by: Dennis R. Humphreys
I moved to the area escaping the people, the politics, and the rising crime where law enforcement's hands were tied doing anything about it,. The cities were no longer safe and I was seriously disillusioned. After three failed marriages and the feeling that I may have outlived my usefulness because I never amounted to anything, I moved to an isolated area without neighbors and without responsibility of any kind except for myself. After a few short months there I realized this was where I always belonged but it took me a lifetime to discover that.
I spent my time building a place for myself without the disturbance of corrupt inspectors and zoning people who constantly had the power to stop you where I came from, and whose hands were out for obligatory tips. Other time was spent prospecting while the third part of my time was just spent exploring for the sake of exploring. The few people there, were out here could see my dust trails buzzing through the various places as I went my way.
When I got up that morning it was sunny, clear and cool...a perfect day for exploration so I opened a can of bacon spam and fried it dark brown accompanied by two eggs and a piece of toast. This would tie me over for the day. All I needed was to throw a gallon of water into the UTV to take with me. The gas tank was full and my prospecting tools were in the back in case they were needed but my intention was not to prospect. Out here there are few influences or distractions. A person can let his mind wander and it's amazing what seeps into the consciousness. If you're a creative person it's a petri dish of imagination and you wonder why it took you so long to find this place.
I left within the hour and headed southeast to some steep hills and a mountain that looked like an extinct volcano. The erosion patterns on the sides appeared to be old lava flows that funneled newer geological waters down their paths, rounding the hard edges over time to their present appearance. It was a beautiful morning and as I drove I said my normal prayer I said every morning, 'Thank you God for yesterday and bless today...” You couldn't be out here by yourself and experience the things I've experienced without realizing there is a greater power in all this. Scientists far back as Newton said the normal path of things is towards chaos. Then how is it possible that being the case, this world is a logical, mathematically based place? Someone out there has created the algorithm for stability, or we wouldn't be here.
I passed over the terrain, occasionally bouncing my head off the ceiling of the vehicle. Rabbits ran by and crows squawked overhead doing what they do. Squirrels scurried in an attempt to evade my approach, after all I could be a predator. In this world it was sometimes hard to differentiate but in my world where I came from, it was the same story.
The land got steeper and I spotted an interesting ravine ahead. It had gotten so I would have to stop and park to walk the rest of the way. The ravine meandered down the mountain in a not too straight a path but in an 's' curve with moments lacking any curvature. I jammed a rock pick in my belt just in case and proceeded to explore it. The path was strewn with rocks and brush. The place was probably twenty miles from town but to think that the last time someone walked here might have been a hundred years ago, was hard to imagine.
When I got to the opening of the ravine, the ground was smoother so the walking was easier as I proceeded. The sides were primarily shale based and small, thin sheets of the gray stuff fell in piles from the walls. They glistened like mirrors from the reflecting sun.
Soon, water was trickling at my feet where there was very little water. This was a surprise as it travelled crookedly down the bottom of the ravine from a place that appeared greener. I had found as little oasis here among the side of the mountains in this isolated ravine. As I followed the water I looked ahead from time to time and things seemed to be getting greener and more lush. Then I spotted her, a young girl of perhaps sixteen with long hair, standing among the foliage on a small hill of moss and green grass. As I got closer I noticed she was smiling at me but as I got closer still, there was a familiarity that defied possibility. It was a young girl I had fallen in love with when I was seventeen. She was my first love and probably my only as evidenced by my three failed marriages. There wasn't a day that went by where I wouldn't think of her. She died tragically in an automobile accident with two girlfriends. All three had been drinking. As I stopped and studied her it was indeed Colleen. She looked somewhat ethereal in the light white dress she was wearing. Her hair hung past her bottom in a natural flow. The few freckles she had on her cheeks and across her nose became more visible to me as I got closer. She was barefoot as she always was when the weather permitted. As I got closer she stepped towards me and put her arms around my neck, smiling. I felt odd at my age having a young girl like this putting her arms around me in a loving embrace. She looked into my eyes and must have read my thoughts.
She took me in hand and led me to pool of water from where the small creek issued. Looking at me she pointed down at our reflections and when I did I was shocked. I could see Colleen clearly as she was but me...I was seventeen again. I looked at my hands and they weren't the hands of an aging man. They were the hands of a youth. How could this be? Colleen didn't need to read my thoughts at this point, it was obvious what I was thinking. I was surprised by a voice behind me. Startled, I turned around and stood to face with a very old man standing there.
“I see you have questions?” the old man said. “You can ask me, I am Sebastian, the Keeper of Time.”
“How is all this possible. My true love is alive and sixteen again and I'm the age when I knew her. I know this isn't some sort of dream. How?” I asked him perplexed and unsure of my senses.
“This ravine is a special ravine. What you saw coming here is an alternate universe of what may have been, where things evolved differently. Everything is the same now as it was then. The only difference is the time. Time is not linear but wrapped unto itself but your first love never died here. You have the option of returning to that time to continue your life as it could have been. I am giving you the chance to do that and you have the day to decide after staying here. But the balance of all things must be kept in check. If you decide to stay your other self, the older man that came here, will trade places with you and the younger man here will go to your world where he lost his first love and failed at three marriages. Do you understand the trade offs?” he asked me, watching me intensely with his steel blue eyes under a mass of gray hair. He sported a long, curly gray beard of a biblical nature. I wondered if he were someone from the bible but I didn't remember reading of a Sebastian there.
“I'll stay the day and most likely trade,” I told him looking at her smiling at me with loving eyes.
“No decisions yet. Stay the day and I will come back as sundown” he promised and disappeared among the brush.
I turned to her with all the warmth I could imagine flowing through my body. It was good to be young again and experience again those feelings that were only memories. I went to her and kissed her, She was as soft and delicate as I remembered, warm to my touch but hot in my embrace.
“I've missed you,” I heard myself say in a voice that was younger and higher.
“I have missed you so much my love,” I heard her say in a voice I didn't quite remember being as annoying as it now sounded.
We sat on the small knoll where the pool of water was and talked about things long forgotten but soon the memories were replenished as we talked. I found her voice irritating and not at all like I remembered. As we sat there reminiscing, she started chewing her nails. They were dirty and unappealing. I couldn't remember that either or her constant gnawing of them as we sat. Half the time I had to ask her to repeat herself because I couldn't understand her speaking with her fingers in her mouth.
Soon we were laying on the ground, she on her back and me next to her and leaning over her on one arm. She was as lovely as I remembered. Perhaps more so. I was drawn to kiss her which I did. What I tasted was the most horrible of tastes. Her breath smelled like feces of any imaginable species that lived. I was appalled. I knew I would be avoiding kissing her too much. I didn't want to show my displeasure at reliving something intimate that I had so long missed.
“Do you remember the time we snuck out of the house that night after you were grounded because of your report card?” I asked her. Her parents thought I was a bad influence and I distracted her from her schoolwork.
“We went to the neighbors backyard pool and skinny dipped half the night,” she added.
“No...we went to a party at Paul Hagan's house. His parents were out of town,” I corrected her.
“Oh that's right. That was Kyle Moore I skinny dipped with,” she answered blindly.
“You skinny dipped with Kyle?” I asked incredulously. I had no idea. “I thought you didn't even like him?”
“No...but it was hot, fun and something to do. You went on vacation with your family and weren't around,” she informed me.
“What else did you do with Kyle Moore I don't know about?” I asked her, taken back.
“Oh Daniel, don't be such a prude,” she admonished me like I was the one skinny dipping with someone else besides my girlfriend. That didn't make me feel guilty only a little miffed.
Every time I looked at her though I had to catch my breath. Here in these surrounding she seemed to make everything mundane. She still excited me...of course, I was seventeen again. I watched her as she stood up and dropped her dress standing there naked, then climbed into the pool of water.
“It's hot come in with me and cool off,” she offered. She didn't have to ask me twice. Within seconds I was naked and entering the cool spring water. With the heat of the day the water seemed colder than it was and it sent a chill through me. She laughed as pat of me shrunk to the tune of the water and I felt self conscious.
“Hey you have to allow for shrinkage, “I told her almost apologetically.
I laid there in the water propped on my elbows as she stood to face me and then straddle my lap. Great tamales! I didn't remember the size of her pubic bush either. It was huge and wildly unkempt. There was a small tattoo as well directly over it I didn't remember. It looked like one of those self inflicted prison tattoos but it was correctly positioned so someone else had created it besides her.
It was unappetizing looking at her pubic hair but I asked her about the tattoo.
“I don't remember that tattoo. Where did get it?” I asked her. “Why does it say the Pit and the Pendulum?”
“Mark Hildebrand gave it to me in his basement while his parents were out shopping. It was the same week you were on vacation,” she told me innocently like I wouldn't think anything of it.
“First, skinny dipping with Kyle that week and the same week getting a tattoo from Mark in a pretty private area. What else did you do that week I don't know about?” I asked her becoming quickly disillusioned with the memory of Colleen.
“My girlfriend, Jennifer and I went to naked body painting party with several of the guys...you know where you get your body painted and then roll on a canvas to created a painting. That was fun. I got in trouble for that one because I didn't get home until sunup,” she told me as I looked at her incredulously.
“Wait your curfew was midnight and I was a bad influence on you. I wasn't even around!” I complained to her.
She began sobbing in a strange kind of way. Like a choking horse. It soon became outright balling and sounded like a bad imitation of Lucile Ball on the old 'I Love Lucy' show, more like the beginnings of an air raid horn as it geared up. I don't remember any of this....neither the incidents we talked about or the way she cried or any of the other things that surprised me this day going back in time. I looked at her again and for some reason she wasn't as pretty. I don't know if she was changing or my perception and memory of her was.
The day went on and what I thought was going to be a beautiful experience and a walk though some unbelievable memories became a distant illusion. Time seemed to go slower as well. How could I have been so wrong about what was. Colleen began holding tighter to my arm as the sun began descending in the sky. We both knew Sebastian would be coming back soon.
“Are you staying?” she asked me and she saw my indecisiveness in my face when I looked at her.
“Stay my love. We can begin where we left off. We can even stay here and live. There is no time in this ravine only moments. We can spend an eternity making love in each other's embrace and sharing the intensity of our passions like no other. We can be with each other forever...” she told me holding my arm tightly and pushing her face into my flesh. Suddenly the option didn't seem important.
The sun was almost down when Sebastian came out of where he disappeared among the bushes. He had a big smile on his face as he approached us and I stood to meet him.
“Well, have you decided to stay?” he asked.
I took him by the arm and walked him with me slowly down the ravine. When we had gotten several feet from Colleen and out of hearing I spoke to him then.
“Nothing is as I remember it,” I told him.
“Things rarely are. The idealism of youth and the blindness of young passion sometime awakens the truth when we've lived a full life,” he told me. I stopped and looked at him momentarily. I looked back at Colleen standing there innocently waiting, then back at Sebastian.
“Not on your fucking life...no how...no way,” I told him and began quickly to vacate the area and leave the ravine.
An old man jumped into his UTV and drove off...wiser that day.