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Neutral Buoyancy


another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory

Neutral Buoyancy by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | JULY 2016

It was a tolerably warm noon on a Thursday in June of 1995. John Q. Ladd, a 27-year-old Caucasian from Charlotte, had just arrived in his burgundy 1989 Dodge Caravan minivan at the Bear Creek Lake public boat ramp off of Canada Road (NC 281). The four-hour westward journey to the mountains had been fairly uneventful, save for a mumbling man at a gas station in the college town of Cullowhee.

John pulled up beside the unoccupied dock and parked. He then extricated his new polypropylene kayak from the rear of the van. It was short enough (9’-5”) to fit inside when laid diagonally across the seatbacks.

Five minutes later, the van was properly parked, and he was paddling away. Ok, which way to Flat Creek Falls? Need to head southeast to Mill Cove.

After initially heading towards the dam, John got himself oriented correctly, and was soon paddling like a champion towards Mill Cove. This two-mile water transit won’t be that bad. There’s hardly any wind. I bet I’m almost halfway there. Piece o’ cake.

Nine minutes later, John saw the little island in the hard left-hand turn. Yes, we’re making great time. Might as well take a water break. Don’t want to get dehydrated.

He then reached behind his seat and removed his backpack. The ice-water was refreshing. When putting the water bottle back, he felt a smaller plastic bottle. What is this? Oh, it’s the ‘heavy water’ that Ken gave me. How could I forget? Should I do a little ‘zap’? Oh, why not? We’ve got all day. No one to meet. No one to check in with. No place to be. If not now, when? These are ideal conditions. Fair weather. What could go wrong out here? I’ll even wear the life jacket for additional safety. [John was a good swimmer.]

Suddenly a bass boat with two Caucasian fishermen accosted John just as he swallowed a big slug of the neural water. Just my luck.

“Doing some fishing?” the obese man sitting on the bow’s swivel chair asked.

“No, just some flatwater sightseeing,” Mr. Ladd said.

“There’s some good kayaking on the Tuckasegee River, just on the other side of the spillway,” the bearded man at the helm said.

“Oh, thanks for the tip,” John courteously replied. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“So, where are you headed?” the man on the bow then asked. Darn! He just had to ask. Must not tell them ‘Flat Creek Falls’, as it is surrounded by private property and they won’t like my legal way of getting to it. Think up something fast!

“Sols Creek. I heard that there’s an impressive rock face on the mountainside.”

“Indeed there is,” the helmsman agreed.

“I’ll just snap a few pics,” John said. “No mountain climbing today.”

“I would warn you to watch out for submerged logs, but I think that your craft only draws three inches, and without a motor, it’s no issue for you,” the bowman said. “However, we just nailed big timber at 20 miles per hour, and I almost got tossed in the drink.” He chuckled.

“Ok, thanks for the warning,” John said. “You guys have a nice day.” He then continued paddling towards the small, verdant, sylvan island.

Soon he was paddling past the islet that was the peak of a short mountain. On his left he soon noticed the truly remarkable exposed rock ledges known as River Cliffs. He stopped to take a few pics. Should I try to march up Sols Creek to the waterfall in that book? [‘North Carolina Waterfalls’ by Kevin Adams] No, let’s stick with the plan. Just Flat Creek Falls today. Anyway, I am already feeling some voltage in my bean. Yeah, starting to get those ‘worlds away’ thoughts. Whirled worlds away.

John’s soaring cosmic reverie was jarred back to Earth instantly, when his drifting kayak bumped into something. He peered into the dark olive-colored water. John saw a submerged tree trunk, the top of which was only three inches below the water’s surface. I’d hate to hit that at 40 miles per hour. Quite a water hazard for the motorboats.

He looked back up at the rock face. I wonder what the Cherokee did up there. Did anyone ever get tossed off? Native American justice, cliff style? Well, time to get over to Flat Creek before I get lost.

John rounded the bend to enter Sugar Cove. In a quarter-mile he was at the mouth of Flat Creek.

He then dragged his kayak up the stream for a hundred feet, and then on a faint streamside deer path for another two hundred feet. And there John hid it in some tall grass. This should be good enough. Doesn’t look like anyone walks around here often. Maybe only two hunters per month. I’ll take my chances.

He started to hike upstream in his waterproof hiking boots. When there was an animal trail paralleling the creek, he took it. And when the trail ended or veered away from the mountain stream, he jumped back in Flat Creek. I feel like I’m on some mission: Mission Improbable.

After splashing and sloshing about for a half-mile, he heard the waterfall. As John made a hard turn to the right, he arrived at the rocky base and saw the impressive lower drop. (The whole series of falls and cascades is not visible from any single point on land.) He took some photos. His mind was really going now. I wonder how old this waterfall is. Millions of years? Humankind time is just a split-second in geologic time. Ah, those negative ions. I wonder if my kayak is still there. If someone takes it, I would have an impossible swim back. I would have to thumb a ride from this side of the lake – while tripping! What a nightmare that would be. Let’s get out of here now.

John retreated down the creek. He thought he heard a large mammal – a bear? – in the woods. This made him run. Then he stepped into a deep hole in the creek. The chilly water was suddenly up to his waist. Whew! An unholy immersion. Baptized in the realization. The realization of what? Man, I’m flying. I better be careful. Must not get injured out here. If so, I might become the wolf’s next dinner.

In just sixteen minutes John was back at his kayak-hiding spot. He parted the three-foot-high cattail grass. Ah, yes! It’s still here. Yey! Thank you, God, or whomever, or whom-never, or whatever, or what-never, or whatsoever, or what’s-now-is-forever. Never. Enough. Stop. Let’s get refocused before we get hurt.

He dragged his kayak back to the mouth of Flat Creek. John got in and began paddling back to the boat ramp. He was feeling the full effects of Ken’s psychoactive serum now. Wow! This kayak-on-water feeling is so strange. Paddling is going to be an adventure.

John finally managed to get a decent paddling stroke going. Soon he was facing River Cliffs again. He stopped paddling to take another water break.

A slight breeze gently pushed his kayak along the shore. He focused on the cumulus cloud reflections on the lake’s barely rippling surface. It really is an amazingly bizarre world. Humans are the most bizarre lifeform. The Earth is such a bizarre place. What could it all mean? Anything?

Then he noticed a particular grayish cloud reflection. It looked like a mummy. And then he realized that it wasn’t a reflection; it was a fabric-wrapped corpse! It was in a state of neutral buoyancy, about four feet under the surface. Am I really seeing this?! Is this what I fear it is?

He took his paddle and lowered it into the water. The paddle’s nylon tip struck the corpse. And then, the old mummy began to sink. But, just as the mummified corpse sank out of sight, the head’s covering unwrapped. The skull’s eye sockets were the last thing that John saw.

He was frozen in pure shock for several minutes. The kayak ran aground. John just looked down. What the hell did I just see?! Was that real? I’m high on Ken’s concoction, after all; thus, maybe it was just a macabre hallucination. But, it seemed so real. My paddle touched something, though. I felt it. Well, it’s time to get off this morbid water.

John would make it safely back to Charlotte. Though, he did see some ineffable things in the evening sky as he passed Kings Mountain.

Twenty years later on a hot summer day in July of 2015, John was reading a news article about missing persons. It stated that approximately 90,000 Americans are missing at any one time. Wow! That’s a horribly high number!

Mr. Ladd then ran across an online article about a suspected murder during a boating expedition on Bear Creek Lake back in April of 1993. It said that the authorities searched the bottom of the lake with divers and mapping sonar, but never found a body.

Neutral Buoyancy

In June of 1995, a man from Charlotte (USA) drives to a mountain lake in western North Carolina to test out his new kayak, and to check out a hard-to-reach waterfall. All is going swimmingly well. Then he notices something suspended in the water. Another tale in the psecret psociety pshort pstory pseries. Approx. 1500 words. Sex: None. Violence: None. Language: Mild. Strangeness level: Moderate. Mr. Malloy: Absent. If this little tale were a movie, it would probably be rated PG-13.

  • ISBN: 9781370105199
  • Author: Mike Bozart
  • Published: 2016-07-20 15:20:06
  • Words: 1518
Neutral Buoyancy Neutral Buoyancy