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Fiction Drama Mystery

MEET ME OUTSIDE BEHIND THE TALL BUSHES, AROUND THE BACK OF THE BUILDING – ALONE, ASAP! Guy Fletcher read the note again. Someone slipped the wrinkled napkin with the hand-written note into his coat pocket while he was in the Wilson Creek’s visitor center. He pulled out his keys and there was the handwritten note. Scratching his head, Guy turned to look for the back of the building.

           As Guy trudged up the slight hill, entering the protection behind the Rose of Sharon bushes, a thin, male figure, with a backpack, emerged from the other side. Their eyes met. Slowly, they stepped forward, each keeping a watchful eye on the other.

           “Are you one of us?” asked the redheaded stranger in a muffled voice.

           “I think you have me confused with someone else, Guy said.

           Turning from side to side, the youth dressed in camouflage clothes, with worn, sturdy hiking boots, started again. “Are you one of us? You must be one of us. I heard the questions you were asking in the visitor’s center. Are you with us?

           “Listen, young man, I have traveled over 1,000 miles to explore the mountain caves here in North Carolina, but Brown Mountain is closed. So, I am leaving. It’s getting dark, and I am trying to decide where to go for a bite to eat. You ---"

           “I knew it. I knew it. You are one of us! This is great!” said the boy, bouncing from one foot to the other, waving his hands like a bird in flight.

           Guy stepped back a pace while holding up a hand to stop the young man’s excitement. “Quickly, tell me what you are talking about?”

           “Ok, sorry,” the boy said. My Adventurer’s Club explores Brown Mountain. It’s perfect weather for Mountain watching. All the club members are busy, and I don’t want to be on the overlook alone. It’s a safety thing, you know? So, I’m asking you if you want to join me tonight. What about it?” The young adventurer talked lightning fast, while looking around quickly, as if he had government secrets in that dull green backpack.

           Guy was speechless. “I am not sure you understand. My visit to Brown Mountain has nothing to do with your explorations. Ok? I am starting my new hobby of exploring caves, an extremely dangerous activity. I came to get technical information, maybe even maps to help me plan an investigation into the Brown Mountain caves. But the park is closed. Is this what you are doing?”

           “Maybe. Yes. Well no. Not exactly,” said the young man, standing dead-still, staring at Guy.

Guy wished the conversation was over. “Listen, slowly answer me with one-word answers. Ok?”

“Ok.”              

“What is your full name and age?”

           “Seth Lewis, 19.”

            “Exactly why are you here tonight at Wilson Creek Visitor’s center?” Guy watched Seth intently.

           “Looking for someone to watch Brown Mountain lights with.”

           “Lights?” Guy asked. “Ok, Seth. Be short and to the point, it’s getting dark. I don’t understand.”

Seth grinned. “At night, the Brown Mountain lights, ‘orbs,’ come out. A group of us go to investigate ‘orbs’, an unknown phenomenon, since the 1900s. They are unexplainable. Exploring at night is unsafe by yourself. Will you go with me?”

           The two men stood behind the Rose of Sharon bushes, studying each other. “Is there a diner where we can go to discuss exactly how you study these orbs on Brown Mountain when it’s closed?”

           “There’s an all-night cafe in Collettsville,” Seth said, smiling.

           “No problem. I can drive, and you can tell me all about these ‘orb’ adventures. They sound interesting if they are for real.” Guy pulled out his keys, started walking, while Seth sputtered ‘orb’ stories pushing both men forward to a new adventure.

*******

Guy opens the door to the Bird Whistle Café. A bustling whoosh of air pushed against Seth’s back as he struggled to go inside the café.

           “Thanks! I’ll find us a table.” Seth said as he disappeared into the café’s interior.

           In the foyer, distinctive smells of pumpkin, apples, and enticing food filled the air. Standing in the café’s gift shop, Guy eyes an assortment of paintings, photographs, handmade clay oddities, and jewelry. Turning toward the smell of the food, Guy walks by jars of apple-jams, local honey, and scented candles lining the walls from the floor to the ceiling. While looking at the large collection of local handiwork, a photo taken of Brown Mountain catches his attention.

           “Can I help you, sir?” Asked a woman behind the shop’s checkout counter, as she priced new candles. Her clothes flowed as she moved, creating an air of warm fall colors melting together. The sheen of her flowing pantsuit was an ever-changing fluorescent kaleidoscope of distraction. 

           “No, thank you. I am just looking.” Guy turned around. “Wait, …actually, yes. Can you tell me about this scenic photo of the local landscape?

           “That photo is our second best-seller, taken from the overlook, just down the road a’ways. The wide-angle picture highlights the bright rustic back-wood colors as they intertwine in the mountain-scape. The glowing circles are the unexplained Brown Mountain Lights, which attracts tourists from all over the world.

           “Is that right? Guy studied the picture of the mountain with unusual lights dotted randomly across the wooded snapshot like ornaments on a Christmas tree. “Do you have a copy of the picture for sale? I’m considering going to view these mysterious lights for myself.”

           “You’re not from around here, are you? The picture you want is in the dining room.” With a big grin, the young lady floated into the dining area, pointing to a picture on the back café wall. “There is our best-selling picture. Feel free to step up close to review it. If you have any more questions, I will be in the gift shop. My name is Ashely, Ashley Birdwhistle. Let me know if I can help you again.”

           “Birdwhistle, as in Bird Whistle Café?” Guy asked.

           “Why it sure is. This is my café, complete with hand-made crafts, Mr. - I don’t believe I caught your name.” Ashely stated with twinkling eyes and an unsettling grin.

           “Mr. Fletcher. Guy Fletcher. Call me Guy.”

           “Well, Mr. Fletcher, - I mean Guy. If you have further questions, come by the craft store. I would love to help you out.” Ashley stood staring into his eyes, moving slightly as if to mesmerize him with her persona.

            “Sure.” Guy takes in the eccentric lady’s movements. “I will. Thank you.” He slowly turned his attention to the best-selling photo. He noticed the caption of Brown Mountain Lights, photographed by Pamela D. Hubert. Guy was beginning to understand Ashley’s comment: Inspecting the photograph inspired Guy to ponder unexpected questions.

*******

Is the best of my life over? Is this what my new life has become? From a powerful executive in a large, worldwide, technologies corporation, traveling all over the world, to planning mountain excursions with people I don’t know? Was my life’s work not worth anything? “Off you go.”, the company had declared. Being fifty-five, with no companionship and no other interests, what do I do now? What could possibly come of this backwoods cave exploration catastrophe turned into an investigation of floating lights on a hillside?

           Guy stood pondering, at the highway 181 outlook at Brown Mountain, North Carolina, his childhood dream of exploring caves pounded in his head. The mountain caves were closed. Who is this Seth Lewis that had suggested investigating mysterious glowing lights, called ‘orbs’ at the scenic overlook?  The night-time ‘orb’ expedition was planned at the local Bird Whistle café. Well, here I am. At least the local scenery is fantastic.

           In the horizon the vibrant sunset was as beautiful as an old English landscape oil painting. The distant yellowing burnt-orange leaves danced in rhythm with crackling tree limbs. Birds sang one last song, as unseen creatures rustled, hiding beneath bright fallen leaves, making the underbrush come alive. The damp musty smell of wet foliage, mingling with the late blooming Azaleas’ sweet aroma, and the scent of local pine trees danced in his nose. The air was cooling, as the sun was sneaking out of sight.

           Guy inspected the rustic overlook signs as Seth arrived. “Hey, Guy. Step around Lookout Rock and follow the path. We sit down here.” Seth further instructed Guy by waving his arms, pointing the way to a small, wooded pathway. Behind a huge marbled mossy rock was a small clearing. Seth was setting up folding chairs, helped by Ashley.

           “Guy, it’s so good to see you again.” Said Ashley, as she held up two small objects. “Here are your purchases from the café gift shop; one Brown Mountain history book and one hand-carved bird-whistle.”

           “Thank you, Ashley.” Guy said, while his eyes were taken by her presence. Her flowing brown hair presented a peaceful aura, shimmering in the light of the full moon. The natural fall colors of her clothes moved like his drifting thoughts.

           “Please, sit down.” Ashley waved her hand, and his attention, to an unfolded chair. Stepping forward, he sat down.

           As the sunset’s parade of clouds reflected the hues of the sun as it set, they swirled into a vanishing pallet of pale lavender, peach, and custard. The whisper of cool breezes, bird flutters, and crackling leaves tickled Guy’s ears as he asked, “What happens now? Where are these orb-lights?”

           Seth turned and looked at him seriously, stating, “Now, we sit quietly, wait and watch.” His death stare was unsettling. How weird. He knows something he’s not telling me.

           “I can do that.” Guy said, as he turned his focus to the skyline.

           Suddenly, Guy jumped, as a sharp, yet sweet melodious voice from tree limbs above, whispered, “I am here. Are you guys there? I repeat, I am here. Do you hear me? It is so dark I can’t see you.” The tree shook with every word.

           “Pamela, we hear you. You are above us.” Ashley said, pointing up above Guy’s head. He nodded. “We have a new mountain investigator with us today, Pamela. His name is Guy Fletcher.”

           “Hi, Guy.” Pamela said, while giggling.

           “Hi.” Guy answered back.     

            “That’s Pam Hubert, the photographer that documents our findings on all our adventures in the mountains. You’ve seen her best-selling photos at the Birdwhistle café.”

           Guy nodded again. Why is she in the tree? Wonder how often they go on these outings? What type of ‘findings’ has she documented? He just nodded again.

           Seth leaned around Lookout Rock’s edge checking the parking lot. He fingered a zero sign. “Nobody.” He spoke quietly.

           Everyone went quiet. Not a peep. Being bored, Guy took out his new book, from the café, to look at. His phone provided the light. He was starting to enjoy the outing.

           Soon, small, unusual events started to happen; a rustling movement in a dead leaf pile, followed by grunts like a wild pig, and hard wood-knocks on trees. Everyone acknowledged the sounds, shaking their heads and watching their surroundings intently. After seeing nothing of real interest, Guy pulled his new bird whistle out of his pocket. The silence was deafening, so he blew the whistle, just to see what would happen.

           “Whoooop, Whoooop!” called the bird whistle. Everyone jumped.

           Seth yelled, “Oh no, you didn’t!” as he charged up the hill, out of sight. The tops of the trees, way down the mountain trail, started whipping back and forth. “Whoooop, Whoooop.” The trees called back.

           Ashley ran around the huge rock edge, calling, “I’m right behind you, Seth. I have the car keys.”

           Stunned, sitting still in the dark with eyes wide open, shaking, Guy shoved the whistle into his pocket. What kind of bird whistle was that? Did something just answer the bird whistle? What do I do next?

            Suddenly, the forest came alive. Bushes moved back and forth. The tops of trees, in the far skyline, were falling like dominoes, bending forward, up the hill towards Guy’s direction.

           Just as suddenly, a high-pitched vibrating angelic laugh-like yell, cried “Help me. Anyone there? Help me.” Pamela, in the tree above Guy, was struggling. Limbs were braking. Leaves were falling. Full branches ricocheted off each other until they hit the ground around him, as he looked up, straining to see her.

           Turning his attention to the falling trees headed in their direction, He said, “I’m still here.”

           “Catch my camera.” she said, lowering her voice. The camera came crashing onto his head, bounced off his forehead then hit the ground. “Now catch me, I’m falling.” She fell straight down. They hit the ground hard, rolling. She jabbered nervously, picking up her camera and stating, “Nice to meet you. I just twisted my ankle. Can you quickly get us to a car? We are in grave danger, but I took fantastic pictures!” Panting between little giggles of fear, her voice expressed Guy’s fears, but he wasn’t sure why.

           “Marvelous.” He said, trying to think of small talk to say while carrying Pamela to his car.  Once inside they locked the doors. Pamela noticed Ashley and Seth waving at them from inside Ashley’s locked car. They pointed to the tree line, which moved about. Pamela and Guy waved back the same way.

           “How is your ankle” Guy asked.

           “A bit sore and swelling, but I got the pictures. You saved us. I’m glad you were here to catch me.” Pamela said, as she leaned over and gave him a bear hug. “What a way to meet someone new.” She was shaking. He was shaking. They sat there close together, slowly calming down, watching to see what would come out of the brush.

           “What did I save us from? Did the whistle call the ‘orbs?” he asked as he pointed out the car window. The trees were beginning to slow in movement.

           “Oh no, the lights don’t come out when he is around.”

           “He?” What does she mean? Guy started looking out the car window with new interest.

           “You must know who he is. You blew your whistle.” Pamela looked up, into his eyes, with a questioning stare. “Didn’t you read the warning label on the whistle?”

           “Warning label? I just opened the whistle and blew to see what would happen.” he answered. “I found out what happens all right.” They both laughed nervously. Eyes fixed to the near line of brush and trees; no movement was seen.

            Relaxing a bit, Guy stared directly into Pamela’s soft emerald eyes. Her amber hair glistened from the moon light. She was gutsy, brave, smart, while remaining focused under stress. What type of an angel is this that is not afraid of getting hurt, who enjoys a bit of dangerous excitement, and takes pictures under stress? I may be in love. She stared back at him. “Do you often fall out of trees while on mysterious adventures?” He asked.

           “Always.” she said, staring into his eyes. “Do you always catch strange people falling out of trees, not being afraid of mysterious happenings around you?” she asked, blushing.

           “Always.” he answered. They laughed as they sat in the car planning their first expedition together until the sun came up. This misadventure has turned into a wonderful surprise. What have I gotten myself into? 

September 22, 2023 01:33

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2 comments

Kearnon Henske
21:39 Oct 02, 2023

I loved your story and all the sensory language that you used. I enjoyed all the detail and the suspenseful ending. I loved the story:)

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Susan Willard
20:51 Oct 06, 2023

Hi Kearnon, Thank you for your comment. My sisters think I ought to continue the story. What do you think? Thank you for the gracious comment. It made me feel good that you enjoyed the story. Susan

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