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#41 Atehequa

Atehequa

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Posted 26 December 2014 - 01:01 PM

I set out for camp at a easy careful pace for somebody half snockered and once beyond the lights of Big Meadows Lodge my way became darker. Now there was only a light drifting mist as I was engulfed by shadows. Those shadows became more deeper and darker as I continued. Applying what night woodcraft I could muster and with the exception of a rare foot scuff, my progress was quiet enough, or so I thought. Reaching a low dipping point down the road a shudder ran through my body for now reason than I was in a bowl-like depression. Having a swift look at my surroundings, I bolted up to higher ground, then spun about to take a look behind. The cool damp air had sobered me up somewhat. I continued down the darken road. From side to side to behind and ahead my eyes attempted to penetrate the shadows while beating it back to camp.

At last, the entrance to our campground loop road, a welcome sight. I'd be back at the picnic table in short time. It was the faint sound of footfalls which made me wheel around, ready to swing my stick. There was nothing behind me to be seen so I moved off the road into the gloom. Standing still, well hidden by underbrush and watching the road, I saw nothing living moving to or fro, but thought to of heard a slight rustling. After another minute of watching I hopped back out upon the loop road and carefully continued, but now at a swifter pace. Perhaps Whitey was correct in stating I had smoked too much. Maybe all the booze and high quality weed had my imagination running wildly far ahead. Scant wonder, substance addled with all these thoughts of soul suckers bouncing about and a gob of yellowish gunk in my navel. Maybe I was jumping the gun as Claudia could just be some well kept and worldly older beauty like Sophia Loren or Ann Margret. A hot looking older woman in good health and spirits with a high libido. My thoughts drifted fondly back to Bear's suite and Claudia sashaying out of the bathroom in that well fitting evening gown. My thoughts became consumed by mental images of her and I alone and carrying on inside that spacious comfortable suite.

And there she was standing some five yards in front of me. Seeing her suddenly appear, my hackles instinctively rose.

My walking stick thrust out like a pike, I called out - "How did you manage getting ahead of me?"
"Oh put down that poker, silly man, it's just me."
Slightly feeling like a drunken goof, I lowered my stick and told her: "Never know what one will come across on a dark road." Pressing on with my question, "So how is it, I left Bear's party before you, and now you stand before me?"
She laughed and asked: "Can you not hear the night over the numb padding of your own feet?"
"Pah!" I barked, "I knew someone was trailing me before the road dipped."
She twirled her umbrella and offered explanation: " I ducked into the brush, right before you turned and left the road."
"That's why I saw no one behind me." I said while inwardly cursing my drunken senses.
She continued: "While you stood in the brush, I picked my way around you."
"Well that was a neat trick to say the least." I returned while thinking this woman must possess uncanny woodcraft or she was some supernatural being or I was more snockered than previously thought. Still neither of us advanced forward to meet the other. At this distance in the dark I could barely make out her face but felt like she was silently laughing, which somewhat creep me out.
"A neat trick for you perhaps." She returned with a mocking musical laughter all the while twirling her umbrella. Having enough of that I advanced in a quick stride. Halting about ten feet away, my next question was: "Why do you trail me?"
She now stepped in closer, tilted her umbrella back and said: "I heard you tell Flip something about watching the camp and left before I or anyone else could say goodbye." Claudia added: "For one who practices so many cordial camping traditions, that seemed out of character. Anyway that's alright as I had to get out of there too." She went on: "After getting my stuff together, getting a jacket on and refusing the traveling company of the Dibbles and Patti, I left to catch up with you." Claudia then informed me in a sultry voice: "I didn't want you to be at that picnic table all alone, it just wouldn't be right." With that said she stepped in even closer, lightly tapped my shoulder and purred: "Come on, lets get back to camp." So I went with Claudia, but kept her on my left side as we walked.

Stars began to blink as passing clouds began moving out, following the distant weakening front. Branches and leaves murmured in the breeze. The storm had all but departed leaving the highland air cool and fresh. As we walked together Claudia made small talk while I pondered if she was going back to finish off Charlie, or now had me on her menu. Perhaps I just needed a slug of something, a joint and a blazing fire while leaving the rest to instinct and fate.

We rounded the last bend and walked into camp. Flip's fire was still smoldering and with a small effort could be rekindled into blaze. First though, I lit a propane lantern before gathering up some of our hardwood kindling. Once the kindling had caught I added several chunks of red oak. Claudia, standing beside me commented that bringing in ones own firewood was a smart idea. "Oh yeah" I said,"They'll spank you for a small bundle of firewood up at the camp store."

Seeing we had a good fire going Claudia seated herself. Folding her hands and placing them upon the table. That lovely face was aglow in the camp light and I noticed her eyes were now of a golden amber hue. Below those eyes, a mysterious smile.The flickering friendly flames were somewhat sedating, leaping high in blazing dance.

"Oh fuck!" I completely forgot about Flip's small plastic tarp and if not removed, say any second it would turn into a burning, melting mess.

What made matters worse was the fact that one of the two sturdy enough to stand upon coolers were at Bear's suite. There was nothing high enough to stand on and unfasten tarp cords. Thinking fast I flew into Flip's tent, then came back out with my big Khyber knife. Drawing it, I cast the sheath aside and bounded up to slash through a cord. "Put that down and come here!" Claudia shouted, "Let me up on your shoulders." Watching the loose corner waver dangerously close to the flame I quickly weighed out her offer as she stood upon the bench and motioned me over. I jabbed the big blade down into the picnic table, bolted around to Claudia now standing on a bench and crouched down. She swiftly mounted my shoulders as I held her legs in a secure manner. Claudia prodded me to each supporting cord where she quickly untied Flip's superb slipknots then pulled away the tarp. With that bit of fast work out of the way, I rewarded her swift, sound thinking with a playful shoulder ride out to the loop road and down some. Her musical laughter was that of a young maiden as she rode high in the night. She was of little burden to me. I rather enjoyed her womanly warmth upon shoulders and neck.

Ride over, I delivered Claudia back to the bench.

With Flip's tarp slightly scorched, but saved, and a sweet muskiness upon my nape, I figured this would be a good time for a drink. "Can I get you anything to take the chill off?" I offered.
"No chill here." She returned, then asked: "What do you have?"
"I ran down the list including my brandy stash.
"I would love some brandy, and maybe another ride later." She laughed.

I produced a bottle of fine homemade persimmon brandy, opened it and poured us both a good measure. We clanked cups. She sniffed and sipped, while I quaffed. Draining it, I poured myself another. Feeling somewhat secure with a table between us I sat looking, taking in her beauty. Having another sip, Claudia put down her cup and inquired about Charlie. "Well." I said, "Oddly enough, only after three days of partying hard seems to have taken a toll on the lad." I then added: "He passed out awhile back, here at the table, so we carried him off to bed." Truly it was odd, Charlie out for the count so early in the night. Pondering upon this made me become somewhat wary again. As fire's heat was carried to us by a pleasant mountain breeze, Claudia unbuttoned her jean jacket while telling me both blaze and brandy had warmed her up. She leaned down offering me a generous view down the front of her gown and almost in a whisper asked: "Warm enough for you?"
"Warm enough for a longer growing season." I managed to get out without a slur or stammer, then continued ogling her bosom. With a giggle she straightened up, crossed her arms over her breasts and demanded: "Good Sir, what were you looking at?"
Curtains drawn over my vista I sincerely replied: "Why at your nay nays, my good lady."
"What!" She playfully pretended to be taken aback.
I added: "And what a fine pair they are, here in the firelight."
With that off came the jacket and out came the boobs for a quick uninhibited shake and jiggle. An unexpected display, it had me giddy enough.

It was then Flip came into the camp catching us unaware.

Claudia in no hurry, stuffed them back into the gown, then slung her jean jacket over those well rounded shoulders as Flip watched the whole process before cutting his dark eyes at me. With a sneering bark of laughter he asked: "Checking the lady for ticks?"
I replied: "As a matter of fact I was. She seems to be free of ticks."
Flip continued to give me a weird look, until I slipped him a few old hand signals meaning everything was okay for now.
"Have ye some brandy man", but he waved away my offer, got up and copped himself an ale instead. Seeing that we had a roaring fire and noticing his tarp, neatly folded in Bear's camp chair Flip thanked me.

Seeing that Flip was looking at my big knife stuck into our table, I confessed: “I had to cut one of your tarp cords.” He told me not to worry about it.
"So how's Bear's upscale party going ?" I asked pulling the blade free.
"The Bear is in and out of dozing and blabbering. He's a fucking mess."
"Narcotics and alcohol, good thing Bear usually passes out before he can go over the limit." I said while putting a dab of oil on the blade, before sheathing it. "I tried to get one of those heavy duty pain killers from him Friday night when we got here but he wouldn't give it up."
"Well he can't smoke weed" Flip reminded me.
"What about the others?"
"What others?"
"The others at the lodge you cooked bastard." I snarled, fished an ice cube out of a cup of Pineapple juice and popped it upside his head. He flicked a burning cigarette butt at me, then replied: "Well like I said, Bear is about done in, I stuck around and smoked that bone with them, we all got kind of looped. Patti and Whitey were talking about coming back here."
"And the Dibbles ?"
"They put up the board, and were watching television when I left."
"Come up to the mountains and watch television. That’s fucking sad." I spat in disgust.
"Yeah it's a happening scene." Flip laughed.
"Sounds like quite the bash." I snickered.
"I hate to interrupt." Claudia pushed through our general goofing. "Do you guys have anything in the way of bathroom tissue?" She snatched up our flashlight while Flip unzipped his tent.
"Here, put this in there while your at it" I tossed him my Khyber knife.
Handing Claudia the full, unused roll he offered her a little comfort - "It's Charmin."
"Mister Whipple!" I shouted throwing another ice cube at him.

Claudia excused herself then ventured behind the camp. We watched the bouncing flashlight beam flicker through the growth, and stop, then it went out a good twenty yards back in the wood.
She had found a spot.
In a shrill whisper Flip demanded: "What the fuck are you doing man?"
"What the fuck do you mean?"
"There you were talking all that soul sucking shit, having us put gook in our navels, which by the way R.W. did, he even smeared some on his face like war-paint, where Denny, and Patti would not. All that mumbo jumbo and here you are getting a titty show."
"I'm just observing her." I assured him.
He lit up another cigarette, scratched his head and said: " She does have some nice ones"
"Dangerous as spider webs " I warned in a whisper. Then asked: “What about Bear?”
"What about the Bear?" Flip returned
"Did he apply the repellent?"
"No" Flip answered, pointing to a small bouncing light moving towards us. "Bear said he has his own medicine."
"Yeah I expect she has no taste for pickled eggs with her brandy." I added then fell silent watching the light approach.

Claudia strolled in, handed Flip his roll back then kissed him on the cheek with a grateful "Thank you."
Flip's swarthy face flushed a bit and then he gulped down his ale.
"Here let me get you another." Claudia got up, grabbed, opened and poured him a cold one, then flashed a toothy smile. Claudia removed glasses from a case in her jacket pocket and began to read travel pamphlet Flip lifted from Bear's suite. This seemed to stimulate the Birdman as he had a thing for women wearing glasses. Something no doubt instilled in him years ago in Miss Alston's ninth grade Math Class. Like every teenage boy who ever attended that class, I loved and fantasized about Miss Alston as well. Extremely beautiful, she wore a pair of black plastic framed glasses. Swiftly did he scoot close beside Claudia and proceeded to enlighten her with his knowledge of various nearby tourist attractions. I placed a good size chunk of seasoned walnut into our fire pit then propped it up against the burning oak with the poke stick. I stood watching, entranced by dancing flame.
"Hey!" It was Claudia's rich voice calling me from my fire gazing. "How do you feel about going up to Panorama tomorrow?"
Returning from the fire pit I replied: "Sounds good, that is if we can wake up early enough." Pouring myself another brandy, I requested: "Flip, twist one up, man." figuring it would take the edge off of any supernatural situation we may be facing. If she was a predator, a lot of intoxicating substances may just throw her game off a bit. But so far Claudia seemed every bit of the party troopers we were.

As soon as Flip crawled into his tent to fill our prescription, her strange amber eyes were upon me. They seemed to have changed hue in the firelight There was unfathomable intent in those marvelous eyes which regarded me from across the table. A chill of scary excitement ran down my spine when she ran the tip of a strangely pointed red tongue across her lips. Those eyes held mine and within a minute I felt my jaw going slack. A pool of drool formed in my mouth and didn't swallow until something started moving up and down my leg. Leaning back and looking down I saw it was her foot, now slipped out of a sandal and now caressed my leg in a most pleasant manner. It was only when Flip emerged from his tent did Claudia cease the rubbing, but not before gently poking my crotch with her toes.

Flip handed Claudia the doobie, then flicked his Bic as she drew upon it. She toked deeply, passed the joint to Flip. Exhaling she inquired: "So how long you guys been married men?"
"Several years." Flip replied, then proceeded to hit the bone.
"What about you?"
"Not long." I answered, pondering, 'Why is she asking this now?'
"Oh he lived with her a little awhile, but just recently tied the knot" Flip provided extra information. "Sinfully carrying on before hand?" Claudia taunted waving her finger in my face. "Well if you must know, we got hitched to stop her parents from nagging us about living in sin along with their moral standing in the Baptist community." Then added: “A very old Williamsburg family, they attempt to run our lives and have no great fondness for me or my friends."
“Odd reason to get married." Claudia stated.
The brandy allowing me enough bravado to spread my tail feathers, I informed her: "But you never know, I may find myself in a mood and leave everything to nature‘s wild calling."
"Nothing like it." Flip added, before taking another hit.
Claudia had the look of a thirsty bobcat, noticing not the panther above on a branch overlooking a cool clear stream. At that point I knew my medicine was strong, but was it strong enough? Using our old jargon as in cheer, I lifted my cup and said: "Mahtooteewah!" Flip caught my meaning and flashed a crooked smile. Oblivious, Claudia raised her cup as well. If this woman was bold and uninhibited enough to hit on various members of our heathen party, she could handle whatever we could come up with. Deep in the cup Flip and I were bawdy enough to fly with her, but only over the ground we knew. Flip passed Claudia the burning bone and I raised a cup and toasted - "Nature’s wild calling!" then hooked my foot behind her calf, urging her to go on with the leg rubbing. Flip sat close enough to tilt his head for some ogling. She seemed not to be troubled by our lewd behavior. I felt myself drifting into a very uninhibitated relaxed state of being.

Then a burning walnut knot loudly popped, and in that instant Claudia appeared different. She was nude except for the swirls of paint upon her body and face. I blinked my eyes and Claudia was once again sitting across from me still clad in that wine colored gown with a denim jacket draped over the shoulders and holding her glasses, one ear piece between those alluring lips. Perhaps it was just all the weed and booze making my eyes play tricks. This night smacked of the weird and now I was almost beyond being surprised. Having regained my composure I boldly asked: "So what did you do to my cousin last night? Must of been something cause I've never seen him crap out before quiet time." Then I reached down, grabbed Claudia's ankle and rested her foot upon my knee. Refusing not my attentions, she replied: "Your cousin drinks like a fish and eats like a bird. That hard drinking got the best of him." She smiled and added: "He couldn't keep it up."
"Up where?" I inquired lightly pinching her little toe.
"Downtown." Claudia answered with a wink.
"Downtown?" I chuckled.
Flip added “All lit up at night!"
Claudia quaffed down her second cup of brandy and tapped her fingers upon the rough table surface while Flip attempted to find a decent radio station.
Claudia accepted another cup full and inquired "What is it with you guys?"
"What do you mean?" I returned.
"All these strange traditions, ceremonies, dialect, sign language, and a remarkable will to celebrate." She then said: "I hope you don't carry on like this all the time."
"We're on vacation." I reminded her.
"This is our way." Flip informed her, "No one else will have us." Then he issued a low laughing howl.
"We are who we are." I told her, "Except for Whitey. He's a cracker."
"Cracker ass cracker." Flip hissed.
Flip lit the bone again and took a couple of good tokes, passed it forth while asking Claudia: "So how long you, Mildred and Guy going to stay at Big Meadows?"
"Till Wednesday morning" She replied: "Guy wants to camp in Fort Valley."
"Elizabeth Furnace Campground?" Flip asked.
"I think that's what Guy said."
Flip went on - "Been there once, a couple of years ago. Half way decent trout waters, and some nice trails."
"That sounds nice." I said, "Wouldn't mind getting in a bit of fishing before we head back." I had never been to Fort Valley, but what I'd gathered from maps and talk it's about a twenty mile long hollow inside of Massanutten Mountain with a large stream called Passage Creek running through it. A large fort-like hollow walled in by the mountain. Looking at Flip and thinking about fishing, I stated: "Sounds like a cool place to spend our last few highland days and nights."
"Why don't you guys head out with us?" Claudia offered, swirling the brandy in her cup.
Flip asked: "What packed it up day after tomorrow and head for Massanutten?"
"Well this place is nice, but maybe at Fort Valley there won't be any law enforcement brutes ranging the woods and turning hikers back."

The prospect of moving camp seemed to excite Flip somewhat as he liked going to different places, but seconds later his dark beady eyes began darting about. A sign he was pondering deeply. I could almost tell by his body language, Flip was thinking about the secret garden. He would always pick his teeth while in the grip of greedy thoughts and was doing so now. "Something to discuss with the others tomorrow, providing we can get them all together at once." I stated. We could not just pack up and go without proper council. Charlie would go anywhere the party was heading, no doubt the Dibbles as well. Moving camp always aggravated Bear and he would growl and grumble through the whole process, but would agree as long as he didn't have to expend any effort. Patti and Whitey on the other hand were leaving Thursday morning. Perhaps they would not want to travel the distance, just for one more day. We would ask them anyway.

Enchanted by a lovely guest
As tree frogs trilled that night
We were engaged in our revelry
Beholding to not much at all
Days away from the coming fall

The tree frog ceased their shrill night songs as headlights flashed from across the loop. Soon there was again the sound of tires upon the road. It was Whitey's truck.

As it backed in we saw there were three people inside, but really couldn't tell who until it was jerked into park then Patti, Whitey and Denny piled out. Denny did have enough of his senses about him to offer an apology and then formally request entry into our encampment. Flip extended welcome. "Come on in!"
Denny told us that R.W. was going to be crashing up at the lodge.
"Hope he has some earplugs." Whitey hissed, before guzzling down a beer.
"Patti approached Claudia and asked: "Any sign of Mildred and Guy?"
"Not yet." Claudia sighed, then swiftly changed the subject to a possible trip to Panorama tomorrow. Shifting the subject back to Mildred and Guy, Patti said: "I hope they're alright."
"I'm sure they're okay and will be along sometime soon." Claudia assured Patti.
Whitey was quite bombed, slurring heavily and staggering somewhat, yet still pounding down brew. Denny went to the coolers and rifled around for some cold leftover grub.
"So what brings you back to such crude accommodations?" I bluntly asked Denny who was now munching upon a hunk of cold, grilled meat. He wolfed down his snack and informed me: "The Bear is passed out, snoring like a turbine and R.W. is watching some stupid movie, so we booked it back to camp." Denny then helped himself to a bottle of my ale. He happened to catch my eye long enough while quickly nodding his head towards Claudia, then a placed a finger to his navel area, without no one but Flip and I noticing. My response was two quick head nods. Denny firmly believed in the supernatural, but like Bear, trusted in his own power, where R.W. would go along with most anything as a gag perhaps, especially when he was lit up.

"Burn a bone." Whitey requested, popping open another can of his favorite swill.
"Yeah Skid," Denny added: "Let‘s burn one."
I called them both - "Fucking druggies!" then invited them all into Flip's Tent for a few rounds with the big pipe.
"But it's so nice out here." Patti protested.
"About time for a ranger to make a round." I informed her, "Better to keep it all out of sight." With that we entered Flip's tent and formed a circle. Pulling out my stash and a small pair of scissors I selected a good sized flower top, then proceeded to snip it into small bits. After loading our pipe I offered it to the winds, then drew upon the mouthpiece while Flip sparked me up. Toking deeply I then offered it to Flip who puffed then passed it on. We repeated the process two more times.

Putting our gear away, we crawled out of the smoke filled tent. A fucked up mess we were. Patti, Denny and Flip became consumed in a fit of laughter while Claudia got very quiet and to herself, staring at the dark leafy boughs above. Whitey on the other hand had been reduced to a state of substance induced slack jaw retardation. It had packed a wallop on me as well. It almost felt as I was getting acid-like rushes off this smoke. The blazing fire made my head whirl as Denny started bragging about his secret Crappie hole at Queens Lake.
"Speaking of fishing." I mumbled, "Flip and I have been talking about moving camp near a decent trout stream down at Fort Valley."
"Fort Valley?" Denny returned.
"Inside Massanutten Mountain." Flip stated, helping himself to one of my ales.
"I'm cool with it." Denny said, "As long as we can catch some fish."
"It's worth a try Denny, that is if everyone agrees to book."
"When are we going?" Patti eagerly asked.
"Wednesday morning" Flip replied with a belch.
"That only leaves us a day there." Whitey informed us before Flip could continue.
"Not if I can make a phone call." Patti stated.
I asked her what she meant by that.
"I'll call Cheyenne and see if she'll take my sets Thursday and maybe Friday night." Then she asked Whitey: "You don't have to be anywhere in the next few days, do you?"
"Not till next Monday morning, baby, then it's back to work."
"Don't speak of such a horror." I laughed.
Claudia cast me a strange look. "What horror?"
"Monday morning my good lady. Monday morning"
Denny, Flip, Whitey and I grimaced at the thought, then quickly went back talking about Fort Valley. Denny got up and foraged for more camp treats. "Don't mess with my Bugles." Flip warned Denny, but Dibble had found other fare in our food stores. At the mere mention of Bugles corn snacks there was a wild flickering in Whitey's shit brown eyes. With one hand upon his hilt, Flip's head shook from side to side while waving a talon like finger in Whitey's face. "Don't even think about it! I'll open you up like a bag of potato chips."
"That crunching bugs the shit out of me." Whitey slurred, adding a threat: "Start that damned crunching and I'll turn those Bugles into cornmeal."
"Fellows, please!" Claudia pleaded.
'Oh shit!' I thought, 'She's opened up a tub of night crawlers.'
Claudia's plead into matters she scarcely understood would no doubt hoist her into a highchair position in a strange little ritual I call drunken camp court. As I said a strange ritual where both parties(Flip and Whitey) would plead their cases before Claudia as well as the rest of us.
"It's simple Claudia" Whitey began with a belch: "I hate Flip's fucking crunching, and if he does it tonight, I'll pound those Bugles into dust!"
Kind of caught off guard by this new development, Claudia threw back a slug of brandy then asked: "Well how do you feel about this Flip?"
Flip rose from his seat and blasted into a rumbling rant: "He's a fucking psychopath, especially when drinking. He likes to destroy things. He shot up all my dad's spare florescent lights upstairs in the barn. He once loaded several BBs in the chamber of Crossman air rifle and shot Charlie in the head. He did it right out my bedroom window. We had to pick BBs out of Charlie's skull. Caught him years ago making time with my girlfriend upstairs in my own garage on the pool table. He put firecrackers in my Starship Enterprise model and blew it to bits inside my bedroom while I was taking a dump. He knocked Wade Saltsgiver off his bike breaking one arm, then caught him a week later and broke the other." Then added with a sneer: "I could go on and on about the twisted history of this mad dog."
"All that shit happened quite awhile back, Flip!" Whitey objected, flipping Flip the bird then said: "Yeah and I paid your dad for those lights, and gave you twenty bucks for the model." Flip then called him a -"Fucking Klingon!"
"Yeah, well you better scarf those Bugles out of earshot, you goon."
At this point I had enough of this back and forth drivel. Getting up I walked over by our fire, picked up the poke stick, returned to the table and threatened to beat both of them into bloody pulps if they didn't -"Shut the fuck up!"
Claudia handed down a judgment - "Flip, try a more healthy non-crunchy snack, like fruit." then said: "Whitey."
"What?"
"Why all the anger?"
"Stop it right there Judge Claudia, or we'll have to listen as they spew more shit!" I so ordered while pounding the poke stick upon our table. Claudia seemed somewhat surprised by the brief stormy display of substance addled behavior. The rest of us had experienced these little outbursts many times before. In fact compared to other times, Flip and Whitey's exchange was somewhat mild and short lived.

We use to be a tight knit group but time, employment, domestic life, divorce, exile had spread us out and away from the area we grew up at, the once semi-rural North Hampton area, so close to the salt water we often caught it upon the morning breeze.
All of us had went to the same schools and lived through the same times. Some of us were babysat by each other's mothers during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. We went through the same cold war bomb drills knowing Hampton Roads would be one of the first places vaporized if it came down to a missile shootout. Although kids like Flip, Charlie and I were somewhat accepted in a white neighborhood. We grew up with racism and segregation. No African Americans lived in our neighborhood, but there were some Filipinos. I remember seeing a bumper sticker back in the mid 60s that pictured a pregnant Black woman, barefoot, belly extending, many ribbons in her un kept hair, lanky arms upon her broad hips and words that read - 'I went all the way with LBJ'. Yes some of us were taught hate as well. Crosses were burnt by some in North Hampton when a couple of black families finally moved in. More than once our area saw racial tension explode into violence. Most of us were not racists, but knew where not to be late at night. Whitey's family had moved up to Hampton from a central North Carolina clan of old Anglo stock. His father found work in the shipyard while his mother worked at the local DMV and raised two boys. Whitey's dad would take his mother down to North Carolina for the birth of each brother as he did not want his children born in Virginia. An abusive man with a short temper, Whitey's Father came from a long line of old southern racists. He hated Black People and cared less for anyone who did not look white, which put me on his shit list and very well may of been the first to refer me as a red nigger. He did not like the Bear because of his wild appearance and had a dislike of the Dibbles. Although Whitey’s father disliked indigenous people, he tolerated Flip. I remember him telling me to stay out of his yard and later would blame me for his son's chronic alcoholism. One day they up and moved from Lynnhaven to York County. There were rumors of Whitey's dad being caught having an affair with his neighbor's seventeen year old daughter. Never reported to the police as not to bring about any more shame, the girl's parents and uncles handled matters in a personal manner and shortly after Whitey's father both bruised and battered sold out and bought another place a good distance away in York County. In those days many of those cases never went before a judge because of embarrassment and shame. Whitey’s father got off easy as sometimes these types were beat to death or gunned down. Whitey was a binge drinker and would sometimes swing into savage, destructive moods, but with age those traits slowed. Now his spare time was mostly devoted to guzzling and chasing what women he could catch up to. He drank before, during and after work, not many sober moments in that life. By way of a few hard knocks upside his head, Whitey now had sense enough not to fuck up at one of these outings. Still he like to push it near the edge. Sometimes it came to blows, yet almost always all was forgiven by the next weekend if not sooner. Even now, shortly after such a heated exchange of words, Flip and Whitey were engaged in humorous conversation as if nothing ever happened.
Again I felt Claudia's foot caressing my leg and once again we saw the flickering beams of headlights. With the sound of tires turning gravel came Guy's station wagon, driving slow then coming to a stop in front of our camp. We heard a couple of warbling greetings followed by -“We're turning in, goodnight and see you in the morning."
Flip, Denny and I rose to greet them, got about halfway to the road only to have station wagon pull away towards Guy's pop-up. Being in the lead of this welcoming party I caught a quick glance of Mildred and Guy. From what I saw of them they appeared shadowy, without any facial features other than eyes that seemed to reflect our camp light in a wild animal fashion. Oddly enough Claudia only offered her companions a short wave and - "Good night." Perhaps it was the excess of high quality booze and weed affecting my sight, but I could feel my hackles rising. I looked across at the woman who was foot stroking my leg and felt the cold sharp seriousness of the situation at hand. Matters had to be settled, but not yet. There surely would be a sign when the time was right.

As we overly refreshed ourselves Denny entertained us with jokes and brief tales of his wayward exploits. We hung upon every other word as he gave account when him and his brother were in love with and dating the same young lady. "I think she got off watching R.W. and I stomping the shit out of each other."
I laughed and told him: "She wasn't the only one." As sometimes their strange little feuds would spill over into these gatherings or a night out at the bar. Both divorced these cut rate playboys thought themselves as rounders. Denny continued ogling the ladies in our camp, but as Whitey became more sloshed, Patti drew more of his attention.

Then it happened.

Whitey had tilted his head back to guzzle yet another beer and fell backwards off the bench. He hit the ground with a dull thud. I knew Whitey was out of action before he touched dirt. The ladies swiftly came to his side while Denny, Flip and I continued quaffing our drinks. "Another one goes down for the night." Flip said as we raised cups to our fallen. "Are you going to just set there and drink?" Claudia demanded and added: "He may be hurt!"
"Yeah but he won't feel it till tomorrow, say sometime in the afternoon." I informed her while motioning for the help of my companions so as to drag Whitey into our storage tent. "He's alright." Flip assured: "He once did the same thing, only off a horse he had borrowed without permission from the James River Hunt Club's stables. The horse found it's way back long before Whitey woke up in a fallow field a half a mile away in the weeds."
"The ticks and deer flies had about sucked him dry." I chuckled: "They no doubt got snockerd as well." Patti fluffed up his bedding and removed his shoes before we laid him in to rest. "I hope he isn't injured" Claudia expressed with some concern.
"All the alcohol cushioned his fall." I stated, "He's survived through much worst."
"Shit man, what do you expect?" Flip added, "He's probably put down more than a case of beer, maybe two, I've seen him passed out before in the woods behind a seven eleven store surrounded by a heap of empty Budweiser cans. That swill is gonna kill him one day."

Perhaps having hopes of winning her favor, Denny swiftly seated himself beside Patti and wasted scant time exhibiting more of a wolfish demeanor.
"Could one of you brave gentleman escort a lady to the restroom?" Claudia asked then lightly kicked my shin while looking directly me. "How about you?"
Now all other eyes were bouncing from Claudia then over on me. I rose, took up my walking stick, offering the lady a hand and said: "See ya, be back soon."While walking out of camp we were followed by the jeering howls and cat-calls issued by those at the table.

Claudia and I strolled slowly up the loop road and with the exception of a family returning from the showers there was no other traffic. We walked by several other wakeful camps, their fires burning bright enough to lend us a little light in our passing. Fellow campers talking in lowered voices, some falling silent as we passed by. Because of the firelight and shadows beyond we could see them better than they could see us. I made sure to kick up some gravel and extend a friendly - "Hallo" while passing these camps. They just may be the last folk to see me alive and in good health.
I kept Claudia to my left as much as possible, but from time to time she would halt for a good look about our surroundings. Rounding a bend she slipped her hand into mine then turn her face to me it was then I saw her eyes burning in a golden glow. Old fears, dim doubts and shadowy suspicion plagued my mind. I mentally scolded myself for being such a drunken lustful fool allowing this person of question to take me into the darkness and whatever that would soon follow. At least I had my dogwood walking stick and a bit of good steel hanging from my belt. If Claudia was indeed some supernatural creature, then perhaps a crushing blow or savage slash would allow me enough of a start to beat a retreat back to camp and company.

We arrived at the shower house without incident. Somewhat lit up, it made me feel a bit more secure and that was odd as I usually enjoyed walks in the dark. Claudia gave me a strange little smile before entering the ladies room. I walked into the men's side and relieved myself at the nearest urinal. Finishing with a flush and hand wash I exited the building. Claudia was still inside so I waited outside biding my time watching moths and other night insects flutter around an outdoor light. Below the light a trio of gluttonous toads were scarfing down anything that crawled near or flew low enough within range of their sticky tongues and wide maws. Within the light, bats swooped down upon insect prey. A pair of severed Luna Moth wings fell from above, testimony of the bat’s hunting prowess. As one of those powdery green wings landed beside my foot I heard a door open and out sashayed Claudia. "Were you lonely?" She asked, advancing towards me.
"I had company." I replied.
She looked around and not seeing a soul, inquired: "Company, who?"
I pointed my stick at the life within the light's glow and informed her: "Bugs, bats and toads. The latter seem to be in abundance, especially after that rain we got."
"Throw in a few newts and you have a stew." She laughed, then swiftly stepped in and threw her arms around me. Expecting something like this would happen at some point during our walk, it still jolted me a bit. Should I stand there like a pine tree, arms hanging to my side like snow laden branches while she held me tight, or return her friendly affection in kind? Trembling a little inwardly, I pulled Claudia even more close to me. She writhed and purred in my arms. Funny, upon leaving our encampment I told myself to keep both eyes open, but now with her nibbling my ear, they were closed tight while in in this passionate embrace. Then her hot kisses fell upon my lips, face and neck. Almost smothered by this, I tilted my head back so as to get some air. With blood pounding my temples and heart thumping like a kettle drum, I looked upon her beautiful face, which seemed even more so beneath the glowing light. My will was all but captured by those strange eyes. I strained to turn mine away, but could not.
I don't know if it was the approaching elderly couple or some primitive instinct that allowed me to free myself from that embrace. Stepping back a couple of paces all I could manage was a shaky:"Good evening folks." and a tip of the brim, all the while contemplating the tightness at my fly.

I was kind of a mess.

The older couple responded to my greeting with mute cow-like stares, then swiftly made for the doors. Claudia smirked at them as they hurried by. With her hand upon my back she prodded me forth. My head was swirling with conflicting thoughts. Thoughts that were not blending smoothly. Vampires, beautiful evil supernatural creatures, extra-marital campground romping and how she would look laying upon her belly, naked, stretched out upon a sleeping bag, with morning's light passing through the window flaps. Claudia pouted her lips and rubbed my shoulder as if she knew there was a struggle of sorts thrashing about within my skull.
"A little friendly affection never hurts." Claudia stated, then asked: "You've never had an affair before?" Somewhat thrown off by her question, I answered rather sharply: "I have not made it a point to think about it or do so as of yet."
Looking down at my crotch, she inquired: "And you were not at a point back at the shower house?"
"Pointing in that direction." I replied. Then in a bit of lewd bravado, I reached around and groped her shapely rear. Could I be fooling myself thinking Claudia was just as much in my power as I was in hers?

The closer we were to camp the safer I felt until the sound of rustling leaves and underbrush halted us in our tracks. Following the noise we looked up a gentle rise and spotted two ghostly white blurry shapes moving through the trees appearing as if they were looking down at us. They then stepped back into the deeper darker shadows. Claudia clung to me and for the first time her eyes blazed with fright. She shook with fear and begged to get going. I cocked an ear attempting to hear any other sound. Hearing nothing else out of the ordinary I stated: "Those little pale hobgoblins, I'll bet. We'll have to scout out where they are lodging."

Enduring all of this lustful bliss and weirdness, I needed a good slug of strong drink.

The glow of our camp was indeed a welcomed sight. Claudia and I watched for a short while at the goings on. Flip was trying to find something on the radio while Denny was hindered by a damp deck as he attempted to entertain Patti with card tricks. All three appeared rather deep in their cups and were unaware of us watching them from the shadows.

"Coming in!" I shouted.

"Well come on in!" Flip shouted in return. The Birdman continued playing with the boom box tuning knob finding nothing but a Wayne Newton call-in interview and a jazz station. We opted for the jazz.
Patti started giggling and pointing at my face.
"What?" I demanded. Calling me aside, Flip whispered: "You got lipstick smeared on your mug." Snatching a paper towel off the roll, I swiftly wiped my face. All of them cackled like school kids until I scooped up a hand full of cooler ice and pelted them soundly with a shower of frozen missiles.
Flip barked: "Just for that, you ain't getting none of this."
"None of what?" I inquired.
Flip reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a decent-sized joint then went on to tell me he had rolled up all the leftover roach weed he had been saving.
"Well fire it up." I suggested. Flip stuck that beak-like nose into the air then rolled his
beady eyes downwards at me and softly asked: "What's the Majeeek word?"
Giving in, I answered: "Please."
"Good enough" Flip said, then put butane flame to the bone.
It had cooked our gourds and pretty much goofed us out. Claudia's mouth was drawn in a tight grin as if she was trying to suppress laughter, but some of it slipped through her nose resulting in a snorting nasal chirp. Patti on the other hand could not stop giggling. Denny rambled something about Ahayuta Achi and doorways. Flip continued to fiddle with the radio, zipping back and forth through static and garbled noise. That last one had knocked my noodle up to the stars. For now the effects of that potent weed seemed to have expelled any bewitchment that may have influence my behavior earlier.
"Hey Flip!"
"Yeah?"
"Stop playing with that fucking boom box for a bit."
"Why?"
"Goblin hunting."
"Say what?"
I told Flip of what Claudia and I had saw further up the loop road, then requested his help in finding where these critters were lodging. Always up for a hike, Flip agreed.
Again I felt Claudia's caressing foot. Smiling she said: "You don't need to go looking for them now." Rising from my seat I informed her: "I heard no one else say otherwise." With that said, Flip and I took up our walking sticks then departed into the darkness.

We quick-stepped it about a hundred yards up the loop road, well out of sight and earshot from our encampment before I called a halt.
"We're not looking for albinos are we?" Flip asked while lighting up a cigarette.
Bumming a smoke from him, I said: "No we're not."
Flip leaned his stick against an oak bole, exhaled a smoke ring, then inquired: “Vampire, witch, or something else?"
"Maybe all rolled into one." I replied catching a light up from Flip's smoke.
"She carries on like a human." Flip stated, "She eats, drinks, sleeps, has body functions and from what I've seen likes to get frisky."
"That don't mean shit!" I snapped, then added: "But you may be on to something."
"Oh yeah, what?"
"She may be a witch."
"I don't think she's black one." Flip returned, "They don't carry on in such a manner and not nearly as pleasant as what we got back at camp."
"Maybe red." I said, still not ruling out various types of soul eaters.
"You realize the reds feed as well." Flip reminded.
"Not if we taint the stewpot."
"What is there to do, kill it?"
Taking a long drag from my cigarette and exhaling a stream of smoke, I informed Flip: "I'm no witch hunter or devil slayer."
"Your grandfather was."
"Was!" I growled - "Look what became of him."
"Yeah but he took out Ma Slate and her servants before taking his leave."
"His terrible end" I corrected - "Wounded beyond all healing and he was suppose to be visiting family." I then insisted he not bring up my grandfather's demise again.
"So we lay like deviled eggs on a platter?" Flip asked and added: " She could very well be feeding off us now, even with this itchy crud in our navels."
"She could be part of the food chain herself." I said leading Flip into a vacant camp site.
We seated ourselves at the dark, rough bare table. "Food chain? What would be eating that?" Flip wondered aloud.
"Bigger fish, eating the medium size fish that prey on the small fry." I replied, laughing at my own words. Then I continued: "Perhaps our two little white visitors from the other night."
"Hunting?" Flip asked.
"Why roll a drunk for his bottle, when you can knock over the liquor store?" Then I went on telling Flip how frightened Claudia became while seeing those two white shapes on the rise. "So you think they're hunting her?" Flip questioned still very much blasted by all the weed he had been smoking.
"Maybe. Maybe something else as well."
"Like what?"
"Protectors " I returned, flipping my cigarette butt into the wet fire pit.
Flip reminded me: "But we're not locals."


Too long on a damp bench, I rose and mentioned to Flip - "Earlier Denny jabbered something about the Ahayuta Achi, which got me thinking."
"He always jabbers about weird shit when he's fucked up."
I agreed. "True, but some years ago when Denny first got back from the southwest we were getting fucked up together down by Lynnhaven Lake and he told me something about the Ahayuta Achi."
"The Ahayuta what?"
"The Ahayuta Achi, powerful spirit beings of the Zuni and other Pueblo People. Hunters.
War gods, they are also the protectors of revelers, gamblers, fools and mischief makers" I then went on: "Appearing as small but powerful twins, they are said to be the destroyers of evil beings and monsters."
Flip objected: "But we ain't in the Southwest."
"True, we're not, but there's lots of legends throughout the Americas of similar beings. Pint-sized monster killing twins."
"And we're caught in the middle." Flip said with a sigh, "Like the small fry."
"Some way-out crazy shit, eh?"
"I hear you." Flip replied, " I don't think it's the weed doing all of this."
"How mean you?" I asked.
Flip cleared his throat and answered: "I noticed those little white folk, didn't show up until Claudia's crew had settled in."
"Yep, go on."
"And Claudia, she looks to be getting younger by the hour."
Tamping the ground with my stick, I responded: "Weird huh?"
"She was a nice looking older bird to begin with."
"And now she's a knock out." I said, my thoughts drifting back to when she emerged from the bathroom in Bear's suite.
"Not too shabby." Flip added.
"Not too shabby indeed, almost, if not inhuman beauty and it's highly possible she's gonna want to bed down over here again tonight." I told Flip while making a motion to get back on the loop road as this vacant site gave me an uneasy feeling.
"Yeah, seems like she's has taste for you on this early morning." Flip said smiling, but with a serious look in his bird-like eyes.
"You don't reckon?" then told him I had a plan.
"I'd love to hear this."
"It's all rather simple Flip, we’ll outlast her."
"Outlast her?"
"That's right, throughout tomorrow and tomorrow night, then she's off to Fort Valley with Mildred and Guy."
"Then we're not going to Fort Valley?"
"No. We'll head South and make camp either at Lewis or Loft Mountain, maybe even beyond. Get a good distance away."
Flip asked: "Why not just stay here and tell her to get lost?"
"Because if you sting somebody's or something's emotions, there's always the devil to pay." I replied, knowing there was a chance of her taking some ghastly form and tear us into shreds, or else cast terrible spells our way.
"How are you gonna keep her off in the mean time?"
"I'm not."
"Make it where she wants to get off."
"I hope you know what you're doing, don't want to see any of my friends turned into mudpuppies or spring lizards."


Over shadows and through the dark trees I saw our fire's friendly glow as we neared camp. "Coming in!"

"Come in!" It was Patti's ever cheerful voice calling us in. Flip and I ambled to our place at the table. Being messed up it took me a few seconds before noticing Denny was absent. "What happen to Denny?" Patti pointed over to the Dibble's tent. "Said he felt a little woozy and called it a night."
"Fine home guard he is." Flip sneered.
"We did just fine out here on our own, thank you." Claudia informed us with a smirk, then was curious to hear of our scouting mission.
"Couldn't find any trace of them, but you never know, there could be some caves around here to hide in."
"Cave dwellers? Please!" Patti laughed then asked if Flip and I checked the RV section.
"Yeah there's probably a whole family of them vacationing up the way in a Winnebago." Flip said while Patti poured him a slug of rum.
"They're up to something." I stated accepting Patti's offer to pour me one as well.
"Like what?" asked Claudia, now sipping on an ale. It seemed I had captured her interest. Gesturing as if drawing a bowstring, I answered: "Hunting perhaps."
There was a flicker of fear in Claudia's strange eyes and attempting to brush this boogeyman business aside, she stated: "Flip is probably right,, they're probably just some freak family staying up at the RV section."
"Yeah, but roaming through the brush at night." Flip countered while swirling the dark rum in his cup. "When would you expect an albino to be outside?" Patti asked while tapping her fingers upon the table.
I reminded them: "They only come out at night."

It was sometime after midnight here at our Big Meadows encampment. Four of us were still awake and celebrating. Radio volume down low Flip finally managed to find a classic rock station that was playing some really lengthy Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Claudia's eyes scanned the outer darkness as did mine. I halfway expected at anytime for some horrible battle to be joined. Flip appeared a little nervous as well, but was soon soothed by Patti's ever cheerful demeanor and a pull off the rum.
The music ending for a commercial break, some hair lip trying to sell discount mattresses, followed by a weather report from the DC area, then static again. Flip threw out a few choice words, got up and turned the boom box off.
"I could twist up a wee morning bone." I offered. Flip nodded his head in approval, while Claudia shook her head and asked: "Don't you guys ever get enough?"
"Claudia."
"Yes?"
"Can I tell you something?"
"Go ahead."
I downed a good quaff of rum and reminded her: "This is vacation and we have been known to carry on in such a manner till after dawn and beyond, or else hitting the dirt like Whitey." Cup raised, I then toasted my three companions with "Troopers go on!"

Getting to my gear I rolled up a small one which allowed us a few tokes apiece. Between the drinking and smoking Patti was just about all the way up there. Strangely enough, if the night couldn't be anymore strange Patti had taken an early Tuesday morning shining to Flip. She heaped him with praise and rambled some slurred compliments concerning his camping prowess, this tinged with a fair amount of giggling. He beamed, rose from his seat, entered the tent, then crawled out with a small cushion for Patti to sit on as a reward for her kind words.
"What a charmer." I mused aloud. In a voice that was half purr and half slur, Patti thank him again for fixing her bike chain all those years ago then leaned in and planted a big wet kiss full on his lips. 'Holy shit' I thought, 'She must either totally snockered or in love, or both.'

Maybe until the booze wears off or by the first light of day.

It must of been the magic of a dark highland early morning that brought the four of us together at this small quaint picnic table gathering. Flip and I, old traveling companions enjoying lively conversation, sharing good cheer along with fine distilled hard spirits and the company of beautiful women - An exotic adult entertainer and a ageless vampire vixen. Many miles away from home, somewhere in the scenic Shenandoah National Park. We appeared no different from any other two couples camping in the woods, tanked up, buzzed out, not the way most people would be in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning. Unless they were on one of our vacations. Even Flip was getting a bit deeper in the cup.
"Careful." I warned, "You don't want to be sleeping in your own puke again, do you?"
"I'm pacing myself." he said on a belch. We were completely wasted. A good time for some scary tales. Flip turned low the lantern light and spoke of the ghost horse that haunted James River Hunt Club's show grounds near the Irish jump. He also talked about 'The Follower', an entity that either trailed off to the side or behind travelers walking upon lonely trails. One could hear it's footfalls, but could never see it. I brought up the haunted Old House Woods near the Chesapeake Bay in Mathews County where there have been many sightings of ghostly Indians, 16th century Spanish conquistadors, pirates, 18th century British red coats and an old storm woman that hovered over the woods before bad weather.

I mention creatures such as the worm folk who lived in caverns, emerging at night to rend, slay and feed. Flip added: "And there's mountain devils too."
"Mountain devils ?" Claudia asked with a giggle.
"Big hairy fuckers who roam the ridges and remote hollows." Flip replied, "Never seen one, but my Uncle Billy knows someone who did down in the Smokey Mountains."
I asked: "Was Billy’s friend smoking that wacky weed?"
"No more wacky than your worm people." Patti laughed then brought up, "What about the spooks of Crawford Road in Yorktown?" Growing up in such an old and historical area Patti had knowledge of these local mysterious goings on. Listening quietly, Claudia added very little to the conversation. Her glances into the outer darkness beyond our camp light, had the Birdman nervously looking about as well.
"What's the matter Flipping Bird?" I inquired.
He lit up a cigarette and replied: "Guess I kinda got a little creeped out thinking about those cave dwellers you were talking about, sounds like the type of critter that would kill people in their sleep." Pouring another measure of rum I informed him: "Heard talk of them being in Wythe and Tazewell counties dragging hill folk and livestock down into their holes." Then added: "You never know, the hills around here could very well be honeycombed with caverns."
Flip downed a good measure of rum, chased it with some ale, and then tapped upon the Puma hunting knife at his side. Like me he believed in and feared such things of the night. Patti taking notice of Flip's seemingly worried condition, placed her hand over his in a comforting manner and spoke to him as if he was a tiny toddler. "Oh Flippy, do I need to hold and protect you tonight?"
Flip's thin face split in a caddish smile. "That would be comforting indeed." he said. With that Patti got up, walked over to Flip's large dome tent, unzipped the flap and crawled in. For a short while there was a glow within, she had found the small lantern. Her head then popped out of the door flap and she bid us a goodnight.
The Birdman gazed at his tent in what looked to be dropped jaw, glassy eyed bewilderment. I was somewhat surprised myself. "Damn boy, she sure has took a shining to you." I then asked: "Did you slip something in her drink?"
"I heard that!" came from inside the tent.
Flip gave me a rather odd look then told me: "Turn off everything and store away any gear before you turn in, where ever that might be."
"In my bed, you cur, so y'all are gonna have to scoot your asses over!" I growled. Flip nervously picked at his teeth, bade us a goodnight and entered the tent.
“Awwwahh, isn't that so sweet ?" Claudia said with a big smile.
I replied: "Like a sun melted, ant covered candy bar on the sidewalk."
"Are you going to sleep in there too?"
"That's where my bedroll is." Then I inquired about her arrangements.
"After those spooky stories and those albino pygmies running around the campground, I'd like to stay with you, if that's alright." She cast me a doe eyed look while awaiting a reply. Knowing I was forking off onto a dangerous path, my response was - "No trouble, but mind you I toss and turn in my sleep."

From within the tent there was a bit of laughter and we heard Flip's voice. "More like you toss off and then turn over and sleep."
"The worm folk are gonna grind you into hamburger." I laughed, but I knew that a divorce lawyer could make a more horrible mess out of him.

Allowing time enough for Patti and Flip to settle in, I poured me another good measure of rum, then proceeded to engage my beautiful companion in conversation. Claudia lightly danced around any questions concerning her past, but instead talked about how she looked forward to camp at Fort Valley. "You guys are going?" She asked with a flash of amber fire glinting in her eyes.
"Still have to talk it over with the others." I reminded her, glad there was no need for falsehoods at this point in time. As the rum sloshed happily within my skull, I once again felt drawn to Claudia. Her face was a hazy glow of timeless beauty. Her lips red, full and inviting. She was a sober man's lovely uncertainty and a drunkard’s dream darling. Hot racing thoughts and mental images shook in my pickled brain matter. Her luminous eyes held me fast. I became lost in her gaze and the world seemed to get a lot smaller.

With those eyes she took me on a strange journey through time and into worlds within worlds. Eyes locked, my hands sought something real and solid. I fumbled for my cup and knocked it over spilling out several good drops while looking upon a strange vista. A wattle and mud hut village overlooking a huge placid lake or inland sea that reflected a weird violet hued sky and the countless glowing stars. Between the village and I, approached a beautiful young woman with a panther-like stride. With the exception of painted woad swirls, a string of beads around that trim waist and the foamy mass of chestnut hued hair falling over her shoulders, she was quite nude. She advanced and then halted only inches away from me. Her eyes blazed like twin sunrises as she spoke in a long forgotten tongue. In this dream-like state I demanded: "What the hell are you saying girl?" Not knowing if I said it or thought it. Her laughter was like sweet music. I felt a drinking cup being placed in my hand and with an tremendous effort of sheer will, I turn my eyes away from Claudia's.

'What a fucking rush!' For a minute or so it felt as if I had been spun around on my head like a top.

Seeing that she had poured and handed me another rum while being away, I thanked her and threw it all down my gullet. It would do me no good to overly react to what just occurred, so I carried on as usual by pouring myself another. Then up out of the early morning's gloomy dark, Claudia asked, batting her lashes: "Do you find me attractive?"

I couldn't tell if she was vainly fishing for compliments or fucking with my head. Trying hard not to slur or blather I replied: "I thought you were rather comely, when y'all first visited our camp." Now the rum was lewdly talking. "And frankly speaking, I've imagined how you'd be on a wild romp, but keep in mind I've been on a three night throw down and care not if I make good sense of matters."

Claudia burst out in laughter and quoted - "Romp?" then said: "You are a smooth talker."
"I was being polite." I returned, "How else could I put it, especially after you bounced your boobs in my face and after our time in front of the shower house?" Then added "Yep, romping, what were you thinking of, playing board games?"
"Well I'm no common campground cozy." Claudia proclaimed, then jiggled her breasts. She then casually rose from the bench, took off her jean jacket, wiggled out of her gown. There she was, either a beautiful vision of womanhood, or something else. I lit up a cigarette and ogled her as she strolled over to her shoulder bag and removed an almost transparent saffron hued nightshirt. Taking a good drag from my smoke then realizing I lit the filter end did little to embellish this special moment. I had became lustful, yet remained fearful.

Oh what a terrible mix.

It was just before she donned her sheer shift did I recall seeing the string of beads around her waist. Walking over to me, Claudia tapped my shoulder and said: "Let's go to bed." Grabbing a flashlight from our table, she sashayed over to Flip's tent, unzipped the flap, then crawled in after showing me a fair amount of her well turn legs and backside. I sucked in a breath of air, looked up at the stars, checked the fire, stored all goods and turned off the lantern before calling it a night and hopefully not a morning after. Upon entering the tent Claudia turned on Flip‘s battery powered lantern, then put a finger to her lips and issued a - "Shhhhhhhhh" She then cast the beam at Patti and Flip, all snuggled up in sleep together like baby squirrels, well in all truth, Flip looked more like a sleeping baby possum. Claudia then spread out my sleeping bag to accommodate the two of us and snuggled half under my down filled quilt. I pulled off my boots, jeans and shirt stripping down to a pair of drawers. A good way to sleep, but I had mixed feelings about the Khyber knife beside me.
"What's with the knife?" Claudia asked out of concern.
"Goblins, beasts,, crazed inbreeds,,, and such." I replied on a long yawn before being weirdly swept away from what was left of this unusual night. Seemingly my spirit traveled into a strange dream. Things were happening but I had no control of what my body did. In that dark tent, I could only feel, but could see nothing. I can’t recall any intercourse occurring, but most certainly other acts did...

Edited by Atehequa, 27 December 2014 - 12:54 AM.

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#42 Atehequa

Atehequa

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Posted 26 December 2014 - 01:08 PM

With head whirling, parched gullet and terrible chill I awoke. My last conscious memory was that of stretching out and exchanging several whispered words with the woman laying close beside me.

I either had fell into a deep sodden slumber or else blacked out and did things that were foggy in my recollection. It was early, no one lay close beside me and after a bit more focusing I saw Flip was absent as well. Patti was still asleep and uncovered atop Flip's sleeping bag. Her back was facing me as she lay on her side. Rubbing night's grit from my eyes I could see a little better in the tent's semi gloom. Patti's Tshirt was hiked up almost to her shoulders exposing a shapely bum and a pair of well turned legs. I could of set there a lot longer as this view seemed to ease the pain, but it felt as if my bladder was about to burst. Swiftly putting on my duds and boots, I crawled out of Flip's tent making way to the trees passing Claudia, Charlie, Denny and Flip at the table. Smelling breakfast, I was aware of intense hunger pangs. In spite of my hurry it would of been impolite of me not to offer at least a - "Good morning" before hitting the woods to relieve myself. Once in the woods I was greeted by three of Big Meadows half-tame deer. It wasn't at all uncommon having them bed down near people's campsites. They watched me while I took care of business and were not at all bothered by my soft whistling. Returning into camp I snagged a cold soda, popped it open and drained it. The cool drink put out most of the fire in my gullet, and now it was ready for coffee.
"Sleep well?" Claudia asked with a questionable glint in her eyes.
"Well enough I suppose." Then I inquired about her. Claudia issued a "Hmmmm" for an answer, then added - "Well you did toss in the beginning and afterwards turned." Her tone seemed a somewhat sardonic, so I turned my attention to the huge skillet full of scrambled eggs and pile of bacon resting upon a greasy paper plate.
"Hurry up with those eggs, I'm famished!"
"Get your mind off that!" Flip barked, smacking my hand with a spatula as I attempted to filch a piece of bacon.
"Would you let a comrade perish of hunger ?" I asked, brushing egg off my hand.
"Fuck yeah, you lazy bastard."
"Lazy?"
"Hell yeah, you've hardly helped out with the cooking or any other camp chores since we've arrived here!" Flip hissed.
"That's why you're doing it." I said, swiftly making a grab and snagging a bacon slice a split second before Flip's spatula hissed down through empty air before connecting with our friendly table. "Doing what?" He demanded waving the kitchen utensil inches away from my face. With a mouthful of delicious crispy bacon, I answered - " Why working off your ale tab of course, as I recall you've been knocking back my ale for quite sometime now, not to mention the hard stuff."
Flip's face changed a shade or two. "The hell you say! I gave you a hundred bucks!"
"And I still have that note on my person." I informed him.
"What the hell are you holding it for?"
"Remember that fifty I loaned you last winter?"
Flip's eyes darted about the camp.
"Said you straighten me out after the holidays." I reminded.
"Yeah what of it?"
"Consider it paid off."
"What about the other fifty?" Flip asked as if waiting for change.
"That Flip, is going for fees, food and beverage"
"What?"
"Come on man, we've all threw in a good chunk of change, Patti and Whitey got all that stuff last night, so you may need to throw another hundred in the hat or else cook breakfast and put up tarps." Flip grumbled and turned off the heat to his eggs.
"Stop all this haggling, it's making my head hurt." Denny complained as he rubbed bloodshot eyes.
"Now there's a sensible man" Claudia agreed. I noticed she was sitting across from Denny and thought with a grin - 'There goes my morning leg rub.'

Flip backed off thus allowing me to fill a paper plate. Munching on another piece of bacon, I wanted to know: "What no fucking biscuits or toast?"
Flip hurled a slice of bread at me then barked - "Here! Make your own fucking toast!"
"Damn Flip, I guess there ain't no fried taters either, huh?"
"You're about a breath away from getting beaned with a spud." Flip warned.
Claudia's voice cut the upland morning air - "Why don't both of you knock it off?"
Flip and I both cast her a sideways glare and she quickly turned away to jabber at Denny, so there was no need to tell Claudia to mind her own. Although sometimes we tended to be in ill moods during a morning hangover, we still remained comrades. Not pushing it any further I forgot about the potatoes and toasted my own bread over a new fire. Appreciating a full plate I heaped compliments upon the Birdman then told him to fix us up with some Bloody Marys.
Charlie clapped his hands. "Yay! Bloody Marys!"
"It'll kill the ill." I said.
"No thanks." Flip replied, "But since I'll probably have one later it'll be my pleasure to hook y'all up."
"Why thank you my good friend." I slightly bowed with a smirk.
In short time Flip produced vodka, V-8 juice, pepper and various other ingredients. "Any body else?" Flip offered. Charlie and Denny wanted one, while Claudia did not, enjoying her coffee instead. Tending the breakfast beverage bar, Flip stopped long enough to give me the smelly finger sign while bobbing his brows in a manner of asking if I made it with Claudia last night. With a slight shake of my head I told him: “If indeed it did, I was out of my mind fucked up" I then asked the same of him and Patti.
Flip flashed a crooked smile. I would find out later that Patti passed out shortly after entering the tent with Flip soon to follow.

"What no fucking celery stalks?"

"Put a pine cone in it for all I care." Flip hissed. Claudia gave us a glare, but held her tongue. It seemed she had her own special Tuesday morning feeling going on. I shrugged my shoulders and enjoyed a hearty breakfast.

Charlie had been somewhat low key, but after a couple of Bloody Marys he seemed to liven up a bit. He had very little breakfast. Flip told me to rouse Patti and Whitey so as to feed them too. I entered Flip's tent first and with some effort whisked Patti from the dream world. At first she didn't want to get up mumbling: "Alright Donny, in a few minutes, ok."
'Who the hell is Donny ?' I thought as Patti rolled over back into sleep. Time for another approach. A hard pinch to the buttocks soon had her up and blinking in no time.
"I had the strangest dream." Patti said stretching her arms.
"Oh?"
"I dreamed Donny Osmond was here."
"Spare me." I laughed then said: "Rise and greet the sun my little butterfly, we've got eggs, bacon, coffee, Bloody Marys and mountains to climb."
"Oh good god, don't even mention booze." Looking at her sweet sleepy face, I informed Patti: "I watched you for awhile earlier while you were sleeping."
Pulling down her nightshirt she asked -"Was my shirt pulled up?"
"Why yes it was." I replied.
She stated that she always did it in her sleep, a habit so to speak.
“Well if that’s the case, you can sleep next to me tonight.”
"Checking herself Patti asked: "You didn't get anything on me, did you?"
"Not me, but I can't vouch for Flip."
"Damned perverts" She laughed. Even with a hangover Patti was as bubbly as ever.
"Miss let me assure you I would never take such lewd liberties with the unconscious unless having permission and instructions before hand." and added: "Here after breakfast perhaps you could shoot some ideas my way?"
"What ever floats your boat, just don't get anything in my hair."
With that bit of crude humor out of the way Patti pulled on her shorts, while I emerged into the morning sun, then offered Patti a hand up and out.

Waking and feeding Whitey would prove to be a different matter. Patti and I decided to carry out this task.

How we placed him last night is how he still lay. On his back, chin jutting upwards as if in the stiffening of death. At first we were gentle, a soft tap and shake. "Whitey, get up."
Not a stir. Again Patti tapped upon his shoulder, but Whitey lay still. Checking his breathing we saw his chest rise and sink ever so slightly. His mouth drawn tightly closed, yet we could hear breath being drawn in and exhaled out from one clear nostril.
"At least he's alive" I said, then advised Patti: "You better get out of the tent."
"Why?"
"Cause here shortly it may not be befitting for a young talented lady such as yourself."
"Befitting?"
"Some of these fellows come up swinging, especially after a night of revelry."
Patti went out ahead of me as I moved a few hard surfaced items away from this sleeping person. Crawling out the tent, I took up my stick. Returning I stood just outside our storage tent, leaned in and gave Whitey several sharp jabs to his ribs.
Whitey's eye lids slid open , in the shock of pain he blew out whatever clogged his other nostril. His body shot upwards into a sitting position.
"Huh, what the fuck?"
"Get the hell up and get some breakfast."
Holding his side he asked in no friendly tone: "Fuck, are you trying to break my bones?"
"Only trying." I replied.
Rubbing the back of his head he wanted to know who hit him last night.
"The ground did, you damn sot, you're lucky it wasn't asphalt or concrete."
Within clear earshot of this extended 'rise and shine' morning moment, Flip informed Whitey of what occurred - "You toppled backwards off the bench, so we drug your drunk ass into the tent" then added - "Get the fuck up and get ye some vittles!"
Staggering out of our storage tent, face twisted, blood red eyes squinting against the morning Sun, he headed for the back of camp and beyond, almost tripping over an exposed root in the process. "That's what he gets for guzzling a pond full of that swill." Flip said, having very little sympathy.

Whitey loped back into camp and headed straight for the cooler, plucked out a can of beer, popped it open and poured it's contents down his gullet. After releasing a comical over extended belch Whitey told us he need someone to take him back into town for more beer.
"Fuck that!" Flip barked.
I told him that he needed to use better judgment when at the store stocking up, or else - "Slack down on your fucking drinking, Otis."
"Don't look at me." Denny said, not caring to drive anywhere.
"Recalling the storm on their heels last night, Patti said: "Me neither."
Crushing the can in his hand, Whitey disposed of it before hitting the cooler again. I inquired about his situation - "How much of that crap do you have left?"
"Less than two 6-packs" There was grave concern in his bloodshot eyes.
"Oh that sounds critical" Flip snickered. Denny reminded Whitey that the camp store sold his brand of beer, but probably had limited supply.
"Shit man, their beer is overpriced!"
"What would you expect at a tourist spot?" Denny laughed, scooping up some eggs.
Then I threw in for good measure: "I must admit they will gouge a person for a cold one, but how bad do you need to stay juiced up? And pour that mule piss into a cup before a ranger passes through.”

Invoke no names...

Edited by Atehequa, 26 December 2014 - 01:18 PM.

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#43 Atehequa

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 12:29 AM

No sooner than the words left my mouth, we heard tires turning gravel. It was a national park ranger cruiser. We could not make out any features other than a large head that nodded to us, a wide brimmed ranger hat and sun glasses as he slowed down. We smiled and waved as he looked straight ahead, moving on to finish his morning round.
"See, what did I tell you?"
Popping open another beer Whitey plopped down on the bench and proceeded to put a pile of bacon and eggs between two slices of bread. He tore into his breakfast sandwich, consuming it in about three or four bites and washed the whole affair down with one long guzzle.
"Coffee?" Claudia offered the pot with a smirk.
"No thanks." Whitey returned, "I'm not driving."
It was then we heard a gurgling sound coming from Charlie's belly.
Charlie's face had a grayish tint to it and his bugged eyes blinked rapidly as the gurgling grew louder.
Claudia asked - " Are you alright?"
"Fuck no, he ain't alright." Whitey said, shaking his head.
For some of us it was a hangover cure, or so we thought, Charlie however had just finished his second Bloody Mary. He was on his way to getting started before the coffee cooled. Half falling off the bench and then moving in an unsteady zigzagging staggering gate Charlie made for the brush.

"There goes breakfast." Flip chuckled.

As the tell tale sounds of spewing vomiting flowed into camp, Denny with scrunched up nose and knotted brows commented: "Puking after two drinks? That's not like Charlie at all." Patti stuck fingers in her ears. This was not a pleasant morning sound by any account. Whitey returning from his truck with a pack of smokes, heard the sickening sound and inquired: "Damn! Is that Chuck?."
"Well it ain't no woodchuck." Flip replied.
"More like upchuck." I added.
The sound of vomiting had stopped, we heard a bit of trampling through the underbrush. An "Haaaaaaaaaaagh!" boomed into camp followed by - "My name is Chuck and I don't give a fuck!"
Charlie came out of the trees at a more steady gate, but with a couple of long, thick gooey drips of vomit tinged drool hanging from his mouth and chin. With a vile smile he proclaimed: "Damn, I feel better now!"
"You look a lot better." I replied while watching one of those slimy pukey goobers drip down onto his shoe.
"You look fantastic." Flip said as he handed Charlie a paper towel. "Now clean that shit off your face, we got people trying to eat here!"
"Don't want to start a barf-a-rama" Patti added.
Whitey laughed and called Charlie a lightweight. Flip pointed a finger at Whitey. "He went out the same way you did last night, but had not good enough sense not to fall backwards."
I went on to remind Whitey: "Seemed to me like you were laid low so early in the night, leaving me the last man up."
"Not for long." Claudia chuckled. Having about enough of her little jabs regarding my extremely substance addled condition last night at bedtime, I leered at Claudia and asked: "Isn't time to take your Geritol or else suck the life force out of some meek woodland creature?" Her livid facial expression told me I had plucked a nerve. For several seconds there seemed to be angry fires flickering in her strangely beautiful eyes. Then she turned her attention back to Denny, engaging him in small talk.

"Anybody going to the showers?" Flip asked, finishing up his breakfast. I counted myself in and told Charlie - "You're going too."
Charlie protested this - "I don't need a shower, I need a drink"
"You need a fucking shower! You smell like behind a fucking seven eleven store at 2:00 in the morning!" Whitey blasted.
"How do you know what that smells like?" Claudia inquired.
"Ever pissed behind a seven eleven store?" Whitey asked while popping open another cold one.

In short time we cleaned up our breakfast mess, gathered up bathing articles. Flip loaded Patti, Charlie, Whitey and myself into his truck then we were off to the showers. Claudia and Denny remained at camp drinking coffee. 'If that one is some sort of soul sucking vampire, she sure is a skanky one.' I thought as we pulled out of our encampment.

The ride to the campground's facilities was short and uneventful, but we did plan to give Bear a wake up call before heading back to our camp.
This morning the shower house was clean with no clogged toilets. Yet issues concerning water temperature and pressure abounded. More than once we screamed as shower water turned from warm to scalding hot. It was soft water, taking us longer than normal to rinse soap and shampoo away. Not at all uncommon at these mountain campgrounds. Drying off and dressing, I had to remove a grand daddy long legs from the small bench before sitting down to pull on my shoes. Placing the creature down, it scampered away on eight hair thin legs only to be ambushed by a rather large wolf spider.

To our surprise Patti had already finished her shower house business and was waiting for us outside. She wanted to visit Bear's temporary lodgings and use the phone. So we made way to Big Meadows Lodge. Pulling up we saw R.W. standing out at the parking area in the company of a flaxen haired lass who looked to be no more than eighteen or nineteen years old. As Flip parked and we piled out R. W. pretended either not to see or know us. As we approached R.W. he suddenly gave us the smelly finger sign in attempt to ward off our advancing company. Needless to say we all ambled on up, heeding not his signal. "There's breakfast back at the camp." I informed him, blowing whatever cover he had. Turning to the young lady I offered a " Good morning Miss." Instead of returning response to my morning greeting she gave R.W. a rather odd look. The young lady then gave us all a haughty once over before turning her button of a nose up in some symbolic display of disgust. Scrambling to give an introduction R.W. informed us: "Everybody this is Yvonne."
Together like a group of third graders we all gave greeting. "Good morning Yvonne!"
Yvonne manage a shallow - "Hi" then told R.W. she had to get back with her friends, but before departing, Yvonne invited R.W. up to their RV later.

We all bid her goodbye as she bounced away in a half skip like prance.

"What the hell man, you embarrassed of us?" I demanded pointing the end of my stick at his poofy head. "Oh no, it's not like that at all." R.W. stammered, thinking he was about to be punched. He then went on to tell us that Yvonne along with three of her high school chums were slumming for a year before going off to college."Rich kids from Fredericksburg, they're borrowing Yvonne's grandparents RV."
"Doesn't mean she has to act like a snot." Whitey bluntly said, his eyes focused on the young lady as she pranced up a rise on the road. By now we were quite use to this. For some reason young comely women of gentry status seemed to gravitate towards R.W. These relationships would turn bad because of either he would fall back upon his heathen roots or brother Denny would attempt to 'snake in' on any current lovely R.W. was courting. This would usually have them coming to blows.

"Did you see her clothes?" Patti asked, adding: "That girl ain't slumming."
R.W. stepped back and said: "I don't think she's use to people like you."
"Like us,, what the fuck are you trying to say Poodle?” I demanded pointing my stick a hair’s breath away from his nose.
Taking a step forward Whitey gave R.W. an ominous look, then turned to us. "I guess that this fluffy poodle is much too over cultured and dandy to sit under the trees with us for food and drink." Without his brother here to back him R.W. stepped back and kept his tongue sheathed. The morning sunlight glittered off a large diamond stud in his ear as I asked: "Where is The Bear?"
R.W. jerked up a thumb at the lodge and replied: "Inside, getting ready"
"Ready for what?"
"Ready to check out or register for another night. It seems his decision rests upon getting today's weather report."
"He needs to shed both pounds and that hot clothing." Flip stated while adjusting his head cloth. I informed R.W.: "Well Patti needs to use the phone in his suite."

Door unlocked, we filed into Bear's suite and a voice boomed out through the bathroom door - "Who's there?"
Patti put a finger to her mouth in telling us to hush then in a disguised voice loudly answered: "Housekeeping!"
The bathroom door flying swung open and almost off the hinges, Bear barged out while saying: "But I didn't call for a maid,,," Seeing it was us he first bared his teeth in a menacing manner, but that swiftly softened into a wide friendly smile. Patti then ran up to Bear and threw her arms around him. Walking around, looking at the suite's lay out, I commented: "Figured you to be still sawing logs here in the lap of air conditioned luxury."
"Nope I'm checking out, gonna hole up with y'all, suppose to cool down some today and tonight."
"Shit man, so we got to listen to you buzz sawing timber tonight?" Flip hissed, well out of Bear's arm reach.
"Stuff some ear plugs or else, put down the bucks for a room." Bear replied. Plopping down on one of the beds I admitted: Damn, this is comfortable"
The Bear, checking the chain on his wallet, said: "Yeah I would of still been asleep, but R.W. woke me up going out about an hour ago bringing back some coffee from the lodge restaurant, pretty damn good, you should try some."
"Since when did you know about good coffee?" I asked
R.W. fluffing his wavy locks in front of a large mirror wanted to know - "Denny still crashed out?"
"Back at the camp with Claudia." Charlie answered, standing behind R.W., mimicking his primping. "So what was all that weird talk of soul suckers and evil spirits last night?" R.W. inquired and then complained about the ointment he applied the night before. "It stained my face and navel, I couldn't get it completely off, no matter how hard I scrubbed." Sure enough there was faint traces of yellow streaks on his face and upon lifting his shirt, we saw the navel was stained as well. Flip, Whitey and myself then lifted ours, seeing our navels dyed in the same color.
"Strong to last long." I told them.
"Bear watching all of this issued a low rumble of laughter. "What's next, a string of dried raccoon turds around your necks? That'll keep em away for sure."

Gathering up his belongings, The Bear left a sizable tip and suite's key on the table then limped and out behind us.

While Flip took Patti and Charlie with him to get a few bags of ice from the camp store, the rest of us held council in the parking lot.
I talked about plans to leave Big Meadows and split off from Claudia's party. "Why not tell her straight up?" Bear suggested.
"Because there's something wrong with that picture." I replied. After informing them of Guy's plans of leaving tomorrow for Fort Valley and reminding all that meant one more night here with Claudia's party, R.W. laughed and said: "I don't believe she's a vampire in the traditional sense or else we'd all be dried jerky by now, but there is something strange about her as well as Mildred and Guy."
"How mean you?" I asked, wanting to compare opinions.
"Well to start with, she has more or less hung with us the whole time, while Mildred and Guy have been mostly absent since they have arrived."
"You find that odd?" Bear asked then slapped R.W. on the back with such force it almost sent him to the ground, then went on to say: "Can't blame her for wanting to be in the company of such nice and well groomed gentlemen."
"Well that's to be expected." R.W. replied, "But there is something afoot."
"Of course there is." Bear said, "She's a witch."
Whitey gave Bear an odd look - "A witch?"
"Maybe a sorceress." Bear returned, then added: "That doesn't mean she is not drawing power from either this place, us or both. At least she's more pleasant than some I've encountered."
"Pleasant or not she could very well be stealing our life force and that makes her vampyric." I stated, "Maybe an old one." Bear tugged upon his beard and asked "An old one? Then what the fuck is she doing staying at a campground, instead of sucking souls at some upper crust black tie event, or the top floor of some corporate office?"
"She may be an outdoor lover." R.W. replied with a grin.
"She may be hunting for fresh meat." I said.
R.W. grabbed at his crotch. "Fresh meat, eh?"
"That too, as a way of drawing in prey." I returned.
"Witch?" Whitey again asked, shaking his head. "Last night she was a vampire, and you had me put that crap in my bellybutton. How long before this stain wears off?" Giving us all a cock eyed look he added: "I think y'all have lost your fucking minds, especially you Skid." Over the past several years Whitey had been growing apart from our band and although on rare occasion he got up with us for outings such as this. The last time he occompanied us up into the hills was three years ago when we stayed at Afton.These days he mostly socialized in a different circle. Whitey now on the most part ran with more of a redneck bunch which included his new York County buddies and a few others who were a bit too gritty for my liking. Mostly they were hard drinkers, that had a fondness for car racing, television wrestling, violence, prostitutes and whoring. Long haired rednecks, suburban crackers and greasy beer guzzling grits. He was sinking further into obscurantism, drifting away from the mysterious and magical, towards sodden nothingness. Liver disease and probably more jail time.

Bear, Charlie Denny, Flip, R.W. and myself were all pagans of sort and the supernatural world was very real to us. A world that included sorcery and witchcraft. Most if not all of us have had past encounters or experiences with the supernatural. Then there were what we called critters, vampires, were-creatures, ghouls and hags. Up until now. I've never encountered one like Claudia, but heard tales of such around past campfires.

Some referred to them as reds.

Powerful, beautiful, wise, manipulative and could no doubt charm the spines off a porcupine, then make him roll over belly up. Through out history they were rulers, high counselors of emperors and other powerful people, but in many cases ruled through puppet ruler spouses or lovers. Among this breed there are those who sell their services to the highest bidder, taking to either side of the field as long as the wages are ample enough. Within their numbers they include the ancient pure stem ruling class to the hybrid pledges and human wannabees, along with all in between. Whenever regarding these old ones we had our suspicions and were not sure if they were even human. We had heard The old ones were just that, old, some hundreds if not thousands of years in age.
From what we had been told, these old ones when not in guise ranged in complexion from an old ivory, to a golden brown. All were said to have either yellow, amber or hazel slightly slanted eyes and red to rusty hued locks. Their tongues, long and pointed like a skink's. Among humans they take on a more comely form, Once they were more numerous and controlled large areas of land, tribes, nations, kingdoms and empires. Now there remained only a far scattered few. Through time, acts of malice or unnatural breeding with sapiens their numbers were in decline. It was said that their bodies could be killed, but if their spirits were not dispatched as well they could just leap into another's flesh, organs and bones. We only knew of one sorcerer a couple of hundred miles away who could be up for the task, but he was currently journeying. No telling when he would be back,

Purebreds, hybrid relations, pledges and slaves, they all filched personal power, from whomever they chose to prey upon, mostly unsuspecting, lust addled fools. They dreamed of growing powerful enough in numbers to hold sway over vast empires again. Rarely did we talk about such creatures, yet Bear and I once sat in on a debate between two of the elders engaged in an interesting exchange concerning the old ones. Were they an ancient, almost extinct variety of advanced human, or else something all together inhuman? Oh the tales, the graybeards could tell, especially after a few good puffs and quaffs.

We remembered these stories.

"Vampires,huh? If that's the case, what comes next?" R.W. wanted to know, showing slight concern.
"This is their last night here with us." The Bear stated, then went on to say - "If this is an old one, or close kin, she probably knows we suspect something."
“Then again, maybe she doesn’t." R.W. returned.
Remembering more of the old stories, I warned: "She may turn into a wild dangerous animal this last night."
“Did she in the tent with you last night?" R.W. laughed
“To my knowledge, no, but one can never be sure.”
At that Whitey laughed, then swore at us. "Shit! Just listen to your crazy ass selves! Y'all sound like a fucking Saturday morning cartoon." After lighting up a smoke he continued - "Vampires, witches, drunks and a crazy Bear,, oh fucking my!"
"Crazy?" Bear growled, with a dangerous glint in his gray eyes.
"Just listen to yourself." Whitey said with a scowl, "She's probably some bored, foxy older rich broad, out and about, looking for some strange. Just do her and send her ass down the road."
"Hmmmmmm" R.W. responded, then put forth: "What better place to hook-up, than some out of the way tourist spot and adjoining campground?"
Whitey added: "Check in for a few days, get's all the pud she wants, then go back to her hometown without a worry of ever seeing any of us again. As far as we know, she could be married well or somebody of high standing somewhere." He sounded sure of himself, yet the look in his eyes did not match the words he just spoke. Getting back to the subject and attempting to take the edge off this matter, I said" "If indeed Claudia is an old one, it's doubtful she is a pure-bred. More than likely she's a hybrid daughter or granddaughter. Maybe a prodigal wild child, banished from her kind. Exiled if you will."
"What about Mildred and Guy?" R.W. asked, in which the Bear responded -
"Personal servants or slaves."
"Or familiars in human guise." I added.
"What about the pop-up and station wagon?" Whitey inquired.
"Real" I returned, "A carriage, driver and attendant. A rough ride and crude accommodations, but reliable enough to serve worthy during hunting season"
"A lot of campgrounds up and down the Blue Ridge." R.W. reminded us.
"A lot of drunken campers like us in those campgrounds." Bear added.
"Speaking of which." Whitey brought to Bear's attention, then requested: "Do you mind swinging by the camp store on the way back?"
Bear issued a low rumbling growl then asked Whitey in no friendly tone - "What the hell for?"
"More beer." Whitey said paying no mind to Bear's tone.
"Well shit man!" Bear snarled, "Flip went to the store, you should of rode with him."
Whitey pleaded his case. "I wasn't thinking about it at the time."
This was odd, I thought, usually for Whitey beer was a top priority. The very fact he stayed with us, listening to talk concerning the supernatural instead of leaving with Flip was strange enough in itself.
"That swill has eaten away at what brain you had." Bear scolded. He grumbled a bit but agreed to take Whitey to the store.

Waiting for Whitey to get his Beer and R.W. taking a piss, The Bear wanted to know if the little white twins played into this strangeness. "Well Bear, they could be either inbred albino hollow folk or supernatural beings."
Bear grunted and asked: " What, is this, when all the ghouls go on vacation?"
"They could be supernatural hunters." I replied. The Bear lit up a cigarette and growled: "The more the merrier."
"One thing's for sure," I stated,"None of us are qualified to hook, reel in, net, clean and fry what we got here hitting on top water."
"Not any one of us alone." Bear returned, then added: "Or together for all that long." We agreed to play it by ear and instinct while carrying on as normal not to have situations getting out of hand back at camp. "We'll just tell Claudia we've decided not to make for Fort Valley tomorrow" The Bear suggested. "Where do we tell her we're going?" I asked. He thought for a moment and replied: "Stay here or go on to Loft Mountain, anything other than some hot, humid valley."

Our talk was cut short seeing R.W. and Whitey exit the store with hardly an armload of beer between them.
"The fucking beer truck won't be here until tomorrow. This is all the Budweiser they had, two six packs and four cold singles." Whitey hissed before climbing in the back. "He may be able to ration that until lunch." Bear chuckled, then pulled out of the parking area...

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#44 Atehequa

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 12:34 AM

Arriving back at camp the first thing we noticed was Flip draining water out of one of the coolers near the loop road. Dragging it back near our table he packed it with fresh ice. We were pampering ourselves as there had been other camps in the past where there were no camp store or shower house. We cooled ale and beer in cold highland streams, sometimes bathing in the same chilling waters.
"We're good on ice for awhile." He informed us as we piled out of Bear's truck."Here, put these in" Whitey requested handing Flip his limited supply of beer. Patti was hanging some articles of clothing on the line and humming a cheerful tune while Claudia sat at our table in a fresh change of clothing watching Charlie drink himself silly as he had got into the vodka again. Denny was no where in sight.
"Where's Denny?" R.W. asked.
Flip pointed over at the Dibble's tent. "He crapped out again not five minutes before you guys pulled up." hearing that, Bear, Flip, R.W., Whitey and I shot each other nervous glances. Neither Dibble was the 'go back to bed' type. Looking over at Claudia's mysterious smiling face I felt a chill go down my spine. Whitey dismissed any spooky stuff by calling Denny a lightweight which was often true his case. Still it smacked of the strange. Charlie paid it no mind while in his usual ascent to higher elevations.
Casting another glance at Claudia, I inquired about Mildred and Guy.
Claudia sat her coffee down. "They went to Sperryville to do some shopping, they'll be back later today." Changing the subject she wanted to know - "Are we still going up to Panorama?”
"Not today" I replied - "We figured on getting on The Appalachian Trail here in a bit." At the very mention of this there was a questionable gleam in Flip's eyes. He swiftly took up the task of filling canteens and making ready his hiking packs. Casting a glance at Bear with his injured leg propped atop a cooler, then watching Whitey chugging down yet another beer and Charlie, now three sheeting in the wind , I asked: "Who's up for a hike?"
"I'm going to hike it over to that cooler." Whitey responded with a lopsided grin. "I'm staying here and keeping watch." said a very relaxed Bear.
Claudia accepted the offer. "I'll go." she said, "Give me a little time to get a few things." With that, she got up and jogged it on over to the pop-up.
"Count me in, Skid." R.W. chimed in while strapping on a canteen.
"Me too." Patti added, no doubt ready for some exercise. I looked down at Patti's flip flops and advised her: "You'll need more than them." As everything was moving so fast I did not overly notice the Birdman's second empty pack along with the brief exchange of whispering that passed between him and R.W.
Whitey and Charlie were deeply engaged in near drunken gibberish. No where near lunch and these two were already well on their way of getting totally slammed. I asked Bear - "Any other plans than sitting on your duff all day?" Taking a break from building his huge breakfast sandwich he answered: "Nope, gonna take it easy today. I'd like to attempt a little walking tomorrow where ever we may be." While ducking into the tent to roll a couple of doobies, I praised him. "Well I‘ll be damned. You're finally gonna get off your ass and do something."
"I can do something right now that you may not like." I heard The Bear growl from outside Flip's tent. I returned: “How are you going to do anything after having your own walking stick jammed up your ass?"

Everybody going were almost ready, Claudia walked in, all geared up for the hike. Gone were all traces of silver in her hair which now under the morning sun had a rusty chestnut hue. Claudia seemed younger, trimmer and more fit than she did less than twenty minutes ago. Again there was that soft hazy glow about her face.

Looking at Charlie and Whitey I told Bear - "Have fun babysitting." and with those parting words, I was off.

In front of our encampment Claudia had to stop and adjust a pack strap. "Hope you're not overloaded with too many Audubon nature guides." I taunted still marveling about her youthful transformation.
"Just my bird and plant book." She replied, "I'll manage." Flip slowed down, turned and asked me, "Where are we going, man?"
"I was thinking about going up as far where we'd be in between Hawksbill Mountain and a knob called Naked Top, about two miles and a bit away as the trail winds, probably five miles altogether to and fro." Patti emerging from the storage tent proclaimed: "I've got my sneakers on! Let's do it!"

In short time we were making for the trail.

For close to an hour we had been at an overly easy pace with a fair amount of stopping and looking. Flip and R.W. often trailed behind. A few times we lost sight of them and had to wait. Upon passing the turn off to that small trail that led down beside Little Hawksbill Creek Flip's beady eyes began to dart about. His breathing got louder. I questioned his condition. "You alright?" He turned his narrow head and gazed down the small path.
"Oh that." I said, then slapped his back and added: "Come on Flip, let's get moving." Reluctantly he moved on with the rest of us up the Appalachian Trail and until we rounded a trail bend he shot a few looks back with a longing in his dark beady eyes. While going around that bend we began to ascend a sloping ridge. Reaching near the top we came upon a small swift moving stream that cascaded down from the mountain. It was decided we would climb up this run, catch us a good one and kick back for awhile.
And climb we did from rock to rock until coming upon a suitable flat surface to lounge. It was a wide flat chunk of granite on which we perched some hundred and fifty feet above the trail. One side of us was thick with leafy branches, where the other gave us a view back down. The small stream cascaded down beside our large flat resting rock. Following a good gulp from my canteen, I lit up one of the bones then passed it on. Going around and down to a small brown roach, we all got a few decent hits. Burnt down to almost naught, I set the roach free upon the swift down flowing waters. We all watched it go over a small fall. Patti, eyes stoned half closed bade farewell: "Bye." She said with a slow wave.

I turned my attention to our surroundings thinking this is the kind of place one could sit and marvel at the wonders of nature for hours. Then something caught my eye. It was a good sized crayfish picking at a dead salamander in the clear still pool behind a big rock. With it's pincers, the crustacean tore away chunks of white soggy decomposing flesh from the amphibian. A shadowy reflection cast over this small pool resulted in the crayfish dropping it's feast then swiftly retreating in a backwards motion under a rock.
"What are you looking at?" It was Claudia squatting down beside me as the crayfish zipped off backwards in a tail paddling escape.
"Oh somebody having lunch."
"Who?"
I pointed to what was left of the spring lizard"
"What was it?"
"A salamander."
"No, I meant what was eating it?" Before I could answer, Patti, who was a good ways up-there, asked R.W.: "So are you going to get up with 'Muffin' at her RV later?"
"Her name is Yvonne." R.W. reminded Patti.
Patti giggled. "Oh yes, Yvonne. How could I've forgotten?"
"Thinking about it." replied R.W. answering her teasing question.
Then Claudia got in on it. "Yvonne is it, so that's the girl you met at the lodge? " Continuing Claudia said. "Nothing good shall come of that."
"Of what?" R.W. asked.
She repeated, this time liken to a soothsayer's warning. "Nothing good for you shall come of that."
"Of what?" R.W. demanded, now standing and appearing a bit bothered.
Head tilted up with eyes closed Claudia looked as she was searching for a name, then turned to R.W. With blazing eyes she said: "While you guys stopped off at the restroom on our way out Patti told me told me about the young lady you met. Hmmm, now what was her name?"
"Muffin." Patti chuckled.
"Oh yes Yvonne." Claudia said, "Nothing good will come of putting her little group together with your people."
"Well she was hitting on me." R.W. stated, "I planned to go up to see her by myself."
Making a sad face I asked: "You mean we can't come too?"
"Invite them to our camp for some fun." Patti suggested with a rare slightly sinister smile.
"Hell no, you think I want somebody like her around,,," R.W. cut himself short, no doubt not wanting to get pushed in the stream for some lame hastily spouted words.
"It may be already too late for that." Claudia warned.
"Too late for what?" Patti inquired.
"Well that's what's camping is all about." I interjected.
Claudia gave me a disturbed look. "Meaning?"
"Meaning it's all about the experiences, be they good, or not so good."
Patti then added: "And meeting new and exciting people."
"Don't forget strange." Flip said, his beady eyes still darting about.

And strange it had been thus far and it would probably continue to be.

Not wanting to have parts of my vacationing future predicted, I stooped down then cupped both hands into the cold mountain water to wet my face. Standing I asked: "Ready to go?"
Soon we were carefully making our way down this swift moving run and back on the trail. Flip and R.W. began to lag behind. Having enough of playing catch-up, Claudia, Patti and I reached the trail then continued to follow it around yet another twisting bend. After a couple of hundred yards I called a halt and took a gander at the trail behind me.
"Where are they at?" Claudia asked in a tone clear to me she was eager to go on. It was then an ugly realization flashed in my skull. "I have a pretty good idea." were my next words before turning around and quick stepping it back the way we came.

Upon reaching where the stream flowed down I was about to call their names, but thought better of it. Instead I moved down a little, checking a patch of loose sandy dirt on the trail. Seeing their long deep tracks that had plowed through the dirt told me they were shit-n-getting it at this point. 'Bet they dashed off after we went around the bend.' was my grim thought. Claudia and Patti had caught up with me as I pondered over their tracks. "Well?" Claudia inquired.
"They're heading back south and moving fast." I informed them, pointing at the tracks.Claudia seeming a little miffed at the situation looked at me and said: "You guys are just too weird. Is this another one of your traditional antics?"
"We have to trail and catch up with them!" I replied.
"Why?" Claudia demanded.
"Got to get up with them and quick, before they get themselves in a pickle"
"How so?"
Not wanting to spill the beans, but seeing no way to avoid giving an explanation, I offered them a quick account of Flip's and my discovery of the secret garden last Saturday.
"I thought that stuff tasted fresh." Claudia commented.
Patti chuckled and asked me - "So you think they're going after some more?"
"I don't think, I know they are."
"So why all this?" Patti wanted to know.
"There has to be a few good pounds of that shit growing down near the Little Hawksbill." Swearing I went on. "Son of a bitch! I told that greedy bastard we had clipped enough!" Claudia wanted to know what we were going to do. "Catch up with their sorry asses and stop them, if it ain't too late" I replied, adding: "So lets get moving "Claudia, Patti and I set off at a swift pace, but after about a hundred yards Claudia slowed it down, asking herself aloud: "Why am I running for?" Patti and I raced forward, but turning my head long enough to remind Claudia of the path we were making for so as she would know where to find us.

In good time Patti and I made it back to Little Hawksbill Creek, caught our breath, then proceeded down the little winding footpath. As we closed distance Patti asked if I was going to hurt anybody. She informed me: "I don't like seeing violence."
"Hurt some feelings perhaps, though I should crack both their skulls." I whispered, then advised Patti to keep it quiet from here on out.
Continuing down this ever twisting path I looked out and up at the rock outcropping we had smoked that crappy brown weed at. Carefully we picked our way down silently as possible. Patti proved to be quite surefooted and agile as we slunk down inclines or around steep sided bends. There was something in the air as my hackles rose. After a bit more stealthy down hill trekking the ground leveled out somewhat and looked all too familiar. Throwing up my hand I signaled a halt as just up ahead was the rise where a treasure in high grade reefer stood tall and growing. I motioned to advance slowly. Rounding a large clump of wild azalea, I signaled another halt. This time we both heard a little rustling, but could not be sure what was causing it.

We stood still, like deer before the dash, but my eyes scanned our surroundings and not long did I have to peer about before beholding a sight. There they were at the top edge of the rise, crouched low against a large thick sticker bramble. Flip appeared to be peering ahead through the tangle while R.W. was looking dead at me with an index finger up to his lips. 'Don't like the looks of this.' I thought noticing Flip's white shirt that could be seen for miles and maybe through this thick bramble as well.

The minutes dragged on as we all held our positions, not knowing quite what was going on. Soon the birds were singing again and I could even hear a blue jay in the distance fussing at something. Suddenly the birds fell silent and I could feel my body tensing up for the dash, but did not bolt because of another sound coming down the path. At first it sounded faint but flowing, but as it grew louder I could tell it was someone singing. I recall saying something under my breath like - "Oh shit" and chanced being spotted by turning to look up the path. Now all heads turned in that direction, all eyes wide in terrible wonder as now the singing got louder and we could make out the lyrics.
Heart pounding and poised for full flight, my jaw dropped. I could feel my legs shake pretty much in the same manner as they did when I had a big fish fighting at the end of a line. The melody flowed around me -

“A song to him
without him
I just want to die.

Make up some words
that are all in rhyme
words that will live
til the end of time,,,,”

The song trailed off to a hum.

From atop the rise came a great racket of something crashing forward through the foliage not far behind Flip and R.W who zipped down from their bramble hideout and halted near me.
"Lets make tracks boys." I whispered, but just as we started to flee Claudia came into view and was approaching our position still humming as if nothing was out of order. She stopped beside the azaleas just as two hulking figures charged down the rise. At first they were a blur of movement in the brush, but once they came into the clear, I got a good look at them.

'Oh shit! This is it.' I fearfully thought.

It was the same two law enforcement officials Claudia, Flip and I had encountered at the base of Spitler Hill. In no time the larger one was on us while the smaller one kept a bit of distance. Not having their weapons drawn was a good sign I supposed. Smiling I offered a greeting. "Howdy" to which they did not return in kind.
"Well there you are!" Claudia happily shouted, "You'll get yourselves lost wandering off like that!"
Looking at the two slack jawed officers she said: "Well hello again gentlemen, thanks for finding these lost tenderfoots." Claudia then asked us: "So you see anything flying around?" Catching her drift ahead of the rest of us Flip replied: "No, but thought we heard some wild turkey pecking and scratching up there in the brush, but it was only these guys." Hearing that, the larger of the pair grimaced while the smaller one ambled up a bit closer and said with a clucking chuckle: "Look here what we have, the birdwatchers."
We all displayed idiotic grins and attempted to give greetings which were cut short by the large one’s authoritative barking. "Thought we already told a few of you to stay on the main trails!"
Taking a chance I replied: "We thought this was a main trail."
"No sir, this is off limits too." The smaller one stated, "Give you a hint, the main trails are blazed with signs or color markings. Didn't you people pick up any info about the trails?"
Pointing at Flip I blurted out: "He was suppose to, but got all caught up buying snacks instead." Continuing to play dumb I asked: "Hey did you guys find some bear traps up there or something?"
The large one gritted on me and growled: "None of your business!"
Rewarding his huge partner's brashness with a pat on his back the smaller one's face twisted into a sinister smile as he answered my lame question. "Yeah , we got some trapping going on up there." He went on: "In fact, for your own personal safety and well being I advise y'all to get back up there to the main trail before somebody ends up with their foot in a trap."

Catching his meaning and counting our blessings all of us gave head nods for goodbyes, except for Claudia who thanked them again for finding her companions, bidding them: "Goodbye gentlemen, keep up the good work." That said, we departed back up the path.

Moving swiftly up the twisting path and around a few bends we called a halt to make sure no one was following. Secure in knowing they were not trailing us and forgetting for the moment she could very well be a critter, I looked down at Claudia's binoculars resting upon that superb bosom like a badge of a beloved hobby. Raising my eyes I returned Claudia’s smile and engulfed her in a sudden hug.
Still smiling she asked: "What's all this?"
"Thanks for saving our hides." then I complemented her for that quick bit of thinking and just for showing up when she did.
"Nothing out of the ordinary." She stated, "You guys wandered off and got lost and with the help of those kind government employees you all were found." I had to give credit where credit is due, it was Claudia who more or less pulled us out of that jam, which had me thinking about what got us jammed in the first place.

"You dumb fucks, we could of all went down!"

Claudia quelled my angry words by saying: "Nobody went down. It wasn't meant to be." Then she continued on as if nothing happened at all the while commenting about scenery as well as plant and insect species. I marveled at this woman and again felt myself being passionately drawn to her
Upon reaching the Appalachian Trail I called another halt.
"It's probably a good thing we're all leaving Big Meadows tomorrow." Claudia said with a strange look in her eyes. Needless to say today’s hiking experience was a complete buzz-kill. Not only did the actions of some put the whole encampment at risk, it was yet another fray in the fabric of a trusting friendship. Had Flip and R.W. not heard slight stirrings coming from the secret garden, things would of no doubt gone in a different direction, especially if they were caught while picking and packing.
R.W. recounted: "We heard them no sooner than Flip and I got near the top. We hid behind the stickers."
"Oh I saw you up there as still as baby cottontails." I reminded him. Still somewhat pissed, I turned to Flip and asked: "Just had to go back for more, didn't you?"
Eyes darting about before sinking down on the dirt Flip gave what explanation he could manage - "Wasn't gonna get it all, maybe just a few more ounces worth."
"Fuck man!" I barked, then went on to remind him of his existing fortune. "You already got a big bag full back at camp!"

Claudia was right, it would be a good idea to leave this area tomorrow as I had a notion those two government employees suspected something but decided not to act upon it. Perhaps they knew someone had been in the secret garden recently snipping off a few good fat buds, but looked at us as little fish to be thrown back into the river of life. One thing we knew to be certain, that secret garden was nearing harvest, but this seemed to be a case of the law being on to those secret gardeners who were probably already on to the law and had abandoned that particular patch. The rest of our time here we would have to keep a low profile.

Unhindered, we made our way back to Big Meadows..

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#45 Horne

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 01:04 AM

I see I have some major catching up to do, thanks for continuing your story Atehequa. :)
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“Awake becomes
what once was known,

forgetfulness is fleeting.”


#46 Atehequa

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 02:46 PM

I see I have some major catching up to do, thanks for continuing your story Atehequa. :smile:

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Glad you're enjoying it.

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#47 Atehequa

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 02:48 PM

Hopeless Immortals! How they scream and shiver
while devils push them into the pit wide yawning
hideous and gloomy, to receive them headlong.

~ Isaac Watts

Upon entering camp and before I had a chance to speak, R.W. rushed in blabbing away about what occurred down by the Little Hawksbill Creek. Denny, Whitey, Charlie were all ears and The Bear leaned forward, with a big grin to hear of our misadventure. Not wanting anyone else present either bold, stupid or drunk enough to attempt another raid I shushed R.W. up before he disclosed the secret garden's location.
"Where is it?" Charlie asked, then quickly composed a plan. "We could sneak in and grab them tonight or early in the morning."
By the look in Whitey's eyes he was thinking about it and Denny showed a spark of interest as well. "Charlie and Whitey can go in for the grab, while I stand look out."
Somewhat intoxicated, but nobody's fool when it came to raiding, Whitey promptly informed Denny: "If I go in by myself, it's all mine."
Flip still a bit moved and a little shaken by his experience down by the Little Hawksbill lashed out with some sharp edged sound reasoning . "Try it! We'll pack it all up and leave your sorry ass at the mercy of those ogre-like law dogs!" The Bear then boomed: "I'll second that Flip, by breaking the skull of any man who tries, I'm not going to jail for your stupidity!" He then smiled and said: "There some hot sausages I grilled up while y'all were running around in the woods. They're underneath that foil and should still be warm."
Patti giggled and asked: "Hot sausages that are still warm?"
We all howled with laughter.
"Hot sausage that are still warm!" Bear repeated mirthfully, his eyes half-closed and bloodshot and holding his belly he laughed.

Something was noticeably different about Bear there were happy fires flickering in those bloodshot and glassy grey eyes. Flip was looking at him as well. Quelling Bear's laughter with a tap on his head, I waved a finger in his face and inquired: “Alright you big oaf, what the hell have you gotten into while we were gone?"
The Bear stammered as he attempted to jump start a reply off of Charlie's monkey-like cackling. "Hey man, I got bored while you guys were gone, so we went into Flip's tent and had us one." With a tilted head he gave me a challenging smirk. It was apparent Bear was stoned out of his gourd.
I held back my laughter and asked: "So you had one, got fucked up and grilled up some hot sausages?"
Patti mirthfully reminded us: "Hot sausages that are still warm!"
The Bear burst out in a guffaw, then fell silent and directed a question to me. "Yeah, I got fucked up and grilled up those sausages." He then demanded: "What about it, who the fuck are you, a commonwealth attorney?"
"Hey man" I replied, "Help yourself, knock yourself out, smoke yourself silly, but you better get some pickle juice and water through that plumbing of yours before going back to the woes of the real world."
Not wanting to be pulled down, he waved my doom and gloom away from his lofty place.” No sweat man, I've drank worse. Besides they just pissed tested me a week and a half ago.” Changing the subject somewhat he gleefully commented: “Hey man that’s some heavy duty smoke y’all got there, but if it was me a few years back who came across that treasure, I would of snagged it all from the get go.”

The Great Bear was cooked.

I could hardly suppress a chuckle when recalling the way he smiled while threatening to fracture skulls earlier. It was good to see Bear 'up there' once again. Perhaps this was the time to touch upon how we should keep a low profile, but decided discuss it later after Bear told me to get some lunch. Lifting a makeshift foil cover off the paper plate full of processed meat I complemented Bear on his grilling prowess. "Oh look, the grill marks are perfect, just like on the hot dog commercials."
Bear was overly particular about his outdoor cooking to the point of being anal at times. Oh how he could get a black seared cross pattern on a rib eye or ham steak and would threaten the same of anyone's face who got too close to his grill. I placed sausage on a bun, applied mustard and then bit into this treat.
"Holy fucking shit!" I gasped. It was hot and I'm not talking warmth. It slipped from my fingers and hit the table with a dull thud. I was in desperate need of liquid, something to wash this atomic snack down. I swiftly made for the cooler. Downing an ale in a single guzzle, I heard Bear slur: "Warm sausages that are hot!" He went on to inform me: "They're from South Carolina, got em from a guy at work, his uncle makes em extra hot."
"With my vocal cords still in a bit of a scorched twist, I managed to say: "You could leave those out overnight and they'd still be hot the next morning."
"Not only that, they burn you twice." Bear added with a devilish smile.
Getting another ale my reply was: "Something else to look forward to, glad we got some ice."

Finding I could tolerate the atomic sausage with cold ale, my lunch went down like Greek fire.

Bear kindly offered: "Get yourself another one."
"Oh, I'm fine ." I assured him, then belched forth flame.
Sweat pouring out of his head Charlie bragged:"I ate two of them!"
Although caustic, this meal was still a thoughtful gesture on Bear's part.
Claudia passed on the sausage, as did Whitey. The Dibbles having cast iron stomachs, fell upon the red-hots. Denny who had not long awoke was pouring hot sauce on his.
"Get you one Patti," Bear offered, but she said: "Hell no, I'm not biting into the devil's weenie. Eat those things and poop molten lava in the morning, if not sooner if you want, but I ain't!"
Patti and Whitey started grilling some regular hot dogs instead.
I looked down and saw the flies or ants would not even go near a chunk of atomic sausage that had fell to the ground.

Then from the loop road we heard the sound of tires turning gravel.

All eyes were trained on the loop road as we watched, waited, expecting anything. Following the incident down at Little Hawksbill, some of us were a little on edge.
As it drew more near, I breathed a sigh of relief having recognized the engine’s sound. It was Mildred and Guy and they were now slowing to a halt. Claudia waved them in. Pulling off slowly, Guy backed the station wagon in front of his pop-up and a short while later they walked into camp. Other than the damage caused by that atomic sausage lunch and those two ales my head was clear enough to take notice of Guy's strange shambling gate. His eyes seemed to be looking somewhere over our heads as he gazed above and beyond. I could not focus on Mildred, she moved in a hazy blur. Even after rubbing my eyes, her features were still blurry. Blinking heavily Flip was cleaning his glasses with a paper towel. The Bear had a hand shading his eyes as if attempting to cut glare. All of the others except Charlie, blinked or rubbed their eyes as they looked at Mildred. No doubt by this point every thing appeared blurry to my cousin as he offered Mildred and Guy a hot sausage. Mildred declined while Guy just stood there staring out into the woods.

Speaking without all that much emotion in a monotone voice , Mildred recounted her and Guy's visit to Sperryville. The whole time her eyes were locked on to Claudia's . With a quick nod of his shaggy head, Bear signaled me to look at Guy, whose tongue was hanging out as he stared at tree bark. Not taking her eyes off Mildred, Claudia said: “Tomorrow we’ll all be in the Fort Valley having a great time.”
"Sounds great." Mildred replied while still looking directly into Claudia’s amber eyes. Watching Guy who was now scratching and sniffing tree bark, Bear burst out in hysterical laughter. With her lazy eye twitching Mildred announced: "Sorry we can't hang around, but we have some more sightseeing to do."
Breaking eye contact with Claudia, Mildred strolled over to Guy, grabbed his hand, led him off towards their camp. A half of minute later the station wagon pulled out again.
Flip, R.W. and Whitey's faces went slack into what I would describe as a 'what the fuck?’ look of amazement. Denny on the other hand was fixing up a hot dog while Charlie guzzled booze and blathered nonsense. Patti as always was her cheerful self. In his elated state Bear with a big goofy smile waved at Mildred and Guy as they drove off. He then tilted his shaggy head back and gazed up at the leafy green canopy. Mumbling something under his breath he turned his attention to Claudia.

Taking more notice of my huge friend, I saw he was going through some weird changes. With teeth now bared in a savage smile and heavy brows knotted over his stormy grey eyes I knew something was getting ready to go down. All I could do was sit there somewhat freaked out, sipping my ale thinking - 'Four or five days from now they'll find us at some campground in our tents, sucked dry into a crispy nothingness, much like melba toast.'

The Bear still had that weird smile on his face as things were going on behind those savage grey eyes. Suddenly without a word stood up and leaned in over the table while holding Claudia’s amber eyes in a rather savage gaze. Seconds dragged before he spoke in a sharp clear voice. "I think we can have a lot of fun down at Fort Valley, don't you?"
This was followed by a short rumbling growl. Claudia involuntarily drew back and recoiled as Bear leaned in a little further adding with a beast-like grin: "I can't wait, how about you?" He had the savage visage of something that had stop fleeing and turned at bay. He seemed more scary than angry. Claudia was either startled at Bear's behavior. There were times the reefer combined with alcohol brought out a wild devil may care side of him. He was unpredictable at those times. Perhaps it was best Bear didn't mess with weed hardly anymore, but now under the influence he was quite a sight. Flip also knowing anything could happen now, shot me a nervous glance. Nodding his shaggy head as if some understanding was made clear, Bear seated himself. He pointed at Claudia and calmly requested: "Could you get me something to drink?" Almost as if she was obliging some tribal hetman's command, Claudia rose from the bench and asked - "What would you like?"
"Well if old Fisher Kat here doesn't mind, I'd like to have one of his ales."
Denny, Flip, R.W. Whitey and even Charlie looked on in amazement as Claudia walked over to my cooler, plucked out an ale, opened the bottle and poured it into his horn. With a slight bow she handed Bear his refreshment and gracefully seated herself. Claudia sat looking at the table with a mysterious little smile upon her face. Perhaps Bear made an impression on Claudia or maybe even turned her on a bit, but not in a Tom Jones or Michael Bolton sort of way.

Feeling it was high time for me to experience a change in altitude, I announced: "I'm going in the tent. Last one in zip up the flap."

Time for me to take a soaring hawk’s view of our grand heathen vacation encampment. Upon entering the tent I heard Bear's folding camp chair creak over the sound of footfalls.
Just as I seated myself near the stash Patti, Charlie, Denny, Flip and Whitey poured in behind me. The others stayed outside. Whitey started to zip the flap, but ceased when we all heard a booming voice. "Hold on for one more!" Bear entered slowly and carefully seated himself on Flip's bedding. We formed a close circle of seven and shared the leftover bone from our earlier ill fated hike. Bear in his revisited state of weed induced bliss tended to be somewhat of a bogart. Between him and Charlie hogging the bone, I had to roll two more. One for now, the other for later. The second one proved to be a bit too much for Bear as he burst out into a fit of red faced guffawing after looking at Charlie. "Make him stop!" The Bear managed to get out between laughter and breaths that now had become a tittering wheeze. Charlie kept looking at him with a comical bug eyed, puckered mouth, shaky Don Knotts-like face. The Bear's face was now almost purple prompting me to suggest: "Calm down, catch your breath man, you're not getting enough air to your noodle."
"That's it,,,, for me." He laughed.
"I'll say." Flip added with a wink, then helped the big man up and out of the tent. Much too high for this dome tent ceiling, we exited as well.

"I got your hotdogs off the grill, but I'm sorry to say they're burnt almost black." R.W. informed Patti. She smiled and said: "Thank ya baby, that's the way I like em." She then proceeded to fix them up with some relish and mustard."You gonna eat all three of them?" Flip asked then said: "They look kind of good"
"You can have one." Patti offered.
They scarfed down their blackened dogs swiftly, then ripped into a bag of potato chips. Charlie and Bear had got into the large box of toothpicks and were now attempting to build tiny cabin-like structures upon our picnic table as Claudia watched their work with keen interest. Whitey popped open another beer, guzzled it down and waited until Charlie had his little cabin almost finished, then leaned over, feigned a sneeze causing toothpicks to scatter. Whitey had destroyed Charlie's tiny engineering marvel. Only the Bear's great shielding paws saved his tiny cabin from a similar fate. Hurling a handful of toothpicks at Whitey, Charlie bawled: "Mutha-fukka! You did that on purpose!"
"Do you have sneeze damage coverage on your insurance policy?" Whitey asked laughing and shaking toothpicks out of his hair. Bringing out a knife, Bear cut out a small square from a paper plate then placed it atop his toothpick cabin for it’s roof. This final phase of construction caused the whole thing to crumble. He stared hard at the tiny ruins for a couple of minutes then asked Claudia to get him another ale.

"You fuckers owe me a box of toothpicks!" Flip hissed while looking at the mess.

Toothpick cabins soon forgotten, Bear, Charlie and Whitey engaged themselves in substance induced gibberish.
"Mind if I get an ale?" Claudia asked, adding - "Think I could use one right about now." Reaching into the cooler I pulled one out, opened and handed it to her. She thanked me with a seductive smile that had my heart pounding.

It was then we heard people approaching on foot.

The sound of their noisy approach reached us before they came into view. Flip and I stood at ready for whatever was about to come. Walking into our encampment without the courtesy of a call in they strolled up towards the table. The Birdman and I had moved close to either side of their party while Denny half-circled behind them. The Great Bear rose before them like a mountain of flesh completing the surround.

There were four of them, three young women and a teenage male, all looking somewhat frightened and no doubt now wondering if it was indeed a wise decision entering this encampment uninvited and unannounced. I quickly recognized Yvonne, but not before R.W. who was now on his feet greeting the young lady and telling us to -

"Ease up fellows, it's Yvonne and her friends come to visit."

Yvonne turned around only to see Denny checking her out with a broad smile upon his face, remaining silent awaiting any formalities. One of them, a short plump girl with dark big hair, spoke out. "Like maybe this is a bad time?" Her perfume made my eyes water. Although her face was plastered with makeup she had an olive complexion. Perhaps a Mediterranean of some type. Taking notice of Bear's bloodshot grey eyes, she closed her mouth and looked down. The other girl, an east Asian had sense enough to offer us a quick bow, then gave apology for rudely barging in. That was followed by greetings and introductions. "Hi I'm Holly." She turned to the big haired girl and said: "This is Ruthie, and that's her brother Dave." Holly pointed at the chubby kid with spiked hair. She then added - "And you've already met Yvonne"
"Not me" Denny said, stepping around and in front of his brother to face the comely young lady. "Hey Yvonne, I'm Denny."
At this first meeting Yvonne was either terrified or quite taken with Denny as her eyes were blinking and her lips parted a little. Denny did not care either way as his gaze was fixed upon her shapely young form. Before this starry eyed introduction progressed any further R.W. cut in between the two. "Well hey, Yvonne." he embraced the young lady, but Yvonne's arms hung limp at her sides. Maybe all of this was too much for the young woman to get a handle on. Denny moved beside R.W. and asked: "You’re not even going to introduce your own brother to this beautiful young lady?" Yvonne managed several words. "Wow! You didn't tell me you have a brother."

As the Dibbles went on to spread tail feathers and perform their courtship strutting, Charlie offered them a drink which Ruthie and Dave swiftly accepted all before more sober minded folk could step in a stop such a foolish act. Charlie poured two good measures of Vodka into plastic cups and slipped them to the under aged young adults. The one called Dave sucked his vodka down then held out the plastic cup for another.
It was Patti who first took action by getting up and strolling over to them then inquired: "How old are you two?"
Although neither looked over nineteen, both replied at the same time. "Twenty one" Patti wanted to know - "So you're twins?"
Ruthie looked at Dave then issued a "Yuck!" adding: "Twins? No way!"
"Then how is it you're both twenty one?" Patti asked while taking the drink from Ruthie's hand. Holly turned to Ruthie and Dave and assured them - "Hey it's alright, we don't want to get these people into trouble." The one called Dave rolled his eyes and dropped the empty red plastic cup on our table. Cleary he was upset about not getting that second shot.

Having teenagers at home and enjoying the company of younger people, Bear had more tolerance when it came to dealing with kids. He rose from his folding camping throne, smiled then spoke directly at Holly, perhaps figuring she was the nearest thing to a leader they had. "I'm truly sorry for all of this. Charlie here didn't know, but we can't serve you guys anymore alcohol, but, we have soft drinks and hot sausages if you're hungry."
The one called Dave sneered, once again rolled his eyes and then whispered something in Ruthie's ear. Looking upon such bad manners with a rare scowl on her face, Patti seemed ready to jump time on these youngsters, then her mouth split into a wide smile, followed by a snicker and - "How about you Yvonne, care for some hot sausage?" With that Charlie burst into a drunken guffaw and grabbed his crotch. Patti threw her arms around Charlie then grinding against him. Ruthie gasped watching a jet of beer come out of Whitey's nose. All of us except for Bear and R.W. cackled like monkeys. Yvonne blushed and snorted then Bear banged his walking stick against a cooler to regain general order and respect. "Alright, y'all stop that, they're young, just like we use to be."
"Speak for yourself." Whitey said jerking a thumb at Dave’s direction. Holly spoke: "No thanks, we already had lunch. We were just out for a walk" The young Asian woman seemed to be the most diplomatic and level headed of the quartet. "Let's go." Dave said, backing out of the camp onto the loop road. He then called the others of his company over for some whispered conversation. Amused by all of this Flip and I watched and waited for what would come next. Claudia on the other hand licked her lips while looking out at the youngsters as if they were a four course meal. Whitey slugged down some more beer, nodded his head over at Dave and made a jerking-off motion with his hand. Both Dibbles stood poised and were gazing fondly at Yvonne. The brothers had many loves and passions. Travel, adventure, fine dining, celebration, art, literature, socializing and most of all young women whom they often competed for favor. At times this led to violent quarreling.

Oh how the fur would fly.

Every so often these squabbles proved to be rather humorous and entertaining, but for the most part they were disgusting and beneath the band's standards. Fighting with kin or childhood friends over was looked down upon. The Dibbles were both handsome men who had little trouble catching a woman's eye, but they had other issues.
Holly, Ruthie, Yvonne and Dave began to walk away, but as they departed Yvonne shouted out to R.W. - "Bring Denny when you come up!"
"Carry your asses!” Patti returned.
"They won't be coming back" Bear snarled as if he was ashamed and angered by our behavior, then proceeded to berate Charlie for giving them liquor."Like you were never were a teenager looking to cop a buzz." Charlie argued."Yeah but I had a fake ID and bought my own booze back then." Bear returned, adding: "But if they got their own hooch up at their RV, then that's their business and I ain't holding it against them." He then growled: "Shouldn't fuck with them just because they're young!"
"They were fucking rude" Patti countered - "Entered without a hello and left without so much as a goodbye, excluded all of us from an invitation up to their place except for the pretty boys here. Fuck em!" Then she spat on the ground. 'Damn' I thought - 'Never seen her like this.' Although an exotic dancer working at one of the most rough and tumble go-go joints in Virginia, Patti had always been like a happy go lucky bird of beautiful plummage flitting through a wide array of well off horn dogs, power drunks and outlaw bikers, ruffians who would drag somebody out back and kick the life out of them without a second thought or loss of gusto for that next beer.

She seemed a bit steamed up.

"You had no call to get shitty with them!" R.W. loudly complained.
Patti got right in his face and asked: "Shitty meaning rude?"
"What, you don't think they heard that?"
"Heard what ?"
Eyes slit in anger R.W. quoted her. "Carry your asses!"
"I wanted them to hear me."
"Well they probably did." R.W. said then turned his attention to Denny who was throwing a towel over his shoulder along with a shower bag.
"Where the fuck are you going man?" R.W. demanded to which Denny replied: "I‘m going up to the shower house, if that's alright with you."
"For what?" R.W. wanted to know.
"To take a shower."
"What for?"
"To get clean, you fucking dumb ass, what the hell do you think?"
R.W. stuck his chest out and warned his brother: "Don't be following up on Yvonne, I met her first!"
"So you've called dibs on her?" Denny inquired stuffing a washcloth into his bag, obviously enjoying watching his brother getting worked up into a tizzy. "A Dibble calling dibs!" Whitey laughed, then asked: "What's next, Flip flipping out or Bear becoming overbearing?"

Casting a disgusted glare over at the two brothers in between tents bickering like old roosters over a house full of hens Flip stated: "Look at them, not even fully drunk yet and going at it with each other over a blossom neither one has fully sniffed."
"I suspect there may be a wasp or spider hidden under the petals of that flower." I returned watching Denny prance out of camp like a rutting buck. R.W. marching back to the table was livid and shaking his fist at Denny who had turned long enough to give his brother a shit eating grin as he headed for the showers then probably beyond.
"I'll break some heads if need be." Bear thus reminded everyone to keep good order. Very much still up there, the big man didn't want anyone bringing him down. Threatening broken bones, Bear would enforce a policy of peaceful merriment. "Claudia chuckled and stated: "Never a dull waking moment with you guys, huh?"
"Oh this is just the regular out on a bender hooting and howling holiday, you're lucky none of us are doing hard drugs and carrying firearms." I informed her.

Flip never being one to sit still for long, got up and threw himself into the task of making preparations for tomorrow's move. He removed then stored all but the one tarp over our table and packed up supplies. With that out of the way we sat back and enjoyed our remaining time at Big Meadows. Claudia and Patti played a card game while the rest of us engaged in small talk by the fire. Charlie was totally slammed, the hours of heavy drinking had not only taken a toll upon him, but our liquor stocks as well. Whitey was in slightly better condition, but his beer supply was almost exhausted and no doubt very soon would be bumming brew from us. Very much still up there, Bear settled down for some guzzling. Flip wanted to smoke another one, while I had a yearning to be gone from this drunken wallow and out on a trail.

By my guess an hour of this merriment went by without a sign of Denny. R.W. had noticed it as well and was now pacing about the camp in a snit and puffing on a cigarette. Looking at his watch he swore under his breath. "Damn it!" He snarled then snagged a full ceramic cup of vodka from Charlie, drained it before marching out to take watch on the loop road.
"Just look at him." The Bear commented, "Why he's boiling over."
Whitey with great remorse popped open his last can of swill, shook his head and said: "Them Dibbles are gonna be locking horns before the night is done."
"He should sit his silly ass down, enjoy life and thank his lucky stars he's not behind bars in some holding cell with Flip here." I stated still somewhat pissed about our earlier misadventure. Pulling out some wadded up bills Whitey wagered: "I got ten bucks here that says R.W. will whomp Denny this time." Pointing his drinking horn at Whitey, Bear growled: "Well I got twenty bucks here that says I'll stomp anyone into the ground if they start any monkey shit at this camp.”

R.W. lighting up another cigarette paced back and forth across the loop road kicking gravel at every turn about. "We can't have him making tracks up to that RV and starting some shit." The Bear had no sooner said when R.W. quick-stepped it back into camp proclaiming he was going up to the RV. Draining another cup of vodka he then demanded a ride. "You need to sit your ass down, relax, burn one and cool off." Bear so ordered then went on to say: "If you and your brother must throw down, then take it out deep in the woods somewhere. We can't have you fellows scrapping and rolling around in the dirt like stray cats, hissing, screaming and bringing down the heat on the rest of us. You dig? Tell him Skid."
I knew exactly what Bear wanted me to say. Oh how I knew the words so well. It concerned something that gave us great pride. I took a quaff of ale, cleared my throat then said in a loud voice: "We've never got caught breaking any rules or caused any trouble that would get us expelled from a state or federal park campground."
"We never have been kicked out of a place like this." The Bear reminded R.W., but it sounded more like a warning. It was then Flip remembered he wanted to burn some more weed. He offered us all invitation to join him. Charlie patted R.W. on his back and said: "Forget about that dizzy chick. Smoke with us."
"Might as well." R.W. said with a sigh then added: "But that Yvonne is a fox, eh?"
"Probably looking to hook up with some booze or weed." Whitey dryly stated.

Accepting Flip's invitation Claudia, Charlie, R.W and Whitey piled into the tent. Seeing I was not the only one sitting this one out, "Y'all not going in there?" Bear informed me that was it for him while Patti claimed to be holding off until later. She asked me: "How about you?"
Picking up a canteen and grabbing my pack out of Flip's truck, I then took up my walking stick and replied: "Nope, a bit too crowded in there for my likes. Think I'm gonna get out on the trail to take a good walk without any of the antics we experienced earlier today." I invited her to come along, but Patti assured me she had enough of the trails for one day. "Have fun, be safe and stay on the main trails." She said then bid me farewell. Bear grunted out a goodbye as well.

Bowing to my friends, I turned and struck out on my own.

In no time I was on The Appalachian Trail heading North again. It felt good to be alone for a change and away from the drunken wallow our camp had become Not being slowed down or distracted by stragglers and would be reefer raiders I made good time. Soon I was nearing that path by The Little Hawksbill, my tread became light and silent.
Feeling confident my passing was not detected by any gun packing ogre further down the path. I came to a halt but not before making the big bend and ascending the rise. Now beside me cascaded the stream we had took rest at earlier. Checking that same patch of lose dirt I saw that no one else had passed or lay track. Shifting my pack, I left the trail and ascended with great stealth. Upon reaching the large flat rock the five of us had sat earlier I stood still, scanned my surroundings before sitting down. Pulling out a bone from a pack of cigarettes, I had myself an enjoyable highland smoke. Barely finishing that bone, I flicked the roach upon the swift moving water.
"Eat that, crawdad." I chuckled while looking down at the place where a dead salamander was earlier. I took a long gander down this falling stream that cut a narrow swath through the green upland growth. What a view and unlike my first noonday visit, all was well shaded. For awhile my mind emptied all woeful thoughts and I focused upon the pristine beauty of this spot. Hearing only an occasional chirp and falling waters I thought: 'This would be a good place for one to spend life's last fleeting minutes before forever taking a place in the spirit world.'

A large metallic blue shelled beetle making it's way across the rock caught my attention

Was this a case of being much too whacked out on booze and high grade trip weed going on four days, or was something very strange afoot.
I thought about Bear. Hopefully he wouldn't cleave anyone's head in my absence. Then there were the Dibbles. No telling how long it would be until they start jumping time on each other. That kind of disorderly conduct can not be tolerated and is against the rules. Behavior that could very well bring us unwanted company.

Pondering deeply I lost all track of time as my thoughts returned to Claudia.
.
Part of me wanted to believe the best, that she, Mildred and Guy were naught but free spirited, fun loving older people, out on a road trip, enjoying the scenery, looking to get buzzed. And Claudia? Hopefully some young looking old broad wanting to sow her wild wanton oats in a tent, a truck bed or under an open sky. Another part of me feared she was either some kind of soul sucking vampire. After all, she did appear to be much younger than when we first met only days ago. However this could be an illusion brought about by the gradual coloring of her hair. Looking down I took notice of a part of me that wanted to have a roll in a sleeping bag with this beautiful and mysterious woman, whether she was human or not. Being rather ripped on high quality weed, my thoughts bounced about possibilities, stirring that other part of me. It was like Old Horny himself shouted at me from behind a tree - "Go for it man, she's quite a dish, and this is your last chance!" But it was not Old Horny I heard, but rather a faint, strange muffled murmuring from far below. I dismissed it as stream music.

The near to final flashes of a red sun slowly sinking westward slightly filtered in through thick mountain growth and shadows grew deeper near about this rocky perch. Looking at my watch I saw it was 6:45 and wondered where the time went. Time to head back before darkness and devils catch me upon the Appalachian Trail. Just as careful but a little slower I made my way down the cascading run. Upon reaching the trail I checked for fresh signs of passing along the stream side. Someone had indeed moved down the trail while I sat high above this point. A pair of tracks where pressed into the lose sandy dirt. Recognizing one of the sneaker imprints I thought: 'Audacious enough to leave clear spoor. Deception goes with them and doom follows.'
I noticed that someone's foot had slid down a small muddy bank and into the stream. Right by that spot I saw chunks of bark had been chewed away recently on a dead tree at trail’s edge. A half eaten piece of grub worm lay on a small rock below the tree. Seeing this I slipped the little Sharpfinger off my belt and replaced it with the Khyber knife from my pack I unsheathed it and inspected the murderous 15" blade of fine steel set in a horn handle. I had bought it for ten bucks at a flea market, but knew this big knife was the real deal, from the Hindu Kush and worth a lot more. It was an excellent blade, sharp and sturdy enough to lop off a head or swiftly find a heart. I re-sheathed upon my left hip and quietly moved down the trail.

Coming to another patch of lose dirt I found another track, this time unshod and very well defined. My hackles rose like a stray tomcat. Drawing a long breath through clinched teeth I inwardly swore: 'Fuck! What kind of critters are these?' It was small 7" in length. Wide in the front and narrow at the heel it showed the impressions of four strange shaped splayed toes. This track came from either a seriously deformed individual or something that was not human. I nervously pulled a cigarette out to calm my nerves, but thought better of lighting it up and left it hanging out of my mouth unlit. Tobacco is a fine medicine, but I had no time to perform any rituals with this filtered cigarette. After some minutes of swift, stealthy striding I came within earshot of shuffling feet and unintelligible murmuring my thoughts were probably - 'What the fuck are you doing, man? Just take another break and let them move on far ahead' Aside from the urge to reach camp before dusk could spawn shadowy uncertainty, another need drove me forth. I heard that same weird murmuring again traveling on the breeze from around a bend, but it's source was blocked from my sight by a shadowy tangle of dense foliage. Getting off the trail and moving out a bit, I turned to catch up and move parallel with whatever was ahead of me. Depending on my woodcraft, I trailed beside their noisy progress, but still could not see them and derived a small amount of comfort knowing they could not see me. Obscured by thick foliage, I silently picked up my pace as to move ahead of them thus putting good distance ahead of whatever critters these were, retake the trail and beat them back to Big Meadows or perhaps finding a place to get a good look at them. I moved in stealth all the while chancing glances, my eyes straining to pierce the thick undergrowth down at trail's edge.

Abruptly the woods opened up and in front of me loomed a large, high outcropping of gray stone. Without hesitation I ascended it and threw myself flat upon a small level near it's top. I had a little cover behind a clump of weeds and creeper vines attached to some rotting branch litter. I was glad Flip wasn't with me clad in one of those bright blue or white shirts. I now had a good view down at the trail and not long to wait. Maybe it was the weed playing tricks on my mind, but what I saw shambling down The Appalachian Trail tugged at already tightly strung nerves. The fearful excitement I experienced made me shiver as if with a chill. At first I attempted to see the pair as being human, but that wasn't happening. As they came closer into view, I could see these two were not all the way human. From a distance they appeared to have elongated muzzles almost reminding me of a dog or fox. They were wearing clothes, but the exposed parts of their bodies looked to be covered in reddish hair or fur. Both were barefooted and carrying their shoes and one was carrying what appeared to be a dead animal in it’s misshapen hand. Slowly and silently I shifted my pack in order to remove my spy glass. First I focused in on the larger one’s face. Bombed on grass, a jaunt through the brush and my distance away from them on this rock, I could of mistaken their head shapes or facial features, but now through the spy glass, fears were confirmed.

Clearly seeing it, an icy chill raced down my spine.

It was somewhat human-like, but unmistakably inhuman. Slightly shifting the glass I had a good look the smaller one as well. It was lumbering a little ahead of the other. Same extended muzzle, flat sloping foreheads and fox-shaped high set ears that were a pale color inside and furry on their backs. They appeared to have short auburn hued fur all over their faces with the exception of nose tips, and lips. To me they looked like the clothed anthropomorphic animal characters from a Disney cartoon. Focusing on the larger one again I saw this was no handsome red fox playing Robin Hood. This was something diabolical and well beyond my complete understanding. To my horror they halted and I scooted on my belly further back behind what cover was to be had, but still having them well within my scope. Their mute expressions, motionlessness and whole overall aspect was unnatural. I would expect to see something like this on a four way hit of blotter, but had gave up tripping a few years earlier.

'My whole bag of weed for a good camera right now.’ I mused.

Somewhere behind and above me, up the slope an owl hooted and with that the larger one’s head jerked upwards, muzzle raised as if sniffing the air. Then suddenly it seemed the smaller one looked up and made eye contact with me through the spy glass. Those eyes were not human. I had to fight down an urge to scramble off this rock and up the hillside as those eyes were solid black, cold and soulless like that dead salamander I saw earlier. Now both were scanning my outcropping hideout, prompting me to believe something was amiss. The larger one shambled forward and I saw what he carried was a dead cottontail. He approached the outcropping’s base.

I placed one hand on the big knife's horn handle.

The smaller one remained on the trail with it’s arms hanging limp and slanted head raised and now slowly swaying. I saw her mouth move, but at this distance could hear no sound escaping through what appeared to be leathery lips and pointed teeth. The larger one, at the outcropping's base was now out of my field of vision. Slowly I pulled the long knife from it's sheath. Taking a look at the smaller one before putting my spyglass down, I saw it’s mouth still moving as if talking. It’s legs were bent in a very unnatural manner. Thinking the larger one was now advancing towards my position, I felt perspiration freeze on my forehead. Every muscle tense and ready for the spring. Holding it all down I remained as still as a baby rabbit. Tightening the grip on my knife restored a bit of confidence. Then something strange happened. I heard a weird wailing sound from below. Looking at the smaller one without my spyglass I saw it had both hands to it’s mouth issuing forth a weird inhuman call. Within seconds I heard the faint flapping of velvety feathered wings above. A huge unfamiliar species of owl passed overhead and continued it's flight towards the meadows. Looking again down at the trail I saw the larger one was walking towards it’s mate. Breathing a sigh of relief I knew there would be no fight upon this rock. Still somewhat shaken I managed a low chuckle realizing all of this was so very far removed from any other stoned hike through the wood especially so when both creatures were engulfed in a glowing haze which obscured them from my sight. Taking up my spyglass up again I focused in. Swearing under my breath as that haze cleared I saw both had reestablished their human guise of our neighbors Mildred and Guy. Seating themselves on a large trail side rock, they put their socks and sneakers back on.

Before moving off down the trail they both shot final glances upwards at the outcropping.

For about a half hour after they departed I lay on my belly listening for any sounds of them flanking this position. To my relief none were to be heard. Perhaps they realized this would be a hard place to attack. Picking my stiff body up into a sitting position I brushed a large millipede off my pants leg and lit up that cigarette that had become stuck to my lips. Reflecting upon what just occurred my thought concerning it all was - 'I've seen my fair share of weird shit in a life not so normal, but this almost scared the shit out of me.' Then I had to remind myself of what sat back at our camp no doubt awaiting word from her servants.

Finishing my smoke I rose, rubbed out the stiffness and descended.
Upon reaching the spot where they stood I saw that Guy had forgotten his dead cottontail. Cheating that devil out of a snack, if so it chose to returned, I pitched the carcass into a deep and tangled ravine. Around the bend, splashed and still running down a rock was urine. It appeared to be sprayed in such a manner as to mark territory. Smelling the foul odor of concentrated piss, I swiftly continued on my way. My concern now was getting back to camp as quickly as possible to tell all my companions to get their steel near at hand, but thought better of it. Didn't want to alarm or trigger our guest with some post-alarm frenzy. Not a good idea initiating savage and violent conflict here at Big Meadows campground. I really didn't want to see Whitey hacking somebody or something up with that big Bowie knife or Dibbles brandishing blades, especially in their crazed lust struck condition.

It was only last July at a small coastal Virginia seafood festival following a drunken verbal tiff, Denny clobbered R.W. with a wooden crab mallet. More angry than hurt R.W. lunged at his brother with an Oyster knife. The more alert Denny sidestepped his brother a split second before the plunging knife missed him and was plunged deep into a large watermelon sitting on a table. Needless to say because of their actions all of our party were asked to leave. Hopefully Bear could keep Denny and R.W. from scrapping. I would ask Flip not to quaff heavily this night and share sentry duty with me. I'm sure he wouldn't mind putting on a pot of coffee. Bear would be limited in his fighting abilities, but perhaps I could count on Whitey as a reserve. With any luck Mildred and Guy as usual, would not be in our camp. It seemed we were in a precarious situation, but it wasn't like anyone of us could call the cops. We were on our own.

Ever watchful and moving stealthily, I made my way down the scenic Appalachian Trail, back to camp..

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#48 Caps

Caps

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 03:39 PM

I see I have some major catching up to do, thanks for continuing your story Atehequa. :smile:

====
Indeed

"It is the still and silent sea that drowns a man." - Old Norse proverb

"It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war."

#49 Atehequa

Atehequa

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 05:13 PM

Through the trees and into a glade
Relieving myself away from our good table
Approaching silently, catching me unaware
The deadly truth from an ancient fable

Seeing her there in that shadowy glade
Beautifully evil and of another kind
Ready to revel in her venomous flow
Having already done so in my mind


Dusk was deepening upon Big Meadows when I entered the camping area and already nocturnal amphibians and insects were singing songs that were already ancient before man walked upright. I had thought to have caught a quick flash of headlights moving away from me and then disappearing into the gathering shadows. The campground was almost vacant, but here and there I saw the far off flickering of campfires. In a distant opening a small herd of deer grazed. Continuing on I saw other night creatures as well. At one point I had to stand as still as stone while Brother Skunk bobbed across in front of me on the loop road. The reasoning behind going out of my way and through the RV section could be summed up as simple curiosity. Moving silently by a small group of old folks sitting around a bright propane lantern near their 'lodge on wheels', I viewed another group of people sitting by an RV not 60 yards away. Keeping my distance in the thickening gloom I passed Holly, Ruthie, Yvonne, Dave and Denny unobserved. They were all sitting at a picnic table, drinking beer and engaged in loud drunken conversation. At least they had a decent fire going. Passing their camp I melted into the shadows.

It was good to see our fire burning high and bright.

The Great Bear sat at the table playing blackjack with Flip, R.W. and Whitey Everyone else was absent. I called in and entered at the same time. Whitey was already into the ale supply, but never the less greeted me and handed me a bottle a cold bottle of my own brew. "Thank you for being so generous with my ale Whitey."
"Not a problem." He returned, tapping his cards for a hit. Bear offered a greeting growl and asked: "Where the hell did you go?"
"Oh just a walk on the Appalachian Trail." Then I inquired on the whereabouts of the two ladies.
Bear informed me: “Patti and Claudia went to the restrooms and store."
"And Charlie?"
Whitey issued a short bark of laughter and replied: "Down past the count. What a fucking lightweight here of late."
"That boy must be ailing." I said, with a worried thought in my head. Bear then informed me that Mildred and Guy had dropped on by to say goodnight. "Said they wanted to turn in early."
Grinding the words between my teeth: "I'll bet they did."
R.W. wanted to know - "Any sign of Denny?"
"Nope." I lied, not wanting to see this Dibble get bent out of shape again.
"What the fuck is that big ass pig sticker for?" The Bear asked, referring to the Khyber knife sheathed on my belt.

Since it was just us and after taking a good look around, I told them what had occurred on the trail.

They halted their gambling and stared at me in disbelief as I gave account of my strange experience atop the outcropping. Taking a big swig and looking at my friends, I thought - 'Ale and companions have never before brought me so much comfort.'
"Sure it wasn't just you being fucked up stoned, while watching them from the rocks?" Whitey asked while lighting up a cigarette. I guess he was just attempting to make light and airy practical sense of the matter.
"As a matter of fact I was stoned, but not so far up there to see things that weren't there." Kind of ticked off I grabbed a brown paper grocery bag and one of Charlie's magic markers and sketched the Guy-critter's profile. "This is what I saw!"
They all had a good look before I tossed the drawing into our blazing fire. R.W. exclaimed: "Damnation! Some weird shit going down!"
"Burned out bastard probably had an LSD flashback." Whitey chuckled while watching the image burst into flame, blacked, then turn to floating grey ash, blowing away in this evening's mountain breeze.
"Screw you, ignorant Tarheel! I know what I saw, plain as now looking at your drunken ass!"
"Okay man,, I'll take your word for it." Probably figuring a walloping would come next.
"So what do we do?" The Bear inquired in a serious tone.
I drained the cup, cleared my throat and replied: "So far they have not struck at us in a violent manner, but I suspect there's an energy drain going on."
"Energy drain?" R.W. asked then threw down a shot.
"Yeah, a medicine man once told me about creatures that eat essence and grow strong." Whitey guzzled another one of my ales, burped then laughed: "She can eat me!"
"Make light of it if you wish, but I'd keep steel near at hand and in plain sight if I were y'all" Whitey snagged another ale then asked: "What the hell for?"
"Maybe they'll think twice about ripping out our throats if they see we mean business." I said, whipping out the long Khyber blade and waving it in Whitey's face.

Both Bear and Whitey walked over to their tents for weapons of choice.

For Whitey it was a big hand forged Bowie knife with a 12" blade.
And the Great Bear? He limped back to our table with that wicked looking broad ax over his shoulder. Reluctantly I lent R.W. my little skinning knife after having refusing him a pipe tomahawk. "Don't want to find myself pulling that out of your brother's gizzard." I told him as he slipped the sheath on his belt. Whitey, with a wild gleam in his psychotic eyes was slashing at the air and jabbing his huge Bowie knife into our table.
"Put that fucking thing up before I take it and skin you alive with your own knife!" Bear threatened while leaning that murderous looking ax on a tree next to his folding camping throne. Flip as always wore his fine Puma brand hunting knife and now had at ready a lead filled knocker. It was the heavy half of a pool stick that had been hollowed out and filled with lead. With a decent half swing it could lay a man low and still.

Bear always sensible, blunt and to the point when it came to such grim matters wanted to know: "Why don't we just dispatch these ghouls and have done with it?" then added: "It's not like they're going to be missed in this world."
"Yeah hack em into chunks!" Whitey snarled prompting Flip to give him a worried look. "Oh I don't think that would go over too spiffy here at ranger patrolled Big Meadows campground. Now if we were far out in the sticks primitive camping, things would be different" I replied watching Whitey pull out his Bowie again and wave it wildly."I ain't ever cut off a head before." He informed us.
"Put that damn thing away!" Bear ordered.
"Hopefully you won't have to Whitey." I said.
"Fucking were-varmints!" Whitey cackled, "They transform during a full moon, come into people’s yards during the wee hours of the morning with terrible hunger in their black eyes, tipping over trashcans and eating garbage." Even though this could very well be a precarious situation we had got ourselves into, I roared with laughter as did my companions. I needed a good laugh and after my encounter with the were-varmints and really wanted to get roaring drunk, but decided it was best to just sip ale. Bear noticing a few reddish brown flecks on the ax blade he rose, got a hold of an oily rag and proceeded to rub these blemishes out of his steel. "Rust is an axman's worst enemy." He stated while finishing up his task.

The distant moving glow of headlights prompted me to toss another chunk of walnut on the fire. Bear shot me a serious glance. "What?" I asked
He quaffed a good measure of German beer and replied: "You know we could be all wrong about this, but I don't think so." Taking another gulp he continued in a sullen tone: "We may be in more danger than anyone else here."
R.W. inquired: "How so?"
The Bear issued a low rumbling belch then went on to say: "In danger, if our reasons for fear are real."
"It's hard to believe such a nice lady is some kind of supernatural monster." R.W. stated as he uncorked the rum.
"It is until you take time to think what we could be dealing with." I responded, adding: "A very old creature who is a timeless master of illusion and deception. One who has marked us for it's own."

All too soon we heard tires turning gravel. It was the ladies in Whitey’s truck pulling forward then backing in.

Flip, always the gentleman, that is when ladies were present, swiftly rose, dashed around to open passenger and driver’s doors. Claudia slid off the seat and approached our table with a graceful stride. Patti followed bouncing along. I didn't know all that much concerning how she carried herself as an adult entertainer, but here in the Blue Ridge, Patti was like a jovial child. She had bought us a bag full of moon pies and was now distributing these snacks whether we wanted them or naught.
"Anybody started supper yet?" She asked as Claudia and Flip seated themselves, the former right across from me again. Devouring his moon pie in two bites, then chasing it down with beer, Bear said: "Guess I'd better grill up what meat is left."
"And what meat is left?" I inquired. The Great Bear turned to Flip and the Birdman announced - "12 pork chops, 2 rib eyes, 1 T-bone, pack and a half of hot dogs, 1 pack of bacon and of course some of those hot sausages, already cooked.
"Fuck man!" Whitey asked: "Did you take an inventory?"
"What do you think?" The Birdman hissed. One thing we could always count on was Flip's sense of order when it came to camping. A neat freak he's always brought along a broom, dust brush and pan along with a good supply of cleaning items. He never shirked any camp chores, could make good fires and set up a tarp shelter that almost always kept the weather off of us. He was a good man to have on such an adventure. I was very surprised to see that Bear allowed Flip to help in the cooking, trusting him with the very important task of dumping old ash and cleaning the grill in readying it to fire up.

Claudia rising no doubt noticing our display of weapons, especially the Khyber blade sheathed on my hip, inquired about my walk in the wild.
"Ah, just a little hike southward on the trail." I lied, studying her face for the slightest change of expression, but there were none. Glancing over at Bear's great ax leaning against the tree, Claudia inquired: "You guys planning to sack Big Meadows Lodge after dinner?" To that Bear returned with a smile: "Heard there was a bear roaming around here the last few nights." His head tilted as he continued: "They've been known to eat people."
"Hungry bear!" R.W. laughed.
Claudia managed a seemingly nervous giggle and said: "Well I hope this bear isn't planning to eat me."
"Only if you want me to." Bear responded then stuck his tongue out and wiggled it. "Quite the charmer wouldn't you say?" I stated, all the while holding back my laughter. Patti begged the Bear to repeat his tongue wiggling, which he did before rising from his seat to inspect the meat.
"Pork chop, steak or hot sausage?" The Bear asked.
"Steak" Claudia replied, as did R.W., Patti, Flip, Whitey and I requested pork chops. Bear was going to save the T-bone for breakfast and enjoy pork chops and leftover sausage for his supper. Even with a lame leg, the big man needed a lot of fuel.

Our grill at ready to be fired, Bear thanked, then dismissed Flip from any further grilling endeavors. Soon the coals were blazing adding light to our camp. Rising from the bench I announced: “Nature calls.” and made for the woods behind our camp. Although dusk was deepening into night, I had enough light to see my way. Walking through a strand of stunted trees and emerging into the little clearing I had stopped at before. Scanning these surroundings, I then emptied my bladder and finished up with a shake and zip.

"Don’t put that away on my account.”

I immediately recognized that voice and replied: “Don’t want anything in these woods to jump up and bite me.”
“I don’t bite” she laughed, “I only nibble."
My eyes well accustomed to the shadowy gloom, I could see her well enough. Feeling somewhat confident having a big knife hanging on my hip, I boldly inquired: “What brings you here without so much as a sound?"
Flashing me a smile, Claudia replied:“The same as you."
“The same as me?”
Unsnapping her shorts, they fell to her feet then she proceeded to peel down a pair of red panties. Bottom half uncovered, she stood there smiling for several seconds and then much to my surprise, squatted down and began peeing. I could hear spurting liquid tapping upon the leaf litter.
Finishing, she rose and hung her bottom clothing over a shrub branch instead of slipping them back on. She advanced, never breaking eye contact with me and looking into hers I had thoughts of whipping out either my blade or crank. Squatting down again, this time directly in front of me, she gently went about pulling out the latter. Caressing it with her hands, I could do nothing but look into those amber eyes.
“I’m glad to have caught you still up.” She purred.
Unable to return with any witty comeback, I grunted: “Yeah.”
With mouth open she ran that pointed tongue around her moist full lips. Lifting my shirt with one hand, she briefly sniffed my navel. “You know these home remedies are not always effective.” There was a weird flickering in her eyes which had me thinking of the large knife now down by my ankles along with my pants. Any sense of cautious prevention bobbed atop warm pleasurable waves. I was too spellbound to make a grab at my knife. She issued a soft mocking giggle then took me into her mouth. Instead of firmly gripping a Khyber knife handle, my right hand held the back of her head. Tilting my head and gazing at dusk’s darkening sky, I wondered: ‘If this is an ending to be feared, then why does it feel so good?'

I had all but surrendered.

Suddenly she stopped and rose to her feet staring deep into my eyes if not my soul. It all felt like a dream. “Now isn't this a lot nicer?” she softly asked. But before I could attempt an answer, Claudia turned from me and walked over to a sapling. Bending down and grasping the lower trunk with both hands, she thrust her shapely bottom up. Upon a sultry exhale she said bade me: “Come on.” Like one bewitched I slowly advanced, dragging my pants across the ground all the while taking in the view of Claudia’s well turned legs, shapely rear and noticeable glistening between her upper inner thighs. No more than a couple of yards away, I stopped dead in my tracks. A large doe, one of the half tame Big Meadows deer moved slowly between us. The spell was broken.

Bent over with both hands still grasping the tree, Claudia turned her head in time to see the doe move into the deeper foliage. She issued an inhuman hiss then more or less ordered me to - “Come on!”
It wasn't the rustling of leaf litter and underbrush as much as it was clarity that prompted me to pull up my pants.
“Come on! What are you scared of?”
The rustling grew even louder and I pulled up my pants gripped the handle of the big knife, ready to whip it out, expecting her freaky familiars bursting into this quickly darkening glade. That fearful feeling within me subsided as I watched Bear limp into the clearing. He looked down at Claudia still grasping the sapling, her shapely rear thrust out rivaling the rising moon.
“Are we looking for signs of root blight?”
If Claudia wasn't aware of Bear’s presence before, she was now and acted accordingly by shifting her rear a bit allowing him a better view.
Casting me a roguish slit eyed smile he asked: “Or is it termites?” Hand over hand, Claudia pulled herself up the sapling and then turned to face us. “Root blight.” She replied in no friendly tone. Sashaying over to where her clothing hung, she put on her underwear and shorts before leaving the glade.

Limping over to the sapling she had grasped, Bear pissed on it.“Did I interrupt something?” He chuckled.

Knowing it was Bear who disturbed that doe, thus causing her to move on through this clearing I returned: “Yes you did and I am glad of it.”
“Then she was looking for termites.” Bear said as we headed back to camp. Slinging out warm ale from my cup, I opened our propane stove and got it going so as to heat up what was left of morning's coffee. Aside from our current situation, I really needed a break from all the boozing.
"Coffee?" Whitey asked in surprise.
"Yeah, what of it?"
"Ain't that for morning?"
"Not in your case Whitey." then I went on: "Yep, I'm gonna give my liver a break, something you should do every so often."
Whitey beamed, drained a cup of ale then proclaimed - "Good, more for me!"
"Look man you can have a few more, but after that it's either hard spirits or naught for ye."
Whitey's mouth flew open in protest - "A few more? Why shit man, you have a case stored in the tent, not counting the ones on ice!"
"Regardless" I told him: "If I catch your hand in my cooler too many times, you'll be learning to use a hook instead of fingers."
"You wouldn't do that, would you?"
"Try me, you shriveled liver sot."
Shaking her head, Claudia said: "I'd hate to see when you guys really get angry with each other."She then cast another glance at Bear' hanging ax.
"Oh we never get angry with kinfolk and friends." The Bear informed her then ask: "Do we Poodle?" R.W. started to reply, but quickly snapped his mouth shut. "We're always at our best when you're around, Bear." I laughed, watching the big man go about his cooking preparations which at this time was letting the coals burn down, quaffing his beer and munching on a cold hot sausage.

It grew darker, with a nice breeze blowing through our encampment. Thinking to take advantage of wind direction, along with the scent of fire and grill smoke, I decided on twisting-up two numbers to enjoy before supper. I handed Flip one to light and fired-up the other myself. The bones went in opposite directions around the table and in scant time everyone of us were up there with the exception of Bear.
Too much alcohol and weed had whacked R.W and Whitey particularly hard. They were cooked and no doubt needed some grub in their stomachs if they planned to be still kicking tonight.

Taking the pot off our propane stove, I poured myself a cup of hot coffee.

Claudia regarded me with scintillate eyes, then in a rich sensuous voice asked: "Climbing on the wagon, are we?"
"I am, but you can help yourself to whatever there is to drink." then went on to state: "I make it a rule not to get drunk more than three days in a row" Regarding me with a smirk, she inquired: "So you going to be more lively tonight?"
"Well I ain't getting shit face drunk, if that what you are asking."
Claudia licked her full lips and issued a - "Hmmmmmm."
R.W. wolf whistled and chuckled: "Go ahead Skid."
Whitey let forth a howl and Patti giggled while Claudia attempted to balefully stare a hole through me. My left knee twitched as I expected her foot to come into play, but it didn't. The fire in those eyes, her mysterious smile and the posturing of that voluptuous body had made my blood boil. Every rich syllable flowing past those full lips were sticky sweet like honey. Every gesture and movement set Claudia far removed from any other woman I'd ever encountered. Claudia’s strange beauty I now sensed as more troubling than soothing. It was getting more difficult for me to continue on with this hospitable facade.

As the coals were much too hot, Bear had prepared Flip's chops the way he liked them, burnt black like chunks of asphalt road patch. By order he grilled everybody else's. Claudia's ultra-rare steak was even more red than R.W.'s, it lay in a puddle of gore which was beginning to soak into her camp potatoes turning them a sick pinkish color. With a trickle of beef blood running down her lower lip she inquired about my chops.
"Bled dry and well done." I replied then went on to inform her: "You know, Bear will cook that, if you'd like."
"He already did." She returned while spearing a pink potato chunk with a plastic fork, then sticking it between her lips. It wasn't so much the gore soaked potatoes that sought to hinder my appetite than it was the person eating them. At least I had time to wolf- down half my plate before pushing it aside and lighting up a cigarette. I was nigh near a confrontation with this person or creature, but instead choked down my growing enmity. I got up and poked the fire. One thing was certain, the spell had been broken. I was beholding to both Bear and the doe for this bit of recovery. Other things were shaping up as well. Considering a future with a hook on a stump, Whitey had slacked off my ale. Now he nursed a rum and coke. Even the Great Bear had laid down his horn for a bit and popped open a soda. R.W. on the other hand was quite slammed and getting more boisterous by the minute. I had hoped supper would of sobered our drunken dandy up some, but after watching him wash down his food with liquor, I knew that wasn't happening.

"Shhhhhhhhh! Somebody's coming!" Flip's sharp ears had picked up footfalls from out on the loop road before the rest of us heard anything. All eyes were trained to what we could see of the road. Flip quietly got up and stepped into the shadows.

"Hallo to camp! Coming in!"

It was Denny's voice and as he ambled into camp we saw he was not alone. Close behind him, Holly and Yvonne, their eyes darting about in attempt to take in their surroundings. Following a loud belch , Bear welcomed Denny back. "Well, well, look what the evening breeze blew in." Flip stepping out of the shadows offered - "Get ye some vittles y'all, there’s plenty of taters and a few pork chops left." as he had noticed all three sniffing supper's aroma and licking their chomps. Always hungry and never turning away a bite to eat, Denny helped himself to a plate as did the other two arrivals. Patti glared at the two, but especially at Yvonne as we made room and provide coolers for them to sit at our crowded table. Noticing the icy looks Patti kept flashing the two, I wondered if Bear would able to deal with a cat fight. None of us failed to notice R.W. cutting his eyes at Denny who openly composed himself in such a manner as to win Yvonne's favor.

I could feel it in the air.

R.W. very much wanted to jump time on his brother, but was still clearheaded enough to know that Bear would hang his hide on a bramble if he started any shit. That was apt to change with every gulp of booze R.W. was pouring down his gullet. "Damn fine pork chop, Bear, I could eat two of these." Denny said going to work with knife, fork and teeth.
"Here you can have mine." I offered, having a pork chop left.
"Yeah, Denny would eat the ass out of a mule's butt for a snack." R.W. stated no doubt attempting to provoke his brother, who was now hand feeding Yvonne some camp bread.
"Patti, watching the love birds sneered: "Aww, isn't that cute."
Overly noticing their little public show of affection, R.W. had reached his breaking point. I knew it was coming, seeing it in his eyes. Whitey grinned in anticipation of what was to come while I thought: 'Not here, not now, not in front of everyone.'

I turned to Bear who seemed unconcerned as this tension mounted.

Denny paid his brother's slurred insult no mind and continued showering Yvonne with what attention he could. It was when he slipped his arm around the young lady and gave her a kiss on her neck, R.W.'s altered emotions erupted. He slung a fork load of camp potatoes full into Denny’s face, then moved in for the attack by flying out of his seat and straight at his brother. As Denny leaped up and swiftly closed in, shoulders bobbing, setting his brother up for a right punch to the eye while feinting a left jab. R.W. stepped back stunned and Denny leaped forward landing another blow on his brother‘s head. R.W. reacted quickly, delivering a fast few hard hooks to Denny's mouth. Two ruby-like drops of blood spurted upon Whitey's shirt. Denny came back with a solid punch to R.W.'s other eye. Maddened by the pain and deep in a drunken rage, R.W. landed a savage kick to his brother's thigh. Later, upon seeing his brother's bruise, he would admit the kick was intended for Denny's nuts. He followed that kick with a jab into Denny's guts. R.W. then proceeded to rained blows upon his brother's head. This continued until Denny, using his head as a ram, slammed R.W. hard up against a tree. Then they went full at each other. Both swiftly striking with such fury, the air around them seemed full a flying fists. Fortunate for us diners this scrap had moved away from our table.

Turning to Bear who was watching this fight while wolfing down hunks of buttered camp bread, I asked: "Don't you think it's time to cut into that dance?" To my surprise he replied: "Oh let them have their fun, maybe they'll knock each other out."
"You better do something, before it becomes a problem!"
"Ahh let em beat the crap out of one another." Whitey gleefully said, obviously enjoying this fracas from his ringside seat. He went as far as resubmitting his earlier wager: "Ten bucks on Poodle!" He waved bills in the air, but no one took that bet. Locked in combat the brothers now rolled around on the ground in a cloud of dust. Turning to Bear once more I asked: "Do you want the rangers to come and haul the whole lot of us away?" At this point I was ready to quell this nonsense myself.
"Alright, alright!" The Bear laughed while popping his knuckles as he slowly rose. Limping over to the dueling Dibbles, Bear grabbed a handful of Denny's shirt. Yanking him off R.W. with such force, Denny flew through the air a good few yards landing none too softly against an oak trunk then crumbled into a heap. R.W., half blinded by sweat, dust and a bleeding brow, still addled by fighting madness, came off the ground and landed a blow square on Bear's massive chest. The Bear quickly responded with a wicked back hand strike to R.W.'s jaw.

His legs turning to rubber, R.W. pitched face forward onto the hard ground with a thud. We knew the night was over for this dueling Dibble brother.

Turning to Denny who was attempting to rise, Bear growled: "Drag this drunken idiot to y'all's tent, you dumb ass."
Battered and somewhat punch drunk, Denny attempted to pull his brother along. "A little help here if you don't mind." He mumbled through mashed lips. Flip lent a hand. "Aren't you going to see if he's not hurt?" Claudia protested as R.W.'s dragging head bounced off rocks and roots, then into the tent. "He'll be feeling that in the morning." I chuckled.
"Oh he's hurt alright." Whitey laughed and went on: "I got ten bucks here that says he'll be in a world of hurt tomorrow."
Claudia appearing a little disgusted wanted to know: "You're betting on that man's battered condition?"
Whitey replied with a savage grin: "More like a forecast."
"A forecast?" Claudia now standing, asked.

Whitey made his prediction.

"Yeah, tomorrow's forecast for R.W.'s condition. Intense pain during the morning hours with a possible chance of a fractured jaw tapering off over the next few days, or unless he seeks medical attention." Having quite enough of this heathen experience, Yvonne slid off the bench with a disgusted look upon her face promptly informed us: “We didn't come here to watch drunk rednecks fight it out!" Then she told Holly - "Let’s go!"
Holly sat transfixed by our party time antics. She no doubt, up to now had lived somewhat of a sheltered life, probably a happy peaceful place where blood didn't splatter during the dinner hour.
"Rednecks is it?" Denny seemed to be offended at the girl who minutes earlier had set him aglow."Come on Holly, lets go!" Yvonne ordered after taking full notice of Bear's cleaver hanging there, blade reflecting the fire.
"Rednecks?" Denny repeated before stuffing some pork chop past his bloodied and swollen lips.
"That was extremely rude of you, Muffin." Patti said in no friendly tone, pointing a finger at Yvonne. Now it looked like our only little ray of pure joy, kindness and merriment was about ready to come across the table at Yvonne and rip her to shreds. Instead she bid our two new guest a jagged send off. "Carry your asses!"
Yvonne's jaw dropped, then she cast a glance at Denny, blood oozing from his mouth and nose, shoveling camp taters down his gullet, then by chance looked at Bear who was again quaffing beer from his horn. He spat a drunk, drowned insect into the fire and with an unusual kindly voice said: "But young lady, they were doing nothing but contesting over your sweet favor." Taking up his ale again, then spitting out yet another winged, soggy insect, The Bear asked Yvonne: "What more could suit for a declaration of true love? He then issued a loud burp and proceeded to pick an insect leg out of his teeth. This time Yvonne tugged at Holly's arm. - "Come on Holly!"
With his head tilted almost in a dog-like manner The Great Bear asked again: "What more suits?" then he suggested: "Flip why don't you be so kind to drive these nice young ladies back to their lodging."

Yvonne, finally able to get Holly up and moving refused the offer and then quick stepped into the night and out of our lives.

With blood still oozing, a mouth full of food and a half dried drip of gore hanging off his chin Denny said: "I can't believe she called us rednecks."
"She was talking about you, you fighting, fucking redneck grit." I informed him. Moving over to inspect Denny's injuries, Claudia asked for a first-aid kit. "It's right there" Whitey responded, pointing at the rum. In the mean time Flip produced our real first-aid kit. Inside she found cotton balls and rubbing alcohol then proceeded to tend Denny's battered face. Wincing a bit from the alcohol's sting, Denny asked if I could pour him a cup of rum, which I complied. "Shit man, you're a fucking mess, it looks like R.W. was getting the best of you."
"Yeah, that's why Bear had to pull me off of him" Denny returned, taking the cup from my hand. "See!" Whitey said to Bear, "We should of let em go and kept the bets running."
"I won that bet." The Bear reminded him, besides you folded after I made my wager. Or would you rather want to settle-up with a twenty spot?" Whitey quickly confirmed all bets had been off before the fight started.

Noticing Claudia fuss over Denny’s bumps, bruises and cuts, a face that was by now use to such punishment, I inwardly mused: 'At least she's got her mind off me now.' Denny seemed to enjoy all the attention, making me wonder if he was now on the menu. If so could we protect him?

Remembering something important I walked over to the Dibble's tent where R.W. lay, out before the count. By his breathing I could tell he lived, but was out cold. Bear could of broke his neck or fractured R.W.'s skull, but he let the Dibble off light with an early goodnight and deep dreamless sleep. Half inside the tent I flicked my Bic for a little light. Being somewhat thin skinned R.W. had already the beginnings of two good shiners.
"That'll keep the decent girls at a distance." I told him, but he heard me not. Reaching down I slipped my little skinning knife from his belt and bid him - "Nitey night sleeping beauty." Zipping up the door flap, I stood beside Dibble's tent, beyond fire and lantern light taking stock of the situation. I couldn't vouch for R.W.'s jaw, but at least he'd awake in this world perhaps sometime tomorrow whether he wanted to or not. As usual there would be little ill feelings between Dibbles the next day. Their spats rarely lasted more than a day. Yet I thought it best to take the knife. With food in my belly and not neck deep in the cup, I had much more vigor along with a sense of freedom and lightness of limb not felt since my teenage years. It was as if I'd been released from a black talon grip and clear light shined through the shadowy gloom, but I was far from well.

With swollen eye, lips and various other contusions, Denny still managed to consume three pork chops and a pile of potatoes as our departed guest had left almost full plates. Although he was about as lean as a hard winter, Denny could out eat Bear. Aside from his battered condition this Dibble was almost back to normal. Claudia had did a fine job of cleaning up his hurts. Raising his cup to Bear, he spoke: "Thanks for pulling me off R.W., before I could really fuck him up."
"Not a problem." Bear returned with a raised horn.
Denny went on to ask: "But did you have to sling me into that tree? Shit man, that hurt worse than R.W.'s punches."
"Sorry." Bear offered, "Next time I'll try to pitch you into a soft pile of leaves, if there be one nearby."

Pulling a fresh deck from his denim pocket, Bear wanted to know if there was anybody for some poker. Spending my remaining wakeful hours playing cards and losing all my coin, I remembered how the cards loved me not when I was sober. Leaving last pennies in the pot I tossed another bad hand on the table and wished everyone a good night. I would need to be well rested for tomorrow.

Climbing into the tent and pulling off my shoes, I was asleep in no time, drifting about in dreams of an ancient lake reflecting a rugged shoreline and weird violet hued sky...

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#50 Atehequa

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 05:24 PM

Charlie and Denny were storing the last of our gear, while I scooped ash and half burned hunks of green wood from our fire pit at Sherando Lake Campground and Recreational Area.

We had pushed hard all the way down Skyline Drive, until getting off at Afton for gas and other items. Traveling over fifty miles as the Hawk flies, our journey up and down a twisting mountain road at the 35MPH speed limit, the ride lasted about two hours. We continued some distance down The Blue Ridge Parkway, then turned, descending down a steep and narrow mountain lane into a large hollow. In short time we picked out two fine campsites and had about everything set up in good order. We chose not to have our banners waving in the wind. Flip and Whitey were on a supply run up in Waynesboro. Awaiting their return and after a late lunch I had plans of getting a fishing party together to see what's biting down at the lake. Hopefully we could catch a few nice rainbow trout. A couple of us were ready to cast lines right now, but I held them back until late afternoon. Tomorrow we would hike Torry Ridge or beyond. Bear appeared to be in excellent spirits, enjoying a horn of beer and engaged with Patti over a game of checkers. Charlie was half drunk but at least awake. All of us who ever camped, fished, hiked or visited Sherando loved the place. A lot closer to supermarkets and liquor store Sherando Lake had long been one of our favorite camping spots. We knew the flora, fauna, trails, streams and overall layout of the area. Never had we ran afoul of neighboring campers or park rangers and on more than one occasion had them both sitting down and sharing our cooking.

We had picked a fine place to set-up camp, well shaded with a partial view of the lake.

Years ago while Bear and I were looking for a new camping spot near Waynesboro we decided upon visiting Sherando Lake. Needless to say some of us would head up here for many weekends from early spring to autumn. In those days it was a lot less developed here, but the fine staff provided a small, yet decent camp store along with maintaining facilities. Always clean and well kept, we had no complaints . We heard news that very soon Sherando Lake would be turned into a more modern camping and recreational area, with a swimming beach, paved roads, electrical RV hook-ups, cabins and visitor center. Sherando Lake would be losing a lot of it's natural charm and campers such as us. There are many miles of mountains and other places to camp. As I said, we never experienced any problems here other than wet weather or hungry bears and other wild creatures nocturnal visits.

There was a sense of security and comfort here at Sherando Lake.

Who could blame the fellows for wanting to get in a bit a fishing before lunch? In those days both upper and lower lakes were well stocked with rainbow trout and bass. Right down at Back Creek, one of the feeder streams which flow into the Shenandoah River there were red eye rock bass, more rainbows and some decent native brook trout. My mouth watered and stomach growled at the thought of a fried fish dinner. I offered to burn a bone while we waited for supplies to come in. With the exception of Bear, everyone took me up on this. I twisted up a fat one, lit it, toked, then passed it to R.W. who appeared worse for wear. With his two black eyes he looked like a raccoon with a swollen jaw. Taking the bone from R.W., Denny appeared in slightly better condition despite his massive shiner, fat lip and multiple contusions. For these brothers, after last night's fracas all ill feelings had slipped under the bridge and flowed downstream until next time, which hopefully would not occur during our remaining vacationing days here at Sherando Lake. The weed lifted spirits, perked up smiles and made our scenic surroundings much more colorfully alive. 'Just may end up staying here Saturday night as well.' I thought, while gazing at the sunlight shimmer off lake water. Charlie and Denny were already in their tackle boxes checking lures, leaders, hooks and split shot weights. I thought about getting my fly rod ready, but decided on a ultra-light spin caster instead. Like them I was eager for some upland angling. We all knew if artificial bait failed, the camp store sold night crawlers and red wigglers. Just down the road apiece the Sherando grocery sold tackle and bait crickets. With any luck I may just find some recently molted soft shell crayfish underneath a rock to utilize as an excellent live bait.

All heads turned as we heard the sound of tires turning dirt and gravel.

Flip and Whitey had returned from Waynesboro with enough supplies, if rationed correctly would see us through until our departure. Whitey came back with enough beer to swim in as the camp store sold no alcoholic beverages. "That swill should last until dinner unless it kills you beforehand." I stated while watching him guzzle down an entire can. "Use a cup, you know the rules!" Bear ordered, pushing a mug his way. For Whitey these trips were not but drunken binges. Not that anything was wrong with excessive guzzling, but he could of stayed at home, got slammed and miss out on trout fishing just the same. Even in a drunken state, Charlie was ready to cast a line and often out fished us.
Myself? I never got drunk and fished as it would compromise my fishing medicine. Enough time for quaffing after the catch when trout was on my fork instead of on the line.

Wednesday's lunch consisted of grilled hamburgers, potato salad and chips. Having little to no breakfast due to our flight from Big Meadows, we were all famished. Charlie even managed to get a burger down.

With bellies full and rods in hand, Charlie, Denny, Flip, R.W. and I made our way down to the lake. On maps and signs this body of water is called a lake, yet was naught but a large pond. Before casting out I couldn't help but take in the spectacular scenery. The pond's glassy surface reflected perfectly all around and above. Looking across the water I marveled at the mirror image of lofty Torry Ridge looming past Sherando Lake’s earthen dam. Lace-winged insects danced above still waters and newts crawled about in the shore side shallows.

Sherando Lake gave up a scant catch of an under-sized bass, two small bluegills and a pumpkinseed. They were all set free to grow bigger and wiser.

We had better luck after picking up some worms and fishing a section of Back Creek that ran right by the campground. There we caught six keeper rainbows and two small brookies. The latter were released as it was our custom to. Charlie had found a deep bend in the stream and snagged up on four eating size red-eye rock bass. They sparkled like living emeralds, thrashing around on Charlie's stringer.
"Fish dinner tonight, boys!" R.W. happily proclaimed. 'Oh if we only had a pile of morels and ramps for the skillet.' I wished.

Arriving back at camp we surrendered our combined catch to R.W. as he was the fish frying expert. At one time he cooked at the Colonial Williamsburg Inn, and fish was one of R.W.'s specialties. Bear, Flip and Whitey were not big on fish so that meant more for the rest of us. R.W. set about the task of gutting, cleaning and preparing today's catch, to be put on ice until supper. As bottles opened and caps popped, I filled a tall ceramic mug with cold ale. Quaffing deeply, I felt a certain amount of ease here at our small encampment by Sherando Lake. Here was more familiar ground. We saw nothing more out of place than a young couple, obviously lacking in camping experience, having way too much difficulty setting up their small dome tent. Flip, always neighborly and quite the experienced camper took it upon himself to lend the greenhorns a hand. He more or less set up their tent by himself. He very much prided himself on these abilities. "You're a good man, Flip." I complemented the Birdman as he ambled back to our table. "Accounts of your deeds shall be told at night around Campfires for years to come."

Patti expressed how much she liked it here, among friends and added: "Too bad Claudia, Mildred and Guy got mixed up on our changed camping location."
"Yeah, too bad" I returned, hoping to move past our Big Meadows experience. Patti had got along so good with Claudia, Bear told our little raven haired sprite a small fib - “Our former neighbors must of got confused on locations and became separated from us." In all actuality we gave them the slip while Guy was gassing up his station wagon at the Big Meadows camp store this morning.

"You didn't notice anything weird about those folk." Flip asked before ripping open a bag of Bugles. Patti reflected a little and replied: "The only strange thing I noticed was that Claudia started to look younger than me, especially this morning after crawling out of the sack."
"She seemed to go from 60 to 25 in just a few nights." Whitey added.
"Like a cactus bloom after the rains" Denny responded with a troubled look in his eyes. Patti turned to Bear for an explanation. Draining his drinking horn, he belched, cleared his throat and motioned Patti to move closer. Lighting up a cigarette, Bear regarded Patti with serious grey eyes and said: "I honestly believe that Claudia is of a different kind."
Patti helped herself to a long draught off my ale mug then asked: "What kind is that?"
Bear sighed and replied - "A soul eating sorceress of some type."
"What?" Patti laughed then looked around and saw no one else had even cracked a smile. Not one ever to be troubled with a lot of questions, Bear managed to stay calm and continued. "A master of illusion who was steadily milking our essence."
"What about Mildred and Guy?" She demanded wanting to know more of why we ditched our former neighbors and guests.
"Familiars or servants if you will." I returned then gave her a brief account of what occurred yesterday evening at the outcropping. "I suspect the reason we saw so little of Mildred and Guy was because keeping them in seemingly normal human guise, proved to be a big drain on Claudia's powers."
"They may of been human once." The Great Bear stated
"Aye" I agreed, "Just another frightful aspect in the being of these creatures, I've heard tell that if a person succumbs to such critters, what’s left of his or her misfortunate soul becomes a slave to it."
Flip added: "They eat spirits."
"Even their playful nibbling can infect and doom." I grimly informed our band. With that we all quaffed deeply and looked at each other in a troubled way. Patti appeared to have difficulty understanding this explanation.

"Well I guess y'all are fucked!" Whitey said pointing first towards Denny, then at Charlie before cutting his eyes at me.
"How so with Denny?" I asked, probably already knowing the answer.
"He nailed her in the bed of Bear's truck about two hours after you crashed out last night."
"Oh shit." I responded, shaking my head.
Denny bluntly offered an obscure explanation. "After another few cups of rum, and some more weed, she rubbed me into a boner underneath the table, so we moved it under Bear's camper shell."
"Fool!" Flip barked, "I tried to warn you!"
"Warn me?"
"Yeah, warn you!"
"When?"
"Last night, before you guys bedded down, when she was nibbling your neck, you fucking horn dog!"
"How did you go about in warning me, Flippy?"
"You didn't take notice of the danger signal?" The Birdman asked repeating a hand motion similar to someone dispersing a bad odor.
"Fuck man, I probably thought you were swatting at a bug." Denny replied.
Pulling out the ointment still contained in an old cigarette pack and then raising my shirt, displaying a faintly stained navel I reminded him: "And you were not protected."
"That shit again!" Whitey said, rolling his eyes.
"That shit kept most of my soul from being sucked out through the center while I slept beside that critter.” Seeing the worried look in Denny’s eyes, I could relate to his lack of precaution while cursing not only my own and that of the others. At Big Meadows we should of shooed Claudia away at the first sign of weirdness, but were either quite taken with her, or else bewitched.

"Let's just be glad we shook them" Bear growled, wanting to savor the rest of his vacation.
.
Casting another glance at Charlie, I became worried as he did not appear well. 'Drunken dolt.' I thought, but could not hold him responsible for tagging Claudia those first two nights following her arrival. Having carried on with her to some degree, a couple of times I was only an insert away from the old double hump and side swoop myself, even after suspecting her as such.

Having a knowledge concerning the almost forgotten history of such devils or creatures, Denny should of known better. He seemed extremely troubled and quaffed deeply in his regret. Like most people I knew, Denny had his weakness. The drink, chasing skirts and rarely applying himself enough to ever finish many things he had started. Besides that, Denny was intelligent and master of a few good trades where he could demand and usually get top pay. His interesting conversation was always refreshing especially, after a day of hanging with Charlie or Whitey. Yet the more he drank, the more his conversations became garbled and drifty. Denny poured a good measure of rum, raised his head as in preparation of answering a question he was sure to come. Bear cursed under his breath knowing this matter needed to be talked out a bit more. Perhaps afterwards we could all carry on with this celebration that was becoming more meaningless by the hour. Usually by this time of night Charlie would be pestering Flip to no end, but for the most part he quietly drank and listened the words of others, offering scant response or humorous antidotes. Whitey, looped out on cheap beer and weed, could always be counted on to argue upon matters he knew very little about. Patti, seemed rather bothered, yet curious enough to request more of an explanation of why we had to shake off Claudia, Mildred and Guy in such a dishonestly rude manner. "Not of our kind? So what is she, what the hell happened?" She demanded then went on to say: "I know you Lynnhaven boys are a little weird, but I've never seen you guys so freaked out." Patti took a good slug of rum then looked at each of us as if sincerely requesting a little more light be shed upon a dark subject. "So what do you think she is?"
In a grim tone Denny responded - "They are all but gone, only a stir in the breeze, but those who have survived mankind grow powerful in small numbers or as individuals."
"Who?" Patti asked.
Denny’s dark eyes focused upon the dancing girl and replied in a clear, steady voice. "A type of advanced human-like beings. They in their pure form roamed and ruled the world long before the first ape-like subhumans ever thought about dropping off a low tree limb and lope awkwardly on two legs across a forest glade." Denny held all our attention now, even Whitey had cocked an ear no doubt hoping to enjoy campfire entertainment. Denny had a slug of rum and continued: "Always have the homo sapiens been either in servitude or at odds with the old ones. For over a hundred thousand years humans have felt their yoke or in some cases the crunch of their misshapen skulls, especially after we found out they can be slain. At first these creatures either enslaved or extracted a terrible toll of human death and suffering." Denny poured another drink and went on. "Enduring countless centuries of bleak cohabitation with these creatures as slaves, sport, prey and often foot soldiers caught up in these creature's feuds, humans came to learn that these beings had certain weaknesses. One was a fondness the males had for sapient females and for some odd reason Neanderthal women they encountered retreating from their last stronghold on the Ob River in present day Russia. This breeding with the Neanderthals created an evil haired race who possessed supernatural powers. In time many of them settled in the Caucasus and Zargos Mountains. They could shape shift and in such comely form as our previous guest could seduce kings and emperors before sucking them into naught. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of these hybrids in his true form could have been Enkidu. Denny finished his cup and poured him another before continuing. “In time the prey became predators, and the slaves became masters, or so they thought. Over long years of strife, humans became more apt in making war upon the old ones all the while having little knowledge that many of their war chiefs or warrior kings were naught but the hybrid offspring of those they bore arms against. Oh how these bastard children hated their parents who had abandoned them among human relations. An age old woe and struggle, even now when they are all but gone." Denny drained his cup and added: "Those who remain have either been driven to lonely hinterland places or else have attained high and secure standings among unsuspecting humans."
"They have been bred out in many places as well." I informed our band.
"True." Denny agreed and went on to say: "And their traits live on either heavy or slight in so many people today, yet the old pure bloods and their first hybrid offspring still walk among us in human guise. There's a good chance the government knows about them. Even more frightening they could very well be running the government."
"Claudia?" Patti asked.
Having a good quaff of rum, Denny answered: "I don‘t think she‘s a pure blood, probably long removed from the Zargos or Caucasus Mountains . Either turned out of some ancient clan or circle,,,"
Cutting Denny short, I said: "Or still part of some ancient clan or circle and out for some hunting sport and quarry."
"At least she admired her prey." Charlie stated in an almost hollow tone.
"Oh she admired the fact we were so tolerant of her presence and readily available to feed off of." I replied.
"Well you were kind of tolerant of and wrapped up with her for awhile." Whitey stated, adding: "Hell man, you sacked down with her too"
"Yeah, but I didn't screw her."
Flip, sometimes not the gentleman added: "She has nice knockers."
"Yes she does." I agreed, but that could of been an illusion."
"They felt real enough to me." Charlie informed us.
"A case of prey admiring the hunter." Denny grimly stated.
Patti, probably not comprehending a lot of what was being said attempted to raise some much needed cheer, lifted her cup and proclaimed: "At least we're all alive!"
"Are we?" Denny asked, then turned his eyes to our fire. "For so long they have had time to become masters of deception, but cannot fool all of us, all the time, but now I sit here talking to you, knowing I've been fooled."
"We all were, and still may be." Flip said, hitting on a clipped roach.

From the other side of the lake an owl hooted and a low breeze blew upon our legs. This low cool wind continued to stir both dust and nerve. Yet our fire blazed in a whirling dance and at that point in time was the only thing we could count on besides ourselves. "As we continue to be." I said watching Whitey slip the sheathed Bowie onto his belt. Bear issued a rumbling growl, sitting his horn down, he uncorked the rum, took a big swig and said: " But we are not the kind of fools who are easily fooled, and that itself is a mystery as to why something like that would consider us easy game!" Curious to know what he was getting at I asked -"How mean you Bear?" Handing me the bottle to conceal until further needed, he then chased down the hard drink with a gulp of German beer and replied: "This time of year, when most normal vacation campers are back at home or jobs and kids starting off the school year, these campgrounds become host to a good number of festive folk like us."
"Ahhh, a time of celebration, good cheer, low traffic trails and uncrowded fishing holes." I returned.
"A lot of party people tenting from The Meadows of Dan to all the way up to Mathews Arm." Flip added.
The Great Bear nodded his head and said: "Exactly, the state and federal campgrounds now have to put up with a wide variety of revelers like us, taking advantage of seasonal rates and looking to enjoy some elbow room"
The Great Bear continued: "A lot more easier prey than us sitting around fires and swilling swilling booze."
"Really?" Denny asked, then went on to say: "We were foolish enough."
Bear cut his eyes at Denny. "How so?"
"Either forgetting of these creature's existence or so secure in our thoughts believing they have long been defeated or killed off, humans have grown soft and become over confident. With so little memory of just how crafty and terribly real these old ones are, we have made them mythical or the stuff of fantasy books. But as they continue to prey off of humans there will always be those who are wary enough to either flee or fight. In our case we may of fled too late" Denny paused and looked up at Flip's tarp wavering in the breeze. "I believe she knew we were on to her our last day and night at Big Meadows."
"Before that!" I snarled.
"Well she knew from the start we were not the average raising hell party campers like those goobers we saw setting up tents over by Sherando’s restrooms and showers."
"Not the average campers indeed." Denny commented and then went on, "Yet more and more the fiends hunt and are ever out for bigger game"
"Like us?" Whitey asked including our band with a sweep of his arms.
"We were either just good sport or else vacation repast for this huntress." I replied then reminded them about her field guides.
"Certainly not big game." Denny added and continued: "They are forever manipulating powerful people and climbing to high places in government, big business, mainstream media, entertainment and religion along with most other social aspects of human life. The pure old ones stay behind the scenes directing many of their bastard offspring in the management of a lot of human affairs. Some of these bastards are world leaders, corporate CEOs and religious mouthpieces. With all their arcane knowledge and in pleasant human guise, the hybrids can get a foot in the door of anywhere they want. These hybrids are usually welcomed with opened arms, greatly admired, helpful and charming in the beginning, but in time, rule by deception and through fear. They are powerful enough to enchant and bewitch at will with little trouble. They are powerful enough even, to cloud the minds of the suspecting."
"That's why we had to give them the slip, up on the Skyline Drive." I concluded. "Are you sure about that?" Denny inquired with serious dark eyes. Recalling my account, Bear reminded me of what I described which occurred at that rock outcropping. "She could of changed into an owl or else have such birds or other creatures in service as spies and messengers." Whitey popped open another bud and laughed: "You crazy fuckers have been watching too many science fiction movies or else have smoked yourselves silly."

"They eat spirits." Flip repeated.

Suddenly there was a loud banging. It was Bear pounding the end of his walking stick against a cooler. "Enough talk of troubling matters, she's probably down at Fort Valley sizing things up, a lot of party people camping there this time of year. Let her feed off them, while we hole up here at Sherando. So lets leave her behind and move on. Evoke not. We need not fret over yesterday's mistakes."
"Then you better sleep with that cleaver near." I advised him, then went on to say: "Ahhh, but for now there is dinner to look forward to and afterwards we'll happily drown any lingering fears and regrets.” I raised a toast. "Camp Sherando!"
We decided to make no further mention of our encounter at Big Meadows.

We ate good that Night and all was seemingly settling in a good way. Pan fried trout, bock bass, sweet roasted corn on the cob, raw spinach salad and camp bread piled on paper plates. Flip Bear and Whitey opted for left over Atomic Sausages and hamburgers. Charlie surprised us all by scarfing down three rock bass, two trout and two ears of corn, but he did not seem quite his old self. Still it seemed he was on the mend. Flip was fiddling with the boom box dial. Pausing at a soft rock station out of Lynchburg we listen to a Bread song until Whitey, now pretty much lit up threatened to smash the radio unless Flip found some decent music. The radio waves being somewhat abundant that night we tolerated 'college music' from Blacksburg for awhile. Having enough of that, Flip located a classic rock station coming out of Roanoke. Denny and R.W. sat side by side feasting upon fine camp victuals. Bruised and battered as they were, both portrayed a golden image of brotherhood rather than last night's two male bobcats savagely battling over a mate. However with each downed cup of spirits they focused more attention upon Patti.

Hitting my secret stash I pulled out a jug of Irish whisky to go with the rum and ale. "What ya got there?" R.W. asked
"None of your fucking business. It's mine"
"Aww, come on man."
"Whisky." I replied, "Get your mind off it."
Charlie showed great interest as well. "Hey man, let me have a pull off that." I uncorked the small jug, there was a sound as the aged whisky gasped to breath air again. I had procured these fine imported spirits from a William and Mary student/neighbor of mine as a wedding present. He always had a line on imported goods such as liquor, food items, books, trinkets and weed from different parts of the world. Pouring a good measure of the heady drink, I swirled it in my cup before draining the contents.

"Woooooooweeeee!"

Passing the jug first to Charlie. "Here, since you're kin and all."
Putting a good bit in his cup, he threw it down as well. "Well damn! Where'd ya get this?”
"Personal connections." I replied, pouring myself another. Holding their cups out like third world beggars, I felt compelled to fill Denny's, Flip's, R.W.'s and Patti's cup as well. In this generous mood I offered some of this elixir to Bear and Whitey. They both declined, but Bear did give me a rain check. Charlie's cup was out again. Fixing him up I suggested he should go easy on the stuff.

After everyone was finished eating, we cleaned up extremely well as Sherando was known for it's nocturnal bear visits. With that out of the way we fell into our routine of festive celebration. The drink flowed, music played, smoking circles were joyfully attended, jesting abounded and general mirthful revelry seemed to prevail. Patti with a head full of grass and pretty much on her way to being slammed, once again pressed Denny or anybody else, to go further in depth describing the old ones.
"Fuck that shit!" Whitey snarled, "No more than childish superstitions! Vampires, ghouls and boogy men. Ha! Tales to frighten kids into being good, that's all."
"No more for now" Bear growled then added: "Speak of a devil too many times and it will appear."
Flip, half drunk himself agreed "Invoke them not."
Despite all his bold talk I could not help but notice a bit of fear in Whitey's eyes and that huge hunting knife hanging from his belt.

The big Khyber blade hung from my belt as well, although I couldn't remember slipping it on.

Armed as we were and hopefully miles and mountains away from our former neighbors, I could not help but ponder upon the age of the one calling herself Claudia along with how many victims she had drained to naught but dry soulless, lifeless hulls. Did she feed constantly, or gorge herself on a large meal, then slink off to a dark hidden somewhere to coil up for awhile and digest? Was she able to satisfy that hunger or slake her thirst back at Big Meadows, or was she bound and determined to finish us off? I thought about Denny's earlier words regarding humankind's wars and strife with such creatures. I tapped my knife handle somewhat comforted in knowing that although such beings are powerful, they are not invulnerable. Getting the jump on such a being would be no easy matter. Claudia like the rest of it's kind are shielded by darksome powers that have enabled and served well as they have survived all the way up to the 20th century. Bear was correct in saying decapitation and burning is the way to go, but there were other methods as well. Now free of such and somewhat hip, we would no longer be a willing human smorgasbord.

Flip, closely scanned a trail map. We had planned to hike the Torry Ridge trail, but now there was talk of exploring other area traces. We were eager to get out in some wild places where there were no teams of backwoods law enforcement officials lying in wait or poking around. Bear pretended to show no interest in our planning. He tugged at his beard and would have to be content hanging around camp. We could tell though he really wanted to get out in the deep woods. Parts broken, ripped open and jabbed a few times, he always mended back well. Bear had survived and healed from hurts that would kill two normal men at once. It troubled me somewhat to see him in such a limited state of physical being, but damn glad to have him as a home guard while the rest of us were away. Fetching him one of my ales for a change of taste, I told him there would be other camping trips. "You'll be up and about, walking and talking shit by this coming spring. Just don't be kicking in any bar windows twixt then and now."
"Oh yeah, this spring." Bear smiled, then gulped down half an ale. "To bigger hills!" he cheered.

For early May we had laid plans to cross the very ancient New River, north flowing with many rapids and falls, in spite of it's name is one of the oldest rivers in the world. West of Galax we would go into the Iron Mountains otherwise known as Mount Rogers Recreational Area. The highest ground in Virginia, surely in those Iron Mountains we would have to put a bit more effort in catching up to the elevation. But that was a good seven months away and for now our party were high enough in the Eastern Appalachians. "I'll stay here with you Bear." Patti lent him comfort. "We could go down and sit by the lake tomorrow."
"Oh no, you go out in run around in the woods with the boys, have fun, don't fret over me,, I just may take a drive down the parkway tomorrow, check out some overlooks and gift shops." Charlie and Denny both opted to go with him. The Great Bear slowly rose, lifted his horn high and declared: "So much for a tomorrow that isn't even here yet. Tonight we celebrate!" Howls and hurrahs burst from our lips as we raised cups to return cheer. Tonight I would allow myself a good many quaffs to chase away a sigh of relief and reestablish that happy camper feeling. Although hopefully we were miles and mountains away from our former neighbors, an air of uncertainty hung over the camp at Sherando Lake. I pondered whether this creature had forgotten about us and moved on to bigger game, or else was extremely pissed because we had slipped off her plate. My hopes were Claudia and company took a liking to Fort Valley and were now sitting up their web there. Taking a look around it seemed to me everybody was lacking something. “Come now, this is not a night for grim thoughts and glum faces. Let us pass the pipe!" All the others with the exception of Bear and Denny made way to our smoke lodge, entering one at a time. Following them all slowly I had to pull my eyes away from Patti's backside as Denny tugged upon my shirt in passing. Halting, then looking down I saw his usual swarthy face was somewhat pale. His dark eyes were fearfully serious. I strained ears to listen as he warned: "Something is out there,, I can feel it."
"How do ye say, Denny, what's out there?"
"Who can say, but I feel like a mouse at night, in an open field."
"I know the feeling, but we should be safe enough here. I doubt they have a clue that this place exists. If so we'll just have to close ranks." I patted his shoulder and assured him of a future uncertain, then went to take my place inside the tent.

Already dimly illuminated by a battery operated lantern, Flip was in the process of packing a bowl. Finishing this small task a bit too slow for my liking, I smiled and said: "How generous of you to go this one, Flip. Think I'll be the last one in late in the tent more often." With a flick of my lighter, I lent him flame. The long stemmed ceremonial pipe went around three times, but that wasn't enough. Coming to me, I cleaned the spent ash out, reloaded it and sent it around for three more. Instead of leaving right away, we sat in a circle engaging each other with a fair amount of weed induced gibberish. Even Charlie was up for a bit of monkey shining, sticking the small lantern up to his chin and entertaining us with a Boris Karloff impression. Stoned out of her pretty little head, Patti got a little sad eyed for a short while and made mention of how she wished Claudia was here to share in the fun. Putting the pipe and gear away I offered her a mirthless laugh. "But there's so many other things out there slithering in the dark to pal up with."

The last in and the last out, I followed my comrades through open door flaps. Halting short of our table like all of the others I was surprised to see two strangers in our camp. Bear broke the tension by once again rising then initiating introductions. "Patti, R.W., Whitey, Fisher, Flip, Charlie, this is Kim and Bryon from down the way."
"We met already." Flip said, extending his hand to Bryon. We all shook hands and offered them refreshment. Denny closely studied them for anything abnormal as did I. It was a shame to have to be on guard when dealing with fellow campers who were probably not soul sucking cannibals. They accepted some beer and we went on to find out Kim and Bryon were out of Virginia Beach. Both employed at a hotel at the strip, they decided to spend a few nights at Sherando Lake. Up until now neither had ever been camping or up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bryon was short, somewhat corpulent, dark of wavy hair and a bit too slue eyed for my liking. He appeared somewhat nervous and even more so after Patti jokingly winked at, then blew him a kiss. He took tiny l sips off his beer. Kim was kind of cute in a mousy sort of way. She was taller than Bryon, but not by much. One would expect someone from the beach to be quite tan, but like Bryon, she was rather pale. With a delicate face, set off by pretty light brown eyes behind a pair of oval-shaped black frame glasses and a strange pageboy hairstyle, she sure seemed to float Flip's boat as he ogled her up then down. I could never make up excuses for such heathenish behavior. Both were clad in brightly colored beach garb and talked very little. Bryon remained a little standoffish, While Kim seemed neither fearful of, or put off by our crude mannerisms and seemed to be enjoying her beverage more so than Bryon.

"Bryon here, needs to borrow a lighter or some matches to get a fire started." Bear informed us. With a high gurgling voice Bryon stated: "We had some matches, but they didn't work" He produced an old pack of hotel matches. Seeing their hotel logo on the pack Whitey informed us: "Me and my cousin Tiny stayed there last,,,," but cut himself short remembering that Tiny had checked in with a fake ID and later in a fit of drunken rage concerning something or another, they savagely rampaged about the suite, tearing it apart like whacked out big name rock stars and barely escaping the police with whole skin in the pre-dawn of a Sunday morning. "Our last year in high school many moons ago." Whitey quickly lied about that incident which took place two months ago. "Have not been back since." He added for good measure.

Flip gave Bryon a brand new lighter and asked how they were on wood.
"We don't have any wood." Bryon said with a goofy half smile.
Whitey shook his head and inquired with a bark of laughter: "Well how in the hell do you expect to make a fire without firewood?"
Maybe it was just now dawning upon Charlie's scrambled brain that Kim and Bryon were out of Virginia Beach, when he asked: "Ever heard of the Peppermint Beach Club? Ever go there?" They both shook their heads no. Finishing their beers, Flip was kind enough to fill Bryon's arms with firewood and Kim's arms with scrap cut pine kindling then offered to help them get their fire started. But Bryon politely refused Flip's assistance after thanking him. We offered them no weed as these were the years of just saying no. It was hard to trust anybody then a time when undercover cops, snitches and a wide array of patriotic citizens would turn in a harmless silly potheads for a sticky pat on the back.

They bid us a good night, took their gifts and left.

"Odd, they never heard of the Peppermint Beach Club." Charlie said once they were surely out of earshot. Odd indeed as the Peppermint Beach Club is a well known night time beach attraction. "Maybe they're from another state and new to Virginia." Patti said while pouring herself an ale. True, many northerners were migrating south to the Old Dominion and both our visitors had not a trace of a Virginia accent. Always the Yankee hater Whitey spat. "Fucking come-heres."
"Whoever they are, hopefully neither one of them had an inkling to what we all were doing in the tent." I stated. Bear issued a mighty belch then informed us: "I tried to give y'all a shout-out when they came in, but y'all were howling like lost souls at the time." He continued: "Just some greenhorns who probably never camped or encountered folk like us before, that's all."

"We should keep an eye on them anyway" I said knowing narcs and snitches come in all types, but there were other concerns as well.

The dark wooded ridges surrounded Sherando Lake were like giant sentinels. I always liked the way a highland horizon played against a starry sky. The still night air grew cooler with no breeze blowing off the lake. Behind our encampment loomed Torry Ridge which shaded our days and shadowed our nights. Covering both lake and shore was a layer of low fog or mist obscuring the bright boathouse light into a faint glow. In the distance a fox cried out suddenly causing roosting birds to rustle about in the tangled branches of a neighboring thicket. There was something very ancient about this place which before dam and campground was a large mountain hollow with a stream running through. I had camped here often, but did not feel the same sense of security now as those other times or upon arrival today. As night went on something didn't feel quite right about this place. We sat around our table sharing what there was of good cheer. However there was not enough to keep me lively as the combination of supper, spirits and smoke had packed a wallop. My eyes became heavy and weariness courted my brain despite the hour. Rising, I bade my companions a yawning goodnight, staggered off into the brush to piss, staggered back and crawled into the tent. As I fumbled to locate our battery powered lantern Whitey's voice hissed through tent fabric: "Fucking lightweight!" With a little light I rolled out my bed and stretched out. The foam pad and sleeping bag felt more comfortable than the finest of hotel beds. I didn't even bother with pulling my shoes off. Words and laughter tinged together into a droning hum.

Turning off the lantern I lay with eyes almost closed as dim firelight transcended tent fabric. Closing my eyes for what seemed a few minutes I opened them again after hearing a strange call in the night...

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Edited by Atehequa, 28 December 2014 - 05:29 PM.

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#51 Atehequa

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 05:33 PM

Already ancient at the dawn of human kind
Long before man’s first mud brick wall
Ever ravenously hungry and of an evil mind
It watched great civilizations rise and fall

From the Zargos to the Appalachians it preyed
Residing in palaces, hovels, tents and holes
For it’s enchanting company, a price to be paid
So very many wasted lives and consumed souls

Eater of esscense, we now know of your kind
Bearing witness, our terrible ailing and dead
Those of us wounded you have left behind
Swiftly fleeing from our camp half fed

Feasting upon peasants, travelers and great kings
Never too particular about it’s quarry
From rags to silks and life’s finer things
Recounted from memories in this campfire story


All was dark now. No more did sounds of revelry disturb the local night creatures. I was wide awake or so it seemed. It felt nothing like the lassitude which crept up on me earlier at our camp’s table. But at the same time I did not feel normal. Not taking notice of Flip's sleeping form in the gloom, I sat still for a minute and listened to leaves rustling along with a faint humming of some long forgotten melody. Moving silently as possible to tent's door, I slowly unzipped the flap as not to make too much sound while perhaps an old terror waited outside with ears cocked high.

Exiting the tent and halting just outside my eyes adjusted to the gloom. The table was empty and our fire had burned down to a few red glowing coals peeking through ash. 'Everyone's asleep.' I thought realizing I'd been doing the same for awhile now. I didn't even know exactly what time it was, but the night sky had a strange deep violet hue. Strange huge bright yellow stars winked from high above. "This is a dream." I whispered, then was aware of the humming again. It was drifting out of the underbrush and into our darkened camp. Dream or not, the large Khyber knife seemed real enough as I tapped it's horn handle.

The humming then ceased.

My eyes attempted to pierce shadows and a dark leafy tangle. I looked for any signs of movement. All was silent until a musical, yet mocking laughter burst forth out of the brush. Wasting no more time I moved over to our fire pit, gathered up a fair amount of kindling and dropped it on the burning coals. With a squirt of charcoal starter it burst into blaze, then I went for the firewood. With an armful of walnut I heard -

" I can't in the world understand why anyone would be so rude"

I at once recognized the familiar voice and shouted: "Up with you all, it's coming into camp!" All the while not taking my eyes off the dark thick growth. Yet no one stirred.
"They cannot hear you."
"Flip! Whitey! Bear! Get the fuck up!"
"Fool!" It shouted as my shaking hands placed chunks of wood upon the blaze. Grabbing the poking stick I stuck one end of it into the growing blaze as well.

"Come to me." it said.
I did not oblige, but drew my knife instead.
"Come on honey, I'm not mad at you."
I stayed by the fire and heard rustling in the thick underbrush.
"Oh well, guess I'll have to make the first move, you silly man."
"Keep back or die you devil!" I growled only to hear more mocking laughter as something moved towards me only slightly rustling leaves and branches. Moving away from my fire only a few steps I caught a glimpse of baleful yellow eyes burning in the shadows and a shape moving through the brush. Backing up to the fire, I pulled out the poking stick which was now a flaming brand. Having about enough of this madness, with steel and fire I strode forth, but not far before halting to make a stand. I would either slay this creature or die in my camp.

It stepped out into the open not twenty feet away and halted. I could see her plainly enough by my firelight and under the weird violet sky.

She appeared to be a splendid young creature, well formed and fine featured. Her only garment was a string of large beads hung with no great care around a trim waist and upon shapely hips. Decorating her naked body were serpent-like swirls and coils of paint which suggested the primitive. Long thick hair hung lose past her shoulders, framing a strangely beautiful face complemented by those exotic fiery eyes. What stood before me was alluring to the point of temptation and fell folly. I took in every curve. Beautiful, yet at the same time as venomous as a cottonmouth. She flashed a lovely smile. Tossing back well rounded shoulders her magnificant breasts were thrust forward in a suggestive manner. She was shaped like a primitive goddess both well turned and beautiful, but powerful enough to have her own way in most matters. Her lips parted and she asked in a rich seductive voice: "Why fight it?"
A strong lustful feeling shook my soul while hot blood raced through my veins and pounding fiercely at my temples. Uncontrollable passion flooded my whole sense of being as I thought to drop both blade and brand, take her in my arms then smother her with a fool's kisses.

"Take me." she said, "You know you want me."

Both of my arms went slack, hands barely grasping blade and brand. I stood like a mouse in an open field at night. She cupped one hand down over her vagina then brought it forth making a circle in the air. A sweet musky scent riding upon an unnatural breeze reached my nostrils. My head swam and good sense faltered, but a taunting laugh slicing through the night air was enough to jolt me out of this enchantment. Ignoring both my blade and brand she advanced.
"Back it on up!" I warned thrusting the large blade towards her. Now at only a few yards away she stopped and regarded the long knife with some concern. "You have to separate all that anger and fear from your true desires, dear man." she said with a toss of her hair.
"I'll separate your head from your shoulders if you come close enough." I returned, waving my brand into a brighter blaze.
"Ha! The fool you are."
"Try me you prehistoric hose bag!" I snarled, then went on to say "If it wasn't for your constant gluttony, you wouldn't be half bad for a little evening company, critter or not."
"Gluttony,, critter?" She acted surprised.
"That's right, you're a fucking pig! Call me rude will you? A critter so low as to feed off good folk that welcomed and provided for her. You are the rude one for tainting such good hospitality and shitting on hands extended in friendship!"
She became livid. "A fucking pig?"
"A fucking gluttonous pig!" I growled.
"You see anything pig-like about me?" She asked in no friendly tone with crossed arms and one hip thrust high.
"You wouldn't cut it for my last piece of ass, before dying a fool's death here at Sherando Lake." I returned, once again waving my glowing brand into flame.

"You are a fool!"

My words seemed to of unhinged this huntress and a change swept over her. Patches of her skin lightened while other places darkened forming noticeable strange patterned markings. Although still rather shapely, it's body seemed less human and soft. Mottled skin drawn tightly over muscles. Each of it's fingers and toes ended in dark talons. I shuddered upon looking at it's inhumanly beautiful yet sinister face. As it's lips parted I could not help but notice pointed canines or fangs. Aside from these physical changes it was her fiery eyes that terrified me the most. Those eyes attempted to hold mine, but I was more concerned about the slightest twitch of body movement that could possibly betray a sudden rush.
“Play hard to get with me, will you?” It's voice was still seductively sultry. “I’ll take you instead.”

And then it rushed in.

As it closed I sidestepped and swung a terrific blow with the Khyber blade intended for it’s neck but was thrown off balance by a stone rolling under my foot. Striking the creature’s abdomen instead it felt like I had hit an oak bole. That slash would of disemboweled a normal human, but had only left only a bleeding cut upon the creature. Regaining my balance, I struck it's head with the fiery brand setting wild flowing mane ablaze. The stench of it burning hair was overpowering. Any thoughts of shame for striking at a woman were absent as this thing was not human.

It’s horrifying scream ripped the night air.

Not allowing this creature time to strike back, I aimed another knife slash at it’s neck only to strike a blocking oak hard arm. A normal human arm would have been sheared clean off rather than the gash this creature received. With a sudden swing of that injured arm it knocked the fiery brand from my hand. A swift backhand blow from it’s other knocked me off my feet and onto the ground.

Patting most of it’s burning hair out, the creature issued an inhuman hiss.

Inspecting a gashed arm and long cut across it's mottled torso, it then turned it's burning eyes to me, glaring in a most hideous manner. "You son of a bitch! I'll never be able to wear a two piece bathing suit again. I'm going to rip out your,,,"
It's words suddenly ceased and the creature jerked it's head to one side as if listening. It's eyes widened into twin balls of fire.
The creature hissed: "Later,, you can bet your ass!" then turned and fled with hair still smoldering, ascending into the wooded slopes of Torry Ridge.

Issuing a war cry, I heaved myself up and gave pursuit. Up through highland woods and sloping inclines the chase led.

Something was crashing up through the underbrush ahead of me. I followed. Around and over outcroppings I slowed then halted long enough to wipe blood from my eyes and catch my breath while hearing something moving up behind me. ‘Mildred and Guy.' I thought, but the sounds veered away from my position continuing up the slope. This was like no dream, or nightmare I'd ever had before as blood clotted up upon my gashed eye brow and dried tight on my face. Never had I dreamed of my own bleeding. Pushing off from the trunk I had rested on my hunt continued. Recklessly I plowed upwards through a tangle of trees, underbrush, vines, creepers and brambles following the sounds of the creature's flight. Some distance ahead of me I heard a frightful scream.

"Yah lillah ushnaah!"

Two more times this cry repeated then faded into distant crashing upwards passing through the brush. It was moving fast. Following it up the slope I was barely aware of my tattered condition, weary legs and that the first pale amethyst hued light of a strangely different dawn was stealing over the ridge.

It had to be a dream.

I raced on by dawn's dim light finally reaching the summit. Looking down at the rocky ground I saw drops and splatters of violet colored gore leading down the other side. "Ha! A blood trail!" Descending swiftly, I came to a large level area strewn with outcroppings and cut by washouts. This I traversed still following the trail of gore. Hearing no sound of flight ahead of me, I continued carefully and ready for rending claws at any time slashing out from behind the next tree or rock. However the blood spoor continued onto a down a deer path.

The creature was bleeding every step of the way.

Upon this game trail for some time, I heard the sound of moving water and came to it's source. I dropped down into a broad stream bottom that was walled in by steep wooded banks cut by a swift moving run of clear upland water. Along this cascading stream both bank and bottom were clear of any underbrush providing no cover for a sudden ambush. Beside this stream I followed the creature's blood trail and foot prints pressed into wet exposed soil. This trail of gore stopped at water's edge. Above me on the rise I heard movement along with a familiar nasal whine-like call and caught glimpse of two smallish human-like beings racing along it’s heights in a blur of speed.

The twins!

At first thinking it had took to wading either up or downstream, I looked across the run and saw water and gore splashed upon some rocks. It had crossed here and so would I. This creature had to be caught and destroyed or else it would continue to feed off humankind. It had feasted upon our essence, tracked us to Sherando Lake and attempted to either fuck or have me for an early breakfast. Perhaps both. Now equally strange beings were hunting it as well. So they were stalking her while she was she tracking us. Perhaps this was a savage drama that had spanned countless ages. Even if they beat me to the kill, I would at least count coup on the creature's dead body, knowing a wound or two were my doing. It gave me a parting threat back at camp and I would see it dead either by my hand or someone else's. I was about done in after running up and down a mountain. Now my strength was all but exhausted. Still I went on. Continuing down my side of the stream I looked for a good fording place and found one. A large smooth rock sat in the middle of the water offering a good jump across point. Chancing a glance down the open trace, I was amazed to see two smallish pale skin, white haired, black-clad figures leap from the heights, land across the water upon grassy bottom land and race swiftly downstream out of my field of vision.

"Critters chasing a critter! Oh what a grand morning!" I shouted, then laughed at the madness of it all, before leaping.

Instead of landing soundly upon the large rock midstream, my foot hit a patch of slimy algae that I failed to noticed. I went down like a sack of potatoes striking my head on another rock before landing with a splash in the cold stream. Wet and dizzy, I rose and waded knee deep to the opposite bank. Taking up the chase anew I staggered on only a few short yards when my senses left me and then the world went black.

"Wake your crazy ass up!" The words sliced air like a peach switch, but it was cold water splashing on my face which brought me out of the void. Following another big splash of cold stream water I heaved myself up and growled "I'm awake damn it!" at Whitey who was ready to baptize me again and managed to do so just for the hell of it.
Flip was squatted by the stream dipping a spare bandanna into it's cold flowing water. Walking over to me he offered the wet cloth as to clean up my face. "Shit man, you're a fucking mess." He then began pulling out items from our first aid kit. Dripping wet, no doubt from failing the same jump as I, but without hitting his already battered head, R.W. asked: "What the fuck happen to you early this morning?"
"How early?" I demanded while bumming a cigarette from Whitey.
"Around quarter after five." Flip responded rubbing a gob of ointment on my eyebrow. "When you were leaving the tent I woke up. At first I though you were out for a piss, but after awhile I heard you yelling at something, so I started to get up, but couldn't find my glasses."
"Then there was an ungodly scream." R.W. added and inquired: "Was that you? It sure didn't sound like you. I thought it was a screech owl."
Flip went on: "I finally found my glasses, they were knocked off my travel bag when you were getting up. Well I poked my head out of the door flap just in time to see you tearing off up into the woods."
"Did you see that fucking critter?" I asked.
"Nope just you."
"No burning head?"
"Burning head? No. I just saw the fire and you yelling at the brush. You were howling like a mad dog." Flip replied while putting away his tube of ointment. "You woke everybody up with your crazy shit, so Whitey, Flip and I got geared up to bring you back. Damn Fisher, I ain't even had coffee yet." R.W. informed me. I guzzled down about half of Flip's canteen then told them: "It must of tracked us here, then waited to attack just before dawn."
R.W. gave me an odd look. "It?"
"Yeah it! It was Claudia, you wet poodle!" I went on: “She was calling me from the thick brush. Calling me, but I did not go in. She walked into camp as naked as dawn and smeared with paint."
"Paint?" Flip asked.
"Body paint, snake like swirls, circles and such. Anyway she came in wanting to hookup in a personal way."
R.W. wanted to know - "Did you tag?"
"Fuck no, I didn't tag, you dumb ass, I refused, and she turned into some kind of forest devil then made a grab at me." I got up, pulled off what was left of my Tshirt and washed the blood out.
"A woman scorned." R.W. chuckled.
To which I growled. "Woman, hell! That was no human!"
"Then what happen?" Whitey asked as if he was talking to a nut-job.
"I threw down on it, swung my knife and gave that old critter a good nick or two, but it was those two albino twins who chased her away."
"You stupid ass!" Whitey laughed, "You were sleepwalking in a nightmare." He had a hard time accepting anything supernatural or paranormal, even it was right in front of his face. "Bullshit Whitey!" I growled, “It was wounded when it booked off. I followed it's screams and crashing until dawn found me atop the ridge where I found it's blood trail."

“Blood?”

Fucking blood that looked like purple grape juice."
"Purple People Eater?" Whitey laughed, poking more fun than he should of."We saw no gore other than a few splatters of regular red blood" Flip said. "It wasn't purple?" I asked.
"Nope, red, like a deer or human." Whitey replied.
"Came from you probably" Flip said then added: "You may need to get that stitched up." he suggested while pointing at my gashed brow.
"It aint that bad." I assured him then walked over to where earlier, the creature's blood dripped over flora, dirt and stone. I inwardly swore seeing only bleached out spots upon the moss on a rock, wilted dying grass and black splattered stains in the dirt. "Even it's blood is vile." I whispered.

At a slow and easy pace we went back over the ridge and back down to camp while talking of making the best of what was left of our vacation.

However Charlie got real sick, so we had to leave Sherando Lake two days earlier than planned ..

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#52 Atehequa

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 05:38 PM

Our accommodations at the Ramada Inn were somewhat better than many of the other roadside motor lodges we have bivouac at.

Flip and I had been doing weekend side work in Blacksburg Virginia for old friends and decided to take abode here right off Highway 460. Finishing up some Chinese takeout, I cracked open a bottle of vodka and filled our cups. Outside it was an unseasonably sunny 70 degrees that late February weekend here in this college town. Earlier than expected we had finished installing some of our fine home crafted cedar kitchen cabinets in an old house that was being restored. Paid in cash, we would relax a bit in our motel room and get one going before hitting the main drag. Bars, taverns and new situations awaited us. Weather had been unseasonably mild thus far through Virginia during the 2006-2007 winter season. Our room had a view of a grassy field-like depression and beyond that, other buildings. Grabbing our drinks and ambling out the second floor room onto a railed walkway, we gazed of what scenery there was before us.
"Hey what's that?" Flip asked pointing to a low platform-like wooden structure some ten feet out in the field.
"What the hell does it look like?"
"It looks like a small stage." Flip answered his own question as we looked down at the wooden structure surrounded by metal picnic tables. "A soapbox to stand upon if so needed." I stated while checking out the horde of college kids pouring into a room about six doors down.

Flip was shot with gray and more gaunt than ever, but still managed to get around good. He was younger than me, but looked years older. Gone was the colorful bandana knotted about his narrow head, now he topped it off with a olive green fedora just like the one his ex-girlfriend lit on fire and tossed out the window during a drunken spat. Oh what a lovely couple they were, a thin Birdman man and his somewhat rotund younger girlfriend with coarse black hair, weird sky blue eyes and a tough swarthy hide sporting a good several tattoos. They had planned to get married this June until he had discovered his young bride to be was also banging a biker, a bartender at their favorite tavern and an air force flyboy from Langley. Already somewhat strapped, She had put him into heavy debt.
"How's Nicole?" I inquired.
"Fuck that hose-bag!" He hissed, his eyes black and beady like a cobra.
I smiled at his response as a coworker had informed me Flip and Nikki were together at a local watering hole the night before she had to turn herself over last month to the Virginia correctional system due to her third DUI arrest and first assault on a law enforcement officer last month. Up until now Nicole‘s parents had kept her out of jail, but cut off their support after the last DUI. Time to pay dues.
"She's in the pokey." he said and then asked not to mention her name again. "I'm trying to stay in a good mood."
Flip had reason to be in a good mood as this was the last month he had to pay child support . His youngest child was now an adult. Needless to say his ex-wife Trisha did not share in this happiness. There was already talk of her and her new hubby having to sell their Florida vacation home. I told him to get a lawyer when they first separated, but he was too tight in those days to spend a quarter to save a dollar so to speak.
Like Flip, I had grown older and went through divorce with my first wife. Thank goodness no children were involved. Now with a new woman and beautiful nine year old daughter, the many bawdy nights of marathon drinking, wenching and all other aspects associated with being a bad husband were a thing in the past. Besides work and an occasional camping trip with friends, I pretty much stayed with my family. A homebody of sorts, but that’s not to say I ceased my quaffing completely. We still had our occasional trips out of town to really put one on. Once again many miles from home we decided to get up there a bit.

Going back inside I filled both our cups, while Flip packed a small steatite bowl full of weed. It had been awhile for me.

With the motel radio on we caught-up on local news and spoke of our old comrades living or departed. Denny had been killed on a dark cloudy night in the summer of 1990 while sitting atop his motorbike waiting to turn at a traffic light by a fast moving red Ford Mustang. His brother R.W., once the dandy of Lynnhaven and Williamsburg was now ate up with hardcore chronic alcoholism in an old mobile home at the edge of Poquoson's salt marsh. Unable to work and on disablity, he had become more or less a recluse. Our old friend Whitey was no better off, drunk every day and with kidney and liver problems. Although I had talked to Bear on the phone a few times, neither Flip or myself had not seen him since 1997. We had heard he had slacked up on the drinking, but had ballooned twice his normal huge size. He had a new passion, a smoke house and smoked meats. I still called him each time before we went camping and offer invitation, which he always refused. My cousin Charlie now lay withering and wasting away at a nursing home. From the late 80s to the early 90s he became a full fledged junkie. The family attempted to keep Charlie away from hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, but as he once told me - "This is the only way I can keep away the nightmares and pain." Injecting those drugs seriously damaged his central nervous system and mental health. Up in age my cousins Cal and Marge, Charlie's parents put him in a nursing home. Durning my last visit, he didn't know who I was.

"Ever heard anything from Patti?" I asked, thinking of the dancing girl for some odd reason and knowing Flip still frequented the go-go joints.
"The last I heard, Patti was crack whoring down in Ocean View but I also heard she was dead" Flip sadly replied.
"Sad indeed." I said, "Such a happy go lucky little sprite, she had the whole world before her."
"That world got smoked through a crack pipe." Flip returned.
I informed him that Patti's sister Terri worked at my place of employment but would not talk about her sibling. "Yep, she's probably dead or worse." Flip said. Getting away from sad news, I raised my cup to Flip and cheered him. "Well you have not aged a bit."
"You ain't either." He lied.
Then clanking my cup against his I raised a toast. "Here's to good liars and better lies!" We drained our cups and proceeded to sample the usual potent green hydroponic weed that had become the mainstay of area heads. None the less we got pretty much up there.

Flip and I were just about the last from the old neighborhood who would light out on such Appalachian excursions. Some had moved away starting new lives. Some were sickly and unable to travel. A couple were currently serving time in prison and all others were dead. Fading memories and names carved on headstones. Our past adventures were now only campfire stories and tavern table tales.
.
We were comfortable enough in this Ramada room and there was a sense of security, but having never lodged at this place it may be best for us to tread carefully. I had found the ice, soda and snack machines earlier with no trouble. It was a good thing we had checked in on Friday around noon as the motel was rapidly becoming packed with guests. We ate lunch then went to the worksite where Flip and I labored till 9 pm, came back to the room, feasted upon pizza and got rather slammed before passing out. Rising early, then back to work, we finished the job by lunch. After that the Ramada was filling fast with weekend celebrating college kids and a few travelers.

Returning to the room not long ago with 7UP , Bugles and bucket of ice, I was approached by a late teen or barely into her twenties who wanted me to violate Virginia’s ABC laws by going into town and picking up some liquor for her. She asked in such a pleasant manner that I felt ill at ease to decline. She thanked me anyway as I knocked for Flip to open up. Seeing the young woman walk away Flip watched with hand shaded eyes. "Who was that?" He wanted to know.
"Didn't catch her name, but she wanted me to fetch booze for her and her friends."
"Never know." Flip said, "They could be operating an ABC sting."
Shaking my head in woe, and then remembering how it was when I was young I stated: "These kids have a more hard way to go getting up there, shit man, back in the 70s, the fuzz barely fucked with us, unless of course we were raising too much hell." to which Flip said: "These kids know how to score, probably better than us. She'll find somebody to pick up her liquor."
"You're probably right Flip." Then I reminded him of the days of our youth when the legal age to buy beer was eighteen, and how we had little trouble copping hard spirits with easily attained fake IDs. Many times during our youthful days we checked into various motels under assumed names, filled a bath tub with ice and beverages for a Friday night festival. Now as the 21st century dawned, badges, batons and big brother were always a step away or passing near, especially after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The sense of scrutiny caressed many with the comfort of a roll of 60 grit sandpaper hanging on a dispenser next to a dirty toilet.

When traveling and staying at such places we were usually well armed.

Flip traveled with his long barrel .38 revolver, while I took along my reproduction 1860 Army .44 ball and cap hog leg. Of course we brought our blades. My old Khyber knife lay under a pillow. If some crazed crack head kicked in the door like what happen at a motel down in Ocean View back some 12 years ago, we would be ready.

Having reflected upon days long past over another drink, a motel lamp and the free HBO illuminated the room as I called a cab so as to get us to 'party town' without the risk of a DUI. In no time the driver arrived and was blowing his horn outside. Exiting our lodging we had to go back in and grab coats as it had suddenly turned very cold and grey. They say if one doesn’t like the weather in Virginia, just stick around and it’ll change.

We booked off into the night.

Stoned, slammed, I failed to remember names of the establishments we visited that night. All were packed with college kids. They treated us for the most part in a friendly manner, but still we felt out of place. In the last of those college bars, a very nice top floor place, assessable by good many steep stairs, it was time to make plans. I could barely hear Flip over the loud music. "Is there anywhere in this town where old folks can drink in peace and quiet?" Flip attempted to shout over the pounding beat. Before I could reply, the bartender gave us a name and directions , which upon finishing our drinks we followed. A chill was in the air and icy sleet fell. Soon the sidewalks became rather precarious for fellows such as us. Flip took a slide on the icy sidewalk almost tumbling over a newspaper machine. "Easy there Peggy Fleming." I laughed, taking lead in crossing the street. "This is the place." pointing at the old dull structure ahead. It didn't look to be a bar from the outside, more like some run down business thrust between two other old storefronts. However inside both of us grinned, knowing this place was better suited for our festive needs. Before us a darken table area that was about half filled with customers and beyond that a dimly lit bar sporting about a dozen stools. Three old patrons sat atop swiveling seats at the highly polished oaken bar where we copped a squat.

We had given this place a once over while making for the bar, recognizing no one to our knowledge. The bartender a friendly enough looking soul asked what we would be drinking tonight. "Two of the largest zombies you can make please." I ordered and informed him we didn't mind paying extra for a good drink. "I can do that." he said with a smile and produced two glass beer pitchers in which proceeded to mix our beverages.
"Fuck man, don't know if I can handle all that." Flip said watching the massive amount of booze being poured. I breathed in the cigarette smoke and the smell of spilt beer. "A nightcap Flip, before bedtime."
"Some fucking nightcap, more like a sledgehammer to the skull." The Birdman returned.
"A last one for the road." I laughed.
Flip chuckled: "That last one is going to do just that."
"What's that?"
"Last." Flip replied, "Last all night, that's about five big drinks poured into one."
"Don't worry about it Flippy, this is my treat, but you're getting the cab home." Thinking it would be good to put a table under such large beverages we hefted the pitchers like huge tankards to an empty booth near the door where both of us quaffed deeply. "How's your drink, Flip?"
"Heavy."
"How's your's?"
"Strong."
With good booze running down his chin, Flip warned: "I hope we don't slip and break our necks out there." Getting bombed off our giant-sized drinks, we sat and talked. At one point we touched upon plans of getting our families together for camping at the Verona KOA. "I hate privately owned campgrounds" I reminded him.
"Yeah but the kids like the waterfall and bunnies." He slurred, then got up and made his way to the restroom. Grooving on the jukebox's sounds, I enjoyed my large drink while gazing at distorted reflections on the cloudy glass door. Scant worries here while we get fucked up before calling a cab and taking our chances back at the Ramada.

My ponderings were suddenly disturbed by a gentle tap on the back. Turning my head down and around I saw a pair of women's boots. Looking upwards I saw she was wearing jeans and a thick woolen sweater. She appeared barely into her 30s, with a beautiful face framed by shoulder length chestnut hair. I drew in a deep breath while my hackles rose. As my eyes adjusted more to her form and features, I felt a chill colder than the ice storm outside. She regarded me with strange golden amber eyes and with a rich voice said: "I know this sounds corny, but,, haven’t we met somewhere before?"
Almost stammering while gazing at that haughty yet sensual face, I managed to gather myself. "I don't think so."
"I'm Melissa." She offered an extended hand, but I grabbed my drink and raised it instead.
"I'm Joe." I returned having an inclination we knew each other lied. Above smiling lips, the look in her fiery eyes could almost be mistaken for a glare. I expected her at any split second to change into some terrible semi-human creature from the dark, demonical past and with a sharp black talon hand, rip my face off. That didn't happen, but once again, I felt like a mouse at night in an open field. It was difficult for me not flying into some weird black rage and smashing my drinking pitcher against this creature’s head. Although fearful, I could not take my eyes off her unusual beauty. She spoke of the weather. "Getting cold out there. A good night to be cuddled up together near the campfire."

It was then Flip returned to our table. The Birdman hissed like a buzzard and I watched his jaw drop as he got a good look at our visitor.

"Hi my name is Melissa." she said, again extending her hand which Flip lightly and swiftly shook. The Birdman then shot me a worried glance.
"My name is Joe." he stated not realizing I already used that handle.
"Two Joes in the same bar and at the same table." She laughed, "What are the odds on that?" Her eyes now aglow with fire, she bowed her head slightly and said: "Well nice meeting you Joes, but I've got to be getting back to my friends. I'll make it a point to see you Joes around later." With that she winked, smiled, turned and sashayed across the hardwood floor with the gracefulness of a she panther. Flip quickly pulled out his cell phone to call a cab, while I went to the restroom, getting a decent look at Melissa's friends while passing their table.

And what friends did they appear to be. I got a better look at them on my way back from the restroom, as they did me.

Sitting around a small table there were five of them including 'Melissa' and on either side of her sat a lovely ginger haired woman. One was clad in attire much too skimpy for a icy winter's night. Her skin was of a saffron hue with very pale grey eyes that were slightly tinged with glowing yellowish streaks. The other was garbed like 'Melissa', sweater, jeans and boots. Her face was also inhumanly beautiful, but of an old ivory color. Her amber eyes flashed at Melissa's before locking on me as I passed by. Across the table from these gals sat a giant of a fellow. Judging from his seated height compared with Melissa's, I'd estimate him to be about 6'9". He was rangy with a strange shaped close cropped head of rust colored hair. Sloping down from between two amber eyes was a large ski jump shaped snout with large flaring nostrils. His chin curved upwards in a most curious way. Beside this red giant, a young collage aged whacked out looking Asian lad cackling and blowing bubbles into his drink with a straw. Aside from the crazy eyed bubble blower, all glared at me as I passed their table. Rejoining Flip I guzzled down a large measure of beverage just to settle my nerves. I would of drank the rest but our cab showed up so we swiftly left those critters where they sat. Outside a coating of ice was forming on just about everything but the cold fresh air did us better than the stench inside that den we had just fled. Flip and I sat in shocked silence the whole cab ride back.

We were swiftly whisked to the Ramada. Flip paid our driver and we carefully made our way across a frozen parking lot. We couldn't get in our room quick enough, securing all locks and putting a chair up against the door. Weapons were inspected and put near to hand. I poured both of us a double Vodka and handed Flip a bag of Bugles.
He ripped the bag open popped about ten of the corn snacks into his mouth one after the other, chewed it all into a mush and washed down with liquor. He slapped his hand upon the small motel table. "Holy fuck! I don't believe it!"
Throwing down a good measure of vodka, I told him: "Believe it."
"Got no other fucking choice!" He hissed.
"Hasn’t seemed to have aged much, has she?" Then I added: "Hope we weren't followed." Flip, now re-inspecting his revolver mumbled: "Followed? Oh fancy that. We'll get to meet some more of her special friends this time." He looked down his pistol sight and continued: "You know, I had almost put that weird ass camping trip at Big Meadows out of my mind as too much trip weed and liquor, but that critter is no pink elephant, living, breathing and I might add, filling out a pair of jeans very well."
"Yes very lovely indeed." I stated, adding: “Oddly enough I started thinking of that critter when we got to talking about Patti." I was now thinking about my cousin Charlie withering away at a Williamsburg nursing home, and Denny’s untimely death. I also thought my past sick behavior that ruined my first marriage. Drinking and cheating. In most every woman’s face I screwed, I saw Claudia‘s. There were nights when the sky appeared to be a deep violet filled with huge yellow stars. This went on for ten years until healed by my current wife and some of her people. Strong medicine.

"If I were you, I'd make sure there is six good charges in that horse pistol." the Birdman suggested while waving around his shooting iron like some kind of border ruffian. Never being a big fan of mixing alcohol, fear and handguns together, I informed Flip: "It's ready and there if I need it. Now put that fucking pea shooter away before it goes off and hits me or somebody in the next room over."
He strapped on his shoulder holster and slid the gun in while I kept mine in between mattress and box springs.
"How in the hell did we manage to cross paths with that critter again?" Flip asked, placing his hunting knife upon the table. "I think it was a chance meeting, you know like running into an old friend at a bar or grocery store." I replied spinning his blade around on the table's smooth finished surface. Getting up to check both window view and locks he asked: "Did you mean to say, old fiend?"
"It was chance, if that thing was after us, we would of seen it before now."
"Well I ain't going down without a fight." He hissed. I could see he was a bundle of dangerous nerves at this point.
"Just don't go shooting at anything here yet." I told him and requested he take off the holster and put in a drawer.
"Fuck no!" He returned, "I got a good look at their brethren-kin at that table, a rough looking customer" Then Flip nervously chuckled: "Did you see that fucker's head?"
"No more odd looking than yours." I laughed, attempting to cool down the situation. "No wonder they were sitting in the gloom." Flip stated.
"At this point Flip, I halfway expect them to bust through the door and turn us into party punch.”
"Damned devils " He hissed and wanted to know: "What now?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do we get the fuck out of here?"
"And go where?"
"Roanoke, Richmond, home, who gives a fuck? Anywhere but five miles away from where that thing is now lounging at!"
"Screw that Flip, I paid for this room for two nights just to help your broke ass out, and I'm not going anywhere tonight during a fucking ice storm so stay cool. If anything comes through that door they'll at least catch nine or ten bullets before sitting down to talk."
"Think they'll come?" He inquired.
"Maybe, but something in their fiery glares told me otherwise."
"What do you mean?"
"It was the kind of look feuding kinfolk give each other, or the way pissed off employees glare at a boss, once his back is turned. Oh I ain't saying they wouldn't enjoy ripping us to ribbons, but it appeared they were otherwise engaged. Did you see that whacked out oriental guy with them? No I think they got something important going on back at their table or else she would of hung out with us longer."
"So why the hell do you have a loaded gun in your bed?" He asked seeming more calm.
"Cause sometimes I'm wrong" and I added: "Let us be ready, but speak no more of it. Utter a devil's name too many times and it'll think you're calling over for a visit."
"Well we can burn one if you want." Flip filled his steatite pipe and we smoked, watched television, but remained jumpy because all of the loud walkway foot traffic passing outside our door. A motel mostly filled with drunken college kids.
"We'll try to get out early tomorrow." I said, "Head towards Roanoke."
For another two hours or so we talked of old friends and past adventures, but knew none could top what we experienced while camping at Big Meadows back in the late summer of 1986. How we were reminded of that only a short time ago in that gloomy downtown Blacksburg bar.

We awoke to the sound of commotion coming from down the walkway. Flip turned his bedside lamp on as quickly I pulled on my duds, removed the chair, opened the door, braved the cold and chanced a look down the way. "What's going on?" Flip putting on his glasses, wanted to know.
"Snockered up college kids fighting out on the walkway."
"Shit man, I thought it was Claudia and them, close that fucking door and let those stupid fucks duke it out in the cold."
"That ain't all, I see flashing blue lights"
"Cops?"
"No, fucking flying saucers!" I returned.
Hearing tires turn upon ice-slick asphalt, I closed the door and got a soda out of our mini fridge. "Of course they're cops, about to raid a party."
We could now see reflections of those blue flashing lights through the frosted window. "No more sleep for tonight." Flip yawned then checked his watch. "3:35 " He hissed, then got up to brew us a small motel pot of complementary coffee."I could of use about four more hours of sleep" I said. Flip placing the coffee packet in agreed. "Me too, I feel like,,, "He fell silent as there was knocking at our door. Three more times we heard a knock, then for a short while ceased, then continued. Already pissed at the whole situation and about half hung over, I walked to the door and asked in a loud voice. "Who is it?"
"A few doors down." The voice was female. Flip was already on the other side of the door with his pistol out as I cracked it open, chain still attached only to see the young lady who had approached me earlier about getting her some booze. "Can I help you Miss?" I asked, motioning Flip to put his gun down. "I'm in trouble, can I come in?"
"What troubles you?"
"Can I come in, they're raiding our room."
"Get in!" I growled, lifting the chain then easing open our door.
After getting over the shock of seeing Flip in his underwear brandishing a gun she calmed down enough to accept a styrofoam cup full of steaming coffee and managed an explanation for waking us. "I was downstairs on the other side at the vending machines when the cops pulled up and snuck around the back way, but think I was spotted."
"So you knocked on our door?"
"I could hear him running after me, but it sounded like he slipped on the ice. When you let me in I could hear him coming up the stairs. I knew this was your room. It was the only thing I could think of."
She said her name was Megan and thanked us again for our hospitality. 'Human.' I thought, putting aside worries of changelings and such. We gave her cover then at dawn enjoyed The Ramada's continental breakfast of waffles and other goodies with our young guest before parting ways.

Checking out of our lodging we made it as far as Dixie Caverns on Interstate 81 and because of icy road conditions and lack of rest decided to hole up at some old roadside style motor lodge called the Blue Jay Motel. Within walking distance of our new lodgings were Dixie Caverns. I promised my daughter I'd get her some fossils from the gift shop during a call home. Besides, I wanted to get ripped and tour the caverns. Feeling much more at ease within these thick plaster walls, Flip loaded his pipe so as we could get up there before going under the mountain with a qualified tour guide. "This is some halfway decent shit you got here, Flip." I exhaled, passing him back the pipe. The Birdman put butane flame upon the bowl, drew in, then expelled a stream of smoke and said with a crooked smile: "Yeah it's alright, but nothing like what we snagged up on years back at that secret garden by the Little Hawksbill.” With those words the young faces of my old friends came to mind along with memories of the first ten years following our encounter at Big Meadows.

Clanking ale bottles together we cheered. “To high adventure!"

Although we knew people in that town, Flip and I have never returned to Blacksburg believing this to be a base of the huntress and others of her kind who were obviously still troubling humankind while attempting to regain the power they once held in ancient times. Although healed from the poison of that creature, there remains a certain wariness within me as it and other such beings are still out there on the hunt.

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#53 Atehequa

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 05:48 PM

Flip and I setting up camp about a hundred yards or so from where we camped at Big Meadows some twenty five years earlier. Up until then we stayed away from that area.

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#54 Atehequa

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Posted 31 December 2014 - 11:32 PM

Morris Hill Encounter


It was an early May late afternoon when we arrived at Morris Hill, a National Forest Campground some twenty or so miles north of Covington Virginia, deep in the mountains, a morning's walk away from the West Virginia border

After driving a good few hundred miles, we picked out a decent campsite, but before making camp all of us had an ice cold ale to cut the dust. As my companions unloaded provisions and pitched our tent, I stood watch as was expected of me.

With that out of the way our Weber grill was made ready for rib eye steaks and roasted camp taters. Following a bit of refreshment, my two companions busied themselves preparing our supper. 'Flip' cut spuds into chunks with his Puma brand hunting knife while barking at me to lend a hand.
Opening my third ale I reminded him: "I'm home guarding."
"Home guarding hell!" Flip returned rather sharply. He was a strange looking character to say the least and at times I wondered about him being completely human. Flip's head was extremely narrow with a thin almost lipless mouth. Set above a large beak of a nose were two dark beady crow-like eyes darting about behind a pair of thick glasses. Flip's hair was long, dark and oily looking and confined by an old red bandana worn in Apache fashion. He was also called upon occasion the Birdman. Being mostly of Lumbee heritage, Flip’s dark features added to his strange appearance, if the vintage 70s short sleeve, wide collared, un-tucked, shirt sporting little sports car prints were not enough.
"It's enough having to fetch you ale and listen to your shit, while you slice taters.”

I stayed clear of Bear as he hovered over his grill for good reason.

Pretty particular about his grilling, Bear would not hesitate whacking anyone daring to come too close during this very important ritual with a pair of heavy steel meat tongs. Towering over six feet and half as broad as he was high, the Great Bear was not to be bothered with during this time. A rather savage looking fellow, he had long thick, shaggy brass colored hair that fell below his shoulders and a long bushy beard of the same hue, but with hints of red. Being of the old German stock which settled west of the coastal English colony during the early 18th century, with Bear's huge frame, wild appearance and stormy grey eyes, all he was lacking was a spangenhelm and long shirt of scale mail to pass off as some ancient Germanic chieftain from around 400 AD. Near his grill was a large bull's horn I had fashioned for drinking and given to him as a gag gift some years ago. He brought it along each time we visited the high country.

In short time the delectable aroma of grilling meat, roasting camp taters and beans drifted about our camp.

We had been taking part in what is called ‘Spring Celebration' for many years. Always they were held somewhere in Virginia's Appalachian Mountains during the season's middle full moon a time of good weather conditions and even better fishing. We looked forward to getting up tomorrow morning, going for either small mouth bass at nearby Lake Moomaw, or catching brook, brown and rainbow trout in the Jackson River. Both were right below the flat mountain on which we camped upon. At times as many as two dozen or more of us would be gathered at some lofty wild wooded location to throw down, cut loose and get blasted in a way the general populations of our more civilized suburban neighborhoods would care to experience, let alone tolerate or understand. As always our banner consisting of a large snapping turtle skull and deerskin strands adorned with osprey feathers were lashed to a sapling in front of camp. We were those who either originated from or loved these Blue Ridge highlands, but lived and worked on the lower peninsula jutting out into Virginia's Chesapeake Bay where our friends the osprey fished brackish waters. Since there were only three of us, Flip brought only a large, sleeps-six domed tent and a smaller cheaper affair in which to store supplies for these few days in the high and lonesome. Our campsite also included an old picnic table and iron ringed fire pit. If it wasn't for the thick spring foliage we would be able to look down upon Lake Moomaw a place the three of us had visiting for a few years. At twelve miles long and about a mile across at some places, Moomaw had been damned from the Jackson River and was teaming with lake trout, smallmouth bass and a variety of pan sized sunfish. Tomorrow night with any luck, we would have trout for the skillet.

Although we were somewhat shaded from this day’s sitting sun, it's final rays set the new green leaves a glow, lending us a weird light to cook by. Soon it would be time to make the first night's fire, feast, quaff fine spirits and pass the pipe as tradition called for. We feasted like heathen chieftains, woofing down our food with lip smacking relish. Having not eaten since morning the great empty spaces in our bellies were filled with decent camp fare. Earlier we had stopped for provisions at Covington. Along with the bait and tackle bought at a halfway point, an outdoor sporting goods store, we were well stocked.

Our bar boasted of two bottles of top shelf vodka, two cases of fine upland ale, a case of imported German beer, bottled water, sodas, lemonade and coffee. What caused us to arrive late at Morris Hill was the trip we made way out of our way to purchase a jug full of fine homemade Shenandoah Valley sipping whisky from near the town of Luray as it was a must have. As far as food was concerned, we had ham, bacon, eggs, taters, spices, seasonings, sliced bread, buns, rolls, hot dogs, summer sausage, beans, and ears of roasting corn. Perishables were kept in our ice chests. As there were three of us with only two partaking we did not bring along our big pipe, but had a couple of smaller ones and a good supply of smoke.

Having camped at places picked clean of available dry firewood, we brought in a good bundle of oak and walnut along with pine kindling. Bear, Flip and I had enough on hand to want for not here atop Morris Hill as this warm May evening in the spring season of 1993 as it got well along into dusk. Finishing our meal, we quickly washed dirty cookware at the campground water spigot and secured all food stuffs as this is black bear country and there was no desire to have unexpected night time visitors.

With our evening chores completed, Flip made a fire as I prepared the smoke. Aside from a few fellow fishermen lodging over on the other side of this campground, we had Morris Hill all to ourselves so there was no need for Flip and I taking the smoke inside our tent. Then again there was always the chance a park ranger would drive by to check us out. Pulling out my stash pouch, I proceeded to load up a steatite pipe. Carved from stone out of a nearby quarry, it had been with me for many years. Having given up the smoke again almost seven years ago because his place of employment conducted urine testing, Bear had taken on a bit of an anti-weed attitude when ever we decided to 'fire up'. I remember when he burned more of the stuff than both Flip and I together. Sure I understood Bear liked and wanted to keep his gig, but his pissing and moaning about our festive ritual was little called for.Quaffing down an ale he asked: "You still smoking that shit?"
"Got a problem with that?" I returned, adding: "All the way up here we couldn't smoke in your ride, so we're sparking up now."
"High time!" Flip added for good measure.
"Well don't blow any smoke my way" Bear so ordered with a belch. Flip laughed then stated: "We won't as long as you direct those mouth farts in another direction."
Although we did not have our big pipe, I still offered this smaller one to the four winds then accepted the gift of butane flame from Flip. Of a rarely seen golden hue, this sticky herb emitted a pungent scented smoke swirl as I drew upon the stem. Getting in a good toke, my lungs expanded to the point of coughing. Passing my pipe to Flip, he took it and did likewise. Upon exhaling I felt nothing, but knew full well this smoke would sneak up and whack the inside of one's skull. It was good weed for a change and not that generic green hydroponic stuff I had tired off. Flip held it in as long as he could, coughed out his exhale and then gasped for air. My pipe went back and forth a few good several times and no sooner than I secured it back into it's doeskin pouch, the smoke had sneaked up on us. Having not burned anything since this morning, I felt a good sense of elation come over me, but looking at Flip, he had really caught up with this lofty Appalachian altitude. Eyelids drooping halfway down over glassy red tinged dark beady orbs, his mouth opened into a slack jaw smile Flip said: "Wow, this is some really good stuff man" then asked: "Where did ya get it?" Laughing into his narrow face I returned: "Come on man, you know better than that." The last time I turned the Birdman on to a connection, he pissed the fellow off by taking more than his sweet time paying the guy off for a fronted bag, causing me to get scolded for introducing Flip to this kat. "Hey man, don't you have some smoke as well?" I inquired knowing that Flip would often hold out and smoke up someone else's stash.
"Yeah, but it's no ways as good as yours."
"That's alright Flippy, every little bit is appreciated."
With that he pulled out his own little pipe bag and loaded up with the same generic stuff previously mentioned. True not as good as the gold, but nothing to turn one's nose up at either. After that Flip and I could see over top the tall neighboring ridge, or at least thought as such in a substance addled way. All through this recreational ritual I took notice at Bear one who didn't want to take part. Smoke drifting his way, he was doing a lot of sniffing all the while paying rather close attention as the pipe passed back and forth across our picnic table.

As dusk deepened a sudden light rain fell briefly. Such swiftly changing weather conditions were not at all uncommon for this highland area, good thing Flip had strung up a wide plastic tarp above our picnic table. The rain came then went in just a few short minutes, but our fire survived and with the aid of more pine kindling, along with a good squirt from Bear's charcoal starter can, it leaped into a tall flame. Following the light rain we were entertained by a chorus of gray tree frogs. Our small neighbors continued their trilling until Bear, who by now had a alcohol buzz going demanded: "Music!"
With that, Flip began to fiddle with our boom box in attempt to find a decent rock-n-roll station, only to locate cheesy bubblegum top ten stuff, or some of the more depressing country music formats, but finally by playing with the antenna got a hold of some good classic rocking songs. For a short while this beat set a good tone about our camp until it ended with grating radio static. I suggested he try the AM band.
Turning the knob and occasionally stopping we heard such broadcasting which included a call in talk show concerning hemorrhoid discomfort, another, where some ultra conservative, right-wing host was inciting his callers to whine about Bill Clinton and then a fire and brimstone religious program from over the border in West Virginia. Flip opted to put in one of our many combined camping cassette tapes. Although I could hack it, Bear was never a fan of pining ballads from the stadium rock band Journey, but he endured. After the Journey tape played through Flip put on some Air Supply and with that, this huge shaggy brute rose from his seat, ejected the cassette, then promptly tossed it in the fire, where the soft rock sounds of this 70s band became a melted blackened mess. Flip offered the usual amount of scorn, but stayed beyond Bear’s arm reach. It was the way such things were here in our heathen camp. Thus was the past fate of my Frank Zappa Bongo Fury' tape and Bear's bootleg live concert cassette of a very Drunk Hank Williams junior. So much melted gook. I suggested Flip put on my James Brown tape, which Bear did me the justice of asking me to remove it. We settled on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and decided it was time to uncork the Shenandoah Wonder.

It was a good several years ago when we requested and got permission to hunt for old arrowheads in a old farmer's field beside the Shenandoah River near Luray Virginia. On that first hunt, the old Dutch farmer called us in to one of his barns where he had a couple of oaken casts filled with what we later would call Shenandoah Wonder. Distilled from spring water, wheat and a hint of peaches and wild berries, this was not the usual white lightning, or clear homemade corn and sugar processed liquor. The old man had perfected a fine rye sipping whisky which far surpassed any top shelf, store bought booze. He installed a tap and poured us both a coffee cup full. It spread through me like a friendly, warming, liquid fire. Over the years we attained this wonder through simple trade as there was items from the Chesapeake region this old farmer wanted. For more than one reason, it was a sad day when we learned of his passing ten years later.

Upon uncorking the gallon jug , my companions extended their cups for a warming draught. While attempting to pour a practical measured amount in Bear's horn, he bade me to continue until I was halted with a "When." Clashing cups we cheered the night and downed our drink. I swiftly poured us another. Pulling out a new deck of cards Flip asked "Is there anyone here interested in a game of chance?" to which we pulled out a good amount of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies always brought along for such an occasion. This bit of friendly gambling had long been part of our traditional spring celebrations.

Poker was the game and we each tossed a nickel ante in the pot.

I've always been lucky in cards, especially camp poker and this evening was no exception. First Bear and I cleaned Flip out, leaving him and I playing. One a natural card player who cared little about losing some pocket change, the other using all kinds of methods he had thought to have mastered in an all out attempt to win. I won hand after hand and with only a couple of bucks in change left, Bear tossed down his cards and grunted: "I quit."

I left the winnings in a pile on the table as an invitation for another go later, it being quite normal for the pot to be divided up again.

For awhile we sat in the blissful glow of our camp as evening deepened into night. Having about enough of our cassette collection of burned-out hits I found an old time bluegrass station on the AM. We quaffed more of the amber hued Shenandoah Wonder, never failing to raise our cups in cheers and memory of those who could not be with us on such a fine Virginia highland spring night. In time the three of us were over half snockerd and Flip suggested we have another good smoke as he claimed the trees and ridges were blocking his view. Totally understanding I again pulled out my stash pouch and proceeded to pack the bowl with potent gold herb. I couldn't help but notice Bear paying particularly close attention to this process. Passing it this time to Flip, I blessed the bowl with butane flame as he drew in. Handing back to me I had a good puff and rather liked the way it tinged with the Shenandoah Wonder. A couple of more puffs were all we needed before my pipe got placed on our table to be forgotten as Flip and I engaged in substance addled gibberish which could hardly be passed off for normal small talk. As we blathered away Bear slowly rose from the bench and started pacing back and forth near table's edge where my pipe lay, all the while tugging on his bushy beard. Turning away from the weird conversation we were having, I saw what appeared to be an epic struggle going on behind Bear's grey eyes. Each time he walked past the pipe, he issued a strange lip smacking sound.

I knew the Shenandoah Wonder had sneaked up on Bear and grabbed him by the boo boo.

Now Flip had taken noticed of this odd behavior and was closely watching the big man as well. It was if Bear was weighing out something inside his thick Teutonic skull, but Flip and I remained silent while we watched a weird event unfold.

One big paw darting out, he grabbed a butane lighter off the table. We watched the other snatch up my pipe. Hitting it like he couldn't get enough, Bear tapped the ashes out of my spent bowl and with a strange whispering voice requested another. "Alright" I said, "You best go easy on that stuff as it ain't some low grade shit from the street corner."
"Just load it!" He demanded with a twisted grin. After doing so he snatched it from my hand and went at it again. It didn't take any lengthy observation to determine that Bear was getting blasted. As Flip and I had caught up with this lofty elevation, but Bear was now soaring over ridge tops. For a short period of time following our last pipe, he silently scanned the thick, shadowy surrounding foliage with bloodshot eyes and a very tight-lipped grin.

"Wow Bear, after seven years you must be really up there." Flip chuckled. Taking it a bit further I bolted from my seat, snatched up a coil of nylon cord and suggested: "Better anchor him down Flip,, here tie one end of this round his ankle while I lash the other end to a tree." Bear turned his attention from the dark highland woods, took a long look at Flip, then fell into a fit of uncontrollable hysterical laughter. His face turned almost scarlet as tears of substance induced joy were running down his cheeks. A few times Bear attempted to speak, but the words stumbled upon his guffaw thus rendering anything he was trying to say unintelligible. "Slow down."I advised him, "Breathe." His face was changing from red to purple. "Yeah Bear, you better get some oxygen to your brain." Flip suggested with while he tapped his own narrow head with a finger. With those words Bear stood up, almost fell over the bench then proceeded to toddle around our camp like a one year old child while taking in big gulps of air. This went on for about two minutes before Bear caught his breath and regained his old long legged slightly staggering stride. In no time he was getting around like any other normal drunk on a Friday night. Yet there appeared something different about those bloodshot grey eyes as they blazed in a savage glare which complemented his weird clinched teeth smile. Taking his own beady eyes off Bear, Flip shot me a quick glance and inquired: "Did you bring the tranquilizer gun?"

We kept a close watch on him, expecting anything.

If inquired upon during casual campfire conversation, I would have to rate the gold herb as two or three hit stuff, maybe six, especially when out of civilization's close quarter confines and well away from closed minded public scrutiny. Here in the wilds there were no wives, kids, neighbors, citizens, or local bar patrons to embarrass one's self in front of, thus causing no embarrassment for them as well. Bear had got in a good eight or nine hits and after such a long time without partaking, he was no doubt blasted out of his skull at this very moment. I knew Bear was really up there when he reverted back to his old habit of what we called double talking, in his case, loudly saying something then repeating what he just said in a whisper. Turning to us he roared -

"WHAT THE FUCK IS IT?" then swiftly followed up by whispering: "What the fuck is it?"

"What the fuck is what?" Flip returned, yet instead of replying, Bear lumbered over to our fire, grunted, then leaped over the flames. Halting, he stood like an image of primordial intoxication for about a half minute, glaring at us while nodding his head.
"What are you gonna do next Bear?" Flip asked as if our large friend was this night's entertainment. At first Bear cocked his head as if puzzled then he tilted it back and issued a wild and weird call up into the night sky which started as a roar, then ended with a long savage howl. At that the forest fell silent, but only for a short while. Just as we were about to clap and cheer, Bear's call was answered in a similar, yet more savage tone as it boomed down from neighboring Oliver Mountain. Where Bear's weird call sounded barely human, the answering call did not sound human at all. "Damn! What the hell was that?" I demanded while still feeling the chill run up and down my spine. Flip no doubt trying to make sense of it, returned: "Echo?"
"That was no damned echo, man! It was too long in between."
We spoke of screech owl calls, fox cries and wild hair lip dogs. Flip even suggested it was a coyote as there were reports of these animals in the mountains. Having once traveled the southwest and heard coyote howling I ruled that out as well. We had to end up settling on the call as coming from another human, perhaps some love sick inbred hillbilly woman in season, or maybe from the maw of a very disturbed black bear. Paying us no mind, Bear turned about and lumbered down into the woods behind our camp. At first I thought he was going off for a piss, but after hearing him crash about in the undergrowth below us I told Flip: “Better build up the fire to serve as a beacon for his return.”

It seemed our old friend had heard the call of the wild.

Shouldn't we go after him?" Flip asked. Not worrying overly much, I returned: "Bear's alright, he'll stumble around on the mountainside for awhile until he gets it together, then come strolling back into camp, just like he did at Loft Mountain back in 76 after taking some shrooms." Of course it took him all night and half the morning as he had met up with another group of party people and couldn't tell them where he was camped at although it was only about a hundred yards away. Settling back into our seats and what was left of this first night at camp, we threw back some more Shenandoah Wonder while planning tomorrow's activities. I couldn't wait for either getting down to the lake or else hooking into some brown trout below Gathright Dam. Aside from any small concerns for Bear's safety or sanity, we enjoyed our fire's warming glow and also reveled in these moonlit highland surroundings. Turning off the bluegrass station we listened to a myriad of night's wild highland forest music such as katydids, crickets, tree frogs and the occasional hooting of a great horned owl. Off to one side of us Flip and I also heard the distant sound of branches or sticks being snapped, but figured it was Bear crashing about somewhere down there, that is until he came into camp, half covered with dirt, staggering in from the opposite direction. Judging from the yellow-brown dirt and small twiggy branch tangled in his shaggy hair it was quite evident Bear had taken a few slips along with probably going through a thicket or two.

Without so much as a word to us, Bear wobbled over to our tent, unzipped the door flap and more or less fell inside.

Just within a matter of a few short minutes a low rumbling snoring was coming from our tent. "Out for the count." Flip laughed and then asked - "If Bear's in there passed out, then what's down there making that racket?"
"Maybe a black bear breaking into a bee hive, or tearing up a rotten log looking for grubs and termites." I returned with hopes of having no black bears visiting our camp later tonight. Suddenly the snapping and splintering sounds ceased and after a few long minutes waiting for it to start up again, we were relieved it did not. Deciding this would be a proper time to have a couple of stiff nightcaps as it was usually a good idea to knock one's self out because Bear's snoring could wake the dead. Finishing up in several gulps, we decided to call it a night as morning fishing would come early.

Once inside the tent, Flip cut on his small battery powered camp lantern and in it's luminance we saw Bear stretched out on the bare tent floor as he hadn't bothered with rolling out his sleeping bag, but did manage to remove one shoe. We both laughed seeing the small branch still tangled in his shaggy hair. His snoring sounded like a thunderstorm. "He’s crashing in the Bronco tomorrow night." Flip hissed none too pleased about trying to sleep with so much racket. Like me he had forgotten his foam insert hearing protection, but for what little they could do, there were cotton balls in our first aid kit. Attempting to reduce or alter this noise even more, then again maybe just for a laugh, I removed Bear's cigarette pack from his shirt pocket, removed two and while he slumbered like a cold river rock, stuck them filter first up each nostril. As Bear was out cold, I could of stuck cotton balls in his nose, but that no doubt would cause the mouth to emitted a even louder more raspy snoring. This partial blocking of the nostrils reduced the noise by half. Along with the cotton in our ears we should be able to get a little shuteye, but now Flip and I laughed at the tusked 'were-walrus’ laying on it's back, beached, many miles from the sea.

Crawling into our sleeping bags, the lamp went out as we officially called it a good first night, as no one got injured, sick, or fell into our fire which now burned low in it's iron ring. In no time I dropped off into a dark, dreamless sodden slumber..

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#55 Atehequa

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Posted 31 December 2014 - 11:39 PM

It was a combination of light, having to urinate, a putrid stench and somebody poking me in the shoulder that brought me back into the waking world. "Hey man, get up." It was Flip's whispering voice, "Get up."
"Whaaat,,what ya want? Damn boy, who shit their pants?" Now I could really smell it . Putting a finger to his lips - "Shhhhhhhhhhh, keep it down,,, something's out there."
Rubbing my eyes and trying not to breathe through my nose I inquired in a whisper: "Somebody take a drunken crap just outside the tent ?" noticing it was coming in strong through our screened tent window.
"Nobody pooped." Flip hissed as he turned off the lamp.
Raising up and seeing nothing through the widow, I asked: "Think it's a black bear?"
"Don't know" then he added: "Could be,, don't think it's a skunk."
Taking a big whiff I stated: "That's for damn sure."
I heard Flip's hunting knife sheath unsnap and his blade being slid out. Reaching under a travel bag I found comfort in the handle of my pipe tomahawk. A useful camping tool, being an ax, weapon and smoking device all in one. As this was a National Forest, we carried no firearms, but were armed to the teeth with edged weapons. In my travel bag there was also a big Khyber knife. Just as I leaned over to unzip that bag, Bear's rumbling snoring changed into a mumbling gurgle. Outside however, I had yet to hear anything. Just as I was about to chalk this up as yet another carcass rotting stench coming in with a breeze, there was a sudden crash, then the sound of cooking foil being crinkled.
"The grill." Flip hissed.
"Maybe a bear getting at those steak drippings, Bear should of cleaned that up." Whatever it was out there, I now could not only hear it's heavy footfalls, but it's heavy breathing as well. At times it would issue snorting sounds, kind of like the feral pigs that have been known to root around these hills. The clanging of our cooking pots however prompted me to think otherwise. Now I was getting rather creeped out and held my tongue as to better hear what could not bee seen.

The noise was enough to pull Bear out of his drunken dreams. "What the hell goes on?" He growled, followed by a butane lighter sparking into a dim light, but just enough for us to see that one of the cigarettes still sticking out of his right nostril. "Shhhhhhh, and kill that light Bear." Flip said, "Something's out there."
" A bear?" Bear asked in a whisper, then demanded to know: "And who the hell stuck a cigarette up my nose?"
"Don't know" Flip returned, "Shhhhhhhhhh" Now we heard it rifling through the other items left upon our table. Following the sound of Bear's knife leaving it's leather sheath, Flip commented: "What ever it is,,, it's large." By the sound of breathing, snorting and heavy footfalls, it now approached our tent. We all fell silent, tightly grasping weapons and ready to cut our way out if need be. It moved around our tent and I thought to have saw a dark shadowy shape pass the window. I tensed for the spring as it now fumbled with the dew and rain cover. Inside this tent there was a feeling of powerlessness. Expecting at any second for claws to rip into our tent, my nape hairs rose as tent fabric was the only thing between us and it. Bear's low growl told me he was ready to kill or be killed. At that we heard what ever it was back away from our tent.

I remember someone loudly saying: "I'm sick of being scared!" then hearing the sound of our door flap being unzipped. This was it, the three of us should be able to prevail, then have coffee or maybe a stiff drink. We've chased black bears out of camp before with screams and whistles, but a 12 gauge pump shotgun and buckshot surely would come in handy right about now.

Flip and I were the first to stick our heads out with Bear close behind for a look see.

We were met by a thick putrid stench that was somewhere between an extreme case of bad body odor(wet hobo) and rotten cabbage along with the sound of thick brush being rustled. Turning our heads we were just able to see the back of a tall, massive, dark upright shape amble off on two trunk-like legs into a large clump of rhododendrons. As it merged with the shadows of dense leafy brush we heard the same branch snapping as before. For a few long minutes we heard it rustling through the undergrowth and were very relieved when all sound of it finally faded into naught. Weapons still in hand, one by one, we carefully exited our tent, all the while scanning surrounding foliage. For a few more tense minutes we formed a defensive triangle, blades out, each of us watching the other's back. A little convinced nothing was going to charge us or drop out of a tree upon our heads we slowly separated, each of us swiftly off to perform emergency tasks. Flip shoveled out old ash and soon having a good bright kindling blaze. Bear went about striking our propane lamp and looking to any damage while I slowly circled our camp's perimeter so my companions would not be caught suddenly unaware. There was a creepy feeling of being watched from the outer darkness which became further away as our fire blazed brighter.

Bear busied himself with putting our grill back together, while Flip placed a couple of seasoned black walnut chunks onto the fire, then set about picking up pots, pans, paper plates, drinking cups and a scattering of cassette taps some trampled into last autumn's leaf litter.

With that squared away at no real damage, Flip opened up his Coleman propane camp stove, fired it up, then proceeded to procure bottled water and French roast for our coffee pot. Ambling up to the table with ash and soot on his hands, Bear snarled: "Damn bear!" at that both Flip and I stopped what we were doing and shot a him a glance. "That was no bear." The Birdman informed him. Flip, now inspecting the outside of our tent, called both Bear and me over: "Look at this, that was no black bear." Aiming his flashlight beam at the loose loop and button attachments for our tent's dew cover, Flip repeated himself again: "Won't no bear, Bear"
"No paws and claws did that." I said, knowing a bear had not the dexterity to unfasten those small, thin, tight nylon cord loop type affairs. Flip determined to press the issue stated: "A bear wouldn't go into that brush on just two feet."
"You know, I've read about this kinda stuff." I said, "Could of been a Big,,,"
"I thought those critters only roamed up in the Pacific Northwest." Flip broke in. Attempting to make light of this strange event, I implied: "Maybe it's on vacation, like us." With all of this weirdness passing, none of us had bothered looking at the time until Flip did so, informing us it was now 4:45AM. Not a lot we could do as far as looking for clear signs until dawn. For now Bear, Flip and I would be content with sipping coffee near our blazing fire although each of us were left with the knowing that something very strange had occurred. The Bear seemed more spooked than us. Before this early mountain morning, he did not know much of, or hardly believe in such creatures, while Flip and I thought it could be possible, but never heard of them here in the Alleghenies aside from legends of beings we never associated with Bigfoot. As a strong breeze sprung up and carried away most of the stench, Flip spoke of what his mother’s people referred to as mountain devils, giants and bear men which long ago would come in at night to steal food or sometimes women. "I heard they can smell food from far off, but will usually back off and run away from people, but just like some bears and humans, there are crazy ones who kill without reason or else to eat."

I thought more on a level of the few cryptozoological accounts I read and a movie called the Legend of Boggy Creek.

Years later while doing a bit of research, I came across other accounts from the southern Allegheny region. Not seeing any defined features, but instead only a dark shape, there is no certainty in what we saw in the pre-dawn of that morning in May. I was aware of the terrible fear we had while sitting like bagged groceries in that tent. I brought up the possibility of skunk apes to which Flip responded: "I thought those critters lived in the southern swamps."
"Maybe on vacation, like us." I repeated, then added: "Well at least it gave us an early wake up call, so we can get down to the water when the fish start biting."

Bear and I sat, sipping our coffee and tried not speak of our visitor all that much, but Flip a real monster buff couldn't stop yammering about our experience. “Next time up here, I’m bringing a good camera." He vowed to which Bear grunted and said: “You brought one this time but opted to keep it in the Bronco out of fear of dirt and moisture. And if you did have a camera, what then, jump out of the tent and ask whatever it was to stand straight and say cheese while you snap a glamour shot?. A Sasquatch would of crammed that camera in your ear.”

As dawn's first slivers of dim light cut through the leafy branches we looked for spoor and any other sign of this creature's visit, but as the ground was more or less covered with leaf litter and a small amount of short, thick grass. There were no tracks to be seen. Using our memories and the height of the rhododendrons for a sense of scale, we estimated what ever it was to be anywhere from 7 or 8' in height and about 4' wide at the shoulders. Perhaps it was a good thing we only saw it's back. Going a bit into the undergrowth, we backed out quickly after seeing several tree saplings and rhododendron branches snapped off.

A symbolic marking of territory?

The rest of our time at Morris Hill Campground went on without further strange incident as we fished, hiked and spent our evenings at camp, but now keeping an ever watchful eye out for all uninvited visitors. While fishing down at the lake I took a good look at distant Oliver Mountain and recalled the tales my great aunt told about cannibal giants who lived deep in the woods. I thought of other weird experiences we had while camping in some of the world’s oldest mountains. Preachers, priests and politicians can go on all they like about utopias, gods, angels, devils and demons, but it is what we see, hear and feel is that to be believed

Leaving on a Tuesday morning, Flip and I were already talking about coming back next spring, but Bear seemed ill at ease with such plans.

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#56 Atehequa

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Posted 05 January 2015 - 11:04 PM

Old Shady

With great affection we called that ancient giant Old Shady our old friend and did spend many hours of our young lives underneath it's huge spreading boughs.

No one really knew just how long that giant white oak had shaded the dirt lane that cut through woods and farmland near our old neighborhood, but what I had gathered as a child from an old Black sharecropper who worked the fields this tree was already old during the late 19th century. "It was that big ever since I was a little thing." he told me one hot Virginia summer day while we both happen to be taking advantage of our old friend’s shade over forty years ago. Ancient, it dwarfed all other trees in that area and probably had been growing during the American Revolution as these white oaks have long life spans. On a hot July day it lend us cooling shade and bestowed a pleasant yet strange warmth during a cold December's night. We could always count on it being there or so thought in youthful way. Nearing a hundred feet in height and with a bole base diameter of over 5', it was the biggest oak I had ever known, truly a forest giant. Being part of the dope addled, boozed soaked, teenage party culture of the early 1970s, many of us would gather around Old Shady when reveling. We especially congregated at this spot during the wet season from late winter to mid spring when both land owners and law enforcement bothered little with the old sunken dirt lane which in many places were swamped over rendering it impassable. However we had blazed secret paths through the higher parts of this dense bit of woods, brush and bramble. A thick tangle of mostly young trees, we had other secret party spots, but would stay away from the large patch of laurel which was known as ‘lair of the glue sniffers.' Nothing quite like encountering one of these whack jobs sniffing out of a brown paper bag crusted with model glue stuck to his face, blithering away some brain damaged inspired gibberish at dusk, deep in the woods. They did not dare to frequent our spots as we for the most part stayed away from theirs.

Old Shady’s massive root system kept the ground around, high, dry and firm.

While most of the Old Mallory tract was cleared of old growth forest sometime during the early 18th century, Old Shady, along with a few others were allowed to survive for some reason or another and no doubt provided shade for livestock and any passerby. Aside from a few soybean and feed corn fields, most of this area had long gone not farmed growing into high fallow or thick tangles of smaller trees and brush. Although we held no title to this tract, there existed within us a sense of belonging and kinship. We knew every natural aspect of this area called the Big Trail Woods, so named for it's unpaved lane, and had all agreed that Old Shady and all beneath it’s boughs was sacred ground, a place of no ill feelings.

By coincidence I was thinking about Old Shady and those Big Trail Woods when my phone rang early one Saturday morning in May of 1982, Flip had called from his home in Hampton with terrible news. Living and working two jobs in Williamsburg allowed me very little time to visit my old stomping grounds and it had been a month or so since I had seen Old Shady. "Well good morning. What's happening Flippy?" I managed with phone crooked between ear and shoulder while adding some powdered non-dairy creamer to my coffee. "Man, you ain't gonna believe this." he said.

"Believe what?"

In a very sad and serious tone Flip went on to inform me that the Old Mallory Tract had been sold and was already under attack by bulldozers and chainsaws in order to build a new subdivision for Hampton's ever growing population. I happened to be off that Saturday and although it was raining outside, decided on making for Hampton, but quick.

Flip lived only a short distance from the Big Trail Woods so I parked at his place and we walked on over to where this destruction had already begun. In only a short time over half of the Old Mallory tract had been razed. Those woods along with many happy memories were now bulldozed into big dead piles leaving only the muddy ground. The old farm lane was no more and we could hardly recognize any familiar landmarks. We did however find Old Shady as it lay upon the ground dying with all limbs cut away and piled nearby. The heavy rain that started yesterday halted this development thus allowing our old friend to die where it had sprouted from an acorn hundreds of years ago. I looked on in great sadness. Before saying our farewells, Flip and I gathered a few mementos such as saplings to be made into walking sticks, along with a smaller branch I cut from one of Old Shady's huge boughs.

After that day I would never step foot into the Old Mallory Tract again.

The loss of such an area caused us a terrible sadness and left a hollow place in our hearts, yet fond memories of the Old Mallory tract managed to surface every time I pulled out the big pipe. Big in the sense for us as it had been fashioned in the plains style, but was only 16" long with a bowl carved from green pipestone and a hardwood stem made from part of the branch I had cut from Old Shady..



Order of the Rainbow Finch


Libations
So far from the dreadful daily duties
Leaving behind our home town beauties
Flying high, our wild heathen banners
No one telling us to mind our manners

Buzzing somewhat Flip held our pipe in his hands and happily said: "I still remember Old Shady."

"Bear you want in on some of this?" I offered before taking a long draw off the pipe. "You know I don't mess with that shit anymore." He returned while parting the gold colored motel window curtains and glaring at the driving rain outside. This was the same savage storm which halted this journey westward thus prompting the five of us to seek alternative lodgings many miles east of our destination. Although a fine establishment, Bear was none too happy about having to hold up here at the Colony House Motel outside of Waynesboro. He had rented a large Ford SUV and was eager to take it down Afton mountain, cross the Shenandoah Valley and then ascend into the Alleghenies. However in this heavy rain we could barely see the road and our other two companions on their motorbikes while pulling into the Colony House. While I passed our pipe back to Flip, Bear growled out his discontentment as the local television news weather weasel informed viewers that this rain would continue on until the morning hours. Hearing that bit of news, Flip changed channels on the bolted down television set. As Bear snarled at the rain I advised him to: "Lighten up and make the best of things. It‘s raining, man. At least we're high and dry and not upside down in some ravine."
"Yeah? Well we're losing a night away from Lake Moomaw here at Afton, not to mention the bucks we paid for this room." Bear returned with a scowl. Flip chuckled and asked: "So why are ye in such a huff? R.W. and Mitch can't travel in this weather on motorcycles. Besides, I thought you didn't care for sleeping on the ground, here ye got a bed." To which I had to remind the Birdman - "We don't know that yet."
At that, Flip got up, walked over to his travel bag and pulled out a brand new deck of cards. "May as well get it over with while we're still somewhat sober." Flip said while opening his new deck. Two beds, three people and a new deck of cards, at least our two other companions would not have to rely on the draw for a comfortable night's sleep as they had their own double room several doors down. It wasn't that we didn't mind sharing a bed with seemingly normal lifelong friends, but there was nothing normal about the sleeping habits of these heathens. Due to Flip's diet of mostly cheap fast food substances, he suffered from night time gas so bad that once expelled, could shoo away skunks and buzzards, while Bear on the other hand would emit loud snoring that rivaled the thunder booms outside. Even with hearing protection it was too loud to endure. Their complaint against me was that I talked and tended to kick about in my sleep. Of course I didn't believe this. As tradition called for we each shuffled the cards and then drew one apiece to decide who got the final shuffle before drawing again to see which one of us would get either bed or green carpet. Winning the first draw with only an eight of clubs, I could not help feeling an unlucky sense while shuffling again. Bear pulled an ace of spades and Flip got a king of hearts thus beating my queen of diamonds. Hopefully this was not a sign of any future bad luck on my part at cards. "Damn! I always lose on the final draw!" I cursed as Flip passed me the pipe and then stated with an cloudy exhale: "Yeah but ye always clean up on poker. Tough luck old boy, but it shouldn't be all that bad atop a sleeping bag."
"And pillows." I added while bounding out of my chair to grab one off each bed along with a thick wool blanket from the high metal shelf near the bathroom. All in all, the floor was not such a bad place to sleep, here at Afton's Colony House Motel on this foul weather night of May 12th 1995. This was our annual spring celebration suppose to be held this year as it had been the previous two at Morris Hill Campground above scenic Lake Moomaw.

Although having enough beverages to see us through this night, we were without real food as our plan was to take on supplies in Covington before making camp atop Morris Hill. If rationed, the bottle of rum and two bottles of vodka would last us until tomorrow. Bear had also brought along a case of hot German beer which was now chilling in our ice coolers and motel mini-fridge. Locked away in Bear's rented SUV, our gallon jug of Shenandoah Wonder which was not to be uncorked until first night at camp.
We very much appreciated the motel ice machine as it's small frozen cubes would chill the beer, yet upon leaving the machine, two other guests hurled a small amount of scorn upon us for taking all the ice. "First come first serve." was Bear's Parthian shot as he lugged away his large ice filled cooler. As far as tonight's fare, it was going to be either vending machine snacks, or pizza and with this savage storm howling outside our door, we held little hope for the latter.

May as well put a good one on. Fetching Bear a half chilled beer from the cooler, I then proceeded to pour Flip and I a good measure of rum.

"Well don't just sit there boozing it up!" Bear roared above his growling stomach, "Somebody call the pizza place!" Not about to get up with a full cup of rum in front of me, I kindly asked Flip to make the call. "You have such a pleasant telephone voice."
Getting through he attempted to place our order and give location, but paused with a blank expression while listening to some muffled, garbled mish-mash sounds we all heard pouring out of the phone. Following about a half minute of careful listening, Flip ordered for us then hung up.
"Well?" Bear inquired.
Flip returned to the table, had a drink then informed us: "The pizza man said they would try to get through, but the storm has knocked out power to parts of Waynesboro and with this rain, expect a delay." With that bit of news we scraped together what food stuffs there were which consisted of a half pack of beef jerky, one Slim Jim beef snack and an unopened bag of Bugles corn snacks. Moving swiftly for a big man, Bear snatched up the Slim Jim for himself as Flip protested: "Hey man, you ate your Slim Jim back at Gum Spring!" Tearing the wrapper open with his teeth, Bear growled: "Guess you should of ate yours back there too." He loomed over the Birdman looking like some ancient barbarian chieftain, shaggy brass colored hair falling about his broad shoulders, his beard was half soaked with beer and with a mouthful of brown paste-like substance that use to be a beef snack, he suggested: "Get ye some jerky, Flip."

Hopefully the pizzas would come soon before Bear began thinking about cooking parts of us in our small motel microwave. Despite his surly demeanor, Bear was no doubt happy to be away from a house full of grown, sometimes feuding live-in stepchildren. He worked long hours and looked very much forward to these outings. Here of late these occasions were the only time we would get to spend time with Bear. Flip's home life was a little worse. Following a divorce and hefty child support payments, he had to move back into his old family home with a aging, sickly father, sister, brother-n-law and a seriously disturbed zombie-like nephew. My plight was a little better, separated and living by myself, I was at the end of a ten year marriage. Working twelve hours a day, I was glad to be anywhere other than Williamsburg and in the company of long time friends. Our bonds predated marriages, children and careers. Sometimes we knew each other better than our spouses and always had one another's back. That is when we managed to get together.

The Slim Jim beef snack, some jerky and a few mouthfuls of Bugles took a bit of the edge off Bear's hunger while a couple of more beers improved his outlook. It wasn't the first time he had put one on at the Colony House Motel. I reminded Bear of the time during a three day acid trip when he stood in the bathroom talking to something in our toilet. Many of a fond memory here at the Colony House, too bad I can't completely remember them all. As Flip gnawed upon a piece of jerky there was a loud knocking upon our door. Bear flashed a huge smile and happily roared: "Pizza sure got here fast!"
"Who is it?" I shouted as Flip muted the television volume.
"Sheriff's Department! Open up!”
Recognizing the voice I got up to open the door. It wasn't any uniformed law enforcement officers, just our two motorcycle riding companions, Mitch and R.W. Both had to cover their bikes and get into some dry duds. Their wet clothing down at the Colony House's coin operated laundry room drying, they had joined us. "Give me a beer, Skid." was the first words to escape R.W.'s mouth as he entered our room.
"They're in the coolers" Bear growled, "We only got about a case." and at that both of them plucked a chilled bottle from the ice.

R.W., or Reginald as his parents called him, always struck me as a very interesting fellow due to his ever changing style, like a human chameleon taking on the appearance, trappings and outward cultural crust of whomever he happen to be dating or married to at the time. Over the last two or so decades he had been a hippy, a sharp dressing fan of disco, a new waver, an over cultured fop, a clean cut businessman, and now a biker who roofed with Mitch for a living. Gone were the days of courting pretty young William and Mary gals and older rich drunken Williamsburg wives, now R.W. was wrapped up with some young rural woman he had met at a bar across the James River in Windsor. No matter what our darling dandy looked like through the years, once R.W. got too many drinks in him, he was the same fellow we knew all along. With his shoulder long, light brown curly locks, R.W. now looked like a member of a Hollywood hair band.

Mitch was of a somewhat different sort. Although several years older than any of us, he still lived in the old neighborhood. A rangy fellow, Mitch was slightly above medium height with long dark brown hair and eyes. His sun browned face was complemented by a long dropping western style mustache which he chewed upon sometimes. Mitch would often get out of hand, but was now finally calming down a little with age. My older brother gave Mitch a broken nose in 1969, which prompted him to come after me on a few occasions over the years, but following the last attempt in 1978 he ceased and grew very fond of his gold tooth. Now we were cool with each other, yet I knew Mitch's sanity tended to hang by a thread when he was deep in the cup. He was cool with Bear too, as he bore a bump-like protruding scar, the result of our huge friend having to slam Mitch's head on the edge of a pool table a year after I knocked his tooth out. Sometimes he was known as Bump, or as he often called himself Uncle Mitch, yet none of us were of any relation to him. We were taking a chance bringing Mitch along, but knew he was always good for a comical diversion. Although one of us, Mitch was no chief man. We would try to keep an eye on him.

I really had not anticipated upon either of these two fellows tagging along on this expedition up into the southern Alleghenies. However last night while at the grocery store Bear had ran into R.W. and his new wife, where he told them of our camping trip. From what Bear told us on the way up to Afton, R.W.'s girlfriend more or less insisted that he go with us. Bear informed us that R.W. didn't want to go, but she kept insisting until he finally snapped out and told her: “Alright I'll go if you don't want me around, but don't expect me to check in.” Bear suggested that something was going on and left it at that. Sometime betwixt last night and this morning, R.W. invited Mitch to come along as well. In the rented SUV there was just enough room left to store what our motorcycle riding friends could not haul themselves. Mostly their fishing gear.

Now numbering five, we had a better showing than the last few years and would make camp card games a little more interesting.

Bent over our table like a turkey vulture, Mitch took notice of the large bottle of spirits. "Wow, rum too!" Taking a closer look at his beer bottle, "Imported beer and top shelf booze, you boys sure do it up right"
"Nothing but the best for my liver." Bear returned atop a belch.
I made it a point not to mention the bottle of vodka chilling in the fridge as these were some hard drinking bravos. R.W. did inquire upon the weed situation. "Fair enough for the higher elevations." I informed him. At that Bear rose from his seat, tugged upon his bushy beard, laughed then said: "Nothing for the coolers, nothing for the head, ye be some poor travelers indeed." R.W. assured Bear he would put in for supplies once we reached Covington. Handing Mitch and R.W. two plastic motel courtesy cups, I poured then both a good measure of dark rum. While they took their liquor with a beer chaser, I removed our pipe from it's deerskin bag, but insisted Flip load it up as this was his turn. Upon seeing the pipe Mitch issued a loud whoop then broke into a chant. "Hi-yah, hi-yah, hi-yah, hi-yah, hi-yah- high!" Raising an open palm he introduced himself as Chief Hump and Run of the Slap-a-ho tribe. Flip and I, whom Mitch often referred to as ‘Injuns' took scant offense to Mitch as he was somewhat touched.

Offered the first toke, Mitch had a new found respect for our spring celebration after taking a good hit of this fine weed from the ceremonial pipe. After the third go around, Mitch's eyes were rather glassy. "You boys are living large!" He proclaimed with a big smile as I took our pipe to load another and passed it R.W's way for another spark-up. Offering a light I told Mitch: "Been doing this for about twenty years. We don't live quite this large all the time, but this is a special occasion."
"That's,,, right." R.W. hacked out with an cloud of smoke. He had been on a number of these outings in the past and knew well how we do things up. Somewhat lofty headed himself R.W. went on to clear his throat with a shot of rum and sputtered: "When we get up here," He then pointed a finger to the ceiling, "We get up there."
At that Bear growled: "Yeah, you fucking buzzonauts get way up there and hope the pizza delivery man doesn't smell that shit and turn us all in!" This prompted me to take notice and a big whiff of the thick pungent smoke swirling about in our room as did Flip who attempted to quell worries by letting us know - "I've got a can of air freshener."
Mitch issued a short bark of laughter and asked: "You take air freshener camping?"
"Always" the Birdman replied.
Mitch cackled not knowing Flip was the epitome of a well supplied camper as well as our expeditionary quartermaster. Tents, tarps cord, lanterns, propane cook stove, tools, firewood, coffee pot, cleaning supplies and spray can of air freshener not only belonged to the Birdman, but was in his charge as well. As for our current lodging situation, nothing that the weed and booze couldn't blur into a blissful glow. As luck would have it we finished up our ceremonial smoking and gave the room a good spray only minutes before pizza delivery arrived. A pair of high school kids with our grub, three large supreme pizzas and order of hot wings. Paying and big tipping the youngsters I noticed the girl smiling as she sniffed about. Guess they were use to such. I also took notice that the wet conditions outside were tapering down to a misty sprinkle.

While the rest of us split two pizzas, Bear had consumed a whole one and half the wings as he watched some lame Chuck Norris movie. A huge creature with a giant appetite, Bear needed to fuel his massive frame, but tonight, atop the beer, our large friend was out like a light, the empty pizza box resting upon his gut. For a man dead set on driving all the way to Lake Moomaw, Bear had crapped out for the night. I removed the box while Flip cut up television volume as to muffle Bear's thunderous snoring. Prepared, I had brought along a pair and a spare of foam hearing protection inserts.
"Well shit man!" Mitch barked then asked: "How the fuck are we gonna sleep tomorrow night with that ear twisting snoring?"
"Don't worry, his ass is gonna be sleeping in that SUV tomorrow night." Flip assured Mitch. As spirits flowed Flip showed off his new camera. "If it comes back,, I'm ready" Knowing full well what he was speaking of, I inquiresd anyway: "If what shows up to where?” With an eager smile Flip replied - "Bigfoot at Morris Hill."
Mitch howled with laughter. "Bigfoot?"
With so many words and hand gestures Flip gave account of our early morning encounter two years ago atop Morris Hill at the same spot we planned to make camp at tomorrow. R.W. having a few weird experiences up in the mountains remained silent, but Mitch however burst into a guffaw. Pointing at Bear's size 16” foot he cackled: "There's your fucking Sasquatch, you damned dope heads probably just smoked too much weed. Sure you goofs weren't dropping acid ?" Blasting away such scary talk, I raised my cup in a loud cheer. "Lake Moomaw and fine fishing!" We clashed cups and drank, but Flip put the camera down, rubbed his hands together and asked: "Do you know how much the press would pay for a photo of a eastern Bigfoot?"
"Then there's the local news and CNN interviews." Mitch added.
"Oh yeah, they'll have us all on one of those morning talk shows. Some regular, rude, run of the mill, substance addled campers expected to perform for the masses of television viewers near and far" I returned.
"Regis and Cathy Lee" Flip said in wonderment.
"Let's find that big hairy fucker tomorrow so I can meet Cathy Lee!" Mitch laughed, "We'll make a day of it!"

Oh how I didn't want to attract something like that back into our camp again.

Following a few more drinks Mitch and R.W. opened the door to check weather conditions, then announced they were riding up to The Afton Inn's lounge. Not all that far away, the Inn at Afton was more of a upscale motor lodge with a decent restaurant and lounge. It was an establishment whose patrons may not understand Mitch's twisted sense of humor. Besides, that wet winding mountain road to the top may prove dangerous for our motorcycling riding companions. Attempting to talk the two out of such a dangerous venture and then threatening them that no one would bail their stupid asses out of jail, we ceased after seeing such advice was to no avail. I bade them safe travels, lots of luck, then farewell.

"Dumb shits!" Flip barked as they rode out of the Colony House's parking lot. "They're on their own!"

With Virginia's tough new drunk driving laws, we had little sympathy for those foolish enough to break them. Maybe on motorcycles their chances would be in favor of them getting back to the Colony House tonight with whole skin.
Getting a bit restless myself, I suggested a walk around the Colony House's grounds. donning hats and jackets we exited the room out into a heavy mist. Nothing going on out front, so we headed up around back. Rounding a corner Flip patted the building like it was an old friend's back. "Good Old Colony House." This place was very much an old friend and a place of good spirits. Over the past two decades many from our old neighborhood lodged here. Whether it was a romantic getaway with a wife or girlfriend, or a place to duck in out of a rain storm, The Colony House has often served as a base of recreational operations. Off to the motel's left, an ascending trail which led up to a mountainside meadow and small spring fed pool, but we would not attempt such a hike on this dark, damp night.

Nothing going out back except for the wet and happy leopard frog we saw under a outside light. Having about enough of this exciting journey in the mist, Flip and I headed back to our lodgings.

Coming back around the corner we saw two people stepping out of their room and halting as if taking in this damp night air. Flip and I approached unnoticed as the pair gazed out to the main road. Moving a bit closer without detection, we saw they appeared to be in their 30s and very much a couple, as the fellow embraced, then kissed his gal. While we were walking right by them was when the male finally spotted us, then waved in our direction while pushing his woman away at the same time. "How y'all doing?" was his initial greeting. He was a rather portly fellow clad in grease stained jeans and a ragged black Lynyrd Skynyrd Tshirt with a large beak of a nose sticking out of a chinless face. The fellow's dirty blond hair was cut into a mullet style. Hair similar to that of a State Trooper's short cropped perfectly pointed flat-top in the front, while the back was long and scraggly. He seemed friendly enough. "Howdy there." I returned raising an open palm in a sign of peace, but kept a close eye on him as some of these back country types were very unpredictable, especially when strangers gawks at their women a bit too long. With a slur he introduced himself as Jerry. "And this here is Faye Mae." With that his partner raised a pudgy little hand and gave us a quick finger wave. From what I could make out in this misty gloom Faye Mae was a short, somewhat chubby, but otherwise cute woman clad from nape to heel in a white sweat suit. Her long wavy hair fell about her shoulders, but had bangs that were gooked straight up in the front. Flip and I offered them first name introductions and then engaged in a bit of small talk.
"Just up here getting the hell out of Dodge." He informed us.
Jerry, who did all the talking for the two told us in a rural, broad vowel accent which bespeaks of the eastern half of Virginia from valley to bay, that he and Faye Mae were out of King William County and up here for some rest and relaxation. Before our parking lot conversation got too far along Faye Mae blurted out: "Jerry baby, I’m cold. I’m gonna go inside." She shivered with arms crossed, hopping from one foot to another like a little kid that had to pee real bad. "Then carry yourself inside baby." Jerry softly ordered. Faye Mae turned and with head lowered in an almost servile manner, she turned about to go back into their room.

Jerry was typical of the white folk who dwelt between the lower Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers. Aside from a few business clusters and the town of West Point, there wasn't much but rural scenery in King William County. Settled during the late 17th century by English farmers following the last Anglo-Powhatan War, some of these colonists grew wealthy from growing tobacco. For these folk though, this declined after some two hundred years of tobacco growing depleting the soil along with all of their free help walking off the job following the Civil War. Most of the tobacco based economy of that area dropped off prompting these people to relocate or try their hand at something else. Many of these English descendants have names that date back to Jamestown's founding, but now with the exception of a few well bred gentry families, the majority of these people had evolved either by inbreeding or due to their geographical location, into a stocky, short limb folk, well adapted to the low and often marshy area in which they live.

Jerry was a true son of these folk.

Strangely enough where ever I've traveled, one weed head can most always spot another as this recreational, ceremonial smoke prompts a certain social summoning. Perhaps it's a relaxed, recognizable overall visage or the particular shine in one's eyes that allows us to tell one another apart from the others. After a long careful look at both of us, Jerry grinned and then inquired: "Hey man, either of y'all have any rolling skins?"
"Not me, man." I replied then gave Flip a glance. "You got any?"
"Got some Jokers."
With that Jerry proclaimed: "Hot damn!, thought I was gonna have to smoke reefer out a can, man." He invited us into his room. It wasn't a matter of trust, Jerry just didn't look like cop material, but every now and then I've been wrong when it comes to spotting the fuzz. With the exception of a framed still life print hanging on the wall and bed spreads, his room was identical to ours in layout, with the same gold curtains covering one large motel window. Unlike Jerry's room we did not have shotgun propped up in the corner beside Faye Mae who was sitting up, relaxing on her bed with a box of Cracker Jacks and watching some television cartoons. Briefly regarding us with a distant cloudy eyed glance, Faye Mae shifted back what little attention she had upon the cartoon. I couldn't help but take notice of her plastered on makeup and two toned hair now illuminated by a standard motel bedside nightstand lamp. Beside the woman sat a large stuffed animal that may of been a strange looking misshapen dog, or bloated pig as it was pink in color with a blue ribbon around it's thick neck.

Flip handed Jerry the pack of papers and he proceeded to twist one up at his small table.

With more effort than what it was worth, Jerry finally twisted a crooked bone and sparked it up with a shiny new Zippo lighter. Taking a long one until a seed exploded, Jerry held it in and passed the bone to me. Applying a little spit to stop an uneven burning run, I took a toke and immediately tasted it's low quality. Passing it on to Flip, the Birdman made a sour face after taking his. Going back to Jerry, it was all but a spent roach.
"Sure enough some,,,good,, shit,,, huh?" He coughed out.
In being polite I returned: "Sure enough."
"Great." Flip feigned agreement.
Having finished the doobie, Flip and I listened to our host go on about a broad range of subjects which included hunting, fishing, monster truck shows, auto racing and television wrestling.

Pointing at his shotgun, I asked: "Going hunting, Jerry?"

"No man, that there is for protection."
Changing the subject I brought up fishing as a way to talk us out of Jerry and Faye Mae's room. "Speaking of which, Jerry, we got to be going so as to reach our fishing hole early tomorrow morning."
"Don't rush off now."
Smiling and shaking my head, I returned: "Early morning comes,,, early, but I appreciate the buzz." With those words Flip gave Jerry several more skins before we both said our good nights, shook hands and walked back out into the mist. He seemed a nice enough chap, but I really didn't want to hear anymore about the last wrestling match Jerry had seen in Richmond. We were on another kind of trip and very much wanted a different scene, even if it was out in the parking lot or back at our room.
"That marsh Saxon, had some pretty shitty smoke." Flip sourly stated as we approached our door. "Tasted like some old, moldy brown ragweed. It gave me a slight headache."
"Yeah, but he was kind enough to share." I reminded the Birdman while walking into our room. Locating some headache powders, Flip washed one down with a beer while I had another slug of rum and a cigarette. Over Bear's thunderous snoring we conversed in loud tones so as to hear each other. Needing a bit of a boost up from Jerry's low quality weed, I pulled out my own stash and loaded one up. As the pipe went back and forth we took a gander at Bear and had a good laugh. The Great Bear lay as we left him, pizza sauce clotted in his beard and snoring loud enough to shake the gold curtains. Flip suggested we blow him a shotgun from our pipe as he slept, but I advised against this. "Do you want that giant critter waking up in some weird psychotic state and start bouncing us off the wall like basketballs? I don't. It's bad enough when he sleepwalks." Although Bear didn't normally sleepwalk, he use to when we were roommates some twelve years ago, especially when he had brought a woman home for the night. Still remembering the time both Bear's lovely date and I had to herd that big critter back into our pad as he stood by the side of the road naked, yet deep in a weird sleep. Although his eyes were open the whole time, there was no wakeful light to be seen in them. Lucky for us it was around 3:00AM and little to no traffic.

Flip and I quaffed some more spirits to top off the weed and watching something on television called Kentucky Fried Movie when a sleepy feeling overtook me. "I've had enough." I informed Flip and asked him to - "Turn up the televison volume, so I don't hear that human log splitter." Rolling out my sleeping bag, I made my bed as far away from the sleeping giant as possible.

Inserting hearing protection and putting an extra pillow over my head, sleep came to me swiftly in spite of Bear's thunderous snoring…

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#57 Atehequa

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Posted 05 January 2015 - 11:15 PM

I awoke suddenly to the sound of a door slammed shut and Bear's booming voice. "Rise my sleeping uglies,, I got coffee!" but if that wasn't enough, he kicked me in the shoulder, then tightly rolled up a local attraction guide into a baton-like shape and whacked Flip none too gently upon his forehead. "Get the hell up!"

Managing to growl with a dry throat I promptly informed him: "Already up, you damned ogre, isn't there a lonely road you should be haunting?" Rising to a sitting position, I first looked at the motel alarm clock/radio, it was 7:12, much too early to be kicked out of my sweet sodden slumber. I guess that last big slug of rum had whomped me but good. Looking past the hulking brute, I saw three steaming styrofoam cups on our small motel table. Slightly hung over, stiff, but otherwise in good spirits I rose from my nest and made way to the coffee while thanking Bear for his thoughtfulness. He had hit the motel office's courtesy pot and I for one was happy he did, even though it tasted a bit watered down. Better than naught as we always say.
"Get up Flippy." Bear called in a much softer voice. Then he whacked the Birdman’s narrow head with a thick complementary tourist publication. "You got to be smacking people on their heads?" Flip hissed as he swung around to sit.
"Smacking?" Bear laughed, "Why that was a wakeup kiss my little sleeping ugly, now come, get ye some coffee before it cools."
As those thick gold curtains blocked out all outside light, Flip taking his coffee wanted to know: "What's it like outside?"
"There's the door, take a look for yourself." Bear suggested as he poured more powder creamer into his cup. Opening our door Flip and I gazed out at a magnificent vista, the sun peaking over a distant mountain ridge. The morning was cool, but otherwise refreshing at this new day's start. I was also glad to see Mitch and R.W.'s bikes parked beside Bear's rental SUV. "A fine day indeed." Flip stated as we seated ourselves on some lounge chairs right outside the room. The Colony House courtesy coffee and a couple of cigarettes allowed me enough gumption for a good morning bowel movement and invigorating shower. Upon exiting our bathroom, Flip rushed past me as he had urgent business to take care of as well.

Feeling a lot better after my shower I flicked through the channels attempting to find some weather reports. Finally I located a 24 hour weather channel with local updates, but what really annoyed Bear much more than I, was the Kenny G background music.
"Shit man, come on, you saw the weather when you sat outside for coffee, so turn that crap off before rip it out of the dresser and throw it through that window." I knew it was no idle threat as Bear really hated what he called wimpy ass jazz.
"Besides,," he added: "I'm gonna call R.W.'s room and check on their condition."
"Probably still passed out." I said, "Them jerk wads better be ready to go when we are, cause neither one of them knows the way to Lake Moomaw."
"Damn right they better be ready, now shhhhhhhhh, I'm calling" Bear picked up the phone dialing 0 as we couldn't remember their room number. Reaching the motel office, Bear got connected to our companions room. After letting it ring a good several times, Bear hung up and said: "Might as well check on these sots. Want to go with me?"
"Why not,, got nothing better to do,, no telling how long it's gonna take for Flip to squeeze out a turd and wash off the funk." Not bothering to put on shoes I followed Bear out the door and down the walkway.

Bear's banging paw brought no answer from within, but the door was unlocked so we walked right in and immediately were met by the foul stench of vomit.

It was nearly overwhelming. Someone had cleaned up a bit, but not all that much. This smell did not go good with the woman laying on the bed, fully clothed and as motionless as fresh death. "Wonder who she is?" I asked taking notice of a good many empty beer cans scattered about. "I don't know." Bear returned, "But she smells like puke." Leaning in to take a closer look he stated: "Well at least she is alive, I hear gurgling." Going to inspect their bathroom, I almost stepped barefooted into a puddle of spew on the green motel carpet. Their toilet was streaked with vomit. "Someone got sick" I informed Bear.
"No shit. Now open that damned door and let some fresh air in here." Flicking on a few more lights I got a better look at this unconscious woman. She appeared in her early thirties with hair the color of old rust, clumps of which were plastered together with puke. There were also splatters of spew on her sweater and jeans as well. Yesterday sometime she was no doubt a comely looking woman, but now she lay a vomit splattered mess. Hopefully by having her clothing and boots still on was a sign that our two motorcycle riding companions did not violate her in any way while she lay passed out cold.
"Would you stop gawking at that mess and open that damned door!" Bear demanded.
"I thought your kind could hold their breath for long periods." I said while opening the door. Both us were very much surprised to see Mitch and R.W. just outside each holding a coffee and danish. "Hey where did you kats get the danish?" I inquired.
"Motel office" Mitch replied, "They just put em out."
“A run of the mill continental breakfast. There’s also powered doughnuts, muffins, but no fucking orange juice, just powdered Tang mix and water.” R.W. added.
Bear pushed me through the door in his dash for fresh air growling: "How the hell can you jerk wads eat with that stench?"

We let the place air out a few good minutes before walking back in.

"I see you've met Brenda." R.W. said in regards to his unconscious guest. "Oh yes" I confirmed, "She was just telling Bear and me all about herself." More blunt and to the point Bear asked where Brenda came from. I could tell he was getting somewhat ticked off and no doubt saw this as a delay in our plans of leaving before nine. R.W. informed us that he and Mitch had met her at the lounge. "Then we ran into her again at the store." Taking another good look at Brenda I commented: "Not bad looking, a fine figure of a woman."
"Once cleaned up." Bear added as he lit up a cigarette.
"Not too bad looking last night, but drunker than a skunk." R.W. then went on to recount how Mitch got them thrown out of the bar and how Brenda was asked to leave for just associating these two. "Mitch got you thrown out of a bar?" Bear asked in mocking jest. "No not Mitch!" I laughed still remembering the time about five years ago when he got both of us kicked out of a York County drinking hole before even finishing our first beers. Through past experience Bear had learned as well, Mitch was someone not to go with for a night out on the town. Mitch had a habit of blurting out statements that most normal people would find offensive. He would always claim to be speaking his mind. I was quite curious to find out - "What the hell did he say this time?"
With a shit eating grin Mitch replied: "I offered the nice lady a seat." Then with a sour look of disgust he added - "She rudely refused my hospitality."
"Yeah because you told her she could sit on your face." R.W. dryly stated, then continued his account of how the lounge was filled to capicity with standing room only. Mitch and R.W. were lucky enough to swoop in on a two seat table. "This nice looking chick came prancing in bitching because there was no place to sit,, then Mitch came out of his mouth with some dumb shit."
"I was a perfect gentleman." Mitch argued.
I found out a short time later that the young lady whom Mitch offered a seat to was the restaurant manager’s little sister and the and bartender’s girlfriend.

"Enough of this monkey shining!" Bear growled and then inquired again in no friendly way what to do about the woman on their bed.

"We can leave her here to wake up later." Mitch suggested only to have R.W remind him that since the room was in his name he feared this woman may be the type who would walk out with something. Mitch laughed and asked: "What the hell is she gonna take? Everything is bolted down. Even the damned television remote."
"There's always the towels." I said while looking at them, puke soaked and piled in the corner. "Damnation! She must of been a real spewer."
"Projectile upchucking intensified." Mitch confirmed went into more detail. "If I hadn't of ducked and sidestepped, she would of barfed all over me."
"Shot over his head,, a real gusher" R.W. added. To back up his story he showed me their puke fouled gold curtains.
"Regardless,," Bear growled, yanking us back to the problem we faced. "Y'all just can't leave her for housekeeping to clean up, which brings to mind, If I were you two, I'd leave a very hefty tip for housekeeper." R.W. informed us he had tried to get her up, but she wouldn't budge. "Dead drunk." Mitch chuckled, then tapped the toe of her western boot. Bear growled: "Oh that's just lovely!" Turning about he walked out of the room cursing at every stride. R.W. stated that we would probably have to wait until Brenda awakened from her coma-like slumber. I asked him in no friendly manner: "And how long do ye think that's gonna take, tonight sometime? Check-out is at 11:00, but Bear want's to get this party moving within an hour or less."
"Less!" Bear growled upon reentering this fetid den. In his paw he held a styrofoam cup which looked to be filled with ice and water which our huge companion proceeded to pour over the woman's head and face.

She woke up, took a good look at Bear and issued a horrible harpy-like scream.

Atop the bed on her hands and knees, Brenda looked like a she panther at bay. Her wild eyes took in the rest of us and she slashed foul motel room air with yet another bloodcurdling shriek. "Shit, man! Can't you do something to calm her down?" Bear roared. Mitch weighing in on this troubled situation suggested: "She might be a whack job." Hopefully that wasn't the case. Perhaps this was only the initial shock, or bewilderment of waking up suddenly from of a sodden slumber in a unfamiliar environment and then seeing a huge shaggy man-brute looming over her.

Bear and I decided to split this scene leaving our two traveling companions to calm this woman down. Looking over his shoulder, Bear said in parting: "We're heading out in about a half hour, so handle this!" I was getting a little ticked off myself as none of this would of happened if Mitch and R.W. would of stayed put last night. Being long time patrons here of the Colony House, we didn't need this kind of problem ruining our good relationship with motel management.

Flip's functions in the bathroom allowed enough time for Mitch and R.W. to jar this lost woman's memory of last night's events. We all later learned that up until yesterday Brenda was a married woman who happen to received a tip that her husband along with his secretary were carrying on at the Afton Inn. She caught him between acts as he was exiting the room for some ice. Always a vulnerable time. Following a rather unpleasant encounter and perhaps a moment of overpowering clarity, Brenda cleaned out a few bank accounts, then booked a room at that very same hotel. Her anger diluted with bar drinks and now on an alcohol induced rebound, Brenda's inhibitions were washed away as if by the savage rain storm raging outside along with the massive amount of booze she had consumed. She no doubt mingled a bit and had little difficulty hooking up with two wild looking long haired heathen travelers. Perhaps it was a good thing Brenda got sick, who knows what would of happened if she had not.

Having no desire to breakfast in Waynesboro, especially after discovering Brenda's husband was not only the owner of a large car dealership, but a local politician as well.

We were on the road by 9:00AM…

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#58 Atehequa

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Posted 08 January 2015 - 12:32 AM

Ascending into the southern Alleghenies
Mist shrouded mysterious ridges loom
Shadowy sloping rises, densely forested
Ancient mountains in their primeval gloom

Deeply grooved by cold clear water cascading
Thousands of such many fast falling streams
Far older than the Alps, Andes and Rockies
Where the spirits of the wild sway dreams

Take us northward winding river valley road
Upon magnificent vistas our driver dares a glance
Lofty ridges looming above the Jackson River
In the soft breeze bright wildflowers dance

A year of civilized culture falling away
Spring shedding of winter’s old skin
These ancient mountains have embraced us
It's good to be up in the Alleghenies again


West past Staunton then south passing Lexington and Clifton Forge, we managed to arrive at Covington around 11:45. It was another ten or so miles north to Lake Moomaw, up a rural state road, but first we needed provisions.

Having supplied up at the grocery and liquor stores, Bear's rented SUV was jam packed. Flip, already squeezed in between provisions had to travel with a full grocery bag in his lap. No worse than two cases of beer on the floor board where my feet should of been. Following ten miles of such crowded travel conditions we stopped at The Bait Place, a well known outdoor sporting goods store and halfway point betwixt Covington and Moomaw. It was also the closest place to purchase bait, tackle, cigarettes, ice and more beer if so needed. Here we stocked up on live crickets, night crawlers, red wigglers, new flies, lures, hooks, line and bobbers. I even bought a case of heady highland ale that was not available anywhere else. This would ride upon my lap for the next ten miles.

Behind this establishment, an outdoor archery range, where local men women and children sent there shafts with accuracy into life sized game animal targets. They are very fond of bow and black powder hunting in this area. Wild and rugged as this land, these were the kind of folk who stood a chance if the shit ever hit the fan. We and especially Bear watched with great interest as a tall, shapely strawberry blonde haired lass sink arrow after arrow into a full scale target of a black bear. Anyone could of been kill shots. "I'd chase that one across a few good creeks." Bear stated, catching a smile from the young lady as she pulled arrows from her target. "I suspect she would chase you across a good few creeks and up and down the Jackson River Valley." I returned.

Fortunately we managed to secure our old camping site atop Morris Hill without a problem and by 3:00 camp was all but set. Just like last year and a good few before, we got up here not long after spring opening. With the exception of a couple of pop-up rigs, one other tenting party and a small camper trailer, Morris Hill was almost vacant allowing us a bit of privacy along with safe distance away from normal folk. Setting up camp went along smoothly enough, Flip doing most of the work. Bear unloaded our drinking supplies, then put ale and beer on ice. R.W. and Mitch were downing slugs of vodka while of course I tood watch with the screwdriver I mixed in a tall mug. With ale chilling Bear also opted for a cold screwdriver as there was plenty of vodka, orange juice and ice. Having a deep quaff, I stared out at the blurry green beyond. This whole wooded hill top was awash in new green spring foliage along with a riot of colorful blossom as the dogwood, sourwood, mountain laurel and rhododendron were in bloom. Behind and below us was Lake Moomaw. Although this lake could not be viewed through the dense growth, we could smell fresh water upon every updraft. To our east, the Jackson River meandered through a hilly valley. Southwest of our location was Oliver Mountain, a truly mysterious place. According to my topographical map there was suppose to be a broad hollow-like rift atop this ridge with a stream running through. Remote, sheltered with a good supply of freshwater, Oliver Mountain seem the perfect habitat for whatever it was that rummaged through our camp two years ago. We could barely see this ridge looming through the thick leafy boughs. Even though there were no encounters with this creature last spring, we found ourselves constantly on the lookout and kept our sleeping shallow. This was R.W.’s first time up here and he seemed rather eager to catch some trout. As for Mitch this was probably his first mountain camping trip, but back home, he proved to be an accomplished bass and crappie angler. He appeared to be somewhat awestruck and not all that talkative upon arrival, but that changed after four or five shots of vodka.

Everyone either lacking sleep or burned out from the road would remain in camp tonight, drinking, feasting or puffing the weed. Besides, no one needed to ask Bear about going down and casting lines, as he wasn't driving anywhere else this day. Tomorrow morning held better promise of good fishing. Flip had just about finished lashing the last tarp cord to a tree when we heard a terrible growling in camp. It was our stomachs with Bear's being the loudest. "Enough of this!" He roared and proceeded to make ready our Weber grill. In scant time Bear had coals blazing then set about prepping some very thick porterhouse steaks. Flip wasted little time getting some spuds cut up as to make camp taters while I stood guard with my vodka and orange juice. A lean, swarthy individual, Flip had a good amount of Lumbee and some Cherokee ancestry. He was clad in his usual button up short sleeve shirt, this one midnight blue with scarlet pinstripes. Behind thick glasses perched upon a beak-like nose, were dark beady eyes and around his narrow head was a faded blue bandanna. He defiantly had his own unique style. "Shirking work again are ye?" Flip hissed like a turkey vulture.
I smiled and reminded him: "I'm standing watch!"
"What are ye gonna do, splash any intruder with your drink?"
"Told ye, I'm standing guard."
"Bullshit! You could get some beans started."
Laughing, then offering him a refill, I promptly informed Flip: "You are the beans and taters man and I am the home guard, we must carry ourselves accordingly. "Flip sneered and returned: "Which means you, along with Mitch and R.W. get to goof off while I'm stuck here making side dishes.”
"I bought the potato salad." R.W. reminded the Birdman, "We can have that instead of camp taters."

Flip would hear none of that. His camp taters were not only a traditional dish, but tasty one as well.

Soon the aroma of charcoal grilled meat drifted about our heathen camp reminding me that I had missed both breakfast and lunch. Grilled to individual taste that varied from R.W's almost raw to Flip's burnt blackened crisp. Bear placed a platter of steaks next to the beans and taters. With vittles before us we dug in like famished hyenas. There was much lip smacking with our dinner time conversation.

In a rush yesterday morning Bear had forgot to pack his prized drinking horn and seemed somewhat at a loss without it. Flip had lent him a bright purple plastic insulated mug which was not at all befitting for the Great Bear. At least it was brand new and would keep beverage cold or hot. All the same R.W felt he had to lend a comment. "That's a real nice mug you have there Bear, that color really shows off your bloodshot eyes." Just when R.W. was about to open his mouth again, Bear bared his teeth and growled: "How about I make a drinking cup out of your skull?"
"That would screw up a Saturday evening." Mitch chuckled while gnawing the last shreds of meat off a steak bone. Flip was the last to finish as he had to hacksaw his overdone beef into bite-size pieces with an over sized steak knife. R.W. suggested he take a hammer, pound it into powder and snort it. "It'll go straight to the brain, man. Meat rush baby!" We tended to tease Flip about his overly well done meat. I reminded him again that those burnt cinders would surely tear rents in his sphincter if they haven’t already.

This being bear, raccoon, skunk and maybe Bigfoot country, cleaning up was a must. Cookware got promptly washed at the campground spigot and just as he so did since our 1993 trip, Bear cleaned out his grill. All refuse was deposed in one of Morris Hill’s new bear proof dumpsters. Coolers and ice chests containing foodstuffs were secured in Bear's SUV. Other measures were taken as well. Bear splashed a bit of hot pepper sauce around the outside of our camp, while Flip hung a few fetish objects from low branches. For any uninvited visitor who felt compelled to count, I scattered dry rice grains about the ground and leaned a straw broom against a tree between our tents. "Just what the hell are you kats doing?" Mitch inquired as he had been watching us making precautionary preparations. "Just keeping away evil beings." There was something in Flip's voice that hit a nerve and prompted me to scan my surroundings. "Evil beings?" Mitch laughed. Taking no offense to his mirthful disbelief, I enlightened him a bit. "Vampires, Azeman, Sukuyan, Churells, cannibals, bloodsuckers and soul eaters, they exist and thank goodness such encounters are not that common, but we take precautions especially when far from home. Broom straws, rice grains? Some of them will stop and count such things instead of committing any foul acts"
"You're pulling my leg, right?"
"Ask R.W. about what sashayed into our camp in human form back in 86."
"Don't worry Mitch." Bear stated, "Every time we go camping something weird happens. Stick around, you'll see."
"Come on Bear!” Mitch laughed, “You goofballs are too weird enough already to expect any more."
"Bigfoot, giant birds, albino midgets and other supernatural beings in these mountains along with a two foot long salamander down in the Jackson. Pretty damned weird if you ask me" Bear returned while pouring a beer. Having camped in somewhat remote places for well over twenty years, mostly during the off season, Bear, Flip, R.W. and myself had looked upon some rather unusual sights. Standing there, I recalled fishing in the Jackson River, below Gaithright Dam where Bear, Flip and I spotted a large aquatic salamander crawling underwater, along the shallow rocky bottom near the bank. Flip attempted to attract it with a rooster tail spinning lure, but that only sent it zipping off into the depths. After that we debated if it was a hellbender, or some unknown species.

Flip making light of it all reminded us: "And we got till Tuesday morning, who knows what's gonna happen?" Hearing that I knocked hard upon our table.

We all drank out of cups and mugs as the national forest rangers frowned upon visible alcohol containers. Actually we were not suppose to have any alcohol here, but would not be bothered as long as liquor and beer bottles remained out of sight. Of course we had to be somewhat cool, not upset the other campers and keep the noise down after 10:00PM QUIET TIME. This we did not fret over as the closest camping neighbors were beyond earshot of our usual racket. Aside from our wild appearance and strange trappings, all in all we were good campers, never once being asked to leave a campground. At these national forest campgrounds this time of year there was little to worry about.
"Well since we're in for the evening, I'll get a fire going." Flip announced although it was only early evening. With little effort he had a decent kindling blaze in the fire pit. We always brought in our own firewood as it beat the hell out of foraging for dry fuel, especially at a campground. With kindling blazing and oak catching, Flip suggested we burn one. "Lets!" R.W. agreed, already somewhat buzzed on vodka. Mitch, sparking his butane lighter gleefully added: "Fire it up, Flippy! Lets get bent!" Remembering it was the Birdman's turn to load or twist one up I suggested he do something as the time had come. Flip looked at us all with dark, beady crow-like eyes, rose and made way to his tent. In this dimming pre-dusk light we could plainly see the lantern glow inside, through tent fabric. Head tilted as if oddly struck, Mitch stated: "Guess we're not invited."
"Be out in a minute!" Flip shouted, but it was more like five until he emerged holding a large, finger sized smoking bone. Mitch was swift in lending butane flame to this well rolled fatty. Drawing upon it, Flip struggled to hold his breath as he passed it on. While Mitch took turn, a whirling swirl of smoke jetted out from it's glowing end and brushed past Bear's nose. He couldn't help not taking a little whiff. Coming to me, I hit it hard and immediately felt my poor abused lungs expand like a party balloon. I fought not to cough it out. Flip's smoke had a nice taste and I could feel it's effect soon after exhaling. "Good weed!" I proclaimed pushing out the last wisp of smoke from my strained wind bags.
"It should be, I paid a pretty penny for that shit." The Birdman informed us. I was just surprised to see this pin joint master roll up such a big one instead of the usual toothpick size bones that he was well known for. Being a big doobie, it went around the four of us several good times. More than once, forgetting Bear didn't partake, Mitch attempted to pass it his way. "Get that shit out of my face, man!" But something in his eyes told me that Bear really wanted some, but would not feed this need for weed. Snuffing out a stubby, brown stained roach the four of us found ourselves in a state of altered, dream-like consciousness. Light as a unattached strand of spider web aloft in the soft breeze, this green wooded hill top took on a whole different appearance and for a few minutes our bloodshot eyes scanned these beautiful surroundings. I was lost in my substance addled ponderings and having a very good time, until Bear, deep in his cups loudly demanded -

"Music!"

Activating our boom box, Flip dialed through the various stations that were coming in. National Public Radio, classical, rap, country-western and some soft oldies station where for some reason he paused on Marie Osmond's 'Paper Roses'. Goofing a bit on this sugary, but sad song, Mitch issued a loud "BOO-HOOOO" to which Flip, R.W. and I feigned a good cry until Bear demanded we stop this nonsense and turn that puppy love shit off or - "I'll toss that boom box in the fire." Something told me he wasn't bluffing.
Fiddling with the FM dial, Flip located a decent classic rock station out of Roanoke. Smoked up and quaffing deeply, our over-all mood was good. We cracked some old jokes and shared any new ones that had been heard since the last camping trip. As The Grateful Dead’s 'Trucking' began to play, Mitch who's sense of humor was often twisted and sometimes uncalled for, jolted my memory by his recollection of the time back in the mid 80s when he, R.W., my cousin Charlie and I went with him to see what some of us called 'head deads.'

Boldly younger in years, we were all too eager to see these strange and colorful folk.

The Grateful Dead were in town playing a three show, all weekend gig at the Hampton Coliseum, with all hotels and motels along a good stretch of Mercury Boulevard packed to the gills with their 'Dead Head' fans. Taking off on foot from where Mitch had parked at Coliseum Mall, we carefully crossed Mercury to where their main encampment was located. Before we even got to the other side of the highway there were plenty of these people to be seen. Crossing the road we found ourselves in a vast colorful, nomadic pseudo-hippy gathering. Everywhere we looked there were tie-dye T-shirts and other bright garments, trappings and banners. As it had been sprinkling outside, many of these folk wore Mexican hooded pullovers. Their damp clothing seemed to enhance the fact that many of these people did not shower regularly. I did find it quite odd looking at a good many young white people sporting dreadlocks as the only ones I'd ever seen wearing their hair in such a fashion were some of the black West Indian folk who lived and worked around the Williamsburg area. I remember Mitch telling one whose face was painted like a mime - "It's ok man, I understand, I dig, and it's alright."
Venturing near a motel, Charlie caught the scent of weed and wasted no time in bumming some. Instead of giving up a single bone, some guy wearing a red, white and blue tie-dyed sweatshirt reached into his van only to pull out a handful of buds from a large black trash bag. Taking this gift Charlie asked: "Can you lay some on my cousin too?" Which he kindly did. We had a devil of a time finding something to put all this weed in. Mitch and R.W. got a handful as well. We thanked the generous hippy and pushed on through the crowded parking lot. Cramming all of this in an old fast food bag he found on the ground. In short time we were smoked up pretty good. Swirling and whirling all about us, a mass of smiling, brightly colored, but somewhat smelly people. This being the outer edge of our old stomping grounds we considered the weed as tribute of sorts. We walked among them like native chieftains. We were like kestrels hovering over a vast herd of doped up livestock, waiting for the grasshoppers to jump. Although in a elevated state none of us were really expecting to be this damp Friday afternoon, we had ourselves a grand time, that is until Mitch spotted a crowd of Deadheads over at the motel next door. We followed him over to that large gathering. We pushed our way to the front of this crowd. I attempted to focus on what all the commotion was about. For awhile everyone sounded like buzzing bees, but I then heard someone shout: "Come on, Sun Drop, please come down!" Somehow a brightly garbed young man had gained access to the motel's second floor roof and was now on the edge flapping his arms like a fledgling redwing blackbird preparing to take it’s first flight. It wasn't that long of a drop, but landing on the sidewalk from such a height would no doubt prove to be an extremely painful, bone shattering experience. Right next to my ear the young lady screamed again: "Come on down, Sun Drop, please get down from there! Sparkle Noodle and I love you! Don't do this!" With that others joined in calling this whacked out head dead down. Already several of them were running into the building when Mitch whispered to me: "That fucker is tripping his brains out." then he lifted his voice above the crowd. "Go ahead, you can fly!"
'Oh holy shit!' I thought, ‘He didn't say that.'
"Fly Sun Drop, Fly! Fly far! Fly away!" Mitch shouted up with his own arms spread like seagull wings. Just as Sun Drop was ready to leap, others who had made it up to the roof pulled him away from the ledge. After that things got kind of ugly. We looked around at the hundreds of displeased faces. They probably didn't appreciate Mitch's words as their angry eyes attempted to bore holes into us.

Charlie, R.W., Mitch and I stood back to back forming a very small defensive square, but to our relief there was no rushing onslaught. They just hurled some rather lame insults at us until we left.

Pouring himself an ale, Mitch cackled at that past incident and said: "Oh how very damned rude those stinking head deads were. I had confidence in Sun Drop. I'm sure he could of flew over the Hampton Coliseum if he wanted."
"We’re damn lucky that crowd didn't pelt us with their body cheese." I told him while lighting up cigarette. “Glad it wasn't a group of religious fanatics or we would of been ripped to shreds.”
Yes Mitch could be a riot at times often running the risk of getting not only himself, but those around him as well into precarious predicaments. I anticipated scant trouble out of him up here though. Instead my thoughts were of tomorrow down at either lake or river. Even Bear, who did not care much for fishing, always enjoyed casting line into the Jackson. R.W. raised his cup in cheer for my cousin Charlie, who was now doing time for some cocaine related fiasco. It was rather sad not having him along with us on these camping trips for the last four years. I remembered Charlie as a good angler and a fun person to be around until he became a full fledge junkie. Coke, smack or speed, it didn’t matter as long as it was booted up into a vein. Almost five years in the joint already, he was suppose to get out next year. The last time I visited Charlie he was ailing and getting around with a walker.

Through luck coupled along with what angling skill we possessed, there would be trout in the skillet tomorrow evening.

Dusk bade the sun a lengthy farewell as it journeyed westward and we cheered on night's cool arrival. I raised my mug in thanks for allowing us such a place to enjoy. Following my cheer, Bear raised his in honor of all here and those we've known who could not or would not sit by our campfire. We quaffed deeply and recalled a few more fond memories knowing all the while that these modern times were eating away at us. A good several of our band had forsaken the old ways only to join the growing number of fenced in domesticated human livestock. Shearing off their long heathen locks, they traded nature's true experiences for man’s written words and television programs. For some, their outlooks and mannerisms had become rudely dogmatic, having naught to do with us. When our paths did cross, we were either treated with scorn or else shunned. They had become like the rest of the bleating sheep, under the ever watchful eye of shepherds who happen to have a taste for mutton. Those of us still roaming beyond the fence remained birds fishers, foxes, wildcats, wolves and bears. However that fence was ever pushing us further back into a wilder state or in some cases, trapping us within.

"Poker anyone?" Flip had produced his deck of cards.
"You must feel lucky this evening." I returned with a chuckle, but ceased any further taunting as not to shoo away my own luck. Mitch and R.W. wanted in, but Bear remained silent, inspecting the new lures he had bought earlier. Flip asked if he was going to play, but Bear took a long quaff, then replied: "You guys go ahead, I'm sitting this one out" At the risk of having his head chewed off, Flip wanted to know why.
"Cause I am." Was Bear's short response.
"Why?"
Bear finished his beer, poured himself another, then grimaced at the purple plastic mug. "Because I don't have my lucky drinking horn." Cutting him a sharp look, I asked: "Lucky?"
"That's right, it's my lucky gambling charm."
"Since when has it brought you luck?"
Somewhat flustered, Bear returned: "Plenty of times."
"Shit man, every time you've brought it along, you still got cleaned out." I sorely reminded him. Flip dared a few more words. "Never know Bear, purple may just be your lucky color." With his stormy grey eyes hard upon that purple plastic mug for a long half minute, Bear suddenly raised it aloft then proceeded to drain it’s contents. Following a low rumbling belch, he said: "Alright deal me in."

Indeed purple must of been Bear's lucky color as he had cleaned me out of my gambling coin. Flip got out as well when the other three began to toss down paper money. With a can't lose attitude that has been the bane of many gamblers Mitch and R.W applied themselves to take down Bear, but there was no sign of his winning streak coming to a end. Before any bigger bills came out, Mitch and R.W. saw fit to fold for the evening. Bear displaying a sneering look of disgust tinged with the haughtiness of short lived victory, raked in his winnings and called us all chicken shits. Counting his take aloud, just to rub it in, Bear had won thirty seven dollars, not bad considering our standard nickel ante. Stuffing his winnings into a zip-lock sandwich bag with a shit eating grin, he inquired: "Same time, same place tomorrow evening gentlemen?"
"No thanks" Flip laughed, "You're too much of a card sharp for me."
The sore loser he was, R.W. offered to finance Flip or anyone else willing to play and take Bear down tomorrow night. "Tomorrow is a different day!" R.W. hissed, adding: "And lady luck may just turn her back on you."
"Put your money up, you perfumed dandy!" Bear growled.
"Tomorrow night." R.W. returned with a sinister smile.

Reveling in his victory Bear called for the Shenandoah Wonder to be uncorked, which we gave him the honor. Filling our cups before his he called for a toast - "To these beautiful mountains! To Virginia!" We clashed mugs and had ourselves a good slug. The fine home distilled whisky spread down through my insides like a warming friendly fire while Mitch never having sampled the Wonder before declared: "This is a very fine liquor!” Extending his cup he requested another. Pouring another good measure in our cups, the Great Bear went on to praise his plastic mug. "This is my lucky charm!" To which Flip informed him:"Hey man, that mug cost me five bucks!"
While Bear went into his winnings I asked: "You paid five bucks for that?" The Birdman nodded his narrow head as Bear plopped down a shiny new quarter on our table. "Well here's twenty five cents."
"What's that for?"
"Payment for my lucky mug."
Flip shot Bear a puzzled look and said: "I'll take that as a down payment, but I'll be needing another four dollars and seventy five cents." to which Bear chuckled: "Down payment? Oh no my dear Flippy,, that quarter is your profit."
"My profit? What the hell are you talking about?"
"I've already paid you your five bucks, Flippy." Bear said with a smile holding aloft the purple mug. Dark crow-like eyes darting about, Flip appeared very much puzzled by Bear's last remark. As the Birdman strove to make sense of those words, Bear casually lit up a cigarette, blew smoke into his confused face and added: "Well Flip you may have to dig deep in that weed befuddled brain of yours." which had the Birdman scratching his head.
"Weed befuddled indeed to have paid five bucks for that piece of crap!" Mitch laughed, prompting R.W. and I to join in the mirth. Banging the purple mug hard upon our table to restore order, Bear continued. "I remember like it occurred yesterday."
"Remember what?" The Birdman demanded.
"Yep, still fresh in my mind." Bear chuckled.
"What's still fresh in that mind?" I laughed.
"Yep, still fresh in my mind, and Fisher here, can back me up."
"Leave me out of this shit!" I protested as Flip turned to me demanding to know what Bear was talking about. Regarding the Birdman with the smiling grey eyes of one finally having a vengeful long awaited moment, Bear went on: "Yep, just like it was yesterday."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Following a good draught of Wonder, Bear replied: "Well Flippy, it was about this time back in the Spring of 74, when the Fisher and I had just put in ten bucks apiece, copped an ounce and were in the process of splitting it up under Old Shady, then you came walking down the Big Trail."

Noticing Flip's sudden change of expression, I could see the past yapping hard at his heels.

"Alright keep the damn mug, Bear. I didn't like it anyway!" The Birdman hissed knowing Bear was in his rights in claiming this prized piece as payment due. Being there that day, I had to back Bear's story. After we shared a joint with Flip that day over twenty years ago, he had asked Bear if he would sell five dollars worth, which back then was a quarter ounce. At first The Bear kindly refused, but after Flip offered up some hard luck story about having a date that night and needing some smoke, our huge friend, generous in his youth complied. Bear fronted out an eighth ounce or nickel bag to Flip on a promise of payment that following weekend. Needless to say, that weekend was long in coming. Personally I thought Flip was still getting over, because if it would of been anyone else, The Birdman would of been charged current weed rates plus a hefty interest.

Ahhh, the days of cheap weed and friendly easy credit. With that bit of twenty some odd year old business completed we could now kick back and enjoy this beautiful highland evening…

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#59 Atehequa

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Posted 08 January 2015 - 12:39 AM

First fire, black walnut and red oak
Brightly burning dancing flames
Aromatic smoke drifting about
Hopefully appeasing the mountain spirits
Cups ever filled, ever empty, ever filled
Raised in a many reveling cheer
Merriment and wild howling mirth
Well feasted, well fitted, well feeling
Well armed, ever watchful of the outer darkness
Well expecting anything to lumber in
Beyond all friendly windowless taverns
A friendly table and clanking cups
Gambling, guffaw and campfire tales
Descriptions of streams and deep wooded dales
New line on my rod and reel


There we were, five of us sitting around the picnic table, truly a different breed of camper. Although we had a fine fire burning, around which we told stories and cracked jokes, there were no toasting of marshmallows or burnt weenies on a stick. For us this was an opportunity to revert back to a wilder state, or as wild as we could get here atop Morris Hill.

As always I brought along our banner which consisted of a large snapping turtle skull with beaded deerskin tassels and osprey feather streamers. This I lashed to a sturdy oak sapling by standing high on the ice chest. Attached to our banner as well was a silver button tipped strip cut from R.W.'s brother's black leather jacket. An addition R.W. tied himself upon our banner, I watched it waver in the breeze and was moved enough to raise my cup in honoring the fallen. "To all who have traveled far over the last ridge! To Denny, although in life he never knew this place where our fire now burns, may his good spirit find us where ever we may gather!" At that everyone raised their cups and toasted, R.W.'s voice being the loudest."To Denny!" Denny, R.W.'s brother had been killed several years ago on his motorcycle by a motorist who failed to see him stopped at the traffic light. A fast moving Ford Mustang made a mess out of him. At least it was quick. We were at a loss without Denny as he was our expert on all things paranormal and supernatural. Not the usual unusual one would expect from an episode of In Search Of hosted by Leonard Nimoy. Aside from a few odd quirks Denny always proved to be a good traveling companion, a decent angler and a superb storyteller.
"He told some fine tales" Flip stated, "But I think he held back on a lot."
"He did not speak about everything he knew." I returned, "But good storytellers, or chroniclers are often misread or misheard, especially when drinking around a fire where such long winded accounts described in great detail takes away from the wonderment and can render a tale mundane." Denny was a good story teller when the spirits had not soaked his words into drunken gibberish. I could recall many fine stories he had started, but with each quaff, that startling clarity blurred and slurred into vague, disconnected ramblings, probably during the most important parts. Often times we had to ask Denny to finish up the next sober morning.

R.W., now gazing at our banner spoke in a grim tone. "We've come across some pretty weird stuff up in the mountains and back in the lowlands as well, but Denny was for ever dipping into unknown mysteries and much of what he spoke of we could not possibly fathom. His accounts were of more strange worlds than the ones we thought to of known." Taking a good slug of Wonder he continued: "Following our experience at Big Meadows up until he was killed, it was like something was eating away at Denny."
All of us remained silent for some minutes until Bear changed the subject by asking me how life was in Williamsburg here of late.
"Ahhhh, the Colonial Capitol, life is good, I'm a single man now with six different drinking establishments within walking distance of my new pad. I can jawbone with a drunk William and Mary Professor at one tavern, then walk across the street and hob-knob with a hotel lounge lizard. What a life." Actually I was really beginning to hate living in Williamsburg as it was fast succumbing to rapid growth and development destroying what charm that area once had.

By the time it was my turn to load up our pipe I had started to wonder about the lack of visible staff, but remembered it was Saturday evening and probably wouldn't see anyone until Monday, unless a ranger drove through tonight. Just when we had decided to burn one outside, Flip issued a warning while pointing towards the flickering of headlights through shadowy tree boles. Before even hearing tires turning gravel, we scanned the camp for anything out of place. Bear placed a towel over our jug of wonder. Nothing to do now but stay calm and wait. It was not the standard issued ranger cruiser that we expected to see which now halted in front of our camp. "It's an old Ford truck." Bear said under his breath as we all peered into the outer darkness attempting to get a look at it's driver. Seemingly bothered by this intrusion Bear grumbled: "Now who could this be?" Hearing the motor cut off and door open a loud but friendly voice boomed into camp. "Haaloo campers!" At least he was courteous enough to call in first. For about 15 seconds we all looked at each other, then nodded in agreement. "Come on in!" Bear returned as we all rose to greet our visitor. He was almost as tall as Bear, but lacked his massive bulk and shaggy hair. This fellow was much more of the rangy type. His black hair, dark complexion and sky blue eyes bespoke of the dark Gaels from Ireland and Scotland who had settled in these mountain valleys some two hundred years ago or more. My father was a small part Irish and I felt a certain kinship when ever encountering these people. During all the handshaking and flowing of introductions we learned his name was Mark. During our initial small talk, Mark told us he was a National Forest volunteer responsible for some of the campground's upkeep. From what we gathered the last fourteen years had been lean ones for the National Forest and park areas with funding being constantly cut for almost a decade and a half. With employee positions being done away with those who remained were stretched thin over large areas often depending upon good hearted volunteers such as Mark to fill in the gaps.

"Well damn!" R.W. said: "Is anybody gonna offer this man a drink?"

Mark looked at our cups and asked what we had.
"Bear went down the beverage list. "Beer, ale, rum, vodka, whisky, Pepsi, orange juice,,," Mark interrupted: "I'll have a beer with y'all."
Continuing on Mark told us he hailed from Botetourt County and was currently on partial disability, but because of his volunteer services could park a small camper trailer here hooked up to an electrical outlet near the maintenance shed.
"So that's your rig I saw earlier?" Bear asked.
"Yes sir it is. I’ve only been up here a few days."
Mitch inquired:"Gets kind of lonely up here, huh?"
"A little so far, but I got kin, friends and a girlfriend who are suppose to come up and visit."
Admiring such an existence, I said: "Seems like you're living the life."
"Oh they're gonna make me work for my keep, picking up trash, cleaning the restrooms and shower house, coming around and checking to see if everything is alright. As much as I can do on a bum knee."
"What about the rangers?" Bear asked - "Did their department get cut too?"
"You may see one once a night or every other day at that."
Mark stayed long enough to finish his beer and talk a little fishing before thanking us for being good campers and bidding a good night to all before heading out.

"Well damn" Flip said - "We should of asked him about if he had seen any sign of Bigfoot."
"Bigfoot?" Mitch chuckled.
"Yeah, he may of been able to tell us something."
"Tell us we're all nuts." Bear grunted.
"But we saw it,, right here!"
"Better to not speak of such, Flip" I reminded him and went on to say: "Besides, we want to appear as regular campers and not whack jobs drawing attention to themselves."
Mitch wanted to know - "Regular as in bowel movements?"
"I suppose that's a part of it Mitch, but just because that volunteer, had a beer with us, it doesn't mean he's down with weed smoking and we don't need somebody telling the regular authorities about a camp full of longhairs going on about seeing a giant hairy creature roaming around. The next thing you know we'll have someone watching us."
"Best not speak of that hairy devil, least we call it in." Bear advised thus ending such scary talk. Although a pagan of sorts, the Great Bear did not bother a lot with protective charms, or fetishes and other such trappings, but had a strong belief in the supernatural. He relied more upon his fists and weapons like a club, pool stick, ax, knife, pistol, or shotgun.

The further we got up into these ancient, dark brooding wooded mountains the more we became aware of our own wild nature and everything else connected with the mysterious circle of life. Too bad for those who never considered lounging and lodging atop a lofty dark wooded hill, instead choosing to vacation at some overcrowded human modified resort. Perhaps they felt more secure in such surroundings while turning their backs on the same nature which sparked them into life. At least there were some of us left who could feel the wild spirits. Everything here and near about represented a higher, more natural, all embracing sense of reality than the urban uncertainty we had sought to escape for awhile. Here atop Morris Hill one could experience much more clarity in perceiving all aspects of the cosmos as being interconnected.

Spring here in the highland wilds was alive with energy, sound and primeval vibrations.

Although I couldn't speak for Mitch the rest of us were watchful, especially in the wilds. More than once I gazed out into the shadows between dark boles expecting to catch glimpse of baleful yellow eyes and something far more scarier than Bigfoot. Night's cool highland air prompted Flip to add a few more chunks of oak on the fire thus putting me in a mood to twist one up. Entering the tent I not only twisted one up, but also another out of Flip's stash. This one I sparked up first. My stash could easily get one up there, but Flip's was of a higher quality. Since the Birdman had put no money in for live bait he would be using tomorrow, there was little guilt on my part in filching a bone's worth of his smoke to share with those who did buy worms, crickets and lures. Smoking it down to a small burnt brown nub, I held off on sparking up the second one as once again we caught sight of headlights flickering through the dark woods and heard tires turning gravel. Making sure nothing not allowed was laying about as this time a ranger cruiser stopping in front of our camp. In the dark distance I could see a shadowy occupant. "Good evening." A strange voice greeted us. It was cold, emotionless, but definitely female. Mitch was the first to return this greeting as we all rose and slowly made way to the cruiser. Hopefully after giving brief audience while exchanging a few friendly words, this ranger would continue on her rounds. Ahead of us all, Bear approached in a careful manner with hands in plain view only to suddenly halt just short of the cruiser's open window. "Hey it's you!" he stammered in surprise as the ranger giggled. The rest of us were surprised as well as this ranger was none other than that same tall buxom young woman we saw sink arrows into a bear target back at The Bait Place. Amused by our slack jaw gawking she asked in a much more soft and sweeter tone: "What's wrong fellows?" to which Bear leaned in and returned slurring - "How ya doing?" I'm sure she caught a whiff of booze off him. "Not as good as you guys." She replied. By the tone of her voice she was not likely going to bust us for drinking. We attempted to keep everything low key, but could do nothing about Bear's drunken flirtations. To my relief she did not seem put off by this. Bear noticing this as well started to lay it on thick. "I really admire your archery skills, it was really hard to take my eyes off of you back at the archery range." With all his besotted schmoozing, the rest of us could hardly get in a word to Ranger Madeleine O'Bier. Finally above Bear's drunken prattle, I heard her say: "Well it's been a pleasure meeting you guys, but I have to get back to work." While pulling slowly away, I caught Ranger O'Bier flashing her eyes and smiling at us. Bear invited her to drop by anytime and to our surprise she replied: "Maybe, after my shift, that is if you're still up."

"I will be, you can count on it." Bear slurred.

Rubbing his paws together he said: "Did you y'all hear that? She may be coming back for a visit!" Feeling like it had to be stated, I voiced a bit of concern. "Look man, I hate to piss on your drunken lustful longings, but highland flower or not, she's still a law enforcement official." Bear roared with laughter and said: "You worry too damned much." then went on to pour himself another slug while beaming at the prospect of a little fair company. Flip snickered then told Bear: "If ye keep that up, you're never gonna make it to her shift's end."
"Ye of little faith." Bear returned before turning up his cup and pouring it's entire contents down his gullet. Mitch patted him on the shoulder and cheered on - "He'll make it! He can hang! We've barely started!"
I raised my cup, all the while hoping we would be in bed by midnight so as to wake early for some fishing.

As the excitement of Ranger O'Bier's visit faded so did our decent radio station. Attempting to locate another, Flip found nothing but cheesy top 40 crap and elevator music. I suggested he try AM in hopes of raising that Bluegrass we had listen to a few times while up in these mountains. Slowly turning the dial, Flip first came across a gospel broadcast where we goofed on some blathering blowhard basket case tell his listeners - "Gawd don't want y'all swinging around through the trees on a Saturday night like go-rillers! Gawd want's y'all going to bed so y'all can make it to church Sunday morning!" Jeeezuz ain't got no love fer drunken monkeys or atheeist eeevoluutionists! So what's it gonna be, y'all gonna act like drunken gawdless, foul mouthed, fornicating apes, or y'all gonna be walking on two legs into the light of Back Creek Baptist Church tomorrow morning?" Having about enough of this insane zealot's yammering, The Great Bear demanded: "Turn that shit off before the radio goes into a fiery pit!" Continuing his search Flip passed a 1950s oldies station, a couple of sports broadcasts and a talk show that caught my attention. Continuing on to a Latino station that Mitch seemed to like, I told Flip to turn it back.
"Turn it back?"
"Yeah to that talk show."
"Why?"
"Cause I heard something interesting."
"What?"
"Strange Creature"
Dialing back, Flip found the talk show just as it was going into a word from it’s sponsors.

I can't remember the name of this particular program, but do seem to recall it was out of Arizona or New Mexico.

Returning from station identification the host welcomed back both listeners and the next caller to this night's topic - Bigfoot and Skunk Apes. Bear, Flip and I threw down a good slug as we all listened on. The show's host got down to business after requesting his caller's name and location.
"Vernon Hogge, Moyock North Carolina and I saw one of them there Bigfeet."
"Vernon, can you describe to our listeners exactly what you saw?"
"Yes sir, but first I wanna say hi to my mama in Elizabeth City North Carolina and my sister Brenda and her Husband in Waynesboro Virginia." He went on to mention the car dealership her husband owned until the host interrupted him. Mitch and Bear's jaws dropped while a jet of whisky shot from R.W.’s nose, but we remained all ears as this call in talk show continued.
"That's very nice of you Vernon are your mother and sister regular listeners?"
"No sir."
"Ok Vernon, lets get back to what you encountered."
"Yes sir, but I almost forgot to say hi to my cousin Lori who is a listener, but ain't listening tonight cause she's working."
"Alright Vernon, but what about your encounter with Bigfoot?"
"Well sir, we was camping."
"And where were you camping Vernon?"
"Well sir, I was camping with my other brother Cecil and his boy Percy."
"Where?"
“Up in the hills on the French Broad River."
"Go on Vernon."
"Go on where?"
"What happened on the French Broad River?"
"Well sir we were about to turn in for the night, when I remembered something I forgot."
"Remembered what Vernon?"
"Remembered I had to lock up my truck."
"Go on Vernon." the host prodded.
"Well sir, I locked up my truck and then heard something off to my left."
"What did you hear Vernon?"
"It."
"What was it Vernon?" The host sounded if he was losing patience with this bumpkin.
"Well sir I heard it breathing and snorting like a wild hog, but it won't no pig."
"What was it Vernon, what did you see?"
"Well sir, it was enormous."
"How enormous was it Vernon ?" The host now sounded a bit pissed.
"Well sir, I rekkin it was anywhere from seven to eight feet tall"
"Describe to our listeners what it looked like."
"Well sir, it was night and I couldn't see all that good."
"And just what did you see Vernon?"
"It was dark hairy and had a pointy head like my uncle Harvey."
"What else Vernon?"
"It sure did stink like,,,,,,," The station faded out into a strange humming static.

Flip's dark beady eyes scanned the surrounding growth, but Bear slammed his purple mug down. "Vernon's experience was too close for comfort."
"Just apiece south, down the Blue Ridge." Mitch said and then added: "And he has a sister named Brenda married to a car salesman in Waynesboro."
That was enough to strike me as weird.
"Bigfoot! Just like what we saw!" Flip stated with a bit of excitement. Bear took another deep quaff, looked out into the outer darkness and with a grim voice told Flip: "Don't speak of the devil who is speaking of you "

We spoke no more of it, but for three of us, there was a sense of wariness if not fear.

As always a hunting knife hung on Flip's belt, but I slipped off the little Schrade, Old Timer Sharpfinger and replaced it with my Khyber knife. With over a foot long blade the big Afghan knife could dismember most man-sized critters. Hanging from a dead branch nub, Bear's hand forged and hafted broad ax looked more like an executioner's tool instead of regular camping gear. Like Flip, Bear had gotten 'something else' from under the SUV's seat and stored it with his bedroll.

Maybe they were packing heat, but I couldn't be sure.

We were armed to the teeth, as not to be helpless miles from home up in these wild mountains. Bristling with blades, cleavers and lord knows what else, five substance addled men stood a better chance of chasing away, or hacking some dangerous, blood mad critter into chunks. I guess old Vernon's account prickled a nerve or maybe raised a few hackles as we were gazing into the outer darkness half expecting something to come lumbering in. Sometimes a scared person is the most dangerous creature in the woods. In these mountains there were other critter concerns as more and more hill folks had been reporting panther or puma sightings especially right across the West Virginia state line only a short several miles away. There had also been reports of transplanted red wolf, coyote and strange hybrids. With a number of wild meat eaters, including black bears roaming these dark wooded mountains, we were ever on watch for dangerous two legged critters as well. For that reason alone we mostly planned these outings during the off season as not to be troubled by others.

Some years back, at a privately owned campground near New Market, a neighboring group of snooty northern Virginian office lackeys turned tent campers complained about us to the management. We learned later, these twerps demanded that our party be told to leave or relocate to another campsite a good distance away. Although we were there first and somewhat following campground rules, these short cropped mousse haired jerk wads did not like our appearance and trappings. Management informed them they could relocate. They did, all the way across the campground. But that was not the last we saw of them. Later that night after 10:00PM quiet time, while returning from a night stroll, we caught two of them attempting to wedge nails under Bear’s tires. Caught in the act and quickly surrounded, Bear informed them he wasn't going to contact campground management - "But if y'all come around here again, I'm gonna pound these here nails into your greasy little heads." Needless to say after being so warned, we saw not hide nor hair of these rude little boogers.

Into our blazing fire I sprinkled some tobacco sending my silent request drifting upwards with the smoke. I always did such at some point during the first fire in hopes of keeping our camp protected. Reflecting upon past experiences campers such as ourselves could never be sure of what unknown spirits moved about over these wild areas. Having a long tradition of these mountain camping trips, miles away from city lights and trendy overpriced young adult hot spots, we had encountered our fair share of haunts, spooks, supernatural woodland entities, specters and will'-o-the-wisps. I guess we held some weird attraction to them, or them to us. Not to say these 'things' did not interact with other campers, but as pagans and animists, we were more aware of them in what ever guise they took. Mitch, being an Atheist, dismissed all of this as the pink elephants of drug addled moon crickets. Perhaps sometimes, but not always.

But upon waking up sober at sunrise and finding a devil laying close beside you tends to instill lasting impressions along with a hard biting sense of extraordinary reality.

"What time is it?" Bear wanted to know.
"Five till ten." Flip replied. Five minutes later he wanted the time again, but from me. "I quit wearing a watch while on vacations, but you should. Why all this concern about the time?"
"10:00, Bear." Flip chimed in then added "He's waiting on that lady ranger to drop by after her shift ends."
Mitch told Bear he would wait up with him as did the others. Clearing my throat with a good slug of Wonder I went on to remind my companions of morning fishing then demanded the keys to Bear's rented SUV.
"Why?"
"In case your lady friend drops in and you two stay up all night thus rendering you into a worthless piece of shit come morning. I'm getting down to the river even if I have to hot wire that SUV. We are surrounded by prime fishing waters and I didn't come here just to lay in this drunken wallow all damn day while you sleep it off."
With blazing bloodshot grey eyes and a curse under his breath, Bear handed me the keys. "Be careful, it's a rental."
"Hell no, I'll drive it off the first high drop I see and burn cigarette holes in the seat before it crashes!" I then threatened to dump ice water on Bear's head if he couldn't get up on his own tomorrow morning.

Sticking the keys in my pocket I gulped down the Wonder then bade my four companions a good night. Soon I was drifting into a deep sleep...

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#60 Atehequa

Atehequa

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 09:19 AM

Dark hills at evening in the West,
where sunset hovers like a sound
of golden horns that sang to rest
old bones of the warriors underground.

Far now from all the bannered ways
where flash the legions of the Sun,
you fade - as if the last of days
were fading, and all wars were done.

~ Edwin Arlington Robinson - The Dark Hills

It was Bear's snoring that woke me at the first dim light of dawn. Good thing my ear protection were not inserted, or I would of slept till noon. Raising up into a sitting position I was a bit ticked at the lack of noise outside in our camp which meant no one had coffee or breakfast started. Flip, emitting a strange tittering sound was still asleep. Pulling myself together I exited the tent.

“No coffee. Those slack bastards.”

Something had to be done about this. I opened the propane stove and got everything together for a pot of coffee all the while not really paying much mind to the huge figure sleeping in a folding camping chair. In the same place as I left him last night, Bear's bearded chin rested upon his chest. I saw no sign of Ranger O'Bier in our camp. Not stopping with coffee, I got breakfast started as well. We had in our stores, eggs, bacon and ready for the skillet, prepackaged hash brown potatoes. It was a rare occasion for me to even think about making breakfast, let alone actually make it, but this Sunday morning I had an appetite. Following coffee, I got to cooking and was happy to see enough hot coals left in the pit for toasting bread.

"Well I don't believe my eyes!" It was Flip emerging from the tent. Truly a scary sight so early in the morning. "If I had eyes like yours I wouldn't believe them either." Turning over a gob of hash browns, I asked the Birdman to make toast. Still looking at me in a odd manner he stated: "Cold day in hell when you cook." Grabbing a mug, the Birdman went for the pot while I suggested he go and wake up the slumbering giant, to which he replied: "Shit man, let me at least have my coffee first, no telling what kind of mood that critter is gonna be in."
"Why ya say that?"
"I don't think his Amazon princess showed up last night."
"She didn't? Damn! Stood up by the law!" I laughed.
Flip went on to tell me that before Bear, he was the last to fall out after Mitch and R.W. did some time around 1:00AM leaving Bear, waiting and still drinking at our table. Thinking better of it, I advised Flip to have some coffee first in case he had to take sudden flight after waking Bear. "Maybe waking up to a hearty breakfast will improve his morning outlook." I said, having experienced his rather nasty hung over morning moods, but felt comfort in having cast iron skillets close at hand. With toast along with the rest of breakfast ready, Flip sat his second cup down and stood up. "May as well get this over with, before I get too full to run." He walked over, leaned down and shook the Bear's broad shoulders then leaped back then looked about for a clear path of escape. With a bit of grumbling and a few foul words, Bear stumbled back into the waking world. Addressing neither Flip or I, he rose from his chair and lumbered off into the woods. With that out of the way we woke our other two companions, both quite pleased to see breakfast already on the table. Upon his return, Bear seemed in better spirits and even thanked Flip for making breakfast.
"I didn't make it."
"Well who the hell did? Don't tell me,,"
I extended a kind morning greeting and told him to enjoy.
"Holy shit! You get hit on the head or something?" Bear growled, his bloodshot grey eyes wide in amazement.
"That's why I never cook, because you slope headed dimwits make such a big deal about. Now eat and shut the hell up!" I was still a bit pissed about having to make coffee and breakfast.

A breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast later we sat under a leaf obscured morning sky sipping coffee, none of us daring to ask about Maddy O'Bier, until Mitch spoke up. "How did your visit with that ranger chick go? Too bad I missed her."
Moving near an empty skillet I awaited whatever emotional outburst that was sure to follow, be it violent or otherwise. Mitch had no idea what trouble he was courting, but Bear surprised me, by displaying little emotion, now sober he probably did not harbor such feelings for Ranger O'Bier on this highland spring morning.
"She didn't show. Screw her."
Failing to catch the cold glint in Bear's stormy grey eyes, Mitch pushed the issue. "Damn, that's too bad Bear. Maybe she got jammed up somewhere."
"Jammed up!" R.W. laughed while pumping a middle right finger into his coffee cup handle.
"Fuck you, Poodle!" Bear growled.
"Alright, let's leave it be." I intervened, "Can't be mad at her Bear, after all she said maybe after her shift ends. These rangers are stretched pretty thin right now,, she probably got caught up with something."
"Or caught on something." R.W. added pushing his luck. I was halfway expecting Bear to backhand R.W. off the bench, but he just grumbled: "I don't want to talk about it anymore. You got that Poodle?" It went against the big man's sober sense of pride having drooled over the young lady last night like some love struck fifteen year old, waiting up on her into the wee hours of morning. Risking a black eye, fat lip, or worse, a broken jaw, it was best not to discuss this matter any further.

Cleaning up our cookware, we were set upon by biting flies and stinging wasps along with other insect life teaming about the water spigot's soggy surroundings. As Flip applied both scrubby pad and dishwashing liquid to task, a rather large dark, green eyed fly bit off a small chunk of meat from his elbow. One never feels it until after they make off with a bit of flesh and blood. Tabanus Americanus, the American horsefly. Growing well over an inch, this carnivorous insect with it's razor sharp mouth parts can usually be found near lakes, marshes, rivers, creeks and swimming pools, but today this one hunted here at the spigot. This flying meat eater's saliva contains a strong anti-coagulant as Flip's blood dripping elbow did bear evidence. "Shit man, you're bleeding, better wash that out." I advised while watching the horsefly come in for another bite. Just as it landed on Flip's other elbow for a second helping, Bear swatted the tiny terror with a dirty spatula leaving a splattering of greasy hash browns and bug guts all over the Birdman's arm. "Glad there ain't a swarm of these pests here abouts." Bear stated while dodging a yellow jacket wasp. Suffering no stings and one fly bite we hurried away from the spigot with our clean cookware.

Now we could go fishing, that is after everyone had another cup of coffee.

What else can be said about a river that has been described and praised many times over by more enthusiastic Virginia anglers than the likes of us? A broad meandering stream flowing southward through these Allegheny Mountains, the beautiful Jackson was cherished by many fishermen. Here at out favorite spot some three hundred feet or so below Moomaw's Gathright Dam, we had a very decent half day of fishing. No sooner than he cast out, Bear hooked, fought and reeled in a rainbow that had to be about 20" long, followed by another just a little bit smaller. Not being the hardcore Orvis equipped type of anglers, we mostly used ultra-light spin casters as they were allowed in this stretch of the river. We were not going only after trout, but anything willing to put up a good fight. There were also smallmouth bass in this stream. For now only Flip and I presented flies and were catching some little brook trout. These we released back into the cold swift running waters. Mitch and R.W. using live bait were landing some good-sized brown trout for the skillet. This prompted us to put away the fly rods and take up our spin casters. On worms we began to catch larger trout like the nice brown I hooked into. Hopping over river rocks Flip and I found a good hole where we pulled in some more browns and decent rainbows. "I got something really big!" Bear roared to which Mitch shouted back: “That’s not what your girlfriend told me last week!" Reeling in my own line, I watched this battle and at one point thought his rod was going to break. After a bit of struggling, his fish gave up the fight and Bear swiftly landed it. But it was no trophy trout that lay gasping at Bear's feet. "A damned sucker!" Bear growled, somewhat pissed it wasn't a rainbow or brown trout. It had to of been the biggest white sucker I had ever seen, just about 24” long and probably weighed more than 10lbs, Bear had brought it in on 6 lb test line, no small feat of angling, even though this catch was considered a trash fish. I felt compelled to shout at him over the rapids. "Hey at least it put up a good fight! You've caught the biggest one of the day!" Suckers are strong swimmers and usually battle hard on the line. Bottom feeders they, catfish and chub help keep the river clean.

As suddenly as it had started, the trout stopped biting, but we had eleven good fish for the skillet. The rest of our catch we revived and released to fight another day. R.W. swiftly gutted and cleaned our catch then put them on ice while the rest of us moved up river several more yards to a deep horseshoe bend were red eyed rock bass and smallmouths were abundant. We caught a good few, but these we tossed back. Wanting to get in a little lake fishing before dinner, we piled into the SUV and headed up to Lake Moomaw.
Upon reaching the lake there was no point in fishing as a strong wind blew against us on Moomaw's shore. Instead we stood for awhile staring at the mountainous backdrop where lofty green wooded ridges met the cobalt sky. Acting upon some primitive urge, Bear lifted his shaggy head and issued a weird howling call which I half expected to be answered from the surrounding wooded mountains. Packing it up once again, we headed out to explore a few more streams. Having no more success at fishing, R.W. suggested: "We better get these trout in the skillet, our ice has almost melted away."

With that we headed towards the Bait Place for more ice before heading back to camp.

After swinging by the store for ice and other necessary provisions, our party arrived back at Morris Hill around 5:00PM. Passing through a less wooded area of the campground we were somewhat surprised to see an encampment of three tents had sprung up during our absence. Driving slowly by we saw no movement, but did notice other things. "Speak of the smelly devils and they show up." Bear growled as we all looked upon this camp. Hanging from a makeshift clothesline were tie-dye shirts and other such brightly colored garments. From the tent tops and young trees wavered rainbow hued streamers of sorts. We saw no vehicles which told us these campers were out and about.
"Oh good grits and gravy!" Mitch laughed, "It's the head deads!"
"Probably just some kids." I stated, but there was no mistaking such trappings as we had all seen them before.

No sooner than we piled out of the SUV, Bear popped open an ale and drained it in a single guzzle. Jerking his thumb in the direction of our new neighbors he sourly complained. "Damned party people! What in the blue blazes are they doing up here?" Watching him snatch up another bottle and swill down, I replied - "Can't have party people disturbing the solitude here atop Morris Hill, now can we?"
"Hell no!" Mitch returned, popping open a beer. Flip on his way to the weed stash agreed. "There's no room for a bunch of doped up drunks at this campground. Damned hippies!" Taking a good look at the Birdman's bandana and vintage wide collar, short sleeve paisley shirt, I flashed him a peace sign as he entered the tent. Although most of us had turned on well over twenty years earlier and enjoyed rock-n-roll music, we were never hippies in the cultural sense. Despite our long hair and strange trappings, we were naught but grit-like southern heathens. That's not to say we looked for trouble, but would rarely back down from it. However over the years we had mellowed. Still I wondered for what reason such folk as our new neighbors were camping here this time of year atop Morris Hill a few miles shy of the West Virginia border and far away from any large cities. Hopefully there would be little to no interaction between them and our party, especially having Mitch here with us. "They should be no bother to us being on the other side of the campground." I stated as Flip emerged with a rolled bone in one hand and a purple flyswatter in the other. "That boy sure loves some purple!" Mitch laughed, to which the Birdman boasted how he got the purple mug, his flyswatter and purple rain poncho from K-Mart, all for five bucks. Noticing Bear glaring at him with stormy grey eyes, Flip realized he had slipped up.
"All for five bucks, eh? Must of been a sale." Bear said with a savage snarl. Not a word passed through Flip's mouth. R.W. cackled with mirth and said: "Oh shit."
With a sinister grin Bear demanded Flip hand over the flyswatter. "But you can keep your purple poncho, Flippy."
"What?"
"You heard me correctly, you short changing bastard, give me that flyswatter!"
"But,,"
"But nothing, you damned sorry excuse for a con-artist,, hand it over." With dark beady eyes darting about, Flip passed his purple plastic flyswatter to Bear who grunted: "Handle first, if you please."
"Shit Bear, it's brand new, there's no fly guts on it."
Bear informed the Birdman it was a matter of principle. Knowing Bear was dead in his rights, Flip obliged. Soon as he received Flip's treasured purple swatter, Bear popped the Birdman atop his head with it.

"What the hell was that for?"

"Next time you try to cheat me. I'll use an ax." Bear was not one to be trifled with, especially by a blatant attempt of someone trying to get over while rubbing it in. Matters like this were handled in such a manner and no one else even thought about speaking on Flip's behalf. "Alright then!" I proclaimed, "This old business is finally finished and flowing downstream, so shake hands and put it at that." With that out of the way we settled in for the evening, enjoying a good smoke, cool refreshments and thought about getting supper going.

This early evening atop Morris Hill was still and strangely quiet, not even a chirping bird could be heard as we sat around the table waiting for Bear's charcoal to burn down a bit. There were bone-in ham steaks out as neither Bear or Flip liked fish all that much. 'More Trout for me.' I mused knowing that R.W. could skillet those river gems to perfection. 'A little salt, pepper, butter, lemon and onion, if only we had some morels.' With a full mug of cold ale and supper on it's way I gazed out into the vivid green spring colors while musing. 'Life is good for now.' The beautiful scenery and calming quiet seemed to tinge well with everyone's souls. Our bit of esoteric lounging however would not go long undisturbed. With ears like a bat, Flip cocked his head to one side as if intensely listening. With the passing of several seconds I heard it too, but could not be sure of what. Mitch wanted to know: "What is it Flipper?"
"Music."
"Music?"
"Country music to be exact." Flip replied and by that time I could hear the twanging vocals of either some drunken love ballad or a broken heart dirge. Coming towards us it grew louder. From the way it sounded it seemed two different songs playing at once.
With all eyes turned to the campground loop road, we waited and then watched them slowly roll by. There were two vehicles full of passengers and gear. One a large red 4-wheel drive truck atop giant tires and the other an older model black Monte Carlo. In the red monster truck, a guy with a trucker's cap gave us a pistol-like index finger salute, honked his horn, then issued a loud, long - "Yeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaw!" as his party passed. Although I couldn't make out all of the occupants, there appeared to be five or six of them. R.W. brought to our attention that these vehicles were sporting West Virginia plates. To our relief they moved on and from the noise had picked a site some distance down around the bend from us. Mitch quaffed down a beer and stated: "Well there goes the neighborhood."
"Modern day camping Clampetts." R.W. added. Having had tense moments with these types before and with the Head Deads already here, were in no mood to have this spring celebration compromised by any dumb shit other than our own. The coals had burned down and there were three ham steaks on the grill. These the Bear brushed honey onto. R.W. already had trout in the skillet while Flip fussed over his beans and taters.

No sooner than we had sat down to eat, Flip had brought up Bigfoot again and Mitch suggested again we explore Oliver Mountain tomorrow.

"Count me out, boys." Bear said, "Don't need no more weirdness."
"I'll say." I agreed while looking at three figures walking past our camp. Tilting my head towards the road I motioned for the others to have a gander. Turning from his meal, Bear mumbled with a mouth full of food: "Great day Monty. What in the hell?"
We didn't expect them to halt, but they did, two females and one male. By their attire I knew they were not from the redneck camp. Both females were clad in similar fashion, long brightly colored tie-dyed T-shirts and shorts, but that's where the similarity ended. One, waifish with pale skin and stringy blonde hair, while the other one was more rubenesque, dark complected, with dark brown hair twisted into coarse looking dreadlocks. Of middle height and somewhat slender with a sparse beard and sandy hair twisted into locks as well, the fellow was garbed in a long off white robe-like pullover garment of a holy man or perhaps some kind of Druid. It's not often here in the south one sees such an outfit without a pointy hooded mask to go with it. Following Flip's lead we all slowly raised our hands in peaceful greeting. Both women looked to the robed one who returned our greeting with a surly nod before prodding his companions on. They were barely out of earshot when Mitch cackled and asked: "What in the fuck was that?"
I took them to be some sort of spiritual gathering, but Mitch referred to these two parties of recent arrivals as - "Freaks on one side of the hill and rednecks on the other with us stuck in between." Hopefully cultures would not clash, but after five minutes or so we heard loud jeering and cat-calls and knew those freaks had just made first contact with our hill folk neighbors. We couldn't help but laugh as the three freaks double stepped it back past our camp the way they had came. "Wonder if that's all of them?" Bear asked.
"Three tents, with three people, kind of unlikely." I returned.
"Well what the hell are they doing up here?"
"Probably the same thing we are, kicking back and enjoying nature." I replied to which Mitch chuckled: "And what nature it is."

We couldn't finish all the trout, but put them on ice as to be part of tomorrow’s breakfast.

Following our feast and a cool brew we decided to clean up. Bear took care of the grill while Flip put away leftovers. Mitch, R.W. and I volunteered to wash cookware down at Morris Hill's spigot. It was there in the fading light of evening we encountered two of our fellow campers. Standing back with our dirty cookware, the three of us waited as they filled plastic gallon jugs with water. One, a young man in his twenties shouted out a howdy to us then said they'd be finished shortly. He was tall, lanky, clad in camouflaged pants and T-shirt with carrot red hair spilling out from under his military surplus foraging cap. It wasn't until the other one completed filling jugs and stood to his full height did we take close and frightful notice. Taller and more massive than Bear, this was the biggest mutant I had ever laid eyes on. His long arms were like knotted oak limbs ending into huge, gnarled gorilla-like hands, each one hefting two, one gallon plastic jugs. A very close cropped, sloping apish head sat squarely between his massive shoulders. Looking at his turned up flaring nostril nose, protruding brow and small, close set red-rimmed eyes, a chill went down my spine. His single garment consisted of a pair of old denim bib overalls. Although he gazed at us, we avoided eye contact with this brute. 'Holy shit!' I thought, 'They should stop all that inbreeding.'
"Come on Delmer, let's get this here water back to camp so these here folks can clean up." 'Red' said. The mutant replied with a couple of gurgling grunts. As Red moved off with his Neanderthal-like companion lumbering ahead liken to some beast of burden, he shot us a strange and unsettling look over his shoulder.
"What in the fuck was that?" Mitch asked for the second time this evening. "Maybe the circus is in town." R.W. returned watching Red prod Delmer on around the bend. Mitch lit a cigarette and spoke of that radio preacher we heard last night. "Go-rillers!"

As we cleaned our cookware I expressed concern over possible interactions between these other groups and ourselves.

"All of us getting together? That would be great!" Mitch laughed, adding: "I would very much like to observe interactions between those hippy freaks and the West Virginians."
"Imagine a conversation between Delmer and that hippy guru." R.W. said. I was compelled to ask: "Was that thing even human?" We had to remember that this is hill country and there were cases of inbreeding in isolated mountain communities. Figuring Delmer was an extreme case, we spoke no more of it while at our task. With our cookware clean enough and stored away we settled down for a relaxing evening of quaffing. As dusk fell swift and heavy, Flip made our second fire.

Having a good blaze in the pit, we figured it was a good time to pass our pipe, but this would be done in the tent and out of sight with Bear keeping watch. Inside with the lamp turned low, Flip and I prepared a mixture from both stashes. I raised our pipe to the winds, then passed it into R.W. hands for the first draw. As the pipe went around Mitch told Flip in chilling detail of our encounter with the West Virginians. Loaded for a second time we passed the pipe around some more then sat back and enjoyed our lofty altitude. The weed brushed aside concerns of ape-like mutants and hill camping holy men. "This ain't half bad." Mitch stated.
"What the smoke?" Flip thought he was talking exclusively about the weed. "This and everything else." Mitch replied, "We're gonna have to do this again."
"We usually do." Flip informed him, "Every year, sometimes twice."

So far, much to my surprise Mitch had behaved in a somewhat civil manner, but it was only 7:30PM…

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