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A Science Fiction Fantasy

The Hiker and Hera, A synopsis and an excerpt

Copyright 1993

By Dan Brady

The Synopsis:

This is a tale of a group of companions. The main character is the narrator. He is a young man perhaps in his late teens or even early twenties, but age is not important in this tale.

The group is going on a hike to some particular destination. And the narrator feels as though he is an outsider, and that he is not looked upon by his companions as being as capable an outdoors man as they are. For the most part this is implied because he is usually lagging behind and has his uncomplimentary nickname reinforced.

When he becomes separated from his group he attempts to make up lost time by planning and taking shortcut which would let him arrive at the next day's camp site ahead of them all. However, all does not go as planned, he twists his ankle and after a time, decides to camp near a small lake that he has chanced across.

That night he is awakened by beautiful music, and a musician that is hardly human but all to much of a woman to be believed. He becomes a believer and in the course of a few hours finds a life of miracles as well as a transformation that takes the reader beyond the known to the second step in a journey that we can only imagine.


The Hiker and Hera

An excerpt:

The first couple of days I managed to keep up but by the fourth I’d become the anchorman with my friends leaving trail markers and I’d catch up by the time they’d settled into camp. On the evening of the seventh day, I did better though, I was in time for dinner and the fire was still going strong allowing me to cook quickly. I usually told them I had taken some interesting photos on the way; however, I felt they’d seen through this ruse by now. Some of the comments they made were not humorous. Oh, I understood if something happened to me that they wouldn’t know about it until it was getting dark. Then one of them would have to backtrack to find me in the dark. In addition, the rest would have to wait it out the result of the search or join in with it. Still, cutting remarks I did not need. I didn’t tell them I had strained my ankle and, by placing it near a freezing stream, had made it better; how I expertly wrapped it for support then cut a good walking stick and had come right along. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d have been right with them. I was thinking I’d gotten my second wind. I thought about telling them I had met a woman, but that was something they’d never believe. Luckily, none of them asked about my delay.

I turned in soon after I’d eaten. They all stayed up chatting and laughing but none of it was about me. As I settled in to sleep, I felt very much better, good in fact. After all, I had looked after myself when it counted.

When I opened my eyes, the clear morning sky was beautiful; the sun was up and the chill off. The others were just breaking camp. I breakfasted on granola, some dark chocolate, and finished off the coffee. I was up with them when they started out. I almost said something when Warren made a jibe about how they’d keep the trail well marked, a comment he had taken to making in various guises without fail; instead I just laughed at him so heartily that they joined in. Great!

This day, I was determined. I studied the map as I went along and discovered a short cut, which became my plan of revenge or one-upmanship. The route did involve a steep incline but on the other hand, it cut eight miles off the “big leg” a twenty-four-mile distance they were going to cover before the next campsite. I silenced my inner critic, refusing to berate myself or be plagued by self-doubts; I was going to take on the challenge.

I dropped back. As soon as I they were out of sight, I started off on my own. I felt better. I was sure the extra effort would be worth wiping the smug look off Warrant’s face. I had taken to calling him that as I felt he was arrested in some way. He always kept focused on the next step, point, stage, or what have you. He was always going to the next “there” wherever it was. He never stopped to look around at the all-encompassing beauty of this place.

The ascent had good footing, making it far easier than I thought it would be, or perhaps I had really hit my second wind. When I attained the saddle, I found small, round alpine lake, which was not on the map. It was about fifty yards across and about two or three feet deep. All about it was a rich carpeting of lush grasses, no doubt growing on accumulated sediment. Surrounding the verge was an open area of gently sloping rock-face. I didn’t see a spring and wondered if the source would just be rainfall and or the snowmelt off the slopes of this odd little catchment, which I fancied as being a natural amphitheatre.

This being a suitable site for lunch, I found a nice spot at the shore, slipped my feet into its refreshingly icy waters, and began to eat. I had made excellent time already and I knew it was downhill from here.

I took a breather and meditated a bit. When I looked about afterwards, I noticed the only interruption of the verdant carpeting was a large Prussian-blue stone some yards away. I was sure that I hadn’t noticed it as I hiked in. I say that because I would have considered it for a place to sit. Before I left, I went over out of curiosity. I was surprised to find it was actually an incredibly large, and leathery hard, mushroom. I took a few pictures, intending to do some research when I got back. I had no idea there were varieties of such size, just as I knew one never sampled any particular mushroom without real knowledge of it. The thing was beautiful. I studied it for a while out of curiosity, felt its smooth cool surface, gave it a friendly pat, and wished it well before I went on. It would make a good story to tell the others, later on in the day. I went off in a good mood.

Not twenty minutes later, my entire plan took a bad turn, as did my ankle. I was not sure how happened but that was moot. My first thoughts centered on how annoyed my friends would be when they came to the conclusion that something must have happened to me. I could only imagine Warrant’s face as they discussed which one of them would go look for me along a trail I hadn’t taken. Great! To my further dismay, when I took some time to study the map, it looked as though I had a poor idea of where I really was. What I should be seeing was different from what I was seeing. However, there was a silver-lining, were it not for the injury, I would have gone even farther off track.

When the swelling reduced far faster than I had any right to expect, I was puzzled. I could not believe that I had been disabled for less than twenty minutes so I decided to go back to the lake, hoping to reconnoiter, find out where I’d gone wrong, and figure where I needed to go. I was actually happy as I accepted this setback. I was making my own way.

Once at back at the lake I quickly saw my error. As I thought about the routes I could take, I was, of a sudden, inexplicably fatigued. I just wanted to take a nap but woke hours later instead as the sun was setting. I panicked before I found some hope in the desperate idea that if I got up very early enough I could, by racing along, make their camp before they left. That would be one way to minimize their derision. I also planned on spilling the beans, telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to one and all. However uncomfortable that might be, I was going to take my lumps and leave it at that.

I fixed myself a leisurely and luxurious dinner, with some nice maple tea. I had honey on crackers as a dessert. I lay down half in and half out of my tent, with the flaps open. I wanted a good view of the Milky Way. Although I did nurse some ill will toward my friends, I actually hoped they weren’t worried, and they’d go about their business.

Hearing is quite acute in the mountains; at least it seems so, what with the complete lack of background noise ubiquitous in the cities. For a time, I dreamt of a flute or wooden pan pipes being played. The music was so relaxing and evocative that it was some time before I realized I was awake, though my eyes were closed, and someone had to be near my camp and playing music in the middle of the night! Looking about as I lay there, I couldn’t see anyone nor could I determine the source of the sound, as it seemed to dance about, echoing off the periphery of rock surrounding the verge. I was relieved, thinking the person had given me a warning, when they could have sacked me as I slept.

The moment I began to move out of my bag, the music stopped. A soft, cool wind came up. I stood up to take in the area and looked to where I heard a woman’s voice singing. She was over by where the big mushroom had been. The pale starlight was cool; it was the night of the new moon. Her back was to me and she was without clothes; imagine!

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