Tag Archives: supernatural

It’s finally happened!

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It’s finally happened!

Holding my first book in print was like holding a newborn baby. My newborn baby. I’m fairly certain that I love my other (human) children more, but still… the happy endorphins are real. 🙂

So, like I was saying: Devil in the Details is now available in print, as well as on Amazon Kindle! Advance copies are available now in the CreateSpace - An Amazon Company store, with an Amazon release within the week.

More happy Pics:

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For Kindle and Kindle app users, the eBook version is still available on Amazon.com.

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NaNoWriMo 2012 – Day 10

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While we are officially approaching the end of the first 10 days of NaNoWriMo, I am pleased to report that I am on track! I’m actually a day ahead in the word count, which makes me very happy. I’ve got the best NaNoWriMo group in the world, I do believe. Anytime you get a group of crazy, inventive, like-minded individuals together, you are bound to have a great time. =) As a group, we have collectively written over 860,000 words these ten days, and I have personally contributed 18,179 of those words. Still got a little ways to go, but Riesa’s holding out okay. There is more I can throw her way, I’m sure. =)

So, as a little something extra, here is the rough, rough, rough draft of the first scene in Riesa’s 2nd book, Ghost of a Chance

–  –  –

The man dressed as a monkey riding a unicycle while blowing bubbles during a 5k race was the most interesting that I’d seen all day, but that was before the snow started falling. Falling snow isn’t so unusual, but it was late October, clear skies, with a high of seventy-five degrees. In Alabama. During a burn ban for dry conditions. At least I didn’t think the Monkey-Man was my fault.

“Not again,” I groaned.

A nearby customer, tall woman with a cute orange sweater, stopped trying on shoes and looked out the same storefront window. “Huh. Funky weather today, yeah?”

I managed a half smile. “Yeah. Funky weather. Can I help you with anything?” I asked, turning away from the window and returning to marking down sale prices.

She waved me off with a smile. “I’m good for now, thanks,” and off she went to the boot isle. I slapped the last label on a pair of purple and black tennis shoes and retreated to unpack a new shipment, distancing myself from the storefront. It was unlikely that anyone would blame the weather on me, but you never know.

The truth is that it probably was my fault. For the past month, strange things had been happening all around me. For example, the weather would turn strange while my thoughts wandered to the gloomy side, or random objects would breaking or levitate depending on my moods. There was one instance where I accidentally made a man’s beard catch on fire. He was hitting on me at the transit station, so he kinda deserved it.

I set the tape gun down on a box in the storage room and grabbed the box cutters. In the past month, I’d had a lot of time to think about the whys and hows, and I came to the conclusion that it was because I was a baby-demonologist-slash-angel-descendant with lots of power and zero control. I had cut myself off from my soul-bound demon, Azaraphel, or Phil, as I called him, and I refused to call him for help. I was in Atlanta to avoid him, and asking for his help would have been counter productive.

Thinking about Phil brought those dark, heavy, unwelcome thoughts back. I wanted nothing more than to call Phil. Even worse, I wanted nothing more than to drive back down to Salem, back to my friends, and back to him. It was a shame that such a thing would end in disaster, like he and I destroying each other. Not that he knew this. I decided it best to keep him blissfully ignorant. Of course last I checked, he was totally furious with me. It thundered loudly enough to rattle the shelves in the storage room. So much for clear skies.

“Grimshaw, is there something going on in here?” Mr. Sorrels, the manager, peeked into the storage room just as a tremor hit. Shoe boxes fell off of shelves as they toppled over, setting off a domino effect across the room. I watched in horror, cast a protective circle around myself out of habit, and waited for the chaos to come to an end.

I stared slack jawed at the disaster around me. “Uh…” was all I managed to say.

“Grimshaw, you’re fired.”

–  –  –

Well, that is all for Riesa tonight. If you are dying to hear more from Riesa, check out the first book in the series, Devil in the Details, now available on Amazon Kindle!

Morning (By the Light of the Velvet Moon page 3)

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Back to Page Two

He slept until well after dawn, and I feared for him. We had both regained our original forms shortly before the rise of the sun. I was thankful that his curse did not cause him to suffer twice in one night, as he slept soundly through the whole process. The sound of snapping bones and ripping stayed with me, however, and I was thankful that the nature of my being kept me from such pain.

I sat back on my haunches outside of my small unhidden den, and guarded the man-wolf. As a wolf, he had been arrogant, definitely, but also handsome. Where I was lithe, he was muscular and half again my size. Where my fur was a pale tan buried in white pelt, his had been a thick, tawny brown. He had been everything that I wasn’t. He looked like the other wolves, for a few hours at least, and I did not. We had another major difference; he was lost, or at least he soon would be when he awoke.

Where he was ignorant to his nature, I was not. I was young and inexperienced, but I knew what I was: a faoladh, spirit wolf, a guide to the lost, and protector of the young. Those are the things that my mother had whispered into my ear during the days of my weaning. I never understood her words, but looking upon the furless form of the man in my den, I understood. Understanding came in the form of a tugging at my heart and the knowledge that I could not leave the cursed one alone.

I was not an expert on men. To be honest, this was the first one that I had ever seen up close. I had seen the shiny beasts that carried them down the black river, but they frightened me so I had never approached closely enough for a good look. He did not seem impressive to me at all. His fur was reduced to a messy mass on top of his head. It was short and needed grooming. At least my woman-form had long thick hair that covered my back, providing me with some warmth. He was almost as bare and just as thin as a maple tree in the winter.

I examined him closely, drawing in his scent. There were remnants of the wolf to his skin, and it barely masked the scent of other. Had I been looking at him with my nose instead of my eyes, I may have mistaken him for wolf instead of man. As that thought crossed my mind, a strong whiff of something sickly spicy assaulted my nose and I sneezed, waking the conriocht.

He made a sound like a growling bear and woke up like a frightened squirrel. He twisted his head and saw me sitting in front of him. My ears perked and I cocked my head to the side as I considered him.

“Holy shit!” he yelped and sprang back, hitting his head on the rock of what had been the opening of my little den. He hissed and rubbed his head, scooting back with his eyes on me. They were honey brown, like his wolf’s had been.

I whimpered and lowered my head down onto my forepaws, looking up at him. I didn’t want to scare him further.

His eyes darted around like a prey animal in search of the hunter. Finally, his eyes fell on me and he licked his lips. “Nice doggy,” he said, holding his hand tentatively out to me. “Those are some pretty blue eyes. You part husky?”

His voice was gentle and nervous, but his words offended me. I sat up and pulled my ears back, giving him a nice growl.

He sat back down and held up both hands. “Okay, okay, not a husky. I get it. Nice wolf?” he asked. I stopped my snarl and recomposed myself, sitting tall.

He looked around the small den and then back at me and cleared his throat. “Uh, whatever happened last night wasn’t me, okay?” His skin started to change color. It was intriguing. I had seen lizards do the same thing but they usually turned brown or green, not red. I wasn’t aware that humans had the same ability, and I wondered why he did it. I had never experienced such a change in my woman-form. Perhaps I did not share the ability.

I will admit to a small amount of satisfaction that he seemed to be the one who was frightened this time, and not the other way around.

I moved away from the entrance and let him stand, since he seemed be looking for a way of escape. Following me out, he stood up in the sunlight and looked around. “Damn it,” he whispered. “How am I supposed to get back to the road? Didn’t think about this part…” For a moment I thought he was talking to me, but then I realized that he was speaking to himself. His voice went a pitch higher. “‘Let’s drop you off at the nature preserve, nobody will be there! You’ll have plenty of woods to run in before you see a single person!’” He tripped a bit over the fallen ivy and hissed something that I couldn’t understand. “Great idea, Ryan!” he said sarcastically once he regained his balance.

I stepped over to him and tried to take his wrist in my mouth. I planned to lead him to the black river where his things were. “Woah, what do you think you’re doing?” he yelped, pulling his hand back and holding it to his chest. I whined and took a few steps in the direction that I wanted to go and let out a small bark. I’m not a dog, but he was familiar with the concept. I met a dog once, and all he did was bark and whine. It was very annoying, and I found him to be extremely rude.

The conriocht took the hint and followed me. “What is it, Lassie? Timmy fell down the well?” he asked.

I stopped and looked at him inquisitively. Perhaps becoming cursed rendered one insane as well. He shook his head and laughed. “Do you know the way back to the road? Is that where you are taking me?” I gave him another small bark. “Okay, sorry. Lead the way, Ivy.” I whimpered and sat down, cocking my head to the side. He named me? “You smell like ivy, okay?” he defended himself. I had a name, Cana, but since I could not convey that to him in words he would understand, I let it slide.

It wasn’t a log walk through the woods before we found the place near the black river, or the road as the conriocht called it, where the colorful skins had been left. I could see a silver glint through the trees, and it drew my wary attention. It was one of those shiny monsters, only this one stood still. Another man stood behind it and called out from the road.

“Hey, Rick! Where you been, man? I don’t have all day to stand here waiting on werewolves, you know.”

The conriocht -or what did the other call him? Rick? – picked up the skins and examined them. “Shut up and just bring me the bag. My old clothes are ruined.”

I heard the other man open the monster. I took the opportunity to hide.

“I’m impressed you managed to find them. I had a thought after I dropped you off last night that you might get lost out here. So, how did your first night as a werewolf go?”

Rick snarled. “Could you please stop saying that word?” He reached into the bag and pulled out a new set of… clothes. I watched him pull them on in fascination. It answered my question of how he could stand having so little fur. “And I don’t remember,” he continued answering. “I probably did some things that I would’ve regretted this morning if I had remembered them. Plus, I think I might have eaten something.”

“Man, that’s just gross,” his friend laughed.

Rick looked around. “Did you see a wolf around here?”

The other shook his head. “You mean besides you? No. Why?”

He sighed. “Nothing, let’s go.”

They left, and I watched from the woods. This was not the last that I would see of Rick the Werewolf. I felt it in my soul.

 On to Page Four

Conriocht (By the Light of the Velvet Moon page 2)

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Back to Page One

My private place was a small indention in an overhanging rock face, covered over by ivy and tall grass. It was low enough to the ground that someone could step over my hiding spot and be none the wiser, but also open enough that I could get in quickly and easily. I slid in quickly, pressing my belly as low as I could to the dirt. A feral howl rang out desperately. The cicadas no longer chirped. Everything was still but for the running of paws and the desperate call of the unnatural creature that seemed to be drawing ever nearer.

Seasons ago, when my mother called me Cana and nursed me through my pup stage, she told me of the ones who were different. They weren’t born of the fur and traded pain for the freedom of the hunt. I could only guess that this creature was one of those wretched beasts. My mother had once given them a name, but I struggled to remember it. In the near distance, perhaps a mile from my secret place, I heard the final cry of a deer. Conriocht: that was the name of the cursed ones. Men-wolves.

My ears remained perked, twitching to the sounds of the forest. I heard the conriocht howl. His heady musk, wolf with remnant hints of the outside, still filled my nose, and I knew that he could smell me. He was a stranger to this forest, and he called to me to join him. He was like an infant, calling to the pack, and I was the nearest to his senses. I knew it would not be long before he stopped waiting and sought me out.

A worried whimper barely escaped my throat. I was conflicted. I had not known the ungrudging presence of another wolf since my mother left me the spring after my birth. The local pack would tolerate me, but only for so long. They warned their pups against me, and those pups grew, and warned their pups against me. I was lonely. I longed for a pack that would not have me. I stuck my nose out through the hanging ivies and gazed out into the forest.

The moon was now full and high above the trees, casting steady beams of soft light through the gaps in the trees, including one that fell just outside of my den. A moment of panic gripped me, and I noticed, probably too late, the fallen limb that had once filled in the gap in the treetops above my secret place. I retracted my head and backed as far as I could into my den, flattening my ears and tucking my tail as close to myself as I could without actually sitting on it. I was going to have to find a new den after this night was over.

A breeze wafted through the ivies, carrying the scent of the kill on the wind. I knew better than to attempt to hunt amongst the moonlight and therefore had hunted before the sun left the sky. Nevertheless, my ears perked to the aroma, even if it was accompanied by the nearing musk of the conriocht.

Leaves crunched outside my den, and I pressed further to the inside. I was trapped. I could not escape into the moonlight. My only hope was the shadows of my shallow cave. A grey muzzle, tinged with the ocher of remnant blood, poked in through the tall grass and ivies and rudely intruded into my space. He whimpered at me, chastising me for not answering him while he rubbed his sides against mine.

Once I realized that I was safe from the moon for the time being, I found myself annoyed with the intruder. A low growl rumbled in my chest, but it was half-hearted. For an unfamiliar wolf to intrude upon another’s den without welcome was impertinent, but it did not take me long to recognize the reason behind this conriocht’s behavior. He considered himself an alpha. He nuzzled my side and then plopped down beside me, knocking down the tall grass and pulling down a plug of ivy while he did. He was quickly asleep.

I was given to believe that this was often the case with his kind. They embraced the wolf and the hunt for a few brief hours during the full moon, only to fall prone once their hunger and curiosity had been sated. I attempted to rouse him with a nudge of my muzzle, but he remained unresponsive. I huffed through my nose and laid my head on my paws, watching the cursed one sleep.

The moon crept through the sky, and I watched the moonbeams shift with it, inching closer to my paws. The conriocht slept on, as I knew he probably would until morning, and I was thankful for it. The gentle glow crept over his sleeping fur, and touched mine. I sighed in resignation and embraced it as the moonlight pooled, pouring over my skin, enveloping me like a moth’s cocoon. My fur melted away into smooth skin as I metamorphosed painlessly and gently. The glow faded away into the normal shallow rays of wispy moonbeams.

A tear ran down my woman-face, and I whimpered while I ran my reshaped paws through his fur. The sound was odd from my reshaped throat, but his fur was warm and comforting. I hated this new shape. Every sense was dulled, and I felt ungainly. At least I had no need to move for some time. I remembered from experience that my legs would feel as unsteady as a newly calved deer. I laughed, which was probably one of the few human actions that I had a firm grasp on, at the irony of a conriocht curling up next to a faoladh on the night of a full moon.

 On to Page Three

By the Light of the Velvet Moon

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Dear Reader,
You have before you my newest short story, title evident. As the story evolves, I will post a link on the bottom of each page, leading to the next segment of story, and on each subsequent segment, I will put a link back to previous segments. I do this for a few reasons.

1.) I want to allow readers to get a quick taste of fiction during their hurried blog readings. Not everyone has the time to read a 10k word short story. =)

2.) I hate long posts that stretch for miles. I like the feel of “turning a page”, even if it means clicking a button.

3.) (Selfish Reason) I won’t have to struggle with what I’m going to post on the blog today!

And now, without further ado:

By the Light of the Velvet Moon

 (Part 1)

Cicadas sang their long awaited mating song, drowning out the other usual sounds of the night. The whisper of the wind, the hush of the stream, the chatter of the crickets and the frogs, all masked by the cacophony of the insects firmly set in finding a mate before the end of the summer and their ultimate deaths. That seemed to be fate of all the creatures of the forest: a fast, hurried life, brief moments of pleasure and procreation, and then death, either at the mouths of other beasts in search of a meal, or by the curse of a short life span.

I was bothered by none of this. I had no hunter, I was in no hurry to die, and a mate was not in the cards for me. No wolf would have a mate so queer. This was the very reason why I wandered these woods alone. The call of my brethren sang enticingly, even over the song of the cicadas. I whimpered, but did not respond. They would not welcome me into their packs, would not walk fur to fur with me through the woods as I longed to do. My scent was in harmony with theirs, but soon my voice would no longer be capable of the bittersweet song that I longed to sing.

Even if I were to join them, it would not be long before my presence was no longer welcome.

I turned my nose to the sky and inhaled the crisp night air. There was something different in its fragrance tonight, something that did not smell of fur or feathers, honey suckle or hickory. It was foreign. Odd.

Leading me away from the calls of the pack, the smell moved my cautious paws, driving them closer by curiosity. In a moment of self-awareness, my eyes scanned the blanket of stars. The moon was full, but still hidden by a mask of trees. My heart raced, conflicted between investigating the mysterious smell, and seeking shelter before the moon hit its apex.

I whimpered and pawed the ground nervously in my indecision. In the end, curiosity won. With a huff, I put my nose to the ground and air and sought out the object of my obsession. I found it near the edge of the woods, almost outside of my territory. If I had continued much farther, I would have crossed the black river. I was afraid of the black river. It often smelled of death.

The source of the scent was a discarded heap of colorful skins. They did not move, smell, or look like fur or scales, but they had the same disembodied movement of a snakeskin when I brushed them with my paws. A sound in the near distance snapped my ears to attention, like the snapping of a twig. It was followed by other sounds, familiar sounds, more snapping, accompanied by an anguished scream, like the final yell of a dying bear that morphed into the bitter howl of a pained wolf.

I panicked and ran, leaving the mysterious skins behind, racing through the woods to my secret spot. The unnatural howl followed me on the wind. It was lupine, but I had no desire to join it as I did the howls of the pack.

On to Page Two

 

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.