You are on page 1of 10

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Blueberries

All rights reserved Copyright © 2006 by J. L. Foster Cover Art – by J. L. Foster.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form without written permission by the author. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Jacen walked quietly along the deserted old bridge, as thoughts of spring danced through his mind. Winter, his favorite among the four seasons, was nearly over, and already fresh daffodils were

springing from the ground. Even though he preferred the dark and the cold versus the burning sun, he could not help but be amazed by the beauty that was coming forth.

A soft breeze fell over his face. Smiling, he looked to the clouds above. Gentle raindrops sprinkled

down from the heavens. He stood there for a moment, embracing himself in the awe of nature. Below the small bridge, he heard a soft whisper that turned to a sad cry. Jacen leaned over the wooden railing, trying hard to see who or what was underneath. A young child sat there, holding a small, empty basket in his hands. “What’s wrong,” Jacen called down, but the child did not hear him. Slowly, Jacen wrapped his legs over the railing and lowered himself to the cool ground beneath. He stood in front of the child – a young boy with bright red hair and freckles, green eyes, and maybe seven years in age. Tears streamed down his face. Jacen smiled gently and crouched down to face him. “Hey kid,” he said again, “what’s wrong?” The little boy choked on his tears and looked up with sad eyes. “My Momma sent me out to pick some blueberries. I fell down and lost them all. I can’t go home without any blueberries.” Jacen looked around at the ground, finding no sign of the spilled blueberries. “Where did you lose them,” he asked. “Over there, by that tree.” Jacen’s eyes followed the boy’s gaze. A tall oak tree stood hauntingly nearby, its branches hanging cryptically low. He stood, walked helpfully to it and looked around. On the ground, there was nothing

but fresh grass. Curiosity played its part, and he walked to the back of the tree, stopping quickly in his tracks. Another step and he would have fallen over the steep ledge that spread out nothing but emptiness before him. He had never been to this side of the woods before and had been unaware of this danger.

“I don’t think we can get those blueberries back,” he called out loudly, turning back around.

The little boy was gone. Jacen stared coolly around the grounds, letting his eyes scope over the bridge and down the road. There was no sign of him. He had vanished, disappeared from beneath his covered ground. Maybe he ran home, he thought, moving back towards the bridge-walk. Then, on the ground, he saw the boy’s empty basket, damp and empty. “Hey,” he called out, “you forgot you basket!” But there was no answer. The child had gone. Jacen carried the basket lightly in his hand and walked back up the small bridge. The sprinkling had stopped and the fresh after-smell of rain filled the air. He inhaled it deeply, taking in all that nature would allow. Overhead, a rainbow formed in the sky. “Renboga,” he whispered. “A rainbow.” A smile curved over the flesh of his lips and he slowly continued his walk.

***

Staring aimlessly out his kitchen window, he watched a breeze blow against the cover on his pool. Soon, it would be warm enough to swim again – a sport he fully enjoyed. In his hands, he toyed unknowingly with the wicker of the small basket, smelling the faint scent of blueberries. His eyes moved down, gazing closely into its emptiness. “Where’d you get the basket,” Luke said as he entered, breaking Jacen’s concentration.

“There was a boy in the woods. I was helping him look for some blueberries he lost. When I turned around, he was gone and had forgotten his basket.” Jacen didn’t remove his eyes from the wicker. “Did you ever think that maybe he’d come back for it later?” Luke smiled. “I guess it slipped my mind that I had even picked it up. I’ll bring it back in the morning.” “Did you ever find any blueberries?” “No; apparently, he lost them over the ledge by a tree.” “You won’t find any blueberries.” “What do you mean?” Jacen’s eyes left the basket and met with Luke’s own curious expression. “They’re out of season. They only grow around here in late spring. It’s still too cold for them.” “Here,” he tossed him the basket. “Smell it. It smells like blueberries. Fresh blueberries.” Luke sniffed lightly. The scent tickled his nose. He sat the basket down and took a chair beside Jacen. “Okay,” he said, speaking from educated common sense. “It smells like blueberries. Maybe he bought them at a store and then lost them or something.” A conceded smile flashed, but it was friendly. “Yeah, you’re probably right. I’ll bring the basket back tomorrow where he left it.” Jacen smiled too, stood from the table and walked to his bedroom.

***

Morning came with the tranquil rays of the sun blazing through the open window. The light hit Jacen’s face gently, stirring his tired, resting eyes. He opened them, his vision blurry. He was now positive spring was arriving as two robins sat perched on his window sill, sweetly whispering their soft melody. The music was relaxing, and Jacen rose with a smile. He stretched, allowing the joints in his twenty-two year old body to pop lightly. A small yawn escaped his face, and he rubbed his Oriental-Spanish eyes. When his vision cleared, he ambled slowly to the window and let the sun’s rays reflect from his bronze chest. The birds stirred quickly away, fearful of human contact. Jacen laughed at them childishly. He had always taken advantage of the simple things in life, enjoying music and nature, literature and the wildlife. They were part of what made him who he was – a young man with a very powerful and positive outlook on life. Seeing the robins this morning had only strengthened him, and some strange churning in the pit of his gut told him that he would, indeed, need his strength today. Running a hand through his fine brown hair, he looked up at the sky. White clouds were moving in and he knew that meant that it might sprinkle again – or possibly he could expect a full-fledged rain shower. He hoped so; he enjoyed the rain. A cool breeze blew in again through the open window, sending goose bumps over his skin. He rubbed his arms and moved toward the dresser. Staring into the mirror, he was genuinely proud of what he saw. The many different ethnic heritages in his blood had sculpted a marvel of humanity. He had short, brown hair, edged closely around the sides. His eyes were tight and slanted, brown as the trunk of the mighty oak tree he had seen just yesterday. His figure was near Adonis, chiseled from hard labor and excessive exercise. He stood a tall six feet and two inches, his weight coming just under two hundred pounds. Jacen smiled at this, brushing his fingers through his hair again. He wasn’t narcissistic by any means. He knew that he was a handsome man, but he also knew that there was always room for improvement in everybody. He was no exception, as he lacked in many qualities that would have liked. But nobody was perfect, nor would he have liked to have been. He was more than content with what he had. Then, with a strange and sudden twitch, his eyes shifted from the mirror and fell to the end of the dresser where the small wicker basket sat. That was odd to him, as he remembered leaving it on the kitchen table. The scent of fresh blueberries was just as strong as it had been yesterday, and it crept soothingly through his nostrils. He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

And then he froze. He could not move, nor could he sense his own reality. All around him was the blazing sun and childish laughter, a warm feeling and a tall, old tree. Everything was blurry, though he knew it as a familiar place. He had been there before. The laughter continued, but it suddenly turned to a high- pitched giggling. His heart began to race, and he searched desperately for the laughter’s source; he knew it was near. The air became thick and terribly strong with the scent of fresh, beautiful blueberries. He could smell them so plainly. He could even taste them. A knock at the bedroom door. Jacen could not hear it. He was trapped – trapped in a summery world of beauty and laughter and succulent blueberries. The knock became a quick rap. He still could not hear, as the giggling of youth had enraptured his thoughts completely. He could almost see the child now, but his vision was still not clear, and though it was more than a blur, Jacen smiled tenderly. The rapping on the door became stronger and this time, a voice followed. “Jacen, are you awake in there?” Luke called loudly, twisted the handle and opened the door. Jacen stirred. The basket fell quickly from his hand, crashing to the bedroom floor. It bounced lightly. “Are you okay in here? I’ve been knocking.” “Yeah, I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.” He stared at Luke with am expression of dazed confusion. “Did you not sleep well? You look tired.” “I’m fine, yeah. I guess I was just a little lost in thought.” He turned his eyes back to the mirror, feeling emptiness grow inside his head. Luke walked to him and placed a warm hand on his freezing shoulder. Both trembled at the touch. “Are you sure you’re okay? You’re freezing. What were you thinking about?” Jacen’s eyes met his. They were vague and glossy, almost translucent. “I don’t really remember. It was a lot like I was asleep and dreaming.” He bent down and lifted the basket from the floor. “I’ve got to bring the boy his basket back.” With that, he turned from the room. Luke watched him with curious eyes, wondering what exactly was happening in his mind. Jacen had never acted so peculiar before. In fact, he was the most down to earth person Luke knew. Smiling, he shook the bad feelings away and shut the door behind him as he left for the kitchen.

***

Jacen waited for hours at that little spot under the bridge, but the child did not show. He wondered if the boy would ever return, or if he even missed his basket. He wondered if the child’s mother had been forgiving. If not, then he wondered what kind of punishment he had endured when arriving home. The thought was not pleasant. He imagined the child would have been scolded and spanked, and Jacen was against any type of abuse towards children. Kids would always be kids. That was one ideal that he had never faltered on. All children were alike in the aspect that they made mistakes as they grew and that was the only true way for them to learn. It was the only true way for anybody to learn. He reminded himself again that nobody was flawless, and that the world would be a dismal, boring place otherwise. Rain clouds formed above. It looked as if today would be more than the sprinkles he had loved before. Slowly, he stood from the grassy ground, smoothed off the back of his jeans. Reaching down for the basket, he paused. His eyes were suddenly attracted elsewhere. Not three feet away and partially hidden underneath the shrubbery, a dirty, brown baseball cap sat wadded and torn. He went to it, pulled it hard from the twigs and vines that had befriended it. It was a child’s hat, small and old. Very old. He looked it over, shifting it back and forth in his hands. There were no markings he could see – no

sports teams or company logos. He felt through the interior lining, noticing a small, dirty tag with two letters scribbled on it. “A. A.” they read. “Alcoholics Anonymous,” he chuckled, but then realized that they were probably a child’s initials. But the hat couldn’t have belonged to the same little boy as the basket. It was much too old. Looking at it, he would have estimated it was over thirty years, at least. The rain began to pour fast and hard. Jacen looked up to the slightly gray sky. There would be no rainbow this early. There would be no “renboga,” as he liked to call them. He put the hat carefully in the basket, jogged through the wet grass and dirt, and found his path back to the top of the bridge. The child would have to wait another day for his basket.

***

“Hey, Mister,” the little boy asked, “Did you find my blueberries?” “No, little boy,” Jacen answered, smiling in the sunlight. “Where have you lost them?” “I lost them over there, by that tree…” a faint pause, slow moving clouds above. “By that tree.” “Tree…” “Tree…” continuous echo, words unspoken. “But, little boy,” Jacen answered, drifting to the tree, “there’s nothing here.” “Here…” “Here…” continuous echo, words softly chanted. “I can’t go home without my blueberries, Mister,” the boy cried softly. “My Momma needs them… I can’t go home without my blueberries…” “But, little boy….” “I can’t go home without them….” “There are none here….” “I can’t go home without my blueberries….” “But, little boy….” “My Momma needs them, Mister. I can’t go home without my blueberries….” Fierce winds and soft pitter-pattering rain… laughter and play… screaming and falling… sky shadowing grayness over the bridge… fierce winds… fierce winds… fierce winds….

***

Jacen woke with a scream. Sweat covered every inch of his skin. His sheets, his clothes, everything was soaked. Quickly, he flicked on the bedside lamp, rubbed the sleep from his dream-shocked eyes. A glance at the alarm clock told him that it was three-thirty in the morning. Turning to the window, he lost all breath. A gurgled yelp tried to escape, but the shock of the sight held it back. One hand on the glass pane, the other holding a foggy, empty basket, the pale blue and white figure of the little boy stared back hungrily. Dark blue and black sank beneath his eyes, and his skin was bitter and chipped. A small, brown baseball cap sat on his head. “Help me find my blueberries, Mister…” the little boy whispered. “My Momma needs them…” The bedroom door swung open quickly. Luke rushed in, jerking Jacen’s attention towards him. “Are you okay?” He rushed the question through fear and sleepiness. Jacen twisted his head back to the window. The ghostly image of the little boy was gone. He stared, panting and afraid, in a deep, cold sweat. The touch of Luke’s hand on his shoulder burned, and he jerked away, landing on his feet beside the bed. “What the hell happened,” Luke asked, almost at a total loss for words. “The little boy,” Jacen whispered, hardly able to speak. “The little boy was at the window.”

“I’ll catch him,” starting for the door. “I’ll catch him and take him to the cops myself.” “He’s dead.” Luke stopped abruptly in his tracks. “What?” “The little boy… he’s dead.” “But you just said…” “It was him, but he was dead.” There was no emotion in his voice. He watched the floor, his eyes feeling dry and weak. A small tremble still ran through his body, although it went unnoticed. His soaked skin went unnoticed, too, as did his bed, his room, and even his world. Everything was now completely hidden from his conscious reasoning, all unnoticed except for the vision of the dead little boy in search of his blueberries.

***

In the morning, the sun rose as it always had, drying the grass and wilderness that were subjected to the previous day’s showers. The birds still sang as they fluttered from tree to tree. The squirrels still chased after one another, comically playing cat and mice games. Luke still sat at the table, slurping on the milk from his cereal and reading the morning paper; the occurrences of the night before had been put behind him. He simply figured that Jacen had suffered from a night terror. Everything appeared just as it should have been. The only thing that was out of place was Jacen. He sat alone, in the far corner of his bedroom, keeping his eyes firmly planted on the baseball cap, basket, and window. He hadn’t moved for hours, but it only seemed like minutes. Luke had practiced with his best persuasion to convince him the little boy’s ghost had only been a dream. Luke had failed miserably. Jacen was an intelligent man. He knew what was real and what was not. He knew the difference between fact and fiction. Dreams were often fiction; visions in windows were not. Sometimes, in this vague reality often referred to as life, there are occurrences and happenings that cannot be explained by textbook sciences and hypothetical theories. Sometimes, common sense and belief beyond belief are needed to justify the otherwise impossible. Jacen knew this. He knew that a scientist or a professor would call what he saw impossible. He knew that a psychologist or psychiatrist would agree with Luke’s theory of night terrors or illusions. He knew that they were wrong. It is true that night terrors continue outside of the REM cycle and enter a form of reality. He had been dreaming of the little boy; he remembered that very clearly. But he also remembered waking up from the dream. When suffering from a night terror, one does not realize that they have woken. They are still trapped in the dream. Jacen was trapped in his reality. His eyes fixed coolly on the baseball cap. He remembered the initials A. A. hidden in the underneath tag by the seam. His mind began to ponder again what it had been thinking throughout the earlier morning hours. Somewhere, and sometime, there had been a small boy with the initials A. A. picking blueberries. Somewhere and somehow, that little boy died. Who was he? As if the gods, or another unearthly form, had heard his question, the computer turned itself on. Jacen watched with wild eyes as the system loaded and he listened closely as it connected to the Internet. Slowly, for the first time in hours, he moved from his corner seat. His legs were wobbly, but he controlled them. Moving across the room, he sat at the computer and typed in “Missing Persons” into his search engine. Surfing knowingly into the state by state category, he chose Louisiana. Then slowly, he typed in the initials A. A. The search for people in that category was a lengthy one. Missing Persons came back with thousands of listings dating back to the early 1900s. Jacen minimized his search. A listing of children under the age of thirteen came back, spanning the entire state from Monroe to New Orleans to Bossier

City, which was right outside his valley. For Bossier City and the surrounding areas, only one listing with the initials A. A. was found, and it was of a nine year old boy named Andy Anderson. He had been missing since 1968. Jacen clicked on the name, ignoring the gnawing feeling in the pit of his gut. This time, the browser took longer to load, but when it did, a picture stared out from the screen. It was of a small boy with a grand smile and a brown baseball cap placed firmly on his head. It was the little boy who had lost his blueberries. The face gleamed hauntingly into Jacen’s eyes. He tried to blink, but could not. He tried to turn away, but could not. He tried to cry and scream and breathe, but he could not do any of these things. He could only stare into the happy expression and glistening eyes of a little boy who had been lying somewhere dead for over thirty years. “Luke,” he called, somehow gaining control of his speech. “Luke, come here!” But there was no answer. Jacen’s eyes shifted to the clock and saw that it was now afternoon. Luke had been at work for hours. Staring anxiously back to the computer screen, he scanned over the information about the child, finding his mother’s name. An address was listed below, and he wondered if she still lived there. He imagined not, but there was only one way to find out.

***

The house was long and narrow – old and resembling a shotgun shack from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The shutters on the windows hung loose and broken, and the paint had long chipped off. Vines and moss grew along the sides and front of the house, covering most of the region. The only path that was clear was that of the doorway, and even it was falling to ruins. Jacen looked at it with terrified wonder as he stepped carefully up the front walk. The concrete blocks below his feet crackled with each step. He ignored it as best he could, though it threw him off

balance at first. Off to the side off the yard, he spotted a very old tire swing on a tree. Underneath it was a rusted, broken bicycle, aged badly over the years. Stepping slowly up the front steps, he knocked softly on the door. It creaked with every touch. Within moments, the doorknob turned and the door slowly opened.

A short, thinned and wrinkled gray haired woman stood on the other side. Her clothes were more of

rags, ripped and torn many times, and then stitched back together. Her fingernails were long and twisted, almost the same shade of yellow as her teeth. A faraway look beamed from her tiny eyes. Jacen swallowed hard. “Miss Anderson,” he asked as calmly as possible. “Andy,” she questioned with a trembling, lost voice. “No, ma’am, I’m not Andy. Was he your son?” “Andy, what are you doing home so late?” Her voice raised a bit. “I only sent you out for blueberries….” “Miss Anderson…”

“I only sent you out for blueberries. Now, it’s too late to bake the pie….”

“Miss Anderson, if you’ll only give me a second to….” Jacen could not finish a sentence. “Andy, where are my blueberries? I only sent you out for blueberries…” “Please, Miss Anderson, if you’ll only listen.” “There’s no use in trying to talk to her, young man. She’s been rambling like that for thirty-four years.” The startling voice came from behind. Jacen jerked back to see an old man coming up the walk. His hands were tucked into his jacket, and a white beard covered much of his ebony face. “I should know,” he said. “My wife and I have worked for her since nineteen sixty-two.” He extended a hand to Jacen. “Silas Walker is the name.” Jacen took the hand firmly and greeted the old man. “I was hoping to talk to her about her son.”

“Andy? It’s hard to forget about Andy in these parts. It was such a tragedy.” “Do you know what happened to him?” “There’s really very little anyone knows about him. Miss Anderson sent him off one morning to pick some blueberries for a special pie she was going to make. She was a wonderful cook and it was the day of a charity bake sale. The bake sale was canceled do to a horrible storm, and Andy never came home. The police searched for him. The neighborhood went out, too, but nobody could find anything.” “I think I found something,” Jacen said, reaching into his jacket pocket. He pulled out the baseball cap. Silas’s eyes grew with disbelief. “Where’d you find that?” His question was more of a demand. “Out by the old bridge, only yesterday.” “Show me,” the old man grunted his request, tears filling his eyes.

***

Silas Walker’s old Ford truck pulled up to the bridge just as the sky turned night. Above, storm clouds formed in the evening sky, and rain was already beginning to pour. The wind blew strong, ripping through the trees with the power of a hurricane. Regardless, the men climbed from the truck and faced the weather. “Spring showers are one thing, but this is insane,” Silas yelled over the roaring winds. “Show me where you found the hat!” Jacen fought against the harsh of the storm and led the old man under the bridge where the hat had been hidden. Pulling the shrubbery aside, he pointed steadily to the earth. “It was right here!” Slowly, Jacen reached for the ground, and as he touched it he felt his eyelids slip shut. Suddenly, all was quiet. He no longer heard the winds and rain; he no longer felt the presence of the old man beside him. Instead, it was a bright spring morning and all was fine. He could hear the laughter and play of a young boy. He could see him running with his basket, skipping over the rocks and stones of the beautiful forest. Then, as suddenly as the vision had appeared, everything grew dark. The winds and rain were back, fiercer than ever. The little boy tried to dodge the pull of the storm and he ran towards the safety of the bridge, only to have the harsh hand of the wind force him back. It slammed him hard against the large oak tree, knocking the basket of freshly picked blueberries out of his hand. He struggled to move forward, but he couldn’t. The wind had him in its grip. “Snap out of it, boy!” Jacen heard the yell and suddenly felt the hands of the old man shaking him back to consciousness. He opened his eyes and stared wildly at Silas. Then he smiled. “What’s gotten in to you?” “Over there!” Jacen pointed towards the tree. “Andy is over there!” “There’s nothing over there but an old cliff!” “You said it was storming bad that day!” His voice echoed barely above the wind. “Was the wind as strong as it is today?” “It was twice this that day!” Silas snapped curiously. “Then it could easily have taken a nine year old boy!” Pushing his way past Silas Walker, he fought hard against the ongoing force of the storm, moving towards the oak. Silas followed curiously behind. The rain beat hard against his old body, but he refused to let that play a factor. When they reached the tree, Silas held onto a branch for support. Jacen, in turn, fell to his hands and knees and began climbing down the grassy cliff. “Are you out of your mind, boy? This storm will kill you for sure!” “He’s down here somewhere! I’ve got to find him!” Taking slow steps down and gripping onto the dirt and grass with all his might, Jacen began moving

down the wall of the massive cliff. The wind forced down on him, but he fought against it. He fought against the rage of the storm and the slippery mud that the rain had caused on the wall of the cliff. He fought hard until his hands slipped away and he began to fall. Silas heard his scream and reached down to him, unable to grab hold of his hand in time. Thrusting his body forward, Jacen crashed into the dirt wall, but amazingly, he fell into it. Painfully, he landed on his stomach, but he was quick to his feet. He could stand. The visions began again. The little boy, scared and falling, landed hard on another of the cliff’s ledges, rolling into the cave. The power of the storm had caused the top ledge to break apart, sending pounds of dirt crashing down, trapping Andy Anderson inside. Jacen opened his eyes and took his lighter from his pocket. The rain and wind outside ceased, and the bones of a small child glowed in the light of the flame.

***

Jacen never had the visions or nightmares of Andy again. His last sight of the young boy came when Silas rescued him from the cave, The old man had attached a long rope to his truck and lowered it down, allowing Jacen to climb back up to safety. As they began to drive off, the morning sun rose and he caught his last glimpse of a young boy running through the woods with a basket of freshly picked blueberries. Silas saw him too, and he promised to be with him again soon. Andy’s mother, Melissa Anderson, had died early that morning in her sleep. Silas’s wife discovered her body as she arrived to prepare breakfast. It was the first time in thirty-four years that Melissa Anderson had been seen with a smile across her lips. She had finally been reunited with her son. The old bridge was torn down three weeks later, as was the mighty oak tree that had witnessed both the death of one life and the rescue of another. The rains continued to fall hard that spring, and in the trees place, a blueberry bushed quickly began to grow and bloom. Silas chose that as the place for his ashes to be scattered before his death in late November, the following year.

The End