At night near Choctaw’s Atchafalaya “Long River” the songs of some three hundred species were usually as constant as the fog. There has only ever been one night on record where each of those animals remained silent for nearly three minutes.
Our Observer was there that night, having come to the same spot year after year to stare out across the placid waters in deep meditation.
It was around a decade ago that my memories begin coming in like a slow, low tide. Though many were painful, time moves differently out here in the wetlands. I realized here, I could separate myself from that pain, even avoid it. Besides, it was a different time then, one could even say… a different life.
There was little that swayed him from his strict nightly routine, he kept his objectives simple, he focused on listening to the various creatures’ movements along the paths he frequented. The hiccup of a bullfrog or the bark of a Great Blue Heron were not the cords he sought, as an astute observer he preferred to note the noise of the various creatures squeaking, scuttling and crashing through the bulrushes and ferns along the murky water’s edges.
In particular a faint memory of this woman’s face plagued me as of late, a look of utter disappointment that to this day yanks my heart strings. Who was she, and why was my largest concern then a book in the nook of my elbow, and a ridiculous nagging feeling that I would never finish reading it?
A fog that laid over everything caught his attention, within moments it had thickened to such a degree that most anything shorter than three foot above the marsh was completely indistinguishable.
In another time an obsession with reincarnation created an inevitable turning point for myself and my family. The people of the village believed me to be losing my mind rather than conducting legitimate research. And the book! The book began to speak of tangible ways to direct souls, had they understood the severity of my understanding metempsychosis.
With what was first confused for a hoard of bizarre lighting bugs, our Observer paused long enough to watch a far corner of the wetlands blaze to life with a flickering, floating electric cloud. A sort of static electricity that swirled an array of vibrant colors; blots of purples, yellows, oranges, greens and red, dancing - no, ricocheting within the boundaries of the swirling mass.
Was it simply a fog though? The thought crossed his mind as a quote from the book floated to the forefront of his mind.
“With enough power an energy transference could lay out across the world like a large blanket, seeping into the grounds and beginning again the cycle of rebirth and death.”
When the swirling mass spread into his immediate vicinity our Observer paused and held his breath as did seemingly the entire rest of the swamp life for miles and miles. Complete and utter silence save for the beating of his heart and the lapping of the water against the banksides.
When the mass overcame them all, as if overwhelmed by anticipation the entire avian and amphibian life seemed to groan as an intense amount of energy crashed down onto their feeble psyches. In what felt like an instant his head was filled with more memories than he could handle, an understanding of the past, present and future simultaneously. The sudden ache in his head blurred his vision so much that the tree behind him saved him from falling.
With a deep regret and a wild sense of curiosity I leapt out into the fog seeking the source of such brilliance. Though every cell in my being spoke against it, my memory was flooded with example after example of how I became halted by moments of doubt.
The wetlands fell behind him as he sailed through space and time, he reveled in the feeling… destination unknown. The beating of his heart and the blood coursing through his veins were his only drive, a desire for understanding… love his only lead.
My motivation and momentum were propelled largely by a fear of my own doubt stopping me. Was I always the type who failed to learn from my mistakes? Could I transform into what I am meant to be, so that i may carry out my destiny?
The rain had begun to pour around him as he entered a bright city and pure exhaustion overcame him. The lights of a nearby Hospital and the cover created by it's Emergency sign would make fast shelter. The hustle and bustle were per usual for ‘closing time’ hour, and though there were many options only the nearby guard shack provided entertainment. Just as he begin to grin the guard slid off the glass window he’d begun to drill on, effectively waking himself in a fright.
As proper a place as any to settle in for a nap. I hunched into myself for warmth and closed my eyes. It was all to sudden that dreams from my past swept me, away providing little to no rest. An approaching vehicle neared luring me from my restless sleep, and though there was nothing familiar about it, I felt as drawn to it as would be a moth to a flame.
The low rumble of a 5.0-liter V8 E class Mercedes Benz crawled its way toward the parking lot. The Observer cast his gaze over the exchange between the guard and the driver, regrettably from such a distance the engine of the car made hearing the exchange nearly impossible.
There it was again, that doubt. It seemed silly to sit here not knowing what to look for, presumptuous even; so what if this man in the car caught my attention? There is logical reason for that, a loud vehicle. However, this feeling? I am no Sherlock; I have no Watson. Who am I to sit on this perch in potential judgement?
With a wave the man in the car passed the guard shack and exited the vehicle with haste. The suit he wore was of fine material and he walked with an assumed air of importance; something about his swagger though, felt more bought than self-made.
At once I understood the significance of the memory of the woman’s face. It was the last time my assumed trusted advisor suggested I sign my will and estate over to a man outside my family. Could this be him? A grandson then maybe? How long ago was that?
Our Observer drew nearer to hear the man’s voice.
“Detective.” The short pudgy man straightened his suit before removing his hat.
The smoke billowed around him as he drew nearer the Detective, who looked past the canted brim of his hat toward the short man in the suit. The sound of an intentional sound of displeasure, a scuff even as the Detective shook his head before taking a pull of his cigar.
“My client requests to know about the female Guard.”
Before looking up the Detective tossed the end of the cigar snuffing it out beneath his boot as the scuff turned into a chuckle.
Though I was not aware of it at the time, I had dug my nails clean into the wood beneath me. Each word the short man spoke rang in my mind, each syllable reminding me of the day he sat on my deathbed making endless promises.
“McDougal… Internal Affairs is sniffing around the department for your rat, so I won’t be telling you that your lass was arrested.”
McDougal huffed as he turned and marched back toward his vehicle. The ringing of his cell phone could be heard as he glanced down taking a long slow deep breath before answering the call.
A long pause.
“Yes Sir, I am heading there now.”
McDougal led our Observer to a large set of apartments with more than a few cop cars along the entrance. Patiently and carefully, our Observer followed the loud rumble of the Mercedes as it traveled up and through the winding parking garage. It was then our Observer found McDougal approaching an apartment hallway.
Though my vantage point gave me mostly a vague profile of McDougal, I watched him knock, tapping his foot impatiently before the latch of a door could be heard, before the door creaked open.
“Hello? May we speak for a moment?” McDougal had removed his hat and bowed a bit.
Though the woman spoke louder than the man, her voice seemed more hesitant and tired, than prideful.
“What can I help you with… Mr.?”
“Oh yes Ma’am, Lawrence McDougal. If you have a moment, I just had some questions about the incident yesterday.”
“Mmm. Well, I can help you with that, sure. You can get off my porch immediately and seek out my Lawyer.”
McDougal’s tone became irritable as his speech became anxious.
“The Inmate who escaped, you knew her personally I am told? My client’s niece she is, he has been looking for her you see. We are making a move to sue the Institution for wrong imprisonment. Perhaps you would be interested in joining the lawsuit?”
“No.” The door squeaked as it began to close.”
A growl could be heard when McDougal’s shoe stopped the door.
“Your foot is in the way Sir.”
“Who was the other Guard with you when the Inmate escaped?Perhaps he would be interested?”
“If I try and cannot shut this door again, I’ll have to consider you a threat who is trying to break into my home. You do realize I am licensed and trained to use a firearm that is conveniently within my reach?”
McDougal sighed before the door slammed and the lock clicked loudly.
When returning to his car, his phone rang again and with labored breathing he answered. The conversation ended quickly as he sunk heavily into the seat of the car.
The news must not have been good. Something about the female I felt compelled to follow her, but how could she be tied to the energy clouds floating in the Atchafalaya Bayou? And the curious behavior of his old ‘friend’ who could resist finding out what plagued him?
This time McDougal led him to an old farmhouse outside Grand Isles. The only lights illuminated on the property were in a old, battered barn off to the side of the main road. McDougal jerked the sedan onto the dirt path and slowed to a stop before the large doors. As McDougal approached, one of the doors creaked open as our Observer made his way to the closest window.
It felt as if my heart had leapt into my throat at the realization. So much happened so fast that their voices blurred and time began moving to fast. The man talking to McDougal, turning out to look almost exactly like a much younger version of myself. Did I have a grandson? The memory from earlier, my daughter! The last thing she said to me before my memory began slipping, “Papa, I’m pregnant.”
As our Observer sat in a state of shock the puzzle pieces as well as a large darkness began to fall over his vision. To quick for him to register he found himself within a bag, bouncing along the backside of someone carrying him down what sounded like steps of a ladder.
“It was like you said Boss, just a barn owl. What did you want me to catch him for?”
The bag jumbled me a bit as I was set on a cold surface, the sound of metal against metal followed squeaking and clanking. With effort I worked my way free of the bag and no sooner did I realize I had been locked in a cage not even large enough for me to spread my wings.
“The spirits did say you were on your way here Grandfather, it is delightful that you decided to drop in. Alas, I have apparent gratitude to bestow upon you for allowing me to do so. And they a message for you…
“You really should have finished the book.”