(Originally from October 2007)
This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.
**Mature content warning**
The voice that issued forth from the figure was tight and raspy, like dried nettles. “So, you’ve come at last?” it asked. The creature could have been either male or female, and thought it had a human shape there was something not right about it; something that made a person take pause as they tried to determine what was incorrect. But Keena knew what it was and why it seemed strange and foreign.
Eseldra had been human once, not so long ago. Not only human but a woman, though now it was hard to tell. Despite the heavy skin that wrinkled around her eyes and spoke of old age, she wasn’t yet forty, and only two years ago had been considered beautiful. But that was before the Great Winter.
Snow had come early that year and with it a bitter cold to rival any winter before. Things died in that cold and lay frozen where they’d fallen. And if that weren’t enough the wolves came. First it was a child, then another and another and soon a grown woman went missing. That was when the men of the village banded together to seek out the wolves and destroy them in their lair. They were tall and brave, their fur wrapped bodies a stark contrast against the white snow. They laughed and joked despite their grim task, and left with promises of wolf pelts on their return. But, they didn’t return.
Eseldra’s husband had been one of the men in the hunting party and when search parties failed to find some sign of the missing men she’d gone herself, leaving with the first thaw. It had been late summer before she’d returned on the brink of death; haggard and starved with a strange something lurking in her eyes. It was a haunted look, the kind that men return with after a great battle. She sealed herself up in the house away from town and would see only one woman; her niece. Though, even to her, she did not reveal what she’d seen to effect such a change.
Keena forced a smile across her pale features. “Of course I came. I did promise you.”
The old crone waved her niece’s words away like smoke. “The promise of youth is fleeting and ever changing. Words mean very little.” Her strange eyes studied the young woman before her. “Did you bring it?”
“Yes, of course.” Keena drew out a parcel from beneath her cloak. The wrapping was still warm from being under her arm throughout her journey. She held it out and resisted flinching as her aunt took it from her.
The old woman laid the bundle upon the table and opened it slowly. A smile twisted across her features, coupling with the bitterness in her eyes to make her look maniacal. “Yes…. Yes this will be perfect.”
She turned around, the gory contents clutched in her hands. Clots of blood glistened, staining wrinkled hands and fingernails, as she lifted her prize in the air, holding it aloft as if asking a blessing of the Gods. She either did not notice or else ignored Keena’s revulsion as she lowered her burden and brought it near her face and sniffed it.
“It’s nearly fresh,” Keena whisper, her stomach churning.
The old woman nodded in agreement. “Yes, it does not yet have the stink. Come, my child, and together we put things to right. Let not this babe’s life, though never started, be taken for naught.”
(originally from October 2007)
This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.
Keena walked in the nigh. Slipping from one shadow to another, the darkness shielded her malintent. Lights flickered behind nearby windows, but she heeded them not. She moved with a purpose; a goal that only the night could embrace.
Her cloak billowed behind her as she moved silently, leaving the small village and pressing into the countryside beyond. Her feet made soft noises against the rutted dirt road. The sound was drown out by the whispering of the fragile leaves that still clung to autumns branches. The moon hung in the sky; low and bloated, shining a sickly orange-red – a blood moon. The kind of moon that would shine for her on a night like this. The stars wheeled overhead; tight, tiny clusters of light that shied away from the strange moon like insects from a greedy spider.
She drew her cloak tighter around herself to ward of the chill that whispered of winter’s impending arrival. Only a few more weeks would see snow falling from a heavy leaden sky. It would blanket the impure world in its virgin whiteness and hide the imperfections of the landscape from the observing eye. She wished there were something that could hide her imperfections and redeem her soul for the sin she had committed tonight, and for the one she was about to commit.
Her destination loomed ahead. The house was large and dark. A hulking black monster hidden in the deep shadows of murmuring trees. No light greeted her weary eyes and no smoke curled from the chimney to welcome her. The house stood cold and silent and dead.
She paused for only a moment, the span of a heartbeat, and made the sign of the cross out of habit. She shook herself and smiled at the ludicrousness of her action. Then, she moved forward quickly, feet scurrying up the flagstoned path until her hand was on the carved handle of the door.
The door swung inwards silently. She stepped over the threshold, knowing that there was turning back. Once she walked inside this house, once she headed towards the shadowy fate awaiting her, she could never go back to the way things had been before. But, this was her choice or, if not so much her choice, at the least her necessity.
The house was close and musty. She walked through seemingly silent rooms where only shadows dwelled until she reached the lazily spiraling stair. Taking a shuddering breath, she steadied her nerves as best she could and then began slowly to ascend.
The smell reached her nostrils before the flickering light registered to her eyes. The odor was thick, heavy and unpleasant, like something rotten. As the stairs threaded downwards both the smell and the light grew stronger until she found herself both gagging and squinting.
At last she stood upon a dirt floor strewn with hay. Her eyes danced around the rooms buried deep beneath the slumbering house. A figure stood, its back to her, its long hair hanging thick down a black cloaked back. She made no sound, yet it knew she was there, and, turning, it smiled expectantly.
To be continued….
(Originally from October 2007)
This was drawn for the WSM art contest. The theme was War
And this is a sketch of my brother I drew while he was snoozing in the waiting room at Cox Hospital (during my Mom’s heart surgery). I now have sympathy for those artists who draw people who don;t know they are being drawn because when they don’t know, they sure are wiggly!
Fav song of the moment – “Never Too late” – Three Days Grace
(Originally written October 2007 for the JannRae art challenge. the image was a painting of a happy, fluffy bunny…)
The Green and Peaceful Meadow
The little fluffy bunny sits in his field of green,
chewing on the clover feeling alert and yet serene.
The birds chirp in the branches and the butterflies all dance
while the sweet scent of the lilac adds a hint of soft romance.
The bunny hops along and pauses by a leafy fern,
waiting for his mate from her foraging to return.
Then he hears the sound of footsteps, louder now as they draw near –
a host of men and weapons march beneath a sky so clear
The bunny sniffs the air, wiggling his tiny nose,
he smells the marching men and his trepidation grows.
Soon stomping boots surround him, they move mindless towards their goal,
he scampers through the grass and weeds escaping this patrol.
The bunny darts into his den, his heart beats fierce and wild.
The soldiers march above his head without a word or smile.
Explosions rip through air and sky, raining fire on the earth,
the bunny burrows further while men run and duck and curse
The meadow now lays desolate, smoke clouds the darkened sky,
scorched earth is all that marks the land where so many men have died,
eradicate each other in the conquests of this war.
If they must they’ll kill the world with principles they’re fighting for
The little fluffy bunny sits on a patch of barren land,
his happy meadow ruined by the greedy hand of man.
His habitat’s destroyed and his mate will not return
now there’s nothing left for him to do but watch the dead world burn
and… it won. My first winning poem. Yay!
(Originally from September 2007)
Was it My Imagination?
Moonbeams tickle shadows along the shore
While I sit alone in a rowboat made for two
Voices from the past echo in the dawn’s stillness
Remembering how it was with me and you.
Along the banks, frogs sing in harmony
I think of you and remember our moments here
The night wind kisses me goodbye
While the shinning sun begins to slowly appear,
Then the boat bobs to and fro
As the water ripples across the lake
Ripples containing all the nightmares of the past
Stirring me from my half slumber, bringing me awake
IN fear my hands begin to quiver,
As the bobbing changes to crashing waves
Beside me, the monster’s head surfaces slowly
Glowing eyes peer at me through the morning haze.
I cry out, fumble with the oars once more
Thoughts of you forgotten as I’m fleeing,
Paddling towards the wavering shore
From the melancholy peace that was so fleeting
From my boat I stumble quickly, heart pounding.
Confused as my eyes sweep the lake that’s now at rest
Smooth water; silent, glassy, still
No one will believe what I saw at Loch Ness!
Some Lines from: Cheryl, Alba, Annie, Rebecca, Margie, Chi Shanay
Fav song of the moment – “underwater” – Vertical Horizon
It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Marvin gives participants prompts to use in their weekly posting. This week’s prompts are:
- Blogophilia 51.3 Topic: “The Journey is in the Reward”
- Bonus Points:
- (Hard, 2pts): use the word “amaranthine” in a sentence
- (Easy, 1pt) : mention autumn leaves
For the last few weeks I’ve been posting short stories about characters from my Amaranthine series that, for one reason or another, never got to say much. As an especially snifty thing I am slowly revising them and publishing them on Smashwords as freebie reads. Eventually I’m planning to bundle them altogether into a single volume, but that’s something in the distant future, as there are several tales to tell!
(You can find Bethina in shades of Gray. This story takes place in 1947.)
Bethina snapped the suitcase closed and gave the familiar bedroom a last look. Though her mother was silent, she could feel her standing in the doorframe behind her. She could imagine the frown on her face and the unshed tears in her eyes.
“Are you sure about this?”
Bethina sighed and turned around to face her. “Yes. Mom, I’m sure. What else am I going to do?” Her mother started to answer, but Bethina hurried on before she could. “It isn’t like I’m moving to the ends of the earth. It’s just a few miles out of town. I can come home and visit you.”
That wasn’t enough to silence her mother’s objections. “And what happens when you get too sick to be a nanny anymore?”
“Would you rather they send me to die in a TB San? Would that be better?” Her mother flinched as if she’d slapped her, and Bethina instantly regretted the words. Regardless, there was truth in them. How much longer could they pretend she wasn’t sick? Eventually there’d be no choice and they’d have to send her away. Blue Ridge was one of the better sanatoriums, but it was over 100 miles away. That might as well be 1,000. This option was better – so very, very much better. If only she could tell her mother all of it, then maybe she’d understand. But, she couldn’t.
“I’m sorry, mother, but I’ve made up my mind. They know about my condition and they still want me to come stay full time. And Alexander is so sweet. You can’t look at him without melting. I don’t want to leave him behind. I want to do something with the time I have left.”
“If you feel that way, then don’t you have a responsibility to that little boy? You’re exposing him to the disease by being there.”
“And I’m exposing you by being here. And I expose everyone in church on Sundays! They know about my condition,” she repeated. “And they have still asked me to stay full time.”
“But those people!” Her mother caught her hands and held them. “Bethy, they’re… they’re not right. They stay isolated in that old plantation and no one ever sees them. They’re-”
“Different,” Bethina finished for her. “There’s nothing wrong with them, mother.” At least nothing I can tell you about.
A horn sounded outside and Bethina thanked whatever saint was the patron of interruptions. “That’s Ernie. He’s taking me up there.” She extracted her hands and hurriedly grabbed her luggage. “I’ll be back in a couple of weeks for a visit.” She brushed a quick kiss across her mom’s cheek and then slid neatly past her. “I love you! See you then!”
Bethina didn’t stop to let her mother finish, and she didn’t look back. Her mind was made up. There was no safer place in the world for her to go than the big brick plantation house with its shadowy corridors, silent rooms, and undead occupants. Occupants that couldn’t catch her disease.
Eddie was a few years older than her. Though they got along well enough, they had nothing to talk about, so the trip was a silent one. She could feel his disapproval, but they weren’t close enough for him to comment. But, when he parked the car just inside the large, iron gates, he met her eyes and cleared his throat noisily. The sign something unpleasant would follow.
She tried to circumvent it. “Thanks, Eddie. I’ll see you later.”
“Will you?” His question forced her to drop the door handle and meet his gaze. “I know it’s not my business, but are you sure you know what you’re doing? Everyone thought you were crazy enough working part time up here, but to move in? They’re creepy, and this place is about as cheerful as a funeral parlor. You sure you want to live here?”
Her eyes narrowed at his too blunt assessment. “You’re right, it’s not your business.” She opened the door and climbed out with a crisp, “thank you for the ride.” She slammed the door with a satisfying sound, and then marched to the house.
The large front door opened before she knocked, and Sandra, one of the maids, moved aside to admit her. The entrance hall was a huge room paneled in wood and hung with old, heavy portraits. Light shone through windows around the front door, but it couldn’t chase away the shadows. Technically, Eddie was right. The house wasn’t very cheerful. The interior had been redecorated, but otherwise it was the same as it had been when it had been built over a hundred years ago. That meant no plumbing, and no electricity.
“You’re staying?” Sandra asked and took a step back. Like the rest of the staff she could still get sick and, though she was never unfriendly, she was distant.
Bethina only nodded and Sandra motioned to the curving staircase. “You might as well go on up. They’re not awake yet.”
Bethina nodded again and climbed the stairs slowly. She made her way down the corridor to what was her new bedroom. Late September sunlight splashed through the windows and brought a cheer to the room that the somber hallways lacked.
She unpacked a little, rested briefly, then walked downstairs to the kitchen where the women were cleaning and preparing what would be their breakfast. Yes, things here were different, including what time their day started.
Both women glanced up at her, but only Sandra acknowledged her. “Have you eaten?”
“Yes, but thank you.” She pulled up a chair at the kitchen table and watched Jane add wood to the old cast iron stove. Finished, the woman straightened and mopped her forehead, then rolled up her sleeves. Her arms were wrapped at random intervals with white gauze bandages. A hazard of working at the plantation house.
As if she felt the scrutiny, Jane turned around and met Bethina’s blue eyes. “I hear you’re going to be here full time?” Bethina nodded and Jane looked mildly surprised. “I can’t imagine your family is happy about that.”
Bethina shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “No. My mother’s pretty upset about it.”
“I would be, too, if I were her.” Jane turned back to a bowl of batter, leaving Bethina wide eyed with surprise.
“But why? You work here.”
Jane stiffened, but didn’t turn back around. “Just because I’m here doesn’t mean I’d want my daughter to be here. I know what they are, after all. I wouldn’t want my child committed to this enslavement.”
“Enslavement?” Bethina echoed. The word seemed absurd and out of place. Something antiquated and distasteful. “How can you call it that?”
“And what would you call it?” Something dark hid under the edges of Jane’s tone. Something angry and challenging. It instantly irritated Bethina.
“How about employment?”
Jane laughed, but it wasn’t a happy sound. “You’re young still, and naïve. Employment is something you can leave if you choose. Do you think we have that luxury?” She turned around, her eyes dark fire and a wooden spoon gripped dangerously in her hand like a weapon. “Do you think we can leave if we choose?”
“Of course not! We know what they are. They can’t just let us walk out. Do you know what happened to the last girl who wanted to leave? She disappeared!”
“Maybe that’s because she left?” Bethina suggested impatiently.
“Without packing?” Jane snorted contemptuously. “They got rid of her because that’s what they do. When you get too old, or you want to leave they just dispose of you and hire another young girl who has no prospects for the future. And in the meantime they work you to death scrubbing and dusting while they drink your blood!”
Sandra cleared her throat loudly; a warning that the conversation was headed for dangerous places, but Jane ignored her and went on.
“Maybe you don’t mind being food for those children because you’re staring down your own death, but the rest of us aren’t. I could have done something. I could have gotten married. I could have had children of my own. Normal children that eat and drink and grow up!”
“Jane,” Sandra said softly. “Enough.”
“No, it isn’t! How can you face it, day in and day out and still say it’s enough? How can you stand to stare into that baby’s eyes and say it’s enough?” She shivered. “It’s like they see right through you, to your very soul, but he never says a word. He never even cries! Just lays there like cold, dead weight and stares right through you!”
Bethina watched with wide eyed confusion as Jane’s shudders turned into tears, Sandra seemed to understand, though, and she quickly moved to embrace her. “Shhh. It’s all right, Jane. It’s all right.”
“How can it be all right? My sister’s dead! My own sister! And where was I? Here! I was here and would they let me go to her when she was sick? Would that bitch Jesslynn let me leave?”
Bethina stared uncomfortably at her hands while Jane wailed. She didn’t know how to feel about the woman’s words. Her misery was real, but Bethina couldn’t reconcile it to what she knew of them. Yes, Jesslynn was austere, haughty even, but surely she’d let Jane go to her sick sister? She’d told Bethina that she could go visit her mother when she wanted, so long as she didn’t say the wrong thing. She’d been working there after school for two years now and had never betrayed their secret, so they knew they could trust her. Maybe that was the difference. Maybe she was trustworthy and Jane wasn’t.
Still, she felt she should say something. “I’m sorry to hear about your sister.”
Jane pulled back and glared at her through puffy red eyes. “No, you’re not! You couldn’t care less, just like they couldn’t care less. You’re a pet to them, not a slave like we are. But, just wait until you’re dying and they look the other way and pretend they couldn’t share some of that immortality with you. Then you’ll see how much they think of you. You’re just livestock to them, like the rest of us. We’re good enough to clean their house and give our blood to their children, but we’re not good enough to join them! They let us die while they keep the secret to themselves!”
Bethina stood up too fast and grabbed the edge of the table to keep from falling. Jane had passed annoying and gone straight to making her angry. “It’s too bad your sister died, but you shouldn’t take it out on everyone else by being so nasty.”
Sandra cleared her throat again and glanced at Bethina. “I think maybe you’d better…” she trailed off, but they all knew what she meant.
Bethina nodded crisply and marched out the door. As she left, Sandra’s voice floated to her. “Jane, honey, you have to watch what you say. If she tells the mister and missus who know what will happen to you?”
“Who knows what will happen?” Bethina muttered darkly. “You’ll get fired, that’s for sure! See how you like it, then!”
She intended to go to her room and finish unpacking, but she got tired by the time she reached the entrance hall and had to stop and sit on a carved bench. She coughed into her ever present handkerchief and tried to fight the instinctual alarm when she saw the crimson dots on it. Jane was so worried about the meager amount that Alexander or the baby took from her. Maybe she should try watching her handkerchiefs fill with it for no reason! Then she could talk to her about death!
She looked up at the sound of a delighted voice and saw Alexander. He stood with his back pressed to the far wall, clinging to the shadows. “What are you doing up? It’s not dark yet.”
He squirmed. “I know, but I wanted to see if you were here yet. Father said he didn’t think your mother would really let you come, but Mother said of course you would. I knew she’d be right.” His face broke into a wide, pointy toothed grin.
She pulled herself to her feet and walked to him, stopping in front of him with her hands on her hips. “All right, now you’ve seen. You better get back to bed, mister, before you get caught.”
“Aw.” He turned his large, pleading eyes up at her, but she refused to back down. “Fine.” He relented. “But only if you promise to tell me a story later.”
“I’ll tell you a story, all right.” She tousled his dark hair. “One about little boys who don’t mind their parents and sneak around the house while they’re supposed to be sleeping. Can you guess the end?”
He gave a small, but exasperated sigh. “I’m going. I’m going.” He turned for the cellar, but stopped and looked back. “I’m glad Mother was right. I’d miss you too much if you never came back!” And then he skipped away to return to his coffin.
Alone, Bethina wandered to a side door and out onto the wide wraparound porch. The sky to the west flamed red and gold, and stray autumn leaves danced and swirled in the early evening breeze. She dropped to the porch and drew her knees up to her chest. Jane’s words flitted through her mind, “Just wait until you’re dying and they look the other way and pretend they couldn’t share some of that immortality with you.” Would they really do that? And even if they didn’t, would she really want them to share? Did she want to live forever, knowing that she’d never change?
“What’s that old adage? The journey is in the reward? No, the journey is the reward?” She couldn’t find the exact words, but it didn’t matter. The essence was there. It was the road that mattered, not the destination because they were all headed to the same place, just some sooner than others.
Maybe Jane was right about one thing. Maybe she could look at things differently because she was staring down death. She knew she’d never get married and have children of her own, so what was the harm in letting her dote on Alexander while she could? Wasn’t it better to be here, near someone she cared about, than locked away in some sanatorium, sleeping in outdoor pavilions that were supposed to cure her? IN the end, whether they looked away, or even killed her themselves rather than letting her last days linger, surely it was better here than being there? “Yes”, she told herself firmly. “It has to be better. No matter what happens.”
Next week is Claudius. Look forward to it!
Fav song of the moment – “Changing the Weather” – Crash Parallel
PS -Some random, but interesting, links on TB Sanatoriums (turned out I didn’t need it, but it was interesting reading all the same!)
(originally from September 2007)
One Day on Monkey Island…
Monkey Island floats in the sea,
with flowers golden and palm trees green.
Sandy beaches surround all sides
where oysters lay abed drowsing in drifting tides
Then one day the peace was shattered
as if someone hit it with a silver platter.
A big fat fish came flopping ashore,
and landed at the feet of our monkey, Theodore.
Theo, he looked and scratched his head,
Then he asked the fish, “You;re sure you’re not dead?”
The fish answered haughtily, her voice tight,
“I wanted to go out on the town for a night.
I wanted to dress up in ribbons and pearls
and taken to the bright dance floor for a whirl.”
With a shrug, the monkey, he agreed
And took her back to his house of seaweed.
There he dressed her in ribbons and swags,
but when he got to the shoes he hit a snag.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice a quiver.
“But glass slippers just don’t fit on flippers.”
She flicked him with her flippers in disdain
and flopped over to the window pane.
“I’ll just go back to my home – away from the ground
Where Willy the Octopus taps all around.
He knows how to have a good time!”
And with that she was gone, lost to the brine.
Theo, he shook his fist and growled after the fact,
“hey you damn fish! bring my ribbons back!”
Some lines from – Here Kitty, Glenn, Margie & Annie
For the Segment I call “Random Things from My Hard Drives” I present
pics I took on Labor Day!
Fav Song of the moment – “No Souvenirs” – Melissa Etheridge
(originally from September 2007)
The Colors of Your Dreams
I will come to you in the middle of the violet night
When the blackness creeps across your soul
I will come to you in your moonlit dreams
On shimmering wings of gold and gray.
I will lead you down the roads forlorn
Pink roses running down blue waterfalls
along a beaten path of whispering trees
through the sun dappled shadows of your misery
I will lead you down the twisting lanes
Through grassy glens and green meadows,
Touching your soul, tormenting your heart,
agonizing thoughts of what should have been
Your tears are silver moon drops on your pillow
and as the yellow sun breaks free, I leave.
I fade away beyond your arms,
Beyond the reach of your tears.
Bathed alone in orange, empty bed a reminder
of the night when your darkness took over,
Overtook the light with trembling knife,
and left me in a pool of CRIMSON.
Some lines from: Cheryl, Glenn, Rebecca, & blood (iz red)