While I rewrite the stories that appeared in my 2014 book, The Green Crystal Stories, I’m offering the original stories here in chapter-by-chapter installments.
“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells
Chapter 3: April 26, 2003
“Ugh. I think I swallowed a spider.”
Daniel pulled a small, brown leaf from his mouth and pushed the hanging branches away from his face. Drops of water sprinkled down on him and he shivered. “Wait up a second, honey. I need to readjust my pack.”
Addison stopped and combed a hand through her short blonde hair. “We’re almost out of the woods,” she said and took out her canteen. “The hill’s summit is another hour. Then we can set up our tent and…” She let her voice fall away while she removed the cap and drank.
“God willing,” Daniel moaned while he adjusted the straps around his shoulders. “I’m getting too old for this.”
“Forty-nine isn’t old,” she said and looked into his blue eyes and winked. “Besides, you shouldn’t have worn so much, especially on a day like today.”
He looked down at the long khaki shirt and pants. “I can’t help it we’re having unseasonable weather today.” He pointed at patches of snow and ice lingering in the valley. “It’ll be cold tonight, though. It’s still April.” He took a mouthful of cool water and swallowed.
“That’s okay,” Addison purred. “I have you to keep me warm.” She turned and pulled at the pant legs of her black spandex shorts that had crept up her thighs. “Besides, this was your idea to paint the landscapes up here. So stop complaining.”
“Or what?” Daniel studied the tall, trim woman, stared at her youthful-looking face and felt his love for her quicken. She was thirty-three, but looked barely twenty-five. He wiped sweat from his forehead, then handed back the canteen.
“I love you, Addison,” he said. He tried to embrace her, but her pack got in the way. He leaned in and tried to kiss her, but she swatted at a fly buzzing her face. He decided to step back and blow her a kiss instead.
She pretended to catch it and place it against her heart. “I love you, too,” she said, putting away the canteen, and then embracing him and kissing him deeply. Daniel closed his eyes and felt a wave of desire wash over him. She gently pushed away and he let her go.
“Come on,” she said, pointing to the top of the rise. “Our destiny awaits us, master painter.
The loose stone and gravel slowed their climb, making Daniel eager to rest again. He looked forward to reaching the top and setting up their tent.
They lunched at one-thirty next to their packs on the face of the hillside. Looking down at the widespread valleys of Ridgewood, Daniel noted how years of wind, rain and snow had stripped away trees and other large plant life on some areas of the hill, creating patches of bare rock. Ugly to some, but beautiful contrasts of texture and form to the eyes of an artist.
Addison pointed down the slope. “I used to climb those rocks when I was a kid. My dad used to stay fit by climbing the hill.” She took a bite from a stick of celery and Daniel fetched a drawing pad and some pencils from his pack. He quickly sketched the surrounding landscape and Addison. She waited until he finished before she took a digital camera from her pack and went about photographing him and the landscape.
“Hey,” he called out while sketching more rock. “What would you say if I told you I may retire from the college after this year?”
She focused her camera’s lens at the wide valley and took a picture. “Are you getting tired of teaching art classes?”
“Well … yeah, sort of. I’ve been teaching twenty years now.” He chewed on the end of his pencil. “I’ve wanted to travel across country and paint. What do you think?”
“Ah,” Addison said. “The dreams of a bohemian artist.” She shrugged. “As long as you don’t go all gypsy on me and leave me for the call of the land.”
“Leave you? Never.” He smiled. Birds darted from tree to tree below the hillside overlooking the valley where Myers Creek snaked through. The brilliant sunshine became hazy and a few fat raindrops fell. He wiped water from his paper and put the pad away. There had been a slight breeze during their morning ascent, but now the air was still and quiet. A sudden drop in temperature made Addison put on her windbreaker. She continued snapping pictures while Daniel found a granola bar and ate.
Fat, cold rain balls splattered on her jacket, so she put away her camera and went to Daniel, urging him to get going before the rain quickened.
He looked up at her frizzy blonde hair lifting in the air.
“Ouch.” She yanked her glasses away and swatted at her temple. “Something just stung me.”
Daniel looked but saw nothing that would have stung her. However, he heard a faint humming sound and wondered if a mosquito had bitten her. Then he felt something crawling on the back of his neck and swatted at it.
Addison’s glasses began to vibrate and hum in her hand. She threw them to the ground. Suddenly she panicked. “We’ve got to get out of here.” There was fear in her voice. “Get rid of everything metal and start climbing back down.”
Confused and scared, Daniel jumped to his feet. Louder buzzing sounds came from the sky. The noise sounded familiar.
“Electricity.” Addison took off her rings and tossed them to the ground. She struggled to remove her earrings. “The hill is charging with the sky to produce lightning.”
“Lightning?” Daniel tripped over his pack. He reached to pick it up.
“Leave it alone and hurry!”
Addison threw down her last earring and Daniel saw fear in her eyes. He stepped down from the rocky ledge and ran for the trench that would lead them down to the next level. He stopped and waited for her.
“There’s a cave to the right,” she said grabbing his arm and steadying herself from the sudden wind whipping at them.
Daniel remembered why the buzzing noise had sounded familiar. That same sound had come from Jane Holcomb moments before she vanished.
Her incredible story rushed on him like a crashing wave.
“Are you pregnant?” he asked.
“Are you sure?”
“Well, my breasts have been a little sore—”
“We have to get off this hill.”
The buzzing grew louder. He took her by the hand and hurried across the small valley toward the cave.
“The diary,” he said. “She said it happened on Myers Ridge. This is where I die.”
The ground became soft and spongy and he slipped, though he managed to stay upright. Addison slipped, too, and fell into a bowl-like depression. Suddenly the ground at the bottom opened and swallowed her. The darkening, rainy sky banged to life and a bolt of lightning struck the sinkhole. The air scorched and Daniel felt an explosion in his head. He screamed Addison’s name. Rain pelted him, pushing him down. He scrambled to the place he last saw his wife and looked at the gaping ground.
Bands of green light radiated down the walls of stone.
“Addie,” he cried. “Answer me.”
Daylight disappeared while storm clouds collided and unleashed a wall of water upon the grief stricken man. Shaking and cold, he took shelter in the tall and narrow cave, no bigger than a broom closet. He wiped rain and tears from his eyes and drew his legs up to his chest. He wrapped his arms around them and wept.
He knew that history had found its way to the present and that Addie was now in the past.
~ ~ ~
There was only one thing to do: follow her in and hope that he could find her.
He stood over the sinkhole. Thunder rumbled overhead as though trying to remind him that there were powers in nature greater than he could comprehend.
He shrugged his pack higher on his back. He had retrieved the backpack and Addison’s camera, rings and glasses from the hill’s ledge, despite the lightning that struck the mouth of the sinkhole every three minutes.
The last strike had occurred a minute ago. Miniature lightning and green rings of electricity descended the sinkhole. He was almost certain that the hole was like a wormhole to the past. Or the future.
Or maybe it was just a hole.
He doubted that as he braced himself, closed his eyes and jumped.
A cold wind blew up at him. He was vaguely aware that nothing was there to grab hold of as he fell. And he did fall into the abyss, long and far.
All the while, bright light flashed around him and a tremendous roar sounded above him. The granite walls of the hole rushed past and rings of green light along the walls shot past him. He looked up. Jagged fingers of lightning filled the air above him. Then all light went out. A tremendous wind with a voice of a million tortured souls screaming in hellish agony shoved at him, pushing him, speeding his descent. Moments later, another roar erupted from above and came at him like a giant electric hand swatting a bug.
The swat sent him spiraling into one of the green rings that crackled like a giant bug zapper when he entered it. It crackled louder when he exited moments later into daylight beyond the abyss in Myers Ridge.