Traveler: Storyteller Tales: Pumpkin, Gone Missing

            Glen left his Anthropology seminar at two-fifty.  He ran to his dorm and tossed his books in the room by two-fifty-five and ran the rest of the way to Haddon House.  Though he was breathing hard when he arrived, the excitement and adrenaline that was rising up inside of him made it more than worthwhile.  After five minutes, he calmed and thought that maybe she was not as excited to be with him as he imagined.  At ten minutes he thought she may have run into some Friday traffic, so he sat on the steps where he could watch the parking lot and the woods.  It was not much longer before his curiosity and trust began to turn.  He began to doubt.  He wondered if she was coming at all.  He began to think that perhaps she did not have feelings for him  – that perhaps he was just projecting his feelings on her.  It was not much longer before he was wondering if he should go look for her. 

            Sandra arrived moments later.  She squealed her tires and stopped without pulling fully into a space.  She ran out of her car without even turning it off. 

            “Glen.”  She cried out and she did not hesitate to run straight into his arms.  “She is gone.  They are both gone, Melissa and my mother.”

            “What?”  Glen got that much out.

            “I dropped Mother in the main lot and she put Melissa in the stroller while I found a safe place to park.  She was going to walk Melissa across the campus to the fork on the path in the woods.  I followed behind, but not too close so people would not see, you know.”  She paused, but Glen reassured her with a nod.  “I was going to get you and when we caught up with them, Mother was going to have errands to run, you know.”  Glen hugged her and patted her back, but Sandra pulled away and looked into his face as if to gauge his reactions.  There were tears in her eyes, and Glen saw that along with the upset, she was also very afraid.

            “It’s alright.  They must be somewhere.”  Glen tried to sound confident.

            “No.  You don’t understand.  They disappeared.  I saw it.  I was behind, and I saw it.  They were there, a hundred yards ahead of me on the path and I was just about to come and get you when they just vanished.  Glen, I don’t know what to do.  I looked everywhere.  I even went back to the car in case they went back there, but I am sure they did not.”

            “So they turned a corner or stepped behind a tree?”

            Sandra grabbed Glen by the arms and squeezed, hard.  “No.  They vanished, disappeared, went invisible.  Oh, I know it sounds impossible but you must believe me.”  She was pleading.  “One minute they were in front of me and the next they were gone.”  She began to cry.

            “Sandra.”  Glen pulled her close and let her cry into his shirt.  “We will find them.  They must be somewhere.  Show me where this happened.”  Glen was not sure what he believed, Sandra was so sincere. 

            Sandra backed up and without a word, she grabbed Glen’s hand and ran.  Glen did his best to keep up.  They were both worn out when they arrived, and Glen mumbled something about running more that day than the past six months put together, but Sandra had her adrenaline running faster than her feet at that point and she started right in.

            “They were here, I swear.  I was back at the beginning of the trail there.”  She pointed.  “And they were right here and they vanished.  They just went invisible.  I swear to God.  I swear it.”  Glen examined the ground and saw the faint impression of what might be tire tracks from a stroller.  He got down to look more closely, and ran his finger over the dirt.  He realized that these tracks were dry dirt and imagined that something was pushed through when the dirt was moist or wet and made the tracks, which since dried.  Thus he was just admitting that the tracks could not have been from Melissa’s stroller when he found a little pile of seeds.

            “What are these?”  He asked, holding them up so Sandra could see.

             “Pumpkin seeds!”  Sandra yelled and threw her arms around Glen’s neck and kissed him, but it was ever so brief.  “Where did you find them?”

            Glen pointed.  “And look.  There are a few more.”  They were easy enough to see since the seeds were still on the trail. 

            Sandra ran ahead to pick them up.  “Mother!  Melissa, Mother!”  She called out, but there was no response, so she came back to Glen who was slowly moving down the path, looking for more seeds or some other something that might indicate the way they went.  Sandra was still talking. 

            “Melissa is teething and she has a whole bag of pumpkin seeds.  She likes to chew on them.  Mother, Melissa!” 

            Glen grabbed her hand when he found another seed.  “Don’t run off,” he said.  “You need to help me look.”  He paused and looked up at Sandra while he picked up the seed with his free hand.  “They can’t have gone far, but we need to stick to the right trail.”  Sandra just nodded, trusted absolutely, and Glen swallowed.  He did not want to disappoint her.

            “Melissa has a whole bag of seeds.”  She repeated herself, and they walked slowly forward until Glen caught something out of the corner of his eye.  There was a breakaway trail to the left.  It was not easy to see.  It was badly overgrown and rough looking so only a trained hunter might spot it, but it was a trail all the same.  Glen paused.

            “What?”  Sandra asked.

            Glen paused because he was not a trained hunter, or anything close.  He wondered how he could be so certain about the side trail.  It felt like someone was inside his mind, looking through his eyes and helping, somehow, but then he spied a lone pumpkin seed and felt better until he imagined that the someone inside had directed his eyes to the seed.  Glen shook himself to break free of that feeling.  “Here,” he said, and picked up the seed.  As he handed it to Sandra, he lifted an overhanging tree branch and they stepped underneath and into another place altogether.

            “I don’t feel well,” Sandra said immediately.  “I feel faint.”  And she did, and Glen barely caught her before she hit the dirt.  He was feeling a bit woozy himself, but as he went to one knee to hold up the woman in his arms, and as he looked at her tranquil face, his dizzy feelings soon passed.  He felt like he had been in this place before, but that did not make sense because he could not say when or exactly where in this place he might have been.  In any case, if once upon a time he was in that place, it certainly was not with such a lovely companion. 

            “I have to,” he said to himself.  “I can feel guilty about it later.”  He dipped his head and touched his lips to hers, thinking that one kiss would never be enough.  To his surprise, she kissed him back, and with some fervor, though she never opened her eyes.  When they separated, she was smiling and her eyes popped open to look at him; and she began to scream.

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