The dead end trail led to Edgar’s Pond, a body of water where someone, known only as Edgar, long ago built a cabin to search for something only he could see. The cabin returned to the forest, but a squared stone altar, as the stories describe it, remained, serving as a bench for those odd hikers who chose to detour this way.
Robert wouldn’t be in this oak forest at all but his friends told him a student reported a sighting of Bigfoot. They wanted him to join their mock search party. “It’ll be fun and get your mind off Anne.” Anne, his ex-girlfriend, was God-knows-where and Robert was struggling to turn back into someone who didn’t care.
In the late afternoon, unable to get Anne off his mind, Robert’s friends suggested he explore the pond alone. When he reached the pond, after arguing his case aggressively with the vegetation along the way, he realized he had enough: “She can go!” Then he noticed something hairy wading in the water. “No! Bigfoot?” He moved closer, hiding behind the stone altar. That something turned into a beautiful woman with long hair. A bow and quiver of arrows lay nearby with a white robe.
The woman looked up to meet his gaze. Robert turned his back to her to give her privacy and called out, “I’m sorry for sneaking up on you. I thought you were Bigfoot.” She walked out of the pond and put on the robe.
“Do I look like Bigfoot? You do know what the Goddess Diana does to a man who watches her bathe, don’t you?”
“She turns him into a stag and his dogs kill him.”
“It’s a good thing I don’t have any dogs. I’m sorry. I’m Robert S–. I teach at the university in town. I don’t know why but from the trail you looked to me like Bigfoot. May I ask who you are?”
Robert tried to stifle his laughter which did not amuse Diana. “If you’re Goddess Diana, where are your nymphs? There’s no one here but us.”
“They’re here, but you can’t see them.”
“Then how do I know they’re here?”
“You want to see them naked? It’s too bad you can’t hear them giggling now either. They tell me you let Anne go.”
“How do you know about Anne?”
“We all heard you on the trail. My nymphs love to tease our troubled guests and then argue with them.
“They were in my mind?”
“They were messing with you. That’s for sure, but I heard it, too: You let her go.” It surprised Robert to realize that at this moment he no longer had any interest in Anne. He really did let her go. Whatever personality dysfunctions Diana had, it didn’t matter to him what nymphs, fairies or imaginary friends she could attract into her service.
When Diana said, “The water is lovely,” he sat with her on the altar to observe it. Robert wasn’t attracted to oak forests nor to murky ponds with insects buzzing around, but from this particular point of view the pond was enchanting. Perhaps Edgar built this as a bench so he could look at his chosen paradise? He imagined he saw Edgar’s cabin, garden and orchard. He saw two people, a man and a woman, happy in their isolation. He then became convinced, without understanding why, that he and Diana were not sitting on an altar. Nor was this a bench. It was Edgar’s grave. But who positioned and worked this stone and what happened to the woman?
The Sun sparkled on Edgar’s Pond as they sat in silence. The insects busied themselves and the trees overwhelmed them with calmness until Robert received a text from his friends asking him to return. It was late.
“Could I walk you back to your car?” Robert offered Diana.
“Your friends are worried about you.”
“I don’t want to leave you alone. It will be dark soon.”
Standing, Diana gripped Robert’s arms. She turned him so he faced away from the pond and her. “I’m glad you stopped by, Robert. You humored me about my nymphs. Others have not been so kind. They were a delight to torment. Go back to your friends.”
When Diana released his arms, Robert turned around. All he could see was the surface of Edgar’s Pond sparkling in the late afternoon Sun as a rush of crows moved through the trees.
Linked to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.
Photo provided by Sue Vincent for this prompt.