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Most Recent Stories
Little Miss Liberty
    Steven O'Dell
The Christmas Dog
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Barnaby and the Zilligong
    Steven O'Dell
GodWorld
    Steven O'Dell
The Greatest Christmas Gift Ever
    Steven O'Dell


Most Recent Chapters
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 58 -- On Wings of Angels
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 60 -- Lamb and Lyon
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 59 I Hate Christmas
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Steven ODell on 16 June 2012 - 5:52pm. | | |

GodWorld
(C)2012 Steven G. O'Dell

The truth should have been obvious to anyone, but it never works out that way. Give people everything they want and they will be happy, right? Sounds wonderful...in theory. In practice, it's a different story, however, as we found out.

Our society had progressed technologically to the point where miracles were now possible. We had, in essence, become the gods we so often scoffed at. With the proper machinery, we could harness the power of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. We were now able to funnel, focus and combine those forces into any image we chose. We could replicate anything our hearts desired now--food, drink, luxury items and so on. Scale made no difference. We made items as large as we wanted. Gigantic ships that sailed the oceans were produced as easily as a plate of fine porcelain. The entire world was now prosperous. We were a 'post-scarcity' population. There was no such thing as want or need. For some time the world thought it had achieved the answer to all its problems. The hungry were now fed. The naked were now clothed. The sick had no paucity of medicine now. There was abundance everywhere.

It didn't take long, however, for a general discontent to set in. It was hard to understand it at first; hard to pin down the feeling and define it in thought, let alone word. When finally it came into focus, the word was 'de-valued.' The items were no longer scarce or rare, so they had become de-valued. The people themselves felt de-valued, unable to serve the needs of others as they had before. A simple gesture like cooking a meal for a sick friend was no longer necessary or common. People had become so wrapped up in their 'things' that they had forgotten to associate with one another as before. Why should they need to? They all had just what they wanted. What they had wanted was material goods--the emptiness of things. Now that everyone was rich, no one was rich. They had all things. A new industry suddenly was needed. An industry that took all of the 'things' they had thought they wanted so desperately and turned them again into Dark Matter of Dark Energy--returning it to its source. Disintegration Technology had been born. What the gods had created, they now destroyed. It was inevitable. And it was replaced by more 'things' they thought they wanted.

The change...no, The Change...came slowly. A change of thinking, a change of behavior and of need, came almost unnoticed and without fanfare, being noted and remembered only because it was so profound in its simplicity. As it had happened many other times in our history, though usually unnoticed previously, we were led by a child. An unknown, unheralded, unimportant child. A child who went from obscurity to becoming important through no desire of his own, but only by his actions. This time it was even more so. It affected an entire world that was hungry for change and didn't yet know where to turn.

This child had not been taken up in the ways of adulthood yet. He knew nothing but the imagination and fun of being a child and hadn't yet been convinced to divest himself of that which was truly most valuable to all humans. When he was discovered playing in his yard, he was building a structure from sticks, rocks, dirt and grass. He had done a remarkable job of recreating the most intimate details of his own family home, with just the rudimentary materials at his disposal. He had built each piece of furniture and placed it within the little home he had fashioned with his own two hands. The first to behold the wonder was a neighbor, who stood stock still and puzzled at first, then wide-eyed and finally wept like a baby as the implication of it all struck him. Mankind had almost forgotten how to create with the simple tools of mind and hand. The word spread soon enough and despite all that was done to protect the child from fame, he became somewhat of a universal hero for rediscovering what every child is born with and only loses in the rush to become an adult.

Slowly, but surely, the return to sanity appeared and people began to again do for themselves. The joy they felt resulted in neighbor sharing with neighbor again. Eventually a peaceful balance between human and machine was achieved. A law was passed that never again would they let such a thing happen. You know, however, how such things as laws can be. They are only as firm as human commitment decides to be.

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Submitted by Neysel on 26 February 2008 - 5:19am. |

Ilcaz walked down the streets of Pennsylvania and suddenly, He sensed that somebody's following him so he stopped and observed for a while. When he looked back, He noticed a strange figure at the back of the huge tree. " who's there?" he said but nobody replied. He ran towards the armory and entered it for a very long time. He saw a lady nearby the counter wearing a wide smile. " what do you want sir?" the lady asked. " i need to talk to somebody" he replied. The lady was curios about him so she asked him once again. " and who's that somebody sir?" Ilcaz turned to her. " the owner of this armory" he replied annoyingly. Just as then, Rossini, the owner of the armory, approached them. He welcomed Ilcaz warmly and he even made him enter his room. "thank you for inviting me here" Ilcaz started. "well it's nothing my friend" Rossini replied." by the way, I'd like to choose the finest weapon I'm going to use in my mission" he explained. Rossini glanced at him. " no problem amigo... I'll give you the best of all.
They searched for the finest weapon Ilcaz gonna use in defeating his enemies until midnight but they found nothing. Rossini was afraid of vampires so he locked up all the doors in his armory and he requested Ilcaz to stay just for a night because according to him, it's too dangerous for him travel alone even if he's strong especially at night. Ilcaz was a little bit bored at that time so he tried to some things that are funny to entertain himself. Upon looking for some funny things, he found the only things that were hidden away from other people by Rossini. " well, golden spear, hatchet and gear... you make things like this?" Rossini was shocked to see his precious box opened. " never mind these things" he then snatched it off. " I'm sorry" Ilcaz said with sincerity. " it's alright, don't take it seriously. Ilcaz gave a good impression. " is dinner ready? it's almost 2am and we haven't take our dinner yet" Ilcaz added. " well, I'll just go down and see if Fesca's getting ready for our dinner. Rossini went downstairs and was out for a long time. " it's almost 2am but i Haven't sense strange aura in here or even outside the armory shop, however I'll keep my senses open. After several minutes, he heard a loud scream from downstairs and lights were cut off immediately and he went out of his room to check it. " as what I've expected, they followed me in here and the worst is, they've broke in." he murmured while searching for Rossini and Fesca. Vampires attacked him and he slew them all. Unluckily, he was bitten by a vampire which he had not noticed and it caused him to bleed. He got out of the armory and rode on a vehicle. On his way, another vampire flew at the top of the roof of the car he was riding and it began scratching the roof with all its might. Ilcaz clanged his gun and shot its head. Then it scattered around the streets. " he got away boss." Lyka said. Devian faced him and said " Don't worry, we'll catch him next time." both of them vanished into the still air. Ilcaz managed to go back to their headquarters in a few minutes but he lost his consciousness when he reached the cell. " he's totally bleeding and some symptoms of being a vampire now occurs." Coax said with concern. Just as then Myrrh and Pix came. " don't worry, we could same them...I mean him! Myrrh can't believe it with her two eyes. " bring him to the I.C.U!" she ordered.

(to be continued)

Submitted by natalie jamison on 19 April 2007 - 11:50am. | | |

Eleven years later...

The large brown bag Trisa carried in her arms was overflowing with groceries. It was a good two or three miles from town – a long ways to carry the necessary burden – but she enjoyed the walk. The clean, crisp air always calmed her nerves. But while outside buzzed with the anticipation of spring, her mind was focused elsewhere, contemplating the events that would transpire the rest of the day.
She turned and walked up small cobble-stone path that ended at the door of a beautiful, yet quaint little house. Dr. Niche had found this little house for Trisa, at her request one year ago. She unlocked the arched-shaped door and entered. The lingering chill from outside disappeared as the warmth of Trisa’s little home enveloped her. She set the bag next to the kitchen sink, then turned and flipped on the small V-cine that sat on the island counter. She began unpacking the bags contents as she listened.
“The Government is currently, still on the search for the 'Mischief',” said the voice from the screen. Trisa stopped what she was doing to listen. “The dispatch has classified this man as a Class A outlaw.” A skewed picture of a man’s silhouette appeared on the screen. Trisa chuckled softly. “Nice picture,” she whispered. “Looks just like you.”
The voice continued: “Class A is considered armed and dangerous, and enemy to the union. The Government asks that if anyone has any leads on this man, please report his location or the location of where he was last seen to your local enforcement agency. The Government needs your help to catch this vigilante.”
Trisa scoffed slightly as she turned the V-cine off. “Vigilante?” she scoffed, grinning and shaking her head, and finished putting away the groceries. When this was done, she gazed out the window above the sink. Two children were outside playing in the yard next door - a boy and a girl. Trisa sighed, stepped back, and leaned against the island. She lifted her right hand and traced a finger over the scar that decorated her palm. Memories rushed through her mind of that day. Sighing again, she walked over to the adjacent living room and collapsed onto the tiny fabric couch. She was growing impatient. There were still six hours to go, and she could barely stand it. The day he had left began replaying in her mind.
During the time before and after Toan and Trisa’s father had died, a new political power in the galaxy which called itself simply The Government, was quickly gaining sovereignty. It was declared as an equipoise union, only to mask the sagacious terrorism that underlined the federation. It was a dictatorship, and so many were blind to see it. There were those that did not concur with the new system of government. They were the individuals that could see through the deceit, and took action against The Government. In turn, they were alienated as rebels, and soon became known as the outlaws. People were convinced by The Government that theses outlaws were dangerous and “malicious”, and to stay away from anyone who was suspected of being an outlaw.
At 16, Toan began to feel the confusion, as though he didn’t think he belonged on Centrion - he didn’t know where his place was, and he wanted to find it. At the same time, he did not want to leave. After all, he’d made a promise not too long ago.
“You want to leave, don’t you?” Trisa asked as she confronted him one night. She could see through his facade better than anyone, even better than their father ever had. Toan said nothing and looked down. “Trisa… I can’t,” he choked out.
“Why not?” She knew it was a dumb question, but asked it anyway.
He looked down at his palm. “Trisa…I have a promise to keep.”
Trisa reached out and grabbed his hand. “A promise you made a long time ago when I was very scared, Toan. I’m not a little girl any more, and I’m certainly not scared.”
“But I pro…”
“Toan,” Trisa interrupted, “I can see right through you, you know. It’s in your eyes and it‘s in your actions: you want to leave, and I’m not going to be the reason to stop you. In fact, I am forcing you to go. You not going to be able to stay here and be completely happy at the same time.”
“But what about you? You…”
“I’ll be fine. Dr. Niche will take care of me until I am old enough to be on my own, which is only four years away. Toan, please – I can’t stand to see you torture yourself. You just aren‘t happy here anymore. You need to get out or it will drive you crazy, which will in turn drive me crazy, and then I will be unhappy too.” She could still see the struggle in his eyes, and came up with an idea. She lifted their hands to eye level. “Let’s make a new promise.” Taon looked up, hopeful. “A new promise? How is that supposed to work?”
“Oh, come on. Humor me.”
Toan chuckled. “Ok. You know I’ll promise you anything.”
“Don’t forget about me. I expect letters and pictures every week, not every once in a while when you get around to it. Okay?” Toan smiled at the request, squeezed her hand and pulled her close for a hug. “Of course,” he whispered. “Thank you.”

The next morning, he was gone. She didn’t know when she would see him again, or if she would see him at all. This terrified her, but she would never let Toan know that. For the next five years, she received detailed letters of everything he was doing. He’d joined the alliance, acquired his own star ship, found a close friend, and had become increasingly talented at driving The Government insane.
Trisa was brought out of her trance as the small clock on the wall chimed two o’clock. She sighed, and went back into the kitchen.

* * *

Toan sat at the bar, swirling what remained of his drink around in his cup. He glanced at his watch and grunted. “Where is that moron?” He set the cup down and rubbed his face with both hands. Today was the day – and he wondered if he would be able to stand going back. Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t notice the man that sat down on the stool next to him.
“Toan, you in there?” The friendly, though comical voice was accompanied by a hand waving in front of Toan’s face. He blinked and shook his head, then turned. The man smiled wide and laughed. “Welcome back!”
“Kayan! Where have you been? You were supposed to be here an hour and a half ago!” Toan yelled.
Kayan held his hands out in his own defense. “Hey, settle down. The galaxy isn’t going to be in ruin because I was a few minutes late.” He turned to the bar tender and ordered a drink.
“Well?” Toan demanded.
“Well what?” asked Kayan, trying to look innocent while thanking the tender for his drink.
“What do you mean well what? You know what!”
“I got caught up, is all – helping a friend.” He grinned and finished his drink.
“Do you have any other hobbies besides conning girls into thinking you’re the most amazing thing since anything?”
“Oh, whatever,” Kayan shot back. “I’m charming and you know it. Besides, like I said, she just needed some help with some stuff she was loading onto a carrier, okay? So I helped. Honest.”
“And that took forty-five minutes?”
“It could have.”
They both laughed, until their attention was turned to a large V-cine as the familiar informatory voice began to speak: “The outlaw known as the “Mischief” is still on the loose…”
“Hey, you’re on the screen again,” Kayan whispered to Toan, and Toan smiled.
“…He is considered extremely dangerous. Please contact your local enforcement agency if you have seen this man,” continued the voice. A picture flashed up on the screen. It was an awful picture - it was too dark and barely showed the side of his face.
“Nice pic,” Kayan teased.
Toan slugged him, then looked at his watch. “Wow, I gotta go,” he said. He stood up from his chair and Kayan followed.
“Who was it you were going to visit again?” Kayan inquired.
“My sister,” Toan answered plainly.
“Oh, right. What was her name again?”
“Trisa.”
“How old is she?”
“Forget it.”
“What? I can’t ask a harmless question?”
“Nope.”
“What does she look like,” Kayan pushed. Toan stopped and glared at him, then sighed. He reached inside his coat and pulled out a photograph, and handed it to Kayan.
“Hey, she’s pretty cute, for a kid,” said Kayan as he handed the photograph back, and continued walking along side Toan.
“This picture was taken about five years ago. I have no idea what she looks like now.”
“You haven’t seen a pic of her in five years?” asked Kayan.
“Nope.”
“Does she know what you look like?”
“Nope. Once I got into “the business”, I felt it was best not to send pictures.”
“What about those letters you write? I’d imagine if anyone got a hold of those, they could do some damage.”
“Nah. I never send them interstellar post.”
“Oh, well that’s good…I guess. So, how you two expect to recognize each other?”
“You are a moron, you know that?"
“Has she described herself to you at all?” asked Kayan. Toan groaned annoyingly and shook his head. “What?” Kayan defended. Toan shook his head. “I suspect she’s taller now.”
“That’s it?”
“Yep.”
“Oh come on.”
“She‘d never write much about herself. She’s not a narcissist like you.”
“Whatever. What’d you write about?”
“Oh, just about everything.”
“Everything?”
“Yep.”
“Even me?”
“I might have.”
They didn’t speak the rest of the way to the ship field. Kayan walked with Toan to his ship, but stopped when they reached the stairs of the massive frame that rested beside his star ship.
“Hey, when will you be back?” Kayan asked.
“In one month,” Toan replied. “I’ll meet you hear in exactly one month.”
“Got it.”
Toan began ascending the stairs toward the main door of the ship. “Be careful!” Kayan called after him. Toan chuckled and waved as Kayan turned to leave.
Up at his ship's entrance, Toan punched in the code on the dial pad next to the door.
“Welcome back, Toan,” said a mechanical voice as he entered the hull.
“Hey, Mag. How’s the ship doing?”
“Everything’s repaired and operating at 100%.” Mag answered lively. Toan laughed – it wasn’t very often you met something mechanical with such a human personality. It was rare, and Toan loved it. “Good. Let’s get ready to launch.”
“Right away.”
Toan made his way to the bridge and sat down in the pilot seat. “Primary thrusters on,” he said as he began the check list. “Request green,” replied Mag, his voice resounding through the overhead speakers. “Pre-launch systems set.”
“Fire engines. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two…” The ship’s engines roared to life as the ship began to thrust toward the sienna atmosphere. White smoke filled the air around the launch pad. Within moments, the red tint of Linoa dissolved into a black blanket dotted with stars.
“What if she’s not there?,” Toan asked himself, leaning back in his chair.
“Who?” Mag inquired.
Toan had been unaware he had said it aloud. “My sister. We are going to Centrion to visit her.”
“Oh. I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“You don’t know a lot of things about me, Mag.”
“That is true. What does your sister look like?”
Toan pulled out the picture as a small, cylindrical robot appeared next to the pilot seat. Toan handed it to the robot, who took it in his three-fingered, mechanical hand. Mag starred at it. “She’s very pretty?” he asked. Toan laughed, and answered. “Yes, she is. She looks like our mother.”
“May I ask you a question?” Mag inquired.
“When are you not asking questions, Mag? Sure, what is it?”
“If something were to happen to you, to whom would I be left?”
“Are you still stuck on that?”
“A lot of other so called ships ‘know’ who they will belong to when their pilots leave them - they are programmed to know. I just want to know who or what I will be inherited by.”
“Does it really matter right now?”
“What about her?” Mag held up the picture.
“Trisa?”
“Yes.”
Toan laughed again. “Sure, Mag. What the heck, you will belong to her.”
“Oh, good.”
Even though he was a computer, Toan picked up on the sound of relief. “Why is that so good, pre tell?”
“Now I know that at least I will not be left to that bum Kayan you call a friend.” Toan laughed aloud again. Mag was not very fond of Kayan, ever since Kayan had accidentally almost blown Mag to smithereens. “I think you’re too hard on Kayan, Mag. He‘s not all that bad - just stupid sometimes. And how do you know the word ‘bum’? Have you been watching the V-cine while I was gone again?”
“I might have,” Mag replied, then headed to the back of the bridge. Toan chuckled, then sighed. Hopefully, he thought, I will never have to leave you with anyone, Mag.

Submitted by natalie jamison on 16 April 2007 - 12:55pm. | | |

The maze was cruel and twisted. Some passages were completely aphotic and lifeless. The rest glowed by a diluted yellow light emitted from some concealed source. The walls of these passages seemed to crawl with the shadows of invisible creatures and machines, and a weird, sickly breeze hovered near the ceiling, carrying with it haunting whispers of whatever arcane thing waited at the end. The shallow and wavering sound of Lee’s breath was the only other noise that accompanied the whispers. The air was bitterly cold. As he slowly made his way down the longest corridor he’d been through so far, questions swam through Lee’s mind about how he had ended up in this sinister place, the memory seemingly out of reach.

Lee no longer questioned why he did not just turn back. He had tried already, confident in his memorization abilities. It did not take long for him to realize that nothing looked familiar as he had expected. Disheartened, he turned back around, feeling there was nothing else to do but push onward to the end. Assuming, that is, that there was an end. He really wasn’t sure anymore; it seemed every time he turned a corner, the walls and shadows behind him would shift. The corridor he had come down just moments before, each turn or doorway fresh in his mind, was gone. Lee experimented on his suspicions, rounding one corner and a moment later, leaping back. The hallway he had just passed through no longer existed. If it had been short, it now extended and curved beyond his sight. If it had been lit, it now harbored the absolute nothingness that made Lee’s stomach churn. Familiarity was impossible.

Right or left? Lee was certain this must have been the thousandth time he asked himself this. It was yet another unwanted decision he had to make. Or was it another mistake? Perhaps. “Eenie, meenie, miny, moe,” he said aloud. He meant for the words to be comforting, the sound of his normally comical and careless voice bringing back some of the courage he’d lost along the way. Instead, the sound of his own voice made him shudder; the sound was alien to his ears.

He turned right.

It took Lee just one second to realize, hands down, that this passage was the worst. The whispers he’d never gotten used to began to grow. They howled and moaned as they whisked past his ears. The menacing shadows remained invisible, but now, instead of dubious glimpses out of the corner of his eyes, he could feel them. They reached out to him as he walked past. What felt like frozen flesh and steel on his skin cut through all layers of his clothing, making his body tremor all over. He began to run, flailing his arms out in front of him in an attempt to ward off the shadows. As he ran, the voices continued to grow. Lee still could not discern whether they were warning or taunting.

The frozen air in his lungs burned as his heart raced faster and faster. The walls suddenly seemed to be closing in, shrinking every way as he ran. Lee’s mind willed his legs to move faster, to keep up with his heart, but they were numb and unresponsive as they moved. “Come on. Come on!”

In the midst of the chaos that filled his mind, one of Lee’s aching knees locked and he stumbled to the floor. He closed his eyes and covered his head, waiting for the harrowing sound of bones being crushed by the immense force of the black walls. After a minute or so had passed, he wondered if he had missed it. Had the walls been quick and merciful? When he opened his eyes, would he find himself in light or darkness?

Slowly, Lee opened his eyes and looked up. Before him was a circular room, the same dull shade as the rest of the maze. He glanced over his shoulder to discover the opening he had just flown through remained the same dimensions as when he had started down the terrifying passage. He turned back around, propping himself up onto his knees. The air was warmer in this room; his lungs no longer burned. There were no shadows or voices, and the light that filled this room was white instead of a sickly pale yellow. Everything about this room was different, especially the lone door standing in the middle of the room.
An intense light shone through the narrow spaces between the door and its frame. It danced.

Lee started to take a slow step forward. “Lee,” a soft, feminine voice whispered in his ear. He stumbled to the side and searched the room frantically. He’d felt the cold breath of the voice in his ear, as though someone, or rather something, had been right beside him. “Lee,” the voice whispered again, this time from across the room. Lee followed the voice with his eyes as it continued to call his name arbitrarily throughout the room. The voice was soft and strangely soothing, so different from the terrifying whispers that had surrounded him until now. It was mesmerizing.

Lee didn’t realize he’d been moving until his back pressed up against the door. He slowly turned to face the slab of dark wood, taking one cautionary step backwards. The light behind it continued to shimmer, but it did not translate throughout the room. There were no splotches of light dancing across the curved walls as there should have been. A shot of ice ran down Lee’s back as he reached out and grasped the dull brass doorknob. The bits of the mechanism rattled against one another as he wrestled with the idea of opening the awful thing. Finally, he twisted the decrepit metal until he would have opened the door, but stopped. A chilled breath rested on his ear once again, and the voice whispered:
“Sie transit gloria mundi.”

The door shot open with enough force to knock Lee to the ground. A powerful wind threatened to rip the door from its hinges, but the small pieces of metal held fast. Lee shielded his eyes from the overpowering yellow and white beams that now engulfed the once dismal room. The sound was colossal – a synthesis of thunder and waterfalls. Lee stood back up and carefully made his way forward. As he stepped over the threshold, the voice spoke once more from behind, the soft words somehow breaking through the blast. “Tu fui, ego eris.” Lee did not understand the words. Nevertheless, they suddenly filled him with great fear; his heart pounded against his chest, begging for relief from the terror surrounding it. Lee turned to escape back into the round room, but stopped short as the door slammed shut, stifling his final scream for help.

Submitted by natalie jamison on 16 April 2007 - 12:51pm. | | |

A compliation of fantastical short stories.

Submitted by Raymond L. Step... on 10 March 2007 - 5:50pm. | | |

Howl came around in front of them, interrupting their fixation on the scene below. “You have already been in one dangerous situation down there, and I saw others that you narrowly missed, and, luckily were unaware of. You can see from here, some of the obstacles you face. There are many more you can’t see. But, I must warn you; up here, although we can only see from one ridge to the next, and things look quite safe, this can be very misleading. One danger in particular; we might run into the domeheads. Those guys are mean and nasty, and with their ugly round heads, they look just like the rocks, almost invisible until they open their
big toothy mouths to scream. It’s so loud, most animals freeze in their tracks until the domeheads catch them.”

All the others looked to Slayer for advice. “Are they fast?” He asked.

“No, not very, they rely on their scream. Other animals can’t tell which direction it comes from, because it seems to bounce around off the rocks.”

Slayer thought for a minute or two, then, almost like he was struck by lightning, he straightened, his head came up, and he turned to face the members of the patrol. “O.K., this is what we’ll do. At the first sound of a domie’s scream, Howl will answer with one of his loudest howls. Buzzy, you and Swoop have the best eyesight, so get as high as you can. Swoop, if you can, get in the air. They should poke their heads up to see what’s making the noise. If you let us know where they are, I think we can get them on the run. Dragon, if you can get your fire going, it will really throw a scare into them; in any case, make all the noise you can, and run towards them. They’re not expecting that.”

“Hey, Slayer,” said Howl, “That’s a good plan. I’ve never heard of anyone standing up to the domies.”

“O.K.,” said Slayer, “Let’s get moving. Howl, I don’t like to ask anyone to go in the front, but you know the area
best, and can find the trails easier, can you take the lead?”

“Sure, no problem; besides, I’ve heard the domies never come at you head-on; but wait to catch you off-guard, either from the side or behind. We all need to beware all the time.”

As the journey progressed, all were amazed at how well Howl could find really good trails where none were apparent to them.

Swoop could see Buzzy’s flight feathers beginning to grow, so he coached him on the aspects and techniques of flying. It was really comical to watch Buzzy hopping down the trail, trying to imitate Swoop’s long powerful wingbeats with his stubby little wings; but it was definitely strengthening his flight muscles. His legs seemed longer and stronger too. He could now jump over some of the smaller boulders.

Howl knew lots of little springs and rivulets that he led them to so they could quench their thirst. He also found a small pond, where they dined on fish, newts and
large insects of all kinds, including dragonflies. Howl and Dragon even managed to catch a few small rodents.

They continued their journey, but hadn’t been going long, when the thing they had been dreading happened. A shrill, ear-piercing scream seeming to come from all directions at once, put their nerves to the test. Practice and planning really paid off now.

Immediately, Howl let out with one of his loudest and longest cries. Dragon started whuffing and snorting, Slayer was on his hind legs, collar flaring and mouth wide; Buzzy and Swoop were high amid some boulders, and Swoop was quickly airborne.

The domies must have been surprised, for their screaming stopped. They poked their heads up to see what they had missed in their scouting. Buzzy’s sharp eyes immediately caught the movement. “Over there,” he pointed, “there’s only three of them.”

Howl kept up his fearsome serenade, which must have disoriented the domies, for as they charged out from behind the boulders, two of them ran into each other. One fell to the ground stunned; he recovered, and the two kept coming. Dragon got so excited his fire started, and burst from his wide open jaws in a searing tongue of flame, catching one of the attackers straight on. It turned the front of him black, and must have temporarily blinded him. As he

staggered around, black-grey-black-grey, he managed to trip his partner in crime. Swoop had managed to grasp a large rock that Buzzy was lifting up with all his strength; and flying over the scene, dropped it squarely on the head of the domie that was just gathering his senses from the first rush. That would be one less domie to worry about in the land.

The only whole domie left began to get to his feet to resume the charge. As he raised his eyes, the first thing he spied was Slayer, splendid and tall, powerful hind legs pumping, collar flared to the max, and the biggest mouth the domehead had ever seen coming straight at him. He just couldn’t help himself. With a scream, this one of pure fright, he turned, and as fast as his stubby legs could move, began to flee. Black and grey was just getting his vision back, and when he saw his partner in head-long flight, quickly followed. They spread the word fast. This was one patrol you better leave alone.
“They’ll hurt ya.”

As the fighters regrouped, congratulating each other with nudges, grins and cuffs. They noticed Howl was not among them. Immediately they were back on their guard. They heard some gurgling noises close by, and went to
investigate. As they rounded a large boulder, they saw Howl rolling on the ground. At first they were fearful that another domie had gotten by their defense, but soon realized that Howl was laughing. “Boy,” he said, “that was great. I’ve never heard of domies being beaten so soundly. Hehehe, did you see old Blackface (and thus he would be known forever)? He didn’t know what happened. And Slayer, you almost scared my tail off. What a bombing mission Buzzy and Swoop pulled off! Boy, I don’t think domies will mess with this patrol again. But there are other fearsome things we have to watch for. I think we better get moving on.”

Off they went, Howl once again taking the point.

After some time, they noticed the boulder-strewn landscape began to give way to a different makeup; one of more solid rock cliffs breaking up a cleaner surface of grass and soil. The trail was readily visible ahead, so they took turns in the lead. They could see that the trail disappeared over a large ridge way up ahead in the distance, but still had no real concern over their direction of travel.

They became so relaxed, and joyful, they were almost complacent, as they journeyed happily along.

Suddenly Howl’s ears perked up, he stopped dead in his tracks, and looked in all directions. “I’ve never been in this part of the land before, and I don’t recognize the sound, but it seems to be coming from everywhere.”

“Is that it?” Dragon had looked behind them. There was a huge mass inching, it seemed, along the trail in their direction.

“A cave wole.” Announced Howl.

“Shall I try to get my fire going, and fry it?” said Dragon, as he started to whuff and snort.

“Don’t bother,” said Howl. “It looks a lot closer because of its size, but we can easily keep ahead of it. Besides it’s scales are like armor, I don’t think your fire could touch it, but we must stay out of its reach or we’re goners.”

“Well lets get going then,” said Slayer.

Before long they all heard the sound that had Howl upset. A deep muted roar, it didn’t let up at all, it hardly even changed pitch. None of the group could give a name to it but they all unknowingly began to slow down. So much so, in fact, that the wole had gained a good deal of ground on them. As Dragon looked back, he was surprised, and called the groups attention to it. Now they could make
out the huge, scaly body, shaped like a common slug. It was of such immense size that it was unbelievable. Then Buzzy, with his sharp eyes, pointed out the dark, comparatively small eyes that seemed to stare at the little group.

Finally the thing that really got them on the move again, was when the monster opened its gaping maw. It was big enough to swallow all of them and a half dozen domeheads at the same time. Most of its food came from the huge fungi growth, deep in the damp caves that it inhabited.

Occasionally it ventured forth to try for succulent sheep or goats on the slopes. Spotting the patrol with its unusually sharp eyes, the wole set out in pursuit. Slow and determined, its goal was to trap the group, who unknowingly was being herded in that direction.

The going was quite easy across the wide mountain valley, the trail was level and smooth. Occasionally they walked (or hopped) two or three abreast. It could have been quiet pleasant, and they would have liked to stop and roll in the cool grass and fragrant flowers, but the constant threat form behind, and the increasing dreadful roar apparently from all around them, prevented any relaxation of mind or body.

On they went, increasing the distance between themselves and the wole. As they drew closer to the ridge, the roaring sound became louder and louder. It almost seemed to shake the ground. The air was getting damp too. Small droplets of moisture, ran down beaks and noses. They noticed spots of moss growing everywhere, and the trail was getting slippery. Still the sound grew louder, the wole kept following.

The mountain was so steep now and the slope so slick, they didn’t dare to leave the trail. It seemed the trail had really been climbing, it would be a long way down if one of them were to slip. On they went, fearing what came behind and not knowing what came ahead.

Submitted by Raymond L. Step... on 10 March 2007 - 5:48pm. | | |

As the group continued on their journey, the woods gave way to more of a plains topography. After quite a time, they noticed that the grass was getting taller and taller. The ground began to be damp, then wetter and wetter.
“Howwwlll!” They all looked at each other, and shook their heads. Whatever made the noise was a long way off, and

nothing to worry about. The grass turned to reeds, and grew so tall they couldn’t see over the top of it. “Howwlll!”
Was it their imagination, or was the sound getting nearer.

“Hey Swoop,” Slayer called, “why don’t you pop up to see where we are?”

“OK, Slayer, just give me a boost so I can get my wings working above this stuff.”

Slayer and Dragon both crouched down, while Swoop climbed up and put a foot on each of their heads. At the count of three, both raised up and jumped as high as they could from their strong hind legs. Swoop judged their jump, and just as they reached their highest point, he too jumped as high as he could, and began to flap his huge leathery wings, launching himself into flight. Higher and higher he circled.

High above their heads now, Swoop called down to them. “Hey, there’s a river up ahead. You’re on the edges of a swamp.”

“Howwlll.” Much closer now.

“Aieeyah! I’m sinking!” Dragon shouted. “Help me!”

Buzzy grabbed one of Dragons flailing forelegs with his beak, and leaning back, digging his feet in, pulled with all his might. Slayer caught the other leg with his front feet and mouth, and did the some. Swoop came low enough to grab one of Dragon’s horns, and put forth all his mighty wings could muster. Dragon pulled free so suddenly, Swoop, Buzzy and Slayer went flying through the air, not a controlled
flight either, they landed with a bump, thump, and a rolling thud.

Dragon was about to ask how everybody was, but was interrupted by a “Howwll!”

“What is that!” Dragon was pretty worried now.

“It’s something coming to eat us!” said Buzzy.

“Howwll!”

Boy that did it, they were so scared, they just started running; but, with quicksand in one direction, and the river in another, and not exactly sure which direction they just came from; all they did was get in each other’s way, and trip one another. “Howwll!” Now all they could do, was huddle together, heads down, and rear ends up and out. Rustle, rustle, rustle, Dragon just couldn’t stand it. He raised one fearful, half-closed eye to peer over Slayer’s already raised collar. “Look!”

Slayer jumped and turned on his rear legs, mouth wide, and collar flaring. He was ready to try his darndest to scare anything that might be there. Buzzy sat up, and put his fearful beak forward. Dragon started snorting and whuffing, trying to get his fire going. Where was swoop? Had he already been eaten? Finally they spied the little pterodactyl. He had managed to get airborne, but was flying
very erratically. Oh, no, they feared he had been mortally wounded. The beast must have hurt him.

Just then, another rustle and a movement in the reeds caught their attention. As they watched, horrified, a little black nose button appeared, then a grey and brown muzzle, two small red eyes, and two pointed brown ears. “Please don’t hurt me,” it said.

“H-h-h-hurt you,” Buzzy said, “we thought you were going to eat us.”

“Was that terrible noise you?”

“Uh, I guess so, I mean, I was trying to warn you about the quicksand. I have been following you, but I was afraid to get too close. What’s the matter with him?”

All of them looked around, Swoop was coming in for a landing, but his beak was wide open, and his head was tilted back. His flight was so jerky, he could hardly maintain flight. Crash! Tumble, bump, Swoop crashed into Dragon, bounced over Buzzy, and came to rest upside down on Slayer’s tail. What! He was laughing so hard he couldn’t even roll over. “Oh, boy! You guys sure were funny. That was a show worth watching, and I had the best seat possible. I thought you were all going to turn absolutely white you were so

scared. You had me laughing so hard I almost flew upside down. Hahahahaha, it was great.”

Pretty soon they were all laughing, the comical picture Swoop drew for them overcame all their past fears.

“I’m Slayer.” “Dragon”, “Buzzy”, “Hahaha Swoop here,”

“And I’m Howl,” said the newcomer, shyly. “Can I play with you?”

“Sure,” said Slayer, “only we’re on an exploring patrol. We’re trying to keep Booploop safe from weird critters.”

“Yup,” added Buzzy, “say, do you know the way out of this mess?”

“Sure,” said Howl,” just follow me.”

They all agreed that Howl made a great point-man; of course, it helped that he knew his own neighborhood like the tip of his bushy tail. Soon Howl had them back on solid ground. “Howl, that was marvelous,” Dragon had been thoroughly impressed. “I didn’t think I would ever get out of that terrible, sinking place.”

“Say, Howl, I don’t suppose you know where we could possibly get a bite to eat.” Buzzy was looking positively famished.

“Why, sure, you should have said you were hungry. Just a little way further, up at the base of the mountain, there was a rockslide. There are a lot of bugs, mice, beehives and stuff in the trees the rocks knocked down. I go there all the time.”

Although it seemed like a long time to them, the brave little self-appointed patrol soon reached the slide area; just as Howl had promised, there was food in plenty, for all their tastes.

Before long, their tummies were bulging, and yet they kept on eating. Finally Dragon looked up from the tasty honey-comb he was feasting on. There was Howl, flat on his back, four paws towards the sky.

“Howl!” Dragon cried.

“Ooooh!” My tummy is so full, I can’t roll over.”

As he looked around at each of each member of the patrol, he saw that everyone was in much the same state. Buzzy was propped against a fallen log, extended stomach resting on the ground between his feet, a large grub still dangled from his beak. Swoop had managed to cling to tree branch with his Talons, and was hanging upside down to relieve the pressure, but in so doing, was in danger of throwing up the whole repast he had indulged in. Slayer was
suspended also, but with his forelegs draped over a limb, and his back legs on top of a rock. His belly looked like a swing in between. He was certain no matter what happened right now, he wouldn’t be able to get his magnificent collar to raise even an inch. Dragon, seeing the state his friends were in, finally succumbed, curled his tail for a hollow cushion, and, carefully arranging his swollen abdomen in the center, allowed front and hind legs to hang over the outside, and almost immediately fell asleep.

Ah, pain! Something must have him in its mouth or claws. Slayer couldn’t decide whether to risk opening an eye, or continue to feign sleep. Finally unable to stand the pain any longer, he risked opening his left eye just a crack. Nothing there that he could see. Cautiously he opened both eyes, and slowly looked around. He could hardly believe it, the pain was caused by the awkward position he had arranged himself in. Then he noticed that the sun was in the East instead of the West. He must have been dangling there for about twelve hours. Slowly and sorely he managed to get his powerful hindlegs under him, and on the edge of the rock. Mustering all his will-power, he readied himself, then with a tremendous push, launched himself over the limb an into a forward somersault.

“Yeow!” Quickly rolling upright, he found he had rolled right into buzzy, squashing him against the log. In spite of the pain, he jumped up and helped buzzy to his feet.

“Wow, What a wake-up,” Buzzy gasped for air.

“Hey, what’s all the noise? What’s going on?” Dragon uncurled his tail and stood up, looking all around, eyes finally resting on Slayer and Buzzy.

“Oh, just trying to get the kinks out.” Said Buzzy.

Chuck, flap, ouch Swoop released his grip on the limb.

“Boy, it’s a good thing he has a hard head,” said Slayer. “Hey, where’s Howl?”

The little wolf was used to the rockfall abundance, and recovered quicker than the others. He had spent several hours scouting around while the others were still asleep. “Hoowl! Hey you lazy-bones, it’s about time you were waking up. What’s the plan? Do you want to continue along the mountain, or go down into the valley?”

Almost automatically, all heads swiveled to look down off the mountain bench. The sight sent a chill through each. There was the valley floor far below, There was the river, winding its way through the plain; marshy areas (sometimes with quicksand) extending outwards sometimes for miles. Sometimes thickets and clumps of small trees grew
right down to the water’s edge. In one place, they could see what appeared to be a dangerous whirlpool, as if the very river itself was being eaten by some gigantic monster. Mists arose from many areas of the plain, and spread out to cover much of the lowest parts of the valley. In the distance, they could see small specks moving slowly; if they could only realize just how fast these specks were really moving. It’s probably a good thing they couldn’t see what the specks actually were, and the carnage that accompanied the everyday food chain process of the valley. Their very size would guarantee them being almost at the very bottom of that chain.

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Submitted by Raymond L. Step... on 10 March 2007 - 5:39pm. | |

A beautiful shiny gold body, anyone would be proud to have it. Powerful legs that showed an ability to run fast and far. Especially noteworthy were the rear legs, very muscled, and formed for speed. Silvery white eyes gave an allusion of constant alertness. A grey head with the pinkest mouth, that could open unbelievably wide. There was a loose collar of bright orange and black. The collar rose up, framing head and wide open mouth when Slayer was excited. This made for quite a frightful appearance. He was surely one of the bravest lizards around.

It was about 8:00 in the A.M., Slayer was on his morning stroll, just moseying along. He called it his daily constitutional. So completely relaxed was he, that he allowed his long orange tail to drag behind him in the dust. He was passing beneath a rock ledge when suddenly something fell on him. It struck him on the head, and rolled right down his back, knocking him face first into the grit of the trail.

Slayer immediately pushed himself up onto his hind legs, mouth wide, and collar flaring; the effect of the
brightly glaring, flared collar slightly diminished by his frantic spitting of the gravel he found in his mouth.

Desperately he looked all around to see what monstrous thing had attacked him from above. All he could see was a small grey ball of fuzz over by a rock. Brave as he was, he couldn’t help himself, and he jumped back, startled, as the fuzzball moved. Wide-eyed, Slayer watched as the fuzzball struggled and finally sat up. A long skinny neck straightened up, supporting a puny little bony head, beady little orange eyes, and a big blue beak sticking way out in front. Again Slayer acted involuntarily, this time with his own funny unique little hissing laugh, “Hehehishishehehis”.

Slayer couldn’t take his eyes off the newcomer as the ridiculous little fuzzball attempted to clear the dust from his plump little body. He had calmed enough that his collar had smoothed down, but was again surprised when the beak opened, and out came squawking words that said’ “Hi, I’m Buzzy, Who are you?”

“I’m S-S-S-Slayer.” He was so startled, that was all he could utter.

“Where are we?” Buzzy asked.

“We’re in Booploop.”

“Booploop, I’ve heard of that, my mom told me that weird critters live down there. Are you weird?”

“Hisishehehishehishehe, I don’t think so. You’re the only weird creature around here. What did you attack me for anyway?” Slayer was halfway teasing Buzzy now. That kind of ruffled Buzzy’s pitiful little feathers. “I am not weird,” he squawked. “My feathers just haven’t grown out yet, besides, my mom thinks I’m cute.”

“Well, I guess, if you like blue fuzz.”

“What were you doing, anyway?” asked Buzzy.

“Oh, just keeping an eye on the neighborhood, making sure no weird critters dropped in, hehehishishe. You might say I am on patrol.”

“Oh! Can I help you, Slayer, can I? Huh, huh, please.” Buzzy was really excited, it sounded like a grand adventure.

“Well, I guess so. You seem like an OK kind of guy. Just don’t go attacking anybody along the way.”

”I won’t, Slayer, I won’t attack nobody.”

As the two wound through the woods, Slayer was surprised how well Buzzy could keep up, just hopping along on only two legs. “You know what, Buzzy, Sometimes I think that if I weren’t so brightly colored, I’d get more food.”

“Why’s that, Slayer?” Buzzy was puzzled.

“Well, look at those dragonflies, they can see me better than they can see you. I’ll bet you could get a lot more of them than I could; especially with that sharp, long beak of yours.”

“But you have a better reach with that long tongue of yours. Ah, Slayer, aren’t there more of those mean-looking bugs up there now? They sure are big.”

“Yeah, and there are more arriving every second. Look at them gathering. Why there’s a regular airforce up there now.”

“Uh, oh, oh, look out Slayer! I think they’re coming after us.”

“Here they come, Buzzy!”

Zap..snap..snap..snap..zap...back-to-back, the two friends fought. Dragonfly after dragonfly met their end there. Soon the two even began to outpace their appetites. Thank goodness those pesky fliers finally got the picture, and off they flew.

“Wow, Slayer, I’ll bet you ate a million of them rascals.”

“Boy, I feel like it Buzzy, and I’ll bet that beak of yours did in a million or two also.”

“They must have thought we were water lilies or something.”

Whuff-whuff-snort-wheee-snort-whuff-snort-flap-flap-whee. The two buddies looked at each other wild-eyed.

Flap-wheee-snort...”Wh-wh-what’s that, Slayer?”

“I don’t know Buzzy, but if it’s one of those insects, we’re in trouble. It’s over there, let’s go check it out.”

“Oh, Slayer, I’m s-s-scared.”

Right in front of them, out of the bushes, arose a pair of golden horns, followed by two silver ears, two orange beady eyes, some long droopy whiskers, a mouth full of teeth, and a long orange body with spikes on top of it.

“SLAYER!!!” The two friends were terrified, they didn’t know what to do. They started running, but it was as if they had their eyes closed, and very likely they did, for they ran in circles, and ended up running into each other, knocking both to the ground. What a sight.

“Aw, hi, what’s-snort-happening? Do either of you have a light? I haven’t learned how to get my fire started yet.”

The two friends froze in mid-circle. “What? Buzzy, did you hear that?”

“Yeah. Hey what are you?”

“Ah, I’m Dragon.”

“Dragon? Dragon what? Are you king of the dragonflies, or something?”

“No, I don’t think so. I’m just Dragon.”

“Well, that was sure a lot of noise. I understand the snorting and whuffing now, but what was that flapping sound?”

“Oh, that was “---swooooooop----”him.”

Buzzy was quivering all over. “Wow, what happened, what was that. Look out here it comes again!”

SWOOOOOOOOP—

“Swoop! Come down here, you’re scaring our new friends.” Dragon took it for granted that they would all be great friends.

SWOOOOOSHSKIDTUMBLESMASH!

“He’s still not to good with is landings, but he’s a good fellow, and he’s a lot of fun.”

Slayer’s collar was just beginning to smooth back down.” Is he all right?”

Buzzy just couldn’t take his eyes off the aerial newcomer. The fuzzy blue body was quivering all over. “He doesn’t have feathers either, but he sure can fly. Maybe he can teach me how.”

Grass, weeds, leaves and dust were thrown into the air as the flier shook himself. He was quite a sight. A terribly long beak, with rows of teeth to match, an elongated skull in back to offset the beak, huge leathery

wings, with little hands in the top of the middle fold, shiny yellow eyes and a brown fuzzy body with little short legs. He slowly looked from one to the other. Finally he said; ”I Swoop.”

“You sure did.” They all agreed. All together the new friends began to laugh.

“Hey, Swoop, will you teach me to fly?” Buzzy was still quivering about what he had just seen.

Swoop studied Buzzy. “Well, Beaky, I-” he started.

“Oh, Swoop, squawkhehe, my name is Buzzy, you silly thing.”

“Well, Buzzy, I think your wings need a little more growing, and some feathers. But, I’d say in about a month you’ll be ready to go. Then, by golly, we’ll swoop all over the place.”

Buzzy’s head was spinning with thoughts of flight.
“Oh, thank you swoop. I can hardly wait.”

“Hey,” said Dragon, “What are we going to do now? We can’t just stand around here all day, doing nothing.”

“Yeah, that’s for sure,” said Slayer, “I know, why don’t you join Buzzy and me on our patrol?”

Off they went, hippity-hop, scrape, flap-flap, pitter-patter; the great adventure had begun. They didn’t realize that they were already being followed. Far behind them, being sure to keep out of sight, something was keeping close track of their progress.

The companions’ progress was punctuated by laughter mixed with squawks, hisses, hehes, and a lot of playful nudges and bumps. “Hey, Buzzy, we gonna have a big air race after Swoop teaches you to fly?”

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Submitted by spazmom on 9 March 2007 - 7:37am. |

The winds howled around the house as the young woman inside hobbled to the table, setting down a plate and cup, readying for the day’s meager meal. The winter storms were coming early this year, and she was ill prepared for them. With the school being closed due to lack of students, her income had stopped with them and her prospects were few. Yesterday’s news was the best she’d received in months, and she wasn’t quite sure how to take it.

Distracted from her task of setting the table, she picked up the note that had been slipped under her door while she slept, reading it again in disbelief.

New position available for school mistress in York County. This position must be filled immediately. It is open to any who have had prior experience. Employment terms negotiable upon acceptance of position.

There was no other information with it, but she knew about York County – it lay just west of where she lived and was not large. She felt confident she would be able to locate the school and be qualified. Hadn’t she taught here for over five years? She would still be teaching if not for –

Clenching her jaw, she felt an ache in her heart as well as her leg. It wasn’t her fault, they simply didn’t understand. After the accident, her life hadn’t been the same. The accident still caused her nightmares and she turned in fright every time she heard a horse carriage coming down the road.

She’d been crossing the road to go to the bakers when a wild wagon had careened around the corner and hit her along the left side. There was no one to push her out of the way, no one who came to her aid until it was too late. The wagon wheel had torn muscles and twisted her leg to the point where even after the doctor had repositioned it and gotten everything bandaged, it had never worked properly again. She was forced to walk with a limp, and sometimes when she was very tired, a cane. Everyone seemed - ashamed - of her deformity, even though it was not visible.

She didn’t see how that was possible...how they could think she had changed just because part of her had been injured? But it had taken a long while for her to get back on her feet, and it seemed as if the town had changed a great deal in that time. No one had come to visit after the first month, thinking that she was slow to heal and busy with their own lives. By the time she had healed enough to get up and try moving around, they took to walking along the other side of the road. The townspeople wouldn’t meet her gaze, and the young children looked scared or whimpered in fear.

Had she turned into a monster during her time of recovery? She didn’t understand it. When she looked in the mirror her face seemed the same. She saw no physical difference in herself. Talking to the doctor was futile, as he had no answers for her. Neither did the kindly woman who acted as nurse. She had simply shrugged and said it was how they were. No one would talk to her about it, and her feelings of isolation and loneliness became even more defined. Her heart ached with it during every waking moment.

School had been the only bearable thing for her. She held it in the building that was next to her home, and the children came from town four days a week for 5 hours. It was a joy and a wonder to see their eyes light up when she explained something to them.

Only – after her injury, things started to change – for the worse. The years seemed to get progressively tight as the townspeople seemed even more offended by her halting, limping walk, and started forbidding their children to attend the school. The income she had been making, which had never been plentiful, had now dwindled to barely being able to sustain life.

By the end of last year, she had retained only one student – a young girl named Braidy. She’d haltingly whispered that even though her parents were afraid she would catch something deforming from the teacher, she still liked her and wished she could come. Then she had run home, tears streaming down her face. Jenny had sat in the schoolroom, her heart now as empty as the room in front of her – feeling as desolate as the wild deserts she’d taught her students about.

Through the summer she had planted as big a garden as she could manage, but she hadn’t been able to tend it or care for it very well, not having anyone to help hoe or irrigate it. She had been able to can some, but not enough and she now faced empty shelves and larder with no way to fill them. The cow, the only one left from the family business – a dairy her father had run, had died at the end of summer from some strange disease she hadn’t been able to cure.

She was going to die.

Perhaps she could go beg from the townspeople – the thought snuck in and tempted her for a moment as she sat at the table, looking at her plate with the small amount of garden peas and a slice of bread. She had no where else to turn, all of her family had died. Her help had vanished with the children, and she was left to fend for herself.

She hadn’t thought it would be this difficult – she had thought there would be those willing to help her. However, she also recognized that times had been hard on everyone, not just her, and everyone was struggling to make ends meet. It had stretched the feelings of charity until it really didn’t seem to exist in this part of the world. It was each man for himself, and if you didn’t have, you left to make room for those who still did.

The ability to recognize that this was a difficult period of time for everyone was shrinking daily with her ability to have a way to survive. The bitterness seemed to grow from the inside out, day by day, until she woke one morning and the world looked gray everywhere – inside and out of her little home.

What is the use? she asked herself, laying in bed and watching the storm clouds roll in. It was fitting a storm had gathered as her faith dwindled and died.

She’d had faith once. She’d been taught there was a God in the Heavens as a child by her mother and father. But when they died, a part of that faith died with them, and it hadn’t been nourished by the townspeople either. The last time there had been a preacher in town, they had run him out on a rail, claiming he’d been trying to cheat them out of money rather than teach them about God.

The hole in her heart seemed even larger today as she contemplated the chill in the room and the storm howling outside. She felt as if it consumed her and there was no ability to feel the cold for the chill inside was greater than the chill outside. Looking up, she could see her face reflected in the window where the darkness of the clouds made nothing viewable outside. Her face had been lovely once...the skin had been smooth and clear, her cheek bones high and her lips full and red. Her eyes had been full of life and she remembered how her mother used to tease her that her eyes looked like the swirls of chocolate they made in the winter for Christmastide. Her hair had been thick and full, the color of maple sugar when it was cooling.

Now all she saw was a face devoid of happiness, empty of hope. Deep lines ran from her nose to her mouth where it sat in a perpetual frown. Her eyes had lost their luster – it had been a great while since anyone had suggested they were lovely, and her forehead had lines running along it from the many hours of worrying about her situation. Her hair was pulled back and thin, the result of too little to eat. The bones of her pale face stood out starkly against the darkness of the room, and she closed her eyes to the site.

It was too much to think she could have kept her looks through all of this, although the hope of marrying had been something she’d given up on long ago. When none of the eligible young men in town would even return a greeting, she knew there was no chance of happiness. At least in the County over the hills she would be able to start anew. Perhaps there was a chance that she would meet someone there...

The hope flared weakly in her chest, but soon died with nothing to feed it but empty dreams. She knew there was no hope. She rested her head wearily on her cold hands, closing her eyes to the room around her and its dark loneliness. She didn’t think she could stand it any more. She had to get out of here before she totally went mad and starved to death. They would find her in the spring, should anyone care to come looking for her. She rather thought they wouldn’t, and her house would end up falling down around her ears – decayed though they would be. A fitting memorial and grave – her own home.

She stood up and strode haltingly to her wardrobe, flinging it open to gaze at the clothing inside. Nothing was remotely new anymore – it had been years since she had been able to afford cloth to make something new for herself. She had patched and reworked the ones she owned until they no longer resembled anything but a worn piece of cloth. The dress she was wearing now was the best of them all – which didn’t say much for itself, but it was all she had. She grabbed the carpet bag from off the top of the wardrobe and wrenching the clothes off the hooks, started stuffing the items in. She had one other pair of shoes – those she had kept for best. They were only slightly less worn than the pair she had on, but they would do for the walk ahead.

She walked to the small table where her toiletries were kept, and picking up her pins, small bits of jewelry left from her mother and comb and mirror, she resolutely dropped them in the bag. In doing so, she bumped the cane that leaned there should she need it.

The cane. It was a mystery. It had appeared on her doorstep after she’d gotten back to her home after recuperating in town the months following the accident. She had been given a cane from the doctor, but it had been a flimsy slight thing that she’d been afraid to lean on. The one she found outside her door was waist high and carved with fanciful figures, dark, thick and strong as a piece of oak. It was an amazing piece of work, and she cherished it – knowing that someone had spent a great deal of time making it before giving it to her. Her heart ached for a moment with the thought that someone had cared for her but never came forward and then she stomped down on the feeling, closing her eyes to the tears that were trying to escape.

She was going. She would leave in the morning, unless it snowed. She had no choice. She had to get through the forest before the storms snowed her in and she died. She didn’t want to die. Not yet.

She knew her way through the forest. Hadn’t she gone there often enough as a child? The forest had been her favorite place. She’d felt totally safe there, and sometimes – her thoughts caused her to pause mid-step in going back to the table to sit down. Sometimes she had thought someone was with her. Someone who seemed to play with her, invisible games that made her laugh and dance through the trees.

She shook her head and went back to the table, sitting down to force the food down her throat. She didn’t want to eat it, she knew it would not taste good, and yet she knew she needed all the strength she could get from it. She would be wrapping up what was left to take with her in the morning. She looked at the free standing fireplace that was cold, and sudden inspiration hit. With a sudden gleeful laugh, she stood up and flung the chair she’d been sitting in to the floor. At least tonight she would be warm!

She broke up the chair she’d been sitting in. It wasn’t as easy as she had thought it would be because her father had made all the furniture in the small house, and he’d done a good job of it. She broke up the table next, and that actually caused her to work up a bit of a sweat, warming her to the outside. Her heart was still cold.

Her heart was full of the ice of barren loneliness and she thought nothing of the heritage she was burning. Nothing of the rocking chair her mother had rocked her to sleep in. Nothing of her parent’s bed as it fed the now glowing stove and warmed the small room. She shut the door to the rest of the house, intending only on keeping this one warm. Her face was flushed from the unusual exertion along with the toasty warmth of the room, and she collapsed into the last chair left – her father’s chair – which was very heavy and would have been close to impossible to break up.

There. It was done. There would be nothing left behind her when she left. No one would have anything to scrounge when they discovered her gone. Yes, she still owned the property, but little good that did her when no one would purchase it. Sometime in the future she might be able to come back, but why?

“Why?” she cried out, tears suddenly filling her eyes, and cracking through the ice in her heart. “No one cares!”

Submitted by spazmom on 9 March 2007 - 7:20am. |

The sweet spring air swirled around the little girl as she sat in the meadow. It was late April and the flowers were blooming, the birds were singing, the sky overhead was a brilliant blue. She felt as if she were in heaven. She lay back in the sweet grass and watched as wisps of clouds floated by, suddenly hearing a soft song in the wind. The song called to her, and she sat up, tilting her head to one side, hoping to catch the words. It floated on the slight breeze, the lilting words carrying a haunting melody that made her heart ache while at the same time making her want to dance.

Unable to make out the words, she frowned, concentrating on the sounds. There weren’t any villagers living by them, their home was the farthest out and the closest to the forest. Her mother never sang – claimed she had the voice of a frog and wouldn’t force it on anyone. Who could it be? Had one of the villagers come to visit?

She jumped up and ran toward her home, excitement and curiosity mingling within her. There weren’t many visitors to their home – only school children who came for her mother’s teaching. Adults fascinated her. She could sit and listen to their stories for hours if her mother let them. Usually though, there were tasks to be done and lessons to be planned. Neighbors rarely came to call as they had busy lives as well – especially when it was preparation for summer and planting time.

Her blonde braids whipped behind her like ribbons as she ran, giggling to herself – happy in anticipation. Since she was outside every moment of every day the weather and mother permitted, her little face was covered in freckles and the skin was slightly red on her upturned nose. Rich, thick eyelashes of dark brown framed her forestry green eyes which turned up a little at the corners, and her plump, pink cheeks glowed with health. She ran with a quick step and burst through the door of their well kept home, looking around for her mother.

“Mother! Mother, is someone here?” Going back to the kitchen, she found the object of her search in the middle of putting loaves of bread into the oven. “Here you are!” She gazed at the loaves, relishing the thought of fresh slices out of the oven while her mother chuckled.

“I’ve been here all morning, my dearest. Did you need something?”

“Mother,” the girl said, coming to stand at her side, her thoughts back on the meadow. “Did we have a visitor? I heard singing.”

Her mother finished putting the loaves in the oven and shut the door before turning to look steadily at her daughter. “We had no earthly visitors, Tabitha. You must have heard the fairies singing.”

The girl’s eyes grew round at the words. “Fairies? What do you mean?”

Her mother chuckled and put an arm around her shoulders. “Come. I’m ready for a break, let’s have some cookies and milk and I’ll tell you. I can’t believe you haven’t heard the song before now with us living right by the forest.”

Tabitha looked around, her expression confused. “What difference does it make that we live close to the forest?”

Her mother smiled a mysterious smile as she guided her daughter toward the kitchen table. “The forest has a great deal to do with us living here,” she said, setting down a plate of cookies. “If it weren’t there, we wouldn’t have lived here.”

Tabitha frowned as she reached for a cookie, watching her mother get a pitcher of milk from the cold box and come back with two mugs. “We wouldn’t be living here if the forest wasn’t there? Why not? I thought daddy was a woodsman.”

The woman looked down at her young daughter and settled on the bench opposite, pondering the story she had to tell. While it was not entirely a happy one, the ending was wonderful and she hoped it would be something her daughter would be proud to learn.

“Then it is time you heard the tale,” she said with a smile.

“Do Jimmy and Amy know the story?” The question seemed pried from her lips as Tabitha looked up at her.

Her mother laughed softly. “Of course they do. They heard the music when they were about your age, and I told them.”

Tabitha made a face as she munched on the cookie. “Then why didn’t I get told at the same time?”

“Perhaps you weren’t old enough yet,” was the gentle reply. “You have never questioned before, never heard the song. Now you are ready.”

Recognizing the signs of her mother slipping into her storytelling voice, Tabitha sat forward on her stool, eager to hear every word. Her mother was the greatest story teller around and could weave a tale as real as vision could see, tongue taste or nose smell.

“Many years ago,” her mother’s voice intoned, “a young woman lived in a village over the hills from here. Her name was Jenny. Folks around came to know her as Jenny of the Wood.”

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