The Bluebottle Boys — Chapter 18: Bethany, Part II [section 6 of 12]

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Time in the woods returned to a consistent mid-afternoon; I was grateful to be back in a place where time had more regular and consistent flow.

I heard light laughter from a number of young girls, about Bethany’s age, as I entered the forest, but saw no one. I followed a creek; the laughter grew louder, but I still saw no one. I’d gone the equivalent of a city block up creek when I came to a small pool, perhaps two or three meters across, no more, which was fed by a waterfall – another three or four meters high – cascading from the top of a small cliff. I’d have needed to ascend it in my corporeal form by means of a steep set of switchbacks; my unimpeded form did it directly.

I found a much larger pool, perhaps 10 or 12 meters across, a small grotto on the far side, and an elaborate fountain in its center; a bevy of water nymphs – the source of the laughter – stood or lolled about within the pool or on the grotto. Their hair was long and wet. They were scantily dressed or entirely naked. Reflexively, I looked away before I could notice much more.

“Get thee hence, festinately, Reggie!

Bethany’s voice was insistent – this was an order – but her tone was not admonitory, so much as it was protective – the kind of directive a concerned, even panicked parent or older sibling might use if a young child, sibling or charge were facing imminent danger. I’d have been startled in a physical body. Unimpeded by having one here, the same degree of shock sent my consciousness bounding into the air, ricocheting off trees and rocks and tumbling through space for more than half an hour – indeed, I was surprised that I was still in the forest when my momentum slowed enough for me to get my bearings.

More time must’ve passed than I realized, for even in this more stable time zone, sunset was now merging into early stages of twilight, the forest growing dimmer.

Bits of twinkling light ran throughout the forest, even as a light mist began to settle in. I’d no doubt most of the lights were from fireflies or the phenomenon known as will-o-the-wisp, but in a forest I already knew to be home to water nymphs, I’d no doubt some lights belonged to other kinds of entities.

 

© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) has been delayed due to illness and surgery (mine) and to technical problems beyond my control, but should be available late this year or early 2018. The series’ third novel, By Good Angels Tenanted, will be available later in 2018.