“You’ll love it there Aunt Joanie!” her young niece pleaded. “Just give it a chance. It’s truly paradise! It’s beautiful all the time and you can go exploring in the jungles and learn about all sorts of new plants and things. There are all kinds of social things where you can meet new friends. We have a small house all set up for you. And we don’t like being this far away from you. Grant and his wife are willing to move in here and take things over and pay you a nice rent. So, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

Joanie looked at the imploring face of her niece Sandy. She had never been able to easily refuse this one anything, from the first moment she first laid eyes on her when she was such a tiny waif, suitcase in hand, smudge of dirt on her face and eyes glistening with tears the day she was brought to her house all those years ago. Her parents had died in a car crash, Sandy the only survivor. She had never had children of her own. In truth, she was never quite sure what she would do with them if she had. But, she hadn’t needed to give it any thought when the call came asking her if she would like to take her sister’s child. She was sure she was never the normal kind of parent to Sandy. Never talked to her like a child. Mostly, she just talked to her much like she talked to herself.

She fell in love with the child from the moment she met her though. So full of life once the grief passed. There was little she denied her young charge. They both flourished in each other’s company. And the years seemed to flash by, the tiny orphan of yesterday now a beautiful young woman, imploring her yet again to do her bidding. She sighed deeply. She knew she would give in. If for no other reason than to not be parted from her by so many miles.

It was beautiful on the island! All green and vibrant colors of exotic flowers, their scent permeating each breath of the air. The temperature never strayed more than a few degrees and the people were so friendly and greeted her with the welcome of a refound family. She spent her days trying to learn the histories, the stories, the landscapes. Languid hours were spent with Sandy wandering the lava encrusted mountains, attending great lavish gatherings on the island and simple quiet evenings under the stars.

More than a year passed in this paradise, days moving into weeks which coursed into months. She began to lose track of the time. She had settled in nicely to this place where time seemed never to change. Then they received the letter one morning that her renters needed to move on. He had found a job in another state and it was too good for him to pass on.

After many hours of discussion, Sandy convinced her aunt that maybe she should sell the old home. Sadness filled Joanie’s heart, but she realized it would be better than it being left abandoned.

“I need to go back though.” She told her niece. “To collect the things I want to keep from the house. To say my goodbyes and put all in order.”

“Do you want me to go back with you?” Sandy inquired.
“No, this is something I think I need to do by myself. I need some time to say goodbye to my home.”

It was early fall when she got off the plane and caught the ride to the old house. Tears filled her eyes when it came into view. “Home” it whispered to her. “Not anymore” she sighed to herself. “But, always in my heart.”

She went to bed early that first night, the jet lag wearing on her, drawing her eyelids down hours before the normal time. She awoke the next morning to the sun streaming in the window, casting a fanfold light across everything in the room. The song of the birds just outside, their song so different from the ones of the island. She smiled at their song and laid back down against the pillow and closed her eyes to hear them in her soul.

She sat out on the porch, sipping her second cup of coffee for the morning gazing at the sun resting on the tips of the trees. She looked back in the door and thought for a moment about the things she needed to do today, then took another swallow of the coffee, grabbed her shawl and headed down the path into the woods.

A cold snap wove in tendrils in the gentle wind, nipping gently at her skin at the same time the sun bathed it in a warm caress. She breathed in the air of the forest, so fresh, so old. The ground was soft with layers of decay and growth, littered with more decay and the end of the year shoots dancing around it. The leaves of many of the trees were already beginning to turn. Their edges forming a delicate lacework of yellows, golds, reds, oranges. Fall was as awash with its vibrant dying colors as Spring was with its birthing colors. It was as if life wanted to ensure that its exit was celebrated as its entrance.

On and on she walked, till she came to her favorite hill in the center of the forest. A stand of great trees stood on its crest, watching over the valleys below. From here, she could look out and see for miles, the waters cascading off the mountains in rocky rifts, the lake, far off in the distance. She sat down under the tree and let the beauty of it lull her into a dreamstate.

The sun was dipping toward the other side of the trees by the time she drew herself back up to head back to the house. There wouldn’t be anything done this day. Save for making a light supper. It was worth it, she thought. There was always tomorrow.

A soft crunch under her foot just before she came to the end of the path drew her attention downward. She reached down and picked up the fallen leaf. The first to come to her that had given up its hold on the life that held it. She pressed it to her chest and walked the rest of the way to the house.

“But, I don’t understand why it is taking so long!” Sandy pleaded on the other end of the phone. “It’s almost winter there, you should have been done weeks ago at the very least.”

“That’s okay, dear. I was thinking it would be nice to spend one last winter here. I miss the snow, the bare branches, sitting in front of a warm fire. I miss the feel of winter. I don’t think I can say goodbye without building at least one last snowman. You’re more than welcome to come out here yourself and spend the holidays. They just seem more festive when there is frost on the windows, don’t you think?” Joanie chimed back.

“Oh, you are just impossible!” Sandy giggled. “I don’t think I can get away, but if I can, I will try and make it out. But, after this, I expect you to finish up and get back out here. I want you here with me.”

As winter made its entrance, Joanie watched the first snowfall from her window with the usual wonder it always gave her. She donned her coat and gloves and ran out the door, tipped her head to the sky to feel the first snow kisses of the year. Oh, how she had missed these days! She lost time on that island. Every day was the same as the next. The only way you could tell what month it was is if you looked at a calendar. Here, you could mark the passing of time by the changes outside your window. You felt the seasons and they became a part of you. Each one held its own beauty and its own dangers. But, she felt she was a part of life here. She sighed deeply as she went back inside and began to heat some milk for a cup of hot cocoa.

She’d been unusually tired these last few weeks. Maybe she should go and see the doctor. She made herself a note to remind her to call him at the beginning of the week. Then she took her cup of cocoa and went into the study to write.

She wrote her niece the letter she had been putting off for far too long. She had changed her mind and wouldn’t be returning to the island. She understood Sandy thought it was best for her in her waning years, but she just couldn’t leave her mountain again. She didn’t want to be warm all the time. She couldn’t take going back to where every day was the same as the last. She wanted to be here, where the cold bit the end of her nose and the thunderstorms could shake the house. She needed to see the colors of changing. She needed the smile in the spring when the first mother deer with her fawn stepped into the clearing of her yard. She needed this old house with all its creaks and moans, her bed with its window full of stars. Maybe most wouldn’t call this place a paradise, but they needn’t live here then. It was to her and for her, here she would remain.

Sandy knew what the letter would say before she had barely begun it. Sadness and understanding filled her at the same time. She knew it was a mistake to let her aunt go back to that house. That she would lose her if she did. She tried to explain to her husband that it was no use. Her aunt was a part of that old house. They would just have to plan more visits there in the near future.

She wept deeply at the service. A part of her was gone now. It was as if she had lost her guide through life. Though she tried, she barely heard a word said at the service and walked the path in a daze through the woods to the hilltop. She had asked to be buried here where she could sit forever under her trees and help them watch over the valleys below. As the first handful of dirt fell on the lid, Sandy looked up and saw the view through her aunt’s eyes and a sad smile crept onto her face.

As they headed back to the car, her husband asked when they were going to put the house on the market. Sandy started at the question, a cold chill running through her entire body. She looked at the house, set deeply into the trees, the memories sweeping over her of her childhood. She took a few deep breaths and looked imploring at her husband. “I think I may just hang on to it for a while.”

She couldn’t help looking back over her shoulder as they drove off, the colors of late fall washing the leaves and catching the light like stained glass. Maybe she would come home again some day as well. Maybe.

copyright 07/04/2011


The Whispers on the Stairs


Whispers on the Stairs

“I’m telling you I heard voices!” Calliope spoke softly into the phone, her fingers fidgeting with the cord, twirling it onto and then back off her fingers. There was a charm to these old phones, the cord giving her a feeling of connection that seemed to be missing with the new cell phones and headsets. She was drawn back to the handpiece as she heard her friend asking if she was still there. “Yes, I’m still here! Where else would I be?”

“Well, what did the voices say?” Dorothy asked.

“It was hard to tell. It was very soft. A whisper. But, it sounded like it was saying ‘here’. And another time I think I heard it say ‘they’re waiting for you’.” Calliope replied.

“They? What do you think ‘they’ means?” Dorothy queried.

“I have no idea!” Calliope answered. But, I have heard it the last couple of days when I go up the stairs. During the day, it is more like a quiet murmur, too low to make out. But at night, I can hear the words. The first time, I thought it was my imagination. But, I’ve heard it every time I go up the stairs, always the same thing. Oh, and something more that I can’t quite make out.”

“That would scare the shit out of me!” Dorothy exclaimed. “I think I would be grabbing my stuff and not stopping till I was out the door and as far away as I could get!”

“Well, this has always been an odd old house. I used to think it was a magical place when I was a child. I think I would believe just about anything where this place is concerned. The truth is, there is nothing about the voice or voices that sounds threatening in any way. Its more like the house is trying to tell me something. I’ve looked all around the area where I hear it and I don’t see anything unusual anywhere on those stairs. I suppose its just one of the mysteries of this house that I may or may not figure out.”

“Well, you’ve never been known to be afraid of things any sane person would. I don’t know why I should expect that to change now.” Dorothy sighed, a slight amused tone in her voice. “Other than the voices, how are things going there? Any idea how much longer you are going to be there?”

“I have no idea!” Calliope replied. “This place is like a Wonderland! I start to go through things and then I find something that makes me stop and I lose time as my mind wanders. So many things stir all these memories of my time here as a child. Its almost like time just stops during the day. I pull a book down from the shelf and open it and find I have to take it over to the chair and sit with it for a while. Then before I know it, hours have passed. I tried to go work in the kitchen yesterday, and go through the jars of herbs on the shelves and I swear the smell of something wonderful simmering on the stove fills the air. The more jars I opened to examine, the stronger the smell was. I found myself sitting down at the table with my coffee cup and my mind drifting back. I could hear the sound of the spoon stirring the contents of the pot, the warmth of the stove cooking, the murmur of voices chattering over the rising vapors.”

“Are you sure you want to sell that place Calli? You don’t have to, you know. You can work from anywhere and it just seems to me that place has a hold on you that maybe you shouldn’t discard.”

“What am I going to do with a place like this?” Calliope exclaimed. “Do you know how big this place is? This is a place made for a family. A large family! And it needs so many things done to it to even make it ready for that! Do you know there are rooms in this house that she never even wired for electricity? I have had to wait until daytime to clean some of them because of that! And after dusk, I need to carry a lantern with me or a flashlight if I want to look into them. The truth is, this place is going to cost me a fortune just to even try and put it on the market. And that’s just the house! I think I will need a team of gardeners to clear up the yards here so they are even somewhat presentable. I couldn’t imagine what it would mean to think of trying to care for something like this on a daily basis!”

“Well, was just expressing my feelings dear. It just seems sad to me that you would let go of all the memories that place has for you. I think the stories you have told me of your times there are among the few that I have heard true happiness in your voice. But, I do understand. It would be a huge responsibility and easy to see why you wouldn’t want the burden of it. Enough of that! So, how’s the new project going? Have you been making any headway on it?”

The two of them chatted most of the morning away and by the time Calliope hung up the phone, she realized she wouldn’t get much of anything she had planned done this day. So, she snatched her wide brim hat off the hook and headed out the door and into the sunlight.

She strolled slowly through the garden, letting the scents of the budding flowers fill her senses. As unkempt as this garden was, it was still one of the most beautiful gardens she had ever seen. Even without tending, the plants continued to thrive. Though, the lack of tending had sent them into wildness. The small, carefully groomed plants and herbs she remembered having grown into a lush, near jungle state, its scents almost overpowering as she made her way through.

She came to the other end of the garden and noticed a gate she didn’t recall having seen before off in the corner. Curious, she wove her way through the tangles of branches towards it. The gate almost fell in her hand as she pulled on it. “Well, that’s yet another thing that needs tending!” The branches of low bushes completely covered the path and it took all her efforts to push her way through them to the other side. When she emerged, she froze at the sight before her.

It was an old graveyard. But, what was so surprising was that the entire area was beautifully kept and manicured. All the stones were clean and upright, the grass and flowers tended and cut. She had been at this house a thousand times and she was sure she had never seen this place! She thought she had explored every inch of it. How had she missed this? And who has been keeping it up, she wondered.

She wandered slowly through the gravestones, reading the names and dates. They all seemed rather close together, she thought. And the names! She didn’t recognize any of them. Oh wait! That one over there has a familiar sound to it! She searched her memories to try and pull up why it had a familiar taste to it. But, it was just out of her reach. Ah well. She thought. I guess it really isn’t that important.

She sat down on a small hill at the edge and pulled her notebook out of her pocket and let her mind wander. It was a very peaceful place. But then, she had always been fond of graveyards. She found that if you could still your mind, you could almost hear the voices of the spirits gossiping among themselves. It was a most relaxing way to spend the afternoon. She took a deep breath of the early afternoon air, opened her pen and let the place put its touch on her.

It was almost dusk by the time she headed back. She would have to hurry to get back before it got too dark and she had not thought to bring a lantern with her. She was startled as she reached the gate to the garden when she heard what she thought was the sound of laughter behind her. Straining, she thought she heard words coming from the area. “Soon. It’s almost time.” She shook her head briskly to clear the words from her head and rushed through the garden to get back inside before the last rays died.

It was late by the time she pulled herself from her place in the big chair and the book that had swept hours of the evening away. She set the book down on the table gently, stretched her stiff limbs and grabbed the lantern to head upstairs for the night.

They were louder this time when she reached that place on the stairwell. “Here!” the voice insisted. “Right here. Look! They’re waiting!” She brushed the hair from her forehead and stopped, a long sigh escaping from her chest. Then she set the lantern down and turned up the flame.

“Okay, you win! What’s here? And who’s waiting?” She asked the steps. She allowed her eyes to scan the steps. As usual, she found nothing different here than the rest of the stairs. She allowed her fingers to run across the smooth wood of the stairs, but everything she touched was smooth, no hidden crevices, no marks that might give rise to further inspection. “There’s nothing here!” she shouted at the stairs. Exasperated, she reached for the lantern and then out of the corner of her eye, she spied a discoloration on the wall at the edge of the step she was on. She moved the lantern closer and made out a small rectangular section of wood. “How odd!” she muttered to herself and reached out to touch it. There was a small indentation on the edge of it and when she pushed on it, it made a clicking sound and a tiny door opened.

She sat down on the step, her breathing coming in quick gasps. Would this house never finish with new secrets? She took a deep breath and slipped her hand inside the opening. Her fingertips landing on a small oddly shaped metal object. Slowly, she drew it out and took it in her hand. It was a key! And a lovely one at that. One of those old ornate skeleton keys like the ones they sell in the antique stores. Not like the rusty old ones that came with the house. She turned it over in her hand, admiring it, its giltwork scrolling on the top, let the weight of it cradle in her hand. As she closed her hand tightly around it, she was certain she heard the house sigh and the whisper on the staircase exclaiming “Yes!” and a peal of giggles. Chills ran up her spine at the sound and for some reason, she was suddenly alert as if she had slept the whole night and filled with the energy of a child.

She knew what the key would open! There was no doubt in her mind and she jumped to her feet and bounded up the rest of the stairs and down the hallway.

She stopped before the old door and looked at the carvings on its surface that had always held her fascination. She took a deep breath, opened her hand and slid the key into the keyhole. As she opened the door, closed for so many years, she could hear it breath “Welcome!” as she pushed it open. Slowly, holding the lantern before her, she took her first step across the threshhold, let the light begin to fill the darkness of the room and as the sight of what was before her, her heart filled with wonder and she stepped all the way in and closed the door behind her.

copyright June 24, 2011

Fire Season


Fire Season

Fire Season was approaching!

It begins when the blistering sun of summer and the Easterly winds have scorched across the land, draining it of every last drop of moisture and seeming life it had within it. The people draw inside their homes, shut their doors and windows from the air, so hot it scorches your lungs just to take a breath. Then the cold comes to take its hold. Then the clouds begin to crest the horizon, too high for their drops to arrive with little more than a taste to make the land weep for more. They clash in the skies above, charging the air with energy as the thunder shakes even the stoutest of trees in the depths of the ground and the lightening streaks across the sky in an endless play of bolts and balls and rippling energies of light. When finally they touch upon the ground and taste the dried and decayed matter, they erupt in flames, consuming ravenously all they can reach.

We sit and watch this display. We hope our homes made of our special bricks will resist the dancing inferno. Then we breathe in the energy that has charged every atom of the air during the fire storm. It enters us then, and if we let it deep inside to the seed within, it ignites us as well. Its a powerful feeling to have the fire storm ignite your seed. When it does, it releases you in a way that you cannot imagine. You always have the choice to only let as much in as you choose to. It is “your” seed, after all.

We are taught of this from as early as we are able to learn. We are also guarded from it, from its influence, until we are old enough to make that choice ourselves. And when it is time, our guardians will step back and we can look upon the fire storm and choose to either welcome it or turn it away. But, once we let it in, we must set aside our childhood and move into the realm of the adults. Some resist its calling for a few seasons, wishing to remain in the innocence and protection of the uninitiated. Some will embrace it at the first opportunity. A few escape the protection of the elders and enter into it at too young an age and are consumed by it. A small number choose never to allow its full touch. Each have their own reasons and each have their own place here.

I reached the age of choice a couple of seasons ago, but held back. Instead, I waited to watch my friends. I wanted to observe how they were changed so as to better know if it was something I wished for myself. I have always been less impulsive than many of the others. I wasn’t willing to give up who I was till I learned if I didn’t like who I would become. For there is never any truly going back once you have taken that step across that line. Oh, you can choose not to take it again in the seasons that follow. But, you will still be forever changed for having taken it at all. Given that knowledge, I wanted to be sure before I crossed that line.

Last season, as the fires danced across the land, lighting up the skies in their reds and oranges and yellows and blues, and the doors swung open on the homes and the way was parted for those that felt the longing to take those steps. I found myself moving forward and across the threshold into the fiery night.

The fire shot, then swirled about us as we began to dance and sing in the clearing. Walled in by the flames, the thunder crashing in the heavens, the skies split by the bolts, we breathed it in, letting it reach down and touch that seed, protected for all of our lives until now. Feeling it now for what it truly was.

We became the fire when our seed ignited, equally ravenous, equally devouring.

I saw him for the first time that night, or I saw him in a way I had never seen him before. But, when our eyes met, our fires joined together with each other, weaving a fiery cord that pulled us closer together, until we touched. We were wrapped in a pillar of our combined flames at that moment, set aside from all else and at the utter mercy of the desire that pounded in every cell of our being. We devoured each other with our desire, each touch igniting new dancers of flame on the others skin, each taste giving fuel to the fire, each movement raising us to even higher levels than before. Till finally, we merged. The skies seemed to open above us then and we were floating. Floating in a cool air that did nothing to dampen the heat of our desires. In fact, it just raised them to a higher level. Up we went into the sky, a twisting, undulating ball of molten fire till that one last pulse snapped the seed open and the wash of stars floated down to bathe our searing forms.

Some of us mark the days till the next season, forever hungry for the consuming and the being consumed. The seed shooting new and different growth with each merging. There are some that always choose the same other to dance with, time and time again. There are others that will find a new partner to do the fire dance with each time. Each way creates growth in different ways. The children born of the fire dance are the most treasured of our kind. Few stay past maturity, longing to merge back into the fires from which they were birthed. They enter the fires alone and dance a dance that even an artist cannot dream of before they are wrapped in the embrace of the flames and taken back in.

Though a few do remain. They never cross the threshold when the door is thrown open. They just stand and watch, no sadness, no regret. Simply a look of understanding on their faces and never leave their place till the very last dance has been done.

So, you see? For us, the Fire Season is truly a time to celebrate!

copyright 06/09/2011

Spare Parts

Spare Parts

“What’s in there?”

“Just spare parts.” I replied.

“Spare parts?”

“Yeah, you know? Just bits and pieces and remnants that people discard as unneeded.”

“Okay, and what do you want with other people’s discarded junk?”

“Oh, you would be amazed at what can be done with spare parts. It really is quite fascinating some of the things one can acquire because someone sees no use for it. They say that one man’s trash is another’s treasure. Those words could not be more true. I can spend hours in that room studying and tinkering with the things I have collected through the years.”

“Well, can I have a look at your ‘treasure room’ then?”

“Sorry, no one goes in there but me. It’s kind of my private little sanctuary.”

“You can be an odd one sometimes! Fine. Have it your way. Are you ready for dinner?”

“Just let me grab my coat.” I said as I headed toward the door.

We sat in the quaint little restaurant down the street and chatted over the hearty meal. He had been depressed for some time now and needed someone to talk to. I listened intently as my friend spoke of all the unrequited dreams and desires of his life. I reached in my pocket and pulled out the small box and set it on the table. He glanced at it for only a second, a fleeting moment of curiosity passing across his face before continuing.

On and on we talked into the evening. He poured his heart and soul out to me through the meal, on through dessert, then coffee and a few drinks after. The tension slowly slipping from his shoulders and lines beginning to smooth across his brow. By the end of the evening, he was smiling gently, his heart feeling eased, as if a weight had been lifted from him.

“Thank you, my friend” he said as we stood at my door. “I can’t tell you what this evening has done for me.”

“My pleasure.” I replied. “It was just as beneficial to me and I thank you.”

He gave me a questioning look and shrugged his shoulders before turning to head to his car. As I walked through the front door, I reached in my pocket and drew out the box, a shimmer of excitement passing through me as I made my way to the door to the room and opened it. Gently, I lifted the lid of the box and the whisps floated out.

I sat in my overstuffed chair and watched as my friend’s lost dreams joined the play with the others. Such joy to watch dreams freed to expand and create and weave themselves into the dreampestry in this room. Yes, this room was mine, private. There was no guilt to feel for what I had made here. I took only what was resented, not wanted. How sad for them, how lucky for me that they felt their dreams were only spare parts.

copyright 05/27/2011

No Magic at All


The soft rays of the sun caressed the dawn skies, awakening it to the touch of morning and bathing it in a gentle light of flowing colors. The shadows stirred forth from their hiding places and the creatures of the day began to emerge from their own slumbers. A wash passed over the tops of the rows of trees, setting light to the dew mist upon their leaves, a starshine net cast upon their peaks.

The air was soon bathed in the warm glow, stretching to meet each thawing touch. A small form stirred from under one of the trees and stretched out her arms, then rubbed the sleep from her eyes with her curled fists. A tiny thing she was, far too small to have slept the night away alone in the orchard. She tugged at her bedraggled clothes, pressing the wrinkles down with the palms of her hands, then smoothing her hair with her fingers.

She looked around her, rose and began to wander through the trees, so neat in their rows, so sheltering under their welcoming branches. They sang her a lullaby last night, she remembered. Beckoned her to come lay at their base and laid their branches draped in leaves about her for warmth. The bruises she carried into the orchard with her the night before had been faded by their touch and she felt a smile slip across her face as she looked up at their peaks.

Small shining globes dangled from the hanging branches, pinks and yellows and creams. A beam of sunlight shot through the openings in the branches and lit upon a rowed cluster of them just over her head. The bright dart of light set the red apple in the center aglow, like liquid crimson. Tiny lingering drops of dew reflected back shimmering sparkles, begging her to come closer.

She stepped beneath the branch and looked up, trying to figure out how to reach the light temptation. She jumped, straining her hand to reach it and missed. Again and again she tried, never getting any closer. Finally, in frustration, she sat down on the ground and began to weep. She wept till the tears ran out and wiped her eyes and looked up. The branch had swayed downward, the apple barely dangling by its thin stem. Then a soft breeze floated through and cut through the thread still holding it to its mother, till the glowing orb fell just in front of her feet.

Slowly, she reached out and picked it up. She brought the apple to her mouth and took the first bite. Oh, so sweet it was! Greedily, she devoured the entire fruit, core and all. There was no magic in what happened, no magic at all. They fall naturally from the trees, they do. She thought these thoughts, her belly full of the gift and laid back down on the ground at the base of the tree. As her eyes closed, the branches slipped downward and covered her small body providing a blanket for warmth.

copyright 05/20/2011

Kiss of Death


She didn’t mean to kill him, never wanted him to die. She wanted only what everyone wanted, to be touched, to be loved, to be part of something beyond just her.

Eris looked down on his lifeless form and wiped the tears from her cheeks just as the fear began to creep in. How would she explain this? She couldn’t tell them the truth. Even if they believed her, they would still condemn her and find her a monster. She had to get him out of here, remove any trace that he had ever been here. It would be night soon. She could secret him out then, take him home where when they found him, they would think he died of natural causes. Yes, that is what she must do! So, she gathered his things and put his clothes back on him, placed his keys back in his pocket and waited.

The first faint rays of the predawn were softly illuminating the sky as she pulled back in her driveway. The black skeletal branches of the trees reaching up to the sky as if to grab the last morsel of darkness before it was swept away. Their bare fingers strike deep within her, sister spirits to the barrenness of her soul. She took a deep breath, then got out of the car and went inside.

Eris looked about the room as she entered and took in what must be done. She turned on the stereo. Dark Gothic music fills the air, the instruments throwing Cathedral waves through the room pierced by the ethereal voice of the singer. She allowed it to enter her and spur her into action. She walked across the room and picked up the glasses and plates from the table, took them into the kitchen to wash out the evidence of the shared evening.

The sun was well up by the time Eris finished and all memory of the night before wiped clean. No scent of him lingered, no trace of anything beyond her remained. She drew the heavy curtains, lit the candles in the room and took a seat on the cushion in the center, a glass of liqueur in her hand and lets the music begin to carry her away. She gazed at the flames curling and licking the air in the fireplace. She loved the dance of the flames, the feel of the warm heat touching her face, the soft tendrils of smoke reaching up. As she watched the flames, her mind began to still, a quietness entering her soul and her thoughts began to slowly drift.

Images and memories began to float through her mind The faces of the past began to stream by, the scents, the feel of their fingertips upon her arm. Each tale unwinding, opening itself, recounting in her mind, taking her back to each moment, each touch, each final embrace.

There was John. The first, with his eyes as blue as a spring sky and a smile that could make you forget everything bad in the world. He could make her laugh as no one ever could, either before or since. It wasn’t hard to be swept away by this gentle giant of a man and he wasted no time in sweeping her to his side. Those were easier times then, girls were expected to keep their distance. Keep it or lose respect. That was when she was still naive, when she thought they were just stories told told to frighten her into good behaviour They tasted of the stuff that fairy tales were weaved from. Not things that were of this world. And such cruelty couldn’t be true. She couldn’t be so cursed. And the more time she spent with John, the easier it was to push it from her mind and believe she could have what she had been made to believe had been denied.

It went on for months, the days riding the pastures, talking in the little cafes, strolling through the parks and going to the theater. The countless hours they spent talking and laughing and sharing their worlds. She began to relax and forget. And they talked of their futures together, of the life they would share. Then came that fateful day when he bent to his knee, took her hand in his, then slipped the ring on her finger. A moment later it was all gone, in the blink of an eye, his body slumped at her feet.

She put him on his horse and sent it flying with her whip. Then she ran. Ran until the tears had ceased to flow. Till she no longer knew where she was. Or who she was. Only that the words spoken to her when she was a child were echoing, pounding through her mind. The stories wrapped around her and she could no longer deny that she was them.

How many more were there after John? There was Claire, the beautiful artist that painted the dreams of angels. Her desire, so fierce, she couldn’t resist. She was a force of nature that carried all it came across with it. She never dreamed that Claire could be a danger, for such a thought was unnatural. Even for one such as her. But, from Claire, she learned that such bounds do not exist in love. The wicked cherub cares not where he shoots his arrow, nor finds fault where it lands. She learned that the night of the showing as they stood out on the balcony of her home and Claire reached to touch her face. Then leaned and she felt the warmth of her breath almost touching. Her loss, thought a suicide by everyone, sending her work into fame after.

Dear, sweet Charles. So like a child in many ways, trusting, innocent and patient. She held him at bay for the longest. It wasn’t hard as he never pressured her on anything. That is, until the day of the accident. He was so afraid she couldn’t love him anymore and wouldn’t believe her until she proved it. He never left the hospital and they believed his heart just wasn’t strong enough to recover from the injuries.

So many more through so many years. So many times she tried to seclude herself from others, from temptation. She even tried secreting herself in a convent once away from temptation, away from tempting. But, the young priest with the haunted eyes spirited his way into her heart. She was not the first he sought to seduce, so when they found his broken form at the base of the tower, they assumed his guilt had driven him there.

It wasn’t long before she began to realize that she didn’t seem to age as others did. It would not be safe to stay in one place too long. It was only a matter of time before others took note of it as well. So, she became a wanderer, a gypsy, moving from city to city and eventually across the continents. She watched societies rise and crumble, was witness to the intense goodness in the hearts of men as well as the unspeakable evil. It was this intrigue with the complexity of them that held her locked to them. No matter how many times or ways she tried, she couldn’t keep her distance for long: ever and always drawn back to them. And always there would be another one that would reach out to her and touch her heart.

The curse of her kind was told her when she was but a young girl. Her kind, it was said, had been around for as long as humans had. It may be that they came from the same seed. Always they were drawn to each other by a need that wrapped them in a net and bound them, one to the other. Their desire, a calling that could not be dismissed or ignored. She was told of the cautions she must take in life. That she must harden her heart to their calling. Or at the very least, not take them into her heart. She listened to all the tales, all the cautions, all the histories. But, they made her feel alive as nothing else did. And even when the tales proved true, still she hoped that maybe there was one who could rise after the kiss. One that didn’t grow cold after.

The flames had died to glowing embers as she began to return to the now. She set her glass down and rose to begin putting out the candles She heard voices approaching from outside. She peeked out the curtains and saw the car out front. Panic seized her and she began to go over everything in her mind of what could have been forgotten. She was always so careful! She heard their footsteps coming up the walk to the door and felt a wave of panic setting in. Did she forget something? Did she leave something? Was she seen?

She opened the door to them and invited them in. There were three of them, so official in their crisply pressed blue uniforms. They begged admittance and the door seemed to open to them of its own accord. His sister had found him there, they told her, when she went to pick him up early that morning. A stunned look swept over Eris’ face. She hadn’t known about any plans he had. She felt a small sense of relief when she looked up at the officers and it was obvious they registered it as shock over the news and offered up condolences.

She took each one of them in as her mind began to whirl over what to say, to do next. The older, heavy set one with the ruddy cheeks and playful eyes. He was no worry to her. The gentleness in his gaze told her all he felt was compassion. The young slim one as well was not a concern. He hadn’t been on the force long, still nervous, eyes darting about the room and wiping his palms on the tops of his legs frequently. He was here to watch and learn. That’s why there were three of them and not just two.

But, the one with the grey eyes, so intent, so serious, she knew she couldn’t lie to him. He watched every breath she took, every move she made, listened far beyond the words, making note of the inflections and every movement that accompanied them. No, this one would spot a lie in an instant. The tale must be told in truth. That she could do. There were ways to tell the truth that could turn the story in many different directions.

So, she told them of her night with Mike, of their time together and how they had met. Answered everything they wished to know of their relationship. How they had spent the day together, then had dinner and wine. Except she said they had dined at his place. And that the hour had grown late, so she had begged his leave. And she had left after kissing him goodbye.

The grey eyed one watched her for a few moments, then closed his notepad. “I think we’re done here.” He told the others. But, his gaze never left her as they walked to the door. She could feel her heart racing as she watched them walk to their car and closed the door slowly, leaning against its weight for support.

She jumped and almost screamed when the rapping came to the door. She looked through the peephole and her breath caught in her breast and pressed against her heart when she saw him standing there.

Carefully, she opened the door to him and he peered in at her. “Sorry to bother you again and I do realize its been a difficult night for you and this is probably not a good time, but when you are feeling better, I was hoping you might have a cup of coffee or some lunch with me sometime.” Eris couldn’t find any words as she stood before him, a flash of heat spreading across her face, her throat so tight she could barely breath. She took his card, nodding slowly and then closed the door behind him.

She took a few deep breaths as she walked away from the door. Then a gentle smile spread across her face as she thought of those deep grey eyes, his smile and the nervousness in his voice when he asked her. Maybe it would be okay this time. Maybe they could just be friends and the kiss need never happen. Maybe.

copyright 10/30/10

Arachnafelorpion (New Version)

The tiny figure slipped demurely from the shadows of the building, hesitantly, like a mouse, darting glances about for the dangers potentially lurking in every corner, then shot across the alley and slipping back into the shadows of another building.  She looked about her for an exit, a sanctuary at the least, so she could gather her thoughts for her next move, preferably one that would offer a true escape.  Out of the corner of her eye, she spies a door about halfway down the alley, just slightly cracked open.    She rushes quickly to it and peers into the darkness beyond, then slips inside and pulls the door closed behind her.
They lumbered noisily into the alley, debris crashing about them in their invasion and sending scurrying the scavengers of the night.  The smaller, weasel faced one diving into the trash bins, tossing its contents in a torrent above his head before leaping back out.
“Not here, m’lord!”  he squeaked as he landed on the ground beside his companion.  A grimy creature who promised to smell as fetid as he looked, his long beak nose the sole feature visible under the dirty single lamplight of the alley.
“Well, she has to be here somewhere, Allbritch, you worthless pile of worm dung!”  the other yelled.  He was as massive as his partner was slight.  A giant lumbering creature shrouded in a long dark coat, with arms hanging unnaturally long at his side, with massive hair coated knuckles balling into fists just below the sleeves.
“She turned this direction.  There’s no where else she could be.  Keep looking, dammit!”  Then he slammed one of his massive fists against the wall, opening a gaping hole in it, sending his weasel faced companion darting through the rest of the alley, peering in corners and testing doors.
Desolinia stood with her back and hands pressed firmly on the inside of the door, taking deep slow breaths to slow her heart thundering in her chest and waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dim light within.  Gradually, the geography of the inside began to take shape and her chest began to relax somewhat.  It was an abandoned warehouse or factory of some sort, broken machine skeletons and crate remnants scattered throughout.  She made her slow way across the room, making sure to take inventory of all potential hiding places and potential exits.  As she crossed into the growing darkness on the other side of the room, she spied a door at the far corner.  She bolted toward it, excitement racing through her veins, only to discover it firmly bolted shut with iron bars and heavy locks.
She sunk to the floor desolate.  She was so very tired!    She had meant no harm when she opened the gate into that room.  All she had wanted was to take a small peek around and spirit away before anyone had scent of her being there.  And she would have done so if the small thing hadn’t looked at her so imploringly.  She had never seen the like of it in any of the books she had ever browsed nor any story that had been told her.  A sprite-like whisper of “something”, the creature glimmered in frantic sweeps within its enclosure, begging freedom and being dimmed by the loss of it.  How could she refuse such a plea, how could she turn from offering aid to such a one?  So, she stole quickly across the room and released the latch on its cage.
Like a firefly, it burst out and into the air, a trail of sparkling dust weaving behind it.  She giggled softly at the spectacle, her ears filling with the sound of tiny bells showering around her head.  Then gently, it lighted upon her hand and set a bag and a stone in her palm then vanished from sight.  She fingered the stone softly before slipping it into her pocket, then tied the bag to her belt, its size and weight expanding as she let it drop.  A knowing smile crossed her face, “a fresh magic bag!”  It seemed fortune was smiling on her this day.
Just then she heard the voices above and started.  She had tarried to long, they would catch her scent.  And there was no telling what they would do when they discovered she set their “pet” free.  Quickly, she made for the gate and did her best to cover her trace as she fled.
She had been fleeing from them for days, maybe weeks.  Sometimes she had thought she had eluded them, no sense, no trace of them in the vicinity.  But, just as she was about to relax and loosen her guard, she would spy one of them around the corner, at the edge of her eye.  So far, the bag of tricks had kept her safe, kept her one step ahead of them.  A small pinch here, a slight dip there and she would “shift”.  She lost track of how many forms she had taken, each one taking a toll on her waning energy.
And now here she was, trapped, in this abandoned building; they, close on her heels.  They wouldn’t lose her scent this time, this she knew.  She heard the small one as he entered the building, his nasally breathing whistling in the air.  The thundering bulk of the other followed right after and she looked frantically about her for a place to hide.  They would surely find her where she was if she didn’t.
She spied a gaping opening at the end of the hallway and crept slowly towards it and slipped inside.  It was an old service elevator, the floor creaking slightly under her weight.  She froze in the corner, fearing more movement would stir another sound sure to expose her.  At least she could hide for a time in here, as she waved a concealing door in front of her.  It wouldn’t offer protection for long, she knew.  Her magick was almost gone.  But, maybe there was just enough time.
Slowly, she reached into the bag.  It was almost gone!  She wondered if she had enough for one last “shifting”.  She pulled the stone out of her pocket and held it tightly.  She had never figured out what its purpose was.  Maybe just something to hold on to, something of substance.  It glowed faintly in the darkness.  “Hmmm?”  she thought, “its never done that before!”  Now, to the form.
She thought deeply on the memories of the beasties and creatures of fantasy, searching for the right one, the right combination that would make this work.  She heard them approaching, it was only a matter of time before they figured out that the only place left to look for her was in the elevator and the door in front of her was as insubstantial as the air it was woven from.  But, summoning a creature from story or mythlore was most dangerous.  One need rely on the accuracy of the telling and hope that there did not exist an older, more dangerous version that might emerge in its stead.
Their footsteps approached nearer and she stilled her breath and willed her heart to soften its beating.  She could smell the rank staleness of them.  There is nothing so vile as the scent of stolen dreams and magicks left to rot upon a trophy cord.  Softly, she drew in her breath and wishpered a prayer to her spirits and released her substance to their will.
A soft twitter-giggle echoed gently through the elevator shaft.  Desolinia was no longer so timid.  Her spirits had served her well.  She rather liked this new form.  Seems they fashioned her out of some of her favorite creatures, the sleek feline body, all these wonderfully tactile legs and such a tail!  That barb could slay her most formidable enemies   Now she supposed she needed to give herself a name.  Hmmmmm????  A knowing smile spread across her face . . . . . Arachnafelorpion!  Desolinia giggled again and began to draw herself further up the shaft by her silken thread.  She could hear their distant voices cursing her below.  She had found a form even “they” couldn’t pursue.  She placed the stone back in her pocket and leapt out of the top of the shaft.  It was a bright sunny day out.  She figured she had earned the right to enjoy some of it.
copyright May 16, 2010


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