Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1933923
A Scholar Finds Love in the Right Place
|An Urban Myth-1,995|
Michael Lee had received an urgent call from the Sheriff’s Department investigative team, requesting his presence early the next day. He’d gotten calls from them before, but interruptions to his teaching schedule at the local university were beginning to become a bit bothersome.
Although his primary studies had been in Archeology, the classes he taught dealt with Anthropology, a more useful discipline in this northeastern city. His success in his chosen field, both academic and extra-curricular had set him up for occasional annoyances.
A studious thirty year old bachelor, Michael was six foot one, if he stood up straight, and one hundred eighty pounds. His daily jogs kept him physically fit, and he was still considered ‘prime real estate’ in the world of the lovelorn.
His students considered him their own ‘Indiana Jones’ because of these occasional calls into service, and didn’t resent the extra work they’d have to do to catch up on assignments on his return. He often integrated his police experiences into their curricula, offering a bit of excitement into their otherwise regulated lives.
Thinking back on how this all began, he thought he’d just made some lucky guesses with evidence that he’d been presented, and much in the manner of professional ‘profilers’ he’d been fortunate enough to identify culprits firmly enough to produce convictions. This really wasn’t however, how he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
This call was just one more irritation in his regulated life, but he’d never had the strength to deny the overwhelming sense of curiosity that compelled him to become an archaeologist in the first place. Each of these odd events had become stranger and stranger, and quite frankly more challenging.
This one was no exception, once he’d sat through a briefing at the Sheriff’s Office the next morning. Apparently their office had been inundated with calls of ghosts, spirits, and such for several weeks in an older residential area of town. The area bordered a nature preserve containing some large, tall trees, and thick bushy areas in between.
These sightings took place on moonlit nights, and always involved a woman clothed in diaphanous robes, nearly transparent. A few of the more foolhardy witnesses had tried to intercept her progress from the forest though the back yards of the houses, but despite appearing quite solid, they passed through her effortlessly, and usually retreated in fear.
As he listened to the reports, Michael began to put together a possible scenario of how all of this was taking place, and the thought of a hoax of some kind played through his head. It wouldn’t be the first time that a hoaxer had tried to bamboozle that subdivision, as the protected property represented a lot of money to investors, but only if they could get the property re-zoned for development.
Technology nowadays could conjure up all kinds of special effects, and holographic development had improved tremendously over the past few years. In order to expose this particular scam, Michael wanted to visit the location on the night of the full moon, and the area needed to be completely cleared of all neighborhood sightseers and onlookers. What he needed was a clear environment with which to put his plan into place.
The full moon was two nights away, and he needed a couple of items that would hopefully break this illusion up once and for all. Frankly, the incredibly erotic description of the spectral woman had his curiosity cranked up to 10/10 on the interest meter, and however this investigation turned out, it would undoubtedly provide him with another adventure for his Anthropology class.
Michael had what he needed for the investigation, and the police assured him that they’d swept the entire back yard area of the subdivision of all onlookers and sightseers, and pulled themselves back to the street area. They had provided him with a small transmitter to alert them whenever he had unraveled the mystery.
Dexter looked up and licked his hand, whining softly in the moonlight. Michael reached down and scratched his neck, giving him a little ‘Shush’ sound to quiet him. The German Shepherd didn’t know why he was along, but Michael had confidence that he could assist him in ferreting out the ‘real’ human element in this area. His other ‘scam detector’ was fully loaded and hanging on his hip.
The night was cool, clear, and a soft breeze whispered through the trees lining the edge leading into the conservatory. The moonlight illuminated the entire area in a filtered white glow, and oddly enough, Michael began to see flashes of light in the air, reminiscent of fireflies. The trees seemed to radiate a nearly phosphorescent light throughout the entire area, their branches nodding and bowing into the enclosure.
It was then that he noticed that he probably wasn’t alone, and Dexter suddenly froze, his gaze fixed upon some spot directly behind Michael. His own body began to betray a sense of the surreal, hair rising on the back of his arms and back. A subtle murmur floated about the area, and Dexter began to whimper a bit, but not in terror. He recognized the whimper as his longing to be touched.
Dexter walked past towards something behind him, and Michael turned slowly to see what it was. The apparition hadn’t yet fully materialized, but he noted that it first seemed to be illuminated by the fireflies, then gaining form. Dexter quietly approached the figure and sat before it, as if transfixed. By all rights, he should have been howling like crazy, as he had always been difficult around strangers. Reflexively, Michael reached to his hip and un-holstered his other line of defense.
The figure had coalesced into the form of a woman, and what a form it was! The descriptions of the apparition had not done it justice. A single word screamed into his mind; magnificent! And another thought flashed through his mind, ‘Dexter could see her!’ This supported his theory that a visible hologram had somehow been projected onto the lawn before the forest, and all he had to do now was approach it and simply…step through it.
As he approached the figure, it occurred to him that she was ruffling Dexter’s fur, and he was responding. That meant that she was corporeal, and not an illusion. This probably meant that he had the hoaxer in front of him, and that this whole thing could be wrapped up. But, before he activated the transmitter to the police, he decided to test his theory personally.
Stepping up to the figure, he attempted to walk through her, but abruptly ran into warm, soft flesh!
He was about to activate the transmitter, when she suddenly placed her hand on his forearm, asking him softly in an ancient form of Greek, “What were you expecting?”
Her touch was electrifying! Soft, sensual, and—loving. It seemed as though she melded her mind with him in that moment. She wasn’t real; she wasn’t unreal. She was simply in transition.
“I’m not a ghost, Michael,” she continued.
He looked at her, then at her feet. Dexter was sitting next to her as if he’d known her all his life, and was now watching his face expectantly. As she’d said, she didn’t seem like a ghost. But why solidify now of all times? Where did she come from? What was her purpose here?
All good questions; no good answers. He knew it was a futile gesture, but he reached to his hip and released his last instrument of exposure; the light. Essentially a portable searchlight, able to blast through any optical illusion that he was aware of, he flipped the on switch and played it on the specter. The effect was startling but did not produce the desired result.
He was temporarily blinded by the brightness, and as his eyes adjusted to the glare, he noted that he could see through the garments worn by the woman in front of him, causing him some embarrassment. She stood before him, hands on her hips, with a slight frown on her face.
Switching off the light, he stuttered, “You know my name; who are you?” Whatever else was happening this evening, he knew she was real. Now, he just needed to find out why she was here.
Smiling at him, she replied, “Phaedra.”
Captivated, he watched as she reached out and touched the side of his face, looking deep into his eyes; into his very soul. The touch was electric, and he felt something stirring inside him, unbidden, but oddly comfortable. Cobalt blue, her eyes drew him into a world of myth and magic, and the soft scent of her natural perfume ensnared him even further.
‘Phaedra’ he thought. ‘Cursed by Aphrodite in the twisted and tangled mythology of ancient Greece. Sister of Ariadne, both daughters of Minos, all tragic figures of mythology.’ His knowledge of Greek mythology began to piece together possibilities, and coupled with his unusual connection with this enigma’s mind he saw the byproduct of an incredible clash of gods in the ancient world.
This was a completely unexpected outcome to his mission, but he gave himself up to it. This could be the ultimate puzzle to explore and solve, and it just might solve his own personal conundrum. His mind spinning, he asked her, “If you were really cursed by Aphrodite, how did you survive her wrath all these centuries?”
An hour ago, he’d never imagined that he’d be buying into this hallucination, but now it seemed natural, even analytical. Worst case, if this whole thing turned out to be nothing more than a figment of his imagination, he’d have had his adventure, and hopefully he wouldn’t be locked up for ‘his own good.’
“Artemis,” she replied, watching his face carefully, as though that name would solve his mystery.
Again, his mind wandered deep into his knowledge of Greek mythology. Aphrodite was the proclaimed enemy of Artemis, the celestial virgin. It wasn’t because Artemis didn’t believe in love it seems, but she didn’t want it sullied by lustful endeavors. Artemis was also the patron and protector of the dryad, spirits of the trees that provided succor to Gaia, the Mother Earth.
Apparently their psychic connection went both ways, as she turned and swept her arm towards the forest behind her, pointing to a majestic oak tree that the residents referred to as ‘The Goddess.’
‘Why not; what better place to hide a mortal from the wrath of a god but under the protection of another god?’ he thought.
“I’ve found what I’ve been looking for Michael, and you?” she said in that same difficult dialect.
The question had immense implications, and he found his heart pulling him into her hypnotic aura.
He’d have to admit that he’d found what he was looking for as well, a mystery, an enigma, a puzzle; all wrapped up in an exceptionally beautiful woman, who spoke in ancient Greek. How could he pass this up?
Their first kiss sealed the deal, and a pact ensued.
The police guarding the perimeters of the sighting area heard frenzied barking, followed by silence. The transmitter still registered active, but it hadn’t been used to alert them. Finally they cautiously entered the area, still lit by the moonlight, and the dissipating fog.
Empty, and except for the transmitter and the light on the ground by the grand oak tree, no evidence of Michael or the dog remained.
Instead, the grand oak was covered in fireflies, casting a bright light throughout the entire area.
The specter never appeared again, but then neither did Michael Lee, nor Dexter, his canine companion.
On the cusp of each full moon, ‘The Goddess’ would be lit by thousands of fireflies, and the residents would nod their heads solemnly and tell the story of that special night to onlookers.
Their thoughts were that every new generation needed a mystery to produce the next “Indiana Jones.”