Join Date: Nov 2008
In Search Of My Father:Part One
To Find My father:
I awakened that morning, like the past three, fumbling in my bleary mind for reasons,…. anything that would make sense of it all.
My Dad, the best friend I ever had, is gone and no one knows where or why.
All they can tell me is his plane went down in the black wilderness west of the Carpathian Mountain range in the wilds of what is called Transylvania.
I knew of his plans because I had been in the business since I got out of college. A business he had built from the ground up, one that he made sure that I knew as well as him.
This trip was for the purpose of bringing some badly needed machinery to the reigning government of that black and bitter place. He had plans to stop first in the main city of Clus. For these purposes, Dad was going to provide said machinery and the training to implement it so the people and their government could move closer to the rest of the world, in the business of agriculture.
This area was still with little or no modern machinery, tractors or plows. They still used horse drawn wagons, hayers, rakes, and other outdated methods for planting, irrigation, and all other aspects of farming.
Of course, our company would realize little profit from this endeavor, but from time to time Dad would go off on one of these “mercy” business trips.
Whenever I would ask about the feasibility of these forays into the most primitive of places, he would laugh and say, “Son, we have more than we will ever need; it is up to us to share some of our good fortune.”
So, off he went again, leaving me, his firstborn, and last born for that matter, to hold down the fort until his return. Here I was then, at the home place, too sick at heart to worry about the business.
I was worried about my Dad.
I talked to Brian that morning and informed him of my decision to go over there and look for Dad, or for any sign that might be remaining. “Ay son, he said, I ‘kin understand your need for closure, but dinna’ the authorities say that your dear Daddy was gone and all the searchers they had out now for four days can’t find any sign of even the plane?” “I’ma afraid he’s gone Johnny, and as much as we all love him, I don’t know what you ‘kin do that hasn’t already been done.”
“He’s gone Johnny, I ‘kin feel it in me bones.
It’s a bad place you be wantin’ to go to,… and I’d not want to lose ye too.” “I been with you and your Daddy since ye’ were a little tyke, and I know he’d not be wantin’ you to do this.” “Something evil has happened there.”
“Ah, Brian, what would you have me do then: I know you or Dad would do the same if it were me?”
With tears gleaming in his old eyes, he stepped forward and embraced me mightily.
“Be safe then, he said in a quavering voice, and come home to us safe and sound, for the world would be a cold, bitter place for an old man if I woke up one morning and you were both gone from me.”
I smiled fondly at him and turned to go to my room and pack.
I was much like my Dad in build and looks. Tall, six foot one, red hair, a family always known for its’ men of great strength, and the blue eyes that were somewhat out of place for those of the Irish descent we came from so many years back
More brains than you might think we would have, much to the chagrin of those who locked horns with Dad in the business world.
I had planned to take one of the company planes, but decided instead to go commercially.
From the little research I had time to do- there was little in the way of modern airports or facilities once I got past Clus, and I would have to outfit for a trip into the wilderness of that bleak and troubled region. Still, I was determined.
Mom had died when I was born, and my Dad had been my world for as long as I could remember. I would find him or at least what was left; nothing would stop me from bringing him home.
I walked into the plane and was seated by a lovely lady of European origin. With long legs, black hair and a smile that would light up the darkest room.
I saw a flicker of interest pass her face as she seated me with a flourish. First class has its’ perks I guess.
As soon as we had become airborne, she returned to ask if she might bring me a drink or a pillow or whatever might make me comfortable. I accepted a glass of red wine and inquired as to whether she was familiar with the area and the people I would be encountering upon my arrival. She suggested she show me around personally and I thankfully agreed. After an adequate lunch, she sat beside me and I told her why I was here and what I had planned.
With a serious look on her beautiful face, she proceeded to tell me what I could expect when I began my journey.
“They are a cold and suspicious people where you are going Johnny. Oh, not as bad in the cities, such as they are, but the villages and the little outposts of humanity that have changed little since the Romans took over them many centuries ago.” “And, the Black Forest is wilder and so far removed from anything that you have ever been to.’ “There are places in there where the bravest of them will not go.”
“Silly stories of vampires and werewolves, they tell them still, sitting behind barred doors and windows with pints in their fists and quavers in their voices, looking nervously over their shoulders as they do.”
I smiled at her as even her voice took on a serious tone. I am not sure she was even aware of it. With a promise to return as soon as she got a break, she left with a smile and not a little concern.
“Alicia I thought, a pretty name for a pretty girl.”
I got bored easily on these long flights, and usually brought plenty of reading material. Often staid, dry stuff about the business we had to finish. This time, I was too harried to remember to bring anything, so my eyes were going over the magazines and paperbacks the airline made available to its better paying guests.
One caught my eye and soon I was immersed in a story about a Man without a Brain, Skeletons, a man named Leep, a young, fine lad named Slack, of all things, and a battle that raged between good and evil.
Alicia came back suddenly and saw what I was lost in.
Looking up I saw her smile. “Oh, I see you found my book.” “I just loved it.” “My favorites are Slack and Tommy.”
A shadow of sadness passed swiftly over her face, as she said softly, “I feel sorry for Leep though, Johnny.” “As hard as he tried, and as good as he was, in the end, he lost everything.”
I looked up at her for a second and said, “I know what you mean, it seems like I almost know him,… or someone like him.”
“At the end, she said, I cried, both out of joy, and sadness.” “Does that seem funny to you?”
I looked at her with affection and answered, “Not even a little Alicia.” She blushed a little when I said her name, smiled and went back through the curtains to do whatever mysterious tasks those ladies of the sky do.
I sat after reading the story, thinking of the way that people who had never met were thrown together, by whatever powers, and together fought and were victorious against tremendous odds. I smiled at the thought of Slack, Tommy and Frankie, poor Charles, and how men with faith, even those of little faith, could prevail the way they did.
I was reminded of a story on a show just the other day, where they talked about Tolkein, the great writer who penned” the Lord of the Rings” series, and how I had learned just that day that he was a Christian and that he had introduced C.S.Lewis to Christ.
Who would have ever thought?
My own family came from centuries of old beliefs, strong ones of faith and the Lord above. It has ever been such with us who had come from the Moors, and the Fens and the Highlands of Scotland and later Ireland.
Dad had ever been one with a sense of faith and beliefs and such was our ancestry, one we took with all seriousness.
I can see Dad now in my minds eye, tall, strong, confident, a smile never far away. I could also see the heavy gold cross that he always wore around his neck, the only thing he still had from my Mom and his wife. It had been a X-mas present many years ago, the year before I was born.
He wore it always, a symbol of undying love and a reminder of his faith. My jaw clenched as I swore again I would find my Dad.
The closer I got to my destination, the more certain I was he was alive, hurt maybe in that damnable black place,… needing me.
I could feel it.
Hey, if Leep and Slack and Tommy and the others could prevail in what they had to face, what could possibly keep me from doing the same.
I had faith, I was strong, and no one was more determined than I, not even those valiant ones.
The plane finally landed and I walked into the small airport. Alicia soon came walking briskly into the lounge. She walked close to me and handed me a slip of paper with some writing on it.
“This is my uncle’s address; I called just now and told him I was sending you over.”
He can help you as much as anyone here, Johnny, and I have a short layover and have to go right back up again.”
I won’t be back for about a week, but I will call my uncle then and I hope you will be there.”
I thanked her and watched a little wistfully as she walked back into the airport proper.
After a short, bumpy ride in an old taxi, I arrived at the address.
It was a quaint little place, snug against the bank it was built against. Strong logs, Fir, I think, made up the construction of the home, and the door bounced solidly against my hammering fist.
In a few seconds it was answered by a tall, thin, old gentleman. The pipe he was smoking sent a wreath of smoke trailing behind him as he stood calmly inspecting me. “Come in son, come in, it’s cold out there.” “My name is Franklin”
I told him mine.
“Yes, yes he said absently, Alicia phoned.”
I walked in slowly and followed him into the living quarters, looking about; a fine solid home, wood from floor to ceiling.
I sat in the offered seat and he sat in what was obviously and old, old rocker. It creaked with a comforting sound as he sat and smoked for a minute.
Finally he said, “Alicia tells me you have a problem son, and could I be of service to you.” “I guess we will see, we will see.”
Tell what you have in mind, she had little time to talk but I got the gist of it, I believe.”
I quickly filled him in on what had happened to my Dad and he sat peering at me for a minute through the smoke he was producing in remarkable quantities.
At last he sighed and said, “Johnny, the place where your father’s plane crashed is a black, dangerous place. “I would not advise you, or anyone else, for that matter to go into those mountains.”
“Also, there are stories that the villagers tell of dark and dangerous creatures that roam there, and they will not go near it.”
Seeing my look of disbelief, he smiled and said: “I know that a man like you will not take my words seriously, but you have need to listen to these things.” “For centuries there have been tales of vampires and werewolves, and things that go bump in the night.”
“Aren’t you, after all, from Ireland?”
I looked at him in surprise for a second, then answered, “Indeed we are, sir, for as far back as we can remember, and then Scotland before that.” “Then you have tales of your own that rival ours do you not?” “The little people, Banshees that wail when a death is near.”
I said,” indeed we do, and I apologize for my earlier remarks.”
“No mind… it matters little.”
We sat in silence for a while and I watched the flames dance merrily in the huge old fireplace that was the primary source of heat for the old man.
Finally, he stood and went into the kitchen.
I followed slowly and watched with interest as he bent with some effort and pulled a small trunk out from under the bench that lined one wall of the large room.
He opened it and lifted a small bundle out, and placed it on the huge old table which took up almost half of the kitchen. Motioning me over, he opened the sealskin parcel and removed what looked like several maps.
For the next two hours we spent poring over these while I tried to learn all I could about the Black Forest west of Transylvania.
Pointing to one dot, he told me that this would be the jumping off place for my journey into the forest. He said I might be able to hire a few men to guide me a little further, if I offered enough inducement.
I assured him this would not be a problem.
After a couple cups of the blackest, strongest coffee I had ever ingested, I shook hands with the old man and thanked him for his help.
With a worried look in his eyes he again warned me to be careful.
I again assured him that I would do so.
With a sudden light in his fine, old eyes, he bade me wait a second and walked into what must have been his sleeping quarters.
He appeared suddenly, carrying an object in his arms.
It was an old, sturdy walking stick; the head looked like it was made of purest silver.
He handed it to me and the weight was more than I expected.
With a sad smile, he said. “Please take this with you, I lost a brother there over twenty years ago and, like you, I was determined to find him.” “I carried this with me the whole time, and I was glad I had it, believe me.”
“Oh, and legend has it that only silver can kill a werewolf, and even if it is just a silly legend, I ask that you take it with you,… if only for luck.”
I hefted it for a second, and swung it around my head like my ancestors of old must have done with their war clubs.
Seeing the concern in his eyes, I said that I would be honored.
“Ah, whatever happened to your brother, sir, if I may ask?”
With a look of deep sadness he answered, “I found him, or at least what was left of him.”
“I am truly sorry: How did he die?”
“The police told the local constable that it was wolves, and it did indeed look like they had been at him.”
“But, the villagers had a different story; and were angered that he had gone there in the first place.” “They warned him what would happen, and also warned he would unleash the evil on them all if they allowed him to go in there.” “But, my brother was a stubborn man and did as he pleased.”
“They brought him into the village, so at least I was spared the trouble of going deeper into that foul place.” “And, the two nights I stayed there in that huge, timbered excuse for a hotel, were made all the worse by the howling outside in the forest.”
“I could swear too, that through the night I was awakened by scratching and snuffling at my door.”
“And, the strangest and most frightening part was, the shadows moving outside my window.. “
“Tall, weirdly moving shadows, and a smell, a foul odor...”
With a visible shudder, he brought himself back to the present, and stepped suddenly to my side and embraced me and whispered, “God be with you, son, God be with you.”
I walked away slowly, knowing that here was more of a mystery than I had first supposed, and also hoping that I was man enough to finish what I had started.
“Dad, I whispered into the night, where are you?” “I’m coming Dad, I’m coming to get you out of that hellhole.”
I paid an exorbitant fee for a private ride to the next village. The driver was a large, surly fellow who spoke so rarely it was always a surprise when he bothered to answer any of my questions.
I finally sank back in the old torn seat and suffered the rest of the way in silence.
The jolting the old car gave me was enough incentive to sit and ruminate anyway.
The countryside grew wilder as we drove on. The hills grew steeper, the trees thicker and higher. Far off, I could see the higher mountains, ….where I knew I must go.
When we reached the last small town before the wilderness, I thanked my voluble friend and watched as he bounced back the way we had come, without even a goodbye.
Strange people, I thought, unlike any I have even seen.
The large pub/ hotel /restaurant was like all the buildings out here. Huge logs, thick and stout made up the construction.
Good insulation, I guessed, from the bitter winters, also good protection from that which would harm you,… in the night.
But, I would learn more of that later.
The main room was large and smoke hung down from the ceiling and curled around the huge hanging lights that were spaced evenly about. The conversation slowed then ceased as all looked up from what they were doing to inspect this new arrival.
I could detect no welcome in any eye turned towards me.
I cared little.
The bartender looked at me warily as I walked close. “Beer”, I said. He drew a foaming mug wordlessly and watched as I lay a 100 dollar bill on the bar.
I heard a little stirring behind me as some of the closer patrons saw what I had done.
The murmurs that followed assured me that now all knew.
“Any place to eat”?
He pointed at the large doors just behind me and to the left.
I carried my glass and my change, minus a goodly tip, into the adjoining room and sat where I could see back into the bar area.
A pretty little thing hurried over to take my order.
I sighed wearily and said, “Just give me what you have in that pot back there, it sure smells delicious”.
In a minute she was back with a steaming platter of what looked like mutton, not my favorite, but I hadn’t eaten all day and was not picky. “Please, sit for a minute, won’t you?”
She sat gingerly on the chair opposite me and watched as I ate.
I leaned back idly and looked about me.
All the windows were small in comparison to the building itself and the huge doors were built with logs that had to be at least a foot thick. Each window was protested with large, thick iron bars.
Even the door was iron clad on the inside.
Damn, I thought, no one or nothing is getting in here, or out, that they don’t want to.
“Do you know any of them sitting out there I can trust to guide me into that mountain range?” “I will pay what they need to get me in and out.” She just watched me silently for a minute, and then finally answered, “Why do you want to go out there, sir?”
I said, My Dad’s plane went down out in that black wilderness about four days ago and I’m here to find him.”
“Oh, and please call me Johnny,… and what is your name?”
She said hers was Belinda and she supposed I might find a couple of them if I offered enough.
But, that I could trust not a one of them because I was an outsider and they would not trust me.
I said I would pay what they asked because no one would stop me from finding my Dad, even if I had to do it my self.
“Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
I sat drinking the black, bitter brew that passed for coffee in this barren place, waiting.
In a few minutes she returned eying my large pack I had shoved under my table.
“There are four of them that will take you, but they want to see you first.”
I walked back into the huge bar and stood at an empty table waiting. After a minute four men at a far table stood and walked to me.
They were a rough lot, big, wide shouldered men with a reckless look about them.
“You have need to go into the mountains then, the biggest said, for what reason?”
The others stood silently.
“I do, and the reason is to find my Dad, his plane went down somewhere in there a few days ago and I intend to find him,… will you help?”
“I have a map of the general area but I need men like you to help me get him out when we find him.” “I will pay you well and a bonus when we get back.”
“How much you pay us, he asked.”
The others had still not spoken, just stood looking at me with those black eyes they all seemed to have here.
“How much you want.”?
He named a figure that he and the others must have felt was terribly high, as they shifted uneasily and nudged one another.
I knew how poor most were here and was confident I could hire these men.
I stood in thought for a minute as they looked on anxiously.
Finally, I said, “I will pay you that entire sum and double it when we return.” “And, when and if we find my Dad and return here with him I will give you all a bonus equal to triple that apiece.
Their eyes bulged at the thought of so much money, more than they made in a year together.
“Listen, I said. I have enough to outfit us and pay you the first installment, but the rest will go into your little bank in the form of a draft I brought with me.”
“I need help and I may seem green, but I am not a fool.”
“Bartender, drinks for my new friends here.”
I looked for a second at the others and said, “Hell, drinks for all here, on me.”
After a few rounds, all there seemed to view me with less suspicion. Bernard, the leader, said, “Sir, we know of this plane you talk about.” “It has been whispered about from village to village since that dark night it went over our town.”
“The engines were troubled, they sounded sick, but it flew on many miles before it crashed.”
I noticed the other three were glancing down at my pack, eyeing it with some interest. I looked down and saw the end of the staff peeking out. I unzipped it and drew it out. Long, thick, hard as iron from the many years it had been used outdoors.
As the silver wolf’s head appeared there was an audible gasp from the crowd.
“Where did you get that, Bernard demanded, and what do you know of these things?”
The muttering went on unabated about the room.
Looking about in mild surprise, I answered that an old gentleman named Franklin lent it to me for my journey.
They settled back as one at this.
‘What does it matter where I got it?”
He smiled a little and said, “Ah, it does not.”
A little later I asked about a room and Belinda hurried in and took my arm. She must have been right around the corner listening.
The steps were solid and the stairway steep.
I followed her closely, questions yet unasked moving about my consciousness like snakes in a pit.
She stopped at the last door on the left, unlocked it and beckoned me in. The room was small but as well built as the rest of the building. “Belinda, Franklin told me about his brother who met an untimely death here many years ago, do you know of this”?
“We do not speak of these things, Johnny, and you would do well to forget it.” “Anyway- it was long ago and I was just a child when it happened.”
She stopped suddenly and looked at me intently. “Johnny, I know you love your Dad and I understand your need to find him, but it is a terrible place you go into.”
“If the men weren’t so poor, they would never go there.”
She shivered in the chilly room at that and moved to light the huge fireplace that took up most of one wall. Wood stacked tall in the corner looked like enough to last the winter.
She noticed my look and laughed.” It is little enough, you’ll find. It should last the night. Though. If it does not, do not go outside for more, stay here, promise me?”
She looked so serious and concerned, I assured her that it would be plenty and I would see her at breakfast.
With one last look around, she stepped suddenly to me and embraced me.
“Trust no one Johnny, and keep the fires burning brightly all night out there, all night.” “And keep the staff close by, never let it out of your sight, danger is all around there.”
I laughed at her fears and said, “Honey, I have two very good friends going along with me, Smith and Wesson in a .454 caliber.”
She said, “That will not help you with what lives out there.”
I sat in the old rocker in front of the fire for a long time, thinking of what she had said and what lay ahead.
Finally, I heaped logs on the fire and went to bed.
I did not know how tired I was and fell asleep like I dropped off the end of the world.
Later, much later, something awakened me.
Perhaps the cold, but I didn’t think so.
I walked quickly across the room and fed the fire again.
Soon the room warmed and I walked to the window and looked idly out, thinking.
Suddenly, something caught my eye, movement at the darkest edge of the timber.
A dog, I thought, or a Wolf. As I watched, it walked brazenly into the opening and stood looking intently at my window.
A damn big one I thought, biggest I ever saw, bigger than even the ones in Montana.
It sat watching for a minute then calmly walked back into the forest. I watched it as it walked slowly into the darkness. Just as it was almost gone from sight, I saw its shadow lengthen, grow taller, moving eerily into the deeper shadows, finally being absorbed by the blackness.
I walked slowly back to the bed and lay down, troubled by what I had seen.
Morning came with a loud knocking at the door. I said I would be right down and turned quickly to dress. The basin in the corner provided enough water to wash my face and brush my teeth.
With face and teeth aching from the icy water, I walked quickly downstairs and into the kitchen.
Breakfast was eggs and pancakes and sausage, along with that black bitter coffee.
As I was finishing, the four I had hired the night before made an entrance.
I had Belinda bring out four more breakfasts and watched in mild horror as they depleted the kitchen of an enormous amount of food.
We walked outside then and I handed Bernard a list of supplies and some money.
The four walked towards what had to be a store and after an interminable amount of time returned, all four laden with food, clothing, a large tent, and heavy blankets. I had inquired the night before about transportation and one of the others had stated in heavily accented English that he had an old cart and a mule to pull it.
He would be honored to rent it to me, of course.
That would do for the supplies, but we would have to walk.
I was ready.
We loaded the cart and, with a wave to Belinda standing at the kitchen window, we were off,… finally.
Looking at the map, I noticed we would be passing close by what had been Count Dracula’s Castle and his vast holdings.
I pointed to it and asked if we could stop long enough for me to see it. Quickly making the sign of the cross, they looked at one another and spoke quickly in a language I didn’t understand.
Finally, Bernard nodded and said, “For a few minutes and only you and I will go there, they will not, it is cursed.”
With that, we walked down the road and took a faintly discernable path that led to the right and in minutes we were lost from view of the village.
It had started:
The first day we walked until darkness found us. We led the mule to a copse of trees and tethered him there. Graze was sparse but we had plenty of grain to supplement his feed.
The sky had darkened earlier with the promise of rain.
Soon after they started a fire, it began.
They had packed a large tarp and within a few minutes had it stretched over one edge of the cart, providing a dry, snug shelter.
The fire was reflected back at us by a large windfall and we were warm and dry, for the moment.
A good hot meal seemed to cheer the lot a bit and they sat a little apart from me talking quietly.
Occasionally, one would look over at me, and seeing my interest, turn just as quickly back to his friends.
I trusted them not a bit, but I was confident I could handle them and whatever else would come about.
I noticed they had amassed a huge pile of wood, more than one would think was necessary for just a night. But, from the bonfire they built, I saw later why they did so.
Curious creatures, much like animals themselves.
Sometime later, much later, we were all awakened by a tremendous howling that came from the distance.
I sat up and looked at my companions to see how they would react to this. All but Bernard were crossing themselves and looking fearfully into the darkness, muttering words too fast for me to decipher, even if I had understood their language.
One of them strode quickly to the woodpile and heaped a huge amount on it.
In a second the fire was roaring, throwing embers high into the night. We all sat listening intently into the blackness for a few minutes, hearing nothing but the flames snapping and the hissing of the rain about us.
After a long time, we all lay down again in our damp blankets and slept a troubled sleep.
At dawn, we broke camp hastily, and downing several cups of strong, black coffee, went briskly on our way again.
The second day passed uneventfully, as did that following night.
I noticed, however, that at certain intervals during the night, one of them would rise silently and build the fire up again to its former intensity..
The third was just as unremarkable in its sameness. That is until, consulting my map and compass, I noticed we were just about a mile from the Count’s castle.
I beckoned Bernard to me and asked if he would like to accompany me. With a look of fear and distaste on his normally expressionless face, he shook his head no.
“All right then, I will be back soon. Set up camp here and wait for me.” With a curt nod, he walked to the other three and they began moving towards the cart.
The mule stood with its ears flattened, looking towards where the castle lay, shaking his head and snorting a little.
I checked the map again, and set off.
In less than a mile I came to a high hill and climbed it slowly.
Now that I was almost there, I began to feel a little of the apprehension that the others had felt.
I breasted the hill and suddenly there it was.
It was a black, brooding structure, massive in the gloom. From my position, I could see the dark front gate. There were several huge padlocks and chains on the enormous front doors.
No moat, but the land had been cleared for hundreds of yards all around it.
I knew from the books I had read, that this was where the Count had murdered over 20,000 Turkish and Bulgarian prisoners.
There was an almost palpable stench of death and evil permeating the grounds.
Count Dracula had killed his prisoners in the most horrible manner.
He and his men had murdered those 20,000 poor wretches by impaling them on sharpened stakes into their rectums and sticking them into the ground, leaving them screaming until the stakes made their way through their bodies and out their mouths.
It could take days for them to perish.
The villagers, who had long since deserted this part of the Black Forest, could hear them screaming all the while.
The Count had then taken their heads and placed them all around the outside walls, for ornamentation, it was said.
He took great pride in this act of supreme evil.
This has been recorded through history and is there for any who care to research it.
And some think there is no evil in the world.
Dracula was as close to the evil one as any in the history of mankind.
I stood numbly at the crest of the hill watching as the rain hissed steadily around me. I could hear it hitting the ground, and the leaves and undergrowth.
After a few minutes I could almost hear the cries for mercy and see them lined up in perfect rows. Some screaming for the God that would not come, while others that cursed him and the devil that did this to them.
For just a moment the air changed, the atmosphere grew heavy, the sky lowered and thunder grumbled. I looked quickly as lightning flashed illuminating the bareness in front of me.
As it flashed, for just a second or two I could see them. They were all in neat lines, looking at me, arms beseeching, reaching out, and crying for help, for aid that would not come,…. at least not in this life.
Then just as quickly, there was nothing but the rain and the falling darkness.
I looked up at the bleak brooding castle and as lightning flashed yet again, could have sworn I saw movement in one of the windows high up in one tower.
Shaken, I turned to leave this foul place.
As I reached the crest of the hill, I turned one last time and looked back. Something was not right, it tugged at my consciousness.
I stood staring down at that foul killing field for a minute until it hit me. Rain was falling steadily, softly all about me, hissing.
But, in the field there was none.
All about the rain fell, but the field was as dry as if it had never seen water.
Perhaps it had not.
I watched it until darkness drew it from my sight and never a drop fell upon it.
It was truly a cursed place, and now that I had witnessed it, I could not get away from it soon enough.
Darkness had fallen in it’s completeness before I reached the camp.
As I strode suddenly into the firelight, the others looked up with fear upon their faces.
“It is only I,” I said.
They stared suspiciously at me for a second, then apparently satisfied, sat back before the roaring fire, sipping cups of strong coffee.
I got one for myself, and suddenly weary and troubled, by what I knew not, drank it down, and without a word, rolled up in my heavy wool blankets and slept an uneasy sleep.
A sleep where shadows moved in the night, whispers in my head that made no sense, that held no rhyme or reason.
Morning brought a sour taste to my mouth and a head that throbbed terrifically.
Bernard looked at me intently over the dying fire and nodded to himself.
I asked him what the problem was.
He just shook his head and walking over to me, leaned close to my ear and said, “Ah, you saw it then, did you not?”
I turned away and shouldering my pack said harshly, “There’s no time for this, lets move on.”
This day started badly and only got worse as it ran down.
The mule became balky, and hard to move.
The men became even surlier, if that was possible.
Midafternoon found us at the top of a steep crest and looking down we saw a huge valley, encircled by mountains.
I had not realized we had climbed so high.
Looking wearily down into that vast dark hole, I looked upon my companions.
The three were again talking to Bernard, arms waving about; voices rising one moment, and then fearfully hushed the next.
I asked him what the problem was and walking towards me he said, “They refuse to go any farther Jonnie.” “They are afraid of the man who walks like a wolf.”
“What nonsense is this, I demanded.” I paid good money and we have a deal.”
“Are you men or cowards?”
After more discussion, they followed us down into the bottom of that black valley.
That night the mule and the men were distinctly uneasy.
After a hurried supper, they built the fire to twice the size it had been the other nights.
Damn superstitious fools, I thought.
I even passed around the three old rifles they had insisted on bringing with them.
It didn’t seem to provide them much comfort.
The rain had begun to fall again, “Does it do nothing else in this damn country” I thought irritably.
Suddenly the hills rang out with the calls of wolves.
I felt a shiver run up my back like an icy hand had caressed the nape of my neck.
One of the men stood and brought me a cup of their bitter brew. I was surprised as they had not so much as spoken a word to me up till then. What a fool I was.
I remember a slightly more bitter taste, but it was hot and I was growing used to it by then.
The next thing I remember is the rain on my upturned face and a hangover like I never had before.
Looking wildly about, I saw only Bernard and nothing else.
He was still out.
The mule and cart were gone along with the provisions and the rifles. Now that they were gone, I suddenly wished they were still with us, ancient as they were.
I felt suddenly at my hip, surprised and grateful for the heaviness there. I was still in possession of my sidearm then.
I felt something digging into my back and reached around and pulled the walking stick out from under me.
The silver head gleamed in the light of the dying fire.
Hearing a groan, I looked over as Bernard sat up slowly, holding his head and rocking slowly.
Looking over at me he said, “The fools, I warned them but they betrayed me also.” “So, now let them pay.”
I sat stupidly wondering what in the world he was talking about.
Then I heard them.
Far away we could hear the wolves,…. howling. A second later we heard the first screams, horrible sounding, and than a tearing rending sound. Bernard made the sign of the cross.
I said, “Hurry, we need to help them.”
“Stay here, it will do no good and will only bring attention to ourselves.”
Farther out the wolves began their unearthly howling again.
This time there were gunshots and then a roaring, howling that rent the very air around us.
A minute later, farther yet, the same thing happened with the same result, more gunshots, screaming, baying, calling back and forth to one another, louder than before even though it was farther than the others. Then bitter silence.
Bernard got up and piled more wood on the fire. He walked to me and sat wearily beside me.
“What the hell was that Bernard, what was it?”
The Werewolf, he said simply, and the pack he commands. “This is his home and he will allow no trespass.”
“Forget them, they are gone, at least their troubles are over, ours have just begun.”
“In the morning we will search for my father’s plane and get his body and get the hell out of this place.”
He just shook his head and leaned back against the woodpile. “Sleep now, we are safe till tomorrow night.”
“Sleep, I thought incredulously, I may never sleep again.”
And that night I did not sleep a wink.
I looked over at Bernard and he was apparently sound asleep.
I marveled at the disposition of this man. Did he stay out of a sense of loyalty, or was he just smarter than the others and knew what was coming.
Why then did he come along at all?
I intended to ask him that as soon as morning broke.
Suddenly the air seemed charged; silence fell over the camp, black silence.
I listened intently trying to pick up any noise in the night.
Then, the soft swish of fur against a wet bush. Against the flickering flames shadows danced and moved.
One, much larger than the others, flowed over and around the rocks and bushes in the darkness.
Snuffling and low growling noises seemed to surround us.
Then, against one of the great trees that were all about us, a huge form detached itself from the blackness and moved slowly into view.
I sat stunned, awed, and more afraid than I had ever been in my life.
I reached for the revolver and it filled my hand.
I slowly pointed it at the monster and cocked it.
I could see the red rimmed eyes clearly now and was shocked at the intelligence staring back at me.
It snarled quietly and then a look of almost puzzlement passed over its countenance.
Bernard said quietly, “It will do you no good Jonnie.” Bullets will not harm it.” “I thought they were all gone or I would not have come with you to this cursed place.”
I looked back again and it was gone into the night, like it had never been.
“Why then did it not kill us like the others?”
“The stick, Jonnie, the stick-it fears it.”
‘Why the hell should it fear that?”
He answered slowly, “It is the silver, which is the only thing that can kill them.”
“He saw it and decided not to chance it, also it could not know if you had silver bullets in your weapon.”
“They are monsters, but they are smart monsters.
Once they were men like you and I.”
I muttered to myself, “if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it.”
The rest of the night we kept the fire roaring, sleep came no more.
After what seemed like eons the sky above began to lighten.
But there were no birds chirping here, no squirrels moving cheerfully through the underbrush, nothing but silence and that damnable rain.
The morning was as bleak as our chances were, but, according to Bernard we had the day to find Dad and get away from the valley.
I looked at him and said, “You have done more than I asked Bernard, why don’t you leave and I will give you a paper to take to the bank.” “Show it to the bank manager and he will give you enough money to last the rest of your days.”
He looked keenly at me for a moment and said, “You would do this for me, a man you do not know?”
“You have proven your bravery and loyalty; I can ask no more of you.” He sat in deep thought for awhile, shook himself and answered.
“I will stay the day, if we are gone from the valley before nightfall they will not pursue us, we will be safe.” “It is some kind of strange unspoken agreement they made with our people centuries ago.”
We walked down into that hole then, moving swiftly, and after an hour or so we could see ahead of us a great, bare area.
The underbrush was gone, burned away, torn asunder, and there in the upper corner of it laid the wreckage of my Dad’s plane.
It had plowed a huge furrow in the landscape mowing down the trees and everything in its path.
We walked slowly up to it and stood numbly viewing the devastation. “Nothing could have lived through this, Bernard, nothing.”
We searched the area thoroughly and found just that, nothing, no bodies, absolutely nothing.
“Where the hell is the copilot I thought.” “And, where is Dad?”
We climbed into the wrecked fuselage and inspected every inch looking for some sign that someone had survived.
It was as if nothing alive had ever been here.
Suddenly Bernard shouted my name. “Jonnie, come here quick man.”
I ran around the plane and looked up where Bernard was pointing. There in the tree were the remains of a parachute.
Granted, it was high up there, but there it was.
We had both spent years in the woods and forests hunting. But while I was hunting for the sport and the meat, he was hunting for his very existence.
He saw signs I would never have seen, scrapes on the bottom of the tree,. An old partially covered footprint leading away from the crash, they looked like they were going up into the hills.
“Are there any caves up there Bernard?”
“Many, Jonnie, many.”
Suddenly I said, “wait right here for a minute, I’ll be right back.”
I ran back to the plane and climbed it the window, the door was hopelessly jammed.
I crawled back towards the bathroom and found what I was praying for; the first aid kit was gone.
Not lost or ripped from its moorings by the impact, but carefully unsnapped.
Above it were the words written in blood, “Jonny”
I flew out of that plane and raced back to Bernard.
“He’s lives Bernard, Dad’s alive. He wrote my name on the wall in the bathroom.
“Ah, Jonnie, but where is he now, and will we find him before darkness finds us?” “They had the others to occupy them last night, tonight there is only us.”
“We’ll find him Bernard, we’ll find him, and I’m not leaving here without him.” “If we do not find him before dark, Bernard, I want you to take the letter and leave”
“I insist on this.”
He started to protest, but I cut him off. “There is no reason for both of us to die, and he is my Father, not yours.” “Besides, you can bring back help and someone has to live to tell the story.”
And some story it is, I thought to myself.
Bernard thought for a minute then reluctantly said, “OK Jonnie, this I will do. “If I did not have a wife and the little ones I would stay and fight the evil with you.”
I smiled and stepped up to him and quickly embraced him. “Together we are men to be reckoned with, eh?”
He smiled sadly.
I walked to the plane and leaning against it wrote a note to the local banker. It was a draft for all I had brought with me, made out to Bernard.
I was not sure how much I would need so I had brought over 100,000$ along with me.
I had not even touched that amount as I had several thousands in my wallet when I arrived.
I walked to Bernard and handed the letter to him along with my wallet. “I gave the bank manager instructions that if one of you came back with this wallet and this letter-along with this hundred dollar bill, torn in half, to honor the letter.
The other half of this is in the bank with the manager.
Bernard looked at the letter and I saw his lips moving silently. When he got to the amount he was visibly shaken and looked wildly at me. “: “This cannot be Jonnie, this is more money than a whole village would make in twenty years.”
“It is yours, I have no need of it.” “We have that and more, much more.” “If I do not come out of here with my Dad, I will have no use for any of it.” “But there is an old friend back home who will need taken care of and I made arrangements for him to receive the rest if we do not return.”
With tears in his eyes, he put the letter away and said, “Let us find your father, Jonnie.” “If he is much like you, perhaps he lives still.”
With that, he led the way into the black, damp forest, following tracks only he could see. I looked upward at that bleak skyline and whispered.
“I’m coming Dad; I’m coming, hold on, just hold on.”