TWO SOULS: INTO THE FIRE
Steve started walking up the unfamiliar road. It was still mid-afternoon, but the woods were so thick and shady, it seemed like twilight. In spite of himself, he was a little spooked. These people were probably watching him already...with loaded shotguns. He hoped he didn't trip over some tree roots, or anything, and fall and break his other arm.
He was right about the people watching him make his way up the trail. They always had a sentry on watch...for just this reason...a stranger coming their way. Word was sent back to the settlement in record time. Steve would be met by a 'welcoming' group...with shotguns.
As Steve came to the top of the trail into a clearing, he was breathing hard. He stopped a minute, looking out over a rustic little town. He thought it kind of looked like a movie set. Stores, wooden sidewalks, porches with rocking chairs, log cabins, wash hanging on the lines, horses and buggys...he smiled. It was definitely not what he'd expected.
He started toward the area, when just ahead of him, out stepped a group of men. Steve stopped and stared...this is what he expected...shotguns, guys in flannel shirts and denim overalls. The leader of the group spoke,
"What 'cha doin' up here?"
Steve stuggled to collect his thoughts. These are the hillbillies he'd always heard of...the hippies...the mountain people...Ghost's people! The way they looked, with their longish, light brown to white blond hair, the strange blue eyes, the way they talked..."Oh, my God, the way they talk, it's pure Ghost!" he thought.
"Uh...I'm here to ask if you know of a guy, my friend...came up here about a year or so ago. I heard he may have come this way. I just want to know if anyone can tell me anything..." Steve's voice faded, as he saw the looks he got from the group...and the looks that passed between the men. He felt they knew something, but the head guy just said,
"There's no strangers up in here...just you."
He didn't look very friendly. He didn't look like he'd volunteer any information. Steve was trying to think fast, to think what he should say or do to make them understand how important this was to him.
Word had gotten around already, that someone was here, and others were venturing out of the houses and stores, to stare at him. Some little kids came running around the corner of a building, playing some chasing game. Steve's mouth dropped open. He couldn't believe what he saw...young, little Ghost's - they all looked like Ghost as a kid.
The men were all still deciding whether to run him off their property, when an older woman came up to the group. She took one look at Steve, and said his name.
"Steve," she said, not unkindly.
The men gave her a warning look, but she stood her ground, and waved them away.
"I'll take care of this'un...y'all go on now."
They protested a little, but slowly walked away. Steve knew they'd not go far, and would still be watching.
"How do you know my name?" he asked the woman.
"Ghost told me," she said, simply. "He told me all about you, Steve."
Steve ran his hand over his sweaty face, and into his scraggly hair, as he looked at the ground.
"I'm sorry...I'm so, so sorry. I never meant for anything bad to happen," he was almost in tears.
"C'mon, Steve, let's go inside," she said, leading him to her cabin. She gave him some cool spring water, and let him cool off a bit, before speaking again.
"You aren't supposed to find him, Steve, until the time is right. I guess you haven't found him yet, if you're up here, then." she sighed. "He's not here anymore...left about six months ago. Things were getting ugly..." she shook her head. "It shouldn't have. We are Ghost's people, his family, but Miz Deliverance took him away when he was too young. And now, to come back, well...it was like a stranger came back, an outsider. I think Ghost didn't know where he fit in. Not back in Missing Mile, and not here either, really. It's a shame what went on. Some of the young men here, well, Ghost is such a pure soul, and so giving and trusting...they took advantage of that. I tried to get him to stay, said it'd get better, but he knew it wouldn't...said he had to go."
She stopped, staring Steve right in the eyes, with a hard look. Steve had said nothing.
Next installment coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing