Mark has time to kill
|Mark traveled a lot for work, loving the long hours waiting in airports and bus stations before going on a plane to yet another meeting as a senior shoe consultant, teaching shop owners the ins and outs of the perfect shoe, and the way to set up business and retail. He was good at his work; having a Ph.D. in Arts and Business Administration, he was well aware of his own qualities. The pay was good too, so life was excellent, days were well spent, and his mood was always perky.
One morning, having to bridge a twenty-four-hour wait in Asheville, North Carolina, he decided to wander about in the rocky landscape and take some time off to go fishing at the local stream known as 'the Tselica of the Indians', “containing in its upper reaches many pools where the rapid water whirls and deepens, and where the traveler likes to pause in the heats of afternoon and drink and bathe,” as the leaflet from the information desk at the airport told him.
He bought some fishing gear at a local store and went on his way.
As soon as he reached the water banks, he noticed a small curve where mud and rock had formed a little island and grasses, and poppies grew against a grayish brownstone formation. A small swamp in the middle of nowhere. Perfect for his plans for the day. Sheltered, tucked away, and sunlit.
He aimed for the Lepisosteus Osseus, aka Longnose Gar, a fish he knew nothing about but was spotted in the region. He liked the name; its 2–3 ft. in length and its weight of 1.8–2.7 kilograms. A perfect victim for the Shoe Prince as he called himself. Shoes and Fish, the perfect combination. He smiled his smirk smile as he set up camp for the day.
The fun of fishing is catching 'em, not killing 'em.
The first half-hour, nothing happened. Mark gazed over the waterline, letting his mind wander off to his sales credits for the month. With a little bit of luck, he would become Salesperson of the year at his company, with another raise attached to the honorable mention.
Suddenly his fishing rod trembled, and he felt some movement. He waited a few seconds before pulling his fishing rod up into the air.
In front of him lay a beautiful 2 ½ foot gar, moving to and fro, flapping on the gray stone, its fins desperately opening and closing, its beak wide in despair, the fishing hook in his upper lip.
Wow, Mark gasped a little, and now what?
He fought with the fish, making his manicured hands all dirty and slimy; got the hook out, and after taking in the details before writing in a little notebook, he kneeled and threw the fish back into the water. One jump and the gar swam away, leaving little ripples in the muddy stream.
As he was standing up looking into the water, a weak tone caught his ear, from almost inaudible, its sound swelled out to a pattern, a piece of soft and exquisite music blending with the splash of the wave.
Looking down in surprise, he saw—at first faintly, then with distinctness—the form of a woman, with hair streaming like moss and dark eyes looking into his.
Her reflection was pure and beautiful; her gaze interlocking with his.
Time stood still.
The image was so overwhelming Mark almost fainted.
Her dark eyes were calling him, begging him to approach, and luring him with a power he could not resist.
Heaven was more than a word now; it was an image, it was this face, and it was all he ever wanted.
His breath grew short, his gaze fixed, and mechanically he rose, stepped to the brink, and lurched forward into the river.
The arms that caught him were slimy and cold as serpents; the face that stared into his was a grinning skull.
A loud, chattering laugh rang through the wilderness, and all was silent again.
The Lorelei of the Indians had made yet another victim.