Back in Hidden Springs, our lives resumed their regular flow. I had my gardening and research, Celeste had her fishing, Irene put up with school for the sake of not flunking, and Gerald enjoyed himself only as a little kid could.
Around this time, my produce was becoming rather renowned around town and the local restaurants wanted to buy from me. Happily, I provided them with as much good produce as I possibly could. In return, they requested that I deliver my homegrown cheeseplants next. Cheeseplants! I knew they were most likely laughing at me for some reason and simply decided that their company was best avoided from now on. I mean, cheese doesn’t grow on plants—even babies knew that.
Of course, when I got home I planted a couple of pieces of cheese in the garden, just to prove that it simply wasn’t possible.
That evening, our family was dining all together, as usual. Irene was acting out the scenes from her favorite fairytale.
“And they uncovered the secret of the missing treasures, for which the king made them all knights and gave them lots of land!”
“That’s great for the knights, dear. Now, come and eat your mac and cheese before it gets ice cold,” Celeste urged her. “Hi Si, how’s the garden coming along? And the research?”
“It’s good. Everything is in perfect bloom. I didn’t ever expect the garden to bring such good income. And the research is coming together perfectly well too—it mostly centers on how fertile everything here is. I mean, I know for a fact it’s not like that in other places. I’m still trying to figure out why it’s like this.”
“Dad!” Gerald ran into the room. “Food!”
“Yes, buddy, let’s eat now.” I gave him his bottle and settled down with the girls.
After dinner Celeste went out to fish and I headed back out in the garden. Tomorrow was Gerald’s birthday and I wanted to be free most of the day for the party and for spending time with the family.
I was tired pretty early from working in the garden all day and went to sleep pretty early that night. I woke up early, around 4 am, realizing that Celeste only got home and into bed around that time. Where was she until now? If she wasn’t sleeping so sweetly, I would have asked her right at that moment.
That day, after Irene returned from school, the party began. Gerald blew out his candles and became a grown kid. It seemed so crazy—it felt like only yesterday that he was born and now he’ll be going to school with Irene. Hopefully he’ll find it more interesting than she did.
What I’ve noticed from the start was that while Irene only interacted with the local kids out of necessity, Gerald was always happy to chat with everyone. And by extension, that was forcing Irene to be more interactive with people, if she wanted to spend time with her brother. That would be an interesting experience for both of them.
After the party was over and the guests left, the kids headed to their own room and I was going to ask Celeste about her outing from the night but she headed to sleep very early, having been tired and worn out all day. What could have caused that?
“Hey Irene, do you know the answer for number five?” asked Gerald “Our math teacher isn’t too clear in class.”
“Sure, bro. It’s 24. Here, let me take a look at your homework,” I offered.
My brother’s handwriting was so impeccable he could teach calligraphy. “It looks like you have everything correct, you just put a minus instead of a plus here,” I admired “But I understand, I had Ms. Tildon previously—she can really go off on tangents when explaining stuff.”
“How come you’re considered a bad student, sis?” Gerald wanted to know “I mean, you’re really smart, but pretend to not be?”
“I just don’t like it when they want me to do too much work that’s all. I mean look at all our honor students, they’re constantly expected to stick around, helping out the teachers and doing extra assignments.”
“Oh yeah, like Katy had to do last time—she ended up cleaning the bug cage at school for extra credit. But why do you want them to think you’re a bad student?”
“Not a bad student. I mean I do all my work and make sure I don’t make too many mistakes. And I always make sure to ace the tests. I just don’t want to end up on any honor rolls. Not at this school, at least,” I explained. “And that way I know what the teachers are like to the less stellar students at school.”
“But why?” my brother still didn’t understand, despite being a perceptive kid.
“I just hate being in the spotlight, that’s all. They think I’m a bad student and don’t bother me.”
“You aren’t really a people person, I see,” Gerald understood.
“I’m a certain people person. I like you, I like our parents, I like our family from Appaloosa Plains. I guess Aunts Maya and Madeline aren’t bad either. I just don’t like most people at school.”
“Maybe you will later on?” Gerald was curious.
“We’ll see. Things change,” I agreed. “Wanna play some soccer now? Oh, and here’s your birthday gift, it’s a cool rock from the river.”
“Neat! Let’s play!”
My brother was an athletic kid, who loved all things sports. I wondered if he was going to pursue athletics as a sport later in life. Of course, there was plenty of time for us both to decide what we wanted to do in the future.
“Watch out! And the mighty Gerald Meadows scores!” Yelled Gerald after making a perfect goal. “Come on sis, head in the game!”
“Alright, alright! But you watch it now, I’m not letting you win anymore.” Of course that was a lie—even though I was good at sports, Gerald was much better. At first I got angry about it, but I could never stay mad at my brother too long.
When we got home that night, Mom was still out. I wondered why. Usually she invited me on her fishing trips when I was done with homework. But lately she didn’t. And she was, I don’t know how to explain it, acting strange? Like she had something on her mind at all times.
Dad, Gerald, and I ate dinner at our usual time. I could see Dad was worried about Mom, but he was trying to look normal for us.
When we went to bed, Gerald kept asking me where Mom was and if she and Dad had a fight or something. I honestly didn’t know, but reassured him that everything was fine. After he fell asleep, I stayed up a long time, just worried about what was going on.
My day was going normally, until I discovered that the cheese I planted actually sprouted. That’s right, the cheese was actually growing as a plant. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to pinch myself to see if I was still sleeping.
Of course, that prompted me to study the soil more. After all, that kind of thing wasn’t normal, right? I spent most of the day going between the garden and my notes, trying to figure out what was going on. Eventually, it got dark and I then realized that neither my wife nor kids were home, a fact which worried me. Of course, Hidden Springs was a pretty safe place, but why tempt fate?
Eventually Irene and Gerald came home. They were wondering where Mom was. I didn’t want them to see how worried I was so I tried to act like everything was fine, except this was not the first time that Celeste was gone late at night. These absences were really unnerving me. I would’ve thought she was cheating on me, except I knew we were both not the kinds of people to do that. And honestly, I would rather be cheated on and know that she’s safe and sound with someone else than think she is somewhere unsafe.
Eventually the kids went to sleep and I was still waiting on the couch, expecting her to walk in, but she didn’t.
I don’t know how I got too bed, but the next thing I knew, it was 4 in the morning, I was lying on the bed feeling like I had ran several marathons, and Celeste was still not home.
My mind went into panic mode. Something made me look at the aquariums. One of the fish in there was long, black with wing-like fins, and the other fish, even sharks and piranhas kept away from it. Something about that fish made me shudder. When did Celeste bring it in?
A text on my phone got my attention. It was from Maya, who apparently texted late last night. “Simon, sorry to bother, but Celeste isn’t picking up. I forgot my purse in the cemetery yesterday; maybe Celeste brought it with her? I’ll stop by and get it, if so.”
The cemetery. Celeste was there and Maya was there with her, then. And now Celeste wasn’t picking up the phone?
Without a second thought, I headed toward the cemetery. Something was telling me this was the right train of thought. Once inside, I headed deeper into the burial ground. And there, fishing at 4:30 in the morning, was my wife.
On the one hand, I should have been happy that she wasn’t cheating on me with anyone and was only doing what she normally did. But why was she in the cemetery at night?
“Celeste,” I called out. No response. “Celeste!” she cocked her head to the side, as if hearing a voice from far away. Finally I approached her and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Simon…?” she realized I was next to her “Why are you here?”
“I could ask you the same question! Why are you here, in the cemetery, alone at night?!” I think this was the first time I ever yelled at anyone, but I was really terrified to find her here, so entranced.
“Night? Simon, look, the fish in there are so pretty,” she pointed at the pond behind the cemetery chapel, where even from here, I could see more of those winged black fish.
“Celeste, have you been coming here at nights? Why and for how long? You haven’t been sleeping through nights, fishing here.”
“Simon, it’s nothing!” she was about to argue, until she almost fainted and would have fallen if I didn’t catch her. “Simon?”
A look of realization came over her face. “Simon, have I been coming here continuously to fish?”
“Have you not realized that? Yes! And I’m sorry for yelling earlier, I just worry for you, and the kids were wondering if everything is ok.”
She hugged me close and whispered “I’m sorry. Let’s go home, ok?”
On the way home, she shivered a bit, since it was nighttime and she was only wearing her shirt and jeans. “I didn’t realize I became so entranced with that pond. I wonder why.”
“It’s alright. You’re coming home now. But first eat something.”
As soon as she had some food, I made sure she headed straight to bed. If she spent so much time fishing at the cemetery, she must have been worn out from the long nights out.
It was already morning by the time the whole affair was over and the kids have woken up.
“Is Mom ok?” Gerald came over to ask me and I could see Irene peeking out from their bedroom as well. They were indeed worried.
“Yes, she’s tired so she is asleep now. But she’s going to be fine.
But as the kids were headed for school, I couldn’t help but wonder if Celeste’s excursions to the cemetery were as harmless as she thought. Hidden Springs was different, in a way few other places were. It had freaking cheeseplants, it was so fertile. Some of that energy had to be supernatural. Having come from a family that boasted a few supernatural creatures down the line, I knew that they existed. Also I knew that not all supernatural energy was good.
Quickly, I threw out the black winged fish from the aquarium. Something about the pond it was from was simply not good. And I didn’t want the energy of that place to be present in our house. It was just… creepy.
Over the next few days, things have gone back to normal. There were no more excursions to the cemetery in the middle of the night, and my wife no longer seemed to be entranced by some supernatural force. She didn’t even go fishing for a bit—I guess the whole situation freaked her out.
Of course, not for long. “I’m heading out to fish, Si! Don’t worry, not to the cemetery, just to the usual spot at the park,” she hurried to calm me down. “I won’t be heading to the cemetery any more, promise.”
“Alright, take care,” I urged, taking bewildered note on the burger and steak plants that also, surprisingly, sprouted along the cheeseplants. Whatever was causing this to be possible was straight up not normal.
“Are you done with homework and the cakes?” my sister asked.
“Yeah, we can go play soon,” I pointed out. “Isn’t it great that Mom’s back?”
Irene sighed. I think she expected that I haven’t noticed anything strange happening in the household, but she was forgetting that I noticed everything, just like she did. “I hoped you wouldn’t worry,” she admitted.
“Why? She’s my Mom too. Was she sick?”
“I don’t know, bro. But she didn’t seem like herself for the last few days and now she’s acting like her old self again. So, whatever was bothering her must be gone now.”
“That’s good. But just for the future, I’m not that much younger than you—you can share stuff with me, ok?”
“Ok, bro, I’ll remember that!” Irene laughed splashing me with water from the nearby tree. She was acting boisterous, but I knew that she was doing that to cover how worried she was. After all, she and Mom were very close.
Still, it was nice that things were back to normal. After all, we’ve missed having dinner as a family, with everyone present. Or having Mom tuck us in at night. Or just seeing her and Dad smiling at each other. It was good to have the family be normal again.
It was nice to “be back” as the family put it. To be honest, I still don’t understand what happened.
I simply went fishing and realized, while passing by the cemetery, that there was a pond there, which most people didn’t use for fishing and for that reason it must have had a whole lot of fish. So, I headed inside, and threw in the lure.
At first the fish wouldn’t bite, but as it got dark, the catch increased. It was like the fish only woke up when the sun set.
Some of those fish fascinated me—the long winged black fish. They were so pretty and interesting! I just had to catch more of them.
So, I ended up altering my daily schedule to make sure I ended up at the pond after the sun had set. I didn’t notice the worried expressions of my family and the fact that I was much more fatigued than I normally would be didn’t alert me.
Even on Gerald’s birthday, when I nearly fell asleep in the kids’ rocking chair, that didn’t make me realize that I had to cut my cemetery trips short.
It wasn’t until that moment when I was brought out of my haze by Simon yelling at the cemetery that I was able to realize that my trips were strange. I was ignoring everything I cared about for them. I was forgetting about my own wellbeing. I was endangering myself.
What really freaked me out though, was the fact that it was Maya’s text that alerted Simon to my nightly whereabouts. Maya was there at the cemetery with me and I didn’t even remember that! Why was I so entranced by that pond?
This whole situation both baffled and scared me.
After I told Simon, he simply hugged me and held me tight most of the night. Everything was back to normal. So, why couldn’t shake the feeling that I was forgetting something?