Finding the Compass

IMG_4153 Maria stared at the compass from her driver’s side seat, thumbs tapping nervously on the steering wheel. This had to be the house. It was exactly as Nonni had said. A mahogany front door with bevelled oval glass and outer storm door. A large compass to the right of the door. And, directly underneath, the compass the table where Nonni claimed her future would be revealed.

Her phone chirped at her. It was 2:30 on the dot. Right then, time to do this. Maria blew out a heavy breath, undid her seat belt and climbed her way out of the car.
She crossed the sidewalk and slowly made her way onto the porch. Everything was quiet, except for the whirling hum of the fan overhead. She thought it odd to have a ceiling fan outdoors, but a lot had struck her as odd in the couple of weeks she had lived on the island. Pushing the doorbell, she heard heavy chimes echoing throughout the house. The curtains in the closest window shifted slightly and Maria stood back a bit so that the person inside could get a good look at her.  
After a moment, the front door opened, revealing an older woman who must have been absolutely gorgeous when she was young. She was still quite beautiful. Her olive skin was firm and glowing; she stood tall and proud; in fact, only the tiniest of wrinkling around her eyes and mouth indicated that this woman was, in fact, at least twenty years older than Nonni. With her jet black hair pulled back in a bun, she had somehow managing to secure every piece of hair without looking too harsh. The fabric of her sleeveless purple dress brushed against her ankles and she wrapped a knitted beige shawl securely around her shoulders. Looking Maria up and down several times, the woman cocked her head to one side and lifted an eyebrow expectantly.
“Madame Teresa?” Maria’s voice was barely above a whisper.
“I am Madame Teresa. Who, exactly, are you?” The older woman crossed her arms over her chest.
“I, I, I’m Maria Poole. My grandmother is Katherine Merena. She told me—“
“I know Katerina, “ Madame Teresa interrupted harshly. “ I’ve know Katerina since before she could walk. She has come to me for advice her entire life and I have helped her the best I could every time. But you. I have never seen you before, yet by your account, you are Katerina’s granddaughter. How is it that I have never met Katerina’s granddaughter?”
“I only met my grandmother two weeks ago for the first time.” Maria dropped her eyes, willing the tears to stay trapped behind them. “My parents… they were killed in a car crash.”

Madame Teresa studied Maria’s face for a long minute, then without explanation, her entire demeanor visibly softened. Taking Maria by the shoulders, she guided her down to sit at the table under the compass. “Come here, my darling. I had heard of course that Angie had been killed in an accident. But no one told me that Angie had a daughter. I’m having a hard time understanding why Kat never mentioned it before calling me this morning. I was half convinced you were some horrible scam artist preying on an old woman’s grief!”
Maria sniffled and timidly glanced up at Madame Theresa. “What made you decide I was telling the truth.”
“The last time I saw your mother, she was only a few years older than you, but had the same, sad mask of grief on her face. You look just like her.” Maria leaning across the table, taking Maria’s hand. “But why, why on earth did Katerina never mention her beautiful grandchild before this morning?”
“Mom never told her,” Maria started in a whisper, her voice steadily growing stronger as her confidence flowed back. “I don’t know why, but Mom never told her about me. I knew about Nonni. Mom would give me letters that she said were from Nonni and presents she said were from Nonni… But I guess Mom just did it all herself, because Nonni says she has never known that I existed.”
As Maria explained, she was looking at Madame Theresa. For a brief moment, she saw a flash of clarity come over the older woman’s face that was quickly enveloped back into a noncommittal mask. Maria started, grabbing the older woman by her hands.
“You know something,“ Maria asserted. As Madame Teresa tried to raise her hand in protest, Maria tightened her grasp. “No, you know something! I saw it in your eyes! What is it that you know? Please, I need to understand!”
Madame Teresa looked hard at Maria for a long time, before finally answering, “I may know something, my darling, you are right. I do know why your mother left and I may know why she kept you away from here, or at least why she thought she should keep you away from here. I may be partly to blame. But before I can tell you anything, I must sort the truth from the possibilities.”
“Well, alright, I suppose,” Maria felt more clueless than ever. “What do we need to do?”
“I need to read your fortune, my darling.”

It’s a Dead Man’s Party

“Naw, man, you chill! I got the door.”

Robbie jammed down the hallway, navigating around make-out sessions and gyrating bodies. He stopped just short of crashing into a guy rounding the corner with five Dixie cups balanced in his hand.

“Woah! Careful dude, don’t want any alcohol abuse on my watch. There you go.” Robbie danced around the guy as the doorbell rang again.  “I’m coming!” He managed to reach the front door a minute later. Please don’t be the cops.

“Happy Halloween, bitches!” He pulled the door open with gusto, to reveal two figures waiting on the other side. “Old people costumes! Nice! Really lifelike. Come join the party!”

As the two figures slid inside the apartment, Robbie caught a whif of odor. “Dude! What’d you do, dip your head in embalming fluid? Sick!”

“Now Robert, how on earth do you expect to host a party with all these people running around here like animals. What will your guests think?”

Robbie stopped short as he registered what the first figure said. He looked more closely as an old woman haughtily inspected the living room.  The other figure, an old man, hunched his shoulders and silently sat on the corner of the couch.

“Really, Robert, when is the last time this shelf was properly dusted? Frank I told you if your brother didn’t step it up, this boy would amount to nothing!”

Robbie opened and closed his mouth several times, trying to process what he was seeing.  He made a mental note to check with  Jake and make sure nothing was in the weed. He finally gathered enough of his senses about him for two words.

“Aunt Ethel?!?”

“Don’t look so surprised, dear. Who’d you expect? Mother has refused the invitation for years, says she’s too decayed. I warned her not to use that funeral home. Bowden’s might charge a little more, but they do a much better job, don’t you think?”

“Hey, Robbie! Great party man!” Chris crashed into Robbie chest and deposited a Dixie cup in his hand. “Here ya go, bro! Drink up!”

“I’m gonna need something a little stronger.”

Source: Tues Truthiness: It’s a Dead Man’s Party

Escaping Miners Hill

Miner's Hill

The only residents remaining in the small town of Miners Hill are spirits.  Most folks think it’s been that way for decades, but it’s only really been true for a couple a years.

Two years ago, I found her eatin’ stale bread outta the dumpster. I dragged her in the bakery and ordered her to wash up.  She refused to say anything that first day as she stuffed blueberry muffins and croissants in her mouth, washin’ it down with some OJ.  Over the course of that first year, I learned bits and pieces as she helped me knead dough and sweep floors.

She had a Ma and a Pa and a baby brother. How they came to live in Miners Hill she couldn’t remember, they had always been there.  A supply truck came in once a month with an order her Ma would place over the phone.  She and her brother would play in an old playground, complete with rusting swing set and creaky see saws and merry go round.  Her Pa, well, she didn’t much talk about him that first year.  But by the time she told me the whole story, I think them spirits in Miners Hill used her Pa for their own devices.

This piece is inspired by The Blog Propellant Friday Prompt and is an edit of a post originally written on May 25, 2015.

Ye Olde Seaport Tour

“The A&B Building was made entirely from driftwood. Built in 1899, it’s builder, Nathaniel Charles Styron, was acclaimed by many as an architectural genius. He was rumored by many more to be a practitioner of the dark arts.  The closest examination of the structure can not explain the apparent fusion of the driftwood that the strongest hurricanes have not damaged.  Nor can anyone figure out how the roof does not leak, even though it has no thatch, tar or shingle. The current owners have invited studies from Duke, NC State and UNC, but modern science has yielded no acceptable explanation.

“Of course Mr. Styron’s personal affinities for keeping no less than three young female “assistants” on hand 24 hours a day did not quell rumors of dark magic and certain other… Improprieties. Neighbors have reported hearing a woman’s screams come from the second floor windows. Several eyewitnesses have claimed to see a scantily clad woman standing on the second floor balcony looking out towards the inlet. But no one can explain how the A&B house is still standing.

“Now, if you will follow me, we will travel down the block to the house where Blackbeard infamously hung his fourth wife and is said to have buried her body beneath the stairwell…”

Source: Mondays Finish the Story – Sept. 28th, 2015

On The Periphery

Picture Prompt #23: Other Realms II

The severed head had lain there so long, no one even acknowledged it any more. There was no one left to ask what it was, or how long it had been there, or why no one had moved it, because everyone knew.  And because they knew, they ignored it.    In this way, they blocked it out.  They pushed it to the far reaches of their minds until it was all but invisible. It was just another object to walk around, like a table, or a bench, or a tree.  It had to be this way; they fundamentally understood this.  For to look at it would be to acknowledge it.  To acknowledge it would be to name it.  To name it would give it power.  And when it once again had power… It would be their destruction.

Picture Prompt #23: Other Realms II.

A Time to Mourn

Diptych/Triptych

Part One of this story can be found Here.

As the void withdrew once more, Clara was still in a forest, yet it was a different forest entirely.  The trees were much older, the ground was covered with browned leaves and the wind carried a chill that caused Clara’s eyes to water.

Looking down at her feet, Clara instantly knew she was back to her normal size by the increase distance between her head and the ground. Her hair had again become the auburn mane tied back in a bun against the nape of her neck and she was wearing one of her wool dresses he wore while tending to day to day life on the farm. She definitely wasn’t home though, because this dress bore no sign of the tear down the sleeve she had had to repair last week.  The wind gusted and she drew her arms into herself subconsciously. 

You’d think if I had to be here, I could’ve come with a cloak! She sent every ounce of energy she possessed into the thought and was rewarded by the comfortable weight of her favorite scarlet cloak around her shoulders.  

Wrapping into its warmth, she looked around her surroundings for some sign of where she needed to go.  Besides the occasional bird flitting overhead, the forest seemed quiet.  In one direction the path was flat, winding to the right in the distance. In the opposite direction, the path went up a steady hill. After a moment of thought, Clara started up the hill, figuring she might at least get a better lay of the land at the top.

After hiking up the path for a while, Clara thought she heard human noises to her left.  She paused and listened, opening all her senses as much as she could. She smelled the familiar odor of a cooking fire.  The man tending it was beside himself in grief.  There was a woman too, sitting a bit away, sobbing uncontrollably.  Clara drifted to them, being sure to be loud enough in her approach to properly warn them of her presence.

“Ho, Goodman! Goodwife!  My name is Clara  Pennsbea.  Why are you so somber?” Clara called out.  The woman looked up for a second, the sank back down to the ground, her head buried in her hands.  The man looked up and rose from the fire.

“Harold Keye,” he extended his hand to Clara, who accepted the a slight nod. “My wife, Martha. This is a dangerous wood for a woman to walk alone, Mistress Pennsbea.”

“I am here by God’s grace, Goodman Keye, to help in any way He sees fit.  Tell me, why are you here, and in such despair?” Invoking God usually put people at ease. Clara then focused warmth and compassion at the couple, hopeful it would calm Martha, at least.

“We are searching for Matthew, our youngest son. Our five sons were all out here hunting, when a wolf pack descended and attacked without warning. Most were able to get away, but Matthew — we are sure he is dead, but he needs a proper burial.” Harold looked at Clara, fighting to keep tears from spilling out of his eyes. “Does God see fit for you to help us find him?”

“I truly hope so,” Clara murmured. She turned from him and closed her eyes, reaching out again to every corner of the forest with all of her senses, searching for the faintest traces of thought, emotion and presence.  Flickers of the attack started coming in. 

The wolves were hungry, winter had been harsh this year.  It was the same reason the boys had been drawn this far into the forest to hunt. Much of the game had died in the cold already this year. 

By the time the boys sensed the wolves, they were surrounded.  Panic, fear and pain mingled with vicious hunger and the desire to survive.  Matthew.  Matthew. He had fallen trying to run and when he tried to get up, his leg wouldn’t support his weight.  He was the weakest, the easiest, the least risk.

Clara shuddered as she felt the final attack.  She hated this part.  No matter how many times she did it, she felt like she was going to pass out, or throw up, or both. A couple of deep breaths and she had composed herself again.  She turned back to Harold and took his hand.  

Clara spoke softly. “Goodman Keye? If you go down the path a quarter mile, there is a large rock outcropping with a ravine underneath.  Matthew’s remains are down there.” Harold started, but Clara held him back and indicated Martha. 

“Goodman Keye, perhaps you should gather him yourself.  I can keep your wife company while you go. The wolves attacked out of hunger…”

Harold nodded. “I understand. Did he, suffer?”

“The first blow rendered him unconscious. He didn’t feel anything.” 

Clara glided over to Martha and gathered her in her arms as Harold walked down the path.  “I’m sorry Matthew has died, but I hope this brings some comfort.”

A few hours later, Clara was walking back down the path when Trika appeared beside her.  “Nice job, Clara.”

“Why do I keep having to do those? They are sad, and depressing, and nauseating, and just horrible!”

“It is,” Trika agreed. “And death is part of life.  And experiencing bad helps us appreciate just how precious the good things are.”

“I get that! Really I do! But haven’t I learned this lesson by now? Can’t we move up to something more exciting? Let the newbies do this sort of thing?”

Trika chuckled and turned so her blue body was facing Clara square on.  “You will learn, Clara.” Trika placed her palm over Clara’s forehead and looked deep in her eyes.

As the shadow void filled Clara’s vision, she heard Trika’s voice echoing in her head.  You think you’ve flown before Clara, but baby, you haven’t left the ground.

Trika’s words were still bouncing around Clara’s head when the rooster’s crow pushed out all other thoughts. She groaned and flipped over to face Marcus.

“Is it really time to get up already?” Clara murmured.

“My love, you tossed and turned all night again.  Did you sleep at all?”

“No matter.” Clara swung her legs to the side of the bed and sat up. “The cows won’t wait. Up and at ’em!”


    In response to Diptych/Triptych and Sweet Dreams.

    Perchance to Bounce

    Diptych/Triptych

    Note: This came out quite different than originally intended. I meant to cover a Daily Prompt and a Blog Propellant prompt in one micro story. It took a life of its own, I’m not sure if it’s a good life but here is part one…

    As the shadow void began to give way to reveal tonight’s adventure, Clara gasped in excitement.  The beachy place!  She hadn’t been here in a longtime, but every time she had it had been fun.  She looked around as her body descended to the ground. She was at the edge of a large lake, standing on beige sand. She stuck out her arm and studied her tinier than normal hands.  Looking towards  her feet she saw she was wearing a girl’s summer dress and her strawberry hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

    Between eight and ten? She guessed. That’ll work. The most important thing is can I still jump here?

    Clara crouched down into a squat, took a breath and launched herself into the air.  To her delight, she did not immediately come down, but continued floating upwards, more and more slowly, until she reached her apex and gravity softly began to pull her back down to earth.  

    She repeated this exercise, over and over, sometimes spreading her legs out like an acrobat, sometimes going into a spiraling tumble halfway up, but always landing on her feet and bouncing her way down the beach.

    After awhile Clara noticed she was gradually approaching a forest line.  I don’t remember anything but the beach and the lake when I came here before. She shrugged. Maybe I get to go deeper in this time.

    She continued bouncing along and shortly came to a point where she could no longer travel around the lake, but must follow a brook upstream into the forest.  She bounced lower and lower until she gave up on bouncing entirely due to the thick canopy of tree branches overhead.  

    A sudden compulsion caused her to abandon the grassy bank and jump into the brook to walk in the water.  She carefully planned and placed each step, avoiding treacherous stones and thoroughly enjoying the sensation of water running through her toes as she waded in through the bubbles. 

    Clara didn’t know how long she waded through the stream, only that she began to hear a steady, gentle roar from up ahead.  The brook was widening and deepening and as she crested a small hill, the entire area opened up to a large watering hole being constantly supplied by a breathtaking waterfall. Along the opposite bank, she saw a person, or maybe a — life-sized Tinkerbell?

    Tink beckoned Clara to the opposite bank.  In a breathe, Clara had jumped thirty feet in the air, descended into the perfect swan pose and dove down into the pool, to emerge two seconds later on the opposite bank. She regarded the fairy curiously, water trickling down her face and dripping off ringlets in her hair.

    “Hello,” Clara extended a wet hand in greeting. “I’m Clara.”

    “I know Clara.  I’m Trika.  I’m supposed to guide you to the people you must help tonight.”

    “Oh man,” Clara complained. “I thought I might just get to enjoy this time… It’s been a splendid summer morning and appeared as if nothing could go wrong!”

    “But only you can do what needs to be done!” Trika admonished. “And how can you nurture your gift if you don’t practice it?”

    “There is nothing special about me!” Clara protested. “I don’t understand why it has to be me.”

    Trika leaned in mere inches from Clara’s face and hover the palm of her hand over Clara’s forehead.

    “Always remember,” Trika whispered, “that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

    The last thing Clara saw was the mischievous smile reaching into Trika’s gold-green eyes, as she pressed her  hand against Clara’s forehead and the void enveloped life once more.

    Part Two can be read here.
    In response to Diptych/Triptych and Sweet Dreams.

    Mind Controlling Goblins Trick Our Sons Into Impregnating Their Hags!

    This post is in response to Mission Not So Impossible:Part 2. To see Part 1 of the fun little mission, take a look at Human For a Day . As Part 2 of this challenge, we are going to let the tabloids take over…

    Public Health Emergency!!!!


    Mind Controlling Goblins Trick Our Sons Into Impregnating Their Hags!

    An alarming report comes from Leicester today, where Mrs. Jannigan has had to give up care of her grandson, Harold Jannigan, to the Leicester Mental Wellness House.

    “He was always such a good boy,” she wailed as she walked out of the facility. “I told him not to talk to strangers!  Oh, Harry, why didn’t you listen!”

    Dr. McHenry, Chief of Staff at Leicester Mental Wellness Center, held a press conference to announce the endangerment of public health and safety.  “Harry Jannigan is in a compromised mental state, which may or may not be permanent.  Sometime after dinner,Master Harry was lured into the forest by what he describes as a fairy princess.  He says they spent the night together in a nearby field ‘watching the stars’ [Dr. McHenry raised his fingers in a quoting gesture and wagged his eyebrows mockingly] and then at dawn, she gave him a farewell kiss and faded into thin air.  Of course we all know that is impossible as fairies do not exist.  After countless interview and tests, we have determined that he was, in fact, tricked by a goblin.”

    Dr. McHenry’s face grew dark. “That is right people. Goblins are loose in our forest.”

    Our readers are reminded of the following tips to avoid goblin attacks.  Goblins will trick you and change form so you cannot seen them for the ugly, wrinkled, smelly wretches that they are.  They prey after the innocent and the simpleminded, so a curfew for all children and our challenged population is recommended.  Goblin males are mostly impotent, so their hags must mate with humans to continue the line.  It is said that the mating with a goblin hag causes temporary or permanent insanity in a human male. If we can stop them from mating, we can rid ourselves of this nuisance once and for all.

    If our good readers remember, this is not the first time Mr. Jannigan has met with unhappy circumstance.  When he was seven, he was one of the boys affected by the incident involving Mr. Caraway’s runaway horse.  It has been suspected that the resulting head injury left Mr. Jannigan a bit simple, which would explain why he would be so easily lured in.

    The keys to avoiding becoming insane: stay indoors, stay away from the forest, and never trust a beautiful woman.


    Image Attribution: Raistlin-Master by Markus Roncke. CC BY-SA 3.0

    Human For A Day

    This post was originally in response to Picture Prompt #13: Other Realms.  It sat unfinished in my draft folder for sometime.  On Sunday, the Blog Propellant issued Mission Not So Impossible: Part 1. I am coming to this two part prompt a little late, but hope I will be forgiven for missing the original deadline. Part 2 will be coming shortly.

    The sound of her own giggling was almost more than she could bear.  The strange constrictions in her shoulders and chest as her vocal chords produced a musical laughter, just made her giggle all the more, tears springing to her eyes. “I can’t…stop…oh!…,” she gasped in short breaths as she tried to speak, then collapsed onto her back in the soft grass, giving herself over to the giggle fit. 

     “I just told a silly knock,knock joke,” he wondered aloud, eyebrows raised with a quirky smile playing at his lips. “I meant to illicit a smile, a giggle perhaps. I had no idea I was so amusing.” 

     “Oh, you don’t understand, you silly boy,” Moira propped up on her elbows, still chuckling. “Do you realize how peculiar it feels to laugh in a mortal body? Normally laughter is music.  In this body, I can feel the music.  It is extraordinary!  I suppose this is why I get tonight…” A wistfulness passed across her face and she settled into quiet.  

     He collapsed down beside her and turned her face to him. “And explain again why we only have tonight? Til dawn’s first light? Isn’t that what you said? That’s not very long.” 

    “I’ve explained this to you,” she sighed.  “I have one full day before my reign begins to experience mortality. Dawn to dawn.” She brushed his hair from his face with her hand. “Though I wish we had met a bit earlier in the day.”

    “But if you’re the queen, or whatever you call yourself, why can’t you tell them you want to stay longer?” 

     “That is not my right. It is my responsibility to guide my people, it’s what I’ve been trained to do. Now hush, and let’s enjoy the stars with what little time I have left.”

    Moira gently pulled him down into the grass with her as she tried to savor every moment she had left.  She vowed to remember this forever. She would not become me her father, who had forgotten the lessons of humanity so long ago.

    They allowed the field to envelop them as they stared up into the expanse watching the stars dance by.  Moira gave herself over to the new sensations: the blood cycling through her body, the air breathing into her lungs, the Earth turning as it circles the sun around the Galaxy, the heartbeat of the boy next to her – beating in time to her own.  She was connected to everything, part of everything.

    Gradually, Moira could make out the faintest light reaching out from the horizon.  She sighed. It was time to stand and face the light of day.  She turned to the boy and reached down to help him stand.  Behind her, she felt the familiar snapping sensation when a being crosses over the realm.

    “Reina,” her handmaiden stepped towards them. “I must prepare you for your coronation now.”

    Moira nodded then turned back towards the boy.  She drew his face in and kissed him firmly on the lips. “I shall always remember you. We will watch over you.”  Moira pulled herself away and, stiffening her back, turned to follow her handmaiden back to her own realm.

    The boy watched, amazed as the pair walked toward the edge of the forest, Moira turning back for one last glance before their skirts faded into bushes and their faces shimmered out of sight.

     

      

     In response to Picture Prompt #13: Other Realms.

    Escaping Miners Hill

    Miner's Hill

    The only residents remaining in the small town of Miners Hill are spirits.  Most folks think it’s been that way for decades, but it’s only really been true for about two years.  

    It’s been two years since I found her eatin’ stale bread out the dumpster and dragged her in the bakery and ordered her to wash up.  She refused to say anything that first day as she stuffed blueberry muffins and croissants down her mouth, washin’ it down with some OJ.  Over the course of that first year, I learned bits and pieces as she helped me knead dough and sweep the floors.

    She had a Ma and a Pa and a baby brother. How they came to live in Miners Hill she could not remember, they had always been there.  A supply truck came in once a month with an order her Ma would place over the phone.  She and her brother would play in an old playground, complete with rusting swing set and creaky see saws and merry go round.  Her Pa, well, she didn’t much talk about him that first year.  But by the time she told me the whole story, I think them spirits in Miners Hill wanted her Pa for their own devices.