Sunday, July 30, 2017

Excerpt from "Lenore"

Over the last few years I gave bern working on a novel if sorts.
This part of the story is about a yong Shaman on ger first vision quest. Tbe setting is the Ozark mountains in Northwest Arkansas.
There will be more later. The tittle is "Lenore" 
  Tinka walked through the woods picking small flowers preparing herself  and chanting. The spring sun felt good on her face. There was a nip in the air. She began to feel uneasy. It was a quiet morning. It was too quiet.
There was no birds chirping, or deer running in the distance, not even a beetle or cricket could be heard. She shivered.
Tinka crouched down under a tree. She felt the cool ground under her fingers. It began to tremble. She quickly withdrew her hand. Then there was a sound, it started like a low rumble in the distance. “Big wind is coming” she thought. “I must warn the village”. She stood and started to run.  The sound grew louder and louder. It was going to over take her, the sound was roaring in her head, but she stopped running. There was no breeze.
Other sounds came. First there was the sound of hoof beats clackity, clack, clackity clack. Like that of many heard of ponies, but not hoof beats.  What was it? Then she heard the whistle. It was like Red Hawks whistle only louder and higher pitched. The roar went right through her. She fell to the ground hoping it would blow over her.
She looked up to see the brightest light, so bright as the sun in the darkness. She drew herself up, and started running. The sound roared around her.
She turned to see what was so loud. She saw the big black face of the demon. It had on big bright eye with that was as bright as the sun. It bellowed black thick smoke from the top of its head, and it was bearing its teeth, large black and grinning an evil grin. She started running again. It made a shrill cry, louder than any whistle or flute.  She felt like she couldn’t breathe.

When she caught her breathe she  ran hard. Just before she made it to the clearing where the village was, she saw smoke through the trees. She ran harder. She felt that her heart would pound from her chest. When she got to the edge of the clearing, she saw it. Her village, she dropped to her knees. It was gone.
Burned. Nothing left. No people, no dogs nothing but rained ash. She opened her mouth to scream but nothing came. She was in shock. Uncontrollable sobbing came over her. She lay on the ground trembling.
She covered her head. Then it was gone. She lay on the ground trembling. What was that she thought? She heard the birds, then the crickets. She heard the crunch of leaves in the distance. She felt the warm spring sun on her body. She slowly opened her eyes. She was fine.
She laughed to herself. What did she expect? She was the daughter of a medicine man on a vision quest. “What a strange and awful vision”. She thought. After vision quest, she was going to lead a moon lodge.

She wandered into the stream, splashed some water on her face. The water was cold. She shivered. A squirrel yelled at her and ran up a tree.
She started laughing to herself. Did she really expect to go on a vision quest and not have a vision? But really” she thought “what was that? Great spirit, why?”
“Oh Great Spirit!” she cried out, “Why have you shown me this horrible thing?” She did not know quite how to tell her father the medicine man what she’d seen.
It was three day before she was to lead her first moon lodge.  She went back to her shelter to pray. How would she explain the vision?
The next day it rained. Rained hard. It rained sideways at times. Through the rain and mist she could see people, but not normal people...  They had limbs missing or strange holes in their bodies and were caked in dried blood.  Some were caring funny sticks, and dressed in blue, with strange head dresses.
She felt feverish; she didn’t come out of her shelter all day.  He had come here to have visions, but this was hard to see.
The next day she returned to the village.  She saw they were cleaning up sticks and tree limbs and other debris.  The storm had done some damage to the village.

She found her way to her father’s hut. When she greeted him he took one look at her and wrapped her in deer skin. She lay down in the corner by the fire. She was still shivering from the fever.  Her father began to chant as he mixed some herbs and hot water together.
“Oh, my little Squirrel” she began to chant.  “Oh my little Squirrel. You are so brave. Take this and you will sleep”.  He continued chanting as she drank the dark green tincture. It made her gag a little it was so bitter.  He lifted the cover and rubbed her feet.
Then he covered her and stepped outside. He sat right in the door way. An old woman came scurrying over.   He stopped her from entering. “She came home. She is with vision”. The old woman nodded and sat next to him...
The herbs were heavy and think in the cup. The mixture looked and smelled like swamp water. She downed it all. She trusted her father and is wisdom. It tasted like swamp water too. She almost gagged.

Her head was still spinning her head was hot and heavy, like a sweat lodge stone in the fire. Suddenly images of woman flashed before her in rapid succession. They were tall, short,  different skin tones. , dressed in strange costume, hair in different colors and forms.  She had never seen before any of these women before.. She was very confused in her fevered brain.

She had to settle down, she took a deep breath and decided in order to get through this and understand the meaning of what Great Spirit was trying to tell her, she picked on of the images to concentrate on. “yes” she thought, “that one” she started to concentrate hard on the last image. The woman had short bobbed hair the color of chestnuts, and her grin was  slightly mischievous. She was wearing oddly pointed shoes that lifted her heels on thin spikes, and a tunic that only came to her knees. It had strange folds like a fan.
“yes, yes that one...”

More images raced into mind. The lady grew older and older. Now she had short gray hair and glasses, Wearing a  short tunic with spots. She was doting of a curly haired girl.  Then she was older laying on some kind of  platform, covered in blankets and surrounded by other women. They were crying. This must be her funeral ceremony.

She floated herself over the old woman She gurgled and took her last breath. She turned in the air hovered another minute and settled into the body of the old woman. She could hear the other woman talking and sobbing.

The older woman of the three attending women was saying “I love you, we love you. It’s Ok Mamma. You can go.” Tinka herself started to cry with them.  Remarkably, in this moment she understood there strange words. She could feel their grief.   

She was starting to feel comfortable in this new-old body. She could feel fingers, toes; this really surprised her. It was like she wearing her own skin. She had never done anything like this before. She thought, “Is this what it feels like to die?”  Then all was quiet.

More images blazed into her head-- trees, flowers, familiar places, children playing, a laughing baby. She giggled for a  moment.. The connection was glorious  

She could hear birds singing and the sound of rushing water. The sun began to shine on her face. Tinka felt so free so alive. Her body tingled like it never had before. She turned to see the woman picking flowers. She could her hear humming to herself. She looks so peaceful and happy. She d. She was home, the rolling hills, the maple and the oak, the elm, the rich  blood red earth  She her head to the sky and howled! 

She leaned against a knotted old oak tree. A small creek rushed nearby.  Being with this woman she felt like a part of soul had been healed.  She looked back at the tree;  there were strange carvings in it she didn’t understand, and astonishingly her mark was also carved into the tree higher up!  Tinka walked down to the creek. If she was right she knew the water would be cold and slightly sweet to the taste. The other woman was there too picking the greens out of the middle of the creek. She was humming and munching on the sweet cress. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Ferryman

A while back I saw a flash
fiction contest that I wanted to enter. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline to enter, but I wrote the story anyway.
The story is about an undertaker at sunrise. I call it "The Ferryman". Here goes.

A gray figure trying to blend into the darkness walked along the city street. the pre dawn air was cool. he walked quickly hoping not to be noticed by anyone, this was his time.
he was distraught. he couldn't stop thinking of the twins.Girls, they had just turned ten.  he couldn't shake the look of their swollen bruised little bodies. the car crash had taken its toll.
In the ER their mother was sobbing, inconsolable. their father sat like a bump on a log in the waiting room in waiting. his injuries were minor, but they say that is that happens when one has been drinking.
He and his father had been there, and his brother Norm. The had taken possession of the girls bodies,  and promised the most delicate of care. They were the undertakers.
He had known the father from college, what a pompous ass, Neil Feldman, but that those memories had been tucked away. He hadn't thought about Neil since he left school.

Seeing Neil brought him back to his college days How Neil had tortured him, teased him about studying to be an undertaker. How morbid how sick, Neil and his friends would scoff. Everyone else in his biology was was studying to be something else, doctors, pharmacists, nurses. he had just ignored them, even though it did hurt. he couldn't help it if they couldn't figure him out.  he was a bit of a  dark soul, but he was no ghoul. he liked having an air of mystery.

yes He was studying to be and undertaker, like his brother before him, and his father and grandfather  before him. When the students went into the biology lab to work with, and practice on the  cadavers, they teased him called him a ghoul and even a vampire a vampire? that reference he didn't understand.

He guessed this is what he would always do. He would sneak into the embalming room as a child and watch as his father would prepare the dead for viewing.  In the office were replicas of some canopic jars, a copy of "Grays Anatomy" and a small statue of Kali. He presumed his family were the caretakers of the dead. After all it had been the family business for generations. In school he had felt a connection to Charon, the ferryman that ferried souls across the Styx.

Bodies didn't bother him, the embalming process, and the rebuilding, sculpting and painting of the  body to make it presentable viewing didn't bother him, just the opposite. after twelve years he still found his work fascinating. this time however was different. Maybe because they were so young? He usually prepared them when they were older, nat the end of many long years, not near the beginning. He wept.
no, Neil might have been an ass, maybe even the cause of his daughters deaths, but that was not his concern now. He stood shivering in the morning air. There was a cold wind coming off the water when he walked into the park, Hw wrapped tighter in his coat.

The sky was starting to lighten, it was now pearl and soft pink. He sat there on his favorite bench trying to think and clear his head.  He was a dark figure, quiet, dark tall and thin, Norm was the outgoing one, he was the one one who would meet with the grieved. norm always knew what to say, and how to handle the living. he was the artist below stairs. the lab was his.

He and Norm had worked long and hard though the night to prepare the girls for tomorrows funeral. there was lot to do, embalm them, wash and dress them, and paint their faces so that they didn't look broken and bruised. They added bits to make their faces not look so broken. they were like fragile china dolls. but still just girls never knowing more of this world. maybe that was what bothered him. the loss of innocence. the brutal and violent way they died.
The light was changing again, more pinks, and a blush of salmon, the air was getting a little warmer.
He had put Neil and his cohorts away years ago. he hadn't thought about them since college, yet, there he was, and his grieving wife. He guessed she was pretty despite her tears and her swollen face. Neil smirked when their eyes met, "figures we would meet here" he said, as he sighed then signed  release for the funeral home. Norm raised an eye brow but said nothing.
He looked out the water of the river was blushing to match the sky. he took a deep breath, letting the damp air fill his lungs, sometimes the the lab where he worked was too cold and bright. He loved walking here after he had finished preparing a body.
The job was hard when the deceased were children. Norm would be home by now having a drink and getting ready for bed.
but he thought honestly he did like what he did. And he would put his feelings aside when he was working. he watched the sky turn red crimson and orange then lighter and lighter.
He watched as  the sun  looking like a large red ball had peered above the horizon,It was light now, he turned and started his stroll home, The day had broken wide open, and so had he.
Neil would probably be facing charges for vehicular homicide or DUI or something and his wife, who knows if she would recover from her loss, but that wasn't his. He had done his job, he prepare the girls, dressed them combed their hair, painted  their lips like china dolls  and placed tokens in their mouths for their lonely ride across the river Styx.