Kismet is a short story that went through many rewrites before I presented it as part of The Ridgewood Chronicles series several years ago. This version is basically the story at Amazon, told in 4 chapters before I decided to rewrite it, add more chapters, and change the ending. Enjoy.
Copyright © Steven L Campbell
Heather left Aunt Peggy’s hospital room and found comfort in Brian’s arms. An intracerebral hemorrhage had left Aunt Peggy comatose.
“Let’s go,” Heather said. She left ICU doctors and nurses busy lowering Aunt Peggy’s blood pressure and providing life support and comfort.
Odors of antiseptic and sanitizer alcohol wafted through the fluorescent-green hallway and mingled with last night’s waxing of the corridor’s cream-colored tiles. Heather hurried Brian past that other smell, the pungent one that came from the dying.
Outside, the sky was cerulean and ultramarine, and the morning sun burned bright above the southern horizon. Heather filled her lungs and left her parka open to the unseasonably warm weather. The land was white and wet beyond the paved black landscape where Brian had parked his Grand Cherokee among four rows of gleaming vehicles. Around them, the tiny hospital seemed too busy with traffic driving in and out of the visitors’ lot.
“Does the whole damned town have to get sick during the holiday?” She climbed inside the Jeep and waited for Brian. She saw two suitcases in the backseat.
“I have three days of vacation left,” Brian said when he got in. “I called your boss and extended yours. We have a room with a Jacuzzi with our name on it, ski slopes if we want to ski, and the weekend for just the two of us.” He drove past the big green sign directing them to Myers Ridge Ski Resort.
Heather almost protested. Aunt Peggy’s warning, “Never go there,” clanged inside her head. Brian reached for her and found a hand. He squeezed. “I love you,” he said. He brushed her thigh, first outside, then in. He reached for her shoulders and pulled her as close to him as her seatbelt would allow. He wanted to cuddle and that meant one thing. She held him off with promises.
Check-in at the lodge was quick but barely fast enough for either Brian or Heather. It had been too long since they had made love in a bed other than their own.
Inside their two-hundred-dollar-a-day room, which last year’s American Resort magazine gave five stars, Heather made true on many of her promises.
* * *
When she and Brian exited their room two days later, most of the snow around Ridgewood had melted. The ski resort was busy making its own snow to keep customers happily skiing, despite the almost summer temperature. Heather and Brian went to Eagle Rock Incline to take in the view of Ridgewood. At 630 feet up, they could see ravines and drumlins and several gulches and dry washes between Ridgewood and the outskirts of New Cambridge to the east. The marker they stood next to said they were on Magic Hill.
“I thought this was Myers Ridge,” Heather said.
“The ridge is made up of several hills. Magic Hill is one of them.”
“Magic Hill.” Heather looked around. “I wonder what’s so magical about it.”
“I know it had some sort of significance to the Indians living here. But that’s all I know.”
Heather pointed to a clearing a half-mile down the valley. “Is that a cave where those big rocks are?”
Brian squinted. “Probably. Where there are hills this big there’s bound to be a cave or two.”
“I’ve never been in a cave. Maybe we could make it our own special place.” She stood on tiptoes and kissed him.
* * *
Along the woodsy and rocky terrain, they scratched at invisible gnats buzzing around the back of their necks. They reached the cave an hour later. Brian had to stoop to enter the cave, which was immediately cold and damp and musty smelling. They stayed close to the entrance where sunlight warmed them.
Heather and Brian found a spot of smooth granite to sit on. Heather straddled Brian’s lap.
“There might be bear,” Brian said.
“I don’t care.” Heather undid his belt and pants; they made love, fast and wild the way they had when they were dating. When they finished, both shivered uncontrollably. The sunlight was gone.
“Should have brought our coats,” Brian said when he was dressed. He ventured into the large chamber, his eyes now adjusted to dim daylight twenty feet above them. He stopped at a small pile of rubble formed by the collapse of the cave’s ceiling. A long, thin finger of daylight pointed from the chimney-like shaft of the surface sinkhole above.
“Someday,” he said, “all this will come crashing down.”
“Not today.” Heather went to him and pulled at him. “Come on. I think I heard thunder.”
Brian listened to a faraway rumble. “I think you’re right. If we get a cold front mixing with this warm weather, we’re gonna have a hell of a storm.” He hurried to the entryway where a sprinkle of rain began to fall outside. A sudden flash of lightning sent him stumbling backwards into Heather. She fell and cried out.
“My ankle.” She rubbed her left foot. “It really hurts.” Heather’s red nose peeked up at him. Mucus dropped from the tip of her nose. She swiped at it with the back of a hand. “I can’t move my foot.”
Brian took her by the arm and helped her up. She leaned on his shoulder and hobbled to the narrow entryway. Along the way, he heard a clatter upon the ground and saw that Heather had dislodged his cell phone. He tried to reach for it, but Heather cried out from the pain. He’d come back for his phone later.
At the cave’s threshold, Heather pressed close to him, to try to make their passage easier, but Brian struck his forehead against the stone.
“Sit down,” he said, rubbing at the lump growing on his head. “I’ll drag you out.”
“I think it’s broken. It’s really aching now. Let me rest.”
Brian helped her back inside.
A sudden wind whipped through the entrance and sprayed them with cold rain. Brian pulled Heather further inside. The storm suddenly stilled. A faint humming sound came from above them, inside the cave.
Brian’s ring finger ached; his wedding ring vibrated.
Heather swatted at her temple. “Something just stung me,” she complained.
The sky outside lit up. Lightning entered the sinkhole and struck the cave floor a few feet from where Brian’s cell phone lay. The floor exploded. Stony shrapnel flew past them. Brian threw himself to the floor; Heather clutched his back and trembled.
The walls began to emit green light in places. Another lightning bolt entered the sinkhole and struck one of the large green lights. More shrapnel rained down on them. The other lights grew brighter. Brian examined one of the lights nearest to him. The light came from a stone, which was wide and faceted and shaped like a crystal. It warmed his hands at the touch; he welcomed the warmth as it coursed through him.
He saw his phone and crawled to it.
Heather screamed. “What is that? Oh my god what is that? Brian.”
Brian turned and saw a green whirlwind of light three meters in diameter above Heather’s head. Miniature lightning shot from the walls of the whirlwind. It twisted faster as the green lights around them grew brighter.
Heather put up an arm as though trying to ward off a blow as the whirlwind fell upon her.
A bolt of lightning from the sinkhole struck the whirlwind. A blinding flash of light caused Brian to cover his head. Hot wind and stone blew across his back. Then it was gone.
When Brian opened his eyes, the light was ebbing.
The lightning had stopped.
The whirlwind and Heather were gone.