He ran, struggling for each breath. If he stopped he would die. His pursuers would not stop until they killed him. His heart pounded in his chest as he struggled over rocks and fallen trees. They were closer now. He heard the baying of the hounds. If he could find the stream or waterfall, perhaps the water would help mask his scent, his trail.
Finally, the stream. He heard the falls to his left and moved downstream. The hound’s cries sounded closer and more excited. He moved into deeper water, hoping to evade the violent death closing in on him. He submerged himself, moving with the current. The roar of the falls increased. Exhaustion and cold drained him. He was tired, so tired that he fell over the edge of Crying Woman falls. He hit the pool, pushed under by the force of the water.
Struggling, he forced his way to the surface and drew in several deep breaths. He pulled himself onto the rocks behind the falls. Shivering, he tried to remain still and quiet. He couldn’t run anymore and could only pray he had escaped death. He rested his head on his arms, listening for sounds of pursuit. His breath caught in his throat. He swore he could hear a woman crying, sobbing as if her heart had broken. He turned his head slowly toward the sound.
A splash outside the falls, then another made him freeze. He bowed his head, there was nowhere to run. The dog’s growls were so close he could almost feel its hot breath. If only… He thought of his wife and son, then pushed to his feet. If his enemies wanted a fight, he’d give them one.
Spring in North Georgia could be a bitch, a beautiful moody bitch. One week there could be a tornado, the next an ice storm that knocked out all the power for miles. Today, however, was perfect. Declan James smiled and tilted his head back, allowing a shaft of afternoon sunlight to warm his face. Of all the exotic places he’d visited, this land had its own magic. It was a beautiful day to hike back to the cabin built by his great-grandfather. Wonder what remains of the homestead? He smiled as he remembered hiking and camping trips with his father and grandfather, his grandmother’s garden and her blackberry cobbler, and evenings spent telling stories by the fire. His childhood had been a boy’s dream. His smile faded, a dream until his father had disappeared. What happened? He would never leave us…
Declan shook his head, clearing out the negative thoughts. This was not the time to wallow in past sorrows. The answer waited out there. For today it was enough he walked on family land, land that had belonged to his family since the early 1800s. He needed to make some changes in his life. It only made sense to return to his ancestral home. Despite all the sorrows of the past, life had been good to him, allowing the trials he’d faced to make him a better, stronger man.
“It is a perfect day.” Speaking the words aloud, breaking the silence, made his words almost a prayer.
He was getting close to the homestead, just another half mile up the trail. Adjusting his pack, he continued along the trail. At the top he stood still, taking in the view of the mountains with their trees just turning a pale green. At the edge of his vision something moved. Smoke. Damn, the old cabin was on fire
Bounding down the trail, sliding on small rocks, he hurried….
I’LL BE SEEING YOU
C. C. ANSARDI
After a lifetime of running from trouble, she thought she’d escaped it. It had actually kept pace with her.
Nancy’s trouble began the day the old man arrived with his contraption, an ugly, spikey thing that churned and chewed into the earth, upending the red Georgia clay along the back fence that she’d chosen for her organic garden. He’d left after cramming her dollar bills into his overalls with a dirty fist and a word of advice about hilling the squash and leaving plenty of space in between.
She pulled out the card he’d given her earlier, as grimy as the hand that extended it. On the back he had scribbled the name of the man he thought knew the most about planting gardens in Falls County, a Stephen Woodland, owner of the Woodland Hills Resort and a man who liked to oversee the gardens there.
Nancy made a mental note to check with Woodland, but for now she couldn’t wait to get started. She attacked the hard clods with the rotary hoe, or whatever the old gent called it. Even as it burrowed deep into the ground, she found it rough work. She would need a man’s help, and it certainly wouldn’t be her new husband since he traveled all of the time. Nancy would have to reach out to people in Nantahala…
But it might be different this time. She’d left Nantahala as a child, and now she was thirty-seven. Most of those years she’d spent in therapy to put her curse behind her. She finally had a new beginning. She had hope for her future and a home of her own. So when she uncovered the thin, small piece of bone a tingling began along her hairline. Not now!
Kneeling there, she carefully scraped away the earth from what could be the remains of an animal. This was her husband Paul’s old home place, and he probably had pets buried here. She would ask him tonight over dinner.
The bone began to glow. Her vision blurred and tunneled, and a coil of nausea unraveled in her stomach. Stop!
The shining bone fell away, drawing her down, down, into a dark vortex. No, no, I don’t want to see it! At the bottom of the abyss in a supine position, the rib cage obscenely exposed, rested a human skeleton with a crushed skull. Wisps of blonde hair still clung to the undamaged side.
Nancy closed her eyes and willed her mind to shut down