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The First Email

From: daniel7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject: Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, You and me—we’re kind of alike.  I noticed that you like to draw imaginary creatures.  Well, so do I....

Email 2

From: daniel7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject: Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, Speaking of creatures, have you ever seen a ghost camel?  Ha!  Just kidding! I like your ghost camel painting.  I was just wondering, from one artist to another, how did you know what color to make it? And how did you know what shape to make its head?  Your painting looks very realistic–like it’s getting ready to run off. You must have a pretty good imagination....

Email 3

Email 3 From:  daniel7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, I found your paintings in a book called Best Fantasy Art of the 70s.  Here are some of my favorites (of the ones you painted): page 46, top, Ghost Camel page 48, Music Tree page 45, Well Ogre But the picture I’ve been looking at the most is Sunlight on Dark Water.  It’s not a painting, is it?  I think it’s a photo.  That’s a compliment to you.  Usually I’m not that interested in photographs of scenery. I have a question about the photo.  Way down in the lower right hand corner, if you look real close, you can see two tiny dots on the water  They’re kind of a golden yellow color.  I was just wondering about them. I’ve scanned a copy of the photo and I’m attaching it to this email, just to be sure you know which picture I’m talking about. But, you probably already knew, didn’t you?...

Email 4

From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, O.K., I’ll admit it.  I didn’t know anything about your art until last Wednesday. That’s when Jezebel knocked over a pile of books. I was sorting books for Ms. Chadwick.  I work in her bookstore two days a week after school.  That’s how I earn a little extra money for my college fund.  I’m only 11 years old, so college is still a long ways off, but Mom wants me to start saving.  I also get one free (used) book to take home each week.  That’s a bonus, because I read lots of books. Ms. Chadwick’s bookstore is called The Cat’s Meow Books.  It’s open Tuesday-Friday afternoons and Thursday and Friday nights.  Jezebel is Ms. Chadwick’s one-eyed cat. She has poofy, dark-brown fur, black rings on her tail, and really sharp claws.  (That’s Jezebel, not Ms. Chadwick.)  She’ll pounce on anything that moves, so don’t ever try walking around the bookstore in flip-flops. Anyway, last Wednesday Jez came racing around the corner.  She had her head down, ears back, and she was moving like her tail was on fire.  That’s how Jez gets when she’s chasing a mouse, and we’ve got a few in the store.  But, when Jez hit the tile floor she went into a high-speed skid, lost her balance, and slammed into a stack of books. Jez lay there for a couple of seconds.  I was hoping she hadn’t  hurt herself, and I hurried over to take a look.  But Jez just got up, shook her head, and started licking one of her paws.  Then she strolled off, tail in the air, like crashing into those books was just what she meant to do.  You know how cats are. A book called Best Fantasy Art of the 70s was lying on the floor.  When it fell off the stack, it hit the floor and opened up.  It looked like someone who’d been reading it had just set it down.  But then something weird happened. Pages started flipping from left to right.  It looked like someone was blowing on them.  I watched as the pages flew by.  Then, just as suddenly, they stopped–dead still.  And they didn’t move again. Guess whose paintings were staring up at me from that open book? Daniel P.S.  Besides drawing, I also like to write.  Do you like to write...

Email 5

Email 5 From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, I looked for more of your paintings.  I searched through Best Fantasy Art of the 80s and Best Fantasy Art of the 90s.  But, I couldn’t find one painting or photo of yours in either of those books.  Why not? Also, I’m still wondering about those yellowish dots of light in the lower corner of your photograph.  The reason I’m wondering is that, one night, I saw some lights like that. Daniel P.S.  I’ve been working on a sketch of a dragon head.  At first I was thinking I should give the dragon four eyes, but now I’m wondering whether it should just have two. What do you...

Email 6

From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, You’re probably wondering why I started writing to you.  Well, remember, I told you I like to write.  I used to keep a journal, but no one ever saw my journal except me. For a while, I pretended that my journal was writing back to me, but that got boring. I mean, who was I trying to kid?  I figured it made more sense to write to a person than to a notebook....

Email 7

From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, Maybe you’re also wondering why I started out writing to you about ghost camels. My dad was an artist.  Mom says I got my talent for drawing from him.  She has a dragon tattoo on the back of her shoulder that my dad designed.  Mom jokes that it’s the only thing he left behind when he took off.  Well, the tattoo and an ’88 GMC truck. There’s something about that tattooed dragon on my mom’s shoulder that reminds me of the ghost camel in your painting.  I just thought you might want to know....

Email 8

Email 8 From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, I’m curious about where you get the inspiration for your art.  My friend, Natalya, has a dad who’s an artist.  Well, he’s not a full-time artist.  He’s actually a plumber.  He has his own van.  It’s dark blue with the words Petrov’s Plumbing written in white letters on the side.  Natalya and I helped him paint on the letters. But I still think he’s an artist because he makes jewelry at night.  He sells his jewelry on the internet.  Guess what he calls his jewelry business?  If you guessed Petrov’s Jewelry you’re right. I asked Natalya’s dad, once, where he gets the inspiration for his art.  He just shrugged and said everywhere.  But, that didn’t really help me. Daniel P.S.  I’m sending along a sketch I did during math class today.  I probably should have been paying more attention to my teacher, but I had this idea I just had to get down on...

Email 9

From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, Don’t get me wrong when I ask about where you get your inspiration.  It’s not that I have trouble thinking of things to draw or paint.  Actually, I have a few report cards that say I spend too much time drawing in class.  And, I work on my drawings at home almost every night. But I’m talking about getting inspired.  You know how sometimes, when you start working on something, you can’t get your mind off it?  You go to sleep thinking about it and you wake up thinking about it.  You’d rather be working on it than eating pizza or talking with your friends.  That’s the kind of inspiration I’m talking about. Are you usually inspired when you do your paintings?...

Email 10

From:  johnm4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject:  Question about pictures How did you get my email...

Email 11

Email 11 From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, I’ve gotta admit, I was surprised to see your note.  I’m glad you wrote back.  My journal never did.  Ha.  But, I always figured I’d eventually hear from you. Finding your email address wasn’t easy.  I googled your name, but there must be about a hundred John Macphersons on the internet.  I probably clicked on about 99 of them before I found you. A few years ago, you sent a short email asking whether anyone on Fantasy Artist’s Guild had any experience with selkies.  I got your email from the return address on your note. I didn’t know anything about selkies until I looked them up.  I like how they can shed their seal skins and come onto land looking just like real people.  Did you ever paint a picture of a selkie? Daniel P.S.  I’m still wondering about your photo, Sunlight on Dark Water.  Where did you take it? I’m sending along a picture of a creature I drew this morning.  I’m not sure what it is. I just started sketching and this is what I...

Email 12

From:  john4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject:  Re: Question about pictures I took the photo early one morning, off the coast of...

Email 13

From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, Sometimes you wait for a long time for something to happen.  Maybe Christmas, or your birthday, or the last day of school.  You wait and wait until finally it gets here. Then, when it finally arrives, it catches you by surprise.  After all that waiting, you don’t quite know what to do next. That’s kind of how I felt when I got back your email.  I got used to writing without getting an answer back.  So, it surprised me when I heard from you. Daniel P.S.  I have one request.  After all the email I’ve been sending you, it seems like you could at least tell me the story that goes with the picture Sunlight on Dark...

Email 14

Email 14 From:  johnm4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject:  Re: Question about pictures Attachements: There are 2 attachments I took the photo early one morning, off the coast of Tanzania.  The previous evening, I’d rented an old boat from a local fisherman who told me I could catch yellow-fin tuna a few hundred meters offshore. I paddled out to a small reef and cast out a couple of lines.  They weren’t in the water ten minutes when a heavy bank of fog rolled in.  Before I could even pull in my lines, the fog had cut off my view of the shore and I was completely disoriented. I didn’t dare try to paddle back to land because I might end up heading out to sea instead.  So, I spent all night using a rusty coffee can to bail water from the bottom of my leaky old boat. Sometime past midnight, I first heard the whispers.  For a moment, I thought it was just the waves lapping at the boat. But that wasn’t it.  Someone–or something–was whispering my name. I stopped and looked around.  Somewhere overhead, the moon seemed to be shining, but it was so dark and foggy on the water that I could barely see the end of my boat.  So, I went back to bailing. The whispers persisted. I stared into the darkness.  Perhaps the fisherman who had rented me the boat had come to check on me.  Maybe he was just out of sight.  Maybe he and one of his sons were playing a joke. I called into the darkness, but no one answered.  No one was there.  At least, no one I could see. I began to wonder if I was hallucinating.  Maybe I was just reacting to the stress of being tired, lost, and trying to keep the boat bailed.  But when I put my hands over my ears, I couldn’t hear the whispers any more.  They weren’t coming from inside my head. A couple of times during the night, the fog seemed to thin and I saw lights in the distance.  I thought they might be fires burning on the shore, so I began to row toward them.  But the lights always winked out before I could get very far.  I was left in the darkness wondering, again, whether I’d even been paddling in the right direction. Finally, after a long and sleepless night, the sky brightened and the fog suddenly lifted.  I glanced around in surprise.  In the distance, I saw another small boat.  It held two passengers.  They sat very still, as if they were surprised to see me too. I hailed the other boaters, but they were already paddling away.  I clearly heard the splash of paddles as they turned their boat and retreated.  Twice more I called out, but they didn’t even look back. I turned my own boat and headed for the beach.  Before long I reached the breakers and the waves carried me ashore.  With a sigh of relief, I dragged the boat out of the surf and looked around.  The beach was deserted.  No people.  No animals.  No sign that anyone had ever been there. Except for one thing.  Trailing off through the sand, beginning where my boat had just beached, was a very unusual set of tracks....

Email 15

From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, I just knew there was a story about that picture. Do you think the creature swam out of the sea or got out of a boat?  I think it probably was in a boat, or maybe a raft.  If it was good at swimming long distances it probably would have fins instead of feet.  And what about the voices? You’re lucky the creature left such easy-to-follow tracks.  You did follow them, didn’t you?  It couldn’t be a selkie, could it? Just kidding....

Email 16

Email 16 From:  johnm4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject: Re: Question about pictures Attachments: There is 1 attachment I followed the tracks along the beach for about a kilometer.  At that point, they curved around a low cliff, into a cove that was accessible at low tide. Tucked away in the base of one of the cliffs was an arch-shaped opening leading into a cave.  Whoever, or whatever, left the tracks had clearly entered this...

Email 17

From: daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, I’ve been wondering–what were you doing in Tanzania?...

Email 18

Email 18 From:  john4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject:  Re: Question about pictures Attachments:  There is 1 attachment I was born in the highlands of Kenya, and I grew up in Tanzania, Brazil, Morocco, India, and a few other places.  My parents were teachers who traveled widely.  I’m not sure whether they taught so they could travel or whether they traveled so they could teach–but they loved both.  I learned about the world at an early age.  I could speak Portuguese, Spanish, English, and a bit of Swahili and Arabic by the time I was 12 years old. My mother was interested in folklore.  She searched out the old people wherever we lived, and she asked them to tell her their stories.  My mother had beautiful handwriting, and I remember watching her in the evenings, carefully copying the stories into notebooks. In college, I studied English, art and physics, but I soon got bored and left the classroom behind.  I began to travel the back roads of Europe and Asia.  Like my mother, I found myself drawn to storytellers in out-of-the-way places.  I have used my camera, sketchpad, and notebook to record unusual things I’ve seen and...

Email 19

From: daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, I tried tracking a creature once. Mom and I borrowed a tent and some sleeping bags from some friends and went camping up near Mt. Shasta.  Late one night, after Mom was asleep, I heard some noises down by the creek.  I grabbed the flashlight, slid out of my sleeping bag, and sneaked out of the tent. There was a bright moon, so I didn’t turn on the flashlight.  The grunting and splashing down by the creek was getting louder, so I headed that way.  I have to admit I was a little scared, but I was even more curious. I walked as slowly and quietly as I could.  But, just before I reached the creek bank, the noises stopped.  I froze.  Somewhere in the shadows ahead, I knew that something was looking my direction. I heard a soft grunt.  Then, branches snapped and pebbles clattered as something raced through the shadows, down the creek bed.  It clawed its way up the opposite bank and disappeared into the woods on the other side. I turned on the light and shined it down by the creek.  Nothing.  I shined the light into the woods on the opposite side.  Nothing there either.  I shined my light up into the sky, but the only things up there were stars.  So, I went back to the tent, crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep, wondering. The next morning, as soon as I got up, I headed back down to the creek.  I thought for sure I’d find some tracks.  I spent almost half an hour looking. There were some scratches in the dirt on the far bank where the creature had clawed its way up.  And a few pebbles had rolled down where it had heaved itself onto the brushy bank.  But, nothing that would prove anything to someone who hadn’t been there that night. So, what did you do next?  I mean, about the cave.?...

Email 20

Email 20 From:  john4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject:  Re: Question about pictures Attachment:  There is 1 attachment Once I entered the cave, the tracks disappeared as the sand gave way to a smooth, stone floor.  About 30 meters in, I found a small wooden door set into the stone wall. The door wasn’t very high.  I remember thinking that I’d have to stoop to pass through.  It had a small brass door nob.  The nob turned easily, and I carefully pushed the door open. The room ahead of me was pitch black.  I stepped slowly into the darkness, using my outstretched hand to keep from bumping into anything.  I hadn’t taken more than three or four steps when something hard pressed against my right leg.  I reached down to touch it.  It felt like a low table.  As I moved my hands across the surface, I found something round and smooth.  It was about the size of my fist. There were voices again, whispering my name, asking me to pick up the object.  I looked around.  Maybe they were inside my head. I picked up the object.   Somehow it was lighter, more delicate, than I’d expected.  As soon as I had the object in my hands, the whispering stopped and the object began to hum. I don’t quite know how to describe the sound.  It had a low tone, very beautiful, very soft.   The sound was quite unusual–more like something I felt than something I heard. As I held the object and listened to it hum, it began to quiver.  I watched in amazement as it began to glow, dimly at first and then more brightly.  Soon it was shining with a warm and beautiful light. I set it back on the table, pulled my camera from my pack, and took a picture....

Email 21

From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Question about pictures Dear Mr. Macpherson, That is so cool.  It’s beautiful.  Do you have any idea how it got there?  Do you think the voices you heard were the same ones you heard on the water? I saw some colors like that once.  In the woods, one evening, up on Henry’s Mountain. What happened next?...

Email 22

Email 22 From: johnm4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject:  Re: Question about pictures Attachments:  There are 2 attachments I took a bandana from my pocket, wrapped the shell, and tucked it carefully into my backpack.  Then I returned to my boat and pushed it into the sea.  While I was trapped in the fog, I had drifted far to the south.  I spent most of the day paddling back to the fishing village where I’d rented the boat.  This time I was careful to stay near the shore. The boat’s owner saw me from the beach, and he waded out to help pull me ashore.  He was delighted to see me and insisted on inviting me into his house for tea.  I’m not sure whether he thought that I’d stolen his boat or sunk it.  In any case, my return (or, more likely, the boat’s return) brought him much happiness. Next I took a bus to Dar es Salaam.  My first stop there was the market, where I looked for a small wooden box to protect the shell.  I didn’t want it to get crushed in my backpack. Then I headed down to the docks to see if I could find passage on a boat headed north. Within an hour I was negotiating with a Somali named Abubakar.  He was a tall, quiet man with strong arms and a faded New York Yankees baseball cap.  Through a bit of broken Swahili and many hand signals, I convinced Abubakar that I was the deckhand he needed. Abubakar’s boat was named the Liberty.  It was a 50-meter, wooden-hulled, diesal-powered wreck.  Every bit of exposed metal was rusting and most of the painted wood was peeling.  The engine smoked like it was on fire.  Despite the smoke, however, the engine sounded strong and smooth.  If the hull held together, I was pretty sure the Liberty would get us to the Red Sea. Abubakar was in a hurry.  He wanted to leave right after sundown and keep the ship running day and night.  Abubakar needed someone to pilot the ship while he slept.  He asked me several times whether I was sure that I could stay awake on my watch.  He also wanted me to spend as much time as possible above deck and in clear view during daylight hours, even while I was napping.  He seemed to think that would discourage any bandits or pirates from attacking us.  In return, I’d get free passage. Abubakar told me that his destination was a port on the Red Sea.  Beyond that, he was evasive, and he clearly didn’t want me around while the ship was being loaded.  So, later in the afternoon, when a dust-covered truck pulled up on the pier near the Liberty, I took the hint and went into town. We left at sunrise the next morning, on the outgoing tide.  The trip up the coast was uneventful.  I had 12 days to brush up on my Swahili with Captain Abubakar, 12 nights to watch the stars in the blackest skies you’ve ever seen, and many hours of good fishing. Abubakar dropped me off at Marsa Alam, a small port on the Egyptian coast.  We shook hands, and that was it.  I didn’t know where Abubakar was headed or what was in the hold, and I knew better than to ask. Tell me about the time you saw lights on Henry’s Mountain....

Email 23

From: Daniel 76412@hotmail.com To: johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject: Henry’s Mountain Dear Mr. Macpherson, Sometimes I go hiking on Henry’s Mountain with Natalya and Donovan.  Like I told you, Natalya is my friend.  She lives in Candlelight Estates Mobile Home Park, just like me, except she and her dad live over on Loop D. Donovan’s my dog.  Mom says he’s never going to win any dog beauty contests.  It’s true–he’s not much to look at.  He’s the kind of medium-sized, dark brown, floppy-haired mutt you see whenever you go to the pound.  But, Donovan’s a good friend to me. Henry’s Mountain is a great place to go exploring.  One day after school, I called up Natalya and asked if she wanted to go up to the cliffs to look for hawks.  Fall is the time of year when they migrate south.  Natalya said yes, of course.  I packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Natalya and me and some doggie biscuits for Donovan.  Natalya brought a couple of apples, and we head up to the cliffs. When we got to the cliffs, Donovan plopped onto a warm rock for a nap.  Natalya and I unpacked the lunches and got out the binoculars.  There was a warm wind blowing up the valley, and it was a good day for birds.  We saw Red Tails, Cooper’s Hawks, some Sharp-Shins, and a couple of kestrels.  I guess we kind of forgot about the time.  Before we knew it, the sun was getting low. We woke up Donovan, put the rest of the food into the backpack, and started back down the hillside.  Donovan trotted ahead, stopping to sniff the bushes.  Half an hour later, we were hurrying along the overgrown trail through the forest.  The light  was fading, but we weren’t too worried about getting lost.  We’d been up and down that trail too many times. Then, suddenly, Donovan stopped.  He looked around and began to whine.  It was a weird sound–different than any noise I’d ever heard him make. Natalya and I watched Donovan.  He sniffed the air, looking from side to side.  Then,  he dropped to his belly, right in the middle of the trail. I was about to give Donovan a little kick and tell him to get going when Natalya touched my arm.  She pointed ahead. Off to the side, along a low ridge, four lights were passing through the trees.  They were headed up the mountain–only they were passing through an area where I knew there was no trail. The lights were swinging back and forth.  They could have been flashlights or lanterns.  I thought about calling out. But then I looked down at Donovan.  He was hugging the ground so tight it looked like he was trying to disappear.  Maybe Natalya guessed what I was thinking.  She squeezed my arm and put her finger to her lips. Those lights just weren’t the color you’d see from a lantern or flashlight.  They were the same color as the glow from your shell. The lights stopped once.  When they did, I think we all quit breathing.  Then, they started up the mountain again.  As they disappeared, we heard whispery footsteps. Donovan waited at least a minute after the lights passed before he raised his head.  He looked around and whined quietly.  Then he sat down right on my foot! Natalya and I looked at each other.  Neither of us knew what to think. “Let’s go,” Natalya whispered, pointing down the trail.  So, we headed for home. Donovan was plenty happy to follow along.  He stayed so close to us he kept...

Email 24

Email 24 From:  johnm4713@yahoo.com To: daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject: Camping in Egypt When I left Captain Abubakar’s ship in Marsa Alam, I found myself in familiar country.  Many years ago, when I was a boy, my parents took me on camping trips in the mountains of Egypt, along the Red Sea.  My mother had her notebooks with her, of course.  We went in search of encampments with Bedouin elders who had stories to tell.  It was in those encampments that I first heard stories about ghost camels. So, standing on a dusty street in Marsa Alam, I decided to visit the lands of those long-ago camping trips.  I bought an old motorcycle from a shop just outside the city and headed west.  My plan was to ride into the mountains, find an out-of-the-way road that headed north, follow it to Hurghada, and then travel on to Cairo. It was mid-afternoon when I left Marsa Alam.  My new bike ran surprisingly well, considering what I’d paid for it, and by evening I was deep in the mountains.  I purposely followed the less-traveled roads. The sky was turning pink and I was just thinking about finding a place to camp when the road took a sharp right turn.  I slowed the bike, rounded the corner, and found myself face to face with a Yellow-billed Stork. It’s unusual to see Yellow-bills in this area, but it was sitting on a low branch, at eye level, as if it had been waiting for me.  Just then, I noticed a movement in my pack.  I didn’t think much about it at the time.  It felt as if a water bottle or book had suddenly shifted position. The stork spread its wings, tipped back its head, and began clacking its bill. Again, there was movement in my backpack.  This time it was more of a vibration, like the buzzing of a cell phone. But I don’t carry a cell phone. I stopped the bike, took off my pack, and looked inside. There was nothing out of the ordinary.  Meanwhile, the stork flew noisily out of the tree.  It circled overhead, down into a nearby ravine, and back toward me again. I noticed a small road–barely more than a trail–heading down into the ravine.  So, I strapped on my pack, started up my bike, and rode down the trail.  At the bottom, I found a lovely little oasis, an ideal spot to spend the night.  I leaned my bike against a tree, spread out my bedroll, and made a small fire to boil water for tea. The stork, meanwhile, had perched in a nearby tree.  It sat quietly, head cocked, watching everything I did.  I took several pictures of it.  Finally, just as darkness settled in, the stork flew away. I was pretty sure The Dark King had figured out where I was.....

Email 25

From: daniel7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Noise in pack Dear Mr. Macpherson, What was making the noise in your backpack?  And who is The Dark King?...

Email 26

Email 26 From:  johnm4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject:  Re: Noise in pack Attachment:  There is 1 attachment At the time, I had no idea.  I was tired, and I thought perhaps something in the pack had shifted.  You know how your mind plays tricks on you when you’re tired?  But later, when I was unpacking my bag, I noticed that the top had come loose from the box holding my shell. By the time I had finished my tea, the sky was dark.  I stretched out on my blanket and looked at the stars.  All I could hear was the drone of insects and the call of some far-away night bird.  I quickly fell asleep. Sometime later–I’m not sure how much later–I awakened.  I had used my pack for a pillow and, to my surprise, the shell–which I had slipped back inside the pack for safekeeping–was moving.  Not much.  Just a gentle vibration. I lifted my head and stared at my pack.  That’s when I heard the sound.  A hoarse cough.  Silence.  Then another cough. Turning my head, I stared at the silvery brightness of moonlit sand and rock.  The creature was very close.  It seemed to be drinking from the spring.  Slowly, I reached for my camera. In the darkness, I twisted the lens barrel, changing the setting to telephoto.  Then I aimed my camera toward the spring. Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of movement.  The creature lifted its head and turned to stare at me.  I blinked in surprise.  Then, focusing on its head, I quickly pressed the shutter release.  The flash blazed and lit up the night. The startled animal flinched.  “Whoof!” it coughed as it lumbered off into the darkness.  It didn’t look anything like I’d expected.  But, as the stories all said, this was no ordinary...

Email 27

From:  Daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject: Ghost Camel Dear Mr. Macpherson, A ghost camel!  You took a picture of a ghost camel? I didn’t even know you could take pictures of ghosts.  Now I know why it looks like it’s getting ready to turn around and run off. Why didn’t you send the photo to a newspaper or magazine?  Why didn’t you write a story about it?  And who is The Dark King?...

Email 28

From:  johnm4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject:  Re: Ghost Camel Daniel, 1.  No one would believe me 2.  A few crackpots would show up in the Egyptian desert with hunting rifles and night-vision goggles, determined to turn a ghost camel into a trophy. The creatures I seek are disappearing.  A few can still be found in old villages where people tell stories around fireplaces at night.  A few can be found where solitary cabins face the sea or stone huts cling to windswept hills. But usually I have to travel far.  Lonely mountain ridges where ancient rocks brush the clouds.  Wide plains, miles from any road, where the grass whispers as the sun goes down.  Dark forests in the deep of winter, where snow hangs on evergreen boughs and silence seeps into your body with the cold. There aren’t many places like that left....

Email 29

Email 29 From:  daniel 7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Well Ogre Dear Mr. Macpherson, I understand. Now, I’m wondering about the painting you did of the well ogre.  Is there a story that goes with that? Daniel P.S.  I’ve started working on dragons again.  What do you...

Email 30

Email 30 From:  john4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject:  Re: Well Ogre Daniel, Yes, there is a story about the well ogre.  I encountered that little fellow one afternoon on a farm at the edge of the Rhodope Mountains. For several weeks I’d been traveling from village to village.  I shopped in the markets, stayed in the small inns, and bought crafts from the local people.  But whenever I asked about well ogres, everyone just laughed. “That’s the talk of old people,” they’d say. “No one believes in well ogres anymore!” “You’ll have to look in a storybook to find one of those.!” Even my offer of a small reward to talk to anyone who could tell me about a well ogre didn’t do any good.  I had just about given up my search when, one morning, there was a knock on the door of my room. I opened the door and found a stooped little woman.  Her hair was pulled back in a bun.  Except for two bright brown eyes, her face was almost hidden by a colorful shawl.  She had a cane in one hand, which she waved as she spoke. “You’re looking for a well ogre?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. The woman looked from side to side and lowered her voice. “My son and my daughter-in-law think one has been hiding out in their well,” she said. “Here!” The woman handed me a sheet of paper and pulled the shawl back around her face.  “If you want to chase it away,” she said, “be sure to take a bucket of ashes.  Oak ashes.”   Then, she turned and walked quickly away, her cane thumping like a puppy tail in a cardboard box. I looked at the paper the woman had given me.  It was a flier for a bed and breakfast establishment called Todor and Petia’s Farmyard Inn.  There was a phone number, so I rang them up and asked whether I could stay for a few days.  They were happy to receive my call, and I arranged to check in later that afternoon. I don’t think my arrival was completely unexpected.  I could tell by the curious way Petia looked me over that her mother-in-law had told her I was looking for a well ogre.  However, neither of us mentioned anything about it.  I decided it would be best to get to know Todor and Petia better before bringing up the subject. Several days passed.  It certainly was a pleasant place to rest after my travels, and I kept my eyes open.  Whenever water needed to be drawn from the well, I volunteered.  I watered the cow.  I kept the pitchers in the refrigerator filled, and I often wandered over to the well, just to sit at the edge and look down into the shadows.  I made sure I always had my camera with me.  But I never once caught even a glimpse of anything unusual. I  was beginning to suspect that Todor’s mother had simply taken the opportunity to steer a traveler to her son’s business.  Then, one evening after dinner, I volunteered to wash the dishes.  Petia, as always, was appreciative.  She smiled and went outside to take down the laundry from the clothesline. I walked outside with the bucket.  The evening light was fading, but down the road I could still see a few other stone-walled farmhouses.  Beyond them, disappearing in the shadows, were the rolling hills that led to the mountains.  An old hen ambled by.  She ruffled her feathers and halfheartedly pecked at a few last insects before flying up to roost in...

Email 31

From:  daniel7641@hotmail.com To:  johnm4713@yahoo.com Subject:  Kostya’s Goblin Dear Mr. Macpherson, Now I know why there’s a pile of stones next to the well ogre in your painting.  I always wondered about that. How about your painting of Kostya’s goblin?  That seems like an unusual face for a goblin.  Did you really see a goblin that looked like that?  And who is Kostya?...

Email 32

Email 32 From:  johnm4713@yahoo.com To:  daniel7641@hotmail.com Subject: Re: Kostya’s Goblin Attachments: There are 2 attachments Daniel, The image in the book is a painting.  Actually, however, I did get a photograph of the goblin.  Well, not the whole goblin, but at least its eye and its fingers.  I used the photos as a reference for the painting. My friend, Kostya, had an old dacha, a summer house.  It was located in Staritsa, between Moscow and St. Petersberg.  The dacha’s shape, weathered exterior, and sagging roof gave it the appearance of a small barn.  Many years ago, someone had splashed a bit of gray paint on the log walls.  Inside, the cracks between the logs were chinked with moss, and every room was wallpapered with old Russian newspapers.  A tiny balcony clung precariously to the upper level of the house.  I was certain it would come crashing down if anyone ever stepped onto it. Kostya and I spent two delightful weeks there in late summer, picking cucumbers, digging beets and carrots, and weeding the potato patch.  After dinner we sat outside and told stories.  The evening air carried the scent of ripening apples.  Sometimes Kostya played his guitar. But I wasn’t there just to vacation.  Chicken had been disappearing from Kostya’s coop, and he was upset about continually having to replace his hens.  He had put a lock on the door and replaced the loose boards in the walls.  Kostya knew, however, that once the goblin had tasted his chickens it would be back for more.  And he knew it was the chance I had been looking for, which was why he’d invited me to visit. We mounted my camera on a tripod inside the coop.  I aimed it at the door. “Nyet,” said Kostya, waving his hand at the camera.  “Don’t aim it at the door.” I looked up in surprise.  “Why not?” “I’ve been locking the door,” said Kostya.  “The goblin knows it can’t get in there any more.” “Just leave the door unlocked tonight,” I said. Kostya shook his head.  “No, that will make it suspicious.  It will suspect a trap.” Kostya kicked at a board in the wall until it started to come loose.  Then he picked up a piece of tar paper from the corner of the chicken coop and tacked it over the opening created by the loose board. “Point the camera at the tar paper,” said Kostya.  “That’s where the goblin will be coming in.” We hid a microphone in the hay, along with a video camera and infrared sensor. Kostya also attached a wireless remote to my camera’s shutter release by using a garage-door opener he borrowed from a neighbor.  When we had everything set up, we retreated to the house.  We set the video monitor on the table, filled the table with snacks, and got out the cards for an evening of poker. Kostya always beats me at poker.  He seems to know the cards I have in my hand as well as I do, and I suspected that the only hands I was winning were ones he was letting me win.  Around midnight, I saw Kostya suddenly tense up. “Look,” he whispered, pointing at the monitor.  A hole had appeared in the tar paper, and there was an eye peeking into the coop. I pressed the shutter release and got my first picture.  The eye blinked once.  Kostya mumbled something in Russian under his breath. Then, the microphone picked up the quiet sound of tearing tar paper.  Six delicate, claw-like fingers reached through the tear.  As the tear widened, the video camera...