Sunday, October 18, 2009
Today’s Halloween Short is entitled “The Cave.” The idea for this one was to do a “Mad-Lib” version of a story. I had three people pick three different aspects of this short and I had to incorporate them into the story. I’d like to thank Becca from Magikalseasons for contributing the character; a teenaged girl. I’d like to thank Michelle from The Osborne Family for contributing the creature for this story, an albino deer, and I’d also like to thank Sandra from Marbella Designs for contributing the location of this short story, a cave.
Reese ducked behind the tree and waited. Every day at the same time he saw the new girl from school. She was willowy and delicate, almost fairy-like in her movements. She never spoke a word the entire two weeks she’d been attending Hollyhock High, but she had the most mesmerizing looks. Her hair was long and the color of wet straw as if her blonde hair was darkening with age, her eyes were round and dark against her fair skin. She was such an enigma that he found himself making excuses with his buddies and heading down the forest path that she took to and from school every day.
It wasn’t an unusual path. Everyone used it at one time or other to cut from the Victorian houses in the nicer part of town to the school. He, however, lived in the other direction, near the shops along Main Street. They referred to them as townies and her types as “collegiate’s” because most of the parents taught at the university. He’d done everything short of shaking down her kid brother to find out what her story was. All he knew was her name was “Isabelle” and she was 16 and in her sophomore year.
Like clockwork, she started down the path from her place and towards the school. It was an autumn morning and Reese feared his billowing breath would give him away. The trees around him shimmered in every color imaginable, blinding in their brilliance, except for the gray sky over he treetops that cast it all in an even more striking contrast.
He hadn’t thought if he was going to approach her and say “Hello” and act like he happened upon her or if he’d hide. She might think he was stalking her once she realized he didn’t live where she did. He dug his hands deep into his hoodie pouch and considered his options. He didn’t have a car yet. Well, he had one but he hadn’t proven he could pay for insurance and upkeep, so the old hand-me-down sat in the driveway until he’d gotten his first few months’ pay working at his dad’s garage.
He peeked out again but couldn’t see her pale cream sweater anymore. He frowned as he studied the pathway. Just then, he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“Jeez!” He gasped when he saw her there. She stepped back, studying him eye-to-eye. She was slender and graceful, but tall. Her dark eyes watched him carefully, but she didn’t speak.
“We have Algebra and English together, don’t we?” He asked.
The girl nodded. “Yes, I think we do. You’re the one that’s always watching me. Is there something wrong?” She asked in a singsong voice that suited her delicate appearance.
“No, nothing’s wrong. I just wondered if you liked the school. There’s a lot of jerks in Algebra, all the no-necks. I just didn’t want to see you intimidated by the football team. They like to scare the shy girls.”
“Shy?” She asked and then smiled as if pleased with that description. “Yes, I suppose I seem shy to others. I’m just sizing everyone up. Looking for that one thing that makes someone human. So far, it’s been hard to appreciate.”
That made him chuckle. It was true that their school was divided between the incomes and either they were hard and tough and angry or they were smug and self-absorbed. He hoped she might find something in him to recommend his company.
“I’ll walk you to school, if you like.” He offered.
She looked at the path towards the school and then back into the forest. “Actually, I was thinking of ditching today.”
“Really?” He liked that idea.
“I wanted to spend the day in the woods. I found a place. It’s really neat.” She nodded up the hillside.
Reese studied the dark forest. He knew what was up that way. “Old Man Jackson’s” cabin. It was abandoned now, but for decades the man that lived up in there would shoot at anyone who took the pathway. When he finally passed on 10 years ago, it was a huge relief to the community.
“You probably shouldn’t go up in there.” He offered.
“Are you scared?” It sounded like a dare.
“No, it’s just that someone owns that property probably.”
“Oh yes, someone does.” She smiled and took off along the narrow path made by deer that usually crossed from the hillside down to the river. The distant sound of the train whistling reminded Reese they’d already missed the first bell. He followed Isabelle up the path.
“My name’s Reese.” He called out. Her long legs took her easily up the hillside.
“I’m Isabelle.” She called back.
He felt as if he were on some kind of crazy magical trek for a unicorn. The forest became darker, the trees brighter as they walked between the granite outcropping and ever closer to the cabin.
Isabelle climbed up the last rock ledge and stood atop it, the wind blowing her straight pale hair in the wind, her sweater clinging to her breasts. Reese saw her legs in her faded jeans, they seemed to go forever. His throat was parched by the time he joined her. She threw out her arms and laughed into the breeze. It was then that he sighted the cabin behind her.
“No wonder the bastard had such a good shot.” He turned and looked down. “He could see everyone taking that path. I never knew.” He snorted as if realizing it took an outsider to make him see his own hometown in ways he’d never viewed it before. Like the cabin. He simply steered clear of it because he was told to.
“I wouldn’t go inside there.” She told him. “It’s pretty rickety and looks like kids have been burning candles and tagging it.” She sighed. “But, if you follow me, there’s something better back behind there.” She nodded.
He looked at the rocky dark forest behind the cabin. It seemed to climb up even higher. Surely if she found something interesting there, the kids that hung out in the cabin must have found it.
“Has anyone been there?” He asked.
“No one’s been there. I’m sure.” She told him. “Come.” She held out her hand and he gladly took it. Her fingers were as icy as his. They were breathless by the time they finished another half mile of winding paths. Still, they weren’t even close to the top of the hillside when she pointed.
Reese studied the narrow pathway between granite boulders.
“Can you fit?” She asked and reached up, her hand squeezing his biceps. He prided himself on working out but it wasn’t until moments like this that he realized the benefits.
“I’ll fit.” He promised, his voice sounding kind of low and husky. He felt a bead of sweat on his forehead and wiped it off.
Jesus, when did he ever have to assure a girl of that?
She seemed to have done this path many times, knowing just when to climb over the rocks and when to shimmy sideways. He followed her, not as sure as she was and his fumblings embarrassed him. She waited on the other end in what seemed like a giant dead end.
His eyes adjusted as he realized it was the entrance to a cave.
“What is this place?” He asked, his voice echoing just inside the enormous chamber.
“I think it was Old Man Jackson’s little secret.”
“His secret?” He asked.
“Come.” She held out her hand and reached down on a rock inside the entrance where a flashlight sat. Apparently, she did come there often.
He followed blindly, studying the floor to be sure of his footing. A hidden cave, huh? Sounded like a nice place to be alone. He wasn’t without experience, but he had never mingled with a girl like this one. He had the feeling she was as elusive as a butterfly and just as hard to pin down. That thought made him swallow hard.
“Over here.” She pulled free from his hand and he heard the distinct click of a match on the stone. She leaned over a lantern and smiled up at him as the entire cavern lit with a golden glow. “It’s magical, isn’t it?”
“You think Old Man Jackson used this place for something?”
She gestured to a cross along the far wall. “It’s a grave.”
“No shit!” He shook his head. In one day, he’d managed to pass by Old Man Jackson’s cabin, enter a cave, and find a dead body. Not usually the type entertained by the macabre, this girl was making him feel like an explorer. He followed her over and stooped down.
“Fresh flowers?” He fingered the mums.
“I brought them here last week when I found it.” She told him excitedly. Her face lit up beautifully as if this were something of her own in a world in which she could claim nothing as an adult or as a child any longer. That she shared her secret with him was humbling.
“Who is it?”
“His wife.” She nodded, her fingers caressing the carving in the wooden cross. “Her name was Blanca.”
“Why’d he bury her here?” He looked around.
“The cave is magic.”
“There’s no such thing.” He balked.
“No, really.” She assured him.
“How do you know that?”
“My dad’s a professor of English literature and folklore at the university. I’ve read lots of books on these things. It's said that the earth has certain caves with just the right conditions including granite. When people die there, they become their next incarnation, anything they wish to be. I think this place is why Old Man Jackson shot at people.” She explained.
“To keep people from finding the cave?”
“No, from finding Blanca.”
“Her grave, you mean?” He puzzled.
She shook her head briskly. “No. Blanca changed forms from human to something else.”
“You’re saying she reincarnated like in those stories you read?” He balked.
“Yeah.” She smiled and stood up, holding her hand out. He was glad to take it.
“So what do you think Blanca became?” He smiled at her childish delight in fairy tales.
“This.” She took him around the corner to an alcove. The light from the lantern in the main chamber shed some light on this portion of the cave, but he wouldn’t need light to see this. It shined a glowing white in the semi-darkness. Curled up on the floor of the cave was a deer.
An albino deer.
“That’s a deer?” He asked.
She nodded. “Albino. Very rare.”
“And you’re saying that’s Blanca?” He chuckled.
The deer’s ears twitched and it rocked itself up onto its slender legs and moseyed over. Something jingled around her neck.
“Blanca.” She held out her hand and the deer nudged it. She stroked its silken head. “Blanca means white, you know?”
He nodded dumbly. “I’ve never seen a deer just let someone pet it. Will she let me pet her?” He asked.
“Try.” She dropped her hand and the deer studied him with its big eyes. His hand trembled a bit. He was a townie and not used to wild animals. He felt the edge of its delicate ear and then dared to run his fingers down its neck. It was firm, but silky. His fingers clasped the silver chain and he lifted it up. A single round wedding ring dangled from it.
“It’s her ring.” She nodded.
“Blanca's?” He was highly skeptical about that.
“The inscription is inside. It says `Bartholomew loves Blanca.’”
“Seriously?” He dropped the ring as if it were tainted. “She lives in here?” He looked around the alcove.
“I’ve seen her up on the ridge and around the cabin, but she never goes below. This is what Old Man Jackson was scaring people off from. He didn’t want them to find her. To shoot her. She loved this hillside and wanted to stay forever. She found a way to do it too. He put the ring around her neck.”
“What about Old Man Jackson?” He shuttered as he looked around fearfully. The story was nonsense but in the setting of a dark cave, it was very eerie.
“Oh, he’s here too.”
“H-how do you know that?” He asked.
She turned and faced another alcove across from them, lifting the flashlight and clicking it on. On the floor of the cave were the fully clothed bones of a body, the skull turned to the side.
“Oh Jesus!” He gasped and stumbled back.
“It’s him. He came up here to die. To be ready for the next phase.”
“Next phase?” He didn’t like the sound of that, the hairs raised on his neck.
“His new incarnation.” She chirped and took his hand, guiding him out into the main chamber again. Reese ducked quickly as he felt something whoosh by his head.
“Don’t worry.” She laughed. “He just wants to scare you.”
“Bats?” He cringed. “Jesus! I hate those things.”
Isabelle blew out the lantern and guided him out of the cave as he pulled his hood up around his ears. She was still laughing when they exited.
“I’m not going in there again.” He swore.
“That’s what he was counting.”
“Old Man Jackson.” She winked.
at 9:29 AM