Tate's Hell

Reads: 3895  | Likes: 5  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 2

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

In the sequel to "The Reunion," David and Carol decide to move their relationship to a new level. They travel together to the Florida Panhandle and eventually visit Tate's Hell Forest. What happens next was unexpected.



Tate’s Hell
By Brian Lee Clements

It’s been about three months since David and Carol rekindled their friendship at their high school reunion. David still lives in Colorado Springs, retired, and Carol is still working as a computer programmer in San Francisco. David also had shoulder surgery about six weeks ago.

They have been talking for hours almost every other night. So, they decided that it was time to take their relationship to a new level.

Carol said, “We need to get together soon. What do you thinK?
David replied, “Sounds like a great idea. Where would you like to meet?”
“How about Florida again? We’ve got some good memories there.”
“There are a lot of good places along the coast between Destin and Apalachicola. Don’t want to stay at the same place I stayed at last time”
“Do you know of any good places?”
“I hear the Gibson Inn in Apalach is a good bed and breakfast. One of the nicer places in town. About $100 a night.”
‘I’ll look at their website and check it out and let you know tomorrow.”
“Ok. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Good night”
“Good night”

Carol called about 45 minutes later and told David that the Gibson Inn would be a great place to stay. They decided that she could fly Southwest to Denver, meet there and then they could fly together to the Panama City airport. The only thing they needed to decide was a date.

David asked, “How about August 20th through the 24th. That’s just a couple of weeks from now and the weather should be warm but good. Hopefully not much rain.”
Carol responded, “That sounds great. Let me put in for vacation at work. You don’t have to worry about that since you are retired. Will your shoulder be ready for the trip?”
David chuckled and said, “You’re right. I keep forgetting about that. It’s healing up pretty good. I’m out of the sling now”

The both bought their tickets the next night after Carol got her vacation approved. Her flight from San Francisco was due to arrive two hours before the connecting flight to St. Louis. David was able to find seats for himself also. Now it was just the matter of being able to sit with each other on the flights.

Southwest is a little different from the other airlines. Seats are not assigned. The assignment they give you is your position to get on the plane. David got position B10, Carol got position B6. They would be in the second group to get on the plane. They couldn’t figure out how they got apart since they checked in at the same time. They were happy about that since they figured they were close enough in line and would be able to sit together.

The flight from St.Louis to Panama City was about the same. This time it was the opposite, David got B5 and Carol got B9.

Since the plane would get in late and Apalachicola is in the Eastern Time Zone, David and Carol decided it would be best for them to spend the first night at the Comfort Inn in Panama City, do some sight seeing and then head for the Gibson Inn.

The night before the trip they discussed what they would see while they were there. They figured they could go to St. Andrew’s State Park, St. Joseph State Park, St. George Island to do some sunbathing and maybe have a picnic and do some exploring at Tate’s Hell State Forest.

Carol asked, “What is that? Sounds kind of spooky.
David replied, “Tate's Hell?  It’s a fairly new state forest. It has a lot of history and picnic areas. Nothing like Camp Crystal Lake from the “Friday the 13th” movie."
“That’s nice to hear.”

Well, they said their goodnights and sweet dreams and they were both anxious to see each other next day. David didn’t sleep well. His shoulder was a little sore from the therapy he had on Friday. But he was happy that he doesn’t need a sling anymore.

The plane was scheduled for the same time as his May trip, so David knew when to leave and what to expect. After packing his car, he left about 30 minutes earlier so Carol wouldn’t have to sit too long by herself.  As last time, he stopped by Chick-Fil-A in Castle Rock and got two biscuits and a large sweet tea. At the airport, he also parked in the exact same place as last time. He even got the same shuttle driver as last time.

The driver saw David and said, “Didn’t I see you here a few months ago? Weren’t you going to Florida?
“Yes you did and I'm also going back to Florida for a few days.” replied David.
“Well, it sounds like you had a lot of fun if you’re going back again.”
“Yes, I did. Really excited about going back again. Seeing a dear old friend this time.”
“Hope you have a nice time. We’re here at the terminal. I assume it’s Southwest again?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you. Have a great day.
David had an easier time to find the Southwest ticket counter. And it was a lot easier tagging his luggage since he did it a few months ago. After getting through security, where they let him keep his pliers this time to open bottles, David got to the tram which took him to the correct concourse where Carol would be already waiting.

It took David about 10 minutes to get to the correct gate for St. Louis. Carol was sitting in one of the chairs by the window while the sun was reflecting in her dark hair. When she saw him, she let out a light scream of delight which she caught before it got too loud. She smiled and gave him a big hug and kiss.

Carol mentioned to him that her trip so far was uneventful and she had taken a nap on the plane even though it was for 2 ½ hours. Plus, she said she was raring to go. The flight from Denver to St. Louis was pretty much uneventful. Except for the plane being late from Chicago, like last time, the flight from St. Louis to Panama City was also pretty much uneventful.  The plane arrived in Panama City Beach around 6:30. They got their baggage and car and found their way to the motel within an hour, which was pretty good. They freshened up and then went to O'Charley's which was right down the street.

After they ate, they went back to the motel and discussed what their itinerary would be for the next day. They changed and cuddled with each other the whole night. (I’ll leave you with your imagination as to anything else they did.)

The next morning they got up, had their free breakfast and headed to the beach for a few hours.  They both did not like to use sunblock because of the side effects they've read about. After they changed they headed off to Apalachicola and the Gibson Inn.

When David and Carol checked in at the Gibson Inn, they noticed that they were a little sunburned and decided to use some Noxema so they wouldn’t peel too much. They also decided that the next day that they would go on their picnic to Tate’s Hell Park and go to the beach the following day.

After they woke and had breakfast, the couple decided to do some sight seeing in town and shopping before their picnic. After shopping, they went down to the dock to see the fishing boats and see their morning catch. The boats caught plenty of red snapper and redfish.

At that moment, David and Carol decided what they will be having for dinner that evening at Gormley’s, which is in the Gibson Inn.Snapper and Blackened Redfish would be their meals.

That would be in the evening, but first they had to figure out what to get for their picnic. They stopped by the Piggly Wiggly and found sandwiches, snacks, drinks and also some potato salad that David had a craving for.

They didn’t need to worry about plates, forks and anything other utensils because David had a “picnic back pack” that he and Grace got many years ago. He had never used it so decided to bring it just in case and everything that they need was still in it, even the tablecloth.

Well, when they left for their picnic, David decided to drive along the coast because it was more scenic, but it took about 15 minutes longer. The views along the John Gorrie Bridge and along the coast was fantastic and they enjoyed every mile of the trip. It was then time to turn north away from the coast towards the State Forest to have their picnic.

The scenery wasn’t as spectacular as the gulf but the rivers and inlets with all the trees were still beautiful. They saw a few fisherman along the bridges trying to catch some bass. Most were not having any luck.

They finally found a picnic area near Womack Creek and decide to stop eat there. It was a very nice setting with a pavilion overlooking the creek. There wasn’t anybody there except for one person launching his boat. A little privacy for them.

As they started unpacking the car, Carol started to get more curious about the area and about the name of the forest: Tate’s Hell.
“That’s an unusual name for a state forest, Isn’t it?” Carol asked.
“What?” David replied.
“Tate’s Hell. Why do they call it that?
“It was named after a man in the late 1870’s call Cebe Tate.”
“Cebe Tate.
“That’s an unusual name”
“Probably not for the 1870’s. Let’s call him Jeb to make the story a little easier.”
“Is this a true story or are you going to make it up as you go?”
“Me? This is a legend that has been around for at least a hundred years. I saw a documentary on it once back in the ‘80’s on one of the local TV stations.”
“Ok. Let’s hear the story.”

As they were getting everything out, David started to tell Carol about the legend of Tate’s Hell. 

“Well, Jeb Tate was a farmer lived with his wife, Mary, near Carrabelle, Florida back in the 1870’s. The Civil War had been over for about 10 years now and everything was getting back to normal. He had saw action during the Batle of Monacacy Junction while in the Confederate Army.  On his farm, Jeb planted corn and also raised some pigs and cows. Could you hand me a plate?”

Carol handed David a plate and he got back to his story.t

“One fall morning, Jeb went out to check on his herd and found that a pig and one of his cows were killed by a panther. Not sure about what to do, he went back to the cabin and talked to his wife about it.
Jeb asked his wife, ‘What should I do? If that cat comes back, he could wipe out our entire herd.’
Mary told him, ‘That is up to you, honey. If you think you can find the panther before it gets any more of our herd, go for it. But, I don’t want you gone for too long.’
‘OK. I’ll pack a few thing and leave in the morning. Hopefully I’ll only be gone for a couple of days.’

Jeb decided to stay up a little later to see if the panther would come back that night. He heard the cat’s growl but it sounded about a mile away from his home. Jeb eventually went to bed around midnight.

Unfortunately, two pigs were attacked but they only had a couple of claw marks on them.” 

Jeb got early and said goodbye to his wife and they both hugged and kiss...Do we have any more potato salad?”
“What? Why would he asked that” Carol asked
“Oh, I’m asking. Do we have anymore potato salad?
“Oh, yes. Here” as she passes it over to David.

“Back to my story. Tate, was armed with only a shotgun and accompanied by his hunting dogs. Mangy kind of dogs, but very loyal. He journeyed deep into the swamp but after just one day he got very lost. Everything looked the same to him and his dogs were not very helpful.

‘What do you guys think? Which way to the panther or back home?' Jeb asked the dogs.

Although there are several versions of this story, the most common describes Tate as being lost in the swamp for seven days and nights, bitten by a snake. What kind? I don’t know. He also had to  drink from the murky waters to curb his thirst. Good thing he didn’t get typhoid or something like that. 

Tate even lost his shotgun while running through the woods. He tripped over a stump and his shotgun went flying into the swamp. He went in after it but saw gators and moccasins and decided to back off. I’m sure that the shotgun is still somewhere in the swamp” 

Finally, after about seven days, he came to a clearing near Carrabelle where some men were working, living only long enough to murmur these words, ‘My name is Jeb Tate, and I just came from Hell.’

As I said earlier, Jeb Tate's adventure took place in 1875 and ever since, the area has been known as Tate's Hell, the legendary and forbidden swamp.”

After a few seconds of thinking, Carol says, “Get out of town.”
“What? You don’t believe it.”
“Is that it? Did he catch the panther? What happened to his wife?”
“Nobody knows.”
“Wow! What time is it now?
“About 4:00. Getting kind of late. We should be heading back for dinner.”
“Didn’t seem like that long of a story.”

They started packing up to head back to the Gibson Inn. But unfortunately, they make a wrong turn on the road and got lost. Carol started to get a little worried and was afraid that they would never see civilization again.

They then saw a man walking along the road and decided to ask him for directions. The man was in his mid 40’s in old jeans and walking with his two dogs. He was also carrying a shotgun which was pointed towards the ground.

“Be careful,” Carol said.
“Oh, I'm always careful..David replied. Then talking talking to the man, he says, “Sir, We’re lost, Could you direct us to Carrabelle?”

The man looks at David and Carol and just points in the direction that they were heading and starts to walk away.

“Thank you, sir.” David yells to the guy.
David quickly closes the window
“Not much of a personality,” David said softly to Carol.
“We better get going”, replied Carol, who gives him a sarcastic look.

David speeds up a little and passes the man. When he gets past him, David looks in the
rearview mirror, stops the car and gets out.
David yells out, “He gone.”
“Who?” Carol asked as she gets out of the car also.
“The guy we just talked to.”
“You’re imagining things. Where could he had gone”
“I don’t know. We better get going or we'll miss our fish dinner.

They drove back the same way along the coast. When they got to the motel, the desk clerk gave them a weird look.

The clerk asked them, “Where have you been? We missed you for dinner last night and according to housekeeping, the bed was not slept in last night.”
David replied, “We slept here last night and went on a picnic in the State Forest”
“What day do you think it is, sir?”
“Why, Wednesday the 22nd.” David is getting a little aggravated.
The clerk hands David a copy of the Tallahassee Democrat.
“No sir, It’s Thursday the 23rd. It's happened to people before.  They've gone into Tate's Hell and lose a day  Especially if they claimed to see Mr. Tate.  Nobody understands what happens"

David and Carol are stunned. What happened to that day?

Carol and David decide to go up to their room to change so they could have dinner in the restaurant. They go down to get their table and they start talking about their day. As they do, Carol sees a picture of a man that looks very familiar and walks over to it to get a closer look. David is puzzled until he gets up and sees  the same picture. It was a black and white picture of a bearded man and his wife from about the 1800's.  The man is seated with his wife standing next to him.

David called the hostess over and asked her, “Who is this person?
The hostess replied, “Why, that is Cebe Tate and his wife. Tate’s Hell Swamp is named after him. Why do you ask?
“Uh...no reason. Just curious.”

After the hostess leaves, Carol stutters, “Uh...oh...Did?
“Yes, I see it. That is the man that gave us directions back to Carrabelle. That was...”
They both say, “Our Jeb Tate!”
“That’s impossible. Right?  Did we really meet him?” asked Carol.
“I don’t know. I’m confused.” replied David.

After dinner, they head back to their room and start to pack, since they didn’t know what happened to that lost day. They get into bed and kiss each other goodnight. They are still a bit confused and really didn’t know what to say about what happened that day.

After about three minutes of silence, Carol decides to ask a question.

“David?” Carol asked.
“Yea?” David replied.
“What do you have planned for our next trip?”
They both smile, giggle and decide to cuddle the rest of the night.




Submitted: August 26, 2018

© Copyright 2023 Brian Lee Clements. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Facebook Comments

More Romance Short Stories

Other Content by Brian Lee Clements

Short Story / Romance

Short Story / Mystery and Crime