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
Darkness took away the heat and cooled her. When she opened her eyes, she knew she had been asleep. For how long, she wasn’t sure. She wasn’t sure of anything, except that her throat hurt. The bed she lay in was a stranger’s; unknown faces peered down at her. She panicked, unable to breathe. Someone pulled a long tube from her throat and she was able to breathe again. Outside a window near her bed, rain fell in torrents against the glass. Lightning lit up the sky and frightened her.
She knew not where she was or who she was, except that she was terrified of the lightning filling the sky.
* * *
Aunt Peggy lay in her hospital bed and stared weakly at Brian. To the right of her, a January blizzard fell outside her window. “Heather is trapped in the past.”
“So what can I do?” Brian stared dumbly at the diary in his hands. “The police think I’m crazy, that I killed my wife.”
“You have to save her. You have to go back. Keep her from killing herself.”
“Go back to the cave. The answer is there.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because it is. You have to believe.” She closed her eyes.
Brian sat for an hour and listened to Aunt Peggy’s irregular breathing while he read again Jane’s diary. Then he prayed. For what it was worth, he got some satisfaction from begging to God. When he stepped from the room, he knew, as crazy as it seemed to the rational part of his mind, that there had to be a way to save Heather. And the answer did lie within those green crystals and lightning.
* * *
It was the third week of August, not long after a terrible thunderstorm had passed through Ridgewood, when some teenage boys hiking Magic Hill stumbled upon Brian Stevens’s Grand Cherokee parked atop a rise. A police officer remembered Brian’s name and his incredible story about his wife disappearing inside the cave.
The guy was surely insane and had killed his wife, only they were never able to find her body to prove it.
Now, inside the cave once more, the officer and his partner found an overturned tent containing a sleeping bag, a dozen empty cases of canned spaghetti, soup and vegetables, and three one-gallon containers of water that would later turn out to be rainwater. They also found some books about lightning, local history from the 1940s, and theories on time travel.
Once more, they found no one—not even a body—inside the cave.
* * *
The amnesic woman known as Jane sat slumped in her oversized wheelchair. Nurse Rachel Watkins had parked Jane’s chair again in front of the parlor’s largest window so she could look out at the hilly, tree-lined block of neighborhood. Rachel brought her here every morning and claimed that looking at the woodland section of Victorian houses could help bring back memories of Jane’s past. Rachel had even bought her a diary so she could record her thoughts and memories inside.
Jane squinted past the silver-gray skylight stabbing through the large window. It was July, but the Pennsylvania sky looked far from being a kind one. Thunder sounded. The Tuesday morning skylight outdoors darkened and threatened to pour down rain. Alone, Jane looked at the silver wedding and engagement rings she wore and wondered what it was like to have a husband, to sit with, hand in hand, and watch it rain.
Lightning lit up the sky. She looked again out the window. Beyond the sloping lawn that ran to Henry Burkhart’s black iron gate barring the sidewalk, a man dressed in a long black raincoat stood at the bars. A sleek blue car with lots of chrome was parked behind him. Two boys in yellow plastic raincoats scurried past as the man looked through the bars at the house and the window.
He waved to her.
A flash of lightning and clap of thunder made her shoulders jump, but it was the stranger now striding through the gate and heading to the front door that made her heart beat faster.
She balled her hands into tight fists and listened for the sound of the doorbell.