Last week I posted the second chapter of my short story, The View from Here. Read the first and second chapters here:
I hope you like the final installment.
I looked around again. The sheer rock cliff on which we were perched stretched as far as I could see in both directions. The ledge we were on was inset slightly and wide enough that I didn’t feel in danger of falling. Moving closer to the edge, I peered down at the water. I looked back at April, “How far down is it?” I asked.
She looked at me and shook her head. “I don’t know exactly. I dropped a rock, and it took about five seconds. I never did the math.”
I did. Well, I attempted to. I tried to remember my physics classes, so long ago. What I did remember was thinking, When am I ever going to use this? To answer my question: now. I thought that five seconds would be about two hundred feet, about the height of a twenty-story building. I peered down again. Yeah, that looks about right.
“About two hundred feet?” I asked her.
“That makes sense,” she said, “and at least that high.” She pointed up.
I looked down again at the cliff face, searching for any marks, any sign of structures, and repeated my investigations upward. I knelt and studied the rock. It was slightly rough, like granite, but not cracked. There was no sign that anyone had climbed up or down it at this spot.
“Do you climb?” I asked.
“I have, but I don’t think that that is an option. I don’t think you could anchor on that,” she said, and I agreed.
I turned my gaze back to April and said, “The only way here is through there—” I pointed back to the tunnel. “Or by … flying?”
“That’s what I figured,” she replied.
“If we got a drone—”
“Tried that,” she interrupted. “Nothing electrical works here.”
“Sorry if I’m annoying you with questions and options. I’m sure you have thought of it all,” I said.
“It’s OK. It’s kind of nice to have someone to share this with.” She looked at me and shrugged. “I don’t know how long I would have kept coming here alone,” she told me.
“Have you seen anything out there?” I gestured to the view.
“No animals, no sign of any life. It’s as if it was abandoned.”
I walked back and forth along the ledge, running my hand over the rock, thinking. “Well, someone may have made this. Any ideas?” I asked.
“I started reading about parallel worlds and universes, ancient alien theories, disappearing civilizations, and stuff like that,” she told me. “I don’t have any solid theories. All I know is that when I’m here, I feel at peace, content—and energized when I leave.”
“Why were you sitting in the dark?” I asked.
“I was on my way out. I heard you come in. I never thought that anyone else would find it.”
“Is there anything in the room?”
“Not that I’ve found, and I’ve gone through it quite thoroughly. It took me a couple of visits to find the tunnel to here.”
I sat down next to her. I didn’t feel uncomfortable on the edge. It felt … natural. “Someone could have constructed it to leave this place for some reason.” I pointed out over the water. “Escaping rising water?”
“Or, bringing people here, perhaps. There may be land out there,” she said.
I pointed up, “Or up there …”
I suddenly realized I had no idea how long we had been there. I looked at my watch: 4:03. The second hand wasn’t moving. That would have been the time that I entered the cave. “We should probably start to head back—not that I want to, but you know how the trail is in the dark,” I said.
She glanced over at me and replied, “I wouldn’t worry about it. We have plenty of time.”
“How long have we been here?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter. I’ve camped here before, and when I left, it was still the same day. Maybe a few hours had passed,” she told me. “It’s not always consistent, though.”
“This place is quite the conundrum, isn’t it,” I murmured, mostly to myself. It wasn’t a question I was asking or expected an answer to.
We sat there for a while, legs dangling off the edge. The ocean breeze tossed her hair, and there was a faint hint of salt in the air. The sun, much brighter than ours, sank on the horizon, radiating reds and yellows across the sky and making the water shimmer.
“Are you going to tell anyone about this?” she asked.
“No, I don’t think that I will.”
We talked for a while and agreed to meet the next weekend. She would bring the food and camping supplies, while I purchased the climbing gear I didn’t have, plus an inflatable boat from the surplus store. I figured a week’s worth of supplies should be sufficient.
I slept well the first few nights, but after that, my excitement kept me from getting the rest I needed. She beat me to the parking lot, her familiar Not Abandoned note appearing on her dash. I left a note too, just an arrow and the words I’m with stupid. Old joke reference that she probably wouldn’t get, but it made me laugh.
“What took you so long?” she said as I turned that last corner to the lookout.
“I’m old,” I replied, and she smiled and extended her hand to me.
“Nice to meet you, Old; I’m April.”
She might get the joke that I left after all, I thought.
“Ha, ha, ha. Yeah, let’s go before someone comes.”
After the earthquake hit, the largest on record for the area, the park was deemed too hazardous to reopen. The landslide and rushing water obliterated most of the trail system and public access areas. Known to be missing was a senior park ranger. Parts of several vehicles were found downstream from the mountain but could not be identified.
I hope you enjoyed my longest short story. I’d love to hear any comments. If you would like to review the entire collection, let me know. Thanks for reading!
Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar