Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Dark and Misty"


Moira jumped as the unexpected explosion occurred just a yard from her feet.

"Joshua, you're a complete nimrod!" She looked for her brother, but the darkness of the wood made it difficult to see him.

Her brother cackled, his voice indicated he was moving away from her. The little git should know better than to toss firecrackers in the park. The rangers would throw them out if they got caught, and they didn't want that. Moira couldn't stomach another relocation in the dark.

She moved farther down the path, away from the continuing hooting of her brother. What were they doing here? Why couldn't she just have a normal life? The question was a frequent one. As long as she could remember her family had moved from place to place, never staying in any one spot for long. As a child, it had been exciting, all the moving around. As a thirteen year old with a budding interest in boys it was less than satisfactory. She had tried talking to her Dad about it, but he just didn't understand. It was like the whole period thing; he recognized it was happening but didn't want to discuss it. Joshua was even worse. Her ten year old brother was like an evil Tasmanian devil, blowing through in a whirlwind and leaving things completely messed up in his wake. Moira was nothing like either of them. They loved the outdoors; she liked the comfort of four solid walls. They craved adventure; she wanted structure. They were really nothing alike. They didn't even look alike. Moira's dark complexion, black hair and brown eyes contrasted sharply with the blond-haired blue-eyed look her father and brother shared. Sometimes she couldn't even believe they were related.

Her dad said she was a lot like her mom, both in looks and temperament. Moira sighed. She wished she had known her. Her mom had died when she was five. She had some memories of her, but they were faded and blurry. She didn't even have a picture. Those had all been destroyed in the fire that claimed her mom's life and destined her family to live in the wild. Moira cursed God for that, taking away her mom and her structured life in one blow.

Moira wiped the wetness from her eyes. Though she couldn't remember her she missed her mom a lot these days. How much easier would it have been if her mom had been around to talk to. She would have had someone with the same interests, someone who she could relate to. Someone who would understand.

She stepped from the woods, just now realizing that the path she was following ended at the beach. Moonlight flowed over the waters of Lake Superior. Rolling bundles of mist kissed the lake's surface, giving it a surreal effect - as if the lake were alive. She walked to the edge of the water, staring into the shifting morass of mist. A styrofoam cup floated out into view, seeming to appear as if from nowhere. It bobbed up and down on the minute waves of the lake, then vanished once more into the fog, as if it never was.

How very much like me, she thought. In and out of obscurity. No permanence. No anchor.

"What are you doing there?"

Moira spun. A flashlight hit her in the face. She threw up an arm in front of her eyes.

"Oops, sorry about that."

The light lowered. It took a second for her eyes to adjust. When they did she saw a woman about twenty feet from her standing next to a wooden notice board. She wore an official looking uniform complete with brimmed hat and the aforementioned flashlight. A park ranger. Moira relaxed. Her father and brother didn't like the rangers, but Moira didn't mind them so much. They represented structure. She could respect that, while at the same time hoping this one hadn't noticed Joshua's stunt with the firecracker.

"The beach is closed for the night, young lady."

"Sorry, ma'am." Moira always said "sir" and "ma'am" when speaking to adults. Her father had taught her it helped to gain their trust. "I was just walking about from the campground and didn't realize I would end up here."

"What's the name?" the ranger asked.

"Moira Jones."
The ranger pulled a piece of paper from her pocket and ran her finger down it.

"Yeah, I got you right here. Site number two. Still, beach is not part of the campground, so I'm going to have to ask you to head back to your site."

"Yes, ma'am."

Moira walked up from the beach. She chose to head toward the ranger, rather than back to the path. This was the first adult woman she had had the opportunity to speak with privately in quite some time, and while she had no illusions there would be an in depth discussion, the possibility for any conversation with a female was too strong to pass up.

She noticed a stack of papers at the ranger's feet.

"What're those, ma'am?"

"Hm? Oh, notices. I get a stack from the state every so often. Supposed to post them around the park. They don't last long out here in the weather, but it's part of the job, so..."

"Can I help you hang them up?"

The ranger looked at her. Maybe it was the desperate look Moira was sure was in her eyes, but she nodded.

"Sure. Can always use a hand."

She handed Moira half the stack.

"Two pins in each page at the top corners and one in the middle at the bottom. Take the old ones down first and toss them in the trash. You take that side."

Moira tore down the old notices on he half, then picked up the stack of new papers. She flipped through them. There was a new copy of the beach rules, an advert for park activities the next month, and other assorted items of little interest. It was the missing person page that caught her eye. She pulled it to the front of the stack and started reading.

Missing, Viviana Vasquez, Sex: Female, Race: Hispanic, Hair: Black, Eyes: Brown, Date of Birth: 6/4/1996, Last Seen: 8/12/2001."

Wow, this girl had been missing for eight years. That was a long time to be away from your family. She looked at the picture on the left. It showed a young girl, about five years old, with long hair done up in pigtails. She was smiling. There was a second picture - one of those that had been computer adjusted for age. She looked at it - and promptly gasped. The page fell from her fingers. That was impossible.

"What's the matter, dear?" The ranger touched her shoulder, concern evident on her face. Moira pointed to the notice.

"It's me!"