A photo safari through magical realms.

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With camera in hand and wanderlust in my veins I had undertaken an expedition to trek through the uncharted, and rumored to be, “Magical” dark forests of Warwick, Rhode Island. I was in search of the elusive and legendary “Perfectum Iaculat” (Translation: “Perfect Shot”).

Following an extensive day of preparations I had decided to acquire some much needed slumber and retire for the evening; as the journey was set to commence early on the morrow. After a fitful night’s rest a ray of sun broke through the stormy canopy just long enough to pierce the fold of my eyelid and awaken me to a damp and frigid morning that was once again threatening a day-long deluge of monsoon-like fury.

My companion and native guide for this expedition was my big sister, Cyndie. Anxious for the adventure to unfold, she had already risen well before the inky night turned into the ominous dawn, and always one to take care of her little brother, she acknowledged my consciousness with a mug of steaming-black demitasse. Ready to get our quest underway, I arose from my bed of dank leaves, and without a word I cleared the mug of its searing contents. No thanks or discussion was necessary, we both knew the seriousness of our exploration. We gave each other an all knowing nod, collected our gear, and headed out of her well-manicured backyard toward the edge of a veiled timberland.

The gloom cleared long enough to reveal our first obstacle; a wooden footbridge arching over a crooked creek that babbled incessantly on its way to where it only knows. On the precipice we stood for a moment, contemplating the bridge, and where it might lead us. Once we crossed we might as well burn it, for there was no turning back. Forgetting the common courtesy of “Ladies First” my sister gave me an encouraging nudge to proceed ahead of her. I took an apprehensive breath, brought my camera to my eye, took a few shots, and then with my trusty guide beside me… well, actually a few paces behind me… we took our first hesitant steps, and quickly traversed the creaky span without incident. Our journey had begun.

We followed a winding footpath as it led us toward the Stygian forest. On the edge of the shadowy weald, the narrow path diminished to a trail and then disappeared altogether. Standing before us was our second obstruction; an old moss-covered and weather-worn, hand-hewed, split-rail fence that appeared to be as ancient as the forest itself. Here I anticipated finding a sign that would forewarn us of our fated future by proclaiming “Beware all ye who enter, for here there be Dragons”. With no such harbinger discernible in our immediate surroundings, I snapped a few frames, and then with a quick step of furtiveness I cautiously tested the barrier to see if it would withstand our weight as we negotiated our way over it. Surprisingly, the timeworn wooden rails turned out to be quite sturdy indeed and bore our heft without issue as we mounted them and descended into the unknown on the other side.

There was no path to follow as we journeyed deeper into the thicket. The terra firma beneath our soles was covered with a heavy blanket of sodden leaves and the air was bountiful with the sweet aroma of damp decay. We trudged through the underbrush for hours, well… actually only a few minutes, before we were stopped in our tracks by another hindrance; an eerie stone wall that must be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. Legend has it that no one knows who built it or why, but the wall snaked its way in both directions through the uncharted wilderness for as far as the eye could see.

I shot a few pictures of the barrier as the gloomy sky began to cry a warning of cold rain. Before taking another step, we discussed our options; continue on like noble and courageous explorers, or forget our mission and hastily return from which we came. I for one, feeling gallant and stouthearted, fancied the continuation of our photo campaign whether the foreboding heavens opened up on us or not. My attendant was not so convinced, but knowing how determined I was, she acquiesced.

On the other side of the wall the trees were as black and chilling as a moonless night. We shared a brief moment of trepidation as the icy fear of not knowing what lies beyond dallied about in our thoughts. Undaunted, we gathered our fortitude, pulled our cloaks tighter, and entered the dark, rain-soaked, wooded groove by traversing a hole in the worn and weathered stone wall.

Our arrival into this recess of the dimly-lit and utterly mysterious wood was swiftly announced by a brilliant flash of lightning and a boisterous clap of ear-splitting thunder that made our knees weaken in a moment of unmitigated fright. Relieved that we were both still in one piece with all our limbs and faculties in order, we shared a moment of levity; laughing at each other’s reactions while at the same time denying our own.

As I continued clicking a few shots here and there, my thoughts were on the big picture, the perfect shot. But, I could not see the forest for the trees, or is it; I could not see the trees for the forest? I never am quite sure which way that is supposed to go, or even what it means for that matter.

Slow and steady, we carried on. The day was getting long, the air had a biting, damp chill, and the skies were warning to unleash upon us a tempest like none experienced before. And even though we previously shared a spell of folly, my Sherpa’s patience… uh, I mean… my sister’s patience and mood were starting to darken with the sky. Apparently my persnickety photographic philosophy of only wanting the perfect shot was starting to wear upon her last nerve. Cyndie, like a big sister is supposed to do, brought me back to reality by reminding me that I shouldn’t just be looking for the one perfect shot, but that I should appreciate the beauty of nature’s artistry and concentrate on photographing the “Little Gifts” that are being revealed to us as we stroll through this magnificent copse of wood… I love my sister.

The next few frames I captured were of a beautiful, richly colored, rain-soaked leaf as is gave off its last breath of life so we, you the viewer and I, could enjoy the final splendor of its elegant death… Sometimes I am so poetic.

With great conviction I had now unquestionably realized that our photo expedition, in the little forested grove adjacent to my sister’s suburban backyard, was not for naught. It was a reality, and from this occasion on we made headway as I finally opened my eyes to the exquisite beauty that overwhelmed and enveloped my senses. With my finger machine-gunning the shutter I captured the endless gifts that the forest had the courtesy to bestow upon us; delicate mushrooms burgeoning to life, colorful foliage of every hue…

…Uh, Cyndie? Cyndie?

I was so busy shooting the bountiful harvest, that I lost sight of my porter. I turned in a circle, examining every direction of the compass, and found neither hide nor hair of my sister. It seemed that the dark and portentous forest had just swallowed her up. I had no inkling on which direction to begin my search for my long lost escort, and to make matters even worse, I had no notion of where I was or how I was supposed to find my way back to her humble abode.

Eenie, meenie, miney, mo. I made a decision and went in the direction of mo. The thick forest seemed endless, and with my vivid imagination running at a surfeit velocity I started to feel like Percy Fawcett searching for the Lost City of Z. Except, he had a machete, I had a camera, he was in the Amazon rain-forest, and I was in the rain-soaked forests of Warwick. Hmm, maybe there is not much comparison, but I still felt the spirit of Percy guiding me. On second thought, maybe it was not such a good comparison; he was lost and never heard from again.

My circumstances were becoming dire. The thought of being lost and confused, well maybe not confused, but lost nonetheless, made me conscious of the fact that the going was going to be tough. I took a deep calming breath, and then I got going. Continuing on my odyssey to, not only acquire the perfect shot, but to locate my sister, and then find our way back to civilization or, at least back to her modest dwelling before the weather worsened.

I am quite confident by now that you, the reader of this imaginative little tale, have noticed that sometimes, every now and then, I do have the tendency to ramble on just a bit… But I digress…

In pursuit of my sister’s trail I pushed my way through gnarled, weather-beaten trees that were dripping with countless vines thick enough for Tarzan to swing on. I came upon a forgotten backwater pond with the reflection of a house that was not there. The aura of mystery in these formidable woods deepened further. But I would not be swayed.

After trekking through this impenetrable wilderness for an undetermined amount of time, I happened upon what used to be a clearing, but was now well on its way to once again being overgrown with possibly eons of unattended forest growth. On the edge of this copious glade I found the remnants of a stone fireplace, which was all that remained of an old witch’s house. Lore has it that the witch was a big sister that took her little brother to the woods and left him there to perish. And before I could make up any more lore, I noticed my dutiful sister waiting patiently for me, as she quietly sat near the crumbling hearth.

My dire circumstances were no longer dire but I still took issue with her for leaving me behind in the deep, dark forest. With a smirk on her face she told me I was daft, lunch would be ready soon, and that it was time to start heading back. She quickly turned on her heel and headed into the lush labyrinth. Not wanting to be left alone again, I promptly took a few pictures, and then followed her into the nefarious and waterlogged underbrush.

Our campaign through the rain-soaked wood was abruptly halted. We were standing in the midst of an ancient, over-grown, dark and damp, mystical forest, in what appears to be a slice of “Middle Earth” and before us was an old, out of place, rusted and decayed, chain-link fence with a barely-legible, weather-worn metal sign (posted by the U.S. Government) that declared “WARNING! FACILITIES IN THE LANDING AREA ARE HIGH VOLTAGE. TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED FOR ENDANGERING LIFE AND PROPERTY”.

Facilities? What facilities? Endangering Life? High Voltage? Landing Area? Taken aback by the revelation of what it may mean, my mind raced as I thought about top-secret facilities, classified Government cover-ups, conspiracies, Area 51, Roswell, and now, Warwick!

As if we were under surveil, I quietly uttered an astonished declaration about UFO’s to Cyndie. She shook her head in facetious disbelief at my rampant imagination, and then with a swift hand upside my noggin, she smacked me back to reality, and stepped around the decrepit cyclone fence; leaving me to lick my wounds, swallow my pride, and catch up with her if I did not want to be left behind and miss lunch.

Before I followed her passage deeper into parts unknown, I promptly captured a few snaps of proof that our Government was in league with Aliens. Then I lowered my camera and noticed that Cyndie was nowhere to be found. Once again, and with all due haste, I expeditiously pounded the wet and harrowing trail in search of her.

While trying to catch up to my quick-footed sister I happened upon another small clearing where I found a wise old Wizard sitting at an antique wooden table, and carving, what appeared to be, in my over-active imagination, a magical, and delicious looking apple. Before I could utter a sound, he spoke in a quiet raspy voice, cautioning me to take heed of his word and beware of the Ayeseayuh (Pronounced: eye-see-ya), a mythical Treefolk; for they are real, they are powerful with magic, have been known to be quite mischievous, and most importantly, they do not like trespassers encroaching into their sacred realms.

As I listened to the Enchanter’s hypnotic voice, I slowly lifted my camera but was only able to snap a quick shot of his weathered hands before he suddenly disappeared from my frame. He reappeared directly behind and warned me not to capture his likeness for he didn’t always exist, or belong for that matter, in this particular plane, and he did not want to be stranded here by having his essence trapped forevermore in a new-fangled mechanical viewing device. And with that admonishment, his corporeal form was gone, leaving only his voice fading out with a final warning “Beware the Ayeseayuh. Beware the Ayeseayuh.”

Not believing what I just witnessed, I left the clearing far behind as I impetuously ran into the old-growth forest, losing my sister’s trail in the process. Realizing that once again I was lost; I spun this way, and that way, and every which way I turned my passage was blocked by a plethora of magical, dark, and crooked trees that looked like they were alive, moving in the eerie shadows, and closing in on me.

The wind began to howl with fury, lightning flashed, and thunder rolled as the skies finally decided to open up and pour down on me with an unrelenting torrent of icy, winter-rain. The ancient trees danced in the wind, and like a cacophony of tortured souls they growled their caliginous greetings to me.

It was the Ayeseayuh!

The old Wizard had warned me, and now, they had come. Frightened and with no egress in sight, I concluded there would be no expectation of escape. So I choose the only option left to me; with a cry of fearful agony I closed my eyes, fell to my knees, and with head bowed I waited for my imminent demise. When my departure from this sodden earth had not come forthwith, I realized with a spark of cognizance that I could still hear the maniacal laughter of the Ayeseayuh. I cautiously peeked out from beneath my eyelids to see the monstrous Treefolk observing me with their damnable blue eyes.

While waiting for them to consider my plight I figured that if I was going to meet my maker then I dang well was going to document my tormentors as they hastened my trip to Heaven. As I raised my camera a lot of things happened all at once; the wind and rain halted, the clouds parted, and like a ray of golden sunshine from God, I was bathed in a warm, protective light as the haunting, maniacal laughter faded into a soft, frolicsome chuckle and the supernatural Ayeseayuh started, one by one, to morph back into normal trees. Amazed, I watched the metamorphosis transpire before my eyes, and just before I snapped the shutter to capture the last of the trees transpose, a one-eyed Ayeseayuh smiled, winked at me, and then it was gone.

Knowing that good fortune had shined upon me and that my mortality was indeed intact for another photo adventure, yet to come, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then, with no more reason to genuflect amongst the saturated groundcover, I briskly got to steppin’ and skedaddled, lickety-split, out of the clearing.

Shortly thereafter I entered my big sister’s backyard. Welcoming me was my sister, family, friends, and an enormous picnic feast. Sitting down to eat, I not only had a great tale to tell, but also a camera full of precious “Little Gifts”, including the “Perfect Shot” of the mythical Ayeseayuh.

Lon Casler Bixby is a professional photographer and published author in various genres: Fiction, Poetry, Humor, Photography, & Comic Books.

You can see some of his photography here — and here —

See his writing here —

And follow him on Twitter @LonBixby and Instagram @neoichi.

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Professional photographer and published author in various genres: Fiction, Poetry, Humor, Photography, & Comic Books.

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