|Posted: December 2, 2011|
|I was surrounded in darkness, scared and alone. The only sound was that of my heart which was faint. ‘This must be what it’s like to die.’ I thought to myself. My mom sure was going to be mad. Suddenly, there was a light way off in the distance. I’d read stories about people going to the light and finding heaven. Then the light got brighter and began to spread. I heard a voice but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. The language was foreign to me. Didn’t they speak English in heaven? Now I could feel my eyes blinking. My lungs hurt. I was still not breathing. Someone was shaking me. With great effort, I forced myself to take a breath. I was thrown back into the reality of the situation. I made a horrible gasping sound and began coughing. Water emptied from my chest. It was the worst I had ever felt in my life. I rolled onto my side and threw up, needing to further empty my lungs. I laid there a moment and looked around, noticing I was still in the forest. The last thing I remember was being pulled under the water in the pond. Now I was on the ground wondering who helped me. I sat up and looked around to see if my rescuer was still there. My eyes would not register what I saw. There was a man with pale skin, very tall and lithe, with the blondest hair I had ever seen. It was long and hung loosely around his shoulders. The first thing that came to mind was Hippies. It was the late seventies back then and Flower Power was still around. However, his clothes looked nothing like the funky clothes I had seen on TV. They were like nothing I had ever seen anywhere. He wore dark green tights that looked like wool and a long shirt made of leather or suede. It was green and brown. He wore a thin belt around his waist and leather looking boots that came up more than half way to his knee. But the one thing I remembered more than anything was his eyes. Now, I have blue eyes and my mother always commented on how beautiful they are. This guy had eyes so blue; it was like looking at the sky. They were crystal clear and sparkled with a kind of energy. He almost looked like he stepped out of a fairy tale or something. You would think that I was scared of him but there was something soothing and safe about him. I thought that maybe I did die and this was not a Hippy but an angel of some kind.
He looked down at me curiously. “Manen carach?” he said, his voice full of worry.
“What?” I thought I had water in my ears because I didn’t understand what he said.
“My apologies little one. I forgot to use your language. How do you feel? You gave me quite a fright.”
The way he spoke was odd. He reminded me of someone from an old English novel. “Did you help me?”
“Yes. I heard your cries for help. It was a good thing I happened by this way or you would have met an untimely death for sure. Do you live close?”
I was about to answer him when I remembered the injured fawn. “Where is the deer? Its leg is hurt. It needs help or it will die.”
“I know he is injured. His mother was attacked and killed. He was about to meet the same fate when I came along but he ran off before I could see his wounds. I was searching for him when I heard your cry for help.” The Hippy guy smiled at me. “Is that what you were doing? Were you trying to save my little friend?”
“Your friend?” I asked confused.
“Why of course, all forest creatures are my friends.” he said seriously.
I was beginning to get a little scared. Here I am, ten years old, nearly drowned and rescued by this guy who thinks he’s Dr. Doolittle* or something. My mother’s warnings suddenly entered my head about not talking to strangers, and this guy was definitely strange. “I… I have to go now. My mom will be looking for me.”
“Are you sure you are alright? Would you like me to check you over first? You were not breathing when I found you.”
It suddenly dawned on me that I was only wearing my underclothes when this happened. I looked down and saw that I was fully clothed. It creeped me out a little to think of this longhaired freaky guy getting me dressed while I was unconscious. “Really mister, I’m o.k. I have to go.” I said and stood up. I was dizzy and started to fall again when he caught me.
“Maybe you should rest first child.” he said and smiled again. I couldn’t help but notice how safe he made me feel, this stranger in the woods.
I decided that maybe it was alright to talk to him after all. “Where do you come from? You’re definitely not from around here. And why are you on my parents land? Are you one of those hunters?”
“I come from somewhere far away from here. I did not know this land belonged to anyone. And I am a hunter of sorts, or at least I used to be.” He answered each of my questions but I was still confused.
“Well, if you are lost, maybe my mom or dad can help you be on your way.” I said innocently.
He laughed quietly. “It is none of your concern but I am not lost. I am right where I am supposed to be, though I cannot stay. I must be getting back home. I was on my way there now when I heard your cries for help. As I said, you are a very lucky little girl.”
I looked at him very serious like. “Mister, I don’t know what you’re doing around these parts, but maybe it’s best you be getting home. I think I’m better now and I have to be getting home too. As long as you leave the wildlife alone and don’t litter, I don’t see any reason you can’t hang around here.”
He lifted his hand and placed it on my head, ruffling my hair. “Well, I promise not to hunt anything on your land, but I am not sure what litter means. It sounds rather unpleasant so I hope not to do this act.”
“Good.” I said, satisfied with his answer. I got up again and this time I didn’t fall. I started to walk away and he called to me again. When I turned around, he was holding my canteen. I took it from him, smiled and was on my way home. It was the strangest thing that ever happened to me, as a child at least.
Needless to say, I didn’t go back to the woods alone again all summer. It was at least a couple months before I went back at all. My best friend Josie asked to go one day. I was hesitant and she couldn’t understand why.
“Why are you all of a sudden afraid to go into the woods?” she asked.
“I’m not afraid. I just don’t feel like going that’s all.” I said. She talked me into going anyways. We made our way and as I got closer to the tree line, my heart began to pound. I couldn’t explain the feeling at the time. I was not afraid of the forest or the Hippy for that matter. It was almost like wanting to keep him a secret, protect him from the outside world. He seemed so innocent and unaware of the world around him and I needed to keep it that way. When I look back on it now, I would say he seemed pure, untouched by society, ancient even. It would be years later when I discovered just how true that was.
Needless to say, we went into the woods that day and nothing out of the ordinary happened. I was glad we did not run into my Hippy friend and I never told Josie about my experience. I started to relax until we came upon the pond where I met my rescuer. There was no sign of him or anything that happened that day I almost died. Looking out into the pond, I remembered the feel of drowning, how my life almost ended. I hadn’t thought about it much, putting it out of my head. Here I was back at the scene and it hit me like a slap in the face. I almost died. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about my mom and dad finding me dead in the water. It was like a vision as the alternate ending played out. Police were all around the lake, looking for evidence of foul play. My pale lifeless body was brought up from the weeds I was tangled in. The story would hit the local paper and my death would be an example of why children should not swim alone. The worst thing was seeing my parents’ faces. Total despair washed over them. Some townspeople even blamed them for my death. Their lives were changed forever. It was not a pretty sight.
Then, just as I was about to be consumed by this insight, I saw movement across the pond. I wiped my tear-filled eyes to focus better and there it was, the injured fawn. He was bigger and his white spots were not as many. I watched as he walked along the water’s edge. There was a scar on his hind leg from the injury but he was fine. He was not even limping. That guy did as he said and took care of him. He was alive because of him, and so was I. It hit me like a brick that I had not thanked him for his brave deed. I felt so guilty because at the time I was afraid of him. There never was any reason to fear him. He was just some Good Samaritan doing a good deed, two as a matter of fact. My heart felt heavy as I had the need to find him and thank him. But a little voice in my head told me he already knew. It was in his smile that day. To know I was alive was all the thanks he needed.
The fawn looked across the pond and for a brief second we made eye contact. We were both in debt to that stranger in the woods. Somehow, I felt like the deer knew more than I did. He was content with the outcome of it all. He had befriended him and had shown his thanks. If animals could talk, he would have relayed my message to the stranger. I know it sounds silly but that’s what I felt at the time.
The deer and I broke eye contact and I was about to look away when I saw a flash of gold high up in one of the giant cedar trees. I squinted and searched the tree but there was no movement. Somehow, I knew it was the Hippy and I yelled out, “Thank you.” I knew it was my only chance for him to know.
Josie looked at me as if I had grown a second head. “For what? What are you thanking me for?”
I smiled and laughed as a flood of emotions washed through my mind. “Oh… uh… thanks for talking me into coming out here. I haven’t been here in a while. So… thanks.”
Josie cocked an eyebrow, placed her hands on her hips and stared at me. “Why are you so weird sometimes?”
“Why are you so weird?” I countered and we laughed. We enjoyed the rest of the day.
We visited the forest a lot that summer. From time to time, I saw the fawn. I never saw the Hippy guy again but I always felt like someone was watching over me, like a guardian angel.
Over the years, I put my experience to the back of my head. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. I never forgot one single moment spent with him, but I didn’t dwell on it either. It was my little secret and I swore to one-day pay him back for his selfless deed, if I ever got the chance.
*Dr. Doolittle, by Hugh Lofting - published 1920
|previous | Chapter Index | next|
|If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to: L8Bleumr|