Ezekial’s Train, Chapter Nine

raboiconsFalling back into himself, Daniel holds tightly on to one of the grab bars by the little cabin, clutching the wooden bar tightly as he sways to the rocking of the boat and trying his bed to hold himself together. The vision he’s just seen is . . . Too much.

The visions have never taken him forward before and this one felt different. Neither the Angels, if angels they be, the bear Mordechai, or more rarely, the other beings and those visions devoid of any creature, have taken him forward in time and none have ever felt so real while feeling so ephemeral. For a moment he saw the girl kiss him, but not her. “Ester. . .?”

Daniel casts around for the Reverend’s daughter and sees her at the back of the boat. Wasn’t she just talking to me? Before the vision started, he thought there was a conversation, but it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate between the visions and real life, between the present and the past and maybe even, now, the future. The future with. . .

But there she is, helping Thurgood untie the boat as he looks over his shoulder quizzically at Daniel, the fisherman whispering to Elijah all the while. “He always ac’ funny like that, ‘Lijah?”

The Reverend Elijah Thompson shakes his head wearily to his cousin’s concern and amusement, “That he do, that he do.”

“Is he?” Ester turns as she pulls the last rope and sees Daniel’s eyes fixed on her, and she looks away, whispering to her father as well. “Papa, he look like he seen a ghost, and now I know that ain’t how he always look when he come out of one of them visions.”

“I know honey, but we getting’ close to the point he needs to be, so they ain’t no tellin’ what he gone do. Le’s just be here for ‘im, whatever he need. Now, come on.”

Elijah brings the crew back to the front of the boat as it embarks, putting his strong hand on Daniel’s shoulder and ignoring the requisite flinch he gives in return. “It’s gone be okay, son. It’s gone be okay. Now let’s go see what the Good Lord got for us today.”

Pulling out into the calm water, the high tide helping them along, Daniel points to a spot far out in the water that looks no different from any other, but he knows it is the right direction. He can see that it will be several hundred yards from shore but he knows they will keep the dock in distant sight. He knows it because he has seen it many times in the last few days.

Thurgood looks again the Dane and the merriment leaves his face as quickly as the sun is leaving the sky. “Son, I don’t got no clue what y’all lookin’ for out there, just open water ‘less you wanna throw the fishin’ lines in.”

Daniel sighs and closes his eyes to focus better, as he always has. “No, today we are looking for something other than fish, though I know not what it may be.”

“Sure. . . I’ll jus’ keep followin’ yo pointy arm there, then.”

Daniel is silent as the boat moves ever forward, his eyes closed and his outstretched arm shifting a little this way, a little that as Thurgood steers the boat by eye. Ester is the first to notice the humming noise coming from Daniel and the first to realize that it is not the sound of a man humming, but something like heavy machinery in the distance, droning with a steady buzz. All three are silent as the watch Daniel’s back with the skyline in the distance before him.

The yards go by quickly and as they do the humming grows in pitch until finally it drowns out the sound of the motor, giving no doubt that while it comes from inside the man Daniel Christiansen, it originates elsewhere. Daniel’s hand begins to come upward in a sign to stop and the boat slows to a gentle rest as he takes a single step forward to the very front of the prow, his foot mere inches from the tip of the boat, his head held high and staring, eyes still shut into the distance.

“Here.”

And he jumps from the end of the boat.

Mend

As Daniel’s feet leave the edge of the boat all three passengers jump after him, Ester’s hand nearly touch his shoe as it leaves the boat, but as it does, he move upward. He flies from the trawler and into the air, straight up into the sky and begins to glow a sickly orange light as he does.

The light grows brighter as he flies and when he is barely a spec in the sky the ocean is drowned in the light of mid-day, light pouring from the spot where Daniel’s body hung like the brightest sunlight of summer in a cloudless sky, all centered on the man Daniel Christiansen as they see his body high above, his arms outstretched and his body spinning slowly.

Ezekial can feel his skin pulsing with a warmth like none he’s ever felt and this is no vision. He can see infinitely into every direction and towards the shore he sees the city of Miami, but he sees it as it is now, as it is a hundred years from now, and as it was a hundred before, a thousand before. He sees all time and he sees the ocean full of ships, ephemeral but real, from every era. Two man duggouts compete with futuristic aircraft carriers and all manner in between as he sees pristine beaches overlaid with tall skyscrapers and charred ruins. He sees everything and he feels whole.

But there is work to be done.

As Ester, Elijah, and Thurgood shield their eyes from the bright lights, their mouths agape and sweat forming quickly on their now warm faces, they see him there, like a being of pure light as he slows his spin and darts off towards the shore, gliding a hundred feet in the air. The land is illuminated there as bright as daylight, as is the ocean, and they can see him clearly as he pirouettes and dances on the rail of brightness on which he slides.

Daniel begins to feel the rays of light bend to his will and each glimmering piece of iridescence bend around his fingertips as he begins to weave geometric patterns in the air which coalesce into organic shapes and forms. Reaching the shore he starts there, pulling gossamer webs of light into streams of form which begin to build on each other to form an ornate structure out from the shoreline and into the ocean, building to a crescendo of wires out where the boat still lies, the three passengers staring in wonderment as he glides through the air.

The lines of light begin to build a magnificent portal, long and undulating like a tunnel of light and wind, toward a specific point, far out in the ocean. Through the strands of the structure Ester can see what looks like girders and beams supporting it, holding its structure up as if it were a man made thing, maybe one of the radical art sculptures she’s seen in the books of European architecture. Some sort of man made colossus built to mimic the wind as it flows from the shore to the ocean.

But in this instance it is built of light and gossamer wind made of individual photons and electrons and within it Daniel can feel the molecules singing in his blood as he bends the material of the universe in his fingers and as the angels watch on, sagely nodding to the tune of his ministrations.

The humming builds to a deafening level as he spins, feeling the present, the past, and the future moving within him, feeling the angels, the others, the memories and the premonitions all dancing within his mind, Daniel feels at peace as it all comes together and below him his friends see the structure come together for an instant as hard, material pieces suspended above them before. . .

Before it is gone.

And the light is without, and the structure is as dust, and Daniel is as a wisp of fog on the wind.

And there is a splash and he is gone.

Gasping.

Struggling.

Reaching towards the darkness which may be the surface or the deep Daniel is casting about, reaching for anything to save him. Still feeling the faint whispers of greatness as he grasps at the strings of desperation, he reaches out to find nothing but the bubbles swirling around him.

Soon all is lost but for a moment he doesn’t care. For a moment he knows he has done what the angels wanted and he can rest now. For a moment his legs stop moving and his eyes slide shut, knowing that it is over.

But then it is not.

There is more work to be done.

And like lightning the feeling of unfinished business shoots through him and his eyes open.

Through the green, murky water there is a hand above him and it is reaching.

And he grabs it.

 * * *

Out of the Past, Chapter 10

bernicons           Renee dodged, or at least fumbled out of the way, letting Mr. Christopher charge directly into the vanity behind her. Renee’s eyes darted here and there, looking for anything to defend herself. There was a brass candle stick on her night table. That could work.

Renee dashed for her bedside, only to feel the strong but clammy hand of Mr. Christopher grasp her ankle. Renee tripped forward and knocked her left temple on one of the wooden posts of her bed. Renee felt the blood pour down her cheek before she was yanked back toward Mr. Christopher. With her face in arms length, the raging Christopher slapped Renee’s face twice before he was knocked off her right into the mirror.

In the mirror’s reflection, Stephanie looked utterly horrified.

Renee looked to her rescuer. “Lily!!”

In one hand, Lily held an iron racket that Renee had seen her use to beat the dust out of the rugs in the halls. She suddenly realized what knocked Mr. Christopher over so quick. Lily reached out and pulled Renee up. “No time for gawking! Let’s go!”

Mr. Christopher began to stir. “You… bitch…”

Lily pushed Renee through the doorway first. Renee darted for the main stairwell but Lily pulled her another way. “Not there!” Lily pulled Renee down a hidden stairwell, one only the servants would use. They rushed past the master bedroom in time for Mrs. Christopher to poke her head out the door.

“What in God’s name- ahh!”

Renee was pretty sure she had just knocked Mrs. Christopher over. She felt an odd twinge of guilt for pushing her- even if her husband had most certainly wanted to kill her.

Renee could hear Mr. Christopher stumbling down the stairwell. Lily hand gripped Renee’s blistered one so hard that her nails almost broke skin. They ran through the kitchen onto the back porch and into the fields. Renee had grown wise to Lily’s plan. Loose him in the tall plant life.

Once they had delved pretty deep into the field, Lily stopped to catch her breath. Lily held herself bending forward with all her weight on her bent knees. Renee couldn’t even hold herself up and nearly fell over. “We… need to keep… moving-” gasped Lily.

Renee suddenly heard dogs barking and scrambled to her feet. “Christ!” All the color was flushed from Lily’s face. Renee tried to think. “The creek! The dog’ll loose our scent in the water!”

They ran for the water. Renee wasn’t even sure if such a shallow creek would ask the caked on dirt and sweat from their bodies but she didn’t want to stop and think about what would happen if those dogs caught them.

Renee was running so hard she couldn’t feel the hot tears escaping her eyes. That was it. She was stuck in the wrong time forever- and it was looking like forever was going to be only another hour or so if Mr. Christopher caught them. All her hopes for getting home rested with Stephanie, who was probably utterly terrified one hundred and fifty eight years in the future, and there was no way Renee would be getting anywhere near the Christopher residence anymore- no way that didn’t involve being dead or in shackles, being dragged up to the attic. The thought suddenly occurred to Renee that even if Lily and she got away, other people in the Christopher residence would suffer without them. Gerald would probably be beaten and killed even if he did say anything about where they could have gone.

The creek water splashed up on Renee’s muddy nightgown and cooled her adrenaline pumped legs. “Follow the creek!” shouted Renee.

BLAM.

Lily shrieked and fell from Renee’s peripheral. Renee skidded to a halt and turned on her heel to grab Lily’s falling hand. Lily pushed herself to regain her footing but immediately fell with an anguish groan. Renee’s calf was soaked in red oozing from the bullet wound. “Fuck!” breathed Renee.

Renee looked up and saw Mr. Christopher in the moonlight surrounded by three large Labradors barking enthusiastically. He started to reload his rifle. Renee began to pull Lily’s arm over her shoulder.

“No! Go Renee!” moaned Lily, “I’ll slow you down!”

“Shut up!” Renee felt the tears now, burning down her face.

Lily pushed Renee away. “GO!”

Mr. Christopher stood at Lily’s feet and knocked the blunt end of his gun into the back of Lily’s head. Lily’s face lost all consciousness and rested nose-first in the water.

“NO!” cried Renee. She could taste the mucus from her nose on her tongue. Renee, forgetting her own real and very immediate danger, scrambled to turn Lily’s body around. She almost smiled when she saw Lily’s chest slowly moved up and down.

The acute pain of polished wood colliding with Renee’s forehead was present within the next second. Renee landed back first into the running water of the creek. When her head hit the cool water, instinct took over and she jolted up before the water could flood her throat.

Renee coughed up the water only to have the air knocked right out of her lungs. Mr. Christopher straddled himself on Renee and held her by the throat.

SLAP.

Mr. Christopher spoke through gritted teeth. “How dare you…”

SLAP.

“You were welcomed into my house...” Spit flew onto Renee’s face.

SLAP.

“AND INSTEAD OF HELPING YOUR OWN KIND…”

SLAP.

“YOU WANT TO FREE THESE FILTHY NEGROS.”

SLAP.

Renee could barely breathe at all. Her eyes were swelling and her face was growing numb. Still, she could feel the heat from Mr. Christopher’s face as he leaned in.

“But if you want to help these niggers so bad,” he whispered, “You can die like one.”

Renee’s head was plunged beneath the surface of the water. She reached out and felt her hand on Mr. Christopher’s face but she wasn’t strong enough to push him off. She kicked and wiggled but she couldn’t push this man off her. Her lungs were bursting, wanting to breathe in the summer air and keeping them from their wish was costing Renee her ability to stay conscious.

Strength left Renee’s hands and she felt them fall… into icy cold hands.

Renee felt the weight of Mr. Christopher being shoved off her and she was lifted from the water. Above the water, Renee gulped down every bit of air her lungs would allow. The water blurred her vision but standing up before her, holding her hand was a familiar ghostly pale figure. And she was smiling at Renee.

BLAM. Mr. Christopher had fired his rifle at the apparition only to be utterly shocked when the bullet had no effect. “M-M-Marie!?”

The hollowed face eyes of the ghostly Marie glared mercilessly at Mr. Christopher. The Labradors on the shore whimpered and ran fast from Marie, just as Mr. Christopher crawled backwards in the water. He turned and tried to make a break for it. Marie raised her hand and Mr. Christopher suddenly froze in place.

Marie released Renee’s hand and floated toward Mr. Christopher, who whimpered, just as the dogs had.

“M-M-M-M-” he stammered, “B-b-b-but h-h-how??”

Marie’s hand lunged at Mr. Christopher’s neck. “You know how.” Marie easily lifted Mr. Christopher from the ground. He thrashed about and gasped for air. “You stole a lot from me…” her words shivered down Renee’s spine, “My freedom, my dignity, my live, my child…”

Marie’s hand tightened about Mr. Christopher’s neck. “But you will not steal the child of my child’s child.”

Renee hardly had time to digest the words before the ghost of Marie threw Mr. Christopher toward boulder on the edge of the shore. She looked away but heard his skull crack on the rock’s surface.

Gersemi and the Trolls – Chapter X

tjiconGersemi had been in the human village for a few days now and she could sum up her feelings in one short statement: humans are strange. First off, they lived in these clay domes they called huts and they were so tiny that they Viggo would probably fill the entire place and he would have to be on his hands and knees as to not burst through the ceiling. They also had clay boxes that they put fire in and used only for cooking, even though they had another place for fire that would be perfectly fine to cook in but they said the fire in that place was only used to keep the hut warm. They ate with spoons made of metal instead of wood and they also used knives to cut meat instead of just biting it and they had these pointy, pronged tools made of metal as well and they insisted she use it instead of her hands. Anca, the woman who let Gersemi stay with her, a lot of animals too; there were small pink boars, little brown and white turkeys, and these black and white spotted creatures that looked a bit like fat doe.

But they weren’t all bad. There were children and adults and they had families that all lived together in there huts. They were all really nice, not at all like the stinky lady with the knife Gersemi that had attacked her family in the forest. And even though she had to get used to the metal spoon and the “fork” thing, she enjoyed all of the food Anca made, especially her bread. It was soft and puffy, so unlike the hard, flat bread she was used too. The children played games like her and Viggo did too, but they were a little different. Instead of “Running Rabbit”, they called it “Tag” and you weren’t the “Hunter”, you were just called “It”. They also had a game called “Hide and Seek” that was a lot like “Squirrel and Nut”.

All and all, she liked the humans and their village well enough, but the more time she spent there, the more she knew she didn’t belong. Anca had made a very tasty lunch of this weird stuff Anca called pasta with this other stuff that they called cheese. But she for some reason, she felt like she wasn’t hungry.

“Gersemi,” asked Anca sweetly, “why aren’t you eating? You love cheese.”

This was true, Gersemi had come to love cheese. But she couldn’t help thinking… “Viggo would have loved cheese too.”

A sadness came across Anca’s face, and her mouth opened to speak, but she was interrupted by a loud, energetic knock at her door. She opened it to a short, round boy with a wide, toothy grin and bouncy red curls. “Toma,” said Anca sternly to the boy, “why are you knocking on my beating on my door like a drum?”

The boy looked down, “Sorry, Anca.”

She huffed, “Let me guess, you’re here for Gersemi?”

“Yeah, yeah,” the boy said bouncing on his toes, “some of the grown-ups are taking us all down to the lake to go swimming, can Gursiminey come?”

Gersemi hopped out of her chair, “My name is GERSEMI!”

The boy, Toma, stood there blinking, “Ger-sem-ini…”

Gersemi scrunched her face up at the boy and huffed. Anca turned, “Gersemi, you want to go swimming, don’t you?”

“At Lake Gordon,” asked Gersemi.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Toma, steady bouncing.

Gersemi smiled, “Sure.”

*             *             *

Gersemi had been subtly suggesting swimming to everyone she talked to. She told Anca how much she like swimming and how good she was at it, like a fish, really, Anca had to see it. She complained to adults about how hot it was and how nice it would be to go for a swim. She told the children about how amazing her lake back home was, actually, it was more like an ocean, and the water was clear as crystals and the fish as big as Anca’s fat, black and white doe. Her plan had worked like a charm.

It wasn’t hard to slip away into the forest, she just told one of adults she needed to use the bathroom. She walked around, sniffing through the air for the faintest scent of troll. But she found nothing. Lake Gordon was big and the camp that had set up the other day could be on the other side for all she knew. She slumped against a big pine tree, tears starting to well up in her eyes. How could they just leave her like that. They must have known Gersemi would miss them, mustn’t they. They were her family. Not humans, but her family the same. Gersemi’s sadness began to turn to anger and she stood up, turned around and kicked the tree with all her might.

“Ouch,” she yelped, hoping up and down, holding her hurt foot in her hands. Then she looked at the tree before her in all of its immovable majesty. That’s when Gersemi had an idea. She knocked, hard, but careful not to do to her hand what she had did to her foot. But alas, she was not a troll and she could not knock as hard as one. She took the biggest rock she could find and slammed it against the tree.

A rainbow colored spark zipped from a hole high in the tree and came down to her, right in front of her face. Up close, it looked like very small human with a big head, large round eyes, and wings like flickering stars. “What is wrong with you tiny human, are you trying to knock our tree down!?”

“No, no, sorry,” said Gersemi, “I was just trying to get your attention.”

“Well you have it. What do you want?”

“I was here a few days ago with three trolls, have you seen them?”

NaNoWriMo Update

Hello everyone! We hope you are all enjoying our month-long NaNoWriMo short stories!

This is just an message to remind you guys that after today’s story updates, we won’t be back until December 2nd! We are taking a break for Thanksgiving and will be right back on track next Monday.

Our NaNoWriMo stories will conclude on December 7th and we will resume our regular weekly shorts on December 9th.

Thank you all so much for checking in and we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving for any Americans out there! And for everyone else, have a very happy week!

ussig

Out of the Past, Chapter 9

kellyiconIt was well into the next morning when Stephanie’s phone rang a second time, jerking her out of her doze. “Yeah?”

“I’m here.” Jimmy’s voice sounded just as tired as she was.

“Okay, I see you,” Stephanie said, peeking through the window shades to see a dark figure standing at the curb outside the hostel. “I’ll be right down.” She grabbed her keys and her jacket and all but ran down the stairs and out the door. She stepped outside and onto the sidewalk, still wet from the evening’s rainstorm and reflecting the light off the streetlamps. Jimmy stood in front of the car, arms open the minute he saw her.

“Hey, babe.” He leaned down and kissed her, and for the first time in days Stephanie felt some of the panic she’d been keeping at bay recede. She opened her eyes and found Jimmy staring down at her, studying her face.
“What?”

“I’m just making sure…You sure you’re alright?”

“Yes, besides Renee being gone. Wait, do you think I’m making it up?”

“No, I believe you believe it.” He shifted nervously. “You tell a story like that, and you think I’m not going to think something’s up besides ghosts. Let’s go inside and talk, okay?” Stephanie nodded and led him inside.

When they were warm and dry inside Stephanie and Renee’s little hostel room, Stephanie repeated her story, Jimmy’s face becoming paler and paler the more she talked. When she finished explaining about the mirror, Jimmy held up a hand and stopped her.
“So you can talk to Renee through this mirror?”

Stephanie nodded. “Well, not talk. Renee couldn’t hear me. And I can’t figure how or why it works. Sometimes she’s there and sometimes she’s not.” Stephanie dropped onto the edge of the bed, her head in her hands. “What am I going to do? What if Renee needs to tell me something and I’m not there or can’t contact her? What if -”

“Steph.” Stephanie felt his hand slip over hers. “It’ll be okay. We’ll…we’ll figure something out. Right now, why don’t you show me the mirror? Maybe together we’ll discover something.”

Stephanie rubbed the exhaustion and the budding tears from her eyes. “You’re right. Let’s go.”

* * *

Renee’s hand tightened on Gerald’s shoulder. “Gerald, I need you to show me where Marie was buried.”

Gerald stared at her dumbfounded. “After all I told you, you want to go and dig the poor woman out of her grave?” Renee swallowed as the big man’s hands bunched into fists. “You want to deny her the only rest she’s had since…” he trailed off, but the anger blazed in his eyes.

“I know what it sounds like,” Renee said, her voice almost pleading. “But I think it’s what Marie wants. She wants everyone to know what happened to her.” Then it dawned on her. “That’s why she didn’t just show us when Steph and I were she was buried. We wouldn’t have understood what she was trying to tell us! But by bringing me here, I could hear the story straight from you and Lily. And then we can tell everyone what happened!”

Gerald’s anger had faded into bafflement. He shook his head. “No one’s gonna care what happens when a white man kills a black woman, not even a free one.” He then took a step back and averted his eyes, but not before Renee caught the fear lurking in them. “I didn’t mean that, Miss. I meant -”

“I know what you meant, Gerald. I’m not angry.”

Gerald gave a sigh of relief. “Lily was right about you. You’re an odd one.”

“And you’re right. Maybe no one would care now, but I’m certain I know a few people who’d be interested in the future. So please, Gerald. Please tell me where she was buried.”

Gerald nodded.

Later that night, after the lights had gone out, Renee slipped out from under her covers. She bent down and felt around under the bed before pulling out of a small bundle containing the clothes she wore all those days ago when she first stepped into the Old Slave House. She slipped on the familiar, faded pair of jeans with an audible sigh. Nothing made one grateful for future conveniences like three layers of petticoats.

Dressed, she carefully closed her bedroom door behind her hushing the sound the of the door closing the best she could. She tip-toed down the stairs, avoiding all the stairs that creaked, and met Lily just outside the front door. In the dark, Renee could only make out the whites of Lily’s eyes.

“We won’t be able to use any light,” Lily whispered. “If we’re caught…”

Renee nodded. “I know. Are you sure you want to come? I don’t want you being hurt because of me.”

“This isn’t for you,” Lily said. “Well, a little. If this’ll get you home like you think it might, that’s for the best. But this is for Marie. If there’s anything I can do to give that poor girl even a little bit of justice…”

“I understand. Let’s go.”

The two made their way across the fields using only the moonlight to guide them, checking behind them every few minutes to make sure the big house stayed dark. They were halfway to their destination when Renee saw her. Renee grabbed Lily’s arm and pointed at the pale figure of a woman watching them from a distance.

“It’s her,” Lily whispered, a tremor of fear running through her voice. “God have mercy. What does she want?”

Renee watched, waiting for a sign, but the ghost woman stayed quiet and stayed where she was. Then, slowly, she lifted one pale arm and pointed in the direction of the creek.

“I think she wants us to keep going,” Renee said, and started walking again.

“Maybe she’s watchin’ out for us,” Lily suggested, her eyes glued to Marie’s form.

“We can only hope.”

Ten minutes later they were down by the creek. Gerald was waiting for them with a pair of shovels in hand. He nodded his head in greeting when he saw them, but his face turned into a mask of terror when he looked behind them.

“Good Lord, it’s her.” His eyes misted over and his hand went to his chest and clutched at his heart.

“It is,” Lily said. “She’s been following us for a while. We think she’s making sure we do this right.”

“I hope so. God, I hope so.” He tore his gaze away from Marie and beckoned them to follow him. He led them down the creek aways and then to a small tree growing near a bend in the creek.

“This is where she rests,” Gerald said. He handed a shovel to Renee. “You sure you want to do this? I can take care of it.”

“Two people will be faster than one,” Renee said, taking the handle. “And we don’t have much time.” Gerald nodded, and then plunged his shovel into the dark earth. For what seemed like ages, Renee dug next to him while Lily kept watch. Blisters formed on her hands that cracked and bled and she was covered with more dirt and sweat than she thought possible, and still they found nothing. Until…

“There!” Renee cried out. Something white and shining peeked out through the dirt. She bent down and brushed the dirt away, revealing the dark, gaping hole of an eye socket.

“She is here,” Renee said. Now all she had to do was get this information to Stephanie, and then…well, she wasn’t sure what would happen then. Hopefully, she’d be snapped back home. If not, well, that was something she’d deal with when if it came to it. They filled the hole, covering it with dirt and leaves, hoping the hole was small enough in circumference not to be noticed. She washed herself in the creek before saying good-bye to Gerald and rushing home Lily. Marie was no where to be seen. Renee hoped that was a good sign.

Before they went inside, Lily pulled a bag of clean clothes from under the porch for them to dress in, and took their muddy clothes back to the slaves’ quarters so the houses servants could get rid of them in the morning. Tired and aching, but satisfied part of the mystery had been solved, Renee tip-toed her way back up the stairs and slipped into her room, pausing only to hear the soft breathing of the sleeping Christophers. She was about to slip back under her covers when she noticed Stephanie waving in the mirror, trying to get her attention.

“Stephanie!” Renee winced at how loud she was. “Stephanie,” she said quietly before the mirror. “You have to listen to me.” It was then she noticed Jimmy at Stephanie’s side, wide-eyed and pale, but Renee didn’t have time to explain. “I know where Marie’s buried. I think she wants us to find her in the present. If you go to a bend by the creek out in the fields, you’ll see a tree and under there –”

BAM.
Renee jerked. She turned, her heart-pounding toward the door. Standing in the doorjamb was Mr. Christopher, his eyes livid and his face so red the color reminded her of blood.

You,” he said. “I knew it. You’re here because of that of bitch. I’ll kill you before you have the chance to breathe a word to anyone!”

And with that, he lunged at her.

The Sound of Silence – Chapter IX

tjiconThe drive takes about an hour. We don’t talk much. Daniela spends most of the time smoking while going through my CDs and criticizing my taste in music. I want to ask her more about the “deals” she mentioned and our powers and our my past lives and her really long singular life and all the other questions I have but I’m still processing all of the new information I’ve gotten since meeting her yesterday and I’m not sure if it would help to get any more at the moment. Plus there’s also the task at hand to think about. I’ve dealt with angry spirits, dark magic, psychic shenanigans, and more, but going up against something that is basically a god is a bit intimidating.

We pull up to a large gate that’s shackled with heavy chains and locks. For a moment I worry that Daniela will tell me to drive through it, but when I stop, she opens her door to get out. “Do you know how to get in,” I ask her. Saying nothing, she gets out the car and walks up to the gate. I don’t see what she does, but I hear the chains fall to the ground. She pushes the gate open enough for us to drive through and gets back in. “How did you do that?”

“How do you think,” she said.

“I thought you said you didn’t have your powers anymore.”

“I said I don’t have much of my powers. Unlocking gates is pretty low on the totem pole.”

“So what powers do you still have?”

She sighs, “It’s not really cut and dry. You know the story of Jericho?”

“The TV show?” She gives me a look. “I watch a lot of Netflix.”

She sighs again, adding an eye roll this time. “It’s a biblical thing. This guy Joshua was leading an army to attack this city, Jericho, but they had these impenetrable walls  and there wasn’t much they could do. So, they ask God, of course, and God tells them to keep marching around the city and singing and shit. The do it, and keep doing it, for seven days. On the seventh day, the walls came tumbling down.”

“So… what does that have to do with your powers?”

“The walls didn’t fall because they marched or made a lot of noise. It’s cause they all believed the walls would fall, so they did. That’s kind of what my powers are like. Were like, anyway.”

“Oh,” I say, “that sounds like the Secret.” She gives me a look again. “What? Oprah recommended it.”

She keeps looking at me, but the look changes. It’s harder, like she’s looking deeper, seeing into me. She smiles, “I’ve missed you, you know.”

“Um,” I glance over at her, “thanks, I guess. I’ve probably missed you too.”

For a while, the road past the gate is lined with thick forest with nothing visible but the gray sky above it, but the forest soon ends, rather abruptly, and I can see what lies beyond. A big, tall, decrepit building sits against a long strip of water. There’s an incredibly large expanse of land around the building filled with mounds of rubble and what must’ve been hundreds if not thousands of large, steel freight containers.

“Drive up to the terminal,” says Daniela. I park the car in inside an open freight container because I think it might rain and I’ve always kind of wanted a garage. The closer we get to the terminal the more I notice how completely rundown it is. Black mold spreads across the concrete walls, metal rails and struts and coverings are little else but rust, and every single window I can see is broken.

“Do you believe this place is safe,” I ask.

“No.”

“If you did, would it be?”

“Faith doesn’t negate logic, “she says, walking into the building like she hadn’t a care in the world, “it compliments it.”

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’, then,” I say as I follow reluctantly. The place is even worse on the inside. Walls and ceilings were collapsed in places and there was an intricate web of metal tubes and shoots that was hanging loosely or had completely fallen to the floor here and there. Graffiti and trash and broken glass was everywhere. “Do the cult-ey monk types really use this place?”

“It’s quiet and abandoned,” she says, “they like places that were once loud and busy.”

“Like graveyards for noise,” I think out loud. She gives me a quick smile that seems to express her surprise and delight at my perceptiveness. We walk for a while, silent for the most part, looking for signs of the robed ones’ presence and finding none. It takes a bit of time to look through the entire place and a lot of convincing from Daniela to get me to walk up all the flights of stairs, some of which were literally falling apart. With one more floor to go, we had all but given up hope until I noticed an open door leading outside to railed off part of roof.

Outside on the roof, it was set up like someone was using it as a living room. There were rugs laid out, a couch was set up in front of a coffee table and there was also a rocking chair with a small side table beside it. Several unlit candles sat on the tables and in tall candelabras that stood around the furniture. The strange thing about all of it, besides it being there at all, was that all of the furniture and rugs and even the candles were exquisite. “What are you doing here,” says a voice from behind us. We quickly turn around.

In the doorway stands a woman dressed in a black cloak of feathers and fur over a deep, violet colored dress that fastens across the top like a corset. Her hair is silver, a braid wrapping around her head like a crown, a bun in the back, and curly tresses falling just past her shoulders on each side. She is likely the oldest living woman I have ever seen. And the most beautiful, period.  Daniela huffs, “What are you doing here, Alana?”

Gersemi and the Trolls, Chapter 9

bernicons           Gersemi woke up to the delicious aroma of blueberry porridge. Moa was stirring the pot not too far away and Viggo stood behind his mother licking his lips.

“We haven’t had blueberry porridge in so long!” hummed the young troll.

“Hm, I know.” Moa looked to see Gersemi stretching as she woke. “Good morning, little one.”

“‘Morning, mother,” Gersemi took in a deep whiff of the alluring porridge. “That smells so good!”

Moa nodded. “And it’s ready.” She withdrew some bowls, three large ones and a small one, from her pack.

Stian approached as Moa poured the porridge into the bowls. Gersemi went to get her bowl and waited for Viggo to get his too. The siblings stood beside each other and brought the rims of the bowls to their noses and rolled their eyes with delight. Moa made the very best food, but Gersemi liked her blueberry porridge best. Viggo dug into his porridge right away, but Gersemi stared at her porridge, confused.

“What is it, Gersemi?” asked Stian, “It’s not like you to wait longer than you need to for porridge.”

“Yes, don’t you like it?” asked Moa.

Gersemi nodded. “I do. But I know it take you a while to make it. Shouldn’t we be walking to the troll mountain? The sun sets earlier this time of year.”

Moa smiled. “Oh, is that all? Enjoy your porridge, Gersemi, we’re not traveling today.”

Viggo had porridge all over his cheeks. “We’re not?”

“Moa and I figured you needed some rest, Viggo. We don’t want to aggravate your wounds. We’re resting for the day. Enjoy the lake. Lake water is good for a young troll.”

“No walking today?! Yippee!” Viggo leap up in delight but when winced when he landed on the ground.

Gersemi smiled. “That sounds like a good idea.”

Moa reached out and stroked Gersemi’s hair with her smallest finger. “I thought so too. Now, enjoy your porridge, Gersemi.”

Moa didn’t need to tell Gersemi twice. She even helped herself to another portion. Viggo and Gersemi went swimming shortly after. Viggo went much deeper into the water than Gersemi, but Stian stood knee deep in the water that went up to her neck. Stian made for a good diving board as well, and Gersemi leapt from her uncle’s open palm and into the water below. Gersemi thought her splashing were very big until she saw Viggo trip and make a wave that washed up to hit Moa’s feet when she wasn’t near the shore.

Gersemi used her soft blue coat to dry off and let it hang and dry on a nearby tree branch. Viggo took a nap in the midday sun and Gersemi sat atop his gray-green back. Stian went to wash and dry Viggo’s bandages before going to gather herbs for supper.

Moa was taking inventory on the supplies she had left in her pack while Gersemi took in the pretty lake scenery.

“Do you like it here, Gersemi?” asked Moa.

Gersemi looked to her mother and giggled. Moa’s long hair was pulled back into a messy bun to avoid getting in her way as she counted. “Yes I do. The lake is beautiful and lots of good things grow around here.”

Moa nodded. “You’re not the only one who things so. Lots of animals and other creatures settle along the banks of Lake Gordon.”

“It’s such a big lake, I don’t think they ever see each other. I think I’d get lost just walking around the shore.”

Moa looked off  toward the lake. “It is a big lake, Gersemi. It goes on for miles.”

“So you’ve been here before, mother?”

“Yes, when Viggo was a baby. Before we found you, little one.”

“Wow, that was a long time ago,” Gersemi paused, “Why did you leave troll mountain?”

Moa sat down. “It was Viggo’s father’s idea,” she explained, “Troll Mountain is a good place to live, but he wanted to raise Viggo in a place with a little more elbow room.” Moa flapped her elbows out.

“There must be lots of trolls there.”

“It was fairly crowded, yes,” Moa took up a stick and started drawing in the dirt. Gersemi hopped down from Viggo, who huffed and turned over.  Moa’s drawing was of a very round mountain, with simple trees about. At the very top of the mountain, there was a very large tree with branches that stretch out to cover the mountain.

“That tree is huge!” exclaimed Gersemi.

Moa chuckled. “It’s not quite as big as I drew it, but it is very large.”

“Trolls like trees,” observed Gersemi, remembering the friendly tree that overlooked their cave back home.

“That they do. We used to take care of trees, you know.”

“Hm?” This perked Gersemi’s interest.

“Trolls used to be tree caretakers. They say that we watered the very first trees with our tears and helped them grow.” Moa knocked on an invisible tree before her. “That’s why the fae folk are so friendly to us trolls. They remember that we helped grow their first homes.”

“That’s such a good job to have!!” said Gersemi, “Everyone must be so happy that trolls helped the trees grow! Everyone likes trees!”

Moa tried to smile. “Everyone, but humans. They’ve forgotten. Humans like the fae folk, but they don’t like trolls very much,” she mused.

Gersemi looked at her mother, but Moa would not look back. After a moment, Gersemi picked up Moa’s hand and wrapped it around her. “I love trolls.”

“And I love you,” said Moa.

The sun began to set, and the family ate fish stew, another favorite of Gersemi’s. Moa said she was glad she got the catch to make it, for she had planned to make it special for Gersemi’s Foundday supper. Viggo was sad that he kept Gersemi from her favorite meal but Gersemi told him that it was alright. If their cave hadn’t been flooded, then she never would have seen Lake Gordon. It was such a fine lake, that she was happy to have seen it.

“I still need to make you a Foundday present, Gersemi,” said Viggo, “And it’ll be the best present I’ll ever make!” Viggo’s tiny brown eyes burned with a fiery determination.

After supper, Moa hummed an old tune, deep in her throat. The night was full of stars and Stian pointed out to Gersemi and Viggo all the different groups of stars and told them the stories of the first trolls, the Jotunn. Gersemi was curled up in her mother’s lap, listening closely. She fought to keep her eye open and her ears sharp, but soon, all she could hear was the comforting hum of her mother.

***

            Gersemi tossed and turned. Her eyes were not yet open, but something didn’t feel right. She sniffed the air for the meal Moa would be cooking but instead smelt stale bread. She grasped to tug on her mother’s skirt, but instead held a bunch of straw.

Gersemi’s eyes flew open, “Mother?!” But Moa was not there. Gersemi leapt back from the straw bed she laid in as her eyes darted around. She was not outside, but in a bizarre wood and clay construction of a shelter. The only greenery were herbs that hung to dry near the window, where daylight poured in. Several other empty beds lined the wall closest to the fireplace and a single, large table sat in the middle of the room with stools tucked underneath. A ladder lead up to a loft above the other beds.

“Mother?! Stian!?” cried Gersemi as she stumbled out of the bed. “Viggo!? Where are you?!”

Gersemi fell onto her face. Where was she? Why couldn’t she smell her family nearby? This place was much too small to fit a troll.

Gersemi heard a voice coming from the window. “I think she’s woken up.” It was not a voice Gersemi knew.

A stout little woman walked into her home, rubbing her hands into her apron. Her face was a bit dirty and her hair stuck to the sweat on her brow but she tried to look as sympathetic as possible. “Oh, hello, little one.”

“Don’t call me that! Where’s mother?! Who are you!?”

The woman put her hands up and eased her way toward Gersemi. “Hush, now. I’m Anca, dear. I found you sleeping outside our barn at dawn.”

The word ‘found’ echoed in Gersemi’s mind. She realized she still wore the handsome coat Moa had made her and clung to it. Gersemi kept taking in deep whiffs of the air around her, but couldn’t smell any trace of troll anywhere.

She dashed outside the room and scared a young farmhand, causing him to drop a basket of eggs. Gersemi paid no mind, she scurried here and there, looking for troll tracks. But there were none to be found. It was as if no troll had ever been there.

Anca, out of breath, finally caught up to Gersemi. “Are you looking for your mother? You say you’ve lost her? What does she look like? Maybe I’ve seen her?”

Gersemi began to cry.

***

            Moa was miles away. She stood before Helsa with a stone cold look on her face.

“Don’t look so glum, troll,” said the troll hunter, taking a swig of her liquor. “You did the right thing.”

“I appreciate that you covered our tracks,” said Moa, her voice as cold as her expression. “But now I will have no more of your company. Goodbye.”

“Not so fast, troll,” sneered Helsa, “You did the right thing, and I helped you do it. But a trolls a troll. And a bounty is a bounty.”

Moa’s face grew dark and gnarled. “You think you can beat me?”

“Like, this? In the state you’re in? Pfft, of course.” The hunter threw back another swig. “But, you were good that that little girl for the time you had her. So I’ll give you a break.” Helsa looked Moa straight in the eye. “I’ll give you and your ‘family’ a week’s head start.”

Out of the Past, Chapter 8

raboiconsAcross the open field Marie’s stark white ghost gleamed in the moonlight, her skin iridescent and glowing, her arm stretched out towards the house and towards Renee Lily’s terrified faces. Lily was the first to speak but her words were forced. “What does she. . .”

Shocked by her own calmness, Renee tried to soothe the frightened Lily,“I think she wants us to come to her. Look, she’s pointing at us and then pointing off into the distance.”

“That’s in the direction of the creek where Gerald found you.”

“I wonder. . . Maybe that’s where Christopher drowned her. C’mon, let’s go down and follow her.”

Suddenly Lily was even more terrified and her whisper was like a quiet shout. “No! We can’t go down right now, Mr. Christopher would see us for truth. He’s sittin’ down in the study reading like he does before he goes to rest.”

“Damn, maybe we could wait until later?”

“Miss, I don’t think y’all outta be going late at night and honest-to-god I don’t think I could come with you if you did. Maybe we should just let poor Marie lie where she do.”

Renee balled her fists and said, still in hushed tones, “But she’s not lying down and we have to do something. I have to get home. Look, she’s pointing somewhere specific. Does that make sense, where she’s pointing? Is anything out there?”

Lily pulled her eyes away from the spectre and looked to Renee, her hands shaking by her side, “Off that ways is the huntin’ shed by the creek. Tha’s the only thing out that way but fields.”

“The it has to be where she wants us to go. Listen, I have an idea.”

* * *

Walking gently down the steps and raising her petticoats demurely, just as she’d seen the Lady Christopher do every morning, Renee looked to the study, knowing that he would be sitting there looking over his ledger books in the early morning light. Coming to the open doorway she stood silently behind his bulk, hunched over his desk with the steady scratch of a pen on paper with an occasional pause to dip in ink. She coughed gently, as she’d seen the servants do.

“Yes?” For a moment Renee wondered if that voice really had the deep ominous tones she heard or if it were her knowledge of the man’s deeds which made it so terrifying. Perhaps if she’d met him in other circumstances, Mr. Christopher would have seemed a distinguished, wealthy land owner.

“Mr. Christopher, sir. I just wanted to tell you once more how grateful I am for the hospitality that your wonderful household has shown me. I can never repay you, sir.”

And his answer told her that regardless of the circumstances she would look to this man and see a hardness, a kind of grasping tenacity which was intimidating as well as impressive, but no less terrifying. “Yes, I am certain you cannot.”

Turning in his chair and laying the pen down gently on its side as Renee coughed, startled at his brusqueness, he went on, “But what can I do for you today, Miss Renee? Do you demand yet more of our hospitality?”

His eyes locked on hers like those of an alligator stalking its prey, Renee did her best too not shake as she spoke, hoping that the man would mistake her nervousness for female weakness. “No sir, you’ve been helpful enough, and more, but honestly sir, I would like to soon make my departure from your house and your generosity before it is stretched too thin.”

“Ah.” A smile, no less intimidating, “You have regained your memory then?”

Resolute for a moment, Renee looked at the man in an attempt to match his callousness, “No sir, but I doubt that I will lying in bed and lounging under the watch of your kind servants–”

“Slaves.”

“Yes, excuse me sir, your slaves.” And the resolution in her voice was strengthened as she spoke. “I was thinking, sir that I might regain some remembrance if I was able to see where I was found and the areas nearby, in the hopes that something might jog my memory.”

The older mans cheek twitched for an instant as his eyes narrowed and she could see the thoughts and suspicions warring in his mind. The fear that she would find some clue to the colored girl’s murder with hope that she would see something to remind her of whence she came.

“That could be a good idea, at that. You cannot go alone though.” He paused, “There are animals out there, snakes and such. It wouldn’t be safe.”

“Oh, of course not! I would hate to step on an atrocious old snake out there!” Renee hoped he wouldn’t hear the irony in her voice as she spoke in her best “woman afraid” voice.

“Of course not. . . Gerald will take you on a tour of the grounds then. He saw where you came from and he can be trusted to . . .” He looked away from a moment, out the window and across the sprawling, well tended lawn. “Protect you.”

* * *

“Here you go, ma’am. The master, he said bring you an umbrella for the sun. Said y’all skin wouldn’t like it out there.”

Gerald’s skin, black as the night sky, flexed over his deeply muscled arms as he gently handed Renee an ornate, lacy parasol, his voice much quieter than she would’ve imagined but no less deep. “Thank you. . . Gerald.” she had to remind herself to not call the man sir, even if he looked to deserve the respect it implied, it would put up a guard she did not want to fight.

“Yes, ma’am. Y’all want to follow me, I’ll show you the farm grounds like Master Christopher said do.”

She followed him down the porch steps and fluffed out the parasol, shading herself from the bright sun in a cloudless blue sky of the deepest hue. In the brightness of midday and the greenness of the lawns and trees along their periphery, it was hard to imagine such a foreboding scene as the night before or the night Mr. Christopher found her and Lily meeting on the porch. For a moment Renee allowed herself to soak in the beauty of the scene, almost imagining that the air was clearer and smells fresher than that of the future from which she’d come. Then she looked off into the distance and saw the fields full of black heads and backs popping up and down between the rows and the illusion was shattered.

“Gerald, can you show me the creek, down where you found me that night? I think it would be the best place to start.”

She saw his back stiffen and could swear a shiver ran down his spine as he walked in front of her, pausing to say in a halting voice, unsure suddenly. “Ma’am, we. . . y’all sure ’bout goin’ down there?”

“Yes, of course. Is everything alright Gerald?”

The big man took a deep breath and looked down on her, his brow furrowed. “Yes, ma’am. Mr. Christopher said take y’all where y’all wanna go, so I’ll take you there.”

“Thank you Gerald,” Renee smiled up at him, hoping to put him at ease but he merely looked away and forward, walking at a slow pace toward the direction that Marie’s ghost had pointed the night before. Suddenly Renee had the feeling that she was watched and found the deep certainty that if she’d turned back towards the plantation she would have seen Mr. Christopher’s face staring down on her and the slave, watching them move across the lawn.

* * *

“This is the spot then, is that right Gerald?”

Looking back toward the distant manor and pointing idly at an innocuous spot in the grass, Gerald nodded. “Yes ma’am, that’s where y’all were when I found you.”

“Just lying there. . .” Renee tried her best to remember the events of that night, after the ghost pushed her back and before she woke in the Christopher’s mansion. It was all still lost to her as she sat down in the spot he’d directed and looked around, lying the parasol by her side and soaking in the sunlight, the sound of the creek nearby babbling idly and creating a kind of peaceful mood. Almost happy for the first time since she’d been flung back to the 19th century, Renee had a sudden thought. The creek.

“Gerald?”

“Yes, ma’am?” Already she could hear a waver in his deep voice.

“When you found me down here, lying in the grass like that at night, why were you down here?”

After a long pause Gerald crouched down on his knees beside her, keeping a respectful distance but moving close enough to speak softly, his head hanging down and his voice coming up to her on a whisper. “I was just walkin’ by the creek ma’am. Just checkin’ the grounds.”

“At night? Gerald, Lily told me you saw the ghost. Did she lead you down here?”

Breathing deeply, “No ma’am, it didn’t. I was already down here, down by the creek when I heard the flash and I saw her. Saw her standing there.”

Suddenly Renee felt that she should watch her words and tread softly. She’d assumed Gerald was an ally but something felt wrong. “Was the ghost Marie?”

“Yes ma’am.” His voice barely a whisper, she struggled for a moment to make sense of his words.

“Gerald, I know Lily spoke to you. . .” Renee’s hand was mere inches away from his shoulder before she pulled it back, shifting herself away just on the off chance that anyone was watching them. “What were you doing down her Gerald?”

“Just. . .” Gerald spoke softly as he raised his head and looked at her, tears streaming down his cheeks and falling gently on the deep green grass. “Just praying.”

Fighting the urge to reach out to the strong but broken man before her, Renee spoke softly. “What were you praying for Gerald?”

Gently heaving, he looked at her with a pain that she wouldn’t have imagined possible a week before. “Praying fo’ forgiveness for what I done.”

Renee, her sympathy gone for a moment snapped her head to look him dead in his watery eyes and spoke with a harshness she didn’t know she’d been holding in. “Forgiveness? For what? You–”

“No!” Suddenly his voice more than a whisper but less than a gasping yell of desperation, “No, I ain’t. It ain’t me what done it. It ain’t.”

Trying her best to put the sympathy and softness back in her voice, Renee reached across and put her hand on his shoulder now, ignoring the thought of surveillance. “Then who did?”

Shifting away from her touch and nearly falling to the ground Gerald looked at her with hard eyes and it was as if the tears were gone and the sadness with it, replaced on his still damp face by a rage and desperation that ate directly into her soul. “I didn’t do it but I was right here when he did.”

Steadying himself, he went on in that deep whisper, “He made me hold the lantern while he did it. I loved that girl and he made me stand there, knowin’ he done put a baby in her.” His hands fists of clenching the loose grass and his arms taut as wire, he whispered in a voice like death to Renee, though she knew the anger was not meant for her. “That man, he made me watch while he did it one more time and then he put her in the water and he said if I didn’t stand there, if I didn’t stand there and watch him,” Gerald paused one last time for a deep breath before standing. “He pointed that gun at me and said I’d be the next dead nigger in the water.”

Gersemi and the Trolls, Chapter 8

kellyiconGersemi stumbled backward, sending the wood tumbling from her arms, and opened her mouth to scream. The woman’s arm shot out and grabbed Gersemi by the mouth, smothering her yelling before it had a chance to leave her throat.

“Shhh!” Helsa bent down on one knee in order to better look Gersemi in the eye. “I promise I’m not going to hurt you, understand?” Gersemi shook her head. The necklace of carvings clinked around Helsa’s neck every time she moved, and Gersemi was reminded of all the threats the woman had hissed at her family. Tears began to form at the corner of her eyes.

“Damn it.” Helsa still held Gersemi by the mouth, keeping her face forward and unable to look anywhere except into the woman’s blood-shot eyes. She seemed unsure and angry. After a few minutes of indecision, the woman let her go.

“See? I don’t want to hurt you,” the woman said as Gersemi gasped for air. “I just want to talk. I need to ask you a few questions. Now you stay quiet like a good girl, and we won’t have to worry about any repeat performances of earlier. You don’t want that to happen again, do you?”

Stian’s words echoed in Gersemi’s head: He did it out of love. But the memory of Viggo roaring and raging, so far beyond her words to reach him, wasn’t anything like the brother she knew and loved. So Gersemi shook her head.

“Good.” Gersemi expected the woman to sit down, but she remained on one knee, looking like a cat ready to spring up and run at any moment. “Now, my first question. How did you come to be with these trolls?”

It didn’t escape Gersemi how the woman nearly spit the word ‘trolls’. “I don’t remember,” she said, nearly spitting the words back. While she didn’t want the woman to be angry and wake up the others, Helsa’s disdain for her family created a defensiveness in her that acted almost before she could think it through what she was saying.

“Don’t remember? Were you injured?”

“No! They found me when I was only a baby!”

Helsa’s eyes narrowed, and Gersemi noticed her hand jerk in the direction of the blade at her side.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Helsa’s arm relaxed. “You’ve never seen another human?”

“Not until you.”

“Huh.” Helsa smirked, but the smile just made her face look nastier. “You’ve got heart, kid, I’ll give you that. You’ve never thought about living with your own kind?”

Gersemi stomped her foot into the ground. “They’re not my own kind!” Her voice echoed through the branches of the trees and skipped across the dark, sparkling waters of the lake.

“Shhh!” Helsa reached for Gersemi, but Gersemi dodged out of her way. “You trying to get us killed?”

“They’re not my own kind,” Gersemi repeated, quieter but no less upset. The tears she had tried to hold back were running down her face, but now they were hot and angry. Something inside her chest felt like it was burning. “Moa and Stian and Viggo are my family and we’ve always been together. It doesn’t matter what we are! I love them and we’ll always be together, and you can’t change that!” Gersemi stared into Helsa’s red-lined eyes, glaring. Whatever this burning feeling was, it had also burned away her fear.

“Oh, is that so?” The grin had slipped away from Helsa’s face and was replaced with a look as hard and terrible as stone. “And when they die, and they leave you alone and there’s no one of your own kind to take care of you, what will you do?”

Gersemi blinked. The burning was suddenly doused and froze into something just as terrible. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, when your precious family dies before you, from age or from the blade of someone like myself, you’ll be left all alone.”

Gersemi gaped up at Helsa. Her breath came in short gasps – it had suddenly become so hard to breathe. “Why would you even say something like that?”

“Because that’s where you’re headed. But if you come live with your own – if you come to a human village, you’ll be with people like you. You’ll grow up and you’ll be able to start a family. You won’t be left to wander the woods like a ghost and then die alone.” A rustle of leaves came from the direction of the sleeping trolls, and Helsa sprung to her feet. “Think about what I said.” And then she vanished into the trees.

For many minutes, Gersemi stood exactly where Helsa left her. She was no longer crying, and her tears had dried into tracks on her cheeks. Her mind and her heart, however, had gone numb. Gersemi couldn’t find the will to do anything but stare dimly into the gloomy gap between the trees in which Helsa disappeared.

“My love.”

Gersemi jerked out of her trance, but relaxed when she found herself looking up into the face of her mother. Moa reached out her arms and Gersemi all but crawled into them. Moa lifted her to her shoulder and Gersemi reached around Moa’s neck, clinging to the familiar scent and feel of her mother’s skin.

“I’m sorry, Gersemi,” Moa said in her softest voice. “I shouldn’t have let that woman speak for so long. I didn’t want to wake Viggo and Stian.”

“It’s okay,” Gersemi said. She sniffled, but she no longer felt like crying. Everything was alright now that Moa was here. “I know that lady can’t make me leave. And I won’t, no matter what she says.”

Moa turned and began walking back to the make-shift camp. She sat down gently, careful not to disturb the sleep of the others. She laid Gersemi next to her.

“You know we love you, Gersemi. No matter what.”

Sleep came over her, sudden and complete. “I know,” she whispered before nodding off into a dreamless sleep.

Ezekial’s Train – Chapter VIII

tjiconThe sun has already started to set when they reach the dock, setting the horizon ablaze with oranges and reds, giving a false sense warmth despite the cool breeze rolling off the sea. Elijah turns to Ester, “Now, baby girl, I really do think it’ll be betta’ if ya stay here in the car. Ya mama’ll liken to tan my hide if something were to happen to you out here.”

She gets of the car anyway, and starts making her way towards the boat without a word. Elijah and Ester had gotten into a quite heated discussion in regards to her joining them on the boat. Ester had all the logic on her side, of course. If Daniel were to receive another vision, she had proven to be the only one even slightly adept and seeing to his well being. Also, she argued, she had been fishing with Thurgood dozens of times when she was a child and had never drowned or gotten herself eaten by a shark. Her mother had heard the argument and made them quiet down, but she had refused to weigh in her opinion, having decided to “stay out of all of this foolishness”. Elijah had started to protest at Phyllis’s use of the word “foolishness” for what he considered was as a mission from the Lord, but, having his hands full with Ester, he quickly abandoned it. Daniel had offered his aid to both parties, supporting Elijah’s claim, though  fairly weakly, that the Lord had not called upon Ester to be part of this, as well as Ester’s more rational reasons for her to accompany them. After nearly twenty minutes, it was ultimately Ester’s stubbornness that won out. She simply refused to stay  put.

Daniel smiles to himself as he and Elijah follow Ester to the boat. It is a rather small trawler with a tiny wheelhouse and only enough room in the back to accommodate perhaps half a dozen people if the room weren’t needed for all of the fishing gear. Thurgood is already at the helm when they board. He is a hefty, gruff, old man with a beard like a bush. Elijah and Ester greet him warmly and introduce Daniel. “So this here is the son of bitch wants to waste my gas traipsin’ ’round the water, is it?”

“Um,” starts Daniel uncomfortably, “I do not mean to inconvenience you in any way, it is just-”

Thurgood interrupts Daniel by giving him a heavy slap on the back, “I’m just yankin’ yo chain there, white boy. If Elijah says ya alright, then I says ya alright.”

“Thank you very much for your… kindness and generosity,” says Daniel, shaking Thurgood’s hand. Daniel tries his best to give Thurgood a direction based on the positioning of a few landmarks he remembered seeing in his vision, but they all knew that there was no clear destination for and set off from the dock without much preamble. Elijah stays uncharacteristically silent as they glide across the water, his face reading a strange mixture of angry determination and anxious excitement. Daniel realizes that perhaps Elijah has more invested in him than Daniel did himself. All of Elijah’s hope and faith for God to make the world better for him and his family, for his people, is wrapped up in Daniel and whatever these visions of his were urging him to do.

“So,” says Ester in a manner that Daniel can tell is meant to break the silence, “you didn’t finish telling me ’bout that bear soldier y’all had over there during the war.”

Daniel tries to hide his smile, “Yah, the bear-”

Break

“Ezekial,” shouts Mordechai, his voice piercing the howl of the wind around them. Daniel is on the ground, the sand cutting into his hands like razors as he pushes himself up. The tall, bear like creature looms over him like the shadow of Death, “You must stop this. Turn back now.”

“Stop,” screams Daniel, “leave me in peace!”

“Final chance. Do not do as they ask.” There is static in the creatures voice. It’s cruder, harsher than before. “Do not do it. It end badly. Seven five years from now-”

Daniel shoves the creature away from him, “Stop this now!” Mordechai stumbles back a bit, the box dropping from his hands. Daniel notices it looks different, as if it had been crudely repaired after being broken or damaged. “Leave me alone,” shouts Daniel, “I don’t want this anymore, I don’t want any of this anymore!”

Shatter

“What do you want,” asks  a sweet voice. It’s familiar, like he’s known it for years. He knew it when it was younger, rougher, when it spoke with anger and defiance. He’s known it as it changed, grew older and softer and speaks now with compassion and gentleness. Daniel turns around to see the women he knows he’s grown to love. “Ester?”

“Yeah,” she says impatiently, but with a smile, “it’s me.”

She’s older, maybe in her late forties or early fifties. Her hair is half grayed and her face is lined from years of smiles and laughter. “What,” murmurs Daniel, “what’s happening? Where am I?”

“Where you think you at, old man,” she says playfully, “you ain’t up and losing yo mind on me again are ya?”

Daniel looks at his hands and hardly recognizes them, “We… we were on the boat.”

Ester’s face changes completely. “Daniel, honey,” she says, quickly walking over and sitting down beside him. She puts her hands on both sides of his face and holds it still, directly in front of hers, “Look at me, okay, this is important. Tell me, who are you?”

“Wha…” starts Daniel, confused, “I… I’m Daniel.”

“Not your name, honey. Your name isn’t who you are. Daniel or Ezekial, it don’t make a difference, okay.” Tears run silently down her face, “Yo life belongs to you. Yo choice belongs to you, you hear me?”

“I… I don’t understand…”

“Sweetie, you ain’t never gone understand. But as long as you know who you are, deep down, yo life is still yours, and can’t nothing take that away from you.” She leans in to give Daniel a kiss.

Break