A Halloween Tail…

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I thought I’d found another faerie keyhole. I really did. But this one was larger-and higher off the ground. Not exactly-well, not at all-sized for me, but fascinating. It didn’t strike me right away that I’d never seen it before and I was in these woods often. Usually around now-late morning or early afternoon when the sun is high and night is far enough ahead and behind to not have to worry.

There was this one time, after I broke up with Nina, that I came up into the Hollow after work with my PJ’s (pint of liquor and joints) and got blissfully, forgetfully high leaning against a large sycamore not too far from that spot. It was a sweet respite from the shitty week until I fell asleep-which would have been OK had I awakened before the sun fell behind the ridge. But I didn’t. I opened my eyes to the first hoots of a great horned owl that I could see a few trees over. His calls were answered by another behind me, then another deeper in the woods. Of course I assumed they were calling out the whereabouts of the trespasser and, on cue three bats flicked above me chasing mosquitoes or checking out the fool who was in the Hollow at dusk.

Then there was one, then another…and I swear a third, rustle in the leaves behind me. I pressed hard against the tree and judged the slope of the hill in front of me. Two things I didn’t want: one, to look behind me and see what was rustling; two, to wait for them to get any closer. I count 1-2-3! bolt upright and go flying down the hill. Behind me a rush of wind-I could feel it-passed me and rattled the branches above. Too busy running, I couldn’t be sure.

There was one glorious fall as I careened my way to the hollow floor. A root-if that’s what it was-grabbed my right foot and, airborne, I watched the ground slip by until, tucking and rolling, I hit the slope and didn’t miss a step-back up and running. I was deep enough into the woods that I had to cross the stream three times as it meandered through the valley which I did in leaps, bounds and splashes stumbling once into the water but churning and digging my way out. I wasn’t in shape to run that far, that fast but I didn’t slow down until I passed the ruins-those old stone foundations and garden walls-from the little village that had disappeared up there ages ago.

But I’m finally out of the woods and calming down and I come across this girl walking toward me on the trail. Loose shorts, work boots, bright pink hair cut in a….page boy thing…

“Pink?”

Yeah, that’s why I thought she was a kid and was about to tell her it was late to be out there when she said “Hi.” Then I saw she wasn’t a child. Not old, but not a child. Maybe our age. Thought it was weird being as late as it was getting. She looked at the mud and water all over me-I’m sweating like an animal- and said, “Some hike huh?” and kept going. She wasn’t waiting for an answer-just saying it.

The next day, I blew it all off to the superior ganja that Shorty had sold me. Aquaponic this and that, whatever. You don’t want to get him talking about his growing methods unless you have an hour. But I’ll give him this: it had me seeing ghosts. Shorty loved that story, took to calling his weed “Casper”.

But that wasn’t on my mind as I circled the tree, trying to judge the size of the opening. Still not my size…but interesting. And it looked like a…narrow at the top and bottom-widening in the middle…like this? It definitely did. What would happen if I boosted a child through it? Or a small woman…it was high enough off the ground that someone small enough to slip through couldn’t reach it. From uphill and downhill, it was the same. The tree bark was tree bark-everything cool and rough to the touch.

From the uphill side the opening was a little better than chest high. I ran my hands along the inside walls then through to the other side. Realizing I’d been holding my breath, I exhaled heavily. Idiot! Nothing. Quickly, I turned and looked up slope behind. Had I heard something? No doubt-in the woods in the fall with the dead leaves, the squirrels, the chipmunks, the deer, the freaking turkeys, you’re always going to hear something. Nothing there but the trees-silent sentinels swaying slightly and contentedly in the here and there breezes.

I put both hands on the sides of the tapered opening. I don’t know what possessed me to think I could fit myself through there. Really, something got me to thinking I just needed to boost myself and get sideways into the widest part. I pulled myself up, scrambling at the tree trunk with my feet. I didn’t have to get too high. First my left arm was through, then my shoulder then-with a struggle and push-my head, knocked my hat off and it falls to the ground on the other side. At least my hat made it across.

Then, I tried to push my right arm through when…listen-I’ve been over this in my mind a lot and know what it sounds like-then the tree tightened around me. I know. But it did. I thought like maybe I had slipped down into the narrow part of the opening-I’m sure I did. Probably. But that fucker tightened around me like a headlock and I was stuck. Just stuck with my left arm, shoulder and head through and my right grabbing and pushing at the tree. I could stand on my toes, so it wasn’t like I was hanging there, but I was freaking hanging there.

Then, just when I knew I couldn’t move, the light began to dim. Like it was getting dark only that shouldn’t be happening for six hours or so. Maybe I was passing out-I was stuck tight but could still breathe. I wasn’t passing out. But then there were the owls-first one, then the other then the other deeper in the woods. Then I remembered that evening from a couple of months before. I’m pushing against the tree with my right hand-trying to yank back with my head-sweating and it’s getting darker! Fast. I could twist and see the sky above the hill and there were stars. And the moon, this bright white crescent behind some clouds that threw enough light that I could see by. Barely. And that’s another thing-there was a daytime moon that day- almost full. This wasn’t right.

“Were there bats this time?”

Don’t know. It was a struggle to look up but I’m pushing and pulling-then I hear it. Them. Those rustles coming down the hill behind me. Sounded like I sound, like people, coming down the hill crushing and kicking the leaves. Don’t know how many-but more than a couple. A lot. Nothing was touching me…not then, but I felt them pushing in. Like to get a better look.  It was windy too-so there was crackling and rustling all over. This time I did try to look back-to spin my head, but all I could see was tree. And ahead of me, the hillside was pretty much swallowed up by the night-just the moonlight shining silver in and out.

Then I heard the voice. “What have we here…?” it whispered. That’s what I think it said anyway. It was mostly wind, the voice I mean. It sounded like wind. But when it spoke, the rustling stopped. And the wind in the trees died. But I could feel something behind me. A lot of somethings. Not breathing so much, as just there.

“I’m sorry.” I said to them.  “Excuse me…can you help me maybe? I’m…..I’m stuck…”

I said this and I heard this tittering and rustling-but not the leaves this time-a rustling in the air around me, like someone shaking things. I don’t know. So I reach back with my free hand, to grab or feel whoever it is and of course, there’s nothing. But then-CLAMP-something grabs my arm. Right here at the wrist. Tight. It’s a soft grip-but hard. I mean, I can’t shake loose but it’s not breaking my bones. It feels hot-but cold. I know, it doesn’t make sense but before I can think of anything else-YANK-whatever it was pulls my arm around the tree to the front and ties it to my left. Ties my hands together-but I can see, right? I’m looking there-I see both hands-don’t see anyone holding me. Then I feel the rope-or leather or whatever-tying me wrist over wrist. Can feel it, but I can’t see anything!

So I ask again-can they help me, I’m stuck. Then she says…

“It’s a woman, then?”

I don’t really know. It’s…something. It’s strong so maybe not. But it sounds…light maybe? Small? Whatever it is, says, “Trying to go someplace you shouldn’t?”

I start talking fast-to the wind for Chrissakes-apologizing, saying I was just checking it out. I knew about these fairy keyholes, my grandma…I’m going through this whole thing just babbling and it says-clearer now-“That’s worse. You know what this is and you were trying to get through. You were trespassing.”

No, really, I told her. I was just curious…I’m trying to explain. And she says, it’s a whisper cause she’s right at my ear, “Trespassers must be punished.”

Then there is all the tittering again and it sounds like a windstorm kicking up behind me, though none of the trees I see are moving. And these…hands are all over me and the one that was talking-I’m sure-wraps around me and undoes my belt. Then my zipper then all these things are yanking and pulling and my pants, then my underwear then everything is down around my ankles. The cool air hits my ass-these things are all tittering…I don’t know. Laughing I’m thinking. I panicked a little. Yanking-trying to get loose, yelling at them to stop…Then the whipping starts.

“Whipping?”

No, no…in the air. Don’t worry, that’s coming, but for now this whipping sound, this whirring sound in the air, which I figure out, just before it becomes obvious, are sticks, you know, tree branches…

“Switches?”

Yeah, switches! So hearing these whipping sounds I get what’s coming and try to scream-to yell for help. I open my mouth and PLOP she jams something in it. Felt like a rag-but nicer. Probably a scarf, I thought then. I can’t yell. Can’t say a word. But I’m thinking, no-no…don’t do this. Thinking it. Thinking no, no. Then the whipping starts-and not in the air this time.

The first crack across my ass burned like fire and I tried to jump but something-they-had my legs. There was no moving-I was pinned there, bare ass to the hillside taking this whipping! There were-I don’t know how many of them and they were all getting cracks-across my ass, from both sides, up and down my legs. Jesus, it hurt. They pulled my legs apart-way apart-and whipped between them…I was yelling and screaming-but nobody could hear with my mouth plugged. All I could do was bite down on the scarf I couldn’t see, squeeze my butt as best I could and wait it out.

“Did you cry?”

I don’t…think so. I don’t know. Here’s the weird part.

“There’s a weirder part?”

It hurt like hell…then…it hurt bad…then…then it started hurting less. They were still hitting-they didn’t let up- but it started to feel like…grass or like whips made of yarn…or…feathers…

“Feathers?”

Something. But it didn’t burn anymore. It didn’t hurt as much. I’m still saying no, no but they kept at it-and it was this flicking now. Not painful, but not tickling either. But it felt….hmmm…

“Go on.”

Well, then they trail off, there’s not as many hitting me. They stop one at a time…until there is only her. Then she stops. But she’s still there.  I felt this leathery grip again. It had to be a hand in a glove, the way it felt. It was small but strong. And it was on my cock which sometime during my whipping had pulled itself away from my leg like a periscope wanting a better look.

“Hard?”

Like they say. Chinese algebra. Banging against the tree trunk.

The voice says, “Your mouth says no. Maybe your head says no. Your heart says no. But this, what does this say Mr. No?” Squeezing me she says “How do you explain this, Mr. No?”

And I couldn’t! What could I say? She held it…she was pulling at it…stroking it. And all these others had their hands or whatevers on me-pushing and rubbing all up and down my butt and legs-between my legs-she was behind me again, but still in front of me pulling and stroking…I was tensing again but not from the whipping…I could feel what was coming.

“Have you learned your lesson, Mr. No?” she whispers. I’m saying yes, but in case she can’t hear I’m nodding fast. “You will not trespass again?” I’m shaking my head side to side hard but Jesus, I’m going to cum. I know I’m going to cum-she or someone grabs my balls from underneath-and I’m losing whatever train of thought she wants me on…”We have one final reminder-for you to take with you…”

Whatever, I’m thinking cause I’m about to blow then, SMACK, she-someone-smacks me right on the ass. SMACK-the hardest swat of the whole thing. My butt’s back to burning like fire but I couldn’t feel it long because I’m going numb from my feet up turning to ice getting set to shoot this load…

“Shhh…not so loud…”

I squeeze my eyes shut so it’s darker than dark and Ba-Boom! I saw stars-golden stars with trails! Never have I…I’m thrusting, bucking, she’s yanking…then I’m falling…I could feel myself screaming more than hear it. The shock of the fall knocked the wind out of me. I might have been knocked out. I’ve been knocked out before-and I’m never sure afterwards if I was out, how long, any of that. I relied on other to fill in those blanks. So I don’t know. What I do know, when I open my eyes its back to being daylight-sunshine, blue sky, I’m looking at the pretty white clouds, all the daytime birds.

My pants were around my ankles and I could feel the dead leaves and twigs of the forest floor poking at my backside and filling up in my crack. And my ass is sore…Without lifting my head I could see where I had painted the tree trunk up and down and all over the leaves. I never came that much in my life! My dick, embarrassed to be caught out in the light of day, was turtling, trying to crawl between my legs.

It strikes me there could be other folks in the woods so I jump up, and I’m wobbly but brush myself off. My ass was sore-I go to brush it and had to stop. Couldn’t see back there, but could feel welts. Damn. And I was shaky, my shoulder hurt-I was stuck in that goddam hole for who knows how long. I just got the hell out of there. Not running-but not wasting time.

Then, I get down to the bottom, cross the streams and am walking by the ruins and I see her again.

“Who?”

That girl that I saw the other time.

“I thought she was a pot-vision.”

I guess not, because there she was-she was on the other side of the ruins-where there’s another trail but not far. I can see her, I know it’s her. Same kind of shorts and work boots…looks like a denim top-maybe even hand-made. She’s got the same kind of hair cut but its robin egg blue now and I almost missed it because she was wearing a hat. And I look…it’s my hat! I put my hand on my head like this-like a moron-I lost my hat up through the tree. She’s wearing it! She stops and waves, say, “How was your hike Mr. No?”

“NO!”

That’s what I heard. I fucking freeze! My face goes cold and I’m standing there with my mouth open like a fucking bird house. What did you say, I asked?

“How was your hike? How far did you go?”

I babbled something about not far, just up the stream a little. She’s smiling and I see a scarf around her neck. She’s wearing a scarf and I gulped. If I went over to her, would it be wet?

“You didn’t though, did you?”

No way. I picked up the pace, let me tell you. I wanted the hell out of there!

“Did you go back up?”

Sure, couple days later. Just to see if my hat was still there. But no. No hat. No keyhole either. It was gone. The tree was still there…least I think it was the tree. But there was no opening-not in that tree or any around there.

“And your butt?”

It was pretty marked up when I got home and looked in the mirror. Bruises and welts-sore for a couple of days, but then they faded. Except for the one…

“Which?”

That one swat-at the end. It left a mark-like a little handprint….It’s still there.

“Still?”

Yeah. Like a tattoo. I’m wondering if it’s there forever.

“I gotta see that.”

Right.

“Really.”

Here?

“Maybe somewhere more private. I’m only a couple of blocks up.”

I waved the waitress over.

142

“How’d you weather the storm?” he asked amiably as they pulled their canoe upstream through the fast water past the two floaters in rafts coming down.

“It was scary for a minute there”, the girl answered. She was a sweet blond in her late twenties. “We pulled off on the gravel bar up there-under the trees. They say you shouldn’t be under the trees in a lightning storm, but it seemed like the only place to be.”

“I suppose”, he answered, not stopping in the stream. “How’d the puppy make it?”

“Oh Thor was fine”, she smiled then, petting the old Lab resting in his own raft.

“Used to take him duck hunting”, said the guy paddling his raft around with his hands to keep facing him. “The thunder doesn’t bother him at all.”

The current had put about ten yards between them and the gap was widening.

“Well-have a good day. Hope the excitement is all behind you!” he smiled cheerily as they floated off.

“You too”, she said. He boyfriend didn’t say anything; just sort of waved with his offhand as he turned downstream. The man knew this stretch of river well. Had almost grown up on it. The couple will float through shallows for the next hundred yards or so before they get into a mile long deep lazy hole. If he was going to do something, he’d have to do it soon.

“Other people go on vacation”, his wife complained as he pulled the dry bag under the front seat of the boat. “They leave it all behind and don’t bring the office with them. Why can’t you do that?” It was a familiar harangue and he was used to it. Sometimes he would explain that his job wasn’t one you could just “leave behind”. When he felt like it, he would explain how so many contractors needed to hear from him daily. How his supervisors had to be kept in the loop. And didn’t the financial rewards make it worthwhile? That last part usually shut her up.

The truth though was that he loved his job and what it had brought him. Now, after all of the years in the labs, all of the grinding, mind-numbing data, formulations, all of the contract work, all of the testing and retesting it had finally paid off. The breakthrough had come a few months before and he was still getting used to it and its possibilities.

Inside the dry bag was a small sturdy case that his wife believed held a satellite phone. It had been easy to tell her that since regular cell phones get no reception here. He pulled the device out of the case and looked around. The couple was still in the shallows. “Wait, listen”, he said stopping his wife’s diatribe. “What?” she asked continuing to walk against the current pulling the boat. He opened the device in his right hand and began to touch numbers on the keypad. “I think I heard the eagle.”

“I didn’t. Are you sure?….” she looked away in the direction he gestured.

“Shhhhh…” he said. “Listen.”

He hit the ENTER button on the device and the silence fell like a thick blanket. The running, tumbling sound of the water over the rocks was stilled as the water itself had frozen-not solid-but had stopped moving. Off near mid-stream he saw a small bass suspended in the air where it had jumped after a mayfly. The mayfly itself was hanging above the fish like a museum display but with none of the nearly invisible wires that they used to make it life-like. The man took note of where he was in relation to his wife and the boat. It was 2:53.

He strung the dry bag over his shoulder and turned to walk downstream. The banks along this stretch were too overgrown with poison ivy to walk the shoreline so he walked slowly and carefully through the river picking his way along the slippery rocks. The water opened as he strode through it and filled in behind like hardening gelatin. Here and there he would see fish suspended under the surface and moved around the frozen S of a swimming water snake. He ducked around a couple of swallows that had been diving for bugs and were now mobiles hanging from nothing. Far above a jet liner had become a painted swath against the bright blue canvas of the afternoon sky.

He was sweating by the time he reached the rafts. The water was mid-summer warm and, of course, no breezes blew to soften the hot sun. He gently pushed past the dog in his floatable and pulled her raft around so she was facing him. Her unseeing green eyes gazed over his shoulder but he paid them no mind. His eyes swept clinically over her, memorizing her position in the raft-how she was sitting; where her arms were; her legs, crossed at the ankle. His gaze lingered on her legs as the blood began to rush to his crotch. They were tanned, like the rest of her, but not burnt. The sunscreen rolling around in a spray can beside her hip had done its job, he thought.

He was walking the blonde over to the sand bar where he could get her out of the raft but right here the water was up to his waist putting him at eye level with the milky-way cloud of freckles that splashed across her chest and faded down toward her breasts. He released the raft, knowing that it wouldn’t float anywhere, unsnapped her top and slid it down over her arms. They weren’t huge-which her preferred- but they were perfect round baseballs, firm, outthrust with beautiful tiny pink nipples about the size of cherry pits. He pulled her toward him and kissed one breast then another. He opened his mouth and cupped it over the nipple, tickling it with his tongue knowing that it wouldn’t harden or in any way react to his touches. Small tradeoff. Responding to a growing urgency in his swimming trunks he pushed her back upright and quickened his pace to the shore.

There were two folded beach towels in his dry bag which he laid out carefully on the sand. He then went down on one knee beside the raft, reaching under her legs and behind her back. He was sturdy enough to stand then, lifting her as he might have a sleeping child. Her head lolled onto his shoulder completing the image.

He lay her gently on the towels face up, turning her head so her eyes wouldn’t stare into the sun. He quickly stripped off his shirt, bathing suit and kicked his river shoes carelessly aside. In a small pocket inside the bag were a few condoms and a small bottle of lube. He put them beside the towels to be within easy reach then he fell onto the sand beside her.

His mouth began with a short, repeated exploration of her breasts then moved quickly down her flat stomach. He consciously tried to make himself go slowly; to breath, to savor, to let his tongue work deliberately around her navel before diving for her crotch but it wasn’t working out that way. It never worked out that way. His hands fairly trembled as he urgently rolled her suit down her thighs and off.

He pulled her legs apart and buried his face between her thighs tasting the sweet rot of the river as he lapped and licked, almost forgetting to breath. He worked his plunging tongue as deeply as he could knowing that he would taste none of the sweet secretions that might issue had this been waking time. Working quickly, feeling his engorged cock dip and drop, he lifted her legs-pushing them backwards and apart-to give his plunging tongue better access to the tight little button of her bottom.

Missionary was difficult in the silent time, as he called it. Legs didn’t stay up or bent in any position that made penetration easy or sustainable. He rolled her gently onto her belly and turned her head to face the still water. Her cheeks were firm and tight as he kneaded them gently kissing one, then the other, then in between again, licking at her anus.

Vaginal penetration in this position was also difficult unless she was laying over something. If he wasn’t in such a rush he could pull the raft closer and drape her over that, but it really didn’t matter. He hadn’t even experimented with anal penetration until a few months ago and now it had become his preferred road to orgasm which had surprised and confounded his wife for a while. She couldn’t imagine where he had come up with that strange technique.

His dick pulsed and strained as he carefully slipped on a condom careful to touch it as little as possible lest it explode. He squeezed some lube onto the tip then spread her cheeks and dropped a dollop onto her butthole taking a moment to push it inside with his finger. He groaned, feeling the tight little muscle close over his knuckle.

He knelt between her legs and with one hand on the sand and one on his cock, pushed himself to her, prodding, then slightly into her. He fairly swooned watching her open and accept his engorged head. Firmly entrenched, he placed his other hand on the sand and pushed forward slowly and inexorably until he felt her bum cheeks on his hips and he was fully sheathed.

The only sound in the river valley was his moaning as he pulled back slightly, then halfway, feeling the enveloping warmth and pressure of her  as he pushed forward again then, slightly, until with a shiver and a cry, he was done. He squeezed his butt tightly to drain the last of what he had to drain into the rubber and collapsed onto her. Unseen by the man, unseen by the boyfriend, unseen by anyone on God’s green earth, the girl-unseeing eyes facing riverward-blinked once.

No mother ever bathed a baby with more care and thoroughness than he did the girl. He had brought everything he needed with him in the dry bag and took it back with him, stashed in concealed pockets.

He looked at the blonde set back in her raft, legs crossed at the ankle and her left arm jauntily tossed across the top of the raft. He imagined that she had a dreamy satisfied look as she gazed-unseeing-down the river. That’s what he imagined anyway. Truth was, she had the same look on her face as when he had walked up on them.

He walked her raft back to where it had been and before walking back to the canoe, paused and turned his attention to the guy in the other raft. Was he facing the right way? Of course, he was still looking downstream but there was something about the way he was sitting that seemed a little off.  Had there been a change in aspect in relation to the truck-sized rock on the opposite shore? He puzzled over it for a while, rubbing his chin before finally shaking his head and writing it off to some kind of post-coital hallucination.

But he didn’t leave the guy’s raft. He spun it slowly around and studied the tattoos that covered his left shoulder and webbed around his back. The man rubbed the guy’s back from shoulder to shoulder then ran his hands down his strong arms. He was close enough to smell the river in his hair, then, seemingly without consciously willing himself to do it, dropped his lips onto the man’s neck and ran his hand down his chest toward the waistband of his shorts.

Was this something that he wanted? This would definitely be a new road for him. He slid his hand downward across the tightly muscled stomach and into his shorts. The guy wasn’t hard-like the man was-just relaxing as he had been when the world stopped. He closed his hand around the guy’s thick, soft member pulling softly and rubbed his thumb over the head and hole at the end. This was doing nothing for him. Switching gears the man slid his hands under the guy’s seat and explored his bottom with grasping, probing fingers. Most definitely, his hard-on tenting his swimming trunks, this was what he wanted. He started to pull the guy’s raft toward the gravel bar when he felt the weight of it.

While the girl weighed no more than 130 the guy was more man-sized; probably at least a hundred pounds more than her. The guy was his size-if not his shape. They guy’s weight was in his shoulders and arms; the man’s in his gut and hips; the cost of a life spent in front of a computer. He doubted his ability to wrestle the guy out of the raft onto the sand bar then back into it. The thought of it-of doing it to him on the sand- was raging through him but his brain started to override.  Dammit to hell! He slapped the raft in frustration feeling his hard-on sag.

He pulled a ledger book out of the bottom of the dry bag and made the notation:

142. Blonde. Hot. Great tits (sucked); C (his code for cunnilingus) FDA (again, his code for face-down-anal); duration (he lied about the time it took him to climax); then notes about location, time of day etc. Closing the ledger and putting it back in the bag, he knew that he’d forget #142 pretty quickly but not “almost” #143. He ignored the girl at this point and gazed into the warm green eyes of the guy. Ah, it’s a sickness is all it is, he thought.

Without another glance he left the couple to their rafts and plodded upstream through the frozen water. He looked for the water snake but didn’t see it. Must have misremembered where it was. Coming up on the canoe, he eyeballed his wife’s voluptuous and full backside caught in mid stride. For a moment he thought he would bend her over the gunwale and have her right there, mid-stream. Which was crazy as hell and his dick talking.  He’d have her at the cabin as soon as they got back. And she would love him for it.

It was impossible to know how much time had passed since he shut the world off. Instinctively he looked at his frozen watch and gasped a small yelp stopping in mid-stream. The watch said 2:54. Time had slipped by! How much? He looked to where the bass had been suspended jumping after the mayfly and they were both gone. There were fading, frozen ripples painted on the surface where the fish had fallen back but couldn’t tell when.

Shaking, his heart pounding, he pressed the button to see that it was 2:54:07. He didn’t know the second count for when he shut it down. He rubbed his cheek nervously. It could have been 2:53:59-in which case eight seconds could have slipped by but it could have been 2:53:00 in which case over a minute. He would have noticed a minute though, wouldn’t he? Even in the middle of what he was in the middle of-he would have noticed. What if it had gone in bits? In fits and starts; little slices of seconds here and there like a strobe light.

The jet liner and its stream was still above him but he couldn’t be sure of its progress across the sky. There was a Green Heron standing on a rock looking for minnows. It had been there before hadn’t it? Breathing deeply to staunch the panic he took his place opposite his wife holding the canoe. He began to look at it scientifically as he did every challenge. He’ll figure this out.

He judged his position and remembered where they had been a while ago. He popped open the case and keyed a number sequence into the device and hit ENTER. The cascading of the riffling water around them was deafening compared to the silence of stopped time. The Green Heron stabbed the water and brought up a tiny fish wriggling in its beak and his wife continued to complain about him always bringing work with him on vacation.

About 50 yards down-stream Sandi Metcalfe suddenly turned to her boyfriend Jim in the raft next to her. “Oh!” she said a little breathless. “Oh-Oh…”

“What’s up?” Jim asked.

“I feel….weird”, she said as she wiggled in her seat and tightened her legs together.

“You sick?”

She stretched to her left. “I don’t know…I think I have to go to the bathroom…”

“Just jump in the river….”

“No, not that one…the other….”

“OK, we’ll get you over to shore”, he said picking up a paddle to guide them over to the sand bar. “What’s the matter with you Thor? You feeling weird too?”

The dog didn’t look at him. He kept growling, his eyes focused on the middle age couple pulling their canoe upstream away from them.

© TDR-2014