  He went on to tell me about the legend of the creature that was said to live in the woods,  a legend that had obviously not been passed down to the more recent generation.  
Two long hours later and Mike was now making his way to the local police office.  First,  he stopped by the diner for a quick snack and tried not to get into any long winded discussions of what had happened the night before.  This was easier said than done but soon he found himself talking to Bill,  the deputy.  After laying out his theory for the better part of an hour,  Bill sat back,  looked him square in the eyes and said, "Are you shitting me Mike?" . Just then,  Martin walked in the door.  Martin was the Chief and had been with the force for almost 40 years now.  Bill quickly retold the story,  which he thought was full of baloney and was expecting Martin to come to the same conclusion but Martin turned to Mike and asked "Are you sure of what you saw?" . Mike shook his head yes and went on to relay what old Mr Evans had told him.  Martin shocked both of them when he said "I'd heard of that old tale but just never put much faith in it,  it was just a tale we heard when we were growing up back then and everyone thought it was made up to scare us young ones."
"Mike", he said,  "let me think on this.  A sighting is one thing but after what happened last night,  this changes everything. When people start getting hurt,  or dying, then we have to act."
Three days later when Mike was making his way to the office after a particularly heavy lunch at the diner, a convoy of four State Trooper cars were seen slowly driving toward the police office.  Mike stood there for a minute watching the eight State Troopers disappear into the office before heading to work. Mike was sure this had something to do with the creature he saw.  It wasn't long before the phone started ringing and Lacy,  his secretary, was busy gleaning all the gossip she could about what four State Trooper cars would be doing in their small town.  Rumors were running rampant, even UFOs were thrown in for good measure.
The following morning,  Martin was up before sunrise and was having a breakfast of coffee,  orange juice  and muffins.  Although the morning paper was lying on the table beside him,   his mind was elsewhere,  planning the day's activities.  He made his way to the office earlier than normal, the eastern sky just beginning to lighten. Traffic was non-existant at this time of the day, most people still in their beds. There was no hubbub or rush like the big city here, things moved at a much slower pace and that's the way most people who lived here liked it.
Martin opened the door to the office and proceeded to fill the coffee pot. He had just barely turned it on when he heard the front door open. The eight troopers had arrived. Martin showed them to the small coffee room, which doubled as a conference room, interrogation room and any other function that was needed. Once the coffee was poured, Martin sat down and started to layout the day's plan. The plan was to systematically search the wooded area to the north of the city where the car was found. It was a rugged and hilly area but Martin had a good idea of where to search. During the gold rush boom, many tunnels were dug into the hills in the quest for gold. The gold was eventually exhausted and the miners departed, leaving the neighbouring hills pockmarked with many dangerous pits and mines. All the local folk knew about this and had warned their children never to wander into the woods. Also added to this was the tale of the strange creature that would eat you up if ever you wandered into the woods at night.
An hour later, Martin and the possee were making their way along the trail into the woods. Although parents warned their children never to go into the woods, there was still a well worn trail winding its way deep into the forest with plenty of broken beer bottles, cans and empty snack packages. Martin was surprised that there weren't more missing bodies in the woods.
The trail led deep into the forest and then started winding it's way uphill into the foothills. It was still easy going. Martin recognized this part of the trail. He had been up here before, a long time ago when the hills were still safe. He also knew what was waiting for him further up. Martin hadn't said anything about the creature earlier because he was afraid that they would catch him and put him in some sort of freak show. Martin hadn't seen his brother for over 30 years now and he dreaded what he would find in the cave, the cave where he and his brother would play and start little campfires when they were both a lot younger and before the accident that claimed his little brother's sanity.
Martin's mind went back over 50 years to a simpler time,  a time when kids still played outside and weren't engrossed in their XBox or video games.  It was another lazy summer day and it was hot and humid.  Their father gathered up the two boys along with their mother and made their way to the small cabin on the lake. It was their favorite little getaway and every weekend,  they were on the lake either playing a game of badminton,  fishing or just dipping their feet in the cool water.  Martin's little brother,  Sam had just turned 7 and Martin was charged with keeping an eye on him.  Sam was curious,  as any 7 year old would be and always seemed to get into some sort of mischief.  It was all Martin could do to keep his little brother out of trouble.  However,  this day would be different,  this day would remain etched in his mind forever.
It all happened so fast,  Martin turned for what seemed like a second and when he turned back,  his little brother was gone.  It was like he had vanished into thin air.  A feeling of dread hit him like a rock and he started calling for Sam.  Soon he was yelling at the top of his lungs.  His father came running out of the cabin and instinctively ran to the water's edge.  There was little Sam,  lying face down in the water.  There was no movement.  Martin's father jumped in and quickly grabbed little Sam.  A few minutes later,  they were on their way to the local clinic.  Doc Swanson did all he could but when he came out of the back room,  his face told all,  little Sam had gone too long without air and there was some brain damage.  It was still too early to tell how bad it was and only time would reveal the true nature of the brain injury.  
Back home,  little Sam's demeanor changed drastically.  Where once a smart and curious boy had been,  now Sam was slow to catch on and seemed destructive. He regularly went on little rampages thru the house and broke anything he could lay his hands on,  for no other reason than he could. No amount of sweet talk,  discipline or anything else would stop his erratic behavior.  As time went on,  his actions started to become more violent.  This was evident when he hung the cat outside on the clothes line,  he had tortured the poor thing and had cut off its legs.  When Sam turned 17, he left the house one day and was never seen again.  Martin had a good idea where Sam had disappeared to but could never bring himself to tell his parents.  He blamed himself for what had happened.
Martin could tell he was close now,  there were tell tale signs along the trail, garbage strewn haphazardly everywhere and the smell of death.  Just ahead was a small cave opening.  Martin made a sign to the other troopers that what they were after was in that cave.  It was the same cave where Martin would come with his little brother to escape the heat of the long summer.  Martin was surprised that Sam would remember where the cave was.  It had taken them the better part of two hours to reach the cave.  Martin stopped just short of the cave entrance.  He called out to Sam,  hoping for an easy resolution but that wasn't to be the case.  Martin heard feral growls coming from inside the cave and feared the worst,  that his little brother no longer knew him.
Martin suddenly had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach, somehow he knew what the outcome of this day would reveal.  Eight troopers with guns drawn along with Martin heading the pack went into the cave.  What they found turned their stomachs and was too much for two of them as they lost their meager breakfast.  There in the back of the cave was what appeared to be an old man,  almost naked hunched over what appeared to be the remains of a woman.  Martin called Sam but there was no recognition to that name.  Rather,  the creature growled like a wild animal,  lept up in a flash and was almost upon the nearest trooper when a shot rang out. Sam dropped to the ground,  lifeless.  Martin's service revolver was still smoking when he put it back in it's holster. Martin looked down on the lifeless body but there was no recognition of what he saw.
The next day,  Martin was sitting on the deck of the cabin,  a refreshing beer in his hand.  He had been sitting there for over an hour and had yet to take a sip of his beer. His mind was still reflecting over the events of that day,  blaming himself for his little brother's accident so many years before.  There wasn't a night that didn't go by where little Sam would drop into his mind,  a curious and energetic little boy.

The end.

Mikumi National Park - Tanzania

Went for a drive thru the park and had some nice sightings of animals.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Short Story - The Attic

The attic was dirty, dusty and it looked like nobody had been there for decades. Mary was about to leave when something caught her eye. She glanced to the right and spotted movement behind the boxes.  When she went to investigate,  she noticed that it was only a mirror and then she felt foolish. Not only did she feel foolish, she also felt guilty, guilty that she was going thru her late father's personal possessions.  She knew it had to be done,  she only wished that she wasn't the one doing it.
Her father, Jim, had recently passed away  and Mary was the eldest child of three. Either way, this task was left to her as both of her sisters lived too far away and still had young children. Mary lived close by, was unmarried and had beeen a regular fixture at the house, looking in on him at least two or three times a week.
Jim was an eccentric little man. He was well travelled and had probably seen every country there was to see, and those few countries that nobody wanted to see as well. It wasn't uncommon for Jim to be followed by a shipment. Now that Mary thought about it, her father had always been secretive when unpacking his crate. The top part of the crate invariably contained trinkets for the girls. They were always at the top of his list. However, oncd the trinkets were unpacked, and handed out, the crate was closed up again and up into the attic it went.
Mary looked around the attic but didn't notice the mysterious crates that her father brought back. That was strange she thought, she remembered the crates coming up but had never seen them come back down. She was sure that there must have been at least 30 crates or more.
Her gaze was once again drawn to the mirror. It was well hidden behind some old cardboard boxes and only the corner was showing. The frame looked gilded in gold but was covered in a thick layer of dust. Mary moved the boxes and pulled it out. It was larger than she had originally thought, maybe three feet by 5 feet long. It was partially covered with a bedsheet.Mary removed the sheet and uncovered what she thought was the most beautul mirror she had ever seen. Where the sheet had covered the frame , there was little or no dust. The frame almost seemed to glow. However, that isn't what caught her eye. It was the mirror. It seemed to shimmer, like it was alive. Mary was about to touch it when she could hear her phone ringing downstairs. She cursed herself for not bringing it up with her. Her job as a realtor meant that that she was on call 24/7 so she ran downstairs to pick it up before it went to voice mail. She just made it and spent the next 20 minutes talking to a prospective buyer.The call was very productive and she quickly forgot the task at hand and returned to her house just down the block and went to work. Scotty, her Maine Coone took up his place in her lap, purring contentedly.
She was totally engrossed in work and just barely heard knocking at the front door. She was just making her way to the door when she heard it open. Only her best friend Harry knocked and then came in uninvited. But then, Harry was more than a friend and had spent many a cold night warming Mary up. She heard his voice calling her name. Harry had a standing invite to come in anytime he wanted. Harry gave her a quick peck on the lips and mentioned that he had been by earlier in the day but that she wasn't around. He knew how demanding her job was and didn't want to disturb her if she was at work, but preferred to take his chances and just drop in. This brought Mary's mind back to the unpleasant task at hand and went on to detail what she had found in the attic. She also mentioned that she found it strange that she didn't see any of the crates there. Harry volunteered to help her the next time she went over to the house, as he knew how painful the memories of her father's passing were. He had wasted away from some unknown disease, and his sickness had been very painful, both for her father and for Mary to watch. Although Jim had been small in stature, he was always in good health with a good physique. Harry knew the emotional toll this had taken on Mary and had tried to support her in every way imaginable. Mary still had some work to do so Harry took his leave and they made a date for the following morning to attack the attic.
The next morning dawned bright with not a cloud in the sky. It looked like summer had finally arrived in upper New England.   Mary made her way to the house and saw Harry sitting on the step, looking pensive. "Good Morning sweetheart" he chirped. She hated the way he called her sweetheart, but overlooked that as his other qualities overshadowed this minor nuisance.  Mary greeted him in her all too familiar "hello jerk". He seemed to love that and smiled. They entered the house together and made their way up to the attic. The house seemed oppressive, empty and lonely.  Since the passing of her mother, the family dinners stopped and with only her father, the house seemed dark and forbidding.
Mary snapped on the light and dust could be seen floating through the air. They set to work moving all the boxes downstairs into the living room which had recently been cleared during the estate sale. Mary had made it clear that everything in the house with the exception of the attic would be sold at the estate sale. The household furnishing held no sentimental value and what did, had already been divided amongst the three girls. However, the attic was a different story. Mary hadn't had the time to go through the attic until now and she knew that many of the more sentimental items would be stored there. She remembered a certain carving of an elephant in an ivory tusk that was prominently displayed on the mantle for many years until the passing of her mother. After her mother passed, Jim had made a clean sweep of the house and everything that reminded him of his wife was quietly stored upstairs.
They made slow progress, Jim supplying the bulk of the manual labour to bring all the boxes, furniture and whatever else there downstairs. It wasn't long before the living room was full and overflowed into the dining room. The dining room was large and there was no fear that everything wouldn't fit.
One of the last items to leave the attic was surprisingly the large mirror that had first caught Mary's eye. When Jim saw it, he too had commented on the beauty of the frame. Jim made his way downstairs with the mirror and Mary went to work hunting out all the small items in the far corners of the atttic. It was over 20 minutes before Jim returned. Mary was so busy that she hadn't realized the amount of time but when she saw him again, she said "What took you so long?". Jim had a puzzled look on his face, "What do you mean?" he said, adding "I just brought the mirror downstairs and came back right away". Mary didn't think more of it and together, they finished removing everything from the attic.
"That's strange", said Mary, "Dad had brought back lots of crates from the far countries that he had visited and yet, I can't seem to find them". Jim looked around and replied "Well sweetheart, there's nothing left up here but cobwebs and God only knows what other little creatures."
They made their way downstairs, closing up the attic behind them. Mary followed Jim into the living room, which was heaped to the ceiling with boxes and odds and ends. Mary looked depressed, she was trying to think how she would clear all of this out within the next two weeks when the house was going up for sale. Jim said, "wait for it, you haven't seen the dining room yet!". When Mary saw all the boxes in the dining room, she had an oppressive feeling of doom.  How was she going to clear all this out she thought within the next two weeks. Mary went on the say to Jim, "but I don't understand, I'm sure dad had crates upstairs. I remember him bringing them up there, and never saw them coming down. Maybe he did it after mom passed". Jim looked at the mounds of boxes and thought that there couldn't possibly be anything else up there. Just then, he looked at the far wall and he suddenly had a strange feeling. "Mary", he said, "the far wall of the dining room seems much further away than what I remember up in the attic". Mary looked up from the boxes and seemed to have suddenly come to the same conclusion, once she was aware of it. "Lets go back up to the attic" she said and together they made their way up.
They stood in the attic near the stairs looking at the far wall.  "It certainly looks closer than in the dining room" Mary said.  Harry went over to the far wall and started exploring.  "It's took dark here to see anything.  The light doesn't seem to reach here" he said.  Mary ran off mumbling something about a flashlight and returned a few moments later with a portable spotlight. "Woah" exclaimed Harry when he turned it on,  "that's some serious candle power! ". Harry went to work examining the wall up close.  After about 15 minutes,  he sat down.  "Sorry sweetheart,  I can't see anything here.  We must have been mistaken ". Once again Mary left muttering something intelligible only to return a few minutes later with a small sledge hammer and a large crowbar. &That wall is definitely not the end of the house& she exclaimed.
Harry took the sledge hammer and crowbar and started tapping on the wall to find the weakest point.  There was no use over exerting yourself he thought to himself. He brought the sledge hammer to bear on what he thought was a weak spot.  The hammer sailed thru the wall to the other side with ease.  Harry looked in and said to Mary &there is a small room behind this wall but everything seems to be covered up under sheets,  I can't see what is there".  He spent the next 15 minutes opening up the wall so they could pass thru easily.
The moment had arrived,  Harry passed her the light and said "after you my dear". Mary entered the small room.  Immediately,  she was overcome by the heavy dust and overpowering smell.  She noticed a light in the middle of the small room with a pull string. Turning on the light,  she was amazed by all the crates,  neatly stacked against the back wall.  They were stacked 5 high to the ceiling and she counted 10 wide,  making for at least 50 crates. Her first thought was despair,  thinking of all the work she now had to do to go thru all of the crates before selling the house.  She had no time for this she thought to herself.  Then curiosity quickly erased that feeling of despair,  wondering what could possibly be in the crates.
The next week was devoted to selling everything in the living room and dining room or dividing the more sentimental items between the three girls order to make room for the crates.  Everything was sold,  except for the mirror.  Both agreed that they would keep the mirror, for now.  Time seemed to escape them and before they knew it,  day's end had arrived.  The crates were brought down and the final count was almost 60 crates.  They were of all sizes,  some small as a bread box and others larger.  Harry didn't mind the small ones and was certainly glad he was in shape for the larger ones,  estimating them weighing almost a hundred pounds.  He wondered how Mary's father had managed to get them up into the attic.  More importantly,  why would he go thru all the trouble of building a false wall to hide them, and why did he keep this a secret from his family.   This was the topic of many a discussion between them after making their discovery. They had decided that Saturday would be crate opening day as they could both devote the entire day to this task.
Saturday dawned bright and by 7, they were at the house. The first crate they opened was one of the smaller ones.  Harry went to use the crowbar but the crates were so well built that there wasn't even a crack to wedge the crowbar in.  After a few minutes,  he noticed screws that seemed to blend in with the wood.  He set to removing the screws,  then cracked the seal on the lid.  &I will let you do the honors on this first one& he said to Mary.  She grabbed the lid and although it resisted a bit,  she lifted it gingerly,  as if she was afraid of what she would find inside.  Whatever it was,  it was well packed in straw.  The straw smelled musty.  She removed some straw and saw a figurine inside,  all black and quite heavy.  The figurine was of some deity, with 6 arms and two heads sitting on some sort of animal that was unrecognizable.  Why would dad go thru all the trouble to hide such a normal little figurine,  which in her mind was quite ugly.
It took the better part of the weekend to finally go thru all the crates. After the fourth crate,  Mary started despairing, more of the same little figurines,  different deities it seemed.  They were all about 10 inches high,  all black and probably made of iron  based on how heavy they seemed, about ten pounds each. Harry looked around the living room,  it seemed as if a bomb had went off, there was straw scattered everywhere, empty crates stacked to the ceiling and then the figurines,  neatly placed against the wall in the dining room.  Mary counted almost 400 figurines,  then a wave of despair washed over her. These figurines must have meant something to her father but what it was escaped her.  She had no emotional attachment to them and the only thing she thought of was how to get rid of them.  It just didn't seem right to throw them out and she knew that no sane individual would buy one at an estate sale,  let alone a garage sale.  They did look old and weathered and wondered if there was some value there.  She decided that she would sleep on it,  deciding what to do with them later.  Harry just said to throw them away but something in the back of her head said otherwise,  and she had learned many years ago to trust her intuition.
Just as she was about to leave the house,  her attention was drawn to the mirror.  Harry was in the other room, cleaning up a few things. She walked up to it and it seemed that her reflection shimmered.  She couldn't explain it but it appeared as if it wasn't her looking at the mirror so much as her reflection looking at her.  She reached out and touched the mirror,  she felt a slight tingle in her finger,  then her arm.  It wasn't an unpleasant sensation,  but somehow she couldn't describe it. She felt compelled to touch it,  as if it was calling to her.  This is crazy she thought and drew her finger back.  She immediately felt something was wrong,  the house was bright with sunlight streaming in and her stomach told her she had passed her normal mealtime.  She glanced at her watch,  but somehow the time didn't register.  No,  that couldn't be,  she looked again,  it said 2 o'clock.  She got up and looked outside,  it was bright daylight.  How could that be,  just a minute ago,  it was dark,  10 at night and they were just about to pack up for the night.
Mary called out for Harry but got no answer.  She reached for her phone and pressed redial.  Harry answered just after the phone rang,  "where were you?" he said with desperation in his voice.  "You just left last night without saying a word and you haven't been answering your phone!  Even the office called me asking about you".  Mary tried to explain that she never left the living room but it seemed to fall on deaf ears,  "I looked all over the house half a dozen times,  you weren't there,  I thought you took it in your mind to go for a walk without telling me.  I waited until sun up and you never came back. Where did you go?"  he asked heatedly. Mary was on the verge of tears,  she was a strong woman but somehow this was almost too much for her.  "I need to talk to you in person" she said,  "meet me at the house after work".
It was 6 o'clock when Mary arrived at the house.  Harry was sitting on the doorstep waiting. She could tell he wasn't in a good mood. Mary tried to explain that she too couldn't explain her absence,  that the next thing she knew,  it was daylight.  When she mentioned the mirror,  Harry stopped her . "That's funny" he said, "I too had a strange feeling when I touched the mirror", "and you were gone for 20 minutes" she added excitedly. "Where is it" he asked and Mary showed him.  
The mirror looked anything but unassuming, it seemed to shimmer.  Mary felt compelled to reach out and touch it,  her fingers just inches from it.  She could feel it pulling her in,  feeling it's energy in her finger tips.  Suddenly,  a heavy weight slammed her hand down and away from the mirror.  She could hear Harry calling her name.  When she looked up,  Harry had a worried look on his face.  "Are you alright?" he asked.  "I called you at least a half-dozen times but it was as if you were on another planet". "Harry, that thing is evil,  get rid of it now" she screamed, "and whatever you do,  don't look at it or touch it!"  Harry turned the mirror so it was facing away from him and as he was walking away,  Mary could have sworn her reflection looked somehow different,  almost like it was another person. A minute later,  she heard a shrill scream followed immediately by the sound of broken glass,  then silence.  Harry came in looking ashen,  "my..my reflection" he said, "just as I was throwing the rock,  my reflection put up its arms, as if to shield itself from the rock". "What was that thing?". "I don't know" Mary answered,  "&but I'm glad it's gone".
That night,  Mary refused to sleep alone and held onto poor Harry  all night.  Neither slept,  the ramifications of what that mirror was weighing heavily on their minds.  Mary tried to remember what trip her father returned from with that mirror but her father was always so secretive with his crates. With the exception of their gifts,  nobody knew what he returned with.
The next day,  Mary called in the office to say she was taking a few days off. She was determined to clear the rest of the house,  especially all those figurines.  After the affair with the mirror,  she was almost afraid of touching the figurines.  She called Harry to grab two of them and putting them in a box in the trunk of the car,  they made their way to an antique dealer in town. They had just stopped at an intersection when they heard a loud bang coming from the back.  As they were both on edge,  Mary screamed and Harry jumped.  Just then,  they saw two kids running after their soccer ball yelling sorry as they ran by.  They both collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
An hour later,  they were in the store, explaining to the owner that they wanted to sell them.  The owner carefully examined the figurine,  turning it over to look for any identifying marks but there were none.  Finally,  he said that for him,  it was probably modern with no intrinsic value.  He was about to hand it back but suddenly stopped.  "Wait one minute" he said.  Mary could see that his demeanor suddenly changed,  he seemed excited.  There was someting he wasn't telling them, she could feel it.  He disappeared into the back and came out no more than a few seconds with a metal file. "Do you mind" he asked,  "this is worthless as art but I think you may have something valuable here". "Not at all" she replied.  The shop keeper took the file and ran it across the bottom back corner.  She could see the change in his expression.  He slowly turned the figurine toward them to reveal a gold color where the file had bit into the soft metal and thru the paint.  "Unless I'm mistaken,  which I seldom am" he said,  "this figurine is gold! It weighs about 10 pounds so on today's market,  it would be worth about $200,000." Mary looked at him in disbelief,  more like dumbfounded.  "Are you sure" she asked, her mouth suddenly dry.  He replied "pretty sure but I'll double check".  He disappeared into the back and returned a minute later, "I just tested it,  this is pure 24k gold.  Did you say you had more of these?". Mary looked at Harry, then started to laugh almost uncontrollably,  "oh yes," she replied,  "about 400 more!". I don't know where they came from but I know what I'm doing with them thought Mary to herself.

The End.