III : An ominous voice.

Henry, Oh Henry…

Frantically, I whipped my head from side to side. Where was the voice coming from? Completely submerged, I’d drifted down into the depths of the quarry, where this deep, resonating voice confronted me. It was omnipresent, vibrating the water all around me with its throbbing bass, my ears ringing as I listened,

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Day by day, the end nears
 So please, do keep in mind
You’ll have to come to terms
You’re the last of your kind.
No matter where you run
No matter what you try
Give in, and change your ways
Or in these deep, dark depths you’ll-

An outpouring of bubbles erupted from my mouth as I screamed, calling out to the voice. Show yourself, I challenged, dread spectre that calls my name. I slashed at it, clawing with my hands and gnashing my teeth until I took in too much water. My struggle had brought me further into the quarry’s cold, suffocating belly. What was it talking about? Why was this happening to me? Or perhaps, more prudently, what was happening to me?

When at last I broke the surface, the rest of the group had jumped in, minus Thomas who sat upon the ledge, looking over the horizon. I splashed around with the others before climbing back up to join him. He seemed to be lost in reflection, but of course that didn’t exactly stop me from intruding in on his thoughts.

“What’s up, man?” I called out as I came up on his perch by the ledge.

Thomas glanced over, and tilted his head in acknowledgment.

“Watsup,” He muttered as I took a seat next to him. The two of us looked out over the water.

“College starts next week,” said Thomas distractedly.

“Oh. Yeah. It does, doesn’t it.” I shifted around, moving a stick about with my foot, “Y’all be movin’ out of this here countryside fer’ the big ol’ city, won’t cha’?” I said, doing a bit. Thomas blew air out through his nose, granting me a feeble half laugh.

“Yeah. I ‘spose we are.” Silence. Then Thomas spoke up again.

“What are you going to do when we leave?”

I laughed a little under my breath and stood up, “You know, the usual. Maybe pick up a job. And I’ll be taking some classes.”

“Oh, true true.” Said Thomas, getting up as well, “Welp…”  He stood at the edge awhile before taking a deep breath and leaping in to join everyone else.

I stood at the edge, waiting to jump. I looked down at all of my friends playing in the water below me. In another week they would all be moving out to college, and I’d be left here in town alone. I’d been made promises of weekly, even daily correspondence from most of them, and I was told that I was welcome to come visit whenever I wanted to. These assurances put me at ease, and as I leapt into the water for a second time, the rush of cool freshwater swept any remaining doubts from my mind.

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II : A thoughtful present.

He,
The North,
Cuts the brush;
His Eastern entourage
Tailing that familiar rush
Of said sweet Southbound trail

Soaring spirits flying high, yet, marred
By echoes haunting this final evening quest
Now you must run fast from an impending scar
Sunset coming, leaves falling, all bowing to the West

Run, oh woodland wand’re, run for the edge is creeping near
Take stock of what you’ve got; watch each egg within your basket
Oh, You can hope, you can hide, but please do abide by fledgling fears
And know this marks the end of an era, this wood riddle from your casket.

Henry the Great
Adventurer

“Henry! Wait up!”

I turned from the carving as the rest of the group emerged, stumbling through the thickets. The sun was setting and mosquitos hummed while the wood pecker drummed beats that hung on the breeze. The trees permitted only a little light to pass through the foliage, but even so, I could make out another note. This one had been etched in the bark of a pine. It was oddly entreating, and equally fleeting, for as I turned back, the message was gone.

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“What up?” Thomas had caught up, leading the rest. Looking back to the tree one last time, I shook my head to clear my thoughts. I patted my pocket to make sure that the first note was still there; it was.

“Nothing. Let’s keep going,” I murmured, still distracted by the phantom prose, “Let’s keep moving.”

“Where are we going, Henry?” Thomas hollered, as the rest of them struggled with my pace. It was a challenge for them in the fading light, but they made their way well enough. Pulling aside some thorns with a gloved hand, I called back over my shoulder:

“Just come on and you’ll see. It’s right up ahead.”

A few minutes longer we trudged through the dense brush until, at long last, we hit the clearing that I sought. The leaves, the trees, all the branches and the thorns, they opened up to reveal a small lake surrounded by walls of rock and stone. It was a quarry; one that reached unknown, though apparently profound, depths. Its surface, a sheet of smooth glass, reflected a rich, late-summer’s light; the sun was setting over the horizon line opposite our shore, casting an array of deep autumn hues across the lake. With our group fanned out behind me, I turned to address them.

“Here, my friends, is your graduation present. From me to you.”

I fell backward from the cliffside.

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I : A foreboding note.

It began with a poem, that looked like a note, left on my bed by a person unknown:

Heed this warning,
woodland wand’re
While quick to Spring
You’re soon to Fall.
Leaves that change for
Winter’s shadow,
Will sing this song,
My Summer’s son:

Rise not and set
On season’s close
Henry the great
Adventurer

I read the note and turned the piece of parchment over in my palm. This was some true blue, old-fashioned parchment, I kid you not: it was wrinkled, worn, and every bit as weathered as you’d imagine it to be. The backside gave away nothing more about its origins, so I wrote off this mystery and put it away for later. I folded it up and placed it in my pocket.

Perched by the window, I surveyed the yard: green leaves held fast to the dogwood and squirrels chattered; I reflected on words tattered—it would be another week before the leaves changed.


My phone buzzed from across the room. My friends were at the door and in half an hour we would all be in the woods, embarking on yet another adventure. For the others, these afternoon getaways were a respite from artificial light, a break from time spent typing—a way to escape if only for a moment. But for me, this was life. I had the sublime pleasure of the woods, trading fixed units breathing mechanical perspiration for air recycled by botanical respiration.

Before leaving the room, I glanced once more at the note. Where had it come from? It was eerily foreboding, and the more I thought of it, the more a sense of unease crept over me. My stomach churned uncomfortably and I wondered: what was supposed to happen when the leaves fell?

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