Posted in Uncategorized, Writing

About Time And That One Guy Who Sailed in 1492…

I have the day off thanks to Columbus. Probably the only job I’ve ever had that gave me Columbus day off. It isn’t much of a holiday here. Controversial to some, and to others it is a “bank holiday,” or an excuse for some places to close. We have no statues in my town, and do no parades here. I worked for a bank here and I always had to work on Columbus day. So, it is a quasi holiday, it is there, but it isn’t really celebrated, at least not much here.

I realize there are places that do, like New York has a parade, and I read it is a big deal in Puerto Rico. I have Italian heritage. I do not feel especially threatened if they get rid of this holiday. Columbus was born in Italy, he was Italian, but he served Spain, and died in Spain.

He also never set foot on the continent. So, his “discovery of America” if you discount that he thought he found a short cut to India, and that the Vikings as well as the indigenous people were here before him, just never really rang true.

However, I have also read a lot of articles today attributing genocide and all the native populations being decimated by disease and everything that came after Columbus being attributed to him.

The deaths of the Taino people on Hispaniola can be laid at his door. I think it is a stretch to add all the rest to him. He couldn’t have foreseen the small pox epidemic that decimated the north American tribes. He didn’t even set foot here, remember? He thought he was in India the whole time. He would have had no way of knowing the far reaching repercussions his “discovery” would have, and there is no sane way to blame him for all the atrocities that would come later.

He was a guy with three ships who underestimated the size of the world, and shared the mentality of his time that “savages” were lesser men. We can think of that in horror now, but in his day it was quite normal.

Rudyard Kipling of “Just so Stories”  and the “Jungle Book” fame had some writings describing ethnic people in a kind of racist or patronizing way. I still love some of these stories, although his British Imperialism now colors them all in a tainted sort of way. And it was this view of superiority, that Europeans had a god given right to govern the lesser peoples and guide them to being civilized that is so hard to stomach now.

This was a time where people looked to the church for answers, not science. And, it was a debate whether these people had souls or not,  because they weren’t mentioned in the Bible. It was a different time, and to say Columbus and his men were ignorant would be obvious. They knew nothing about these lands, or their people, and made a lot of assumptions. Of course, not knowing anything about germs, and how disease and immune systems work, they would have no idea that they were spreading disease just by coming there.

You cannot assume 21st century morality and science and put it on a person of another era. It is like expecting a cave man to know how to drive a car. People should be examined in context with their time, as the culture they are in will of course, naturally affect their thinking and how they act toward others.

In our current time, we act differently. There is an island, off the coast of India that has an indigenous tribe that has not been directly interacted with except for a handful of times. They want to be left alone and attack on site and the government of India has forbade anyone from going to the island or even within a certain amount of feet of it.

Besides respecting the islanders desire to be left alone, it was also indicated that the decision took into account that any interactions could cause disease and a ravaging of the population, also the language barrier and hostility.

A couple fisherman were killed and dismembered because they drifted too near the island, so the safety of not only the inhabitants but also of the outsiders had to be considered.

Instead of trying to civilize or bring these people to Jesus, it was decided that it was best to just leave them alone. I feel that some people seem to think Columbus could have or should have been capable of making a decision like that without the necessary information that the modern government of India has currently.

This is in fact preposterous. You can’t assume someone from that era can understand how disease works. In addition, the religious culture of the period, you have to bring people to Jesus or they die in eternal torment. It was your duty as a Christian to bring them to Christ if possible. As far as slavery is concerned, there was some that thought the inhabitants did not have souls, so enslaving them was okay.

The Catholic church eventually decided they did indeed have souls and asked the Spanish King to not treat the people harshly and to bring them to Christ.

However, this was decided after Columbus’s voyages and his crew did not always obey him when he implored them to not be too harsh, and it was apparent that none of these native people’s had weapons or a way to protect themselves from the invaders.  Unfortunately, as often happens, the strong destroy the weak.

The Europeans of this age were just as savage if not more so than the islanders.  The islanders were just living their lives and did not ask for any of this.  I feel their pain does deserve to be recognized, and I think our society still has much to learn.

The British and the United States that came after treated its native peoples horribly. But, I cannot realistically lay that at Columbus’ door. Sure, this all followed his voyage, but, realistically, there is just no way that he could have foreseen all of this. That is a lot of historical anguish to lay at one man’s door. Columbus wasn’t Hitler. He wasn’t even Mussolini.

He was kind of a Charles Lindbergh of his day. By the way, Lindbergh said some awful things about Jewish people. People can do amazing things, and still be jerks. People can do awful things, and still be celebrated for the things they did right.

Should Columbus be celebrated? I am not sure. He did travel a long way in three small ships. I probably couldn’t have done that. In fact, I know I couldn’t back then, being a  woman.  But, that is something. If he hadn’t stumbled onto the islands, someone eventually would have. The Europeans would have landed eventually, bringing their diseases with them. Maybe the name would have been different.

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Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

The Question of Why? A Portrait of A Sad End

He watched her die slowly in his mind’s eye. Imagining the temperature of the water, of the look on her face. Was it windy? Was she tired?

Everyone else stared blankly, avoiding the pain and confusion within his eyes. Instead, they studied the wood grain of the floor boards, or the unfinished knitting of the caretaker. How did she come to die so young, he heard someone say. Who was she, and why should it matter you might ask?

She had hair of the softest yellow melting into a warm golden cinnamon at the tips. Her eyes were the blue of the tide rushing onto the beach. Not a true blue, but a blue with a hint of a cloudy grey. Her hair lay in damp curls, framing an oval face while a few strands got in the way of her apparent serenity.

In death she appeared to be an angel, in life she had been more of a demon, he knew. Her laugh cut through the miles of his memory like a hot knife cuts through a pat of butter, efficiently, and ruthlessly accurate.

For all her sharpness and uncontrollable anger, he found himself missing her. She was the sea that kept life from becoming an endless horizon with nothing to look forward to.

She was life, in  all its irony and bitterness. In death, she was like a forgery. She was somehow fake; unreal like a child’s life size doll. This wasn’t her. This was a mannequin dressed in her clothes, wearing her make up, wearing her knowing, sly smile.

Everyone else in the room had known her, or thought they did at any rate. They knew of her, surely, knew she loved orange sherbet ice cream, and that she hoped to get a Bachelor’s degree  in computer science and that her favorite color was purple. You know, just like a million other girls’ her age.

No one knew her quite like he did. They saw an innocent friendly smile, not the sly mischievous smile of one who knew they knew, and loved the fact that you didn’t. But they didn’t really see what was behind that. The forced nature of it, the fact that it actually meant, “I know nothing. I wish I knew what you know, but know that I can’t.”

Her coldness wasn’t cool. It was hot, tempestuous; interesting. It wasn’t coldness. Not really. It was passion. She was very lonely, this girl. She thrived on her imagination. Everyone else came and went around her, but she had her own reality which stayed the same, until the end, of course.

At the end, it must have all come crashing down, the blue skies, the white Christmases, the rose colored glasses and the yellow walls of sunshine. It all came crashing down, and it took her with it.

Life without her isn’t life, but the xerox copy of a copy of a copy of what it once was and never would be again. He sighed. Everyone else shifted uncomfortably at the ongoing silence. A cough was heard, and a quiet murmur. Perhaps a prayer for one who never prayed?

The water of the sea near the lighthouse was cold. It must have made her cold as ice when she dived off the rocks into the brutish water below. It invaded her nose, her mouth, her body, until it turned her a sickly pale blue green color. They called him then, after pulling her ashore when the lighthouse attendant who happened to take a late night stroll on the beach saw her.

The local ambulance  was called immediately of course, but it would be a while before they arrived. Family was called and she was carried into the lighthouse, seeming heavy and blue. Her mother would ask why, but no one answered. Why? Why not?

She had so much to look forward to, someone said. The line was a tired one, and didn’t much alter the mood in the small circular room. The rocks had scraped some skin off her shins someone noted. A kid’s injury, not the injury of the dead, he thought.

Despite the hand wringing and solemnity, she was just another lost soul, another person who gave up before they even started.

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

A Flower’s Revenge – A Dark Fairy Tale

Luscia of the spring morn, skin as fair as milk, with braids of gold down to her waist, wearing a silly dress of sky blue, was walking to town in her clumsy wooden shoes. She hummed off key, and kicked a pebble or two.

She had a basket of bread and cheese for lunch, as well as a few coins for some pretty bauble she might find. She stopped to pick some flowers, and proceeded to dismember them, and laugh uproariously at their fate.

Luscia began to collect a few to keep intact in a small blue vase in her window. She hoped they would keep their freshness and smell until she got home. Her armload got larger and larger until it was filled with various flowers and weeds.

She heard a rustle in the tall grass of the meadow, and had to stop, arms full of flowers for her vase, and her pleasure. She looked toward the noise, her tune now forgotten upon her lips. A red fox poked its head out of the grass briefly, and fled from the silly blue-eyed girl in the sky blue dress.

The girl followed the vibrant red till it was gone. Luscia let her flowers go for this new treasure, and ran after the fox giggling mischievously.

Luscia followed  the path easily at first, and began to hear the tumble of a brook or a stream. She went on a ways and soon the water became evident. The girl looked down at her wooden shoes in disgust; the bank of the stream was muddy and now so were her shoes. She looked to her pretty favorite dress and realized with dismay that she had gotten mud speckles on it as well.

Luscia’s mother was normally a very sweet lady, and would give her girl a piece of taffy if she were especially good. From the girl’s past experiences however, muddied clothes changed her mother into a demon of a woman, who was as likely to take the large wooden spoon in the kitchen to her behind.

Luscia was then at a crossroads. She truly wanted to follow the fox, but then she had muddied her dress all ready. There might still be time to go back home with her bread and cheese and the coins, and somehow win her mother’s forgiveness.

How to do that? Luscia came  up with no clear plan of action, which made her decide to follow the fox further. Her mother would be mad anyway, so she might as well continue on this path.

Luscia took a deep breath and started to walk forward considering herself brave. Soon, the girl began to be silly again, and started jumping and singing songs. Before she knew it, a root had caught her wooden shoe and she fell face forward into the briars on her right side. Oh, what a howling she started after that. If the fox had still been near that would have been his cue to run further away.

She cried as she pulled herself out of the brambles and brushed the debris from her dress. Now she was dismayed. Her dress was now covered with berry stains and dirt, and was torn in several places. It would need mending as well as cleaned.

The girl knew for certain that her mother would be angry at her now. She decided to continue to follow the stream, which she fancied would lead her to the elusive fox.

Luscia walked on, but caught no sight of the fox. It occurred to her then, that he might not be following the stream like her, and that he might have heard her cry in the briars.  She looked around her and saw that she was deep in a wood, and that it had gotten darker, much darker than when she had last looked toward the sky.

The girl heard her stomach rumble loudly, and glanced at the basket still on her arm, almost forgotten like the flowers she had long since dropped.

Lusica sat down on a nearby log, and contented herself momentarily with a piece of bread and cheese. She supplemented this with some choice blackberries and soon felt satisfied. The only thing she could wish for would be a cold jug of milk, and the red fox of course.

Luscia had been cheerfully thinking by the moment, and it now looked quite dark. She looked around her, and knew she had no idea where she was, nor how she would get home. The happy girl began to get afraid for the first time, and this feeling steadily increased, as she remained sitting on the log, terrified of the prospect of how to get home.

The fox was now finally forgotten, but it was too late for Luscia.

She cried out of fear and loneliness and wished she hadn’t strayed from the road to town with her basket. She tried to smooth out her ruined little dress, crying over the tears in it, and the dirt smudges on it. She stopped a moment, hearing another rustling noise in the nearby bracken.

The girl held still, and became quiet. In the daylight the rustle had been an adventure starting sound, at night in the dark woods the rustling took on a much darker meaning in her young mind.

She began to tremble, and debated internally whether she should run or stay where she was. The rustling became louder. The girl couldn’t sit on the log any longer. Luscia got up quickly, and began to run. Her wooden shoes stopped her again, and she tripped and fell to the ground a few feet from the log where she had sat.

The rustling had stopped and something now padded up to her. She saw no red, she could hardly see a thing it was so dark. She stumbled up, and discovered that her ankle hurt intensely. She had no time to think about it much, she threw off the remaining  wooden shoe and began to run barefoot. The thing lashed out, and she felt animal teeth bite into her foot. She yelled. She ran with a new purpose, and much faster than she had ever before.

The thing could be heard following her whenever it broke a twig on the ground, or if it went briefly into the bracken. Otherwise, the girl couldn’t hear it over her own harsh breathing and barely stifled sobs of pain.

She couldn’t see where she was going even, only going on, forward into more darkness, away from the thing.

It followed closely, but hung back a ways, as if it were waiting for something. The girl dropped her basket thinking maybe the cheese would distract it from pursuing her. This thing, whatever it was, didn’t seem to hesitate much over cheese,  because she could now hear it panting off to her left somewhere.

This creature of the night was obviously much faster than Luscia, and she knew it, but it wasn’t over eager to catch her and she didn’t know why. Perhaps, it was simply waiting for her to tire; perhaps it was waiting for more things to arrive. She shivered at the thought. This was no fox. Foxes didn’t go after children. Not even naughty ones. She had the name of it on her tongue, but dare not say what it was, although in her child’s heart she knew it very well.

She could dimly feel the many cuts on her feet, and the scratches on her arms, and even her face where a tree punished her lack of vision with the scrape of a low hanging branch.

Her sky blue dress was now in tatters, but she had no time to mourn it. Her long gold braids slowed her down too, getting tangled here and there, and she felt the pain when a chunk of it was yanked free from her head while she was running.

Luscia began to feel her energy waning, and although she tried not to slow down, it became difficult to keep her legs moving. She began to trip over her own bloody feet without the aid of her cursed wooden shoes.

The thing was hovering about her now. It moved in briefly, taking a jab at her with its white animal teeth. She fell. She could feel it now, as it tore at her bloody feet. Her terror made her scream, and then she went limp with fear. Her child’s heart gave way to its death, and she lost consciousness and never awakened to her dismemberment by the creature.

Luscia’s mother went in search of her child when night fell, but she went to the town, not the woods, and asked the baker if he had seen her, knowing that Luscia had some coins and had a liking for sweets.

He hadn’t seen her, and neither had the hat seller. Luscia always took a look at the hats, although she never had enough to buy one. Her mother returned home reluctantly, filled with sadness and anxiety.

Soon, the town had almost forgotten the little girl known as Luscia as the days went by. Tatters of sky blue cloth and a muddy wooden shoe were all that were ever found.

Her mother never did forget of course, and some of the other children were slow to forget, for their mothers’ didn’t let them out at night much after that.  Soon the children made a song out of the fate of poor Luscia.

‘Luscia of the spring morn, skin as fair as milk, with braids of gold down to the waist, a silly dress of sky blue,

Whence did ya go in the night? To the town with milk and cheese, or to the woods as much as you please!

Luscia of the spring morn, skin as fair as milk, with braids of gold down to the waist, a silly dress of sky blue, wooden shoes and silly tunes, flowers are for fools!

‘Whence did you go in the night? To the town with milk and cheese, or to the woods as much as you please?

When  the morn came to find ya gone, your mother went mad with grief to know that ya went to the woods, not the town, as much as you please, with milk and cheese!

‘Luscia of the spring morn, skin as fair as milk, with braids of gold down to the waist, a silly dress of sky blue,

Lost in the woods to the night, poor girl of the spring morn,  lost to the night, and for the wolves to eat like good, milk, bread and cheese!’

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Short Stories of Suspense and Wonder

The office was hot and stuffy. It was an unusual business. They did reviews of short stories instead of novels, and published them into one volume entitled Short Stories of Suspense and Wonder.

There would be the usual stack of magazines and literary journals on the long table, and the short story reviewers would grab the choice bits to cover until only the newsprint of local human interest stories and obituaries were left. Suzie waited on the outskirts, smiling at her fiance, Geoffrey. He wasn’t feeling ambitious today, and waited for the men in front of him to stop arguing over a short suspense piece.

Geoffrey wanted something local, something nearby, something that would not require too much real work on his part. They had all ready published a few volumes of this, and the next very well might be their last, because people just didn’t buy review magazines of short stories on a regular basis.

Geoffrey was only here because of a friend himself. That and Suzie had talked him into it. Easy cash, only work a little on the weekends, besides his day job, he might be able to save up for her ring, which he kept putting off, and so on. Suzie fancied herself a writer, but she hadn’t written a story in years.

Finally the others went to their cubbyholes, talking excitedly about this author, or that one, Geoffrey wasn’t really listening. He walked up to the table and glanced over the remains. Pieces of magazines lay everywhere, certain stories had been yanked from them, and now they lay there disemboweled. His eye caught one story, on the inside of one magazine that hadn’t been destroyed yet, but instead lay propped open to some ghastly art done in a seventies pulp mag style around the title. Just my luck to get a horror story, he thought, unimpressed.

He picked it up, and looked in the back where they have the “about the author” stuff, he wasn’t going to go out of state, or even over fifteen miles if he could help it. Alexandra Tarpin, Fir street, building 1001. Hmm.

That wasn’t far. That was just downtown. This was her first published story, and she was eighty years old. There might be something here, Geoffrey smiled to himself, and took the scissors lying carelessly on the table, and cut out the article, writing down the author contact info in a small notepad.

He did find it odd she had her address listed in the magazine. They normally just left it at the city, and he usually had to do a little grunt work to get the actual address. But her address was right there; less work for him. He left the table and approached Suzie who was still waiting.

“Well? Where are we going? What town?”

“Suzie my dear, we are going to Fir Street.”  She looked at him a moment, and then grabbed his little notebook to see for herself.

“Well, that is a surprise. Since you waited for everyone to pick first I thought for sure we would be left with Siberia. And, she’s a granny too? Writing horror? This will be interesting.” Maybe to Suzie, as Geoffrey tried to stifle a yawn. “Well, let’s get this over with.”

Geoffrey’s old Chevy truck pulled up and parked at Fir Street, and they both gazed at  number 1001. It was a rundown brick building with moss growing between the gaps and a cracked sidewalk that poured directly into the street. Geoffrey shut the car door with Suzie following and approached the an old door. He looked into the window in the center of the door, and saw a small hallway with two additional doors leading further in.

“Come on, we aren’t here to spy on her,” Suzie said testily. Geoffrey didn’t know why she insisted on coming along anyway. This wasn’t the most exciting work.

Geoffrey tested the outer door, and found it unlocked. “A real trusting granny, ” he quietly said under his breath. They both walked into the small hallway, and were faced with the two doors he had noticed from outside. Which one was the correct one, and what kind of crazy house was this?

“We should have knocked. You don’t just waltz into her house like you own the place.” Geoffrey shrugged. Suzie glared at him and knocked quite loudly on the door to the left. They waited a few minutes, Geoffrey glancing at his watch. “Maybe I should have tried to get her phone number.”

“You think?” Suzie rolled her eyes, annoyed. An elderly lady opened the door, and looked at them in surprise.

“Just in time. I am holding a writing seminar upstairs.” She said calmly her voice sounding like a typical granny.

“Mrs. Tarpin? Actually, I was hoping to review your short story,” he paused to glance at the article to remind him of the title, “Zombies and Ghouls.” Suzie gave him a sharp elbow to the side, when he almost laughed saying the title out loud.

“Well, let’s talk upstairs anyway. I often invite guests into my house. it’s so large and lonely here all alone.”

They followed Mrs. Tarpin upstairs and through a door into a long room filled with old school desks.  At the front of the room was a large chalk board. Normally, a reviewer would have read the material first, but Geoffrey felt like the title explained all he needed to know of her story.

“So, what inspired you to write this?” he asked first, although Mrs. Tarpin looked distracted. There were about five other people in this room all chatting among themselves.

“I should really get back to my discussion. Perhaps you can study the story more, with your friend here, and see what you can come up with.” Mrs. Tarpin gave him a smile, and went back toward the chalk board. Suzie took a seat at one of the desks, and implored with hand gestures that Geoffrey do likewise.

“Okay, okay. I guess we should actually read this thing. Hopefully, it is better than it sounds.” Geoffrey sounded less than confident about this and had to visibly suppress a grimace. Suzie sighed. He knew she hated his dramatics. As Geoffrey began to read the story, he noticed that it didn’t start out like he thought it would.

A man, a Mr. Fenton who was married with a few kids was unhappy. He had been pining in secret for the girl who lived next door. Their houses shared a wall and he would see her going by with a smile. He was convinced she was teasing him. He became so despondent; he started destroying things in his own house.

One day, his wife and kids were gone, and the man could think of nothing else but this girl. He went into his cellar, which he had discovered while trashing the place; a hidden cellar, of course.

He brought a candle with him. ‘Why  not a flashlight?’, thought Geoffrey, annoyed. The man kept going, and it started sloping down, sharply. He kept on until his candle was burning his fingers. He didn’t know where he was going, or why, he was just angry at that girl for teasing him.

Finally, he felt everything was wet around him, and this repulsed him, he groped to find his way back, his candle having gone out, and he found what appeared to be a large round luminous ball of mysterious substance. ‘Oh, come on!, though Geoffrey, incredulous.

This ball was hard for the most part, but when he applied enough pressure, it burst, and showered him with green muck. He had no idea what it could be. He again started to grope the wall, to try and find his way back.

It remained wet and slimy most of the way. He soon felt very tired, and got the strange impression he was dying down here.  His skin appeared to be slipping off, and he was all wet from the walls.

He felt so very tired. He had to rest, yet he couldn’t sit down in the muck. He soon realized that he could no longer feel anything; it was as if he was numb all over.

“Why am I reading this? I know what is going to happen.” Suzie glared at him again.

“Just read it, you might find yourself surprised.” He shrugged.

The man continued upward. Soon he heard giggling and laughing, and it made him think of the girl. Instead of looking forward to seeing her, he felt an intense anger.  He felt like destroying the world. She was laughing at him, he knew it. He went towards the light. Soon, it was everywhere, and he realized he was in the other house. The girl was louder, and very close.

He could smell her tender young skin. He looked down at himself, wondering about the muck covering him, when he saw that his skin was slipping off. His legs were like one of those wrinkled dogs, and his clothes were slimy and torn.

He looked at his hands, and they had a bluish tinge and looked for from healthy. He had to find the girl. She went hopping and skipping, and stopped when she came within his sight.

She looked at him aghast, but said nothing. She had a look of pity on her face, not the look of horror he had been expecting. He grew intensely angry at this. He came up to her reeking of the muck, and yelled at her, “Why have you changed? Why are you not teasing me?”

She said nothing. He passed her and went further into the house where her family lived, leaving her to wonder.

“That was very stupid. See? I did know where it was going,” Geoffrey added with certainty.

“Don’t you find it odd, that he asked her, why she had changed?” Suzie asked. Now that he stopped to think about it, it was an odd thing for him to say.

Mrs. Tarpin came over, finished with her lecture. The other five people talked excitedly. “Out of curiosity, Mrs. Tarpin, what was your lecture on?” Suzie asked, being nosey as usual.

“Why, dear, it was about relating your life events into your story, you know, to make it seem more real.”

“Mrs. Tarpin?”

“You may call me, Alexandra, Mr. ?”

“Mr. Barris.”

“And what is your Christian name?”

“Geoff, Geoffrey Barris.”

“Now, what was it you wished to ask me?”

“Why did you decide to do a story like this, I mean, Zombies and Ghouls?”

“Why do you think, young man, it intrigued me.”

Suzie cut in, “Why does the man after he is changed, ask the girl, why she has changed? It almost seems like something someone might say. But, I am not sure what it means in the story.”

“Well, I did think of it, dear.” She chuckled at this. “He says this, because she no longer mocks him, and he didn’t know why. He had observed that he had changed, but he didn’t know in what way exactly. In fact, to the girl, he looked much the same, except the condition of his clothes, of course.”

“You don’t say that in your story, why not?” Geoffrey suddenly found himself interested in the bizarre old woman.

“Perhaps it was an oversight. Would you like some tea? Or cookies? My other guests are leaving just now, and we can talk more about the story if you wish.” Mrs. Tarpin did seem like a normal granny, other than the fact that most don’t write short stories about zombies.

“Uh…Mrs…Alexandra, where do the Ghouls come in?”

“Well, when he discovers that he doesn’t appear to be rotting, to ordinary people, and has rediscovered his mind, he becomes a ghoul.”

“That’s not in the story either. Do we have a shorter version?”

“No, that is the version that got published. In all truth, I didn’t want that for the name. But the editor thought it sounded catchy for his magazine.” Mrs. Tarpin left the room to get the tea, leaving the kitchen door ajar. They both waited, not saying a word.

The door creaked open all the way, and Suzie turned to address Mrs. Tarpin, when she saw a man in a bathrobe turn toward her and give her an odd grimace. Something made her fearful, and she started to  back away. Geoffrey looked at her like she was insane.

“Is that? Are you?” Suzie stammered.

He came at her, with a look of anger and no longer appeared to be human, but a strange bluish creature whose skin had been rotting. She screamed, and Mrs. Tarpin was there , and with in-explainable super human strength, lifted Suzie up and placed her on top of a tall refrigerator. Geoffrey remained below, with speechless mouth agape.

Mrs. Tarpin quickly made some fried eggs, and bacon, and gave them to the man who seemed to be an old man once again.

“Suzie? Are you crazy? Why did you do that? And, Mrs…Alexandra, how did you lift her like that? You made it look easy.”

“Mr. Barris, are you that stupid?” Mrs. Tarpin said with an odd tone of menace. He watched as the old man shoveled the food into his mouth straight off the frying pan, still sizzling.

“I think we would be going, don’t you dear?” He addressed Suzie who was still cringing on top of the fridge.

“I know why he said, why have you changed.” Suzie exclaimed in a daze. “Oh no, we have to leave now.”

Mrs. Tarpin sighed with regret. “If you must leave, let me show him back to his part of the house. He just thought he smelled food cooking. Come, dear.” She led the man creature to another door at the back of the kitchen, and locked it with a click.

“Come, child. Let me get you down from the fridge. It is safe now.” Suzie backed away from her, shaking her head. Mrs. Tarpin’s arms seemed to elongate, and she grabbed the frightened girl anyway, and hauled her down from the fridge.

“Now, dear, listen to me. You can go out this way, and Geoffrey can go out this door.” They could hear the man creature pounding loudly on the other side of the door, and the sound of wood splintering under the impact.

Suzie nodded, and ran out the door not looking behind her, and into the large school like room and then beyond downstairs into the small hallway.

She reached the front door, and opened it, and wasn’t sure whether to close it and lock it, or wait for Geoffrey. She heard the door on the right open, and Geoffrey entered the small hallway, his eyes appeared tired, and had dark circles under them as if he hadn’t slept in days.

Suzie quickly got out of the house, and locked the knob from the inside and ran. It took only an additional second for the door to be unlocked and for the knob to turn, and for it to open. She saw Geoffrey staring after her with his eyes blankly watching.

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

Mrs. Tarpin entered her bathroom, and noticed that Mr. Fenton was all ready in the tub, the water a dark grey from his rotting flesh. She got rid of her illusion and went to take care of his wounds. If he didn’t get new flesh soon he would die.

Mr. Barris followed her, his eyes beginning to bulge out of his head, his skin starting to decay. She could use some of his skin in the meantime. Before it was all dead.

Alexandra Tarpin still remembered that day a long time ago, when Mr. Fenton had shouted at her, “Why have you changed?” He had only reached out and held her hand but a moment, and didn’t know why she had started to wither.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

The End, A Short Story

The pain doesn’t stop; it merely waits on the edge of the bed for the sensation of my limbs to return, and then it will reclaim me, heart and soul. The pain fills the space and time of the hospital room with harsh light, and fractured thoughts. Why must life be painful? If it weren’t for pain, would happiness be possible?

Hard to say since experience is only what you have done or seen, and pain is part of my experience. I guess it’s not so bad, at least I can feel something when I am in pain, instead of the constant numbness of nothing which surrounds me currently. I anticipate the pain with prophetic glee. It means I am still alive, that I will recover, and stand upon my own two feet again.

I can see a sunrise by the sea, and the trees swaying in the wind with a gentle but ominous creaking. The cool sensation of grass on bare feet, heedless of the shoe coming down to smack down on a strong but tiny frame. I want to run free of all the ropes that bind, run through those trees, on the grass.

I want to somehow get to the sea and the sky. I reach for wings I never had, to fly into the stars and see that I too, am merely an ant, ready to be crushed by a giant intergalactic shoe.  A black hole rising to swallow my hopes, dreams, and my soul.

The pain brings me back to this world, preventing me from floating away into the endless abyss of blackness above. Where is the joy? Hand in hand with the needle, awaiting that grimace that is so essential to feeling.

The nurse beckons quietly, almost mournfully like the man in his dark suit in a funeral parlor. Cherry or oak, for you? Yes, I think cherry with an ivory lining would be the best choice. Dramatic yet somehow simple. Elegant, yes, that was the word.

Some say they want to be cremated. What’s the fun in that? Let the worms eat me! Cinders blowing on the wind are such dead black things. Food is an integral part of life, and there will be no pain. Death is the absence of pain. Nothing exists then but the soul, and what is that really? A globe of phosphorescence? A blinding idea of pure thought and love, something that can endure  while the corpse cannot?  Does it exist?

Maybe, maybe not, how can I say when I haven’t died, or lived to remember it? I would like there to be a soul, something permanent, a voice to cry out, I was here! Graduated in ’97! Something to cry out in pain, I lived, I died, and I may live again! Who doesn’t wish to live forever?

Probably the few beings that actually could live forever. Life does get tiresome in only twenty to fifty some years. I could imagine infinity like a great big carousel, going round and round indefinitely, and not being able to get off, but being forced to go around, and around, and around.

I might go mad thinking like this. Where is that pain to remind me of life? Where are the nurses to jab needles into me? Where is the hospital? There is nothing here. There is nothing. The end is all.

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

The Dagger — A Fantasy Short Story

Her eyes searched the night sky for answers to questions that she dare not ask aloud. The Gods blew their cruel breath down on her full force, billowing her long dark hair behind her like the flag of some long lost nation. Her eyes moved from the tiny twinkling stars onto the large round luminous moon, noticing the craters of some disaster from the first days while her mind remained numb to the world.

Her love, her one and only in a long lifetime of waiting, was dying somewhere down below her. There was nothing that could be done and the helplessness forced her to retreat into silence while the night continued unabated.

The cruel twist of the dagger could be felt through her own flesh, despite the fact that it hadn’t happened to her at all. It was the bane of her people, this intense empathic connection to others. It was more painful because of who was dying. She made no noise, only listened to the music of the wind as it poured through the nearby trees.

She sat on the grass slowly, and watched the moon. She saw the approach of the others, some heavily bandaged from the recent battle, some unscathed. They nodded at her, but she all ready knew what they were going to say.

He was gone, the Gods had claimed him and she could still feel the dagger being removed. She could feel the last painful breath as it left his lungs. She could feel his eyesight darken, and the cold, cold wind on his skin.

She nodded in return. A kind elder placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “You may stay with me tonight. It is cold out here. We will take care of you. It will be all right. There will come a day of vengeance. But, first you must rest.”

“No. My days are done; there is no need for vengeance. I feel nothing. There is no reason to go on. Nothing to live for.”

“Nonsense. There will be others. You will live. It is what he would have wanted for you.”

“No.” She was dragged by a kind wise woman whose strength remained within her old bones despite her fragile appearance. She was rushed past the men who were digging a long trench for the bodies of the dead. There were too many to bury in the proper ritualistic fashion, it had to be a shared grave for all.

She found her knees bending with the old woman’s and she followed, all the time thinking, “no.” None of this could be happening. She was at home, cooking a simple soup when she saw him in her mind. She saw the brute stab him in the heart with a sharp dagger, felt it being twisted in his gut, to make sure the wound would be fatal. She saw his friend kill the enemy while the dagger continued to twist. Agonizing pain swept through her. She felt her feet shift out of underneath her, felt her breath grow faint, and she fell. She fell onto the hard kitchen floor, the sound of her bubbling soup long forgotten.

In a daze she left her home, and walked up the hill, to look at the moon and feel the pain, waiting, as she had waited for many nights. Waiting for news of the most recent battle. News of victory. Now, she needn’t wait. She knew all ready. The morning found her much the same. She said no when the woman spoon fed her oatmeal, but that was all she would say. Everyone expected her to snap out of it, to one day breath life again, to look at the sun instead of the moon.

She found herself being moved with the rest of the village. They lost the battle and had to flee their homes. The information entered her mind and left again. She said nothing. No one talked to her anymore, but they talked around her much like adults do around children who are deemed too young to understand. She knew, but no longer cared. She still felt the dagger, and the twisting, and the pain. She couldn’t sleep, yet she couldn’t awaken. She waited for the Gods to claim her, but they were indeed cruel, and did not.

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

The old woman was placing her belongings into a makeshift hut, a temporary home near the fort of an ally tribe. They would be well protected here. Life would continue as it always did. The land may not be the same, but the people were, and the people always managed to make themselves at home.

This wasn’t their first relocation, nor would it be their last, she knew. Her charge lay near the fire, not saying a word. Her eyes remained open to the world and her breathing was regular, but if anything went on inside that head, no one knew of it. The old woman sighed.

It was the next day when she went to feed her and found her lying on her stomach. She gently turned her over and found somehow, a sharp dagger had been shoved hard into her breastbone, and the life was gone from her large vacant eyes.

The wise woman closed them, uttered a prayer and took the pale fingers off the handle grasped so tightly by cold hands. The old woman’s tears fell onto the dirt floor, causing a small puddle of mud to appear. She carefully removed the dagger, and examined it closely. Odd, it was the same style as the one that killed the young woman’s husband. The very same style, the crude bone hilt and the slight curve of the blade.

How could it have gotten here? The old woman certainly hadn’t kept it, and how did she not hear the killer enter? Why would anyone want to kill the silent woman? Nothing made any sense. If the woman had killed herself, how did she come upon this blade?

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

It was over now, the waiting, the wind was no longer cold. It would no longer blow her hair around wildly. And it no longer bothered her at all.

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Doomsday — A Character Study

The end was near. Fifteen minutes till doomsday. She glanced at her watch casually, feeling a sense of detachment from the forthcoming event. She smoothed out the wrinkles in her short lilac dress. If one must die, one might as well do it a New Year’s party.

Things used to be so simple, blindingly simple with a white hot clarity. She couldn’t save the world, and in the end nothing else mattered. She wouldn’t go on, but the massive green and blue globe would continue to dance among the stars.

It would be more accurate to say that she wanted to save herself, and a few chosen people that still entered her mind on occasion. Her mother, her ex, her former best friend, and the kind co-worker. She wasn’t one for attachments or longevity of friendships.

Her pale grey eyes again looked at her simple watch. The band was almost wore out, but there would be no need to replace it now. She sighed, and tapped her fingers on the tabletop with a rhythmic energy she did not feel. It wasn’t like she was nervous. She wasn’t nervous at all. She had been waiting for this moment for years. The ultimate ‘I told you so.’

The people around her were oblivious to her presence and carried glasses of champagne and various concoctions of mixed liqueur. No matter, when the explosion came they would take notice. By then it would be too late.  So why did she remain, casually glancing at her watch? Well, she had no definable reason to go on living. No one to share the pain, the burden of foreknowledge of death and impending destruction.

She sipped at a delicate glass of vodka near her. She felt so tired. She had been up all night, panicking, trying to get someone, anyone, to believe her.To believe in her. To listen to her, love her, cry for her. But to no avail.

Someone looked outside the window and then the people in the large room screamed in unison, and she vaguely thought to herself how odd things quickly fell apart. It wasn’t like the movies where such a scene would be shown in slow motion.

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

A belated Birthday post for Edgar Allen Poe and Philip Jose Farmer

philip-jose-farmerBoth gentlemen were born in late January. Poe on the 19th and Farmer on the 26th. Both have influenced the genre of Science Fiction, and both were very interesting individuals.

The real cause of Poe’s death is still unknown, although alcoholism is the one that I hear the most. Still, his short stories along with his contemporary Nathaniel Hawthorne, influenced my own quite a bit. Most of them tended to be “Gothic” a precursor to horror and suspense. But he did write a few that could be called science fiction-like and actually he did influence Jules Verne. Poe was actually more popular in Europe than America. He was a literary critic, so he made some enemies of his fellow American writers. Longfellow was an example of this.

I once edited the science-fiction section of an E zine which no longer exists called Nevermore Magazine, named after the line in his poem The Raven, probably his best known work still. Even “The Simpson’s” covered it in a Halloween special. His contribution to genre fiction extends to the detective genre as he influenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I always found his short stories, another thing he popularized in America, to be dark, brooding and a little bit melancholy. “The Fall of the House of Usher” has always been one of my favorites. It is just haunting, and tragic, and it is like all the characters are destined to this final ending, which they can’t avoid. They are all stuck, inexorably drawn into the destruction of the house and the family all in that one moment.

The Raven is also rather sad. Death is a frequent theme in his work. I think the reason I like Hawthorne, is a lot of his short stories in “Twice Told Tales” are a bit more light-hearted, or magical. They aren’t all doom and gloom, although some deal with ghosts and the like, his writing tends to be more hopeful. Less dark. When there is darkness, it is mostly attributed to the Puritans, and their religion interestingly.

Poe seems to have this darkness in the background, this sadness permeating most of his Gothic stories. I have to assume he influenced Lovecraft with the idea of making the setting itself creepy, the family residence of Usher and the town in The Shadow Over Innsmouth both take on a creepiness beyond any action of the characters themselves.

The Masque of the Red Death is another classic, dealing with the plague and how death once let in, chooses its victims at random. Of course the Pit and the Pendulum and The Black Cat deal with suspense. Using the sound of scratching in the wall to reveal the body  buried in the wall was pure genius. Poe often used sounds to further the horror and action.

In Usher, the scratching of the lady of the house on her coffin attempting to get out, causes the suspense. Perhaps his background of reading and writing poetry caused a  preference for sound instead of merely sight being the most important driving force of the action in these works.

Premature burial was a common thing he used to instill horror and suspense and it actually did happen back then as people could be presumed dead and buried and not actually be dead. Sometimes the most horrific fictional things can be inspired by actual events.

Part 2: Farmer, a modernizing influence on Sci-fi.

Philip Jose Farmer wrote in the sixties and seventies and beyond. He died in 2009. I have bought a few of his books in the past but I think they were all lost in my paperback trade in fiasco. He is known for introducing sex to science fiction. He also would deal with religion and would write stories under pseudonyms of fictional characters, most infamously, he used Kilgore Trout for Venus on the Half-Shell.

He had originally got permission from Vonnegut to use his character, but offended him in the end, so he couldn’t use it again. There is a daring in his choosing to write this way, and he also did mash-ups of genres, blending Melville’s Moby Dick into science fiction, using a descendant of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Nothing was sacred. He used Jesus as a character as well.

Heinlein thanks him in the forward to A Stranger in a Strange Land, which deals with sexual themes as well, and that makes sense as I learn more about Farmer. I read Stranger, and when I first read it I wasn’t sure I liked it, when I read it again, and then read Left Hand of Darkness again as well, it all sort of clicked with me. Farmer opened some doors that were closed to sci-fi before. He broke barriers on what was considered off limits or taboo.

Some considered him a great writer in the genre, others just another sci-fi writer among many like Frederick Pohl, Lester Del Rey, and half a dozen others who some may know or not know today.

I think I read part of one of his paperbacks before the great trade in fail, but it has been so many years. I may have to venture to my local library and see what I can find. Or perhaps find one of those awesome anthologies of works that I adore. I feel like learning about Farmer helps fill in some of the many gaps in my science fiction education  between H.G.Wells and Jack Vance. So much to learn, so little time.

We are all just adding our own stories to the human story, and the more we know where we came from, the more we can know where we are going. The pioneers of the past assist the pioneers of the future. I truly believe knowledge is power. We are influenced by the past and we influence the future and I believe additional knowledge and resources into past writers actually inspires us to push the envelope and to keep on creating this tapestry of many ideas and colors and people. I believe speculative fiction is the key to understanding the human psyche.

Speculative fiction is the descendant of philosophy or the step child of literature and philosophy. That infamous red haired step child that causes so much turmoil and activity. Causing people to think and use their brains to further thought to see what we are doing and where we are going. Not peacefully but with all the voice raising and shouting that has to be done in times like these. Keep the ideas flowing and keep writing my fellow writers.

Any of you could be the future Poe, or Farmer, or Heinlein, or Verne, or Le Guin. But best of all, you can be the best version of You, and I would like to think there will be an aspiring writer maybe writing about me and what I accomplished someday, or maybe one of you that is passing this way. I have great hope for the future. For all of us. For humanity.

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Excerpt from my fantasy novel Part 2–On War and Difference

Minottir had gotten to know Oshbury Beldurkit of the Rabbit People the best during their journey because he had been the most open and friendly.

“Oshbury, what do you think awaits us in Caeter? I wonder what the land will be like? I’ve been to the Great Forest, and the North, and now Smethille. This is a beautiful land, don’t you think?”

“Yes, it is. I had not been to Anthella before this. We live near your land, just further east. We war with our cousins, the Hare People. They are arrogant, and presumptuous. They hold nothing but contempt for us. But I have heard tales of your people’s fury.”

“Oh, indeed. Us and the Dragon Folk are always at each others’ throats. It does seem that way all about us, doesn’t it? For every people, there is another to fight them. Peace is a foreign concept on this world of Babalae.”

“It is the dream of the hopeless idealist, nothing more.”

“What if one day, it is more than a dream, Oshbury?”

“On that day, there will be only one race on this world. That is the only way I see.”

“That would be truly monstrous. All this beauty, and variety? This difference no more? I hope not.”

“Then do not wish for an end to war, my friend. Differences are the stuff of war. My brothers and I used to fight, and it was war on a different scale, but the same. There would be times of peace, but these would be stopped by a fight of some sort eventually. The only way we stopped fighting is when we went our separate ways. They left the household. It was the only way. And that is the way of the world, Minottir. Are you a dreamer, my friend?”

“I suppose, I am what they call an optimist. Because if this world cannot be redeemed, then what are we doing this for? Why don’t we just shut our eyes, and wait for the Andred to come? If it’s so terrible, then why is it worth saving?”

“I am not sure. But I feel it is my duty, all the same. War may be cruel, but non existence is surely worse.”

They were silent the rest of the ride to Caeter, and even Minottir’s optimism was shaken by this idea of non existence. He couldn’t truly conceive of the great void consuming everything and leaving nothing in its wake. He shivered, and his thin rubber-like arms felt like bones for a moment. Beyond mere death. Non existence. Yes, that was worth war, he thought to himself in a desperate mood.

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Excerpt of a scene from my fantasy novel

This scene is one of my favorites from my novel, because part of me loves sadness, and I find it moving. I’ve been thinking of just pulling scenes out and re writing the rest of it. It is such a massive mess, over 250,000 words written many years ago, 2001 to be precise.

Still Telmishei is one of my favorite characters. I tortured this poor guy in a couple novels actually, I seem fond of torturing him. I almost feel bad. Actually, I added clips of several scenes just for some context. There is another chapter I’d like to find, and excerpt here because I doubt it will actually make it into the final draft. Tertiary characters at best, but it has some philosophical discussion that I like, but, otherwise is too much of an outlier unfortunately.

So hear goes..

“You mean to you, Telmishei. Our time was years ago. I’m flattered you still remember. I found you, not much different from Diamtur. In a family that would have killed you as a child had they known. I have never met a family that hated magic more than the Razshai’s. Your first talent was the portal of worlds, was it not? How old were you, Telmishei? Maybe seventeen, sixteen?”

“How old were you, that was the question. I remember. I offered to marry you, and you turned me down. A rude awakening for a boy heir.”

“To the most powerful clan in the land. Yes, that was sweet. This is no different, only I am the one getting turned down.”

“How old are you?”

“It is rude to ask a lady her age, Telmishei. Didn’t your mother teach you anything?”

“Don’t tease me anymore, or I might show Lorune how it is done.” With this he laughed, for he and Jannhilae had known each other for so long.

He kissed her lightly on her soft chocolate colored hair and went to his horse. He’d kept the King waiting too long as it was.

#####

“Good night, Telmishei. We will meet again tomorrow night.” Shaih left with the King, Diamtur left in the other direction. Telmishei turned to Jannhilae.

“My offer still stands. Give Lorune a break. I am all alone here, and I miss you. There is no one here, not even Shaih.”

“Telmishei, you had no interest in me until a few days ago. Are you really that simple? Find another girl, you’ve never had trouble before.”

“I took you as a given, and for that I am sorry. We have always been there for each other. Spare him this night, and we can remember old times.” He saw she was tempted despite herself. What woman didn’t dream of having men fight over her? Lorune didn’t want her, but Telmishei did. In the end she turned away.

“Telmsihei, I like you this way. Perhaps I will consider your offer some other time. I wouldn’t want you to take me as a given.” Telmishei watched her leave reluctantly. Maybe he was still the boy to her, thinking that being a lord was enough to get the girl.

####

“Jannhilae, come with me to my tent. I would like to speak with you.”

“Why, my lord, of course. Excuse me, Lady Orshei.” Jannhilae stood up slowly and walked to the exit toward Telmishei.

Once they both were in Lord Razhshai’s tent she glared at him.

“How did you know Arousei was Lorune’s?”

“His thoughts aren’t guarded. He was always obsessing over Daemia, who hadn’t loved him.”

“Ah, the tainted blood, and so on. So, why were you with him, Jannhilae?”

“Oh, Telmishei, do you not have sight behind those violet eyes of yours? Aren’t I more lovely than you remember?”

“And, Lorune has aged considerably. He is always tired.”

“Yes, he hasn’t noticed at all, but when he is with me, he feels young, but after he is older I’m afraid.”

“The secret of your youth? How much have you stolen from me, I wonder?”

“Telmishei, you are one of us. Stealing from you, would only hurt us. I have from time to time, not meaning to, really.”

“Yes, I am not much older than Lorune, yet I look much older. He does seem to be catching up to me, though. I ask again, how old are you Jannhilae? You seemed the same twenty something maid when I was sixteen.”

“I was a little older than you are now, perhaps. Now, I am older still, and it takes more energy to keep up my  maintenance than it used to.”

“Lorune isn’t here. I have realized that I love you, because you are like me. Others fear me, you understand me.”

“Would you still, if you saw my true age, Telmishei? Would you have still loved me at sixteen, if I looked older, with grey in my hair?” Telmishei had to admit to himself, that he wouldn’t have. Not at sixteen. He wouldn’t have seen her that way.

“That was then, we are here now.”

“Very well,” she reached out, and took his hand. He felt the energy course from her into him, and he saw her age speedily. Her hair lost its curl, turned grey and thin. Her skin grew taut and stretched tightly over her bones. She looked like a worn wooden doll ready to break apart with the smallest breeze.  Her teeth were long and yellow.

Instinct made him want to recoil from her, and tear her hand away from his, but he resisted.  Instead, he bent over her, and kissed her on the mouth. He felt the energy start to course in the other direction and felt her lips plump and her cheeks soften. When he pulled away, she was beautiful again, perhaps even more so.

He heard someone shout outside his tent. ‘They will go away,’ he hoped but they did not. “The King summons you, Razshai.”

“I must go, but please wait for me. I will be back soon.”

####

He entered his tent to find it empty. Hadn’t he told her to wait? he walked over to the women’s tent. “Jannhilae, I thought you were going to wait for me.”

“I will return soon, Lady Orshei. Good bye, Kalowen.” Jannhilae stood reluctantly it seemed, and went to the exit of the tent.

“Telmishei, I am sorry. Shaih has told me  of my doom. Years ago, understand, I made a pact with Keltorill, the God of Death. I may retain my life and youth through others’ life force. If I didn’t now, I would surely die in moments. You saw how I was. There is a price for everything, Telmishei.”

They entered his tent, she seemed uncertain. “Telmishei, I am sorry. My price was that I could use others, but not truly love them.”

“Does it matter? One more time, for the years we’ve had.” He saw that she was crying, and he had never seen her cry before. “Oh, Telmishei, but I do love you. You kissed me, as I was when I thought no one would. If only I..”

They were on his blankets, and he loved her. He kissed her, and had her, and when he was done, he noticed she was quiet. He moved away from her to see what was wrong, when he saw that her hair was grey and brittle. It was coming off in his hands in clumps. Her skin was like clay, and crumbled when he touched her. Before his eyes her bones cracked and broke into a fine grey powder. Where she had been was nothing.

He kept trying to find her in the powder, calling her name over and over. “No, where are you? Jannhilae! Jannhilae. Come back, come back. Where are you?”

He frantically searched his tent, and found her clothes. They still had her scent on them, and he hugged them to him in a tight embrace. The tears wouldn’t stop. She had tried to warn him, had avoided him for quite some time. Shaih had known. Had told him to stay away in fact. Told him, that it was his flaw. If only she had told him, but she had. And it was too late.

Time passed, and yet he just stayed where she had been, not knowing what else to do. He saw light coming from the bottom of the tent flap. It was day and he would have to move, but he didn’t want to.

“Telmishei, Telmishei, we had best be going. We cannot keep the King any longer.” It was Shaih. He didn’t know what to say. He took down his wards so that Shaih could enter his tent unharmed.

Shaih entered, and didn’t seem too surprised. He had probably been expecting it. “Telmishei, let me have a look at you. Jannhilae made a pact with Keltorill, sooner or later he claims all.  She only put off the inevitable.”

“I loved her, I killed her. Why hadn’t you told me?”

“You wanted to decide your own fate. You didn’t want to know, and I did hope I was wrong. We could have used her in the war. Come over here, Telmishei. I could see what she saw in you, now. She has given you a parting gift.  You don’t look a day over sixteen, my lord. Like when she met you, I’ll bet. She was a little sentimental it seems. All that energy has to go somewhere. That does leave us with some explaining, I’m afraid.”

“What are you talking about? Nothing matters anymore.”

“Now, that isn’t the proud lord I remember. Telmishei, wake up. Look at your hands. Your hair is thick and black, you are a very pretty boy. It’s too bad you like women.”

Telmishei did look at his hands. They were young, and his voice was smoother, and he knew it was true. Many men would have loved a second youth, but Telmishei would have traded it all for Jannhilae.

“What will we do, Shaih?”

“Let’s make up something. You can be one of your bastards, and we’ll say Jannhilae ran off with Lord Razshai.”

“The King is bound to  look for Lord Razshai.”

“The King will know the truth tonight, Telmishei. I’ll even give you your own horse. And, we’ll call you Telmishei. Common enough for a mistress to curry favor with her lord by naming her brat after him.”

“As you say.”