Behind the Waterfall

The sound of the water crashing against the rocks was deafening as Jacob set up his tent on the section of loose pebbles. Caleb had heard all the stories about the falls. Stories of the ghost of the woman in white to the Native American couple who had been killed in a raid. He didn’t believe in any of it. To him, ghosts were nothing more than someone’s story to explain something they were too lazy to research. 

Now he spent his life disproving the existence of anything and everything supernatural. Which was how he ended up setting up a tent for a weekend of camping in one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen. He dropped the small hammer he had used to secure his tent. He went about making a fire pit and gathering wood to last the night. 

Once he had everything he needed, Caleb positioned himself beside the fire pit to light it. He pulled out a zippo and touched the flame to the dry kindling he had arranged. A moment later, the fire flickered to life. His mind focused on the task at hand, he didn’t notice a four-legged guest in his camp until the shadow of something small and furry caught his attention from the far side of the fire. He looked up to see a timid-looking raccoon standing a few feet away on the other side of the fire. Laughter colored his voice as he spoke to the creature. “You wouldn’t know anything about the ghosts they say haunt this place, would you?”

The raccoon sat back on his hindquarters, looking at him. Its head tilted, almost as if it were thinking about the answer to the question. Caleb reached into the top of his bag and pulled out a pouch of beef jerky. Removing a piece, he tossed it across the fire to the raccoon. It landed a few inches from the animal who leaned forward, snatched it up, and began nibbling on it.

“Didn’t think so. How about we make a deal? I give you a few nibbles and you don’t destroy my camp over the next few days. How does that work for ya?” He asked aloud, feeling more than a little silly.

The raccoon, having finished his treat, stood and waddled away. Caleb took it as a sign of agreement and went back to setting up his campsite. He got his supper out of the pack and set up a tripod over the fire pit. Cooking was something he enjoyed most days, but cooking outside was one thing he loved without restriction. Using some spices he had tucked into the pockets of the bag, he made himself a stew with pieces of jerky and a package of rice.

Once it was cooked, Caleb sat there silently eating his stew and watching the waterfall change colors as the sunset behind him. He took the last few spoonfuls of the stew from the pot and scooped it into his now-empty bowl. Sitting it on a large rock on the far side of the fire, he took the rest of the dishes over to the water and cleaned them. He never enjoyed putting dirty dishes away before going to bed. He reset the fire, hoping to have coals to cook breakfast on, and slipped into the tent, leaving the door open for a slight breeze.

The fire still gave off enough light, so he could the raccoon return and eat the stew. A smile graced his face as he settled down for the night. He planned to explore and document starting first thing in the morning, but he always liked to get a good night’s sleep first. After all, he had seen nothing of the supernatural in all the years he had been doing this. He didn’t see a point in being scared before finding anything.

Caleb drifted off to sleep within a few minutes of his head, hitting the pillow. The next morning, he was awakened by the sun shining through the still-open door of the tent. He was warm and comfortable. Climbing out of his sleeping bag, he stepped out of the tent and was instantly confused. The bowl he had left the stew in for the raccoon was now sitting just to the side of the door to his tent and it had been cleaned. Or at least it looked as if it had. He picked it up and set it on the top of the bag with the rest of his kitchen supplies. He would puzzle that out later. First, he needed to find a place far away from the water to do his morning business without worrying about contaminating the water source. 

He cooked a simple breakfast of powdered eggs and cured bacon, cleaned everything up, and secured it in his tent. Slinging his camera over his shoulder, Caleb headed out. He walked along the edge of the water toward the waterfall. Slipping through the spray of the waterfall, he made his way along the rocks behind the water. 

As he reached the center of the cascading water, the ledge widened out to the right into a cave. Blinking, he caught his breath. The cave was something he had never expected to find. The walls were covered in cave paintings that looked to be extremely old. He stepped farther in and the sound of the water faded to nothing within just three or four steps. The thought ran through his mind that he had just stepped into a new world. “Guess there is something about this place.” He said as he examined the paintings. 

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