The Gorge

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
The trip of a lifetime.

Submitted: February 01, 2015

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Submitted: February 01, 2015

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THE GORGE

Florence had been in a half-waking state for about an hour, she had no thoughts of getting out of bed, and continued lying there. Willard, her husband, was still fast asleep. Florence closed her eyes and began to doze off. When she awoke properly, it was daytime, and the weak sunshine was making an effort to pierce the thin curtaining of the bedroom windows. Willard was also awake and Florence leant over him, kissed him, and said, “Let’s go to the gorge.”

Willard looked up at her face as it loomed over him, and said, “All right, if that’s what you want. Come on, we’ve been too long in this bed, and the morning will be over soon, if we don’t make a move.” Willard got out of bed and went into the bathroom. Florence heard the shower and, as always, she wondered how he was able to swing into action so soon after waking. He must have a secret source of energy, she thought to herself, as she put her feet slowly into her slippers and drifted out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.

Florence and Willard were not newly weds, indeed they had been married for thirty years. Every year they got away from their humdrum life and went on several different holidays. Florence loved Arthurian myths and legends, and when she had realized how many gorges and valleys that for her corresponded to those ancient stories, she decided to have a few days in one of them as often as they could. She still held some left-over dreams of something mysterious or magical taking place in one of those spots. They were both middle aged, and their children were adults, making them free. Unlike many of their friends, they had been parents when young, and weren’t involved with small children. They had made the decision long ago that, while they were still with their faculties in order, they would enjoy themselves. Florence got on the phone and rang an hotel very near the spot where she wanted to visit. She was always well-prepared when holidays were concerned. After the phone had rung four times, a breathless voice answered, “Good morning, the Golden Glen hotel here. How may I help you?”

“Hello, good morning. My name’s Florence Brady, and I’d like to reserve a double room for six nights, starting from Monday the nineteenth. We’ll only be needing bed and breakfast.”

“There’s a restaurant, so if you prefer to stay in one evening, we’ll add it to your bill when you leave.”

“Very well, we’ll be arriving around midday, if that’s all right with you.”

“Yes, that’s fine. Would you like a room overlooking the main road of the village, or one at the back with the mountains as a backdrop?” the receptionist asked.

“We’d like a room overlooking the road, please.”

“All that’s in order, and we look forward to meeting you and your husband on Monday midday. Good morning.” The receptionist rang off.

Florence put the phone down, and saw that Willard had finished his shower, as his hair was still wet. “I’ve booked us in at the Golden Glen Hotel for six nights. We leave on Monday morning, to arrive at midday. OK?”

Willard was pouring out coffee and buttering toast at the same time, “Yes, if that’s what you’ve planned, then it’s fine by me. Why six nights, isn’t it rather a long time to be away from home? Do you want scrambled eggs or smoked cod?”

“Willard, have I ever had smoked cod for breakfast? You’re the one who loves fish.”

Willard laughed, and answered, “I thought I’d say it to get you back to earth again. We’d better look up the weather for the area, as it’s mountainous and has a propensity for heavy rain all through the year. Anyway, why do you want to go there particularly?”

Florence sighed and said, “I’ve always fancied going there, it must have something magical about it. And before I depart this world, I’d like to find out for sure. That’s all.”

“All right then, it’s thick pyjamas and dressing-gowns, not forgetting bed-socks for sleeping up there. We’d better take some kind of refreshment with us in the car, the clothes I’ll leave to you, but whatever you put in the cases, they have to be waterproof and warm, nothing thin or flimsy.”

That day, Florence and Willard got themselves ready for their trip to the mountains. The nearest supermarket provided them with all their alimentary needs. Florence put the washing-machine on, to make sure that she left no dirty clothes behind, and then she cleaned the house thoroughly. When all that was done, she sat down with a large mug of coffee, and a comedy DVD, and spent the rest of the afternoon laughing.

The following day was Sunday, which saw both of them doing last minute chores before Monday dawned. At nine o’clock Sunday evening, they went to bed in order to get up without any rush on Monday morning.

 

On Monday morning, Florence and Willard had a heavier breakfast than usual, afraid of feeling hungry on the road, even though they had packed a thermos of hot soup, and thick sandwiches. The land-rover had been filled with petrol the night before, and so they set out for the mountains, and what should be a nice quiet six day trip. Willard drove, and Florence at first simply stared at the road in front of them. It was a long way, and there were moments when she wondered whether or not she had made a mistake. She said nothing about her doubts, because she knew Willard would be far from pleased because she hadn’t consulted him, but had taken it for granted that he would agree with her choice. As the road left villages and small towns behind, the woods on either side became thicker and darker. Every so often, another vehicle would pass them on their side, or in the opposite direction. Florence wondered where they were going or what they were fleeing from, as all the vehicles were travelling faster than they ought. Bridges were crossed, and fast-flowing rivers far down below could be discerned from the interior of the land-rover. Willard asked, “Could you give me a sandwich, please. I feel quite hungry.”

Florence opened the travel bag with the food, and searched till she found Willard’s sandwich, which was the double of hers. She said, “Willard do you think it’s a good idea to eat while you’re driving?”

“No, I don’t. You’re right, we’ll stop here. Well, what do you think of the trip so far? Does it come up to your expectations?”

“The only thing for sure, is that it’s a long road. Let’s hope the hotel is not far away.”

The couple munched on their sandwiches and then had some of the soup, which was still piping hot. When they had finished, Florence cleared up the remains and they continued on their way. After being on a boring straight road all the morning, bends began to make their appearance, and eventually it led to a small village. There were notices of the important beauty spots and the hotels on the sides of the road leading the traveller into the village. The Golden Glen Hotel was one of them named. The hotel was soon upon them, and they drove into the driveway. They noticed that there was a petrol station to the left of the hotel. The car park was on the right, and they left the land-rover there, after removing their bags and rucksacks from the boot.

The main entrance was up a few steps, and as they were about to enter, the glass doors opened, and a group left laughing and giggling. Florence looked at herself and Willard to see if the members were laughing at them. But, all was in order, and they went in.

Florence went to the reception and said, “My name is Florence Brady, and I reserved a double room for the next six nights.”

The receptionist was not the young woman Florence had spoken to just a couple of days before, but the information was OK.

“Good morning, Madam and Sir, you’re right, your reservation is here. Your room number is 147. It’s on the third floor, and here’s your key.”

He turned to a young boy, and said, “Ryan, would you take their luggage up to their room, please?”

Willard butted in, and said, “We’ll take our own stuff up, if that’s OK with you?”

“Yes, of course, Sir.”

Ryan sloped off to return to his iPad, and the couple took the lift up to the third floor. The key was pushed in, and the door opened. The room was spotless, and they both understood that the choice of hotel had been a good one. The view from the window was of the highest mountain in the area, and was famous for being a tourist attraction. As they stared at the road that had led them there, and the woods and the mountain top shrouded in cloud, Florence remembered why they had gone. It was to see the Golden Glen, which was a beauty spot with difficult access. The images she had seen on her computer had put her fertile imagination to work, and she really thought that some kind of magic had been worked there. She didn’t say so to Willard, he was happy enough to be surrounded by trees, water, and fresh air.

“Let’s go for a walk to see how far it is to the glen and the Feather Falls,” suggested Florence.

“All right, and then come back for a decent lunch or finish our own food,” Willard replied.

 

They left the hotel and began walking along the road, until they saw a notice that had the names the Golden Glen and Feather Falls on it, in rustic-looking lettering, with an equally scruffy arrow pointing in the direction away from the hotel. There was also a warning not to go to either of the scenic attractions alone, but to be accompanied. Lucky for them, they were wearing the correct footwear, otherwise they might have had problems as soon as they got off the road and were stepping onto wet leaves and mush left by the trees. Some other travellers were coming towards them, and Willard asked them, “Is it far to Feather Falls?”

A man in the group said, “It isn’t how far it is, but how difficult it is. The rocks are slippery, and you need some kind of stick to help keep you stay upright. It’s worth the walk, which isn’t so far, and there’s a handrail and steps, if you don’t fancy walking down the pathway. Have a nice day.”

“Thank you,” Florence and Willard said.

“There’s a notice here that indicates a handrail and steps. Do you prefer the steps or the path?” Willard asked Florence.

Florence was reluctant to admit that on seeing the wooded landscape and all the water, she suddenly felt a great respect for nature.

“I prefer the steps, the path will be very wet from the falls and the river. Willard can you hear anything?”

The sound of rushing water came to their ears. It deafened anyone who was in the area. They were not able to see anything except the woods. The steps took them down to the platform, the handrails were of green-painted metal. At the moment their feet touched the platform, they saw the falls. There wasn’t just one fall, but several. They ran over large rocks and stones lying on the river bed. The water cascaded down in so many rivulets that they gave the river the aspect of feathers. They came from different directions and then, after quite a long way down, they all became one in the river. The noise was far too strong for normal ears, and it was impossible to be heard speaking above the sound. As the water rode over and between the rocks it was white and foamy. The idea of magic occurring there was even more believable than ever. Willard touched Florence’s arm and pointed to the road above them.

 

Then they made their way up towards the road. The noise of the water disappeared as they got nearer to the road. Willard was a little concerned about Florence, she had wanted to come to the glen, but the Feather Falls were nearer to the hotel and he felt that she was not very interested now she was up there.

“Shall we eat our left-over sandwiches in our room, or have a better lunch in the restaurant?” Willard asked.

Florence felt a bit giddy after the walk and the sight of the falls, and didn’t care either way, but she said, “Whatever you like.”

 

They went straight to their room, and Florence said, “I don’t want to eat, so I’ll have some of the soup. Then I’d like to have a sleep, if that’s OK by you.”

Willard, who also felt rather tired, said, “By all means. Do what you feel is best for you. We have till the end of the week here. There’s plenty of time to see more things.”

Florence fell asleep in a few seconds. Willard opened the tourist books for the region he had found downstairs in reception, and began reading about the Golden Glen. The glen was a short distance from the hotel, and was full of rapids and cascades that went into a narrow ravine. The access was not easy, due to the wetness of the undergrowth most of the time. It sounded too much like Feather Falls to Willard, and he took his eyes off the book to take a look at Florence in deep sleep. From the photos in the book, the place certainly had a magical air about it. If I ever had thoughts of doing Florence in, that’s where I’d do it, he thought to himself. He felt bored, and decided to go downstairs to the bar. He then wrote a note for Florence, in case she woke up and found him gone. He went downstairs, made for the bar, ordered a scotch and soda, and sat thinking. Meanwhile, Florence in her deep sleep was totally unaware of anything at all.

The sky was now a deep blue, and the stars came out, shining with a painful sparkle that can only occur in the mountains with the rarefied air. That night, it seemed as if the Golden Glen wasn’t the only magical spot up there. Willard made conversation with other men in the bar. They showed him the fish they had caught up river, and told him that he could join them for dinner, as the hotel chef was going to prepare their catch. Willard told them he was with his wife and they said, “A wife is the last person to bring to a place like this. They don’t get the peace and quiet. They need shops and what they call civilisation, and up here there isn’t any. How long are you planning on staying?” Ted, one of the men, asked.

“For six nights, I think. Florence arranged the break. All this was her idea.”

Ted said, “Have you seen the Glen yet?”

“No, we haven’t. We saw Feather Falls this afternoon.”

“Is your wife good on her feet? Because if not, she may be a hazard to you, and slip into the river or break a leg or an ankle. It’s charming and magical, but difficult too.”

“We’ll see when we get there. Florence might change her mind,” Willard replied.

 

Florence woke up to find the room in darkness. She called, “Willard, where are you?”

She turned on the light, and found the note left by Willard. Florence washed her face and hands, combed her hair, and sat down and looked at the book about the region that Willard had been reading. The photos looked lovely, but Florence suddenly thought the way down to the river and the gorge didn’t give a person like her a great deal of confidence. She was always falling over and hurting herself, supposing that happened down there, what a tremendous scene that would cause. Willard would be angry with her for being so clumsy. Florence’s head was full of the pictures of the gorge, the rivers, and the falls, as she went down to the bar.

Willard was still chatting to Ted and his mates as Florence entered.

“This is my wife, Florence.” She shook hands with Willard’s new associates. Willard turned to Florence, and said, “Florence, Ted and his friends are keen fishermen, and have invited me to share the fish they caught this afternoon, and to go out on the river with them fishing. What do you think, is it OK with you?”

Florence thought one thing, but said another, “Of course it’s OK. You do what you like. It’s your holiday too.”

Florence thought secretly that Willard had an enormous cheek. She had been the prime mover in the holiday to the glen, and now he had found people that he preferred to be with. She didn’t stay put-out for long, and after dinner and having to listen to how wonderful the fishing was in the gorge, she went up to their room, and began looking at the excursions that were available to all those staying in the village. The centre of the village had good restaurants, gift shops, and a general-goods store.

 

The next day, Florence took a good look around it, and bought herself some things to take home as souvenirs. Willard had gone with her, realising that he had to be nice, as he was going on the fishing expedition with Ted and company in a couple of days. Florence put her name down for a trip to the highest mountain in the region, with the corresponding train ride to the summit. She had so wanted to see Golden Glen, and was still smarting from Willard’s obsession with fishing, when he had never been fishing in his life as far as she knew. She was angry with him for going with men he hardly knew to the Golden Glen, when she had gone all the way up there to see it with him. It was worse, because he had gone with her to Feather Falls, and surely that couldn’t be so much easier than the Glen.

 

The days leading up to fishing, Florence and Willard went walking in the other villages nearest to the hotel. They discovered some very beautiful hotels, and guest houses which had been converted from old cottages, without losing any of their original quaintness.

“We could have stayed in one of these,” Florence declared, as they were walking around a large green, with the river running on one side of it.

“Don’t tell me. You’re the one who made the reservations,” grumbled Willard.

“Well, next time you can choose where to stay,” responded Florence.

“Tomorrow is fishing day,” Willard said to Florence, who was busy thinking.

“Yes, while you’re fishing, I’ll be going on a jaunt to the mountain, right to the summit.”

“What you’re doing is cheating, you’re supposed to trek up there, not go so far, and then catch a train, however tiny it is,” Willard said disparagingly.

“I’m not going to the Golden Glen with you, which is the reason I wanted to come up here. As you seem to think I won’t make it, don’t laugh at me for being careful - which is what you’re not doing,” Florence declared.

 

The following morning two things took place. The first was, that Willard was up very early, and once dressed, said ‘bye’ to Florence, and went down to have breakfast with Ted and company. He had no fishing rod but was being lent one.

 

When he had gone, Florence got up and got ready for breakfast and then the trip. A coach arrived for those who were to go up to the summit by train. The trip was organized so that those who wanted to walk could go so far on foot and then, when the going got rough, could catch the little train; or simply catch the train all the way up. Florence thought she would wait till she saw how thick the cloud was. All those on the trip were handed a packed lunch from their different hotels, with a warm drink and fruit included. Florence felt happy.

 

Willard and friends were driving slowly towards the car park of the Golden Glen. There was a fee for those wishing to enter the glen, and another tariff for the vehicle. They shared the cost for the day, and got the fishing tackle out of the back of the car.

 “Where do we go now?” Willard asked.

“We have to walk for about half and hour before we get to the desired spot. Come on,” Ted said, pointing in the direction where they would walk.

The going was harder than Willard had imagined. The river had cut deep into the landscape, but he remained calm, not wishing to look stupid in the eyes of his new-found friends. The sound of the rushing water was much louder than at Feather Falls. They went from the river being level with the countryside, down and down, till they saw they were in a narrow gorge. There were wooded banks and rock walls on either side, covered with vegetation. From where they were walking, it was getting more and more difficult to see where they were going.

“Is this where you came the day we met in the bar at the hotel?” Willard asked.

“Not exactly, but it’s near the bridge,” Ted answered.

“What bridge?”

“Why the suspension bridge, of course. Haven’t you seen it before?”

“No, I haven’t,” Willard answered.

They prepared the rods and lines and set out the chairs. Willard thought it wasn’t the ideal spot for fishing as the terrain was not level.

 

Ted was trying to set his rod up on some land under a tree, when he slipped and rolled downwards towards the swollen river. “Help me,” he screamed.

Willard jumped into the water as near to Ted as he could to save his companion, and the others did their best to try and get them out of the rushing water. Soon the four were all desperately trying to get out of the heaving water. The river was five miles long and moving faster than any other they had ever seen. It was the devil’s own job trying to swim or do anything worthwhile in such turbulence, and after a short struggle they were all tired. Everything they tried to save themselves was a huge effort, and none of them were up to it. Nobody escaped.

 

Florence was making the most of her time in the coach and on the small train to the summit. The cloud was rather heavy that day, and everyone took the train up to the top. The view would have been breathtaking if it hadn’t been for the cloud that covered the whole mountain range hiding the peaks of the range, which also gave a damp and chilly feeling. There was a metal plaque fixed to the large pile of stones at the top, informing how many feet, or metres, they were at. There were benches where they could sit and there were other groups surrounding the summit too. Everyone opened their packed food and drinks and began eating and drinking. One lady went up to Florence and asked her, “What hotel are you staying at? I haven’t seen you before on any of the excursions. My name is Antonia,” and she held out her hand.

Florence shook Antonia’s hand, and said, “I’m staying at the Golden Glen hotel, and you?”

“Oh no, I’m at a bed and breakfast in the village. It’s very good and cheaper than an hotel. I prefer eating in a different place every meal time, rather than in the same one every day. I’m going back home tomorrow. I saved this trip up here, for my last day here. How about you, when are you going back home?”

“We’ve still got a few more days here yet.”

“Who are you with?”

“My husband, who has gone fishing today with someone he met in the hotel the other evening.”

“Where have they gone fishing?” Antonia asked.

“Somewhere in the river, but I’m not sure where,” Florence said, hoping Antonia would leave her alone with her thoughts.

“It’s said to be dangerous fishing in the river. I hope nothing bad happens to your husband,” Antonia declared getting up from the bench.

“You’re a cheerful one, aren’t you?” reacted Florence.

 

Antonia went off, and Florence finished her food and walked around the pile of rocks that were firmly fixed and impossible to move, not even a gale was able to shift them. The cloud began drifting down to cover all the summit, almost to the narrow gauge railway. The visitors walked back to the train, got in and watched through the windows, as where they had just come from was no longer visible. Florence saw that Antonia had sat down next to another woman, who was also out on her own. Florence was happy that she had been ignored.

 

The hotel lights were a welcoming sight for the tired travellers. Florence entered the reception area and went to the lift. The manager went up to her, and said, “Mrs Brady, I have something to tell you.”

Florence entered the manager’s office, and saw another man in there. The manager said, “Please sit down. This is detective Martins, who is here to ask you a few questions.”

Florence was dazed. She said nothing.

“Mrs Brady, did your husband go fishing today with some other men?” Martins asked.

“Yes he did, but I only know the name of one of the men - and that’s Ted. Why do you ask?”

“The bodies of four men were found floating in the river earlier in the day. Fishing tackle was also found further back down the river.”

“My husband didn’t have any fishing tackle. How do you know it’s him?”

“They have all been identified by driving licences in their pockets. We’d appreciate it if you could identify if your husband is one of the men, please.”

Florence stood up and said she would go with the detective. She was not with it at all, and hardly knew what was going on around her.

They drove along the road she and Willard had travelled only a few days before. Everything was so unreal, as if in a dream. When they arrived at the mortuary in a large town, she saw three other women there, one of whom was Antonia. Florence knew nothing about the men or their wives. She only knew that Willard had somehow or other felt attracted to the idea of fishing for the first time in his life. Willard had drowned, as had the other three. They had been found floating, face down, in the fast flowing river. Florence kept her cool, and walked past Antonia and the rest, as if blaming them for the tragedy.

“Is it possible to get his remains back home for the funeral?” Florence asked the detective.

“Yes, of course it is. Did your husband know that fishing was prohibited in the river?”

“Willard said nothing to me about where they were going. Only that they were going fishing. You need to speak to one of the other women about the fishing question, not to me.” Florence said on the brink of bursting into tears.

 

Three months had passed, when Florence put the house up for sale. She’d only gone back to clear things out, especially Willard’s possessions. She gave his stuff to their sons. Privately, she still blamed the other men for encouraging him to go fishing, and she would never understand why he had preferred their company to hers.

 

Alone in her new abode, that held no memories of Willard, she tried to carve out a life without him.


© Copyright 2018 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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