Tag Archives: short story

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


Soul weary and with a leaden heart, he slung the pack across his back and began to walk.  He walked until he lost track of how long he had walked, till his mind was stilled save for the placement of the next step, long past the time where he crossed others upon the trail, till the muscles in his body screamed “enough!”  And still he continued, placing one foot in front of the other.  It was as if the trees were beckoning him onward, parting just slightly to show him the way.  And still, he continued. Still further he would have gone, save for the fallen trees that barred the path forcing him to veer off to find a way around.
He pushed thorugh the brush and branches and heard the soft trickle of water nearby.  So, he pushed a bit further away from the path to look for its source.  The soothing crystal sound pulled at him until he found himself in a small clearing.
Soft rays of sunshine poured through scattered breaks in the branches and the mossy veils of the trees.  The small steady stream of water slipped over a crease in the hill to play across the rocks, casting prism glimmers of light on the slope before coming to rest in the small pool in front of him.
He let his pack slip from his shoulder onto the ground, then slowly lowered himself down beside it.  He pulled a small bag of food from the pack and leaned back against an ancient tree stump, a furrow in it a perfect fit for his spine, its gnarled roots granting a cradled seat.  He slowly began to eat, allowing the silence to fill him, the scents to intoxicate him and the low heartbeat of the land to lull him..
He slipped into a gentle slumber and was awakened by a sense; a presence maybe.  He looked around him to notice the sun had dipped slightly, shifting the shadows and play of light around him.  Off to his side, he noticed a slender stump robed in a deep carpet of moss, rising up from the ground like a small moss-robed man.  He smiled at the thought, remembering the stories he had been told as a youth of the fey spirits of the forests.  He could see in this visage how such tales got their birth.  And the more he looked upon this man of moss, the more real he appeared to him.  It was almost as if he could sense him waiting, listening.  But, for what?
He leaned back and watched it for some time and the spell of the forest touched him once again.  “So, its a story you wish to hear, is it?”  He asked the little man.  “Well, fine then.  Then tis a story you shall have.”  He reached into his pack again and pulled out his pipe, filled it with some sweet smelling tobacco, lit it, then leaned back against the stump and began to talk.
His story, he began to tell, of his life.  The words, slow and faltering at first, then flowing into a stream whose dam has broken, into a torrent of tales.  He spoke tales of his pains and sorrows, of his joys and accomplishments, and of course, his failures.  He recounted the tales of his youth and many adventures then.  Of his loves and his losses, and of his children.  Of those he had said goodbye to far too soon and those whose brief touch left an indelible imprint on his soul.  He spoke of those that had loved him and those that had betrayed him and laughed at how often they were the same.  He wept and he laughed as the stories poured out.  The miles and the years and the lifetimes he had experienced, all were told, all revealed.Silently and patiently, the figure listened.  An understanding being who had all the time in the world for him, who begged to hear, with his quiet countenance, all he had to tell.  So, on he talked, telling the secrets he had never told another soul.  He told of the things no man speaks of to another.  The secret fears and the unfulfilled desires locked and guarded so deeply within.And deeper, the sun began to slip.  And on he talked, till his voice was hoarse from the expense, till there were no more words to speak.  And still the figure listened, silently, patiently, till the last word had been summoned forth

The night had stolen in during this time and the man smiled gently on the robed figure in the dark.  The telling lifting the weight from his heart, his soul finally at peace.  He closed his eyes to the night and slept, his mossy guardian never leaving his side.
She broke into the clearing, eyes full of wonder at what she saw there.  She began to snap pictures of all that was about her, the sparkling little waterfall, the trees with their drapes of feather moss, the birthing blooms of Spring.  This was the kind of place that dreams were made of, that held the promise of fairy dances and midnight rites, of the ancient gods and a time where nothing was beyond belief.A shadow fleeted off to her side, catching her attention.  A small gasp escaped her lips as she spied the partial circle of moss covered figures.  She began to snap pictures of them rapidly, from every angle.  Worshipers frozen in time, the wise ones of the woods, guardians of the forest.  They looked so real, she thought, as she set her pack down on the ground.  “I’ll bet you all have such stories to tell!”  She pulled her notebook and pen from her pack and sat down.  She closed her eyes for a moment, breathed in the forest, and listened till the first soft whisper slipped into her ear.  “Yes!  Oh Yes!”  she exclaimed, opened her book and began to write.
copyright March, 2010

The Beauty in the Beast

The Beauty in the Beast
The liquid amber rays of the afternoon sun bathed the small clearing, dancing lightly upon the surface of the ripples in the stream below and showered the fringes of the clouds above. A kaleidoscope of wildflowers swayed gently in response to the touch of the breeze’s beckoning. And behind, the sharp, stark faces of the mountains tore their way through the earth to try and touch the sky, the shock white of their tips branching rivulets downward to form an inverse crown marking their majesty.
A lone figure sat at the top of the hill looking out over the symphony of nature at play below, sketchbook on his knee and easel before him. He let rest the tip of his paintbrush to his lip, closed his eyes and slowly inhaled the scent of life and allowed it to fill his soul. Slowly, his eyes opened and his gaze returned just as the figure moved from behind the shadows of the crop of trees.
He watched as the figure moved over to the stream, let slip the cloak from about its shoulders and as the light fell upon the figure, he drew in his breath. The misshapen figure sat down on a boulder by the side of the stream, sunlight catching upon the small shocks of sparse hair upon its head, almost translucent with lack of color. Its body deformed and twisted in such an unnatural way that it evinced pain to just look upon. He could not imagine what it must feel like to be trapped in such a body.
Its gaze turned upward to a hawk crying out in joy as it played in the waves of the air currents, soaring gracefully among them and swooping down to survey the ground for movements proclaiming dinner. The light caught the side of its face and the artist got his first full look at the creature’s face. Creature, because he did not know how else to refer to it, so far removed from human countenance that he had ever seen. The head and skull misshapen, the skin scarred and marred by lesions and disease. The horror at the monstrosity before him was almost too much to bear, he who worshipped beauty, embraced it and drank it like ambrosia. And ill though it made him to look upon the monster before him, he could not take his eyes from it.
Dusk began to slowly settle in and the painting that was the sunset began to draw its brush across the sky in a swirling movement of colors and bath the clouds in their haunting iridescent glow. As the sun began to slip from view, the shadows began their descent upon the land, looming ever downward and casting a half light through the branches and whispering the first summons to the conjuring of the night. The brilliant orb of the full moon kissed the earth in her ascent, her swollen form overflowing and radiating soft light, bathing all it touched in its blue-gray shimmers.
The monster rose and raised its arms out toward the rising beacon, stretching out its fingers as if to touch the glowing orb. And the darkness that was night closed further in, filling in the light voids and spreading darkness like a storm sweeping the land. As the last of the golden rays vanished and the silver glow of night was all that was left, the creatures of the night began to awaken and emerge. As is the case, the ones that crawled were the first to come forth, ravenous and devouring in their very existence. Then began the calls and songs of the night as the creatures of the air and land awakened as well to prepare to begin the night hunt.
And still the monster stood, arms outstretched and bathed in moonlight. And still the artist watched, unable to tear his eyes from the scene.
Dark wings cut through the air before it as shadows swept across the ground below. Then it raised its head and opened its mouth in a song that rang out and pierced the blanket of the night. A song of such beauty, he thought his heart would burst from its touch and he would melt within the flow of its waves and his mind was swept to another place that was both no place and all. When the moment passed and he looked again, its clothing had been shed and discarded and it was taking gentle steps to the center of the clearing. When it reached it, it began to spin slowly, lowly and then began to dance.
He still could not tell whether the creature was male or female as he watched its lithe movements in the soft glow of the moon. Movements which grew in energy and intensity till they became a dervish swirl that held him mesmerized and feeling faint. The deformities lost in the swirling movements, the ugliness transformed to grace and beauty in the undulations of the movement. He watched with the creatures of the night as they danced with it and worshipped with it till the moon crossed beyond the place of light and he feel asleep on the ground before it.
When he awoke, the sun was bringing the first taste of day to the sky and the creature was picking up its cloak from the boulder. Just before it entered back into the forest, it looked up at him and their eyes met, then it melted into the trees and was gone.
No one understood the painting in the gallery or what might have inspired such a thing. It was unlike anything to ever emerge from his hand. The elegance of the scene so vivid, you could feel the textures of the land, smell the scents in the air. So stunning was the sheer beauty of it, so intoxicating, it took your breath away. And at the edge of the woods where the trees met the land, a creature. A creature so vile, so damnable in appearance that it pierced one’s heart with its horror, and yet so riveting, you could not tear your eyes from it. No explanation was ever given as to its inspiration, or what was meant by it no matter how many times he was asked. All that was given it was a name; The Beauty in the Beast.
copyright  August 28, 2009

A Quiet Disturbed

A Quiet Disturbed
Swirls of mist rose up from the ground, hovering gently above it, caressing it and checking its substance. A stir breathed into it and moved it in swirls and undulations, soft glows emanating within its depths like bodies swimming and riding the currents. Diffused faces looked around, disoriented, seemingly lost and confused. The glows shifted in varied hues and shades of colors within the deepening churning mists, soft muted colors from gentle pastels to demure shades so dim as to be barely perceptible. Occasionally, small sparks of light emerged as if a few tiny stars were trapped within and trying to escape.
The soft curtain of silence that was night became slightly severed with low unsettled whispers. At first, it was but a couple, then it began to multiply, urgent, confused, questioning. It sent ripples through the night air, awakening more spirits to join and bringing disquiet into this place of quiet sleep.
A small voice cleared the murmurs of the others, a soft voice, but clear as a crystal bell. “What has happened? I slept, I dreamt, all was complete, I was divine. I was alone and now there are many. It was quiet, now it is disturbed. There are so many! How came I to be in not the place I should?”
The shimmer behind the voice looked about. Their voices underlying the silence like the hum of a far off machine that is just within the hearing range and can’t be dismissed. They permeated the air and sent ripples through it that made nerves ache.
The sky began to lighten as the morning sun slowly crept upward. The unease grew within the voices, their movements quickening and the disturbance in the air rising. Their glows began to fade as the light grew till all that remained was the mist and the murmurs of the disturbed air.
Day crested and the gates were opened. Soon, a group of people made a slow, ritual way inward, their eyes downcast, their purpose focused. They found the assigned spot and began to take their places, waiting patiently for the last stragglers. Some shifted uncomfortably for a time while others looked around them and still others simply stood in contemplative silence.
They began. And the disturbed mists felt them and made their way over. They watched as the mists slipped in and about their feet as they began to speak. The mist rose and thickened, and as it rose, they felt a weight that was beyond the weight of this day, a weight that was beyond theirs, and yet felt like it should be, descend upon them and envelop them. As each took their turns to speak what they had come to say, they found other words issuing forth in the midst of their own, words that came from their mouths that were not theirs. Their sorrows made more bare, amplified, as they felt the anguish of the displaced.
A small girl stood off at the end of the group, holding tightly to her mother’s hand. She smiled as she looked to her side and saw the shimmer that was the small voice and they reached out to each other. The girl looked up at her mother and tugged gently on her arm to tell her. The mother leaned down and the girl told her of the shimmer that could no longer dream and the mists that had been forced out and had no home any more. And the mother heard it and believed that the weight of the day had been too much for the girl and tried to console her and tell her it was but her imagination playing tricks upon her. The girl sobbed and nodded, but never let go of the shimmer that held her hand.
As the last words were being spoken, the shimmer began to quiver and tightened her grip on the girl’s hand. She tugged gently, imploring the girl to follow and wrapped the girl in the urgency and desperation that had become her. Gently, the girl let her hand slip from her mother’s grip and let the shimmer wrap around her, cloaking her from the watchful eyes about. They went to a quiet hill with an ancient tree upon it, stretching its limbs to protect the whole hill. They sat under the tree as the shimmer told her story of her dreams disturbed and how she woke to find her place had become no place and of the others who once had a home and a place to rest and now had nowhere and were lost.
The voices of the party echoed across the area, frantic and imploring. They watched as they wandered around the area under the hill and sat silent, the great limbs of the tree hiding them from their seekers. The shimmer held tight to the girl, begging her to stay there so she would not be alone in this strange open place. The girl nodded and sobbed, for the shimmer’s sorrows as much as the fear of what the party would do to her once she was found.
As the party searched, the mists followed, circling the members of the group and wailing out at them. Their wails sparked fears in the party and they looked to the sky for the storm they believed to be approaching. The search grew more frantic and harried and the people darted in every direction, fear gripping at them like a stalker.
The mother came up around the back of the hill and that’s where she found them. The mists converged on her as she fell to her knees at what was before her and wept. The others came rushing and looked with horror with her at the jumbled wreckage of the discarded. It was like peering into a dragon’s cave. The remains were tossed in piles and strewn across the ground like discarded refuse. Remnants and shards dotted solitary areas. Eyeless holes peered out at them and skeletal hands reached out as if for help. They shouted and made calls and soon there were very many more. Many needed to untangle and make sense of the chaotic tangle of all these remains. Many needed to help piece each back together and make whole again, many to find answers and demand a reckoning.
A small lone form was the first to be put back in its place, gently lifted and given a new warm place to lie with soft cushions all around. As she was laid reverently onto the cushions, the young one with the laughter of a thousand bells and stars shining in her eyes, the girl felt the shimmer begin to release its grip and felt a gentle brush against her cheek. The shimmer settled in and once again dreamt and once again was divine.
copyright  July 25, 2009


The timid toy designer wrote a story in a broken elevator to confuse the investigator. 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. Her bag of tricks was almost empty and it was only a matter of time before he 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.
His footsteps approached nearer and she stilled her breath and willed her heart to soften its beating. She could smell the rank staleness of him. 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.
The news cameras caught the filming of him running from the building screaming higher than any bimbo in a B-rated horror flick. The camera men inched slowly towards the building hoping to get a glimpse of the cause. A daring reporter cautiously stuck his head in the door and looked around. There was nothing but empty halls and rooms that he could see. They moved in and began to scout around, becoming more baffled with each moment at the emptiness of the place. The offices were closed and all the doors were locked. The only open door was the elevator at the end of the main hall. The daring reporter that first entered the building approached cautiously and peered inside. It too, was empty. Laughing nervously, they began to file out of the building. It was unlikely the investigator would ever live this one down.
A soft twitter-giggle echoed gently through the elevator shaft. The toy maker 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 sensual body of a cat, the legs of a spider complete with web spinning ability  And oh look!  She swished the venom barbed scorpion tale in front of her.  This will do just fine! 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. It was a bright sunny day out. She figured she had earned the right to enjoy some of it.
copyright  2009