The early evening sun shone gloriously over the water, rich hues of sunlight, dark blue almost black expanse of water, well defined columns of fiery clouds. A cold front had splintered the hot humid air and the sea was just as turbulent.The boat moved slowly into the shallow waters of a cove, toward the source of a group of smoke trails where a village might be.Fisher felt and heard every sound including splashes from the water, distant pops and now, as they disembarked and slowly made their way through the salt grass meadow, he and Pal kept watch at distant trees and abandoned shacks. Fisher felt it in every part of him that they were being watched. “Keep them close,” Fisher said, pointing toward Daniel and Alice who seemed not to sense the danger.They stayed close to each other, veering away from Fisher and Pal and Samuel, not thinking about anything else. Wrapped up in each other, Fisher thought. In love. All it takes is a few extra steps in the wrong direction and.....he wasn’t ready for it.
“We need the provisions,” said Pal. Fisher agreed. Samuel stayed close to him.
“Can we go on ahead sir?” asked Daniel, turning and seeing by the severity in Fisher’s expression that the answer was no.
“No alone time,” said Fisher.
Alice smiled, put her arm around Daniel, reaching with her hand for his stomach, touching him playfully until he giggled. Blissfully unaware, thought Fisher, raising his gun at the sudden sound of crackling dry salt grass.
“Ten yards,” said Pal. “Just ahead.”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“What do you know? I can see....”
“I don’t hear anything,” whispered Daniel. “My radar’s off, I guess."
“It’s ‘cause your mind’s on other things.”
Daniel almost felt himself lifting into the air as her fingers moved up his back and over his shoulders.
“Stop it,” said Fisher.
“Quiet dad. They’ll hear you.”
“Doesn’t matter. They already hear us.”
The village was just ahead. They could see a small collection of grass huts, some almost toppling over. It seemed empty, as if the villagers had cleared out but were waiting, keeping watch from a distance.
“Turn around,” said Pal.
“I think we should....” A snap. Then a louder crack, from a distant line of trees. Branches
splintered and fell. Fisher and Pal turned in that direction as Daniel and Alice continued to walk toward the village and in an instant, it happened. Faster than their eyes could’ve seen.
“Dad! Dad!” came Alice’s frantic voice as the figures sprang from hiding and quickly overpowered the two and swept them into the bushes and trees.Pal looked in all directions. All he could see were small saplings being moved aside. A row of men were traveling away, the barrels of their guns protruding above the grasslands like small smokestacks then evaporating like a mirage. A piece of clothing lay on the ground.Fisher and Pal stepped forward and bent down. Fisher was shocked. He still couldn’t figure out what happened.
“We should’ve stayed on the water,” said Fisher.
Pal was silent. He had no idea where they were. He had never seen a person vanish from sight that fast. “He’s not real,” said Pal. “He’s half man half...spirit...”
The only sound for miles and miles was the slightest breeze floating through the bone dry trees.
---An Excerpt from RIVER DAWN