She was not quite awake yet but decided to reread the last few journal entries and finish her coffee before getting started with her day.
5:25pm. It’s darker out here than I thought. Nothing but endless trees. Makes it hard to write. Good thing I opted for a bright red leather notebook instead of a black one. Maura said there were no signs, only a narrow, worn path that would open onto a rocky clearing and The Arch. An arch that supposedly let you cross over into some type of other dimension. Ancient folklore handed down thru the ages described The Arch’s energy as both joyful and sinister.
There were stories of people who tried to find The Arch. People who went out searching but never came back. One of them was Professor David Warren. He published an article on The Arch. That’s how I became aware of it. He thought it was a Druid relic. He wrote that the Druids held their trainings in secret, using caves to conceal themselves. The locations were very closely guarded by the elders. He told fellow professors he found The Arch in July. He disappeared in August.
5:45pm. I think of him as I go deeper and deeper into the woods. Did he walk this same path? When I got to town this morning, people became nervous when I asked about The Arch. An older woman across the street flashed me a knowing smile that seemed full of information. As I walked across the street, she backed away from the window. Her shop, Maura’s, sold snacks, drinks and Idaho souvenirs.
“Do you know something about The Arch?” I asked her.
She smiled, “I don’t know where you heard that but there’s no arch. That article was just a story to draw in tourists and add some excitement to our little town.” She explained.
“Did you know David Warren went missing last year?” I asked her. At the mention of his name, her smile faded. I could tell she wanted to tell me something but was trying to decide how to say it. I continued. “He wrote he found The Arch near mile marker forty seven up north. I’m a reporter and I want to follow up on the story.” She continued to stare but it took on an angry look and something else…maybe fear? She wasn’t budging so I said, “Well, it will make a good story whether I find it or not.” and I started to leave.
I got all the way to the door before she said “Wait.” My heart swelled. I didn’t turn around, afraid she’d change her mind if our eyes met.
“Go past mile marker forty seven but before marker forty eight. You’ll find a very narrow path, worn but not deep. When it forks, go left.” When I turned to look at her, She gave me a sad look and said, “Some things should be left alone.”
“Thanks Maura,” I said.
“It’s not a kindness.” She replied and disappeared behind the wall.
6:15 pm. Now the forest is even denser. The tree tops are creating a ceiling, giving my path a tunnel like feel. The shrubs are getting thicker, seeming to grab my pant legs as if to slow my progress. The air has a heavy, damp feel. A branch just snapped back and hit me in the face!
6:40 pm. It took me 15 minutes to walk 10 feet but it was worth it. The density fell away and I entered a rocky clearing. This was the clearing, but there was no arch. My disappointment was intense. I pulled a tissue out of my bag to wipe the blood from my cheek and inspected the damage. I walked over to a large rock to put my bag down. As I set it down, my eyes were drawn to something below. A bag. I pulled it up onto the rock. Looking inside the pocket, I found a wallet. David Warren’s wallet. He had been here. This WAS the place. Looking past the rock, there was a big tree branch running horizontally and a dark but promising looking space beyond that. I might be able to duck under the branch.
7:00 pm. I ducked under but found myself surrounded by branches and some kind of hill or rock face blocking me in. I felt around in David’s bag hoping to find a flashlight. He had one. I also felt a piece of paper my fingers identified as a Polaroid. Pulling them both out, I clicked on the flashlight and looked at the photo. It was faded and discolored but it was The Arch. I moved the flashlight toward the wall in front of me and there it was, The Arch! As I moved the beam from side to side, I could see almost human looking parts. There was a fog or mist that seemed to swirl around it. It had a narrow opening only 2 feet wide but seemed cavernous beyond it.
7:10pm. I’ve been staring at The Arch for about 10 minutes. Rereading my notes, I think I’ve written everything I can for now so I’ll stow my notebook and take both bags with me in case there is another exit point. This is it. Here I go.
She was startled when she heard the door open and looked up from her reading.
“Excuse me” the state trooper said, “I’m looking for a missing woman.”
He angled the photo so she could see it. Maura closed the red leather notebook and tucked it under the counter. She took a quick look at the picture of the reporter and shook her head.
“Sorry.” she said. “She doesn’t look familiar.”
“Too bad, the trooper said. “I’ve asked several people and you were my last hope. I was told you know everything that goes on around here…that you call yourself, The Guardian.”