The Mystery of Dogwood Cross
The garden was a tangle of life green and death brown; things once living still hungry to choke out the life of things struggling to survive. Just like how the zombie apocalypse will go down. I took a few photos of the gruesome battle, wondering if I could get away with titling at least one of them “BRAAAIIINNNNSSS” before I gave up. The chemistry of the place wasn’t working. It might’ve been the changing shadow of the foliage under the thick white clouds, or it might’ve just been my eyes, not seeing things right.
Sometimes that happens with photography. People can even be cooing about how interesting/good/cool a print looks and there will be something just wrong about it. I used to only see the nameless flaw in my own work, but over the past few months, sometimes other peoples’ work screamed at me, too. Even photos that are framed right, the focus is right, the colors and light, the processing, the angles are all textbook-correct, but no energy was captured in the photo.
That’s how I felt about my pictures today. The chemistry wasn’t balanced. Nothing came together to create art.
Four days had passed since the pelicans, the dolphins, and Mad!Maisie. The weirdest thing about the last four days was that nothing else weird had happened. No more ShadowMen, no more late night visits. No more lights on when they should’ve been off, no more ShadyMaisie. In fact, with the exceptions of the heat and still not being able to communicate with our high tech devices, and Daniel being scarce, everything had been…almost idyllic.
Maybe that was because I was doing my best to color inside the lines. I wasn’t straying more than a few yards away from the road, usually. I wasn’t trying to open locked doors. I wasn’t asking questions. At least, I wasn’t asking them out loud.
In truth, my questions were fading and with them, my discomfort. I’d gotten used to my bedofa. Mom didn’t seem alarmed by anything. She was more tired than usual, and napped for hours as soon as she returned from working with Rhys. I knew it was probably because of the extreme humidity. Even being out in it a little, back home, always hit her hard.
In the mornings, I photographed and journaled. In the afternoons, I edited and researched. Because I was without Internet, I was relegated to the shelves and shelves of books scattered around our side of the gatehouse. And I was learning a lot.
I pulled back from the tangle of sandspur and oxeye and made my way back to the road. I smiled when I heard, and then saw, Daniel’s truck coming around a corner. As it approached, I waved
He pulled up next to me. “Hey, Flip.”
“Hey, D,” I replied, because I am so clever.
“You want some water?” he asked, and reached to the back before I could even respond. He handed a bottle to me. “It’s bad out here today. Even in the shade.”
I took it. “Thanks. Yeah, it’s pretty gross.” What I meant was I was pretty gross. Sweat glued my t-shirt to my skin in all the wrong ways, just as my jeans clung uncomfortably to my legs. My new boots, as awesome as they were, kept my feet so warm that I couldn’t stop thinking about the pool at the YMCA back home. I had to keep reminding myself that the jeans and the boots were better than getting eaten up by mosquitoes and the like.
“I gotta run into town,” he said, and I was hope-hope-hoping he’d offer to take me with him, even though I wasn’t sure my mom would let me go. “But if you wanna see something cool, you’re real close to the entrance of the labyrinth.”
My momentary disappointment exchanged itself for curiosity. “Labyrinth?”
He grinned. “Yeah. It’s not near as nice as I want it to be, but it’s passable. And it takes you right to the pavilion, which is pretty cool.” He proceeded to give me directions, and I did my best to remember them. When he drove away, I started on my new mission.
I walked through twists of tall trees and bushes determined to thrive, even though those trees were big enough now to block out much of their sunlight.
“Keep the saw palmettos on your right,” he’d told me, “and you’ll find the entrance.”
“Real close” turned out to be about a quarter of a mile in a direction I’d never been, but I did manage to find the opening. It didn’t take long to navigate the maze, because the correct path had been trod more recently than the paths to the dead ends. Azaleas and roses grew wild in the bushes on either side of me. I paused a few times for pictures, but my curiosity urged me on.
After the final turn, the path opened up into a beautiful meadow. At the center stood the pavilion, solid, extravagant. All white, the building was closed up on all sides with glass double doors. A smaller second story was stacked on top of it, and above that, a fence surrounded the roof to make a widow’s walk. I remembered Daniel had said about the pavilion being the first thing on the island to get a full renovation. And here it was, practically gleaming against the gray, brown, and green landscape.
There was the chemistry I was looking for.
Twenty minutes of angles-at-all-sides, lens changes, and waiting for cloud cover to pass, I finally approached the graceful, stoic belle. I felt like I should talk to her so she wouldn’t lock her doors, or turn her nose up at me. I thought of the defiant bush of roses gone wild I’d passed on my way in and considered for like, two seconds, going back and making a bouquet for this austere grandmother I wanted to get to know. I know, I know, it’s crazy to think about a glorified gazebo that way, but man, this building had spirit.
Spirit. The word fluttered through my mind like a white moth and I shuddered.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” I reminded myself.
I shouldn’t have said that. Because everything got really eerie in my head.
After a moment, I realized that the eerie wasn’t just in my head. The great lighting I’d been using to capture the pavilion’s magic dimmed. I looked up to see a row of nearly black clouds rolling toward me like waves.
Lightning flashed, not too far in the distance. The thunder came quickly after. I put my camera and the water bottle away, and then moved up the low hill to the pavilion for cover. I tried the first set of doors I came to, but no luck. The next set was locked just as tightly.
The first big, hard raindrops began to pelt the earth, and then my skin and hair. After the third set of doors was locked tight, too, I sprinted back toward the labyrinth, and I managed to keep my pace through it.
The skies opened up completely before I was out of the labyrinth. I started to run, mud puddling fast under me. I splashed around the last turn, blinded by the fast, hard rain. I didn’t see the gray figure through the gray rain.
I only saw it only a moment after it grabbed my arm.

Keep Reading

Chapter 9

The Boy in the Cottage

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