By Invitation OnlybyLord Greystoke©
Author's Note: This story I am about to tell you is not, I repeat, is not a work of fiction. I am putting it to words exactly as my best friend transcribed it to me. If I were to tell you his full name, you would know exactly who he is. I wanted to tell his story as a cautionary tale only and it is his strictest desire to be left alone. I have in no way taken any literary or creative license. Take this story for whatever value you can glean from it.
I hadn't seen Paul in probably about a year and a half. It was way too long for at one time we had been the closest of friends. I am a reporter for a large metropolitan newspaper and Paul, not his real name, is a paranormal researcher of some renown.
The day I met with him was overcast and cloudy, an unusual rain was falling in the outskirts of Apache Junction, Arizona on a burgeoning fall day, that October. At first it was hard to recognize my friend in the weathered gaze that stared back at me. He was looking a bit rough around the edges, so to speak.
He looked as if he hadn't shaved in days. His eyes were dark and set back, but his gaze was sharp and penetrating, piercing as he stared back at me. He was or had been a very ruggedly handsome man, at least in the eyes of the many female friends in which he was acquainted. Now he looked leaner, more sinewy. Not that he was skin and bones, on the contrary, where he used to be bulkier and fit, his muscles seemed to be lean and taut, like a rubber band bound tight.
We were sitting at a booth at a local café, sipping coffee and talking about the old times. After about a half hour of catching up, he turned to me with that penetrating gaze of his and said, "Tom, I have a story I have got to share with you. It is going to be really hard for you to swallow, but as a friend, I want you to hear me out. Is there someplace we can go private to talk. Preferably for two or three hours, undisturbed?" He said this last bit with a pause.
"Well, yeah, you know your always welcome at my home. I don't have any visitors and I'm not expecting any, if you know what I mean." I gave him that good old boy smile and winked. He just seemed to ignore it.
"Thanks, yes, that will work. I've got to tell someone about this, and I figured you would be the best to tell, besides the fact that you were my best friend."
I wondered a bit about that part of his statement when he stated I was, past-tense, his best friend.
He started to put some money on the table as he got up and I held his hand back and told him, "No, Paul, put it away, it's on me."
I left a five on the table which more than covered the coffee and we left to my car. While I drove to my place a few minutes away, he didn't say anything. He leaned his head back against the head rest and just closed his eyes.
I was really beginning to wonder what kind of trouble he might be in or what was weighing so heavily on his mind. But, I let him have his time to his thoughts as my mind began to wander. I thought of the good times we had, of the girls we knew and sometimes shared, of all the things that make up a good friendship. Truth be told, I had definitely missed that the last year or so.
We arrived at my house and the rain at let up here, as it usually does in most of Arizona. Across the street it could be pouring and not a drop hit your porch. Such was desert weather. I opened the door and led him inside, turned on a kitchen light and told him to make himself at home. He took a seat in one of the chairs at the table. In the bright light of the kitchen, he really began to look haggard.
"What time, do you have?" He asked. The question by itself took me by surprise.
"4:30." I simply replied.
He repeated it, "4:30, yes I have time." He didn't offer an explanation and despite my overwhelming curiosity at his behavior, I didn't ask for one.
He looked up at me, started to say something, then shook his head. A moment later, he looked at me again a little weariness in his expression, "You might want to take notes. Seriously."
I leaned over the back of the chair I was sitting in, reached to the counter behind me and grabbed one of my yellow legal pads that I always keep handy. The pen was clipped to it. "No problem." I stated as I placed the notepad on the table. At first I was wondering if he was even going to start, then with a sigh he began.
"What's left of my conscience demands that I tell you, as a true friend. Please don't interrupt me until I'm done at which time I will be glad to evidence some proof so that you will know I am telling you the truth. Otherwise, I guarantee, you will not believe it." He gulped a breath of air and then continued.
What I am about to write is the tale that he told me. Yes, he did give me proof, and yes, if it wasn't for that proof, I wouldn't be putting my career on the line this day. You may not believe me because I was only a witness to said proof. I have none to be able to show you this day. I have only the integrity of my career to put on the line in the hopes that others will believe me. I don't even know if he wanted me to share his story, but I feel I must.
The following is in his own words:
I love the hills and the countryside. I love the wide open spaces and yet I love the security of the trees and forest fauna that surrounds the beauty of most of our landscape up north by Showlow. I used to love to go up to the national forest there and spend days camping and hiking and just enjoying the fresh air. It's also a great way to meet people who love to do some of the same things.
This one particular outing approximately thirteen months ago, I was out hiking a popular area up there. I had my backpack with my small tent and sleeping bag, my little burner some water and about a days worth of rations. Like I said, I love to hike. Upon this particular day, I ran across a woman, in fact a very beautiful woman, who was also hiking and she had found a lovely log to stop and rest against from the noon sun that had been trying to peer through the forest canopy.
I was on my way down a particularly well-worn trail and was just going to keep on going when she waved and yelled out a hearty hello. I try never to be rude to a woman, especially one as attractive as she was. So, I waved back and taking that as an invitation, wandered over to where she was leaning.
She looked up and smiled as I approached and I noticed she had a rather exotic look to her features. It was hard to place her nationality. She could have been Asian or Oriental, either way it suited her well and she was beautiful. Full round eyes that hinted of a hazel green. A smile that was full and drop dead gorgeous with teeth so perfect and white. She had dark hair pulled back with one of those stretchy tie things that women use. She had a very pronounced flush to her cheeks.
"Hi, how ya doing? Are you okay?" I asked trying to be polite.
"Oh, yes, fine, thank you." She greeted me with that gorgeous smile. "Just thought I would sit and rest for a spell. Why don't you join me-----if you aren't in a hurry that is."
I slipped the backpack off my shoulders and placed it on the other side of the log. I found a stretch of log close by this attractive young lady and took a seat. Immediately she struck up a conversation.
"Do you come this way often?" she asked as she gazed into my eyes.
I started to feel the blood rush to my face a bit as she gazed at me, but I replied, "Actually no I don't. I like the forest in this region, but this is the first time along this path. So far it's been pretty nice."
"Oh, this is a wonderful piece of forest, but this part isn't frequented that often." She had a real breathy voice, not really husky but oh so very sensual. I was starting to feel my gaze wander to her lips as she continued talking. It was as if I was becoming mesmerized.
"No you parted the forest path some while back there. This here is private land adjoining the forest." For a second there, her words took me by surprise as I didn't realize that I had strayed from the National forest. Usually there are signs or fences to notify of the change, but I had encountered none.
"Well I'm glad you were here to tell me. I don't usually trespass. I don't mean anybody any harm."
"No harm at all, we have nothing to hide." She again looked up at me with those penetrating eyes. "In fact, if you aren't in a hurry, why don't you stay and have dinner with me, meet my family."
I was going to make some excuse and pass, but as I gazed into her eyes, I found myself agreeing to dinner with her.
"Good," she smiled. "It's only about a twenty or thirty minute hike from here." She rose to gather her things, so I reached behind the log we were resting against and grabbed my backpack also.
The trail seemed to be well traveled, I could follow it very easily. I noticed my beautiful guide didn't even appear to look down or around but just continued to effortlessly move forward. I tried a little small talk, but she didn't seem too inclined to converse while hiking.
As I followed behind her, I was able to take in her features. She was definitely all woman. No mistaking that. Her hips were well rounded and she had the nicest ass if I do say so myself. Her shoulders were not what you would say petite for they looked very toned and muscled, yet she didn't look like a body builder. Her gait was smooth and her step firm. It almost reminded me of a cat or maybe a dog. She appeared very confident and sure of her step.
When we were well within twenty minutes hiking time, she spoke, "My family doesn't get too many strangers, but they do everything they can to make a person feel at home. So please don't be taken aback." She paused for just a second in her step to throw me another gaze then continued, "My name is Sharee. I guess I didn't get your name."
The truth be told everything happened so fast that we didn't even think about names. "Paul," I replied. That was the end of the conversation and then we came in sight of a clearing and what appeared to be a fairly spacious lodge. There were no roads leading to it that I could see and yet when I glanced around I could see different trails or paths leading away. All I could think of at the moment was some rustic hunting or camping lodge.
Sharee led me into the clearing and as we approached the lodge she took me by the hand and led me to the porch. As soon as my foot touched the porch steps the door opened and out stepped what I thought was a giant of a man. The sight of him suddenly there took me completely by surprise. Before I could say anything, Sharee had run to him, threw her arms around him and cried, "Papa!"
He returned the hug holding her close, never once allowing his gaze to leave me. Finally as the two separated, he stepped forward stuck out his hand for mine and greeted me saying, "What did my daughter do, pick up a stray?" His eyes were every bit as piercing and penetrating as hers were if not more so.
I took his hand in mine and gave his a hearty shake, "Well, I guess in a way she did sir. Hello, my name is Paul."
The hand shake that was returned was firm, almost painfully firm. As he shook my hand he replied, "Hello Paul, my name is Oliver. I happen to own this stretch of land around here."
As he released my hand without thinking I rubbed it with my other one, "I didn't mean to trespass sir. I was hiking the forest trail when I ran into your daughter there and she informed me that I had strayed." I continued to gaze at him tentatively as I said, "I didn't pass any signs or fences though, I'm sure of it."
His gaze wandered to his daughter for just a moment, who I might add was all smiles, then responded, "No harm done, won't you stay for dinner?"
I had that strange feeling again when I heard myself reply, "Yes, I told Sharee that I would. I would love too."
He clapped his hands together and said, "Good, then it's settled. Sharee, show him where he can unload his things and clean up if he wants." And that was that. He turned went back inside and I was left with my most attractive host.
Without a word she took my hand again and led me inside. I must tell you, she could speak volumes without ever having to open her mouth. She was all smiles while she led me through what appeared to be a massive kitchen, down a hallway past several doors leading to very huge and expansive rooms until we came to a room toward the end of the hallway. Opening the door for me she led me inside where she discarded her backpack, and then approached to help me with mine.
The room was not overly ornate but rather rustic and simple. There were a couple of padded chairs, a small fireplace with a couple of oil lanterns on the mantle. There was an old oil painting of a hunter with holding a rifle with what I can only describe to you as what appeared to be a wolf. I was taking all this in while she removed my backpack with little effort. On the opposite end of the fireplace sat a large, probably queen or king sized bed with what appeared to be oak stained head and foot boards. Other than a few small throw rugs at the bed's sides that was all the furnishings in the room. No other pictures, no knick knacks or any personal items, so I had assumed this was one of their guest rooms.
"Would you like to shower and clean up," she asked in that sensual voice of hers. When she asked, I saw her lick her lips and for the briefest moment, a very nasty and erotic image filled my imagination.
"Ye--, ah yes," I stammered, "would love too. Especially since you invited me to dinner."
She showed me to another door which I had assumed was a closet and when she opened it, there was a large bathroom with a huge garden tub, almost looked like a jacuzzi and to the side of it was a large shower stall. The shower reminded me in a way of the stalls we had back in high school.
"There are towels, soap, shampoo, anything you need. Just make yourself at home." With that she turned around, whirled out of the bathroom and was gone. I took a peek back into the room to make sure the door was closed, and feeling more at ease, proceeded to have a warm shower.
When I had finished drying and entered the guest room, I noticed on the bed was a very short stemmed red rose. I hadn't noticed it before so I went and retrieved it finding a short note underneath.
'Dinner will be served shortly' is all it read. I finished dressing and taking the rose and sticking it in my shirt pocket so the petals were just sticking out, I retraced my steps toward the kitchen.
About half way their my beautiful hostess greeted me at one of the doors we had past earlier. I could already smell the aroma of meat, vegetables, spices and what have you. The smell alone tempted my palette and I was feeling ravenous. As Sharee led me through the portal where the smells were emanating from, before us was a gigantic table, probably fifteen feet long and maybe three or four feet wide.
The table was laden with what could only be described as a feast. I could see fowl and pork, stews, vegetables of almost every kind. Salads, casseroles and deserts. But that wasn't the surprising thing. At what can only be construed as the head of the table sat the man I had met as Sharee's father. Next to him was a woman that was absolutely gorgeous. I thought Sharee was beautiful, this woman who was no doubt her mother was a goddess. I was transfixed for a moment as my breath caught in my throat. I was speechless.
The next thing I was aware of was a tug on my arm as Sharee escorted me to the nearest side of the table. Around the sides of the table, except for the spot that Sharee directed me too were eleven other couples already seated. Every one of the women seated there had the strangest likeness to Sharee and what could have only been her mother. As they saw me they all gazed my way with a heart warming smile.
The gentlemen seated beside each woman on the other hand were as different as night and day. They arranged from tall to short, white and even a black man, a couple of hispanics. The only thing that seemed to distinguish them as being similar was a ruddy or ruggedly handsome look about each of them.
As we approached the table, the men, including the father rose and stood waiting for us to take our places. When I was standing in front of my chair they all in unison took their seats as I did, hesitantly at first. I gazed at those around the table and noticed they were looking to the father, when the father began to speak.
"Sharee has invited this young man, Paul, to dine with us on this festive occasion. He has graciously accepted so please everyone, make him feel at home and include him in our family."
I thought them strange words at first but gracious. Then his gaze turned toward me, very fatherly, very familiar, "Paul, as you can see I have a very large family. These are Sharee's sisters and their husbands. No need to introduce you all now as our food gets cold. But, Paul, we welcome you!"
With that he rose his glass of what looked to be wine, everybody else raised theirs and looking my way, in unison clearly stated, "Welcome." I grabbed mine, a bit clumsily I might add, and return the salutation with a warm and hearty, "thank you." With that, the plates started filling with food as everyone dug in with apparent gusto.
Conversation continued varied and light. Every one was extremely polite, asking me what brought me here, what kind of hobbies I enjoyed----what my career was. They were all extremely eager to hear about different adventures during my paranormal research. Talk turned to the psychic and strange phenomenon. All the while Sharee was holding on to my arm smiling as she ate, content to just sit there by my side. Everyone was extremely gracious and I was totally at ease amongst these simple folk.
The meal was very hearty and filling. In fact I can't remember eating so much before in a single sitting. It was explained to me that this was a special occasion that apparently happened about once a month and I just happened to meet them on this day. This was a day of festivity and celebration and more was in store.
After the meal was over, the women left for just a bit, clearing the table as they did. Oliver, stood at the head of the table and went to a cabinet against one of the walls and opened it removing a bottle of what again appeared to be wine. He again stood at the head of the table and looking upon each of those sitting there, and then finally resting his gaze on me stated, "We look forward to this time of coming together each month, this time of celebrating our oneness and uniqueness and this day is even made better because we have such a wonderful guest to share it with. Please," and then he took the bottle and poured some of the drink into a small shot glass then passed the bottle to the next man, "pour yourself the drink of our celebration and when the crucible has come full circle we will toast."
I watched as each man reverently took the bottle and poured the drink to the top of the shot glass and then respectfully passed it on. When it came to my turn, I poured the drink into the glass noticing that it was more of a thick liquor than it was a wine. I passed the bottle to the next man and stood waiting until the rounds had been made.
Finally, the bottle had made it back to Oliver. I was a bit in awe of the fact that this was definitely a sacred or at the least a well respected celebration and that they had included me in it. I was a bit nervous, but I had never had a problem before with making friends or showing myself friendly. I watched as Oliver raised his glass toward the center of the table waiting likewise for the rest to do the same. I raised mine with the rest and as Oliver again turned his gaze my way, he toasted, "To Oneness!" Everyone else returned the toast and then put the glass to their lips and with a swift gulp, swallowed the beverage. I did also, not wanting to be disrespectful, but when the liquid hit my throat it was all I could do to keep from choking.