*Part 2 of the ED BANNISTER series. Extract from my Photography blog, Through Frog Eyes. Each month a guest photographer is featured and a short story is woven around a set of photographs. This is where photography and creative writing find a common platform. For this month, all the stories will be connected in a series, ushering in Thanksgiving and Advent. Please click on the link to read the previous stories and the complete version of the story below with the full set of photographs. 

The road seemed to stretch out endlessly in front of him, but Alexander did not mind it one bit. He enjoyed driving for the sheer pleasure of driving, indulging in that intangible thrill of movement and landscape fused into one. The moment he obtained his driver’s license at 18, he discovered that a firm grasp of the steering wheel, eyes on the road and a large bubbly drink within reach was the best combination that had allowed him to do some of this best thinking over the years. It really didn’t matter whether he was stuck in traffic in a large metropolis somewhere around the world, or bouncing around in a four-wheel-drive in the middle of nowhere, the main thing was that he was driving and felt in control, something that could easily go awry. As the ocean remained a distant memory from his last stop, Alexander relaxed and focused his attention on the barren land before him. “It reminds me of myself somehow” he said out loud, “devoid of eccentricities.” He grinned at the thought of his best friends objecting violently to that particular self-assessment, but he didn’t care and stopped the car again, took off his socks and shoes and stepped onto the hot sand. Eccentric or not, this was a ritual he indulged in, embracing the desert awe.

This was no ordinary escapist joyride for Alexander today. The informant he was meeting requested a location as far away from civilisation and modern conveniences as possible. All Alexander had been given were GPS coordinates and nothing else, so he had no clue if he about to meet men at the edge of the canyon or women at the foot of a waterfall. For all he knew it could well be just a tent pitched under a tree, and since all the arrangements had been made via encrypted email, there were no guarantees for what he was walking into. But that was what his life was all about, dealing with the unknown and drawing out the best of a rotten situation in order to present it in an objective manner. Sometimes a little tweak here and there would spell all the difference between life and death, or as another friend put it, the fine line between stupidity and bravery.

4-never-seen-lake-isabella-ca
Never Seen – by Ed Bannister

Squinting his eyes to compensate for the glaring sun, he pulled out the binoculars form the glove compartment to have a better scan of the area. One couldn’t be too careful in a situation like this and since he had no idea what to expect, the further the line of vision the better. Half an hour had passed, and the only company he had so far had been a nonchalant rattle snake and two vultures that seemed to be in a hurry to beat the others to a fresh carcass. An approaching noise above him drew his attention away from the predatory birds and Alexander’s jaw dropped in amazement. There was no fancy helicopter, or outlandish military vehicle, not even a state-of-the-art drone that dropped the package on the hood of his car. He had never seen anything like it before, and the sight of four messenger pigeons flying straight towards him, each attached to a corner of the small package, left Alexander completely stunned.

The birds had been specially trained, that much was clear. Alexander managed to close his mouth again, he jumped out of the car to retrieve the small box. Inside it was a small flash drive, which he quickly plugged into his laptop and eagerly awaited the revelation. When the screen came to life, Alexander stared in horror and disbelief.

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