Ginny was so excited to be visiting her country cousins that summer. Even better, she would be doing it unsupervised for the first time. Her parents agreed she had reached that magical age to be trusted, thirteen years old, so a two week visit was set up through the family’s electronic grapevine.
The child looked forward to the simple country pleasures like fishing in the small stream that bisected her uncle’s property, chasing rabbits and gathering a bouquet of wildflowers to be arranged in a styrofoam cup she would place on her nightstand in the guest room.
On the day of her arrival, her parents spent only a few minutes visiting with uncle and auntie. There was, allegedly, a doctor’s office to be visited within a narrow window of time. Ginny had her doubts, since she had known for quite some time that both her parents had mastered the easily-learned art of lying for convenience. “Doctor’s office” would often mean “fine restaurant.” But she didn’t really care if her parents dropped her off with the alacrity of a delivery man depositing the sacks of a grocery order on the front stoop of a house. Quite frankly, her parents bored her terribly. Soon she saw her mother’s delicate hand floating outside the passenger side window of the car, waving goodbye as the shiny green vehicle headed back down the country road in search of the highway. She was perfectly fine with that. In fact, she was exhilarated with the promise of country freedom.
Ginny remembered then the queerness of uncle and auntie. They would doubtless tell her NEVER to go “over the blue hill.” In the past, she had always listened to them and avoided that pretty hill in the distance that was always the first thing you saw when you looked towards the nearby mountain. It was indeed very, very blue. And anyway, Suzie and Russell would doubtless not let her head that direction. She found the near-terror that would bubble up to the surface of her younger cousins anytime she would suggest a conspiracy to investigate what was actually on the other side of that hill to be rather funny. It was somewhat bumpkin-ish to her mind. When she was younger, she had shared in their fear simply through the superstition to which her child-mind was naturally given (as most children’s minds are). Now, a budding rationalist, she thought the whole warning ridiculous. What could it possibly be, anyway, that was so threatening? An old well that hadn’t been sealed? A few scrawny coyotes that would run away if she clapped her hands together hard? Perhaps auntie had once seen a venomous snake there half a lifetime ago?
It was on a Thursday morning when she had risen before her cousins that she decided to see for herself. Looking back at uncle’s and auntie’s dark house, she figured she could reach the thing in under ten minutes, take a quick peek around and then make it back before anyone even knew of her terrible trespassing (if that’s what it even was).
As she got closer to the blue hill, she saw it was covered in bluebells. “How pretty,” she thought blandly. And certainly auspicious. As she climbed the rather large mound, she wondered if perhaps some native tribe had erected the thing. It did feel ancient, different….
She drew up close to the top of the blue hill after a short climb in which she never really lost her footing or even had to grab onto the earth to study herself. She took a deep breath as she approached the summit and could barely wait to see what she had wondered about for several years now. And there it was…The Other Side…absolutely nothing. Empty fields continued on the other side of the mound, just as boring as the one she had just crossed to reach the blue hill. But, for good measure, she descended the other side of the hill, which was not covered in flowers but simply reddish rocks.
“Well, so much for dragons or restless natives,” Ginny chuckled to herself. And then she went running with her rather long legs back up the large hill to reach the blue side again. Down she went through the bluebells and racing she went back to her uncle’s house which stood in such solitude, she realized now, seeing it from this distance.
As the girl approached the house, she felt something was different. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. And then she noticed where the sun was in the sky. It was to the west now, far to the west and descending. How could it be evening, when she had just awakened early in the morning? But she could hear the chatter of her aunt and her uncle, and her cousins, around the dinner table. And it was comforting. She reached the screen door in a tizzy and pulled it open to see everyone look up at her from their seats around the dinner table. They all looked up at her in horror.
Then Ginny saw there was actually a fifth person seated at the dinner table looking up at her in horror. And that was herself.
She screamed, “I’m sorry!” She wasn’t quite sure why she was apologizing. But their faces…that fear. They were all scattering now and her younger cousins were both crying. Suzie was actually hanging onto the skirt of Aunt Rae. Russell kept pointing at her in the doorway and trying to say something, but it was clear he needed his inhaler as he was hyperventilating something terrible now.
Then she saw why her uncle had disappeared. He was back from his bedroom in under a minute and aiming a shotgun at her from across the dining room. She screamed again as she jumped off the porch and ran back to the field behind her. Ginny heard the shotgun blast behind her, but she had the impression her uncle had shot it into the sky as a warning. She didn’t want to risk turning around to see if he was aiming at her. The survival instinct in her knew to keep running. She ran back towards the blue hill.
When she finally reached it in half the time it had taken her that very morning, she began her scrambling ascent through the bluebells. When she reached the summit, she turned to look back at the house. They were all there, the entire family that had been there last night, minus her, plus her, looking towards the blue hill. And then she went over the blue hill and down the other side. And she knew not to go back there, never to go back again.