Rated: E · Short Story · Fantasy · #1920694
This is a short story inspired by the Short Shots writing contest photo for February 2013.
The first time I saw the girl she was sitting by Mirror Pond with a large sketch pad in her lap. I hadn’t seen her arrive, I just looked down and there she was. She obviously hadn’t seen me either or she wouldn’t have chosen this particular spot for her artwork. I was pretty well hidden behind a screen of pale green leaves as I perched in my tree blind, which was behind her and to the right. Even if she looked in my direction she wouldn’t see me. Everywhere you looked there were varying shades of spring and my camouflage blended right in.
I scrutinized the area across Mirror Pond from her but couldn’t see anything unusual. Maybe she was sketching the way the clear water grumbled over rocks as Lost Creek fed the pond, or maybe she was roughing out the lichen spattered trunks of slender willow trees. There was an ethereal aura about her that seemed almost mystical as she hummed softly, melodiously, interrupting herself occasionally to make a comment to someone or something either across the pond or in the pond. No matter how studiously I scanned the pond and its banks I couldn’t see anyone or anything to talk to.
I observed the girl closely as her drawing pencil danced across the sketch pad. Was she sketching something only she could see? What was it? What could she perceive that I couldn’t? The burning desire in me to see her subject was unexpected and almost unbearable. I needed my binoculars. I remained in my position for about an hour watching as she continued with her interpretation of the illusive unnamed object or being. I momentarily glanced at my watch then returned my gaze to the girl.
She was gone. I had only looked away for a few seconds and she had disappeared. From my current position there was absolutely no evidence anyone had even been there. I waited for a while hoping she would reappear. When it was obvious the girl wasn’t going to return, at least not this morning, I scrambled down and examined the flat gray rock she had been sitting on.The blue gray lichen generously decorating the rock was undamaged, not crushed as I expected. She had left no sign of her presence. I repeated my inspection of both sides of Mirror Pond, but again discovered nothing noteworthy. Giving up I turned away and trudged home, but my mind remained on the morning’s experience.
The next morning I left at sunrise for my tree blind. I wanted to make sure I was settled in before the girl appeared. Arriving at my destination I quickly ascended the tree and situated myself comfortably. I used my binoculars to scan the pond and both banks. Again, there was nothing unusual to see. I glanced at my watch to check the time and found that I had been waiting for over thirty minutes, but there was still no sign of the girl. I frowned and turned my attention back to where she had been sitting yesterday. There she was. I had turned away for only a few seconds and yet once again missed her arrival.
Raising my binoculars I studied her closely. Short jet black hair, creamy complexion, petite build, and again her very being emanated an ethereal quality. Her clothing even seemed to shimmer and glow in shades of blue, green, and lavender as it was touched by the morning sun. Slender fingers lightly grasped a drawing pencil already adding detail to yesterday’s sketch.Since I didn't know what her name was I decided to call her Jetta in honor of her jet black hair.
I focused the binoculars on the girl's emerging artwork. Something appeared to be taking form, but even with the binoculars I couldn’t tell what it was. Were those wings? Maybe Jetta was drawing a giant butterfly, I thought with a wry smile, a giant butterfly with gossamer wings. I shook my head ruefully at the errant thought and moved my binoculars to examine the bank across the pond from her, hoping to catch a glimpse of her subject. No matter how hard I strained my eyes I couldn’t see anything. Yet as she sketched she was talking to someone or something. I had to get closer.
I briefly studied the area directly behind Jetta and saw a tree I might be able to move my blind to. Not only would I have a much closer view of her it would provide a broader view of both sides of the pond. I would move there tomorrow. Satisfied with my decision I turned to reposition my glasses on the girl. She wasn't there. I had missed her exit for the second time.
The next morning it was cool and foggy. Maybe the fog would lift. I hoped so. I left my house even earlier than I had the day before and arrived before dawn, while the sun was still sleeping. I needed the extra time to set up my new blind. The fog lifted and again I waited over an hour for Jetta to arrive, and again, after gazing away briefly, found that I had missed her entrance. Frustration overcame me. Why? I wondered. Why did I have such bad luck? I made up my mind that I wasn't going to miss her exit for a third time. I was going to climb down out of my blind and approach the girl. I wouldn't let her leave until I talked to her. I was so obsessed with the need to converse with her and see her drawing close up that I would do whatever I needed to in order to make it happen. Jetta had only sketched for about an hour each day, so today I would leave my blind and approach her after about forty five minutes.
I was able to see Jetta's sketch clearly from my new location. There were definitely wings, lacy translucent wings. My errant thought from yesterday had actually proved to be true, at least partially. Were they butterfly wings? Bird wings? What kind of creature was she sketching? I needed to know. I shifted my glasses to the bank across the pond, but again I couldn’t see anyone or anything special. Time passed swiftly and suddenly it was time to make my presence known. It was time for answers.
I quietly descended from my perch. Jetta hadn’t heard me and was still engrossed in her artwork. I slowly, silently approached her from behind. I wasn't going to give her a chance to disappear again. I cleared my throat to alert her of my presence and a shrill piercing scream shattered the silence, followed by a sudden flash of blinding light. My vision blurred then faded in and out and everything started spinning, causing me to fall to the ground.
When my vision cleared I looked around in confusion. Where was I? Why was I lying on my back on the soft mossy bank of Mirror Pond? What had happened? I struggled to my feet as my memory slowly returned. Where was Jetta?
I unsuccessfully surveyed the pond's banks, searching for any sign of her presence. Then I saw it. Her sketch was still there. Jetta was gone, but she had left her drawing pad behind. It had fallen to the mossy carpet at the base of her rock. I bent down and picked it up then examined the sketch closely. Gossamer wings fringed the body of a wraith-like creature fluttering over the water. A sprite! I told myself in wonder. The girl had been sketching a water sprite!
I carefully deposited the sketch on the girl's rock then eagerly lifted my binoculars and peered across Mirror Pond to where a grouping of several large stones rose from the water. Maybe the sprite was still there! I glassed the area thoroughly, but was unable to find the sprite despite the fact that the sketch had told me the exact spot to scrutinize. Like the girl, the water sprite was nowhere to be seen.
At least I have Jetta's drawing, I told myself in resignation. I turned away from Mirror Pond and reached down to pick the sketch up. I froze and stared at the flat gray rock in disbelief. The sketch pad was gone.