The week went by quickly, almost too quickly for Julia. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for or who. So she dragged her friends in ones, two, and three to the various waterfalls on her map. She saved Granite Falls for the end. It was her biggest hope for the oracle, but she wanted to save it for last so the smaller waterfall visits made sense.
The small waterfall were pretty and she learned a lot about the types of waterfalls: horsetails, plunges, tiered, and ledge. But none of them felt any more special than the others. While Julia had no idea who the Oracle of the Falls was she assumed that, like the Grim Reaper, they would be noticeably different.
They emerged in front of the falls. It was a grand site, they almost couldn’t hear each other over the pounding of water.
“Woah,” Ben said looking around. He summed it up best and no one thought to comment further.
Julia looked around for anything really. A spot, a darkness, a face. But all she saw was tourists and families gawping at the sight like they were.
“Oh, we should go see the hermit house,” Bre said as they were about to leave the waterfall. Julia froze, but how?
Julia froze, but how? “There’s really a hermit?”
Bre nodded. “They were famous so the park board set up a cabin and everything to mark the spot. It’s supposed to be true to life and everything. They just opened it last year.”
“But the hermit doesn’t live there now?”
“No, he died like fifty years ago. But lived out here for most of his life.”
Julia followed them, there was a chance, a small chance, but a chance that the Oracle would be there at the cabin. They walked along the sunlit paths deeper and deeper into the woods. To Julia whatever path they were following had all but disappeared. She wasn’t the only one concerned.
“Bre?” Marq called out swatting bugs away. “Are you sure this is the way? Shouldn’t there be a – I don’t know – a sign? If it’s so famous?”
“This is the back way,” Bre insisted pushing forward. They followed until they got to the mouth of a dark cave.
“Oh hell, no. I’m not going in there,” Marq said taking one look at the dark entrance.
“Don’t be a baby,” Bre said and headed in. Ben followed, then Julia.
She gave a look back to Marq who sighed and followed her. It was almost cold inside the cave, the air was moist and the walls slick to touch. But it wasn’t long and then they were spit out on the other side in a small glade.
It was gorgeous, Julia thought, getting goosebumps up her arms. Was this it? Was this where the Oracle was?
Bre led them on to a small cabin. It was picturesque. Perched in front of a small pool on the far side of Granite Falls. An ideal spot for living or just doing anything, really.
A woman greeted them as they looked around the cabin. She was dressed simply and exactly as a hermit should be. “Hello, friends.”
“Hello,” they replied somewhat awkwardly. They weren’t sure how to treat this jovial woman dressed as if she wanted nothing to do with the real world.
“Are you the hermit?” Julia asked. She blushed as her friends laughed.
“No, but my husband and I take care of the cabin for the park. We dress like this so we don’t stand out when you visitors come by.”
“It’s a lovely spot,” she replied.
“Isn’t it?” She beamed as if he’d picked it himself. “There’s all kind of wild plants and insects here that aren’t found anyone else in the park, so we try to take care of it. You kids won’t do any damage will you? No picking flowers or setting fires outside of the designated spots?”
They decided to rent fishing poles and fish for their lunch. Although the calm waters and repetitive motions of fishing lulled everyone into a contemplative mood, Julia grew bored quickly and retired to a log to write. With all the words bouncing around her head she couldn’t concentrate on them or what she was doing.
As she wrote, she wondered what she was going to do. The Hermit thing had been a complete bust as had Granite Falls in general. There were still half a dozen waterfalls on her list but there was nothing particularly special about any of them. She heard someone whistling a jaunty tune and looked up. The Hermit winked at her. Curious, Julia stood up and joined her by the flowers.
“What kind of flowers are these?” She looked down at them they kind of looked purple?
She looked up surprised.
She caught her glance and smiled, “I know, morbid right? But they’re popular in town so we grow them here for the funeral homes.”
“Never heard them called that. Anemones are linked to death too, maybe that’s what you’re thinking of.” At her hopeful look she shook her head, “No, we don’t grow them here. They’re little white flowers normally, about yea big.” She held out her palm.
“Have you heard of an Oracle of the Falls?” She didn’t want to ask, but she couldn’t help. She held her breath.
“Oracle? No.” She shook his head. “Nothing like that around here, is it a flower?”
“Just – Just something I heard,” she replied and smiled up at the fake hermit. “It was nice to meet you Ms…?”
“Bentley. I’m Anna.”
“Stop by anytime!”
“I will.” She waved goodbye and returned to her friends who had just caught something by the look of the commotion behind the hermit.
Ben was all proud of himself for catching a fish. It was the largest one they’d seen. But as he held it up for his photo shoot. They realized suddenly they had no idea what to do next. No one knew how to gut or scale a fish, much less make it palatable for human consumption. Regretfully, they had to let it go. Hunger rising, they packed up, returned the poles, and headed back to the cabin.
“Thank for inviting us, Bre,” Marq said as they navigated the woods. “This has been and awesome week.”
“I’ll say it’s a lot cooler here with you guys instead of my little sister.”
“Even though I dragged you to all the waterfalls in the area?” Julia asked. She felt kind of bad about that she’d been so certain something here would trigger something.
“Haha, you did do that,” Bre laughed, but she was in good humor. “Were you looking for something. It kind of seemed like you were.”
“Inspiration, I guess?” Julia shrugged. “What time are we leaving tomorrow?”
“Noon, I hope?” Marq asked. He had been the last one up every morning despite how stifling the bunk house was.
Julia smiled. That gave her time for one more walk in the morning if she wanted, one more try to find the Oracle of the Falls.
* Challenge details: CitizenErased14’s Ambrosia Challenge