The fire gave a sudden pop and crackle and several small logs shifted position, releasing a shower of glowing sparks which rose in the night air towards the dark sky. Steven leaned back against the rock he had padded with his sleeping bag and drew a deep breath, inhaling the smells of damp pine needles, wood smoke on the warm, moist night air, and the damp, strongly flavored, but not disagreeable odor of the river. He closed his eyes and the gentle lap of waves quietly breaking against the bank mixed with the night sounds of insects. Back in the pines he heard the sharp cry of a night bird. For several seconds he remained like that: quiet, not moving, drinking in the sensations of the warm Georgia night.
Then he sighed contentedly and noticed for the first time that a heavy mist was beginning to blot out the stars which minutes earlier had been sharp, bright points in the black heavens. Even as he watched the fog thickened, small wandering tendrils weaving their way across the slowly flowing waters and around the trunks of the forest trees, and began to envelop him in its quiet folds. He reached forward and placed two more small logs on the campfire, sighed once again, and took a long, slow sip from his small cup of single malt Scotch. No better end to a long, happy day, he thought to himself. He was soon to discover that impression was not correct: the day was not yet over and the end was still to be determined.
Steven Baxter had spent the day paddling his canoe along the slowly flowing southern river. Not white water this time, but it had been over ten hours, including one short portage. True, it was downstream all the way, but the slow moving current, though it had not fought his progress, did little to aid it. Now, his craft pulled up out of the water, he relaxed and rested. He had finished his supper and cleaned up. The night was warm, almost hot, so he did not plan on using his tent, and now had nothing he needed to do but rest quietly and absorb the restfulness of the wilderness.
His muscles ached slightly, but in a good way, reminding him of the effort he had expended and of the many miles it had taken him. This was his third day out and he had reached the mouth of this river where it emptied into another, larger, stream. Tomorrow he would move out onto the larger body of water and begin a final two days - upstream this time - to finish his trip. The time off had done him a world of good in removing the tensions of his ordinary world, and now he was beginning to feel ready to once more face its challenges.
Once again he sipped at his drink, the smooth, smoky flavor bringing a contented feeling as the amber fluid made its way down his throat. Steven drank only occasionally, and. never very much. Still, he always brought a small flask of the highland spirits on these trips and enjoyed the single cup he allowed himself in the evenings. More of a happy ritual than a need or even desire. He hummed a few bars of Suwannee River - he had always had a thing for Steven Foster songs - then fell silent once more to listen to the night.
The fog was rapidly encroaching, blocking out any possible view beyond the small area lit by the fire. Actually, even before the fog, there was little to see. For two days he had seen no sign of civilization. He knew that a few isolated houses dotted the shores of the larger river which began a couple of hundred yards beyond his campsite, but this smaller tributary ran through totally undeveloped forest land. He had a permit for this campsite and knew that no one else would use it during his stay. He had heard no sounds except those of nature and supposed that there were no dwellings anywhere nearby. He glanced at his watch and noticed that it was nearly midnight. Well, he was in no particular hurry and could leave whenever he felt like it the next day.
After a while longer he raised his cup and took the last sip of his single drink, slowly swishing it around his mouth and finally letting it gently trickle down his throat. He stood and went to the water's edge to rinse the cup and then returned to the fire. He added some more wood, spread a blanket on the sandy soil a few feet from the flames. He was just deciding to get ready for sleep when he noticed a sudden reflection flash from some object half buried in the sand beside the path to the river edge. If it had been daylight when he had first walked towards the water, he couldn't have missed it, but dusk had already been falling then. Now his curiosity wouldn't let it wait until morning and he walked the few steps to see what it was.
He kneeled beside the object and was surprised to see that it looked like the side of a replica of on old brass oil lamp, the kind described in The Arabian Nights. There was writing engraved into the side which he could just make out in the firelight to read, "Rub here for one wish." Steven laughed. ONE wish. A cut rate magic lamp. He knew things like this were often sold in novelty stores and assumed it had somehow washed down the river and become lodged in its current resting place. He tried to pull it from the sand, but it was firmly anchored. Even after he scooped away some of the surrounding soil, the lamp remained firmly embedded. Laughing again to himself, he brushed the sand away from the writing, in the process "rubbing" the lamp, and then stood and returned to where he had spread the blanket.
He made a trip into the edge of the woods to relieve himself and then returned, along the way stopping to pick up his sleeping bag from the rock where he had been resting. He piled it next to the blanket. The night was still warm enough he didn't expect to need it at all, but if it cooled he would have it nearby. He had been wearing only cutoff jeans and sneakers all day and had removed the shoes shortly after dragging his canoe from the water. Now, he simply loosened the waist of the shorts and started to lie down on the blanket for the night.
Suddenly he heard a rhythmic sound of something moving through the water close by. Completely surprised, he refastened his shorts and stood, looking down towards the shore. He could see only a few feet beyond the edge before the water was totally enveloped by the drifting fog, but thought he could detect a few ripples moving on the smooth surface. Then, without warning, the front of a small canoe appeared from the gray curtain and a second later the occupant also became visible as the craft pushed against the sandy edge.
Steven could only stare. With almost no sound, the paddler stepped ashore and pulled the craft away from the river's edge. Then she stood, turned to face him, and began to move in his direction. The stranger was a young woman, probably no more than twenty two or three, only a few years younger than he was himself. She was tall - he guessed at five seven, three inches shorter than his own five ten. Her hair, which was tied back with a ribbon, looked to be either a light brown or a dark blonde in the flickering light and her eyes were merely pools of darkness. She was barefoot, but dressed in a long, flowing dress which covered her from neck to ankles, but left her slender arms bare. Still, the material was thin and light, and Steven could see the shape of her body as it molded itself to her with each slow step. And the shape was worth noting. She was slim, but not skinny. Long legs moved with each step and the clinging fabric of the gown showed them to be firmly muscled and very nice. Her breasts were full without being huge and the thin material molded to them showing erect nipples. As she approached the fire he could tell her waist was very narrow and rounded into very feminine hips. She turned slightly for a second and he saw her buttocks were tight and round beneath the thin dress.
Steven could not help himself: he simply stood and stared. The girl moved up to stop a foot and a half in front of him, facing him, and looked directly into his eyes. He could still not see the color of those eyes, but he could now see the dress was a pale azure, almost white and the ribbon in her hair revealed itself to be a dark blue. Lit by the flickering fire, her face, Steven could now see, was lovely. Slowly her lips parted and in a moderately deep but slightly ethereal voice, she said, "Hello, Steven. I am for you."
Nearly struck dumb, Steven finally stammered out, "Who are you? Where did you come from?"
The girl smiled at him, her face seeming to contain all the enigmas of history, and she answered, "I came out of the midnight fog. I am Jeanie." Then the smile took on a slightly teasing look. She raised her hand to slightly lift the ends of her tresses and added, "Jeanie, with the light brown hair." Then while Steven still stood, almost in shock, she moved directly up to him. Before he realized what was happening, she put her arms around his neck, pulled herself against him, and locked her mouth to his in a warm and moist kiss.
.... There is more of this story ...