The air in the forest became thick and still, and the shadows from the undergrowth began consume the last vestiges of light. Gone now were soft sunbeams as they filtered through the leaves, gone was the white glow of warmth which once lay at the forest edge. Jimmy tried to remember what his uncle Ed once told him to do if he ever were to get lost. “What was it he said” Thought Jimmy, uh, oh yeah, he said that if I were ever very far from home and I could not find my way back all I had to do is move in the direction of the setting sun and if it was night all I had to do was find the north star, face it and then turn to my left and start walking always keeping it over my right shoulder and I would find my way home. Jimmy looked toward the blackness, which hung above him like some dark quilt…nothing, no stars, just blackness. He did not know what to do at this point but start screaming for help, help which would not arrive before it was already too late.
Finally arriving home Sam pulled his old pick into the opening of the barn and got out leaving his tools in the back for tomorrows work. The smell of musty dry hay sent a wave of nostalgia washing over him. He thought about how he and his brother Ed would play cowboys and Indians in the confines of this old relic. He thought about how they would draw straws to see who would be the cowboy and who would be the Indian. Somehow or another, Sam would always draw the short straw and have to be the Indian. Just once he wanted to be the cowboy who killed the Indian instead of always the other way around.
“Sam, Sam, you out in the barn”? Emma’s voice stole his thoughts of long ago and replaced them with the urgency of today. “Yeah, I’m out here Emma, I’ll be right in, just be patient will ya?
“Samuel Johnson, you get out here this instant, is Jimmy with you”?
“What? No he’s not with me, you let him go out to the meadow today, don’t ya remember”?
“Of course I remember shouted Emma, it’s just that he aint home yet and its done got dark and I’m worried that something is wrong, oh Sam I'm so worried, Sam, do you hear me?"
Yeah Emma, I hear you, lets give him a little longer and then I'll get old Kyle and Sheriff Dobbins and we'll set out for the meadow and see if everything is alright."
Oh Sammy, he's just a baby...it's all my fault, I should have never let him go out there today. If anything has happened to him, I'll never forgive myself."
It will be OK Emma, now quit your crying and let’s go back to the house and wait a bit longer."
Jimmy screamed for help until he could scream no more. He stopped and listened only hearing the crackling coming from his lungs on each breath. Thunder rumbled off in the near distance and Jimmy began groping his way through the dark. Small branches and twigs slapped about his face causing a stream of blood to ooze from his forehead. Jimmy Stopped every few minutes to rest his trembling limbs and listen for something that may help him get his bearings. The warm taste of his own blood made him queasy. He reached into his pants pocket and produced a small pocketknife that his Uncle Ed had given him for Christmas and cut a swath of cloth from his sweat soaked T-shirt. Taking the cloth strip and wringing the sweat it out, he then tied it around his head covering the gash on his forehead. He imagined that he probably looked like a miniature samurai warrior as he fished his way through the never-ending forest.
His fear, which earlier was rampant, was no longer a factor as the primitive instinct of survival surfaced squashing the nine-year-old boy and his need for mamma. Onward he now pressed, deeper and deeper into the dank, dark forest. He heard nothing but the sticks and leaves crackle beneath his feet as the sweat stung his searching eyes. He stopped; he listened and then he heard it, the faint sound of rushing water, hope filled his young heart as he made his way in the direction of the moving water that to Jimmy meant freedom from the dark abyss he now found himself. Stepping easy yet with a quickening pace through the thick underbrush Jimmy ignored the sting of the limbs slapping against his hot tired skin. Almost at a fast walk now he was practically running for the sound of the moving water when without warning, something grabbed Jimmy by the ankle pulling him down to the forest floor in a loud thump; white light filled his eyes and then all was black as he fell unconscious.
Thunder rippled across the sky as Sam crawled into the seat of his old Ford and pulled down the dirt drive; he glanced back at the house and saw the graying figure if his wife Emma slumped on the steps of the big old house. His heart went out to her in that moment as he recalled her joy this morning and how she was now in her sadness. Coming to the end of the drive, Sam turned left onto the highway that led into town. First he would swing by and pick up Kyle and his hound and then go by and get the Sheriff in on the hunt for his only son, Jimmy. Sam clutched Jimmy’s ball cap in his large hands thumbing the Atlanta Braves logo on the front of the cap. He thought about how excited Jimmy was when he took him down to Atlanta to see the Braves in action against LA. and how he hasn’t had a moments rest from Jimmy wanting to go back for more. That was Jimmy’s first and last…Sam stopped his thoughts right there and rebuked the idea that there would be no more games for Jimmy. He hoped his son was OK; as he slowed down to make the turn into Kyle’s driveway. Off in the distance, the storm began to grow....to be continued
© J. Allen Wilson 2007
The Mystery Of The Carolina Knoll Part 1
The Mystery Of The Carolina Knoll Part 2
The Mystery Of The Carolina Knoll Part 3