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Fish in a Barrel

Fish in a barrel


Estimated reading time — 22 minutes

Daniel Truman was an older guy I used to work with. All things considered, he was a decent person, though he was one of those folks who had a story for about any occasion. Almost anything that anyone else may have experienced; he had a tale to top it. It could be annoying at times, but I don’t believe he ever meant any harm.

Perhaps he only craved being in the spotlight for a while. Maybe he had a few insecurities which could potentially have been momentarily eased by making himself the center of attention for a time. Regardless of his reasons, little to nobody actually believed his supposed recollections, as the majority of them sounded to be quite fictional.

Oftentimes, he could successfully gain the respect of the new hires, or even some who had worked there for a while, who may not be all that familiar with him and his ways. Though he could tend to spin a well-crafted yarn, I would feel my eyes rolling when he would take it upon himself to repeat the same tales over and over again, depending on his respective audience at the time.

He was getting up in years, so it could not be denied it was somewhat impressive that he would recite each one verbatim, whether he had only told it the day before, or half a decade ago. Still, I highly doubted he truly had done everything from thwarting an attempted bank robbery with no more than his expertise in the martial arts to guide his actions, to witnessing an extraterrestrial ship crashing down near his old workplace; something he was forced to swear on a stack of bibles that he would never speak of.

I can’t say I didn’t have a fondness for the old guy, though. Sure, his ways could quickly get under my skin when I was simply not in the mood for his endless rambling, but I would just sneak away when I wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t hard to get away when things were quiet at work, but those were often the times he would feel inspired to talk the most.

More often than not, I would humor him with the mandatory one-word replies, or the occasional, “oohs,” and “aahs,” as his tales would reach their climax. I may even grant him an enthusiastic, “holy shit,” if I was in the mood to butter his popcorn a bit. He was harmless, really, and he would get a glint in his eye like a kid on Christmas morning when any of us would eat up the crap he was attempting to feed us.

It wasn’t until the day I returned to work after a two-week sabbatical due to my father’s passing, when he told me a story I actually believed. On any normal day, he would practically perform his tales; darting his eyes between each person in the room, gesturing with his hands to increase the intensity, while dramatically pausing, in between raising and lowering the tone of his voice to fit the subject matter, but not this one.

On this occasion, he didn’t so much as glance in my direction while he spoke in an almost monotone voice. Another unique component to this one, was that he would actually pause when anyone entered the office. Generally, he would backtrack, to catch the new audience member up to speed, but it would seem this one was for me, and me alone.

I wasn’t exactly in the best mindset when I arrived back to work that day. Though my father had battled cancer for the better part of three years, it was still a shock when he finally lost the fight. I had always been close to my parents, so I had spent the majority of those fourteen days off the job, caring for my mother, while taking little time to allow myself to face my own grief.

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She was slowly coming back to herself, but she had suffered almost as much as her husband over these past years; perhaps more so. In some ways, she was actually relieved the fight was over, but she was still without her soulmate, regardless of the fact he would no longer have to suffer.

My fellow employees from the previous shift were still in the office when I arrived. Each gave me their sympathies, while making the token inquiries as to how I was holding up, and such, but I wanted little more than to be left alone. Though I appreciated the well wishes and condolences, I was not in a mood to talk about it.

After they filtered out; leaving me alone with Truman, I just headed to my desk, keeping my head lowered in an attempt to convey how much I didn’t want to talk about things. For the first few hours, he respected my need for silence. It wasn’t until I returned from a bathroom break, that he began to speak.

“I was just twelve when I lost my Pop…”

I felt my neck tense up; instantly feeling anger pulse through my veins. ‘Surely he didn’t feel the need to one up me on something like this!?’ I thought, while keeping my back turned to the man in an effort to encourage him to cease his desire to get a win on something like this.

“I know you’re hurtin’, kid. Just tell me to shut the hell up if you don’t wanna hear me ramble on.”

There was something sincere in his voice; something compassionate and genuine I had never heard from him. I turned my chair around to face the man, only to find he still had his back to me. Though I truly had no desire to hear some far-fetched yarn; perhaps concerning how his youthful frame was far too weak to successfully wrestle the alligator into submission, as it chewed on his daddy’s throat, his tone and mannerisms were far from the norm. I found myself growing quite curious to what he had to say.

“Ramble away,” I said with a very false and forced chuckle.

He returned an equally imitated laugh, before he began to speak again. The story he shared with me that day has stayed with me these past few years; a tale I would like to share with you now, should you have interest in hearing it.

I will try to the best of my ability to recount the words as he spoke them, though I can’t promise it’ll be a hundred percent to the letter. Still, I will not exaggerate, nor will I inflate his words to anything more grandiose than they were. The following is the last story Daniel Truman ever shared with me:

It was a small town I lived in with my folks back then; far smaller than this one. Little place called Rimrose Fall, couple of hundred miles to the south of here. Wasn’t nothin’ special, but I hadn’t never been nowheres else, when I was young. Momma had some ailments ain’t no need speakin’ about, but she’d have need of goin’ into the city every few weeks or so, to see some better doctors than the one we had back home.

My Pappy had been promisin’ to take me fishin’ for the last month or so, but it’d been hard to find the time, ‘tween Momma and his work. We’d go from time to time, but it was a good drive to get to the lake he favored, so he’d always have to plan it out pretty good.

I’d ask him, sometimes, why we couldn’t just head up to Boulder Creek, bein’ that was just a couple of miles from where we lived, but he’d tell me we had no business goin’ there. He said there was some local fisherman types that didn’t take too kindly to others takin’ up their spot, though I hadn’t never seen no-one else when we’d pass by it in Pappy’s truck.

He wouldn’t hear it, though. Made me swear I’d never even think about goin’ out there, but I didn’t understand at the time. You know how it is when yer that age; got everythin’ figured out by then and can’t nobody tell you otherwise.

That Thursday, May sixteenth, nineteen sixty-eight, Pop set it up where he was gonna spend the whole day with me. He was gonna take off work, and said we’d go fishin’, and just have a good ol’ time, just the two of us. He was even gonna let me skip out on goin’ to the schoolhouse, just so as we could get some father/son time in.

I was plumb thrilled, and it was all I thought about for the two weeks that went by after he told me. Momma had seen her doctor the week before the sixteenth, so she shoulda been good while we was gone. ‘Course, her situation was a might unpredictable, so when we got to that Thursday and she took a turn, Pappy didn’t have no choice but to take her back into the city.

He told me he was sorry, and I could tell he meant it, on account of how much he was lookin’ forward to catchin’ some fish too. Still, I can’t say I wasn’t none too thrilled about how it turned out. I didn’t pitch a fit or nothin’, but I didn’t exactly put on an understanding face, neither.

Pop told me I didn’t have to come with ’em to see the Doctor, even though I’d already taken the school day off, but he promised we’d get that trip soon; just had to prioritize the important things. He could tell I was upset, but I didn’t take no measures to convince him or Momma otherwise.

I know it wasn’t her fault, and I knew she was in bad shape when she took a turn, but I musta come off like a damn brat at the time. Pop looked plumb sad when he helped Momma to the truck, and I’m sure I coulda made him feel better if I’d made some sorta effort, but I didn’t. Still feel bad for that to this day, but I know I was just a kid. Don’t make it no better though.

I was still mopin’ around the house a good hour after they took off. It’d been some time since I last got to go fishin’, so when I looked back at the tackle box we’d already set out by the front door, I just about had my mind made up before it even registered.

Boulder Creek was only a ways from the house and, if I could load the box and fishin’ pole onto my bike, I coulda been there and back ‘fore anyone was the wiser. I knew my folks weren’t likely to be back ’til after sundown, so I could surely catch a few and still be back before they knew it.

I reckon I was about as stubborn as a mule, and hardheaded as an ox, so I didn’t care that Pappy had made me promise never to go there. I figured he just didn’t trust me enough to be able to get around all the wild brush and such out there without hurtin’ myself, so he made some stuff up to keep me from goin’.

I strapped the tackle box down to the back of my bike with some old belts I’d done growed out of, and used some twine to tie around the pole, to sling over my shoulder. Even strapped the Bowie knife I’d gotten for Christmas to my belt, just in case I had to scare off some critters or somethin’.

It was a bit awkward to ride with the box and rod, but it wasn’t nothin’ I couldn’t deal with. The trail was rough, and I damn near tipped over on some of the lumpier parts, but ‘fore I knew it, I was clearin’ the trees that surrounded the creek. I hadn’t never seen it up close before; only from the road up on the hill.

It sure was pretty. It was an almost perfect circle, with thinner streams branchin’ off here and there. In the middle, there was a small mound of dirt, with giant rock stickin’ out of it. I s’pose that’s how it got the name, Boulder Creek, though it’s a might unoriginal, given the island made of stone.

The water looked as clear as if you’d just poured it from a jug, and I could see the fish ziggin’ and a zaggin’ under the surface. Weren’t no wild underbrush neither. I couldn’t see no bottom to the lake, but the water was clear as far as my youthful eyes could see. Still, I wasn’t the best swimmer, so I wasn’t about to let myself get too close to it or nothin’. I wasn’t that curious to see how deep it went.

While I got to unloadin’ the tackle box, pullin’ the twine from the rod, and baitin’ the hook, I kept lookin’ around for any sign of the locals Pop warned me about. Given this was only a short ways from the house, I didn’t see no reason why I wouldn’t be considered a local, but I still didn’t see no trace of anyone besides myself. The grass was overgrown, in between patches of flat dirt and rocks, and it didn’t look as if nobody had been out this way in weeks at least.

Wasn’t no bent blades or footprints. Hell, I couldn’t even hear no sign of wildlife nearby, ‘cept for the fish under the water. Weren’t no crickets chirpin’, or squirrels runnin’ up and down the trees. No birds flappin’ around in the woods or up in the sky above me. It was kinda peaceful, but a bit eerie too, everything’ bein’ so quiet, but me.

Still, I went ahead with what I was there for and cast my line out into the creek. I could see the fish scatter as soon as the hook dropped in on ’em, so I just took a seat on the tackle box and stayed as still as a deer in headlights. I figured they’d gather back up, once they felt it wasn’t nothin’ to be scared of. I was gonna toss back whatever I caught anyways; couldn’t go bringin’ any back to the house when I was done. I didn’t want Pop to know I disobeyed him.

He wasn’t never one to tan my hide unless I really had it comin’, but I figured this’d get me a good whoopin’ on account of how he made me promise and all. My boots were gettin’ good and muddy too, so I figured I’d either clean ’em up when I got back, or just tell him I was playin’ around outside. Surely, he’d have no reason to suspect otherwise.

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When I finally got my first bite, I swear I had to wrestle that sombitch for a good ten minutes straight! When I reeled her in, she had to be a good six pounds at least; maybe a foot and a half long too. That might be no more than average for some, but it was the biggest sucker I’d ever seen at that age.

After I let that ‘n’ go, I didn’t have as much luck. Biggest I reeled in after that was maybe a pound or two, but I’d pulled a good five or six from that lake before the sun started to sink. I knew I had to be gettin’ back, but I wished I coulda told Pappy about how many I’d caught. I just knew if I could convince him to come out, we could have supper for a month. Still, I wasn’t about to confess I did what he said not to.

After I got the tackle box strapped back down, and I was tyin’ the twine back to the fishin’ pole, I heard a whimperin’ comin’ from nearby. It’d been so damn quiet, I had taken to keepin’ my breathin’ shallow, and damn near tiptoein’ around. You know how it is; even if you got no reason to be quiet, you kinda act like it when there ain’t no sounds other than you.

I s’pose that’s why the sound damn near caused my heart to skip. Like I said, the grass was growed out pretty tall, and nothin’ had been cut down or maintained, so I couldn’t see nothin’ from where the whimperin’ was comin’ from, even though it sounded like it was just some yards behind me.

Bein’ as curious as any kid that age, I had to see what was causin’ it. Closer I got, the more it sounded like another kid cryin’. I hadn’t seen no-one else the whole time I’d been there, but I hadn’t looked around much neither. It scared me somethin’ awful to think there mighta been someone hurt and passed out while I was havin’ a good ol’ time, none the wiser.

Could be they’d just started to come to, as I was gettin’ ready to set off back home. All manner of things was goin’ through my head the closer I got. Wasn’t ’til I was right on where the whimperin’ was comin’ from, that it stopped. I swatted at the tall grass, and was cuttin’ my eyes this way and that, but weren’t no sounds no more, but me.

Soon as I shrugged the whole thing off, and made to head back to my bike, I noticed I couldn’t lift my legs no more. I looked down, pushin’ the grass away so as I could see my feet, to see some sorta light shinin’ from beneath me. Damn near pissed my pants when I saw the shadowy hands gripped around my shoes too. There musta been five or six of ’em. Just tiny little hands grippin’ onto my feet and ankles.

I hollered out as loud as I could, while I was pullin’ at my legs; tryin’ to break ’em free of the tight gripped fingers, but I couldn’t so much as yank my feet outta my shoes. I didn’t stop screamin’ out with every bit of my lungs, even when the hands pulled me down into the other place. It didn’t even feel like I went through grass and dirt, as much as there just wasn’t no ground ‘neath my feet for a minute. Knocked myself out cold when I hit the other ground that was under the one I was on before.

Soon as I come to, I started hollerin’ again. I didn’t know if I was still asleep and dreamin’, or if the giant shadow man who stood over me was real. He was bigger than anything I’d ever seen before, with bright red glowin’ eyes. That was the only thing I could make out on him, on account of the rest bein’ no more than a shadow. I didn’t see no sign of the little ones whose hands pulled me through from up top neither, just the big ‘un, starin’ at me.

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I was still whimperin’ some, even after my yells gave out. The thing still looked down on me, tiltin’ his head from one side to the other, but I don’t think he was the one that was makin’ the other sounds I was hearin’. It was some sorta clickin’ or snappin’ in a way. It was dark and kinda foggy all around me, but I could still make out a little.

The walls almost looked as if they was wood, but the grains didn’t flow like no wood I’d ever seen. It ain’t easy to explain, but things wasn’t shaped like they are here, y’know? It looked like there was four walls, but also as if there was more. I couldn’t see no sorta ceilin’, and the ground I was layin’ on, didn’t feel like nothin’ natural or man-made.

The clickin’ sounds was all around me and, no matter where I turned my head, I couldn’t see where it was coming from, even though it sounded like it was right beside me. Soon as the shadow thing wrapped its hand around both my legs, and lifted me from the floor, my bladder couldn’t hold back no more.

The thing had to be ten times my height at the time. I was kinda small for my age, but I still hadn’t never seen nothin’ this big. While I dangled in front of the shadow man’s red eyes, I could make out more of its features, though that ain’t sayin’ much. It had jet black skin, and a sorta plain face. Normal enough nose and mouth and all but, when it licked its lips while it stared me down, I could see that even its tongue and teeth were black. It was like lookin’ at a negative of a picture, or somethin’.

On top of that, from up high where I was hangin’, I could make out more of what stood under me. This’ll likely sound even crazier than a twenty-foot shadow man, but I swear to the good lord they looked like man-sized prayin’ mantises. They was hidden behind that odd haze that made the one that held me look like nothin’ more than shadow at first, so it was hard to focus my eyes on ’em.

Could be they was nothin’ more than some menfolk in costumes, but they didn’t move like no man I’d ever seen. Can’t rightly say whether the one that held me, or the giant bugs clickin’ at each other had me more unsettled, but I was sure I was done for nonetheless.

It felt like the big ‘un moved in slow motion almost, but it still hurt somethin’ awful when he slapped my body onto some sorta hard slab that growed outta the ground before my eyes. Knocked the wind outta me too. When he stood back up, he looked like nothin’ more than a shadow again, but the mantis things moved in closer to where I was layin’.

One of ’em was holdin’ some sorta chains or straps or somethin’, and the other had some odd lookin’ tools of some kind. One of ’em looked kinda like some pliers my Pop had in the garage, and the other reminded me of the needles the Doc would stick in Momma’s arms, but they wasn’t made of no metal or glass I’d ever seen. I was shiverin’ from my head to my toes, and squallerin’ as loud as I could. I was sure no-one or nothin’ could hear me, but I was screamin’ for help anyways.

When I heard what sounded like a blade bein’ sharpened from somewheres in the darkness, it dawned on me I still had my Bowie strapped to my belt. Pappy had told me to be extra careful when he’d give me it for Christmas, on account of the edge he’d ground onto it. He shaved the hairs off his arm to show me how sharp it was. Sure ‘nough, it left a shiny bald spot on his forearm in a second or two.

Soon as one of the giant bugs made to pull a strap over my chest, I pulled my blade and swiped it across its arm, or leg or whatever it was it held out. Whatever it was, I cut it short, and it let out a squeal like I ain’t never heard. The other one came at me, and I stuck it with my blade too; carved into whatever sorta flesh it had like a hot stick of butter.

Both of ’em were hollerin’ themselves now, and the big ‘un came reachin’ for me. Soon as I dodged to the side, which weren’t none too hard on account of how slow it moved, I heard a sorta muffled yell comin’ from outside of that room. It was hard to tell, with it comin’ from what I supposed to be the outside world, but it sounded like someone was callin’ my name.

I didn’t see no doors, or much of nothin’ else, and I couldn’t tell what direction the voice was comin’ from, so I just screamed out, “I’m in here,” as loud as I could. I just kept hollerin’ out the same words, over and over, while dodgin’ the big guy and swattin’ at him with my Bowie.

Soon as I run the blade across the hand it’d stretched out, causin’ it to squeal out in another unsettlin’ sorta sound, I saw somethin’ else that damn near turned my hair white. Maybe ten feet over the spot I was layin’ on when I come to, I saw a normal enough, human lookin’ arm reachin’ through a sorta blue glowin’ hole.

The mantis whose arm was a bit shorter now, was helpin’ the other one back up from the floor, so I knew I didn’t have long. Without even thinkin’, I run for the hole. I leapt for the hand, ‘soon as I got within range, but I missed it, and fell back onto the ground, damn near knockin’ the wind outta me again.

I ain’t sure if this’ll make any sense; hell, I ain’t sure if none of this makes any kinda sense, but that clickin’ sound was a lot more aggravated than it was before. They was both comin’ at me, and the big ‘un was comin’ back into view behind me too. The one I stuck wasn’t movin’ fast, and neither was the shadow thing, but the other was chargin’ pretty good.

I jumped up again, but I couldn’t get within a shout of the hand that was danglin’ down from elsewhere. I was gonna have to get a runnin’ start if I hoped to get close enough. With the big ‘un on one side, and the bugs on the other, I was runnin’ outta options.

I just run straight at the mantis that was chargin’ me, swingin’ my blade from side to side, just hopin’ I could get it to back off. My pants were still soaked on account of my bladder givin’ out, but my tiny legs was still scurryin’ like a mouse. Soon as my Bowie made contact with the gut of the giant bug, it hit the ground, clutchin’ at its middle.

The other wasn’t far behind it, but it stopped in place while I was still wavin’ the knife around like a madman. I saw the big ‘un reach for the arm that was pokin’ through the hole, so I didn’t have no more time to waste. I just run as fast as I could. When I got close enough, I jumped as high as my legs could take me.

I grabbed onto the arm with both hands, lettin’ my knife hit the ground. I didn’t mean to drop it, but I didn’t wanna risk not holdin’ on tight enough, and I sure ‘nough didn’t wanna poke it into the one that was tryin’ to pull me out. ‘Fore I knew it, I was lyin’ in the tall grass, pantin’ and a wheezin’ worse than I did the first time I smoked a cigarette.

While I lay there catchin’ my breath, my Pappy pulled me in close, grippin’ me tight and not lettin’ go. Soon as I realized it was his arm what poked through the doorway ‘tween this place and the other, I got scared he’d holler at me for not listenin’. Seemed all he cared ’bout at the time was that I was alright.

I was still shakin’ all over, and crying my eyes red; so was he, truth be told. I was sayin’ I was sorry over and over, but he just held me tight, rubbin’ my back. I think he was tryin’ to calm me down, but he was as tore up as I was. It was dark out, by this point, so I didn’t know how long I’d been down there, nor how long he mighta been lookin’ for me. I figure he got home and seen the tackle box gone. Likely didn’t take him long to put together where I’d got off to. He was always a smart one; my Pop.

Once he got me calmed down, he patted me on the back and told me to go on and get to my bike. I held up for a minute to wait for him, but he told me to get on home and he’d be there shortly. At first, I thought he was fixin’ to jump back down that hole and show them monsters a thing or two, but even as strong as my Pappy was, I thought that’d be a bad idea.

Wasn’t ’til I got close to the edge of the creek, when I looked back to see him just watchin’ me with a smile on his face. It wasn’t his normal smile, though. He still had tears drippin’ down, but there was somethin’ else in his face I couldn’t figure out.

We just stared at each other for a minute or two, before he just closed his eyes. Soon as it hit me what was happenin’, I charged back over to where he stood; rooted in place. I was maybe a few feet from him when he got pulled under. I dug around the ground where we’d sat huggin’ and cryin’, but it was only dirt and grass. Weren’t no sign of any sorta hole or entrance to the other place.

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I still clawed at the ground ’til my fingernails bent back and my skin tore. I was hollerin’ and wailin’ again, but there weren’t no sign of him, nor where he’d went. Seems whatever door he pulled me out of had closed ‘soon as he went through it.

I rode back home faster than I knew I could. Maybe took me half the time to get back than it had to get out to the creek in the first place. I told my Momma what’d happened, and she was all kinda shook. She called the sheriff to come out, but I didn’t know if he could help with somethin’ like this. He was an older feller; likely as old as I am now, but he didn’t seem to think too kindly ’bout goin’ out to Boulder Creek.

I was pitchin’ a fit and Momma was causin’ a fuss too, so he finally give in and headed up the trail with Deputy Mills. He was half the age of the sheriff, but he come off like his shit smelled pretty. Looked down his nose at me and Momma as if we ain’t have no right to call ’em. Still, he didn’t look none too thrilled about goin’ up to the old creek neither, but the trail was wide enough for the car to get ’em close, ‘fore they’d have to go on foot the rest of the way.

They wouldn’t let me or Maw come with ’em, on account of it bein’ unsafe if a crime had been committed. I still wanted to go, but I couldn’t leave Momma alone. She was all manner of upset, and I was still tore up myself. I didn’t think they would even know what to look for, but I didn’t trust ’em to put a lotta work into lookin’.

It was somewheres ’round midnight when they come back, but they didn’t turn nothin’ up. I figured they wouldn’t, but they had dried mud and dirt all under their fingernails, and coverin’ their shirt and pants, so it looked as though they’d at least tried; more ‘n I thought they would anyways. Both of ’em looked plumb rattled, and the deputy was white as a ghost.

They had me fill out some paperwork, but it read like I was all kinda crazy when I read it back. The Sheriff told me he’d get together a search party, and do what they could to find Pop, but they never did turn nothin’ up. Weren’t no body found or nothin’. It was like he just vanished from this earth all together. S’pose that’s about the truth of it anyways.

He warned me never to go up to Boulder Creek again, but I still would from time to time, when my uncle would come to take Momma into the city to see the Doc. I never found much of nothin’ neither, but every now and then; when I would just sit still in the quiet of the place, I could swear I’d hear someone call out from somewheres far away. Coulda just been my mind playin’ tricks though.

I always told myself I’d go back up that ways again someday. It’s my fault he got pulled down there in my place. I shoulda listened to him when he told me not to go there, but I was just too damn hardheaded to hear it. I know I ain’t got no-one to blame but myself for what happened, but Momma never blamed me; not once. She mourned for my Pop, but she still loved me with her whole heart until it give out.

I still hold onto the hope that Pappy found my Bowie knife and hacked them things to bits before they could strap him down to that slab. I know I left ’em hurtin’ a good bit, but I don’t know about that big ‘un, nor whatever them little hands was neither. Could be he’s still down there, lookin’ for a way out. Even if he would be pushin’ ninety by now, he was the toughest sombitch I ever knew. He wouldn’t never go down without takin’ them with him.

I know this story likely sounds like the ramblin’s of a mad old man. Lord knows I’ve told you more than my share of wild ones over the years, and I ain’t got no doubt you know I was full of shit on most of ’em. You was always kind enough to play along when I’d spin the same old yarns time after time, and I can’t thank you enough for that, kid.

I was never the same after I lost my Pop, and I s’pose I still got a screw or two loose, but you never made fun or showed me no sorta disrespect. You’re a good kid, and I appreciate you humorin’ me this one last time.

With all the crap I’ve fed you over the years, I can’t neither ask, nor expect you to believe this one to be true, but hand to God, this one may be the only truth I’ve ever told you. I ain’t never seen no aliens, and I for damn sure couldn’t fight off no armed robbers to save my life, but there are some things out there, kid; some things we weren’t never meant to see or meet.

I can’t rightly say where that creek sent me that day, nor where my Pappy ended up but, to this day, I still wish I had answers to it all. I’m sure I ain’t got too many years left ahead of me, and I sure as hell ain’t gettin’ no younger.

Always wondered what I’d find if I just kept diggin’, though I don’t think they was so much under the earth as under the world. Somewheres under the surface of what we know to be. Maybe, though; maybe I’ll…

We were interrupted by the graveyard shift coming in, and I never had a chance to find out where that sentence would lead. Before he headed out for the night, Truman clapped me on the shoulder and shook my hand. He said he was truly sorry for my loss and told me to take care of myself.

There was something more genuine in his voice than I had ever heard. Somehow, I think I knew that would be the last time I saw him. That one final story almost felt like a confession he needed to get off his chest, and I feel proud that he entrusted those last words to me.

He never handed in any notice, nor did he just outright quit the job he had held for the better part of twenty years; he just didn’t come in the next day, nor any that followed. There was no obituary, no funeral; simply no sign of where he went, but I had a feeling I knew what his destination had been after he clocked out that one last time. His wife had died some years back, and his two sons had moved away after college, so nobody knew much of anything about where Daniel Truman’s future carried him.

Some time back, I considered taking a trip to his old homestead to look for answers, but I could find absolutely no information on the town of Rimrose Fall, let alone the creek which sat just a way behind it. Maybe I just didn’t look hard enough or didn’t entirely want to be tempted to follow up on where such a quest could lead me. There are some mysteries out there that are best left unsolved.

Still, as completely out there as his story was, I believe every single word to this day. It could be that he just changed the name of the town to prevent me from temptation. Of course, it most certainly could have been no more than just another tall tale he told me that day. One last bizarre product of an imaginative mind. Just one more for the road…but I don’t think so. Not this one.

I like to camp and fish from time to time, but I never retreat to the more secluded spots of the world anymore. Maybe I’m just a gullible idiot, or a little bit intimidated by the possibilities, but maybe not. Perhaps we are little more than fish in a barrel to those who dwell beneath, should we be unfortunate enough to cross into their territory. I did purchase a fairly hefty Bowie knife for when I do take those trips out into the woods; that along with my pistol. It never hurts to be prepared, after all.

I truly hope that Daniel Truman is still out there somewhere; bending the ear of many who may have grown as tired of his tales as I had, at one time. For most I have crossed paths with over the years, I would wish them well, and hope they find what they are looking for in life, but not Truman. I hate to think what he may have found, if he did go in search of it.

Credit: William Rayne

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