Category Archives: Fiction

Lord of Dragons – Live on FictionPress!

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Okay, so it isn’t “Live”, per se. I am working on it. A LOT. So far, my polished rough draft of it is a 100,000 word monstrosity, and it doesn’t even have an ending yet. 😛

If you are interested in it, go take a look! I’ll be posting new chapters as I edit them, with an aim of at least once per week. First two chapters are up. 🙂

HERE IT IS! 

So, here is the synopsis:

Andrew Card is a normal guy with personal issues. For example, he just found out that his dad is dead. The good news is that he left him a castle and a kingdom. The bad news is that it is in another world entirely, and he’ll have to fight his aunt, who already has a death warrant on his head, for it. Add in magic, imps, mysterious persons, and court intrigue.

(They limited me to 530 characters…)

 

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Writing Prompt Challenge #1: Black Box

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So, I found a website that has over three hundred writing prompts on it. I’ve decided to challenge myself! I will write something for every prompt. J

So here I go!

Writing Prompt: Close your eyes briefly. Think of one object that’s in the room and focus on it. Without opening your eyes, recall as much detail as you can about it. After three minutes or so, open your eyes and write about that objects without looking at it.

And here is what I came up with:

BLACK BOX

About six weeks before my husband was scheduled to return home from Afganistan, he sent home a rather large black Tuff box. When he told me that he was sending a box home, I didn’t truly appreciate HOW large the box was going to be. In my opinion, it was gargantuan, imposing even, and it sat in my living room, securely locked for several days, serving as the world’s most intimidating coffee table. I believe that all three of my little girls could have fit into it with ease.

So engrossed with curiosity was I to learn what was inside the box, that I often fantasized and had nightmares about the items that my husband might have sent home. The plan had been for my husband to send the keys to the box ahead of time via post, but unfortunately, the box arrived first. Menacing, taunting, and driving me to the outer limits of curiosity. I waited by the mailbox daily, eagerly looking forward to the day that the letter containing the keys would arrive.

I waited in vain. Two weeks, I waited, hearing neither word from my husband, nor receiving the aforementioned letter. I speculated. Perhaps my husband was still adjusting to his new duty station, or perhaps they simply did not have working internet yet? Those were the most innocent of thoughts, forcibly screamed through my brain to shut out the more horrible and terrifying of imaginings. With the lack of word from my husband, and the lack of the keys, the box became more and more of an obsession to me as the days progressed.

I walked past the box constantly throughout the day, staring at it from the corner of my eye. I became irate with my children, admonishing them for climbing on top of the box, leaving toys on top of it, or even simply touching the locks. Even I sometimes had ideas about how out of character I was acting, but it was not something I could help.

Finally, it happened. The rain pounded outside, slamming into the windows in thick thumps as it was blown sideways by the howling wind. It had been six weeks since the box’s arrival. On this particular day, I had sent the children to my mother’s house so that I could have some alone time. It was just me and the box. It had three grooves on the top, with unknown purposes. It was rough to the touch. It smelled of hot plastic up close. It was sealed tight with three master key locks. The page sized packing label was secured to the side with clear packing tape that was beginning to peal from the edges. It was also extremely heavy. I had a hard time dragging it from the living room to the utility room.

I’d had enough. I needed to know what was in the box. I broke the screwdriver trying to open the locks, both by trying to pick them, and then by trying to use it like a lever. The crowbar didn’t really work either. I wasn’t sure if it was my lack of strength, or the metal’s resilience. I pouted, and thought hard for another option. Finally, I spotted the chainsaw.

I bit my lip. It was possible. If I could cut at an angle, I could cut the lip before the lock. I wouldn’t even have to go through any metal. It took me a couple false starts, and one trip to Google to get the chain saw started, but I managed. I even managed to lift it.

Finally, with the smell of gasoline and burnt plastic filling the utility room I had succeeded. The box was no longer secured. Putting the chainsaw down, I smirked while I wiped the sweat from my forehead. Lifting the chainsaw had been harder then I had thought it would be. I approached the box and smiled, ready to finally lift the lid. The stray thought entered my head that I might have just destroyed government property, but I wasn’t sure I cared. I HAD to know what was in the box! Then, I heard the phone ring. I paused, with my hands on the lid. I briefly contemplated not answering the phone, but what if it was my husband? I hadn’t heard from him in weeks, and missing his call would kill me worse than not knowing what was in the box.

With a sigh, I left the box, unopened, and rushed back into the house to get my phone.

 

“Hello?”

Static answered me. “… me? … lo?”

It sounded like my husband from what did come though. My heart skipped a beat. “I’m here! Don’t hang up! Can you hear me?”

More static, but then, “ …me? Don… pen… the box!” Click. Beep, Beep, Beep. The call was disconnected.

Uh, oh.

Espionage and Etudes

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Espionage and Etudes both come at a price.

Passer-byes looked on in muted curiosity while a petite, blonde, and somewhat attractive woman pounded on the back door of the tavern, shouting, “You forgot to pay me, you foul troll!” Her efforts were in vain as they went completely ignored. She kicked the door with a soft leather boot and cursed with words that no lady should know and gave up with a huff, giving a tentative smile to the onlookers. By their faces, it was obvious that a few were contemplating giving her aid. She pushed her long golden hair behind a slightly pointed ear. The onlookers quickly looked away, perhaps deciding that it was best they mind their own business. It didn’t’ surprise the woman. They had heard of her, heard her sing and play the lute, and most of them probably whispered about a darker reputation than that of a comely bard.

It was all rumor and conjecture, but this mystery was part of the bard’s allure. The nobility paid good money for an entertainer of intrigue. A woman of beauty and mystery was a wonderful draw to any noble woman’s soiree, guaranteed to make the event a success. They’d be dazzled by her voice, enraptured by her lute, and enthralled by the fantasies that she herself inspired them to entertain about her. She had many pasts, and no past. However lucrative this usually was, this same intrigue turned away any help she could have otherwise gotten. It was a shame. She was a favorite of many patrons, and it was a shame that none were present to champion her.

Miffed at the lack of coin in her purse, she straightened her shoulders and secured her lute case across her back. The day was not yet lost. She made her way to the main street while she plotted ways to receive the compensation she was owed. The street was crowded, filled with excited whispers and rampant gossip. Magistrate Thaslay was dead after a sudden illness. She knew about the death hours ago, but it was interesting to see how the population was now reacting to the news. If only they knew. She was pulled back to some particularly vengeful, though delicious, thoughts when her attention was drawn to a cacophony across the street in front of the Governance building.

By first appearance, it seemed as though the town guard was arguing with a Knight of the Order. “This is an outrage! How was I to know that wasn’t the real chef!? I was hired to protect the Magistrate from knives and arrows, not poisoned pastries!” The knight was indignant, proud despite obviously failing in his task.

Taliesen paused and watched the scene unfold from across the street. Mystery and intrigue indeed. Had this fool knight succeeded in his task, then hers would have been successful as well. The coupe actually cost her a bit of money, since any information she could have gathered on the recently deceased was now moot. It was a shame that he had doomed them both to a poor evening. It wasn’t as if she was entirely without options, though. She simply needed to strum the right chord for the right person.

The surly, and rather large, human in the guard uniform scowled at the man he had just thrown out. “You can crawl back to your order and cry to them if you want, but remove yourself from these premises before I and several of my good friends remove you to a cell.”

The knight rolled back his shoulders, seeming twice his actual size, almost like a blowfish in breastplate. “My family…”

The town guard snickered. “Has disowned you, I’ve heard. You can’t call the Cantu name, no matter who whelped you.” There was something exchanged between the two, through Taliesen did not see what it was.

And like a blowfish, the knight deflated. As if it had been the tale of Halfling Tom and the Giant, the town guard had bested the knight.

The Cantu name was one that Taliesen knew. They were a prominent Elven family in Capital of Lyndhol. It was interesting that this man was son of that house when it was painfully obvious that he was human. The knight turned away but not before casting a smoldering scowl at the guard. He would have demanded satisfaction had the guard not been in the right. Even despondent and shamed, however, Taliesen couldn’t help but notice the look of a tough, intimidating, and surprisingly helpless knight in distress. A sly smile crept onto Taliesen’s face as she prepared to pluck the strings of fate.

***

Eric Cantu, Knight of St. Cornelus; son of the favored mistress of the late Jonathan Cantu, the Third; half-brother to Jonathan Cantu, the Fourth, Marquis of Cantu; Protector of the nobility of Vestus; and newly fired protector of the Pellan Magistrate, felt the strong urge for a strong drink. Clenching the letter of disownment from his half-brother, complete with the Cantu insignia, he made his way through the crowd on a mission to find the nearest flagon of ale.

The Hanged Horse wasn’t the finest establishment, and had Eric read the name, he might have realized that. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. His mission was not to be hindered by such trivialities.

It wasn’t long before the aroma of stale smoke and musk assaulted Eric’s nose. Nevertheless, he took a seat at the bar, waving for the burly barman to deliver up some of his strongest brew. With a curt nod, the barman silently slid a flagon down toward his hand. Eric downed half of it in the first draft.

“Didn’t know Knights were allowed to drink like that, Sir.” The barman cocked a hefty eyebrow to his patron, leaning against the kegs as he cleaned a mug with a filthy rag.

Eric grunted. “They damn well do when the situation warrant’s it, believe you me.”

Wordlessly, the barman nodded his approval, and returned to scanning his more unscrupulous clients.

The drink was stale and tasted more than slightly watered down. Eric wasn’t sure he cared. The dark, loud, and foreboding atmosphere meshed well with his dark mood. He had a reputation, a good one. One failed job had apparently been all his elven half-brother had been looking for to disown him. Cut off from his family name, a knight in disgrace… Eric didn’t want to think about the repercussions this might have with the Order, both for his failure and his lack of family connections. No matter how hard he worked, “Youngest Knight of the Order of St. Cornelus” just translated to “lucky bastard with connections” to some, and those persons were going to push until his honor demanded satisfaction.

If he had any honor left.

He lifted the flagon to his mouth and took a more thoughtful drink.

The bartender returned and leaned over the bar, whispering conspiratorially with a furtive glance to the other patrons, “Say, you Knights don’t have one of those ‘vows of charity’ things, do you?”

Eric’s eyebrows furrowed, and then he realized what the barman meant. “You are thinking of priests.”

“Ah.” He leaned back and gave Eric a smirk. “Right then.” And then he left.

The odd question somewhat worried Eric. Thinking that it may be time to leave, he downed the rest of his ale and half rose to leave, and then caught sight of the slip of a female sitting at the bar next to him.

“Oh, please don’t leave yet. You may be the most interesting person here,” she said. Her voice was delicate, melodious. It was a shame that he couldn’t make out her features under the heavy cloak. He sat back down and studied her. She was very petite. Elven maybe? No, the elongated point of her ears would have been obvious even under the hood. Half-elf, then, he decided.

He shook his head. “I’m not entirely sure that is true, madam.”

She laughed. The sound turned more than a few of the near-by heads. “Nonsense,” she replied. “Let me rephrase. There is no one here more interesting to me.” She pointed to his empty mug. “May I?” She took the mug and sniffed its contents without waiting for permission. “Ugh. This is revolting.”

“Um, yes, it is,” he said cautiously and took it from her gloved hand. “Is there something you need of me, Madam?”

The hood nodded. “Undoubtedly, though I believe there is something you need from me as well.” She waved down the barman, who seemed to answer her faster than anyone else that evening. She leaned slightly over the bar and spoke in a low voice, holding out the mug. “Surely this is not the best of your finest stock.”

“Err…” the barman replied.

She crooked her finger at the barman to come closer, and she whispered in his ear. His smirk flitted across his face for an instant. Straightening up, he nodded at the woman, who had sat back down. “Right away, Madam.” He left with the mug, leaving his associate to watch the bar.

Eric frowned at the woman. “I’m mystified.”

Again, she laughed, though it was more of a soft, private laugh. “I’m sure you are. Allow me to elucidate. We share a common problem that I believe we are both in better positions to solve for each other.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Elucidate further.”

He imagined that she smile under the darkened hood. She sounded like she was smiling. “We both need to be paid. I need a strong arm for negotiations, and you need… a more refined touch.”

Eric frowned. How much did this woman know? He had an idea. “If you are looking to establish a connection with Cantu, you would do better to look elsewhere.”

She sighed. “You silly man. Not every woman is after fortune.” She paused. “Well, your family’s fortune.” So she was after a fortune somewhere. “I am simply looking to exchange services. I help you receive your due reward, while you help me receive mine.”

He cocked an eyebrow at her. “What is the catch?”

The barman was back, and laid down a mug of clear amber liquid and a thin glass of presumably wine. The woman took a delicate sip from the glass. “On me. Consider it a good will gesture.”

He took a cautious sip from the mug. It was potent and heady. He took a drink. If the swill he had first been served was ale, then the liquid in this glass was undoubtedly ambrosia. He looked at the minx beside him. How had she coaxed this out of the epitome of corner-cutters?

He smiled and took another sip. Perhaps it was worth the risk to accept her offer. Besides, honor agreed with him helping the distressed maiden, though truth be told, he was surprise that she hadn’t drawn blood from stone yet.

“Madam, I don’t even know your name.”

She held up her glass. “My name is Taliesen. To joint ventures?”

He considered her raised glass, and after a moment of deliberation raised his own. “Eric Cantu. To joint ventures.”

They both took a drink.

A sneak peek at Devil in the Details

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Devil in the Details, my first supernatural fiction novel, is still in the beta-reading process before my final edits, and then after that, tis off to the professional editor! I have an illustrator working on the official cover for the book, and should have that in a few days. I’m not sure that I can properly contain my enthusiasm at having come so far in this project! So, to share my enthusiasm and get some pre-release feedback, I thought I’d post up the first chapter for your perusal. Please feel free to leave a comment below! I’d love to know what you think. =)

Sometimes, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. At other times, the lemon juice just gets into old wounds and stings like hell.

Everything started the week after the reading of my grandfather’s last will and testament. He left everything to me, including his home in Salem, Alabama, and a rather substantial bank account. I was a bit surprised that I was the only beneficiary. My grandfather became my sole guardian after my parents died when I was ten, though I have to admit that we were never on very good terms. He had a tendency of being a curmudgeon and a recluse, which had totally ruined my hopes of having my own personal Orphan Annie experience. It also answered the question of why some random charity didn’t get everything. He probably had wanted to keep everything in the family, even if I was the only member of that family.

It was only fitting that it would be raining on the day I returned to Salem. The roads were just as muddy as I remembered them. I wasn’t used to driving on slippery mud roads, however, since I had spent the last seven years in Atlanta, Georgia. Riesa Grimshaw, City Girl, that’s me. I couldn’t believe that I was giving up my well earned vacation time to come to the Alabama backwaters.

I threw a quick glance at the manila envelope in the passenger seat. My inheritance consisted of an allowance of three thousand dollars a month until I turn thirty years old, at which time, the entire bank account would become available to me, and one home in Salem, Alabama. I grew up in that house. It was a four bedroom and two bath home with a ground floor master suite, attic, wrap-around porch, and four acres of mostly wooded land. I didn’t need that much space, and the idea of living out in the woods of Alabama again scared the daylights out of me. The retail therapy there was bound to be dismal, no matter how nice the house was.

I finally pulled into the drive and my heart stopped at the sight of the house. It was downtrodden, completely the opposite of everything that I remembered. Now staring in the face of this decidedly intimidating colonial home in the middle of nowhere, on what was probably the dreariest and most overcast day of the entire fall season, the only positive thing that I could find was that the rain had stopped. The exterior paint was peeling away; there was a shutter on the second floor that had fallen off and another shutter on the first floor that was hanging on by a single hinge. The lawn had not seen a mower in more than a few months, and I think that there were creatures living on the porch. My heart sank. This was going to be the worst vacation time ever spent. Whatever my grandfather had been doing for the past seven years, he hadn’t been doing it here.

“God, please let there be running water,” I mumbled under my breath as I put my little Ford Focus in park. I got out of the car and popped the trunk to get my bag. I was dismayed that my cotton candy blue car was now a ghastly shade of orange. I was certainly going to be chiseling off southern clay for the next few days. I made a note to myself to find the water hose- if there was one- and again prayed for running water. I got my overnight bag out of the trunk and closed it, getting mud on my fingers. I made a disgusted noise and shook my hand as if that might get the offending substance off of my fingers. No such luck. I sighed and brushed them off on the side of my blue jeans. If the outside of the house was any indicator, I was certain that I was going to get even dirtier before the day was up.

I only stumbled once as I walked up the pebble path to the front steps in my three inch heels, which I thought was rather impressive. I yelped when I stumbled, fearful that I might have scuffed my favorite Mary Jane pumps, and startled a bird that had been nesting under the eaves of the porch, confirming my suspicions that the porch had become a habitat for local wildlife. I glanced up into the rafters while I was going up the steps to see if it had left a nest, and indeed it had.

It was at that moment that my phone decided to ring. It was nice and loud, obnoxious even, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin. I wasn’t the only one, apparently. A stray cat came careening out from under an old rocking chair, and tore off right past me. I yelped again, dropped my bag and grappled for the phone. After the third round of Aerosmith lyrics, I finally managed to answer with the customary, “Hello?”

“Hey, baby! Did you make it to Salem alright?” I grinned. It was nice to hear my boyfriend’s voice. Greg had one of those great voices that sounded like a deep purr every time he talked. I think he could have read me the phone book, and I would have listened intently. He was pretty cute too. Luxuriously thick brown hair, baby blue eyes, tight … well you get the point.

I’m a sucker for blue eyes. I think it’s because I have blue eye envy. I was born a dirty blond with muddy brown eyes. I can bleach my hair, but the eyes? I can’t really do much about them.

As for Greg, he always reminded me of an urban cowboy every time I saw him. In the six months that we’ve been dating, I think he has turned me on to the leather vest and tight pants look. He pulls it off fantastically. Just hearing his voice now made me wish I was there, within touching distance of his tan muscles…

I caught myself daydreaming about things that we had never done before and managed to answer in a flushed voice, “I’m here. The drive was hell, and the house is a wreck, but I’m here.”

“You are at the house already?” He asked. “I’m surprised you were able to find it at all. My GPS didn’t even recognize the address, so I figured you’d be lost for at least another hour.” I could tell by then that he was picking on me. Jerk.

I laughed anyway. I can giggle at my own expense on occasion, though I was willing to drive all the way back to Atlanta just to give him the evil eye if he picked on my navigational skills again. I would much rather have been looking at him than the monster project before me, anyway.

“This house really is a mess, Greg. You should see it.” I picked up my bag and dug through my purse, balancing the phone on my ear until I found the key to the front door. “This is going to be more than a one-week job. I may have to hire someone with the inheritance money.”

“Give me a few days, and I’ll be there. I’m almost finished with the project that I’m working on, and then I’ll be able to take some personal time.”

I unlocked the door and tried to open it. It stuck a bit, and a bit of dust flew up into the air when I jerked it open. I coughed into the phone. “Sorry, sorry,” I apologized. “God, did Grandpa even live here? This place is like a haunted house.” I stood in the doorway for a bit, watching the sunlight reflect off of the dust particles in the air while I waited for my vision to adjust and the dust to settle.

“It can’t be that bad, baby.” I knew that he was trying to console me, but I wanted to reach through the phone and smack him. Apparently, death stares don’t travel well over long distances, since he continued. “I’m sure that he had a den or something that he spent his time in. He probably couldn’t get around all that great. He was in his 70’s, after all.”

I laughed. “Oh, please. He died of a heart attack on a mountain in Tennessee. I don’t think that not getting around was his problem.”  My eyes had finally adjusted to the dim sunlight shining through the dust on the windows. I looked around and flipped a nearby switch, and was pleased to see that the power was actually on. “It’s like he abandoned this place,” I told Greg. “When I was living with Grandpa, everything had to be neat and tidy. Everything had its place. I just don’t see him letting his house get like this if he was actually living here.” I opened a few doors as I passed them so that the rooms could be airing out while I checked out the kitchen. Now that power was confirmed, I was anxious to see running water. “This just isn’t the house that I remember. Yeah, I hated living with Grandpa, but it’s weird to see everything run down like this.” I opened the door to the formal dining room. “He has sheets over the nicer furniture,” I noted. “He wouldn’t have done this if he still lived here. I’m betting that he tidied up and protected what he could before he left. Maybe he had a hobby, or a bucket list, or something.”

I could hear Greg harrumphing on the other end of the line. “I still think it’s odd that you don’t know what was going on with your grand dad before he died.”

I felt a bit miffed by that statement. “You know, I really don’t appreciate that. You know that we didn’t talk after I moved out. It’s not my fault that he didn’t call to let me know he was gallivanting around kingdom come for God only knows what reason.”

“You could have called him,” Greg said with his nice purr of a voice. He was right and I hated him for it in that moment. It was horrible when he sounded all reasonable like that.

I turned away from the dining room and its ghostly furniture covers. I walked past the stairs, to the end of the hall, and into the kitchen before I spoke to him again. I didn’t like talking about my grandfather, or my teenage years for that matter, at all. I vaguely remember the blow-out argument that we had before I left home for good, and I don’t even remember what it had been about, but I had said some nasty things to him. I couldn’t forgive him for making my life hell after my parents died. I walked to the sink and turned on the faucet. “Thank God, there is running water,” I exhaled as I changed the subject. I needed to get into a happier head space. “I think I’m going to start excavating this place today. The sooner I can get it livable, the sooner I can put it up for sale or rent and come home.” I turned the water off and had to wrench it a bit to stop it from leaking. I added it to my mental list of things to fix.

He took the hint and let the subject of my grandfather drop. “Well, have fun, Reece’s Pieces! Call me if you need anything, okay?”

“I don’t like that nickname, Greg,” I replied with a slight laugh. I really didn’t want to encourage him. “Love you.”

“Love you too.” He hung up.

I snapped my phone shut and picked up my bag. I took one last look around the kitchen. It looked a bit cleaner than the rest of the house, and I was glad to see that the cabinets were empty, except for a few pots and pans. Having hand-me-down food in the pantry did not appeal to my delicate sensibilities. It reinforced my theory that my grandfather had cleaned house before he left. He had known that he wasn’t coming back.

Even though we weren’t the closest family, I felt a stab of regret that he hadn’t wanted to call me and let me know that he was leaving, as if he hadn’t wanted me around him. It was just like how he didn’t want me around eight years ago, when he put me in a cab and sent me to Atlanta. Sure, he paid for my tuition at college and he paid for my apartment, but in the end I think he was simply paying me to stay away.

I drew in a ragged breath, but I didn’t cry, even though I really wanted to at that moment. Instead, I walked up the stairs and went to my old room to put away my things and change into some clothes that I didn’t mind ruining with mud. I had a lot of work to do, and the first order of business involved finding the water hose.

* * *

      By noon the next day, I had washed the mud off of my Focus, both literally and figuratively. My car was now clean and I felt a bit more clear headed for the good night’s rest. I had a physical list of all the things I needed to fix around the house compiled and sitting in my purse. The dust covers had been removed from the furniture, the floors had been swept, and I had gone to the store and restocked the kitchen with the few things that I would need for the week. I had found a few places that needed repainting, a section in the living room ceiling that needed replacing, and a loose step on the staircase. I was at least pleasantly surprised to find that the upholstery did not smell like dust and mildew and that the overall integrity of the house was still good. However, I was not so surprised to see that my grandfather had not upgraded a single piece of furniture in the preceding years. Now that everything was cleaned, it was like walking into a time capsule for me.

I stood in the door way of my grandfather’s small library and remembered the day that I had first come to live here. I was ten years old when my parents died in a car accident. At first, I went to live with a great aunt on my Mother’s side of the family, but that was short lived. She was checked into a nursing home two months after my arrival. I then spent about a month in a foster home while the social worker tried to find a new placement for me. I had never met my paternal grandfather before. In fact, I hadn’t even known that I had a living grandparent until the social worker introduced us.

That day, I had walked into my grandfather’s house for the first time. He didn’t know what to do with me, and I didn’t know what to do with him. That never really changed. He had made one thing clear, however. We stood in front of these double French doors, and he told me quite sternly to never go into the library, even if he was in there. He was always working on something important, though I never did know what his projects were. For now, I closed the doors, trapping the old books and that first memory of my grandfather inside.

My list of things to do included finding the missing finials from the bedposts in my bedroom.  The sturdy oak frame just did not look right without the ornate knobs. Why they had been removed was a mystery, but I was certain that they were around somewhere. My grandfather hadn’t been one to throw things away. With that in mind, I headed into the attic.

I loved my grandfather’s attic. It was almost like a third floor. There were windows on the front and rear sides, providing natural sunlight. It was what people dream of when they think of nice attics, spacious, bright, and filled to the hilt with antiques. Even though I wanted to find the finials, I got a bit excited over just going through all of the things in the attic. My grandfather had never allowed me up here, and I had always itched to do just this. I walked through the stacks of things and touched everything.

I felt like an archaeologist who had just singlehandedly discovered a lost civilization. I found cedar chests, large and small, filled with old clothes, letters, and keepsakes. There was an old sewing machine that must have belonged to my grandmother, who had died before I was born. There was also an antique sewing form with strands of fake pearls and measure tapes strung across it. It still had push pins stuck into it.

There were old games in wooden boxes, a toy box filled with toy soldiers and cast iron automobiles, which I took as proof that my father had actually existed and had once been a child in this house. I don’t remember my Dad ever talking about his childhood. He was a loving father, but a lot like my grandfather in that he never shared anything about himself. I gently closed the lid to the toy box and ran my fingers across where the name Samuel Grimshaw had been carved into it.

It hurt to remember that I had once had a real family. I was surrounded by things that had once belonged to my close relatives, people who were so close to me and yet I never knew them. Every family member that I had ever known was only in my life for a decade or less.

A glint on the top of an old record player box caught my attention. I stepped closer and noticed that it was the corner of a silver photo frame buried underneath an old woven blanket. The picture was covered in dust and grime. Looking around, I grabbed the woven blanket and found a silver necklace underneath it. I left it there and used the corner of the blanket to clean off the picture. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The photo was of my grandfather and me.

We looked so close, and smiling, which was impossible. I didn’t remember ever being that happy the entire time that I had lived with my grandfather, and I definitely didn’t remember ever smiling like that before moving out of this house. In the photo, I was about thirteen years old, wearing a long blue jean dress. A long chain with a round silver pendant was hanging around my neck. My birthstone was set into the middle: an opal for October.

It was the same pendant that was sitting on top of the record player.

I put down the blanket and picked up the pendant, running my thumb across the stone. It was milky and iridescent, like a polished sea shell. Even though I was holding it in my hand, it felt like a distant memory, something that I barely remembered but at the same time didn’t. Looking back at the picture, I remembered the dress, and it wasn’t a distant memory. I had seen it in a cedar chest just a few minutes ago. I carefully hurried over to the other side of the attic, opening the cedar chests until I found the right one.

It was next to the sewing form, sitting on top of a cast-away night stand. The silver name plate on top of it had also been covered in grime. I rubbed it with my sleeve to reveal, in slanted cursive, Theresa Marie Grimshaw. It was my given name, meaning that this small cedar chest had once belonged to me.

The blue jean dress sat neatly folded on top of a few other outfits in the chest, but it mostly contained letters, diaries, and other things that I did not remember. I riffled through until I saw a couple of things that I did remember. The first item was an old Fleetwood Mac vinyl record. I remembered this record because it had belonged to my dad when he was young, and I would listen to it for hours at time while I tried to remember my parents. The other was a small porcelain jewelry box that my grandfather had given me for Christmas one year. It was strange because I could clearly remember getting the jewelry box, and I know that I had opened it, but I couldn’t remember what was inside it. It was something that I hadn’t thought of before this.

My head hurt. There was a whole box full of items that had my name, my handwriting, and my face all over them, but I couldn’t remember a thing about them. The more I tried to remember, the more my head hurt. I struggled to think of an explanation for it. Perhaps I was so unhappy living with my grandfather that I had intentionally forgotten everything when I moved away. That is how I remembered my grandfather; a stiff curmudgeon who didn’t have time for me at all.

But I couldn’t ignore that the objects in this box were telling me an entirely different story. An entire photo album depicted me with a grandfather that I did not remember, in places that I had no recollection of ever going to, doing things that I did not recall doing at all. It looked real, but it wasn’t anything at all like I remembered.

Who were the people in these pictures from fifteen years ago? What about the ones from ten years ago? The faces were mine and my grandfather’s. The photos were old enough to have been us. Barring the advent of me having an identical twin that I knew nothing about, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.

I put the photo and the pendant in the cedar chest and picked up the whole thing, taking it to my room. I also grabbed the record player that my photo and pendant had originally been sitting on. Surely, this was all a huge cosmic sign telling me that I was actually going insane, was suffering from selective amnesia, or was the brunt of a huge cosmic joke. Either way, me, myself, and I had some catching up to do.

* * *

      After I had plugged in the record player and started it off streaming a scratchy rendition of Black Magic Woman, I sat on my bedroom floor and began going through the items in the cedar chest. I took everything out, wracking my brain for memories with each piece I handled. I had put the pendant around my neck and the photo frame on my dresser.

My floor was covered with things from the cedar chest, most of them completely alien to me. It was odd how much all of this clashed with every memory that I had. I laid down on my bed with several diaries that I had apparently written. I couldn’t dispute that the writing was mine, but reading them  was like reading the diaries of a stranger. I wrote at length about spending time with my grandfather, playing some of the wooden boxed games in the attic, making snowmen and decorating Christmas trees in the winter, celebrating birthdays, going on trips, and other things that I had absolutely no recollection of.

Every now and then, the diaries would mention a bad day, like the time that Derrick Green cut a chunk off of my hair, and I had to have the rest of my hair cut ridiculously short to match. This was before pixie cuts were cool, mind you. I could remember that incident like it was yesterday. Almost every crappy day mentioned, I remembered. It was as if all of the happy details of my years with my grandfather had been stolen from me. I couldn’t help but feel robbed, even violated.

I wondered, did my grandfather know about this? If something had happened to me so traumatic as to erase my happy memories, then why didn’t my grandfather tell me about it? If he was such the wonderful grandfather that he was in these diaries, then I’m almost certain that he would have said something to me.

I closed the diary that I was currently reading and put my head in my hands, lacing my fingers in my hair as an act of sheer frustration. I could feel my heart beating in my throat and I had a momentary episode of nausea. There was something else that was upsetting me, and that was the missing pages. In every diary dating to the time that I had spent with my grandfather, there were pages missing, sometimes even whole sections. Most of them were cut out, leaving a straight edge behind in the journal. I couldn’t help but wonder if those missing pages held the answer to all my questions.

Looking out the window, I noticed that the sun was starting to set. The day had escaped me, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony in that thought.

I looked back in the cedar chest to see if there was anything that I had missed, and noticed a piece of brown ribbon, sticking out of the crevice in the bottom of the chest. It blended in so well with the wood that I almost missed it entirely. I gave it a tug, and the false bottom came up, revealing one last diary.

I carefully picked it up and turned it over in my hands. It was a bit different from all the other diaries. For one, this one seemed fairly well put together. The binding was only slightly broken, and there were bookmarks throughout the pages. The cover was a type of leather, dark brown, with the word “Journal” embossed across the front in gold.

This journal was also locked, unlike the others. I stared at it for a moment, and tried to pull the lock open once or twice. Since that obviously wasn’t going to work, I resolved that I was going to have to find something to break it open with in the kitchen. My stomach was growling anyway.

I picked up the last diary and took it downstairs with me to the kitchen. I hadn’t eaten in eight hours and was starving. I gave the library a quick glance as I passed it on the way, and made a mental note to check in there later for the missing pages, or more diaries, perhaps even some of my grandfather’s journals, if he had kept any. But I needed a sandwich first.

I took the bread, peanut butter, and honey out of the cabinet and placed them on the counter, then started to look for the plates. I found them in the overhead cabinet by the back door. While I reached for one, I heard a scratching and a faint meow at the back door. When I opened it, the tabby cat that had dashed out from under the rocking chair yesterday came right on in through a pet door installed in the outer screen door. He brushed against my legs and meowed.

“Well I guess you aren’t completely a wild stray, then,” I said to the cat. “I’ll bet you want some food, too.” I love cats, it’s no mystery. They’ve been my favorite creature since before I can remember. Sorry, poor choice of words, seeing as I’ve apparently forgotten most of my childhood.

The cat answered me with more of his begging meows. I took down a can of tuna and opened it out onto one of the plates, put it on the table and got down another plate for myself. The tabby jumped up on the table and went at the tuna like it hadn’t eaten a good meal in a while, and I went about making my peanut butter and honey sandwich. I poured a glass of milk for myself also, and with another thought, got a bowl down and gave the tabby some of the milk too.

I could hear the cat purring while he ate. “I’m glad you like it,” I said a bit sarcastically. “I guess this means that I won’t be getting rid of you anytime soon now.” I added buying cat food to my list of things to do. I took a moment to wonder if he was a finicky eater or if dry cat food would work just as well. I scratched behind his ears and he bumped my hand with his head, purring. It was a nice distraction. “Cat, you have earned that tuna, just for making me feel a bit better about this whole day,” I told him. He just purred back at me and went back to the milk. He finished and scampered off, leaving me to finish my sandwich alone.

After cleaning up from mine and the cat’s lunches, I began looking for things to pop open the lock with. I found an ice pick in the utility drawer that seemed sturdy enough to do the job.

I picked the diary back off the counter and gave it a good glare before sliding the ice pick inside the hoop of the lock and twisting, snapping the weaker metal of the lock. I opened it to the first bookmark and was thoroughly confused. As if the day couldn’t get any weirder, now I was looking at a page full of pentagrams, Latin words, symbols, and other strange doodles. I flipped to all the other bookmarks and found the same type of writings. I had no idea what I was looking at, but it didn’t look sane or normal.

Even though I had most likely discovered why pages were missing from the other diaries, it was not an explanation that I could ever have guessed, and it left me a little furious. I was perfectly convinced that someone had played a cruel prank on me. It was the only sane explanation, other than the explanation that I was, or had been, insane. With that revelation, I threw the diary back down on the table and paced across the kitchen, back and forth a few times, fuming.

On the third pass, I noticed a folded paper sticking out of one of the covers that had come dislodged. On the outside, it had just two words, written in scroll: I’m sorry. “Aha!” I exclaimed to the empty kitchen. I looked at the little folded piece of paper and said, “I sure hope you are a confession letter.” I opened it up, and was again sorely disappointed. It was not a confession letter, but had only one word written on it, which, I was sure to regret, I read out loud. “Dimittam?”

The book flew from my hand and landed open on the floor, the pages turning rapidly as if caught in a wild wind. The room filled with the smell of smoke and ashes, and my head blossomed with pain. For a split moment, I saw a dark figure form on the other side of the book, and in that moment, I passed out.

Three Wishes

Standard

I’d like to share a story with you. This story isn’t very long, some would say that it isn’t very good, and most would say that it isn’t even true.

But I’m going to tell it anyway.

It all started on a muggy spring day. The humidity was sweltering. Fish were jumping upstream to get away from the humidity, it was that bad. My story starts off with… let’s call him Eustis, because I hate that name and I’m not too fond of him either. He’s a pillock. Anyway, Eustis was in a bad mood, as usual, but at least this time, he had a good reason. It was pretty darn hot outside. It made the hair of his toupee fall flat and sweaty against his bulbous head and the elastic of his pants chafe his overly rotund midsection. He was also late for his usual park trolling appointment…

Story has been moved to the “Short Stories” section of the blog, where it should rightfully be. I’m going to try to avoid putting such lengthy posts in the common room. =D