Panola Mountain was a strange kind of mountain. It did not visually stand high like most imposing mountainous structures. It couldn’t really be seen from the street nor from inside the park. One only became aware of its height when they reached the top and looked down upon the vast landscape beneath or spied the full glory of the city of Atlanta skyline shining in the distance.
“Are you sure that this is a mountain instead of a big hill?” Imani asked as she picked up an acorn and threw it at a huge neon green grasshopper clinging to a tree a couple of yards in front of them. The grasshopper jumped away and vanished into a nearby bush.
“Leave that bug alone,” Joshua laughed. “It ain’t bothering you!”
“It was bothering me!” she replied chuckling. “The thought of that giant thing landing in my hair is horrific!”
Joshua shook his head and laughed at her once again. He understood her concern because he was secretly afraid of huge hopping bugs too. There was something about things that jumped that made him want to run home screaming, but he couldn’t share that. He was a man, and he was sure that no woman wanted a man who would run from bugs faster than she would. Men were predestined to be brave against six legged monsters whether they feared them or not.
“Let’s go this way,” Joshua suggested when they came to a fork in the path. The park sign told him to go in the opposite direction, but he felt a bit rebellious. It seemed as if the foliage was greener, and the sunlight sparkled against the leaves sprinkling everything in splendor in the direction that he chose.
“Are you sure?” Imani asked. “You’re not going to lead me off the edge of this invisible mountain, are you?”
“Never,” he replied and winked. Joshua held out his midnight black hand, interlocking his fingers with hers, and she hesitantly followed him down the unknown path.
“Useless fact,” Imani stated randomly. “Did you know that panola is the Choctaw word for cotton?”
“I did not know that,” Joshua confessed with a grin on his clean shaven face. “Why do you know that?”
“I enjoy trivia and I read an absorbent amount,” said Imani. “My head is filled with useless information.”
“You seem to have a lot of leisure time,” Joshua replied with one eyebrow raised. “What did you say you did again?”
“I didn’t say,” Imani retorted and raised her eyebrow in reply. “At the moment, I am enjoying my life until I find something that brings me joy. I taught elementary school for a while then became burned out. Then I tried on a few professions trying to find a good fit. I’ve worked as a life coach, an herbalist, a dance teacher, owned a bakery, and also a self-proclaimed anthropologist and folklorist. Now, I’m here in Atlanta trying to find something new to do.”
“Very interesting,” Joshua replied sincerely. He admired her free spirit and willingness to explore new things. He wished that he had the luxury to change jobs on a whim. He hoped that she could truly afford to live her life on a whim and that he was not courting an unemployed sofa surfer. It was not that he cared about how much money she made. He made enough for the both of them and a couple people more, but it was important that he dated a woman with her own purpose and passion.
“Living in Alaska made my father very wealthy and being his only child, in turn made me very wealthy as well. Wealth gives me the freedom to explore different options,” Imani said.
“That’s pretty cool, but what are you passionate about?” he asked, his tone a bit more serious than it had been all day.
“I’m passionate about life,” she answered. “I’m passionate about exploring the world and discovering the miracles hidden in the depths of it. Work is not passion. Work is a way to earn. I am rich and I’m smart. My money makes money while I sleep. I don’t want to work. I want to learn. I want to help people. I want to witness the holy and the profane so I can be sure of the difference. I want to truly experience life with all five of my senses. That’s what I am passionate about.”
Joshua nodded and smiled. Imani was unlike anyone he had ever encountered. Her zest for life made him want to journey with her.
The couple walked for about ten minutes until they came to a large clearing under a tightly intertwined canopy of trees. A circle of misshapen rocks surrounded a patch of glowing purple flowers. What appeared to be a trillion lightening bugs hovered over the gleaming blossoms -the smell of them was like honey cakes.
Imani gasped. She said, “I’ve never seen fireflies glow like this in the daytime. This is amazing!”
Joshua nodded in agreement as he stared at the glittering swarm.
“Do you hear that?” he inquired.
“Hear what?” Imani replied.
“Shhhh. Listen closely,” he said sweetly.
Imani leaned her head to the side and listened intensely.
Instead of buzzing, there was music. A strange music that brought to mind the sound of stringed instruments and wooden flutes. Strange music that defied human ability to play in such a whimsical and low pitch descant. Music that floated from the glowing patch on melodic wings into their ears.
“Wow,” Imani whispered. “I’ve never heard anything like this.”
“Me either,” Joshua replied as he stepped closer to the levitating luminous orchestra.
As he approached, the swarm divided into two clouds of light and out of the middle of the flower patch stepped two identical, save for their skin tones, female creatures. One was Carolina blue and the other sapphire blue. Golden eyes stared out from valentine shaped faces. Clouds of big black hair bounced off their shoulders as if a tiny wind blew just for them. Leaves and flowers were their garments draping them in robes of fragrant color. Fluttering amethyst metallic wings protruded from their backs. Standing about four feet tall, the creatures said in unison, “Welcome to our mountain.”
Imani blinked her eyes. She asked, “What did you put in those brownies you gave me in the car?”
“Milk chocolate and walnuts,” Joshua answered blinking slowly himself.
“Do you see what I see?” Imani asked; her eyes glued to the blue fairies standing right in front of them.
“I think we should leave,” Imani urged as she squeezed his hand as tight as she could.
Joshua said nothing. His unblinking eyes locked with the fairies. He shook his hand loose from Imani’s.
“Come with us,” the fairies implored; their fingers beckoning the couple to come forward. “Joshua, we have been waiting for you.”
Joshua walked slowly towards the flower patch, still unblinking.
We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Violette's story. Visit our website today and pre-order Terminus 2: Black Fantastic Tales from the ATL today. Release date: June 19, 2022