To Find My father: I awakened that morning, like the past three, fumbling in my bleary mind for reasons,…. anything that would make sense of it all. My Dad, the best friend I ever had, is gone and no one knows where or why. All they can tell me is his plane went down in the black wilderness west of the Carpathian Mountain range in the wilds of what is called Transylvania. I knew of his plans because I had been in the business since I got out of college. A business he had built from the ground up, one that he made sure that I knew as well as him. This trip was for the purpose of bringing some badly needed machinery to the reigning government of that black and bitter place. He had plans to stop first in the main city of Clus. For these purposes, Dad was going to provide said machinery and the training to implement it so the people and their government could move closer to the rest of the world, in the business of agriculture. This area was still with little or no modern machinery, tractors or plows. They still used horse drawn wagons, hayers, rakes, and other outdated methods for planting, irrigation, and all other aspects of farming. Of course, our company would realize little profit from this endeavor, but from time to time Dad would go off on one of these “mercy” business trips. Whenever I would ask about the feasibility of these forays into the most primitive of places, he would laugh and say, “Son, we have more than we will ever need; it is up to us to share some of our good fortune.” So, off he went again, leaving me, his firstborn, and last born for that matter, to hold down the fort until his return. Here I was then, at the home place, too sick at heart to worry about the business. I was worried about my Dad. I talked to Brian that morning and informed him of my decision to go over there and look for Dad, or for any sign that might be remaining. “Ay son, he said, I ‘kin understand your need for closure, but dinna’ the authorities say that your dear Daddy was gone and all the searchers they had out now for four days can’t find any sign of even the plane?” “I’ma afraid he’s gone Johnny, and as much as we all love him, I don’t know what you ‘kin do that hasn’t already been done.” “He’s gone Johnny, I ‘kin feel it in me bones. It’s a bad place you be wantin’ to go to,… and I’d not want to lose ye too.” “I been with you and your Daddy since ye’ were a little tyke, and I know he’d not be wantin’ you to do this.” “Something evil has happened there.” “Ah, Brian, what would you have me do then: I know you or Dad would do the same if it were me?” With tears gleaming in his old eyes, he stepped forward and embraced me mightily. “Be safe then, he said in a quavering voice, and come home to us safe and sound, for the world would be a cold, bitter place for an old man if I woke up one morning and you were both gone from me.” I smiled fondly at him and turned to go to my room and pack. I was much like my Dad in build and looks. Tall, six foot one, red hair, a family always known for its’ men of great strength, and the blue eyes that were somewhat out of place for those of the Irish descent we came from so many years back More brains than you might think we would have, much to the chagrin of those who locked horns with Dad in the business world. I had planned to take one of the company planes, but decided instead to go commercially. From the little research I had time to do- there was little in the way of modern airports or facilities once I got past Clus, and I would have to outfit for a trip into the wilderness of that bleak and troubled region. Still, I was determined. Mom had died when I was born, and my Dad had been my world for as long as I could remember. I would find him or at least what was left; nothing would stop me from bringing him home. I walked into the plane and was seated by a lovely lady of European origin. With long legs, black hair and a smile that would light up the darkest room. I saw a flicker of interest pass her face as she seated me with a flourish. First class has its’ perks I guess. As soon as we had become airborne, she returned to ask if she might bring me a drink or a pillow or whatever might make me comfortable. I accepted a glass of red wine and inquired as to whether she was familiar with the area and the people I would be encountering upon my arrival. She suggested she show me around personally and I thankfully agreed. After an adequate lunch, she sat beside me and I told her why I was here and what I had planned. With a serious look on her beautiful face, she proceeded to tell me what I could expect when I began my journey. “They are a cold and suspicious people where you are going Johnny. Oh, not as bad in the cities, such as they are, but the villages and the little outposts of humanity that have changed little since the Romans took over them many centuries ago.” “And, the Black Forest is wilder and so far removed from anything that you have ever been to.’ “There are places in there where the bravest of them will not go.” “Silly stories of vampires and werewolves, they tell them still, sitting behind barred doors and windows with pints in their fists and quavers in their voices, looking nervously over their shoulders as they do.” I smiled at her as even her voice took on a serious tone. I am not sure she was even aware of it. With a promise to return as soon as she got a break, she left with a smile and not a little concern. “Alicia I thought, a pretty name for a pretty girl.” I got bored easily on these long flights, and usually brought plenty of reading material. Often staid, dry stuff about the business we had to finish. This time, I was too harried to remember to bring anything, so my eyes were going over the magazines and paperbacks the airline made available to its better paying guests. One caught my eye and soon I was immersed in a story about a Man without a Brain, Skeletons, a man named Leep, a young, fine lad named Slack, of all things, and a battle that raged between good and evil. Alicia came back suddenly and saw what I was lost in. Looking up I saw her smile. “Oh, I see you found my book.” “I just loved it.” “My favorites are Slack and Tommy.” A shadow of sadness passed swiftly over her face, as she said softly, “I feel sorry for Leep though, Johnny.” “As hard as he tried, and as good as he was, in the end, he lost everything.” I looked up at her for a second and said, “I know what you mean, it seems like I almost know him,… or someone like him.” “At the end, she said, I cried, both out of joy, and sadness.” “Does that seem funny to you?” I looked at her with affection and answered, “Not even a little Alicia.” She blushed a little when I said her name, smiled and went back through the curtains to do whatever mysterious tasks those ladies of the sky do. I sat after reading the story, thinking of the way that people who had never met were thrown together, by whatever powers, and together fought and were victorious against tremendous odds. I smiled at the thought of Slack, Tommy and Frankie, poor Charles, and how men with faith, even those of little faith, could prevail the way they did. I was reminded of a story on a show just the other day, where they talked about Tolkein, the great writer who penned” the Lord of the Rings” series, and how I had learned just that day that he was a Christian and that he had introduced C.S.Lewis to Christ. Who would have ever thought? My own family came from centuries of old beliefs, strong ones of faith and the Lord above. It has ever been such with us who had come from the Moors, and the Fens and the Highlands of Scotland and later Ireland. Dad had ever been one with a sense of faith and beliefs and such was our ancestry, one we took with all seriousness. I can see Dad now in my minds eye, tall, strong, confident, a smile never far away. I could also see the heavy gold cross that he always wore around his neck, the only thing he still had from my Mom and his wife. It had been a X-mas present many years ago, the year before I was born. He wore it always, a symbol of undying love and a reminder of his faith. My jaw clenched as I swore again I would find my Dad. The closer I got to my destination, the more certain I was he was alive, hurt maybe in that damnable black place,… needing me. I could feel it. Hey, if Leep and Slack and Tommy and the others could prevail in what they had to face, what could possibly keep me from doing the same. I had faith, I was strong, and no one was more determined than I, not even those valiant ones. The plane finally landed and I walked into the small airport. Alicia soon came walking briskly into the lounge. She walked close to me and handed me a slip of paper with some writing on it. “This is my uncle’s address; I called just now and told him I was sending you over.” He can help you as much as anyone here, Johnny, and I have a short layover and have to go right back up again.” I won’t be back for about a week, but I will call my uncle then and I hope you will be there.” I thanked her and watched a little wistfully as she walked back into the airport proper. After a short, bumpy ride in an old taxi, I arrived at the address. It was a quaint little place, snug against the bank it was built against. Strong logs, Fir, I think, made up the construction of the home, and the door bounced solidly against my hammering fist. In a few seconds it was answered by a tall, thin, old gentleman. The pipe he was smoking sent a wreath of smoke trailing behind him as he stood calmly inspecting me. “Come in son, come in, it’s cold out there.” “My name is Franklin” I told him mine. “Yes, yes he said absently, Alicia phoned.” I walked in slowly and followed him into the living quarters, looking about; a fine solid home, wood from floor to ceiling. I sat in the offered seat and he sat in what was obviously and old, old rocker. It creaked with a comforting sound as he sat and smoked for a minute. Finally he said, “Alicia tells me you have a problem son, and could I be of service to you.” “I guess we will see, we will see.” Tell what you have in mind, she had little time to talk but I got the gist of it, I believe.” I quickly filled him in on what had happened to my Dad and he sat peering at me for a minute through the smoke he was producing in remarkable quantities. At last he sighed and said, “Johnny, the place where your father’s plane crashed is a black, dangerous place. “I would not advise you, or anyone else, for that matter to go into those mountains.” “Also, there are stories that the villagers tell of dark and dangerous creatures that roam there, and they will not go near it.” Seeing my look of disbelief, he smiled and said: “I know that a man like you will not take my words seriously, but you have need to listen to these things.” “For centuries there have been tales of vampires and werewolves, and things that go bump in the night.” “Aren’t you, after all, from Ireland?” I looked at him in surprise for a second, then answered, “Indeed we are, sir, for as far back as we can remember, and then Scotland before that.” “Then you have tales of your own that rival ours do you not?” “The little people, Banshees that wail when a death is near.” I said,” indeed we do, and I apologize for my earlier remarks.” “No mind… it matters little.” We sat in silence for a while and I watched the flames dance merrily in the huge old fireplace that was the primary source of heat for the old man. Finally, he stood and went into the kitchen. I followed slowly and watched with interest as he bent with some effort and pulled a small trunk out from under the bench that lined one wall of the large room. He opened it and lifted a small bundle out, and placed it on the huge old table which took up almost half of the kitchen. Motioning me over, he opened the sealskin parcel and removed what looked like several maps. For the next two hours we spent poring over these while I tried to learn all I could about the Black Forest west of Transylvania. Pointing to one dot, he told me that this would be the jumping off place for my journey into the forest. He said I might be able to hire a few men to guide me a little further, if I offered enough inducement. I assured him this would not be a problem. After a couple cups of the blackest, strongest coffee I had ever ingested, I shook hands with the old man and thanked him for his help. With a worried look in his eyes he again warned me to be careful. I again assured him that I would do so. With a sudden light in his fine, old eyes, he bade me wait a second and walked into what must have been his sleeping quarters. He appeared suddenly, carrying an object in his arms. It was an old, sturdy walking stick; the head looked like it was made of purest silver. He handed it to me and the weight was more than I expected. With a sad smile, he said. “Please take this with you, I lost a brother there over twenty years ago and, like you, I was determined to find him.” “I carried this with me the whole time, and I was glad I had it, believe me.” “Oh, and legend has it that only silver can kill a werewolf, and even if it is just a silly legend, I ask that you take it with you,… if only for luck.” I hefted it for a second, and swung it around my head like my ancestors of old must have done with their war clubs. Seeing the concern in his eyes, I said that I would be honored. “Ah, whatever happened to your brother, sir, if I may ask?” With a look of deep sadness he answered, “I found him, or at least what was left of him.” “I am truly sorry: How did he die?” “The police told the local constable that it was wolves, and it did indeed look like they had been at him.” “But, the villagers had a different story; and were angered that he had gone there in the first place.” “They warned him what would happen, and also warned he would unleash the evil on them all if they allowed him to go in there.” “But, my brother was a stubborn man and did as he pleased.” “They brought him into the village, so at least I was spared the trouble of going deeper into that foul place.” “And, the two nights I stayed there in that huge, timbered excuse for a hotel, were made all the worse by the howling outside in the forest.” “I could swear too, that through the night I was awakened by scratching and snuffling at my door.” “And, the strangest and most frightening part was, the shadows moving outside my window.. “ “Tall, weirdly moving shadows, and a smell, a foul odor...” With a visible shudder, he brought himself back to the present, and stepped suddenly to my side and embraced me and whispered, “God be with you, son, God be with you.” I walked away slowly, knowing that here was more of a mystery than I had first supposed, and also hoping that I was man enough to finish what I had started. “Dad, I whispered into the night, where are you?” “I’m coming Dad, I’m coming to get you out of that hellhole.” I paid an exorbitant fee for a private ride to the next village. The driver was a large, surly fellow who spoke so rarely it was always a surprise when he bothered to answer any of my questions. I finally sank back in the old torn seat and suffered the rest of the way in silence. The jolting the old car gave me was enough incentive to sit and ruminate anyway. The countryside grew wilder as we drove on. The hills grew steeper, the trees thicker and higher. Far off, I could see the higher mountains, ….where I knew I must go. When we reached the last small town before the wilderness, I thanked my voluble friend and watched as he bounced back the way we had come, without even a goodbye. Strange people, I thought, unlike any I have even seen. The large pub/ hotel /restaurant was like all the buildings out here. Huge logs, thick and stout made up the construction. Good insulation, I guessed, from the bitter winters, also good protection from that which would harm you,… in the night. But, I would learn more of that later. The main room was large and smoke hung down from the ceiling and curled around the huge hanging lights that were spaced evenly about. The conversation slowed then ceased as all looked up from what they were doing to inspect this new arrival. I could detect no welcome in any eye turned towards me. I cared little. The bartender looked at me warily as I walked close. “Beer”, I said. He drew a foaming mug wordlessly and watched as I lay a 100 dollar bill on the bar. I heard a little stirring behind me as some of the closer patrons saw what I had done. The murmurs that followed assured me that now all knew. “Any place to eat”? He pointed at the large doors just behind me and to the left. I carried my glass and my change, minus a goodly tip, into the adjoining room and sat where I could see back into the bar area. A pretty little thing hurried over to take my order. I sighed wearily and said, “Just give me what you have in that pot back there, it sure smells delicious”. In a minute she was back with a steaming platter of what looked like mutton, not my favorite, but I hadn’t eaten all day and was not picky. “Please, sit for a minute, won’t you?” She sat gingerly on the chair opposite me and watched as I ate. I leaned back idly and looked about me. All the windows were small in comparison to the building itself and the huge doors were built with logs that had to be at least a foot thick. Each window was protested with large, thick iron bars. Even the door was iron clad on the inside. Damn, I thought, no one or nothing is getting in here, or out, that they don’t want to. “Do you know any of them sitting out there I can trust to guide me into that mountain range?” “I will pay what they need to get me in and out.” She just watched me silently for a minute, and then finally answered, “Why do you want to go out there, sir?” I said, My Dad’s plane went down out in that black wilderness about four days ago and I’m here to find him.” “Oh, and please call me Johnny,… and what is your name?” She said hers was Belinda and she supposed I might find a couple of them if I offered enough. But, that I could trust not a one of them because I was an outsider and they would not trust me. I said I would pay what they asked because no one would stop me from finding my Dad, even if I had to do it my self. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” I sat drinking the black, bitter brew that passed for coffee in this barren place, waiting.