Tag Archives: short story

Ode To Strangers

Prompt Week 05/15/2017 – Shadow, Photograph, Darkness, Ode to Strangers, Swinging & Sliding

Ode To Strangers

I see you.  I have watched you from near and far.  You have not seen me though.  I would have known if you had by the startle in your eyes, the slight stiffening in your shoulders, the tightening at your lips or the little tremble in your fingertips.  None of you, in all the places I have watched, have spied, have studied, have ever had the slightest hint of my presence.  Or, at least of my focus on you.  I have not always been obscured by the darkness, though it generally began there.  The shadows are my friend and co-conspirator, veiling me whilst I learn and watch, making notes in my book of you.  The places you like most, the foods you order most often, the things you dislike that make your scowl.  I also bring my camera with me.  Just the little one most of the time.  I do need the big one if I am a distance away.  But, I keep it in the car behind the seat always, just in case.  But, the little one fits nicely in my pocket, almost silent when I click the button to take photographs to go with my writings.  I print them at home and watch with anticipation as they slide out of the printer.  Full color, glossy memories of my day with you.  I add them to the rest on the lines over my bed.  This is so I can look on your faces as I close my eyes to sleep at night.  I just lay there, tapping gently on the newest pictures and watch them swinging and sliding along the lines.  A dancing mobile of all of you.  Often, I smile, needing just a little bit more and I reach for the box next to the bed and spread out the contents across my lap on the blanket.  The presents.  One from each of you.  Grandma’s ring.  Father’s cufflink.  Mother’s necklace.  Sister’s bracelet.  All wrapped up in a soft piece of velvet in the box.  And in a little jar next to them, a tooth from each of you.  The blood has dried almost black on them and I have to be very careful so it doesn’t flake off.  They just wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t have that part of you as well.

This room, this place, these treasures are all an Ode to you, once strangers.  But now you are all mine.  Strangers no more.  And fear not.  I will find others to join you.  The family will grow.  Yes, the family has only just begun.

Sephi PiderWitch
05/16/2017

 

The Hanging

Noose“I had the dream again last night Father.”

“What dream, my child?” The black robed man sat down on the bench. a careful distance from the young girl.

Dark matted curls fell away from the side of her face, revealing one bright, tear streaked eye peering up at him. She wiped her sleeve across her nose and backed into the corner of the bench, hugging her knees to her chest as she did so, the curls falling back over her face, a veiled mask he could not see past.

“They came for me and put ropes around my wrists and led me through the halls and all I could think of was how cold my feet were against the stones. And how very cold I was everywhere. And then we were outside and they were leading me to a very large platform and there were people all around. So very many people! Then we went up the stairs and I saw it for the first time. It was dangling from the beam across the top and I knew it was for me. And I was so scared, so very scared as they led me to a spot right under it. And then I woke up.”

“I can see how that would make you afraid. I am here to try and help you with all of it. Do you know who I am Eunice?” The robed man slid a couple inches closer to the huddled form, her body stiffening as he did.

“You are one of them.”

“One of whom?”

“Them what took my family and hurt them and sent them to the gallows to die. And now you have come for me.”

“My child, I am a priest, a servant of God. We don’t hurt people, and we don’t kill people. I am here only to care for you and hear your story and minister to your soul in whatever way I may. That is all.” The soft tone in his voice was almost convincing. Convincing enough to make the girl peer up a bit through her hair.

She pulled her knees tighter and brought back the words of her mother before they took her away the last time. “Tell them no more than you have to. Stretch it out as long as you can, for when they feel they have the all of it, that will be the end. Keep them asking and wanting for more till ‘you’ are ready. And only then give them the last piece. Keep your soul tight within you and never let them see it. You have been trained for this time. You may not think you are ready, but you must be.”

Over and over, she let her mother’s words echo through her head as she watched the man before her. She was no match for him. He was older, smarter and held the power of life and death in his hands. What if she failed? She knew that answer. She would swing like the rest had. Just like the dream. Only, she would not awake in a cell when the coarse rope slipped around her neck.

“You must trust me child.” Again, he inched closer to her, honey with just a hint of venom dripping from his words. “Let us begin at the beginning, shall we?”

And so the questioning began. It lasted deep into the night, till her lids could barely stay open, which she had to keep open or closer he would come again. Night after night he returned, probing deeper, asking more, till felt she had told the story a thousand times in just as many ways. Everything there was to know about her home, her family and even what happened when they were brought here.

“You beat her!” Eunice spat at him. “You raped her! I saw it. You did it right in front of me!”

“No, child. You are wrong. I never set eyes on you or any of your family until we began this.” His soft voice cooed.

“If not you, it was one of your kind and might as well have been you!”

“No child, you are mistaken. We are under vow of celibacy. I am sure you are confused as to what you saw. They tried to drive the demons from your poor mother. That you would see something so vile and profane shows that you have also been possessed. I just pray it is not too late to save your soul.”

“I didn’t realize that you drive demons out with your penis!” she shrieked at him.

“Enough child!”

He struck her hard, sending her spinning off the bench and across the floor of the cell. She grabbed her face where he had hit her and scampered into the far corner of the cell, fear and hatred sparking from her eyes as she watched him, holding the sobs she would not let him hear.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hit you!” He stood up and started to head toward her, stopping when she slunk tighter against the walls in the corner. “Maybe this is enough for tonight.” his voice softened. “I’ll leave you for the night and we’l begin again tomorrow.”
*********************************************************************
The dream, stronger than ever came again that night. The ropes, biting deeply into her wrists. She could feel every strand, every burr in the rough hewn rope. The smell of the outside air as she took her first step from the walls in who knows how long. It was not fresh air, the market areas seasoning that with the smells of rotting foods and fresh blood mingling in with it. But, it still had a taste of freedom that had been locked away from her. And she breathed it in. As deeply as she could. She wanted to take as much in as she could before it was taken away from her again.

And they turned. And the platform was there, with the stairs leading up far above her head. She knew what was at the top though. She didn’t need to see it to know it was there. And it was for her.

And the people were there. Watching faces, expectant faces, sad faces, hungry faces. They were here for the show. And she was the show. The guards took their time in leading her up the stairs. They wanted to extend the show as long as they could.

And then she was at the top and there it was dangling in front of her. And no matter how she tried to be strong, how hard she always tried to be strong, she couldn’t help but start crying when she saw it. And she had no strength as they led her to it and slipped it over her head and drew it tight against her neck. And she had just enough time to look out over the crowd one last time for just one friendly face before the bag dropped over her head. And the floor dropped out from under her. And she screamed.

********************************************************************

She saw him start when she opened her eyes after the scream. Quickly, she curled back around herself in the corner. She could feel his eyes on her, burning into her. Each day she hated him more. Each day, she wished him to be the one tormented, the one the hammer blows were meant for that echoed through her head every day. She wrapped her arms around her knees and buried her face in the hollow of her arms.
Slowly, he began to speak from his place on the bench. At first so low, she could barely hear him. But, slowly his voice got louder, drawing her into the tale he was weaving. It spun about her head. a magic thread that drew her in and held her.

Her family, he said, had been suspected of consorting with demons for quite some time. The church had been watching them, keeping very careful records. Oh, they saw through the respectable charade they put up. The thriving business, the standing in the community. But, there were just too many things that didn’t add up, that weren’t natural. But, they had to wait to see how deeply was the family infected. Were there any that were still capable of saving?

Her mother, he said, was the most difficult to crack. In her lay the purest seed of the demon and she was the one that must be broken and broken completely. He knew she wouldn’t understand, it was after all, her mother they were talking about. But, they needed to cleanse the community of the evil within it. And her mother, with her beauty, her charisma, her way with simples and herbs, there was no question she was infected. And she had the mark, as had all of them. It was harder to find on her though. The demon hid it well on her.

He supposed that is what she saw when she thought they were defiling her. He could understand the confusion. And he had asked to be her confessor. He had, in fact, begged for it. He hoped with all hope that she could yet be redeemed. Even though she also bore the mark.

He cried as he spoke. And Eunice listened. Her heart hardening more with each word spoken. She moved not a single inch. She let loose no indication that she was even listening.

Finally, he seemed to have reached the end of what he had to say. He told her that his time was almost done. He would return tonight. So, she had the day to think of what she had to confess to free her soul before the morrow. He had done all he could and there was naught left he could do.

Quietly he got up from the bench and walked across the cell to have the guards let him out. And she was alone with her thoughts.

*********************************************************************
All day, her mother’s words echoed in her head. She would be ready. Yet, the fear chilled her bones. No, she was not ready. Her mother was wrong. She would never be ready.

She heard the door open and felt him enter before she saw him. He sat beside her and told her again it was their last night. This was the last chance she would have to clear her conscience and free her soul.

She broke down and began to cry.

“I’m afraid!” She stammered.

“I understand.” he replied softly.

“The dreams they still come. They come every night. They come every night and every night they are more vivid. And I am more frightened. And I know that tomorrow it won’t be a dream.” The sobs began to wrack her body.

“I know child. And I am here to help you meet the morrow confessed and ready for cleansing.”

“Hold me please” she begged him and brushed the hair from her face, showing her eyes, her mother’s eyes for the first time since this began.

Slowly he held out his arm and drew her slight form to him. Her arms wrapped around him, fingers digging lightly into his back, tears soaking into the front of his robe. He patted her head and hair gently, so like her mother’s hair, so like her in so many ways.

Slowly, her sobs began to quiet, she began to still and calm. Her fingers dug a little deeper into his sides and his memories drifted to the mother. Her questioning, her derision, her stubbornness. He held the child’s quieting form as he drifted back to that night when that woman fought him till it drove him to forget his vows. Her demons touched him and entered him, filling him with the desire, the need that must be filled. He held the child as he remembered mounting her mother, the power of God and the Mother Church filling him with the power as he drove himself into her, drove in to drive out the demons that had such a hold. And when he was spent, she lay in a crumpled heap, broken, all fight, all sense driven from her.

The child held tight to him as the memories flowed through his mind, exciting the demons again, proving they lived within the child as well. Causing him to spill his seed again. And still she held him. Quiet in his arms. Unaware of the small pool he left on the bench.

*********************************************************************

Dawn came quickly and the guards opened the door to the cell, rope in hand for leading her out.

As they rose, she smiled gently up at him, still calm. Then she touched the bench where they sat, where his seed had spilt and seemed to be christening herself. He watched in horror and crossed himsef. She was as damned as her mother. Together, they walked out the doors into the sunlight. A tiny tendril of hair slipped from under the cloak placed about her shoulders. Just a touch of gold against the drab gray of the fabric.

The ropes, so coarse and rough bit deeply into the tender flesh. All around, the faces of the villagers as they gathered for the execution. They could always be counted on for making the show. The faces, the voices, the smells. They created a fugue mind state and the climb up the steps was a blur. The calmness still holding even when they reached the top and the dangling rope loomed ahead. A few more steps and they found the mark and slowly brought the rope down, over the head and then the tightening around the neck.

One last look around at the crowd before they brought the sack down and there, off to the side! The dark cloak and the tiny shock of golden hair. And the face looked up just before the bag dropped down and he had one last glimpse before darkness of the smile that spread across her little face. Then the rope grabbed and his feet dangled in the air below him.

Eunice watched till there was no further movement left in the body, then turned and began to walk away. At the edge of the crowd the others were waiting for her. Just as she knew they would be. Not as many as there were before. But enough.

 

The Teddy Bear War

parachute-bearsThe Teddy Bear War

It started as a minor altercation. A reporter came to their country to do a story on some event that was taking place. What event, you ask? Well, the event doesn’t matter, but since you asked, it was a celebration on the outskirts of their main city. He was, at this event, invited to a formal function at the palace the next night. To bring his camera and his notebook so he could go back to his own country and tell them of the magnificence of this country he had visited. To comment on how well he was treated and the greatness of the people who lived there. And that was the beginning of when things went wrong.

They were a foolish people who believed that a reporter from another country would do as their reporters did and report what they were approved to. They were foolish in that they trusted he would speak only to the proper people, photograph only the best and most beautiful they had. They believed in this, they trusted in this knowledge, and so they trusted him. It was a mistake they were not likely to repeat.

He returned to his country and began to write a series of reports on what he had seen there. The bustling fair and market of the celebration, the people in their colorful clothing, richly died cottons and silks. The heavy scents of the food aisles full of exotic herbs mingled in simmering pots thick with meats and hearty vegetables. Bright banners and streamers flew from every post on every stall. Even the ground itself was suffused with the smells of the carnivale, the droppings and leavings of all the goers mixing and coalescing with the dirt and sweat and dog feces.

On the surface, it all looked like a pleasure fair of a happy people. It took a discerning eye to see past the bright facade and peer into the shadows behind. And that is the mark the reporter was known for. He found the shadow side and slipped into it and reached out a hand of friendship to it. Gladly was it greeted and he was welcomed by the fires and stories shared. He found the same such outstretched hands in the staff at the castle and passed many hours unnoticed by his hosts as missing, so busy they were with their royal festivities.

All of this came out in his pages. Not the stories of the bright celebration, the glorious royal family, the richness of the castle and the opulence of the ball. Or rather, those things did shine forth in his words, but in exposing the cost to the people. He told of the dismal conditions so many lived, the oppression, the lack of simple basic needs. He told of the jokes the royal family made of the peasants in their kingdom, how they had added a new tax this last month to fund their ball. He told it all and laid them bare.

To say that they were not pleased is an understatement. They sent official demands that the words be retracted, an apology offered. It fell on deaf ears. The country of the reporter and the neighboring countries joined in a condemnation of the country, demanding they give a voice to their people, allow them a part in the workings of the country. The angry exchange lasted for months till it was threatened by the oppressive country more drastic measures would be taken.

Who it was that came up with the idea in the reporter’s country, no one is sure or can no longer remember. That it was a work of brilliance, none can deny. That it made the world sit up and take notice the news can attest.

Through the dead of night a few small planes flew, just under the radar, seeking out the capital and the surrounding townships to release their loads. Tiny parachutes dotted the skyline, floating gently to the ground in the pre-dawn air. Each carrying a single load, a small teddy bear each holding its own unique message for peace, democracy, hope. More than a thousand of them littered the landscape when the people emerged from their homes. More than a thousand that were met with cries of joy from the children and snatched up by all to take back to their homes with them. What a sight it was if you were fortunate enough to be awake to see it. Even in the night dark skies, you could see the tiny white parachutes dancing in the wind currents of the air as they made their way earthward.

The military tried to order the return of the bears, but they only were offered up a small fraction of those that came. They tried threatening with new laws making it a crime to be caught with one of the bears and that seemed to have little impact.

The royal family was furious that their air space had been so easily breached and a few of the highest officers lost their command from it. Then came the talks to figure out what to do about the situation. They couldn’t retaliate with violence. That could incur the wrath of the rest of the nations and they were ill equipped for a full war. In the end, they decided to retaliate with the same. And the next day, their own planes flew over their enemies capital and townships and dropped its own load of teddy bears with their own messages.

All was quiet for a few days and it seemed the news was quiet on the subject. Then another morning dawned with another littering of bears across the land. And soon after, another volley in the other direction, all plush arms holding a message for their neighbor across the border.

The toy factories began working overtime to keep up with the demand by the two governments. When they ran out of the bears, they began shipping their other stores, their bunnies, kittens, puppies, wild animals and fantasy creatures, the dragons, the fairies, the griffons.

The news headlines around the world were in a frenzy over the strange war going on. Each day’s headline marked as the animal or creature of the day. The day of the bunnies, the day of the dragons.

It went on for months and months. By the end of the year, the toy makers had no animals to ship to the stores for children’s presents. All being consigned for the ongoing war effort. Christmas dawned with tears in children’s eyes at not getting their Christmas bear and again on Easter when their basket held no bunnies. No Valentine bears to give your sweetheart jewelry, no boo-boo bears to give your friend in the hospital.

What had started off as a source of amusement had now started to affect the rest of the world. Most importantly, the children. Demands were made to reconcile, negotiate and put an end to this very long war. At first they went unheeded till sanctions were laid till they agreed to meet at a bargaining table. The bears had sparked a rebellion in the one country. Concessions were made to give more voice to the people. Agreements for more mutual respect. A treaty of peace signed and witnessed. The bears were to fly no more.

Never before had a war been waged with a teddy bear. It is hard to tell if any ever will be again. It will go down in history as the war that dropped bombs of joy. Peace was achieved and lives made better. And throughout it all, not a single life was lost. Well, except for the drunk that fell asleep on the beach and choked to death on plush when a bear landed on his face. But, no one speaks of that incident.

SephiPiderWitch
08/04/12

 

Five Dollars

5-dollar-bill-150x150

 “Five dollars!” Jesse looked around him to see if anyone was looking, glancing carefully at the dirty bill lying on the street half covered by the mud and grime of the gutter. He dropped the folder of papers under the books in his arms to fall close to it and prayed that they didn’t land in the water. “Oh please, just don’t land in the water!” he whispered to himself.  He looked around one more time to see if he had attracted anyone’s attention. No, what few were near were busy with other things. Quickly he reached down and gathered up his Peechee, slipped his hand under the bottom of the folder and grabbed the bill, pulling it back to rest against the back of the folder and straightened back up. An older woman had paused near him as he looked up. “Oh just crap!” he thought. He could feel the sweat beginning to form on his brow, his mouth was getting dry and there were squirrels running circles in his stomach. “Oh, just crap!”

“Are you okay son?” the lady asked, her hand reaching out toward him. “Did you fall? Are you hurt? Can I help you find your mother?”

“I, uhm, I, uhm, no, I’m uh fine.” He swallowed hard. Oh God! Please keep me from stuttering! She’ll take me home and dad will find out and I’ll get a whooping! “Really, ma’am, I’m fine. I just dropped my folder. See?” He held up his books in front of him, holding tight to the bill pressed against the back.

“All right then. It’s getting late. You should get yourself home before you worry your parents.” The lady smiled as she instructed him.

“Yes ma’am!” Jesse grabbed the books tight to his chest and stepped onto the sidewalk and scrambled down the street. As soon as he was sure “she” was no longer looking, he stuffed the bill deep into his pocket and mushed it down tight so it wouldn’t work its way out. Paper has a way of doing that, he had learned that one with enough forged notes and a few homework assignments. He wasn’t taking any chances with this one wiggling its way out of his pocket! No siree! Then he patted the front of his pants just for assurances. One can never be too careful.

“Five whole dollars!” He had never had that much money at one time in his whole life! That was almost a thousand dollars! His mind began racing over the things he could buy himself with that much money. Candy and toys and a slingshot and maybe one of those whirley-giggy things or a new top! The thoughts began whirling in his head, dancing visions of all the treasures he had thought of that would be his soon, just bouncing up and down with the sound of a merry-go-round in the background. His feet began to skip along the sidewalk and he found himself humming a little tune as he rounded the corner, then WHAP! His books went flying, and with them, other books joined in.

“Emily!” he cried out. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going?”

The young girl who was about his age stared back at him, crossed her arms tightly to her chest, then blew a huff out of her nose. “I WAS watching where I was going, you brainless stoop! You crashed into me! And now look at the mess. You pick my books up right now and you just better hope none of them are damaged or your momma will be payin’ for them.”

“Don’t you go near my momma tellin’ her nuthin!” Jesse yelled, his voice cracking with the fear and anger in it. “You go tellin’ anything to my mum about anything and I’ll tell your daddy that you showed Johnny your panties for a quarter. Then we’ll see who gets the bigger whoopin’!” Jesse reached down and started to gather up his books, making sure to avoid touching Emily’s to the point of grabbing on with just his thumb and forefinger and sliding it out from underneath it. Cripes! How he hated her! Of all the people he had to crash with, why did it have to be “her”?? And how can one have the luck of finding a five dollar bill only to have so many disastrous things happen after? He thought about the possibility that maybe he hadn’t done the right thing sticking that bill in his pocket and not saying anything to anyone. But, he just wasn’t about to admit that he didn’t deserve that money and no one was going to take it away from him, no way, no how. He brushed the smudges off his books and stood back up . . . . and was no more than 4 inches from the face of Emily!

“Ewww! I can smell your breath! Get back!” Jesse hissed at her.

“Not till you pick up my books!” Emily shouted at him. “You ran into me, you knocked them out of my hands, you pick them up! If you don’t, I swear, I swear . . . . . ” Emily paused for a moment to think about what she could come up with. Suddenly her eyes brightened and a smile spread across her face. “I swear I will kiss you and tell everyone at school that you kissed me!” she exclaimed, a look of complete triumph on her face.

Mortification spread across Jesse’s features. Oh crap! He thought he was going to puke. Quickly he reached down and gathered up the rest of the books and shoved them at Emily. “Here! Now go home.” And he stomped off past her and down the street.

“Where are you going? This isn’t the way to your house. Can I come with you?” Emily’s voice chirped behind him.

“None of your business! Go away! Leave me alone!” Jesse yelled back at her. “Don’t you have some dolls to pull the heads off of? Or some insects to pull the wings off of?”

“Naw, I did that earlier. I don’t have anything to do right now. So, I think I am going to follow you.” she chirped.

“Well, I don’t want you to come with me. Isn’t there anyone that actually likes you that you can go spend time with?”

“Oh sure. But, its much more fun annoying you! So, where you going? Want to go play in the crick? Its nice and warm out, we could try and catch some tadpoles or maybe even a couple of toads.” Emily sing-songed as she bounced along the walk behind him.

“No! Go away and leave me alone!”

“I know where some puppies are.” She teased.

“Puppies? What kind?” Jesse paused and looked over his shoulder.

“Mr. Wiggles’ dog had puppies a few weeks ago and he’s looking for homes for them. I haven’t seen them yet, but we could go look at them together.” she had him hooked. Yes!

“Well, maybe we could go take a quick look. But, then you have to promise you will go away and leave me alone! He shot with the sternest look he could summon.

“Of course! Just follow me, I know the way.” And off she trotted ahead of him.

Jesse’s thoughts wandered as he followed behind Emily. “I wonder if he’ll let me have one of the puppies? Ma said I could have another one. Pa didn’t really mean to run Colonel over, he had just had too much of the shine before he came home. He didn’t see him cuz his eyes were foggy from the likker.” Jesse remembered how sad he had been over that. It had been almost a year now since he lost Colonel. Maybe it was time to find another dog. And Pa had gotten better about the drinking. And he would keep this one tied up so it wouldn’t get in the way of Pa’s truck when he came home.

“Hey!” Emily’s shout brought him back to the here and now and stopped him dead in his tracks. “Get your head out of them clouds. We’re here.” she announced. “I swear. All boys are just plain daft.” She shook her head at him and stomped up a driveway just behind where he stopped. He quickly reversed his course and ran to catch up with her.

Mr. Wiggles watched them carefully as they picked up each of the puppies and played with them. “Them is purebred, just so you’se know.” He informed them. “Gots most of them sold already. Got a right fine price for them too.”

“Sold?” Jesse looked up, his face fallen to near tears.

“Well, yeah! That be what you do with purebreds. You sells them.” Mr. Wiggles looked down at him. “What? Did you think I was just giving them away?”

“How much are they?” Jesse asked, quiver in his voice as he forced the words out.

“I got me 75 dollars fer the boys and 50 fer the girls. Made a nice little profit off’n this here litter, I did.” A big smile crossed his face and his chest puffed out as he spoke. “Tell the truth, there’s only one left what ain’t been sold. No one be wanting that one cuz he’s a runt.”

“What’s a runt?” Jesse asked.

Mr. Wiggles walked over to where the momma dog was and reached down and plucked out a squalking small puppy ball. “This be what a runt is. He ain’t but a bit of the size he should be. No one wants a runt. They can be sickly and die and even if they make it, people just don’t want the runt.”

He walked over and dropped the tiny yelping pup into Jesse’s hands. Instantly the pup started pawing his way up Jesse’s belly toward his chest. Jesse looked down into the eyes of the little ball of fur and pulled him into his arms. The pup became a blur of motion as he jumped and yelped, trying to lick and nip at Jesse’s chin. Jesse pulled him closer, laughing as the little dog showered his face in kisses, then nuzzled his head under Jesse’s chin.

“Well, will you look at that! He’s rather taken with you boy! Mostly he just runs and hides behind his momma. Whataya know about that?” Mr. Wiggles bantered, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth and shaking his head.

“So, whatcha going to do with him?” Jesse asked. He was in love! He wanted this puppy so bad! But, he only had 5 dollars. He said he was selling them for way more than that.

“Well, how much you got boy?” Mr. Wiggles looked sternly down at him.

“I – I – I only gots 5 dollars” Jesse stammered.

“You got 5 dollars?” Emily screamed. “Where’d you get that much money? Did you steal it from your momma’s purse? Ooooh, you’ll get such a whooping for that!”

“I didn’t steal it from no one!” Jesse shouted, the pup jumped and began frantically licking his face again to calm him down. “I found it. It’s finders keepers! It was just laying in the middle of the street.”

“Well, that be the way it be. Finders is keepers.” Mr. Wiggles agreed. “Now, you sure you telling me the truth bout you finding that money? You wouldn’t be lying, now would you boy?”

Jesse shook his head violently back and forth. “No sir. Lying will get you sent to hell. Momma and preacher both done told me that. I’m not lying, I found it. Cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. Ain’t no one gonna take that pup off my hands. But, if you’re willing to change me that five for him, you got yerself a dog. He’s cost me more than that in care and feed and such, but I figger I can take a bit of a loss to give him a good home. Was worried I might have to put him down for a while. You sure your momma gonna let you keep him?”

“Yes!” Jesse yelped and jumped up to reach in his pocket for the 5 dollar bill. “She been telling me for a while I could have me another dog. And I promise, I’ll take real good care of him. Ain’t nothing going to happen to him! No siree. You won’t regret this mister! Thank you.” And he held the crumpled bill out for Mr. Wiggles to take.

“Well, alrighty then. You just make sure you do give that little guy a good home. He’s a right cute little feller. Whatcha gonna call him?”

Jesse looked down at the little bundle in his arms and thought and thought, the dark mottled fur tickling his chin, causing him to press his face deep into its depths. Suddenly, he looked up, a big grin on his face. “I think Shadow! I think that would be a right fitting name!” He looked down at the pup and was met with another volley of puppy kisses. He laughed and looked at Mr. Wiggles. “I think he likes it too.”

“I think that’s a right fine name!” Mr. Wiggles laughed. “Okay, you kids get along now. I gots me a lot of work I still have to get done. And you take care of that pup. You hear?”

“Oh, yes sir.” Jesse exclaimed as he headed back down the road, Emily following right behind.

“You know? He probably woulda given you that dog just to get rid of him.” Emily said when they got back to the main road.

“Maybe, but I haven’t had anything but rotten luck since I picked up that 5 dollars. Not till I got this here pup. He was worth every penny of it. And I’m glad to be rid of it.” Jesse replied. “Well, here’s my house. You know? You aren’t too awful bad”

“Well, thanks, I guess.” Emily replied.

“Just sorta kinda.” and Jessee walked down the drive to his house.

“Boys are just daft.” Emily muttered, shaking her head before continuing down the road to her house.

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SephiPiderWitch

copyright 03/17/2012

 

Old Blood is Better than Young Blood

Richard looked around the dimly lit hall, taking in all the figures in groups and huddles milling about.“So, All the people here are vampires?  As is the blood drinking, real honest to God vampires?”  Richard asked his escort Michael.

“Yes, everyone here, save for you my friend.”  Michael answered, his voice soft and low, its tone inviting, though reserved.

“I knew some existed, but I never dreamed there were so many!”  His eyes darting in amazement as he surveyed the numbers littering the room.

“Oh, this is a quiet night.  Sometimes the numbers are three and even four times this.”  A slight tone of amusement beginning to creep into Michael’s voice as he spoke.

“And the old one that we spoke of, will he be here?”  Richard asked.

“No, probably not.  He’s not, how shall we say it, very welcome here.  We have rules.  Rules that have allowed us to live among you for centuries now without drawing the attention that used to send the hunters for us.  He chooses not to live by those rules, so he has left us no choice but to caste him out from us.”

“But, you promised me I would have the story of him if I came with you this night!”  Richard’s voice raised a bit as he spoke, causing many of the eyes in the room to draw to their direction.
“And so you shall, my friend.  But, not from his lips, but from whence he came to be.  And the story will be told complete so that it doesn’t recast the veil of fear that once threatened our kind.  You will have your story, but you must promise to tell the all of it, not just of him.  But, I warn you, none will believe it.  In the eyes of your kind, we are but a myth told to children to keep them in their beds at night.  Should they ever find “him”, they will think him a lunatic and lock him away.  And though immortal blood flows in his veins, he is still young and untaught and there are things that can destroy even us.  He will not survive long without protection and help.”

“And you would let that happen?”

“He made his choice.  He was told that if he chose that path, he would have no help from us.  Without the vow, he is not one of us and has forsaken the privileges that go with belonging to the order.”  Michael replied calmly.

Richard looked around the room at the people again.  All seemed to be between their late 20s and early 40’s.  Some of them were very conservative in their dress, others quite flamboyant.  The only thing all had in common was the pale, almost iridescent complexion.  He wondered how they could all get along so well, all seeming so very different.  He was about to ask when Michael drew his attention to the far end of the room and a group sitting at a table there.
“Ah!  There are the ones I wish you to meet.  The ones that can tell you of the old one.”  Michael scooped his hand under Richard’s arm and guided him across the room to the two men and the woman seated at the table.

Richard looked at the three people as they approached.  One of the men looked to be in his early 40’s, wearing a long coat, a bright purple shirt and a top hat with neon coloured plumes adorning it.  His hand resting on a beautifully carved cane, though his hand covered the top, but enough peeked out between his fingers hinting of an animal head of some kind. The younger man was much more conservative in his dress, simple dark suit with white shirt and neatly cut sandy brown hair that looked like it could tend to wildness if not tamed with dressings.  The woman, now here was one that was hard to describe.  It was like she couldn’t quite make up her mind what look she wanted, so she just took bits and pieces of each and put them all together. She wore a black and red corset over a high-necked white Victorian blouse with a fox wrap around her neck, complete with heads biting the tails.  Around her waist was a skirt that looked to be fashioned from about a thousand strips of fabric, no rhyme or reason to the choices as there were solid colour pieces, chequered one, striped ones, all hanging in various lengths from a single waistband.  And over the waistband dangled on of the wide metal belts full of dangling coins and beads that you would expect to see on a belly dancer.  Raven black hair hung in wild curls and flowed down her back with a single strip of blue at one temple.  And on her head, she wore a pirate’s hat festooned with a live raven.  And lastly, was the necklace, if you could call it that, around her neck.  It was like a catch-all for any trinket that seemed to catch her eye.  Keys and beads, bells and twisted colour bits of twine, and bones, lot of them and even a few small animal skulls.  Oh my!

“This is Richard, the man I told you about.”  Michael offered as we reached the table.  
He pointed to the 40 something man, “This is Gregoire, 12th degree high sire and custodian of records.”

Gregoire stood and extended his hand to Richard and taking a deep bow at the same time.  “Most gracious pleasure, Richard.”  he said as he grasped Richard’s hand, a slight brogue to his speech.  

“And this,”  gesturing to the younger man, “is Raphael, though he prefers Ruffy.  He is the mentor of the newly made and responsible to train them in our ways till they are ready to take the vows.”

Raphael/Ruffy rose, twirled about a couple of times, made a wide sweeping bow and swept Richards hand up in his as he rose.  “A joy it is to welcome a querying outsider into our little den of blood-letting!”  His eyes sparkling mischievously as he spoke.

“And last, but most certainly not least, the most beloved and feared Lady Circe, punisher and bestower, seer and sage to all within the fold.”

Lady Circe remained in her seat and looked up at Richard, starting from the top of his head and travelling till she gazed up the shoes on his feet.  Then she looked him in the face, golden eyes with the longest lashes he thought he had ever seen, the eyes glowing and dimming as her pupils contracted and expanded  while she watched him.  After what seemed an eternal stretch of time, she slowly extended her gloved hand, bracelets dangling from her elbow to her wrist.  “You are welcome.” she toned as he took her hand and softly kissed the back of it.
“Pleasure is mine.  And gratitude at allowing me to be here to answer my questions.”  Richard replied then took the chair that Michael motioned for him to take.

Gregoire leaned across the table and and fixed a stare on him that made Richard feel as if he were slowly becoming naked before him.  Not as in the cloathed sense, but as if the veils to his soul were being shed to flutter away in a breeze.  After what seemed an eternity, Gregoire sat back and issued a deep belly laugh, his eyes twinkling brightly as he slapped his hand down hard on the table top sending all the glasses to rattle violently on the surface.

“So . . . how old are you Richard?  Not so young as I would have expected to be chasing such a. . . how shall we say it, a demon inquiry.”

“I’ll be 58 this year.  Why should curiosity fade with years?”  Richard replied.

“Oh, it shouldn’t!”  Gregoire answered with another long chuckle.  “But alas, it often does.  You humans often become more reserved and cautious with age, choosing the known and comfortable rather than seek out the strange.  The security of the known just seems to naturally follow with ageing among your kind.”

“I suppose that is true of many, okay, most of us.  But, not all of us.”  Richard countered.  “I pray the day never comes when I fail to seek out the curious and the novel.  I believe that should that day ever come, it will be the day I shall start looking for the reaper at my bedside and shall gladly welcome his invite to pass from this journey to the next.”

“Oh!  Simply marvellous!”  Gregoire exclaimed, clapping his hands like a child that has just witnessed an act of magic.

As they spoke on of his travels and experiences, Richard began to notice Circe out of the corner of his eyes.  She seemed to have nothing to add, nothing to question in the exchange, even after Ruffy joined in as well.  she just quietly listened to all that was exchanged and shared between them.  Her silence presence became a distraction that couldn’t be ignored and he found himself glancing in her direction more and more frequently to look for even the slightest change in her expression as they talked.  But, nothing.

Suddenly, Michael appeared off to Richard’s right side and set a wine goblet down in front of him, hand still firmly grasping the rim of it.  Richard tried to think on when Michael had vanished as he didn’t remember him leaving the company.  Ah well! Michael looked over at Circe and for the first time her expression changed.  She nodded just slightly and her lips parted in a partial smile, then she sat back in her chair and crossed her hands over her stomach.

“Well!  Richard, this is for you.”  Michael said and lifted his hand from the goblet.  Its a very special Port reserved for only very special occasions.”  With that, he slid the goblet over till it was right in front of Richard.  “And now, I think it is time we get to the matter Richard is here for, no?”  Then he took a seat at Richard’s left and slapped Richard on the shoulder before continuing.  “So, I suppose we should begin at the beginning, no?  I find its always a good place to start.”

Richard opened up his notebook then and looked up to see who would begin with the story.  Ruffy picked up his glass and motioned to Richard to do the same and all glasses were lifted for his toast.  “Dearly beloved . . . No, that’s not right!”  Ruffy laughed.  “To truths to be told, histories written and prayers that maybe this once they will be written right.”  All heads nodded in agreement just before the glasses were raised to their lips.

As the dark liquid passed Richards lips, he felt its thick rich substance caress his entire mouth, deep, heady, spicy and very unusual.  He pulled the glass slightly away and took a deep inhalation of it.  His eyebrows scrunched together as he tried to make this one out.  He had never smelled anything quite like it before.  It was like . . . antiquity infused into a viscous liquid of spice and flowers and wrapped in the bonds of the wine.  And it was heady!  He could tell he would have to keep that in mind as he took another sip and looked up at his hosts, the surprised look on his face quite obvious in the looks he was receiving back.

“Before you ask, no, there is no place you can obtain the wine you are drinking.  It is a special blend held secret within these walls and rarely offered.  Enjoy though, my friend.”  Grgoire answered the unspoken question, a broad grin on his face.  “Please, do enjoy!”

“And now, I shall begin if you are ready.”  Ruffy stated and sat back in his chair after Richard nodded.  “We, our kind, have been here at least as long as your kind.  It is told that in ancient times, we lived in harmony with each other, sharing int the bounties.  No one is really sure when those times changed.  But, as in all things, the world does change.  Fear and distrust eventually find their way in when two are so very different.  The need to draw lines between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.  The desire to find oneself as superior and in the so doing, requires that the other be found as inferior.  Who started it so many ages ago, it is hard to tell.  But, start, it did.  It is said that there was a time when we did not have the taste for human blood.  But, the truth of that, as well, is past the time of true knowing.  At any rate, the time came when both became the hunter and the hunted.  Ours is a creature of the night, and yours of the day.  Thousands of both of our kind fell to the other.  Many was the time when it was questionable if we both would exterminate the other.  Then, one day, it seemed your kind led the war and our kind fled to hide in the shadows.  It may be that it was then that we first tasted human blood.  Maybe it was before and that is what started the wars.  The records conflict of that time.”

Ruffy paused and drew his fingers along the moisture on his glass, his face cast in deep thought, eyebrows pressing deeply to the center and biting gently on his bottom lip.  A deep sigh escaped his mouth and he sat back and looked at Richard, then continued.  

“We were the more vulnerable.  We were hunted while we slept during the day.  We are defenceless then.  Were.  It is not so much any more for many of us.  But, then we could be slaughtered like lambs.  And we retaliated!  We hunted mercilessly, taking far more down than we needed.  We took all down that we found in our paths.  Women, children, old, young, it didn’t matter.  In all places where we both numbered, we both diminished.  We became monsters in your stories.  You became nothing but blood in ours.  One day, your kind found our main safe hold, one that had remained hidden for decades, possibly centuries.  As I said, the histories are vague at times.  We fled.  We found a sanctuary in what we thought was an abandoned monetary and hid in the cellars, dusty and full of cobwebs and night creatures.  It was obvious it had not had a human visitor in a very long time.”

“We were not alone as we thought though.  One still remained in the halls above.  He found our lair.  But, unlike the others, he made no attempt to destroy us or inform on us.  He began to leave small gifts, offerings if you will.  Never were we able to discover where he lay at night.  If we had, we would have taken him.  If we had, we would not be who we are today.  In time, we began to ease about his presence and agreed to leave him be.  Then, one night as we were awakening, he was there to greet us.  He wanted to see if there was a way to end the bloody war between our kind.  He offered a hand of friendship.  He taught us and brought order to us.  He became the first leader of our order, guided us into initiation, wrote the laws with us.  He even offered up his own blood to a few of us on occasion, teaching us to stop short of taking life.”

“Then, one night, one of ours returned wounded.  He rushed to minister to her.  He didn’t know yet that we heal quickly.  That she would have been fine come the next night.  Her wounds were not lethal.  With us, there is only lethal or temporary.  He tried to breath into her, fearing she could not breath on her own.  Some of her blood entered him when he did that.  And it was that night we learned that your kind can become one of us.”

“He began to slowly change after that.  Curious, we fed him more of our blood and the transformation became more pronounced.  He became one of us from that.  And still, one of you as well.  He was not bound to only the night.  He was still very sensitive to the harshness of the sunlight, but properly clothed, he could move around at any hour.  We also found that those that shared with him, they also became less sensitive.  They couldn’t move about with as much freedom as he could, but they could stay out in the early hours and when the sun was not direct.”

“He taught us how to take blood and still leave life.  In time, we learned ways of the taking where no memory of the event was left in our victim’s minds.  The hunting of our kind slowed, and in time ceased.  We became the stuff of legends, fairy tales.  We were safe.  And we could again live in peace.  He made us into an order and the humans believe that was what we were.  They left us in our walls and believed our seclusion was part of our vows.  Which, in truth it was, though not in the way they thought.  We learned that we needed a few that were older to give us validity.  Your kind seem to confer knowledge and respect on maturity.  That we were often centuries old didn’t change the fact that we looked youthful.  We don’t age, as I am sure you know.  And those we turned, though they lived far longer than they would have as human, we learned would eventually die as your kind do.”

“So, every so often, we would have to find a new leader, master of the order, if you will. We made some mistakes in the early days.  We chose a few old ones that didn’t like our laws.  They had been powerful men and when we “made” them, they would have us return to the days of taking at will.  Of restarting the war that almost destroyed us.  That put is in a bit of a predicament.  We had taken vows not to take lives.  What to do with these rogues we had created?  After much talk and consideration, we simply turned them out.  Eventually, they were caught by the human authorities and believed to be insane.  Oh, they tried to inform on us, who we really were, but we had been here too long without a blemish of suspicion in all those years.  We counselled the authorities that hours in the sun might do their insane minds some good.  Help heal them a bit, so to speak.  Because they were part human, this was not a death sentence.  It simply aged them much faster.  And they died very natural deaths, unless one of the other inmates took their lives first.  And that did happen a couple of times.”

“We began to research our candidates better.  Learning the traits we needed.  Intelligence, learned men, men of character, and yes, powerful as well.  But, powerful in a different sense.  Ones that could command power and yield it so that others would follow, would respect.  They were not easy to find.  Not easy then, not easy now.  Sometimes, we had to travel to find them.  But, never again were we without an “old one”.  And a mistake such as we had made in the early times has not happened in a few hundred years.”

“Until now.”  Richard commented.

“Yes,”  Ruffy replied softly.  “Until now.”

“So, tell me about him.  How did you make a mistake after all this time?”  Richard asked, turning the page in his notebook to ready for the next chapter.

Gregoire inched his chair forward a bit, leaned back in his chair and cleared his throat.  “I guess its my turn.”  He stated with a hesitant, almost displeased tone in his voice.

“The blood is like a fine wine to us.  Each has its own flavour, the spice of experience, hint of laughter, subtle undertones of sorrow and imbued with the essence of the soul.  And as such, we each develop a taste for those certain combinations that are to our liking.  Much like those of your kind that prefer the reds over the whites, the fruitier wines, the flowery wines, the dark mature wines.”  Gregoire paused and glanced over at Circe who for the first time, shifted a bit in her chair, then glared defiantly back at Gregoire before shifting back into her stolid state.
Richard watched the exchange, his curiosity peaked.  

“We have rules . . . laws.  We are all bound to them.  No matter how many centuries we have to us, no matter how high our rank, we are all of us bound by those laws!”   the threat and accusation evident in his voice.  

“Old blood is better than young blood.”  a soft voice issued from Circe’s still figure.  “Is.  I’m just saying.”

“All of that is fine,”  Gregoire continued, his voice quieting to a low vibration “so long as we remember that we can take as our tastes inspire.  It is in the sharing that the forbidden is involved.”

His gaze travelled back up to meet Richard’s eyes, the softness returning to his features as he relaxed back into his chair.  “Our kind is not so different from yours, Richard.  The personalities, the characters, all of them.  We also have our creatures of impulse, and as it so often goes with their kind, they are creatures much adored and often with invaluable gifts to the community.  And unlike those that don’t care about the rules and think they don’t apply, often they sometimes allow their impulses to get a bit . . . . uhmm . . . . carried away with them.  They get caught up in the moment and after it is done, believe that it will all work out in the end.  And sometimes it does.”  He glanced back at Circe again and she tipped her head low, staring back at him with eyes that were equally glowing with anger, remorse and guilt.  “And sometimes it does not.”

He took a deep breath, picked up his goblet and took another deep draught off of it.  “Which brings us to now.  I am sure it is quite apparent that our dear Circe here is the one responsible for the one that brought you to our company.  Our Circe is one of the most revered of our members, she is our seer and the keeper of the secret wisdoms.  But, she forgets that the err is made when emotions are allowed in to cloud what is seen.  That often, our desires replace the true visions.  She additionally made the error of becoming romantically involved with her victim.  This is another thing that is expressly forbidden.  And one of the hardest things for us to do sometimes.  As different as our kind are, they are also very much alike.  So, attractions can be quite common.  But, the differences between us make such a liaison both dangerous and impossible.

“Though, on that count, I put more of the blame on him than our Circe.  He was, is a . . . how do you call them?  Oh, drifter.  A master manipulator.  He thought our Circe a wealthy heiress, though we are not sure where he got such an idea.  He wooed her as a lover and she took her sips of his essence on a more and more frequent basis. He gained her trust over time and she eventually confided in him what she was.  And then he convinced her that if she made him one of us, they could always be together.  Though we already had a recently appointed old one, she saw no harm in bringing in another one as her personal pet.”   
“Her personal pet?!”  Richard sputtered, sending sprays of the thick wine across the table.  

“Yes, her pet!”  Gregoire replied, then laughed heartily.  “Calm down Richard.  Its not so bad as it sounds.  When a mortal is fed only from a single of us, they become bound to us and their need for just another taste of our blood becomes overwhelming.  Its not something that they need to survive.  Its more like those of your kind that develop substance problems.  It seems to be a weakness many of you have.  That forbidden fruit, that taste, that moment of pure euphoria, it drives all common sense from your minds.  And you will do anything, anything, for that one more taste.  And before you think too harshly of us, we didn’t create this weakness in your kind.  And I can assure you that those that have been taken in though such a way, had already succumbed to this need in their nature in your world in one of its many way.  In some ways, we are actually saving them.  The blood does not harm them, does not kill them.  And they lose their taste for the bottle or the needle or whatever their drug was when first they taste it.  They still have their free will.  They just choose to set it aside for another taste.  And I can assure you that it is not allowed for one to abuse their pet.”

Circe looked up at Richard with a slightly cocked head, mischievous smile on her face, then shrugged her shoulders and giggled softly before turning back to her glass to draw circles and patterns in the liquid with her fingertip.

“As I was saying, the bulk of the blame goes on him and how he manipulated our Circe.”  Gregoire continued.  “She has been judged according to her part in it and fulfilled the terms of her punishment.  I doubt she will repeat such an error in judgement again.  Not given the knowledge of what was created by her mistake.”  

Circe’s head dipped at this and Richard thought he saw her eyes begin to glisten a bit with tears at this last comment.

“As I said, he refused to take the vows, abide by the rules.  He saw in his new “blood” a means to achieve power and control that was beyond what his mortal life would allow.  And he became drunk with the knowledge of it.  We warned him he would be cast out.  Even had we not already had an old one, he would not have been acceptable.  He laughed at us as he strode out the door and swore we had not seen the last of him.  Even we were surprised to learn the extent he would take that threat.”  

Gregoire grew silent after that and sat back in his chair, a strained look on his face, weighing on it, adding years in a moment to his features.

Michael leaned forward, crossed his hands on the table before him and cleared his throat.  “He did the unspeakable!”  Michael said, his voice shaking and broken.  “He, whose name is not permitted to be spoken in these walls for what he did.  He sought his revenge at being banned from our presence by hunting and taking the life of our old one.  Left his remains, throat ripped out and drained on our doorstep.  Drained his essence to obtain the knowledge that was in the blood, hoping to drink in the knowledge of power over us.  Thought to take from us the face of the master and reducing our standing in the community.  Thinking we would have to take him back in or lose our status.  When that failed, he tried to accuse one of our members of committing the heinous act.  It proved how much he underestimated us.  The evidence he planted was turned back to him and it wasn’t long till he was charged with the murder.  He has bellowed accusations about what we really are, thinking he would be believed by someone.  And as in the past, one of ours was assigned to him as his therapist and sun therapy has been prescribed for him.  Additionally, he has been put on a meatless diet.  So, he has been denied even the blood of animals to sustain him.  He is withering rapidly, the madness growing each day.  Not only is he newly made, but he is also single fed, which makes him even more vulnerable.  We are certain he will not last too much longer.”

“I didn’t realize he was incarcerated.  I had just heard rumours about such a one.  Seems my information is a bit outdated”  Richard said

“Well, its been in all the papers.  I can’t imagine how you could have missed it.”  Michael fixed him with an intent stare.  “I thought there was little that happens that misses your attention.”

“Oh, wait!  Now I know what you are talking about!  The crazy psycho that left people ripped up like a wild animal had gotten to them!  Yes!  I do remember that.  And also that he attacked a guard at the hospital who only lived for a couple of days.”

“Yes, unfortunate that was.  We found that he had given him some of his blood to create another to bond with.  We stepped in on that one and helped him slip mercifully from life.”

“But, I thought that was against your laws!”  Richard exclaimed.

“Normally, yes.  But, as in all things, one must allow for . . . how shall we say? . . . special circumstances.  By this time, he was truly mad, insane.  And the insanity would have infected his blood.  Which, in turn, would have infected the guard with his insanity.  Not to mention the fact that the wounds he inflicted on his victim were so extensive that even if not for the fear of spreading the insanity, might never have healed completely.  You must understand that wounds prior to being turned are not the same as those after, which can heal overnight.  He would have been scarred to the point of monstrous;  and insane.  So, in mercy, we helped him simply slip away.  And because of that last incident, have moved to see his end come just a bit swifter.  Before any others come to harm.”  

Michael looked up at Richard’s face, probing for some reading on how this was being taken in. Richard furiously scribbled out the last bits of what he had been told, beads of sweat blurring his vision as he wrote.  He chewed on his lower lip as he let all he had heard sink in and begin to process.  Then he looked up at his hosts, all of their faces turned to him.

“And this is the story you want me to carry out in the world and set to print?”  Richard asked, hesitancy weighing on each word.

“Yes.”  Michael replied  “Just as it has been told, leave nothing out.”

“Okay then.”  Richard said as he snapped his notebook shut.  “Exactly as it has been told.  Though the world will think I have taken to fantasy writing.  You shall have what you ask.”  He swallowed down the last bit from his goblet and stood up from the table.  “I guess I better get started then.  I have a lot of writing to do.”

“Wait!”  Michael commanded.  “There is still the matter of payment for the story.”

“Ah yes, that.”  Richard’s face paled and he took a deep breath.  “Will it hurt?”

“Just a the tiniest bit at first and then it will be as a dream.”  Michael said, smiling reassuringly.

“Okay, well I guess I’m ready.”  

Circe stood up and walked slowly over to face Richard.  “You’re the one?”  Richard stammered.  His only response was her slow, and so very seductive smile as she wrapped her arms about his neck and slid her body up against his.  A tiny prick and then he was floating, clouds in an azure sky, his body weightless, like all the muscles relaxed, all the strain lifted.  Then slowly, he began to shift back till he felt the hands recede from his neck and he was looking into her eyes.  Slowly, she took a step back, wiped the slight drip of blood from her chin and smiled at him.

“I guess that wasn’t so bad.”  He said, gathering up his things and tucking them under his arm.  “I’d like to say it was a pleasure, but I’m not sure that would be completely accurate, but I do thank you for the evening.  And I hope you will understand if I am fine that we don’t do this again.”  He stammered.

“Oh, but you will, my friend.”  Michael interjected.

“I’m sorry?”

“My friend, this is but the beginning.  You see?  We are in a situation where we are without an old one, as we told you.  You have been chosen.  This, tonight, is just the beginning.”  Michael laughed.

“But, don’t you need me to agree?  I mean, you can’t just make such a decision for me!  It requires that I also drink your blood, which I can assure you, I have no intention of doing.  And I can assure you, you cannot force me to do!”  Richard glowered at them.

“Oh, but my friend, you have.  You have been all this evening!”  Michael replied mirthfully.  “What do you think that so very exotic wine has been that you have been sipping on this night?  You carry within you a bit of all of us.  It takes a little time, but by morning, it will have worked its magic and the transformation will be taking place.  So, may I say Welcome to the fold!”  

Richard’s heart began to race and he made a rush for the door.  About halfway there, his mind started clouding and he felt himself falling.  A few of the others caught him before he hit the floor and carried him to a bed in one of the rooms to sleep off the night.

Gregoire looked questioningly at Michael.  “Oh, calm down.  Once he wakes, the transformation will have begun.  He will join!  We chose well.  He will suit us nicely.”  Then he looked over at Circe and smiled.  “You did well, dear lady!  The last is now forgiven.”

Circe looked at him and smiled in gratitude, then turned and walked slowly away.  Soft though her voice was, it was heard by all in the area.

“Old blood is better than young blood!  Is all I’m saying.  Yes, it most certainly is.”  


SephiPiderWitch
copyright 11/26/2011
 

Ghost Story

Lamia walked quickly down the lane,  Epona at her side, strutting in that cute way she had, tail fanning in the air and ears perked for every sound.  Pulling her cloak tightly about her as a chill wind picked up and etched against her skin. Not very fashionable in this age, but she had never much cared about fashion. It kept her warm, even through the winds, and she felt protected in its heavy folds. She glanced about her as she walked to see if any were marking her journey into this night. She was fairly certain no one would, at this deep hour and on this night of all nights. They would be huddled in their houses summoning prayers and wards against their fears of this night. She watched anyway, for the stray eye peeping from behind a curtain or through a cracked door. As it was, the people thought her wanderings odd and she preferred them to know as little about them as was possible. She saw no need to further stir their superstitions and fears unnecessarily. That, as well as her preference to keep her life as private as possible.

The night was clear save for a few wandering wisps of clouds dancing across the black blanket of the sky. The moon, not yet risen, lay hovering just below the horizon waiting for the proper moment to announce itself. Full, it would be and the closeness of its orbit promised it would light the sky and bathe the earth in silver showers.

She approached the gate just as the first glow illuminated the horizon before her. She paused for a moment to take in the birth shimmer, then reached out and opened the gate. It gave way with a slight moan and she looked again over her shoulder to make sure no one had heard it.  Quietly, she entered onto the narrow pebbled path and made her way along its twists and gentle hills, pausing every now and then to touch a headstone here, whisper a greeting to another off to the side, and listen for the soft replies.

Lamia took her time, breathing in the damp smell of decay mixed with the wild growth. She could feel about her the slow churning of the old and discarded into the new. The sleepy whispers of those who rested here were slowly beginning to awaken, and she listened quietly, a light smile on her lips as she took in their soft murmurs.

The veil was thinning already. She must hurry! She approached the large hill at the center and paused for her first look this night at the majestic tree on its crest. The patriarch, they called it, older than any could remember, older than their grandparents could remember. She called it the Spirit Keeper. Faces seemed to loom from the surface of its massive trunk, ghostly, surreal and changing with each shift of light upon it. It was as if all those who made their rest here had passed through it, leaving just a shade of themselves within it before moving on. At least it was so for those that had found the will to move on. Others tarried, out of confusion, fear, or desperation to cling to what was once theirs, but no longer could be, and some simply because they liked it here. And a small few because there was still something they had to shed before they could move on.

She climbed to the top of the hill, up to the base of the giant oak and placed her hands gingerly upon its surface. A gentle tingling sensation spread into her hands and up her arms. She had lost count of how many times she had stood in this same place, begun this ritual; it never seemed to lose its impact on her. She smiled at the deep lulling sound she heard in her head, that she knew to be a welcome. Then she sat her pack down at its base and began.

The small blanket was laid down first. Her welcome gift into the world, her mother’s as well, stitched with prayers and spells by her great grandmother. Next, came the candles. Six of them this night. The count was always different, but always just the number it should be. She needn’t know why, she would before it was done. She lit them one by one, offering a prayer with each one. Then she sat down on the blanket and removed the bread and cheese, placed them on a napkin, then her thermos. She opened it and poured herself a cup, brought it to her nose and let the warm vapors fill her head with the deep aroma of herbs and spices. She took a small sip, then picked up the bread and cheese and leaned back against her tree to watch the moon’s ascension.

The air seemed to still as the orb grew in its ascent Vaporous forms rose gently from the ground, like smoky tendrils of a cigarette on a lonely night. They hovered quietly just on the edge of her vision, sharing in her watch. Their quiet revelry carried into her and united her with them. She never felt alone when she was with her spirits, unlike how she felt when she was surrounded by the living world.
Lamia knew her kind were few, those that walked between the worlds, never truly belonging to either. But, it was only the living that feared that in her, thought her a witch, or worse, a necromancer. She did her best to fit in on the fringes, immersed just enough to appear acceptably eccentric. She made the obligatory appearances, though it drained her each time. Their chatter, from their minds as well as their mouths, rattled her. They seemed never content, never at home with the life they had, the place they had.

It was only here and away from the workings of the world that Lamia could feel at peace. The spirits, her spirits, were never in a hurry. Each moment took as long as it needed to. Each passage would happen when its time had arrived. And until then, they just existed in what was. Graveyards weren’t haunted as people often thought. She knew that if the spirit travelled here with its earthly body, it was ready to lay that other life aside. It understood that those things that most thought important in the world of the living became trifles when the flesh had become discarded. But, a few things still remained. Love always carried with them between the worlds. It was the thread that most often held them connected to the world before. And it was also the hardest to convince them that they would still have after they cut that thread to travel beyond.

The moon had fully risen now, its massive globe filling most of the sky just before her. She rose to bathe in its glory, then turned her head at the sound of soft laughter at her side. She joined in the laughter as she watched the child spirit chasing the moonflies in the darkness. She hadn’t seen this one before. How curious! Thought she had few dealings with the people, it was a small town and everyone knew of the birthings and passings of all its members. She knew older spirits to lay quietly for many years before coming forth from their earthy slumbers, but a child rarely tarried for long. Especially one as young as this one was! A tingling spread along her spine and Lamia knew this was the one she was sent for this evening. She motioned the young spirit over to her and sat back down to wait.

The child shade made her way slowly over, pausing every now and then to take a close look at something that caught her attention. Lamia smiled in amusement at the realization of how much like living children child spirits were.

They found her the next morning slumped against the tree, the hood of her cloak blown away from her face and her hair making streamers in the wind. The burnt out candles in a half circle in front of her. And in the center of them, a pile of flowers, all of them different, as if each had been brought from a different place and offered by a different hand. A couple of the women crossed themselves at the scene, but all lent a hand in carrying her body and gathering her remains to take back to town.

They buried her at the base of the great tree. They placed her on the bare side where nothing had ever been known to grow, away from the other graves. Unsure, they had to bury her in hallowed ground, but fear made them keep her away from the others. They placed a small headstone on her grave that read, “Lamia of our town. Born, we know not when. Died on this spot on, her body laid where its spirit left it.”
The next spring in the bare place where they had laid her, a blanket of flowers had sprung up, though all swore they had not planted a single seed. And every year thereafter, the flowers came back.

It is said that if you visit her grave at the right time of day and look up into the great tree and turn your head just right, you can see what looks like the hood of a cloak lifting up between the higher branches and the soft features of a woman’s face peering out from underneath, a taproot cascading down like a wayward tendril of hair. And on a night when the veils grow thin, when there is just the slightest of breezes in the air, if you find a place to sit under that great tree in the center, you might catch a stirring of low voices caught in the wind. And if you listen quietly, you might chance to hear a gentle woman’s voice beckoning to those that can’t find the way.

SephiPiderWitch
copyright 09/08/2011

 

Paradise

“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.

SephiPiderWitch
copyright 07/04/2011