Zach loved Southern France, almost as much as he loved the Western Cape. Vineyards… mountains, rocky outcrops… fast flowing streams… chasms and caves. History, both real and imaginary. It was everywhere. In the ancient rock formations… in the villages, even in the trees that stood in protection of the rock pools at the bottom of the steep slopes.
Massive old trees guarding even more ancient places of hiding. The pools, they always drew him… deeper into the shadows… looking, always looking. Zach found himself returning time after time. Ever since that first trip into Bain’s Kloof in pursuit of Hessie’s story… he couldn’t shake the compulsion. The whole experience became enticingly addictive… the craving for an answer almost as strong as the craving for another glimpse of Hessie.
Now here he sat on the banks of the Aude. Totally unplanned… watching the full moon rising over the craggy mountain fissures. That full moon… the same chunk of rock in the sky that linked this place to that… across decades. His memories as fresh as when he undertook those trips into the unknown. The unknown for him, yet the well trodden paths among the boulders strewn along the river’s edges were paths familiar to many.
Paths often traversed by hunters… by fishermen… botanists, photographers and nature lovers alike. The picnic spots along the river were equally popular. One thing was a constant though… the rumours of supernatural happening ensured that not a soul would be found along that stretch of river at after dark. Folk were very particular… at the first signs of twilight approaching the scamper would be on. On busy days it resembled folk fleeing a rugby stadium after their team were dealt a hammering… there was purpose in the retreat… no mere stroll back to parked cars.
Long suppressed memories were being sucked from the dark recesses of Zach‘s mind… as if the moon’s pull, combined with the roar of the water… in cahoots, just to drag his memories out into the open. His suppressed pain… his inner guilt… they were being tugged forcefully to the surface… just beyond the edge of reason… the memories broke surface… to again be faced with the reality of the moon’s pale face…
Zach’s persistence eventually paid off, or… at least he believed it did. On one of the summers’s full moon nights he’d stayed behind in the shelter of a rock ledge close to a secluded pool. The gentle murmuring lullaby of the trickling stream soothing his overactive imagination to the point of slumber.
He knew he was alone along the river’s edge at the foot of the ravine. The day visitors had long fled back to the safety of their cars, to escape the pull of the supernatural. He, however, wanted to be drawn in by that pull. He believed that if the ghost showed herself then there would be a chance of him seeing Hessie again.
If he saw the ghost of Hessie’s grandmother he would be bound to her forever. He would be blessed, as Hessie was. Not only would he be able to ‘see’… he would also again see Hessie. That’s all that mattered.
So he slumbered… hidden from view, as he had slumbered before. This was the 25th night he was spending down among the pools, boulders and trees. 25th… that number carried significance. It was Hessie’s birth date.
Zach awoke the next morning… a shaft of bright, warm sunlight had found a way through the canopy… splitting the leaves and branches, placing him in the spotlight. He opened one eye, just a slither… not wanting to let the moment pass. Yes, he was clinging to the tail end of a dream… he’s seen her… she’d spoken to him. Welcoming him to the valley… her valley. Her place. Yes, she knew Hessie… she’d met Hessie many years back… yes, indeed, Hessie was her grand-daughter.
Zach had asked questions… “As you see me here, so I parted your realm…” her arms caressed her naked torso… her hands making their way downward, enticingly… inviting… the slip of petticoat flapping in the breeze… threatening to expose all her seductiveness. Tempting… teasing… messing with his mind. “You will see… not fully, in glimpses… not often… but there will be a moment or to in the living that you’ll be allowed to see Hessie.”
“You’ll also see other’s… one of your friends… he’ll come to comfort you from time to time. I’ll have to go… the people are coming… they’ll see me. Farewell boy… don’t come again… you’ll not be welcome again in my place in the dark… “
Zach dared not open his eyes too much… for fear of the shaft of light blinding him… was it all a dream? No… there she stood… blowing him a farewell kiss… or was it only a wisp of early morning mist? No… it had to be real, he demanded of her that it was real and not a dream… a sign, all he needed was a sign.
Then he saw it… she dived into the pool just below where he’d slept the night… he saw her dive in… he heard her dive in… but there was no trace of a splash, or ripples… only the water turned a slight tinge of pink… the colour intensifying for a moment or two before the sunlight obliterated all traces of her beauty…
The photo, once again courtesy of the i-net… please click here to see a few more and to visit the site that so kindly loaned me the image…