“What!? What!? Come back, dammit. Hello!?” Nothing. AHHHHH! Where did he go? I can't believe that. Maybe he’s taking my advice to call the police.
“One can only hope,” I hear Analytical I say.
“Don't you know how to listen?” Wise Guy I pipes up. “The man says listen but no, no, you couldn't.”
“Shut up,” I say.
“Well you had your chance and you blew it,” continues Wise Guy.
“Don't start with me now. I don't want to hear any of it.”
I sit down bewildered and put the phone on the ground. How could the phone ring without power? Who was that guy on the other end? Why did he hang up? What's going on? All these thoughts flash through my mind.
“That was your last chance. He’ll never call back,” Pessimistic I goes on.
"Maybe all of you are right. I should have just kept my mouth shut. Guess I panicked.”
“That’s our boy,” mutters Wise Guy I.
“Don't worry. We don't need that guy. We can get out of here on our own,” pronounces Ego I.
I pick my head up and look around. There is now a fog over the entire clearing and surrounding the woods. I laugh to myself as I think it’s like the fog that's overwhelming my mind. I can't help but think the voice on the other end of the phone sounded familiar; like an old friend I hadn't seen in years. Suddenly the phone rings again. I reach down and answer in one fell swoop. “Hello! Hello?” I say, trying to sound calmer with the second hello.
"Well are you ready to listen? No more hysterics?”
“No, no more hysterics. No questions. Say whatever you have to say. I'm listening”
“I know where you are. I've been there before. In fact, we've all been there before and it's time for you to find a way out. I'm going to show you the path. If you follow it, you'll find me.”
“Okay, okay, tell me,” I plead, but ever so calmly in order to hide my excitement from my benefactor.
“You’re on the upper stretches of the Soul River. The stream behind you is a spring creek that originates from water that bubbles up from the ground in a swamp about 15 miles away. The Indians have a different name for this stream. In their language it means one soul. Your journey begins here. Follow the creek downstream. Make sure you follow it. Never lose sight of it. The creek is small where you are but it will get larger as it winds through the countryside and picks up many feeder streams. It actually becomes quite large until it crashes down a waterfall and into the Lake of Wholeness. Once you reach the waterfall, you'll find me on the other side of the lake. At no time should you attempt to cross the stream. Always remain on your side.”
I stand there listening attentively to his directions, afraid to ask any questions. When he’s finished with his instructions, I hear a pause on the other end of the phone. It isn’t the longest pause but it’s long enough to worry that I’ve lost him. “Are you still there?” I ask.
“Yes, I'm still here with you.”
“Is it alright if I ask you a few questions?” I inquire. “Now seems like as good a time as any. How far away are you?”
“If you put the phone down now and push hard, you should reach me by nightfall.”
“Nightfall? What time is it now?”
“Time?” He seems to ponder the word. “I think it's time for you to get going. You don't want to be out there searching for me in the dark, now do you?”
“No, no, no I don't do well in the dark.”
“I know. You've been in the dark most of your life,” he replies. What the hell is that supposed to mean?
“Another question: what about the bears?”
“Bears? What are you talking about?”
”Grizzly bears," I reply.
“Grizzly bears.” He chuckles. “There haven't been any black bears in these hills for forty years let alone grizzlies.”
“No bears? A grizzly chased me five miles yesterday. I was damn lucky to escape with my life.”
“Grizzly bears.” He repeats again. “You have any whiskey in that pack of yours. Have you been smoking weed?”
“No, no whiskey, no weed,” I say. “Just a real live grizzly bear. And I'm kind of afraid to leave the clearing. He might come after me again.”
He starts to laugh. It reminds me of the woodpecker. “Listen,” he goes on, “I have lived here for quite some time and I can assure you there are no bears. No black bears, no grizzly bears.”
“If that's the case, what was chasing me?”
He roars with laughter. “I don't know, must have been a figment of your imagination.”
“Yeah, I guess my imagination is out of control.” I don’t want to argue with him.