a short story
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December 13, 2013
Never chase a naked man through a waterfall.
When Lindsey stumbles onto a dead body, she thinks her day can’t get any crazier. Then she sees a gorgeous naked man fleeing the scene, and an impulse she can’t explain propels her to pursue the stranger — straight through a waterfall and into a parallel world. Nevan, the supernatural man who lured her into his world, stirs passions she never knew she had in her. But who and what is he?
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I broke through the screen of trees into the clearing surrounding the falls. The water cascaded over a twenty-foot sandstone cliff into a small pool that emptied into a stream. To my right, a wooden bridge spanned the stream. Directly in front of me, the trail led past the falls and into the deeper woods. I skidded to a halt. There, sprawled across the path, lay a man.
He didn’t move. I couldn’t tell if he was breathing. His eyes were closed. He rested on his side with his hips twisted at an awkward angle, his legs spread wide. His shoulders concealed most of his head from my view. I ran to him, falling to my knees beside him. A dark stain had spread out under his head, dampening the soil. Blood. I recognized it instinctively. I touched his throat and pressed just hard enough to feel for a pulse. Nothing. I pressed harder. Still nothing. I held a finger under his nostrils but felt no tickle of breathing.
So I shook him. Hard.
When he didn’t rouse, I shook him again and shouted, “Wake up!”
No response. I tried his wrist but found no pulse there either. The guy was dead.
A wave of dizziness hit me. I braced myself with one hand on the ground as I rode out the spinning sensation until it passed. I’d found a dead body. My stomach lurched, but I managed to not throw up on the corpse. I should’ve felt scared or angry or…something. I didn’t. I huddled there staring at the dead body. An empty paper bag lay crumpled beside the man’s lifeless form. I knew that bag. I had slipped a pair of copper ore bookends into the bag and handed it to the man personally. As I’d swiped his credit card, he’d flirted with me a little bit and I’d flirted right back. Now he was dead.
I knew I should call the cops. I moved my hand to my jeans pocket where I kept my phone. Something kept me from actually taking out the phone. It felt like a wire between my brain and my hand had disconnected, leaving me frozen.
Behind me, tree branches rustled.
The waterfall was small, and its rumble far from deafening, but I still wondered if I’d actually heard the rustling sound or if the noise of the falls had tricked my ears. I felt no wind, not even a tickle of a breeze that might’ve jostled the branches.
I heard a faint pattering, like bare feet on dirt. I leaped up and spun around.
A naked man was sprinting down the path away from me. He swerved right, vaulted over the wooden railing meant to deter people from doing exactly what he was doing, and landed squarely on the rock ledge at the base of the cliff. He ran toward the falls and flung himself straight into the tumbling water.
For two long seconds, I couldn’t move. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t process what I had just seen. Then my brain kicked back into gear and I knew one thing for certain. That naked man knew something about the dead body at my feet. He was a witness—or a killer.