Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Whispering

He didn’t believe in ghosts. He had never even given it much thought. At the age of twenty-six he was supposed to have more in common with his older brother but instead he related more to his young nephews. 

He was always happy to look after his brother's two rambunctious sons. This allowed his brother to take an extended weekend with his wife.

A good uncle, he planned a camping trip at the lake where they could boat, fish and hike the rugged surrounding hills. He knew the perfect spot where they could pitch their tents.

The area where they set up camp had at one time been used for a gold mining operation. Relics of this long lost enterprise still littered the landscape. 

A shuttered mine entrance, lanterns, a mining cart and the crumbling walls of an old cabin were stark reminders this area had not always been used for recreation. 

He watched as his twin twelve-year-old nephews bounced around not able to focus upon their assigned tasks. In equal parts, they coaxed him and then complained when he insisted they finish setting up camp before they could go exploring.

They went on a long hike and then out on the lake, but the fish were not biting so they roasted hotdogs over their fire that evening. 

He told his nephews two scary stories as the fire died to embers but the boys only laughed. It seems they were scare-proof. Around 10:00 p.m. he announced it was time to retire. 

Getting their second wind he heard his nephews laughing and wrestling in their tent. He called out they needed to settle down for they had an early start in the morning. He crawled into his own tent, turned the lantern up and grabbed a book about physics.

Engrossed in his studies he noted a strange swishing sound outside his tent. The wind must have picked up. Later as the sound increased in volume he checked his wristwatch it was now midnight. 

Something about the sound made him sit up, it dawned on him that the sound he was hearing was not wind. At first the sound was softer it seemed to be in the distance-- but he jumped as the next whoosh seemed to be right outside his tent. He put his shoes on.

The sound blasted passed his tent again. Thinking he knew what was happening he yelled out to his nephews, “You two better stop goofing around.” He listened half expecting to hear their laughter but when he didn’t he unzipped his tent. 

Everything was unnaturally still. He walked passed the doused fire to where the boys had pitched their tent. Surprised, he saw their shoes lined up neatly outside where they had left them. Inside the tent, all was quiet.

He realized his nephews had nothing to do with what he had heard. He shook off a chill that hit the back of his neck. The swishing sound arose again and it appeared to be coming from the lake. 

Then as he turned the sound seemed to be closer to where he stood. But the trees nearest their camp were still. Wondering if his imagination was on overdrive he considered just returning to his own tent. But the sound seemed to have moved away yet again for he heard it in the distance. 

Shaking off a feeling of dread, he grabbed a flashlight and headed down the path that led to the lake.

Once at the waters edge the sound became more distinct. It now sounded like faint whispers. Yes, it was definitely a conversation. Voices seemed to rise and fall closer to the old miners’ shack, that was only half standing. 

He wondered when these other campers had arrived and why they had been in his camp. Earlier, he had thought they had this section of the lake to themselves. He headed in the direction of the sound only to discover the whispering now seemed to be coming from the trail he had followed to the lake.

Concerned for his nephews’ safety he headed back down the path. Within seconds everything was deathly still. 

The whispering had stopped and despite the fact there wasn’t even a soft breeze a strong chill hit his back. It propelled him forward. It was almost like unseen hands had pushed him. 

Needing no more encouragement he broke into a run, he was close to his camp when he heard the whispering again, it was in front of him and surrounding him.

This time he heard what the voices said.

“Damn claim jumper, get him George.”
“You get him, he’s too fast for me.”
“If we don’t do something he’ll tell the others about the gold.”
Another voice joined the debate.“Stop arguing, he’ll get away.”
“You take him from the side, once he’s down I’ll hit him with my shovel.”

Then the whispers abruptly stopped. He swept his flashlight beam around the surrounding trees but no one was there. He crashed through the brush off the path making a beeline for the camp. 

At one point he stumbled and fell, later he didn’t even remember how he picked himself up, but he did. Back at his campsite he rousted his confused nephews out of a sound sleep ordering them to put on their shoes and coats. He grabbed his truck keys, and instructed the boys leave everything else behind. He drove them out of the area quickly.

He never did go back to get the rest of his camping gear. When his older brother quizzed him about why they had left in such a hurry, leaving the boat, sleeping bags and tents behind, he stated that he had become ill. 

After this, he never talked about it.

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