Archive for: April, 2012

Sleep No More By Edward McDermott

Apr 29 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

When Diedre awoke, she felt that something terrible was wrong, as if some nightmare had come to life. Aside from opening her eyes, she remained motionless, frozen, not even breathing for a moment. What was wrong? She listened. The room was empty of sound, of smells, of moving shadows. Wait. Someone was in the kitchen.
She rolled over to find that the other half of the bed was empty. Ted had gone. Usually he slept like a fallen oak tree, heavily with a touch of a snore. Solid. That was Ted, a solid unimaginative man who never had a flight of fancy in his life, who never saw fairy rings, or heard the howl of a banshee on a windy November night. Taurus by sign. Taurus by nature, an ox of a man, and Diedre loved him for being everything that she was not. But Ted, her Ted should have been sleeping beside her at 4:30 in the morning. Where had he gone?
Knowing that sleep wouldn’t return, Diedre slipped out of the bed and into her medicine bottle blue robe and slippers. First to check on their child, her daughter.
The second bedroom was a nursery. No adult would have chosen that paper for anyone but an infant. No child would have chosen that paper at all. Within the bower, there stood a crib, and within the crib lay a sleeping Elizabeth. Already that had been shortened to Beth by her grandparents, and to Biff by the princess herself.
Beth collection of stuffed animals waited for her in a bookcase. Whenever she left the house she always took one with her, no matter what the trip. Each animal had a name and a personality. She loved them all and shared her affections evenly. Even trips about the city were distributed evenly.
Straightening the cover Diedre smiled down on the face that should have belonged to an angel, a mischievous one. The dark hair naturally curled into ringlets. The features were even. In the repose of sleep a touch of a smile played with the lips. Carefully, not to wake her sleeping darling, Diedre bent over and kissed that face that meant more to her than life.
Diedre found Ted in the kitchen, his head in his hands, his elbows resting on the table. His broad back was too her, hiding his face. He was a large boned man, a heavy man. The size had come naturally for all his family had that build. Summers working for his father’s bricklaying business had built layers of muscle on his back and shoulders. Even today he appeared almost squat despite his height.
Those summer jobs had passed, but they had moulded the man, mentally as well as physically. He learned how a man must earn his living without education. Ted applied the same style to his learning that he applied to carrying a hod of bricks up a ladder. Care and persistence, but never speed.
A half-empty cup of coffee sat before him. Beside it lay a pack of cigarettes and an ashtray. As Diedre approached, he seemed in a trance, lost to the world, staring into space. When she placed a hand on his shoulder he neither moved, nor spoke.
“Is something wrong, darling?” Diedre asked gently.
When he turned to her, clasping her hand in his she could tell that something was terribly wrong. What was it? Then she realised that he looked frightened.
“Sorry,” he replied. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t. What woke you up?”
“I had a dream.”
“Well come back to bed. Go back to sleep.”
“No. I don’t want to go back to sleep. I might have the same dream. I have to figure out what to do.”
She leaned to him, and he put his arms around her and nestled his head in her breasts. She ruffled his hair a bit. Was that a gray hair? She smiled. He would look distinguished in gray. “Come on, darling. Let’s go back to bed. We might not be able to sleep, but I’m sure we can think of something. It was only a dream.”
Wrong words. Ted stood up, letting go of her and pulling open the liquor cabinet. He took out a bottle of whiskey and a couple of glasses. Sloppily he poured a rough couple of ounces into each glass and set them on the table, the bottle too. He added ice to hers and water to his.
“I wish it was just an ordinary dream,” he half said to himself.
“What do you mean?”
“Did you ever dream something and then it happened?” he asked as he lit another cigarette.
Diedre shook her head.
“I have,” said Tom taking a gulp from his glass. ” Three times. I remember every one. These dreams have a different taste to them. The colours are brighter. The smells are stronger. Everything in them is more vivid.”
Diedre opened the fridge and took out some milk. Then she opened the cupboard and got some cookies. It wasn’t on her diet, but she wanted some comfort food.
He didn’t notice. “I remember the first time. I was only about eight. I dreamt about riding on the Flyer at the CNE. In my dream my mother and father came on the ride with me. On the ride my mother purse opened and her stuff fell out.
“I thought it was just a silly dream. There was a polio scare and my parents were talking about skipping the Ex that year. Besides I couldn’t see my mother riding on the Flyer.”
He stopped for a moment. “Three weeks later we went to the Ex. After the Better Living Centre and several other displays, we went to the Midway. My father teased my mother into joining us for a ride on the Flyer. On the last loop her purse sprung open and all her cosmetics fell out.”
Ted fell silent. Staring out the kitchen window into the blackness of the night.
“What about the other times?” Diedre asked. He was creeping her out.
“The second time I was seventeen. I dreamt I was in a car accident. A few weeks later the car I was in, coming back from a skiing trip, was side swiped. The third time I dreamt I met a girl at a party. You wore the same dress as in the dream and had your hair in the same style. That’s why I’ve always called you my dream girl.”
“You never told me about this,” Diedre said, after a moment. She held his hand as if to reassure him, but it was for herself. She wanted to hold onto him, her husband of six years. Touching him would make him go back to the man she had always thought he was.
“There wasn’t any need,” he replied. “I didn’t want you to think I was silly. You’ve always been so down to earth.”
That startled her. She, Diedre, the one who cried at the movies, who wouldn’t walk through a cemetery at night, who eyed crossed knives, black cats and ladders with suspicion had never been thought of as ‘down to earth’. Her parents and sisters always teased her for being feigh. But tonight Ted needed their roles reversed, so she would play the solid, sane, unimaginative one.
“What did you dream tonight?” she asked, but really didn’t want to know. If only he would tell her that this was a silly joke, would laugh and kiss her and take her back to bed. He didn’t.
“I’m in a large building. The walls are a light grey. They’re far away. It’s a big open space. I can tell that by the way the sound of footsteps echoes. The floor is smooth stone. It’s some sort of marble.
“I’m wearing a leather jacket. I’m in my jeans and running shoes, so it must be a weekend. I’ve got a plastic bag in one hand, and Beth’s coat in the other. You know the coat, her red one. I’m waiting for her. She’s gone to the washroom.”
He paused and licked his lips. He took a puff from the cigarette and then butted it out. Instead of continuing to talk, he reached for the pack and took out another cigarette. Diedre saw the sweat on his face although the room was cool. She waited.
“I pace back and forth. I’m worried. She’s been gone too long. I go to the door of the washroom and hesitate. I look around for some woman to go in there for me, but I don’t see any. I push open the door and call for Beth. She doesn’t answer.”
He stopped again. His eyes stared into that distant land of memory. For a moment Diedre thought he would stand and leave. She put her hand on his arm to stop him. “Go on,” she said calmly.
“I push open the door and call again, but there is no answer. I look in. I see Beth’s bear on the floor. I know there’s something wrong. I go in and look for her. I can’t see her. There’s a mess of papers in one corner. I look again. I can see her foot sticking out of the pile of papers. She’s wearing those purple socks she likes so much. I know that . . . and then I woke up.”
He finished his story, and then his drink and poured himself a second one, this time without water or ice. The horror of the tale made Diedre want to shiver, but she mustn’t. Tonight she must be the rational one. She took a breath, squeaked out a weak chuckle and began, “let’s just examine the whole dream, and see what we can find out. OK? Good. Now, do you know where you were?”
“No. It was some type of public place. It was too large to be anything else. It was a fancy place. The steps were carved out of stone. The handrail was brass. It could be a museum. It could be somewhere else.”
“Go through it again, Ted,” she said. Inside Diedre knew that this was just a nightmare, but she had to convince Ted of that. She would find a way to show him there was nothing to this.
Reluctantly, he repeated the story. The words were different. The image burned into his mind remained constant. The actions and the emotions repeated themselves with horrifying faithfulness.
“You saw one of Beth’s stuffed animals,” said Diedre.
“It was a bear, about a foot long. He was brown with a red T-shirt. The T-shirt has a pot of honey embroidered on it,” Ted said.
“Wait as second,” Diedre said. “Beth doesn’t have a bear like that. She has three bears, but none of them have a T-shirt. And we don’t have a T-shirt with a pot embroidered on it.”
Ted looked up. “We don’t? You’re right. But I saw it so clearly. I know what I saw.”
“You know what you dreamt, Darling. That’s all that it was. It was just a dream and nothing more. You’ve got a full day tomorrow and we have your parents coming over for dinner.”
Diffidently, he surrendered to her bullying. They returned to bed and the rest of his sleep was undisturbed. The next day was hectic and he barely got home for dinner. The guests had arrived before him. The roast was ready.
“How’s my son, the lawyer,” his father said as Ted came in the door. “Put it there, Son. Ahh. You haven’t lost the grip yet, although your hands are almost as soft as a woman’s. Who would have thought it, my son the lawyer.”
“Let him be Henry,” said his mother. “Ted made something of himself, and not with much help from you. You were always hammering at him about wasting his time on books. Come here son and give me a kiss.”
Dutifully, Ted obeyed. “How’s the business Dad?”
“Not bad. I’ve got a subcontract for some houses outside Barrie. If you need a little extra I’d could take you on for a few weeks. What do you say?”
“It is too busy at the office. It doesn’t pay as well as bricklaying, but I get to sit behind a desk all day.”
“Yes, and it makes you soft. Next thing I expect you’ll be getting your hands manicured. Look at me. I left school at fifteen and I’ve worked with my hands all my life and I’m worth more than any of those fancy pants lawyers you meet.”
“Henry, stop it. It’s not polite.”
“Yes dear.”
“Dinner’s on,” sang out Diedre, from the kitchen.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Ted’s mother said, as they sat to eat. “I got a little something for Beth. I just couldn’t resist it. It was so cute. Honey, it’s in my bag. Go over there and get it and show it to your mother.”
Diedre hadn’t really been listening. She was wrestling the roast onto the platter. Then she proudly carried it out to the dining room for Ted to carve. When she saw Beth, she couldn’t help herself. The platter fell from her nerveless fingers.
There, at the dining room table with her new companion, sat Beth. She couldn’t understand why her father looked so pale and her mother was frozen with terror. In her arms was her new Teddy bear, a light brown bear with a red T shirt. On the T-shirt was a pot of honey.
—THE END —-

About The Author

Born in Toronto, Edward has pursued a professional career during the day, while taking writing courses, joining writer’s groups, and writing at night. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and fencing, and working as a movie extra. Currently, Edward is sailing his sailboat off the Florida Coast. Perhaps in the Bahamas.

PUBLICATIONS (limited list)
Number 21 Rue le Sueur,Pseudopod (2010)
Shuttle watching for a sputnik child, The Broken City (Winter 2009)
Nothing but Vacuum, NewFoundSpecFic (Volume #2)
Naked in the Night, Midnight Echo (#3) (2009)
On the Lake where the Loons Cry, Damnation Books(Fall 2009)
Crash, Neo-Opsis(February 2009)
A Conscious Act, Aoife’s Kiss (March 2009)
Prince Victor, Flashing Swords (2008)
The Prize, Aoife’s Kiss, (March 2007)
The Whistler, ESC! Magazine(April 2006)
No place for a cripple, Wild Child Publishing(March 2006)(March Editor Choice Award, Fiction)
The SinEater, RIM (Summer 1999)

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Prince of the Dawn By Jerome Brooke

Apr 22 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

The Divine Astarte was the ruler of many worlds, times and realities. She was one of the last of her race. Her people had seeded many worlds with life, and had power like unto that of the gods. Her son, Theonas, the demigod, was born to transform the world, and revealed to all men the Mysteries.

The Orphic Mysteries, Introduction, p. 21.

***

Holy Mother, I have passed as you commanded to the Dark Realm. I have seen the world transformed, and the Light spread to all the worlds. To all that hunger after justice, I will seek to reveal the Mysteries. Long life and victory, to you! Theonas, Prince Imperial.

***

“The time has come for you to visit your uncle, my dear Theonas,” said the Divine Astarte, the Goddess. “You will find him to be a man of power.”

“Where does my uncle dwell, Holy Mother?” I asked.

“Your uncle, Chronos, lives in a Cosmos out of our time and reality. Chronos did war with our Father, the Storm God. He slew him, but was cast out of this bubble of existence, into yet another by the act of our Sire. He cannot return, and we are safe from his evil intentions,” explained Astarte.

“So, I may journey to him. But why?”

“We are among the last of our race. You would do well to better understand those of us that yet live. We also need to know what he may plan, and if he does wish us ill,” spake Astarte.

“Very well, Your Imperial Highness. I will go, when you do command,” I did reply.

“Very well, my son. I will open the portal now, and send you forth,” the Goddess said, raising high her royal orb. A rainbow of light filled the room. The face of my mother seemed to waver before my eyes, then I felt a pain in my chest, and closed my eyes. I opened them, to find myself standing on a rocky beach. To my left was a pounding surf – and before me sat a man on a throne.

“Chronus, Chronus! This is Theonas, son of your brother – the Lord of the Storm. I, Astarte, ask you to receive him with honor!” so came the voice of Astarte, fading into silence. I looked at the being on the throne. He was a man of middle years, with white hair. He was surrounded by a throng of others, forming an arc behind the throne.

“Theonas, dear lad, I have been given tidings of your visit by your mother. You resemble your father well. You have his red hair, and green eyes. You are most welcome,” saith the God of this world out of time.

“Thank you, Uncle. I have journeyed far, and I give you tidings from my mother,” I said. A woman, with dark hair, and dusty skin, like unto my mother, did step forward. She advanced to my side, and embraced me.

“I am called Pandora, and have long waited to see another person from my own realm,” said the dark lady. “I will be your companion, Theonas.”

“I do thank you, my lady,” I replied.

I glanced at those near the dark throne of Chronus. To the left were creatures, covered with green scales. They wore coats of mail, and conical helms. They were armed with pikes, war axes and sabers. On the left were men and women, of grim visage, all wearing white tunics. They seemed to be of many exotic races and worlds, and of many hues of skin.

“Go with the lady, dear boy. She will take you to your quarters,” saith the Dark Lord. “I will give you tidings to convey to your Holy Mother on the morn.” I bowed, and drew my sword, and gave the salute of the warrior. Pandora took my arm, and led me away. As we strode along the strand, a chariot appeared in the distance, moving at a high rate of speed. The chariot wheeled, and came to a halt at our side. The charioteer was a woman in mail, with a conical helm.

I lifted Pandora onto the chariot platform, and then stepped up beside her. The Charioteer nodded and smiled. She then lashed the four steeds with her reins, and we then raced back down the shore.

In the distance, I could see slender towers, white in hue. We soon neared the towers, rising from a massive stronghold, with thick walls of white stone. As we neared the gates of the fortress, they swung open to allow us to enter. Inside the walls was a large courtyard, with a tower rising into the sky. There was a wide flight of steps, leading to a double door in the tower. The doors also swung open, in invitation.

I followed Pandora up the steps, and into the hall inside. The room was filled with tables, and contained a hearth with a fire. There was a strong odor of cedar, when we came near the fire. There were tapestries along the walls, with battle scenes depicted in subdued hues.

Pandora led me to a flight of stairs, and up to a wide level, thence into a room. She led me to a convex chair, and bid me sit. She clapped her hands, summoning a group of women bearing a horn of mead and platters of food. Tables were carried forward, and the Dark Lady bid me to partake.

I sipped the mead, and sampled the many dishes before me. As I ate, Pandora did to me convey some explanation of this World out of Time. “Chronus has gathered about him men and women in search of power, lost souls who sought to escape demons, real spirits or ones eating out their own soul – and yet others who slipped by mischance into his power. Chronus desires to rule other worlds, and hopes you may give him dominion over any realm that you desire to cast into darkness. If you need to punish any men, or destroy any cities, he will gladly open a portal for you,” said Pandora.

“If any flee from us, they may seek refuge with him, mayhaps,” I replied. “His realm seems to reek of pain, and I sense lost souls calling out, seeking escape.”

“Yes. I too have done penance here for eons, for nearly forgotten sins. Now, I wish to return, and to dwell among others of my own kind. For I am of the same blood as you. Your mother was born on the same orb that gave me birth. If you grant me leave, I shall return with you.”

“Will this be permitted by the Lord of Time?” I asked.

“Yes, I do not belong here. Nor do my servants. I pray that you will free us, and lead us forth into sunlight and Spring Time.”

“It shall be so, Lady,” I promised. The Lady did gaily laugh, and clapped her hands once more. Her servants returned, and bowed. She did rise from her bench, and beckoned me to follow. She opened a wide door, leading into a room filled with fountains. There were urns, from which flowers sprang forth. The sounds of songbirds did fill the large room.

The lady, and her women, helped me to remove my coat of mail and my tunic, and led me to the pool. The women discarded their own robes, and stepped into the large pool. I joined them, and splashed my face with water. “My Lord, you are welcome here, to my secret garden,” I turned to see a young woman. She had eyes of blue, and light hair, falling down her shoulders.

“I am called Persephone. I too entreat you to allow me to follow you to your realm of light. I often dwell there when I may, but am drawn back here by the Lord of Time, who cannot part with me. His only desire is to garner more souls, and add to his kingdom,” did say the fair woman.

The damsel discarded her white tunic, and dove into the pool. The woman did me sweetly embrace, and kissed me on my neck. “Come My Lord, we must retire. Long have we lived in this dark realm, and have not known the love of a man. Do come,” pleaded Pandora.

***

I woke in the morning, surrounded by the sleeping forms of the women from the pool. I had been roused from sleep by one or another of the women through the night, seeking pleasure. I was now able to return to the pool and splash in the water. The night had seemed to be overlong, and we seemed to be joined in the night by many women I had not seen before in this place.

Pandora appeared at the fountain, with a new tunic. She helped me to don the white garment. I also donned my coat of mail, and girded on my sword. Persephone also appeared, bearing a white cushion. On the cushion was a golden flute. “Here, My Lord. This is now yours to play,” she said. “Take it, we have waited long for this day.”

I took up the flute, and raised it to my lips. I began to play the flute. The air was filled with the gilded sound, the tune seeming to reverberate, and to fill the space outside the walls of the room.

Pandora took my arm, with a gay laugh. The door of the room swung open in invitation, and I passed thru the opening into the realm outside. I was followed by the women of the night.

I walked thru the great hall, playing the flute of power. From doors along the way, doors opened, to allow other women to hurry to join our number. I passed through the gates into the world outside, and then descended the steps. I found the chariot from the day before waiting for me.

I mounted the chariot, and was joined by Pandora and Persephone. The chariot wheeled, and slowly drove down the rocky way. From the hills along the shore, more people did emerge – both men and women. They fell in behind the chariot, in growing numbers.

In the distance, I saw a dark figure walking toward me. As he drew nearer, I could see that the being was the God, Chronus.

“This is treason!” he called. “Treason!” A blue myst blew in from the troubled sea, covering us all. I lost sight of the Demon Lord, as the myst became thicker. The charioteer lashed her steeds onward, as I continued to play. I turned, to dimly see figures following me. The chariot continued onward, as I played on.

Ahead, I could see a dim light in the distance. The light grew brighter as we advanced. The rays of the glowing orb appeared to burn away the myst, forming a tunnel. The chariot passed onward, as the myst gradually dissipated.

I could now see that the light was the sun, rising from the horizon. All about was a green field, covered in grass. I could hear the music of songbirds, joining in with the tune from my flute. The chariot drove forward. I turned to see a vast throng, darting out into the field of Spring. Some of them seemed to fade into the air, departing to some other place or sphere of reality.

I lowered the flute, to find it glowing from some inner power.

“You have revealed to us the Mysteries. My Prince, you are now the ruler of the Light,” said Persephone, her eyes filling with tears.

She then held me in an embrace. Pandora grasped my arm. “Spring, the world is now in Spring!” I said, in wonderment.

The end

Jerome Brooke was born in Evansville, Indiana. He attended Indiana University – MLS, JD. He now lives in the Kingdom of Siam. He is married to Jiraporn Sutta, a princess of the lost Kingdom of Nan. He is the father of two children. His daughter, Jirachaya, is five. She has been crowned as Miss Superstar 2011. His son Justin, 40, is a sales executive in Shanghai.

He is a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of Indiana. He served as City Attorney, for Ellettsville, Indiana. He also served as Judge Pro Tempore for the Superior Court of Monroe County.

He has written City of the Mirage (Amazon Kindle) and many other books.

His work has been published in many magazines, including World of Myth – Welcome to Wherever – Blood Moon Rising – Blood and Lullabys – Candidum – Danse Macabe – Bewildering Stories- MelBrake Press blog – and First Literary Review.

His work has been described as:

The poems are savage and barbarous … intricate and complex … horrific. …talent, interest, and clarity of diction. Joseph Hart. — Isles of Myst Review

The poems remind me of ancient primeval legends … . The imagery is active and personified. Joseph G Phillips. — New Mirage Quarterly

A terse series of quatrains which evoke the cold and dark realms … of the Ice Age. — Carol Hamilton, New Mirage Quarterly

A timelesss tradition of honor, bravery, and romance. … tales of mediaeval warfare … spell-binding. Charming and seductive … . — Lorraine Tolliver, New Mirage Quarterly

Battle, victories, defiance, perseverance ring melodiously throughout the pages … . The victor within us all prevails. — Paul Truttman, Western Archipelago

Primitive, barbaric, spare, austere, but eloquent … frightening. The images .. are savage. The poems are exciting and moody. — Joseph Hart, Isles of Myst Review

Islespoetrylibrary.4mg.com

Jeromevbrooke.wordpress.com

Poemhunter.com/Jerome-brooke

Poetryoftheisles.blogspot.com

Myspace.com/jeromevbrooke

Jeromevbrooke at yahoo dot com

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Dolphins and Sea Lions by Jamie Marchant

Apr 15 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

Slathek of Mahngbhayo had been in Murtaghan, the capital of Korthlundia, nearly a month and had disposed of his cargo and come a fair way towards buying merchandise for the return trip. He sat at a table in the Clothmakers’ Guild Hall, counting the gold coins carefully before pushing them across the table to the linen merchant. He knew the amount was as had been agreed upon, but he loved the way the cool coins felt against his skin and the way they gleamed in the sunlight streaming through the window. He hated to part with them, but he knew the linen he’d purchased would bring him twice this amount when he returned home. He smiled as he thought of the jewels and the art he would buy with them. He’d commission a marble statue for the entry hall of his port home—a young woman riding on the back of a dolphin. Malkekek charged outrageous prices for his work, but the sculptor was the best, and with the profit of this year’s trip, Slathek could easily afford it.

“A pleasure doing business with you,” Abenzio said, sweeping the coins into his purse. “Am I to see the lovely miniature of your sister again?”

Slathek tensed. “You’ve seen it every year for the last ten. Do you think you’ll suddenly remember something you had forgotten?” Still, he pulled his copy of her miniature out from under the tunic and allowed it to be passed around the table. He’d placed the small portrait in a gold locket, studded with diamonds and sapphires. Annke, the captain of one of his three ships, said he was a fool to wear something so valuable around his neck, but Slathek had faith in the sword he wore at his side. It hadn’t failed him yet.

“Such a lovely girl.” Abenzio shook his head, clicking his tongue. “Your older sister, wasn’t she?”

“Yes,” Slathek answered, tucking the miniature back under his tunic. His mother died in childbirth, and Sphry had been like a mother to him.

The barbarian clicked his tongue again, but his eyes gleamed. “Such a shame. So much evil in the world to corrupt innocence.”

Slathek’s lips tightened, and his eyes narrowed. Despite the fact Slathek was half the barbarian’s size, Abenzio had the sense to pale.

“I’m sorry,” the barbarian stammered. “I meant no disrespect.”

Slathek gathered his papers and held out his hand in the fashion of the barbarians. “I’ll expect the merchandise delivered to the docks in the morning.”

Abenzio shook his hand. “Yes, yes, of course.”

Slathek walked back through the crowded streets of Murtaghan towards The Traveler’s Haven, where he always stayed.

Among the numerous stalls lining the street, Slathek caught sight of an herb seller. He stopped and examined her wares. The scent of rosemary and comfrey filled the air, bringing him back to his childhood. Despite the fact he had no use for it, he bought a bag of dried rosemary, paying the outrageous sum the herb seller asked. He wouldn’t lower himself to haggle over a few coppers. He tried to remember what Sphry had used rosemary for, and it saddened him that he couldn’t. At six, he’d known the use of nearly all the herbs in his sister’s stillroom and had wanted to be just like her. He wondered just what had happened to that boy and what Sphry would think of the man he’d become.
* * *
Slath had a pestle in his hand and was crushing dried burdock root into powder for his sister. It was hard work, but when they were finished, Sphry had promised to take him to the beach. Aunt Dnrill didn’t think he was big enough to go by himself, and Aunt Dnrill never did anything fun. She never did anything at all, but cook and clean. He didn’t like Aunt Dnrill who wasn’t really his aunt, just some woman their father paid to look after him while he was away trading. Sphry claimed that now she was thirteen they didn’t need Aunt Dnrill anymore, but it made their father feel less guilty about leaving them so often and for so long. Slath barely knew his father. Even when he was home, he spent most of his time at his office on the docks counting his money and buying merchandise. But Slath didn’t care. He had Sphry. Sphry was a healer and took care of every hurt or sick thing. Slath wanted to be a healer just like her when he got bigger. He prayed daily to the Father and the Mother to grant him enough magic so he could. They hadn’t answered yet, but there was still plenty of time. Sphry’s magic hadn’t become strong until she was ten, and he was only six.

The cauldron over the fire hissed as Sphry added ingredients. She looked beautiful in the firelight; even the other boys agreed his sister was the most beautiful of all their sisters. A wild fox sat calmly next to her on the counter.

“What are you making, Sphry?”

“An ointment for this poor fox, Slath. See, he’s got into something.” Sphry pointed to the side of the fox were the fur had been rubbed off, and Slathek could see the fox’s skin was red and inflamed.

“How do the wild ones know to come to you?” The fox had hardly been the first wild creature to show up on their doorstep.

Sphry wrinkled her forehead. “I’m not sure. Perhaps they can sense me like I sense them. At least, the dolphins can. It’s hard to ask other animals because their minds aren’t complex enough.”

The fox’s eyes followed Sphry’s every movement. Slath was immensely proud of his sister. Her medicines were the best in the harbor. Everyone said so.
* * *
Slath held his sister’s hand and skipped at her side. “I’m going to build my biggest sand castle ever today. Big enough to have a thousand rooms, and I’m going to be king of it.”

“We don’t have a king,” Sphry reminded him. “We’re a republic. Adults, like daddy, vote on the laws.”

Sphry had explained this to him before, like she’d taught him how to read and write. His father said he’d hire a tutor for Slath when he got back from trading this season, but Slath hoped he’d forget again like he did last season. “In my country, there’s a king, and I’m going to be it.”

Sphry laughed and, fortunately, didn’t bore him with any more lessons about why it was wrong for one person to make all the laws.

With their shovels and buckets, Slath and Sphry made a castle as high as Slath’s waist. When it was finished, Slath pointed to the bottom right corner. “This is where your stillroom will be,” he told Sphry. Beside it he used shells to build a fence. “Your herb garden will be here, and there will be lots of woods behind the castle where you can gather mushrooms and such.”

“I think I’d be very happy in such a castle, but are you sure you want to be king? They have an awful lot of responsibilities. You wouldn’t have much time to help me grind roots.”

Slath shrugged. “I’ll be a king only if I don’t have enough magic to be a healer like you.”

“Why not be a merchant like father?”

“No!” He jumped to his feet and stamped his foot. “I’ll never be like father. He doesn’t care about us. He doesn’t care about anything but making more and more money.” He started to tell her what the other boys had said about their father, but Sphry got that dreamy look on her face.

“They’re here,” she said. Slath didn’t have to ask who. Only the dolphins gave her that look. As she stood and walked toward the water, Slath saw a dolphin do a flip and dive back into the water. Slath laughed. They were silly creatures. When Sphry told him the stories they told her, he nearly burst his sides laughing. He hoped some day to be able to hear the stories from the dolphins themselves, like Sphry could.
* * *
“Where is your sister?” Slath’s father burst into the study in the middle of yet another boring lecture from Slath’s tutor on the governments in nearby countries. Robrek claimed that because trade depended on the policies of various governments, his son needed to understand everything he could about them. Slath had tried to tell his father that he didn’t want to be a merchant, but Robrek never seemed to hear him. Slath no longer knew what he wanted to be. He was starting to despair about becoming a healer. Even though he was eight now, he didn’t have the slightest hint of the gift. Sphry told him to be patient, but that was easy for her to say. She was only fifteen and already the strongest healer in the port city.

“I don’t know,” Slath answered. He almost never got to spend time with his sister during the day anymore, except on holy days.

“She didn’t go down to the beach, did she? I warned her the pirate ships had been sighted.” The pirates often grabbed young girls and sold them in faraway lands. His father wouldn’t tell him why they only wanted girls, but Slath figured they made the girls do the disgusting thing that his father paid women to come to the house and do with him. Sphry said that was how babies were made, so Slath decided he didn’t want to be a father. The way his father groaned and the woman cried out when they did it made Slath think it hurt a lot. Sphry said she didn’t know.

Robrek sent his servants to every place Sphry might have gone. Slath ran to their favorite spot on the beach. But Sphry wasn’t there. The dolphins were playing off shore, and again Slath wished for enough magic to understand them. Sphry sometimes gathered things from tidal pools in the rocks at the far end of their beach, so Slath went toward them, looking and calling for her.

When he climbed on the rocks, Sphry wasn’t among the tidal pools either, but then Slath saw it—Sphry’s gathering basket, the basket that used to belong to their mother, his sister’s most precious possession. It was lying among the rocks tipped over and trampled. “No!” he cried gathering up the broken pieces. He frantically searched the shore for her, but at the base of the rocks, he noticed a place where a boat had been pulled ashore, and he knew they’d taken Sphry and with her everything that was bright about his world.
* * *
When Slath put the broken basket on his father’s desk, Robrek’s face went white. He fingered the pieces as if he didn’t know what the object was, then grabbed Slath and hugged him as Slath never remembered being hugged before. “We’ll find her, Slathek. We’ll bring her back. This I vow by the names of the Holy Mother and Father.”
* * *
Slath and his father walked through the slave market in Neaseria. They had been tracing the path of the pirates for nearly three months now. His father had learned that this market was where they disposed of their goods. Slath and his father wore gloves and scarves wrapped around their heads, covering their faces like the Bendouins did. His father said that they mustn’t be recognized as Mahngbhayons or the slave traders might not be as forthcoming. They passed cage after cage full of men, children, and old women of all different shades and hues—some as black as ebony and others so white Slath wondered if they were ill until Robrek told him that was the normal color of their skin. Some of the men were covered with hair, even on their faces. The eyes that looked at him from the cages were full of rage, hatred, or despair. He felt sick at the thought of his sister in a cage like that, but when they found her, they had plenty of gold to buy her and bring her back home. Then things would be like they used to be.

Ahead was a gaudy tent. Robrek said it was the last place he wanted to find his daughter, but the first place they needed to look. Sphry was beautiful. She wouldn’t be sold to work some planter’s fields. The tent was full of girls; they weren’t in cages, but chained by the neck to posts placed throughout. They wore nothing more than two small pieces of cloth—one wrapped around their breasts and the other around their privates. Neither piece covered much.

When they went inside the tent, a huge man with ebony skin hurried up to them. “Welcome!” the man enthused. “What type of girl can I interest you in? We have samples from across the world.”

Robrek matched the man’s accent almost perfectly when he answered. Robrek had a knack for languages, which Slath was discovering he’d inherited. “I have seen a girl like the one I want. Creamy brown skin, black hair, emerald eyes, and small enough to fit under my arm.” Slath’s father went on to describe Sphry in detail as if she were one of those women he wanted to make disgusting noises with. Slath vowed to kill any man who did that to his sister.

The slave trader grunted. “Sounds like you want a Mahngbhayon. They’re hard to come by. I had about a half dozen of them a month ago brought in by Salomian pirates. They’re the only ones you can get Mahngbhayons from since they have an unique way of acquiring them, if you know what I mean.” The man winked and nudged Robrek, and Slath wondered why his father didn’t break the man’s neck. “Too bad I sold the lot to traders heading for the northern countries. Apparently dark skin, but not too dark, is seen as exotic up there.”

Robrek stared straight ahead like a dead man as they left the slave traders’ tent. “We can’t follow until spring, Slath, my lad. The seas are far too dangerous now. If only we’d found this place a month sooner.”
* * *
That winter Slath’s father sold his old ship and bought a larger, faster one. He learned what items of trade the cold countries coveted and filled the ship with them. Now nine, Slath insisted on new tutors who could teach him the languages of the cold countries, but most of all he insisted on a fencing master and a well-made sword. His father gave him everything he asked for. He applied himself to his studies as he never had before, and by the time for safe sailing arrived, he knew the rudiments of five new languages, and his fencing master declared him adequate with a blade.

It was a three month journey to the cold countries, and Slath continued to practice both languages and the sword throughout. He helped with any of the sailing tasks that would increase his strength or balance. His father noticed nothing of what he did, but spent his days either on deck staring at the northern seas or in his cabin staring at a miniature of Sphry that had been painted shortly before she was taken. He’d had a copy made for Slath as well, and Slath always wore it around his neck under his tunic. Slath took it out several times a day to look at his sister’s face, but he didn’t waste time staring at it as his father did. He got straight back to practicing his sword work or speaking to sailors who knew the languages of cold countries. He would help find his sister. Then he’d kill the men who forced her to make those disgusting noises.

Slath had the chance to practice his languages as they searched the slave markets of port after port, but he found no use for his blade that year. They’d found no sign of the slavers who purchased his sister from the Nesearian harbor and no sign of Mahngbhayon slave girls. It was years before they found the trail again.
* * *
Slath and his father walked along the docks of Murtaghan, the capital of one of the smallest of the cold countries. The people of Korthlundia had pasty white skin and looked like giant, animated corpses whose hair refused to stop growing. Slath thought them closer to animals than to humans. Now sixteen years old, Slath had grown more than adequate with his sword, and he spoke over a dozen languages of the cold countries, including the barbaric grunt of the Korthlundians.

His father’s eyes, which had grown deader and deader every year they returned empty handed, grew feverishly alive as they followed the directions to the auction house which dealt illicitly in foreign whores. Slavery was illegal in Korthlundia, but it still flourished in the underground market. From the outside, the slave auction house looked like any of the hundreds of other warehouses that fronted the harbor. Inside, nearly every surface was covered in red velvet. They found the owner—a hairy giant, missing half his teeth and with the foulest breath Slath had ever encountered. His father held out the miniature of Sphry. “It would have been nearly seven years ago.”

The man laughed without taking the picture. “You think I remember every tits and ass that passes through here.”

“Perhaps you remember this one.” Robrek’s voice was tight as he put a handful of silver coins on the man’s desk.

The man leaned forward in his chair, swept the coins into his hand, and took the miniature. He smiled widely. “Oh, yes, I remember this one. Fiery temper she had. She objected to what men were doing with one of the other girls, so we had good fun with her instead.”

Slath drew his sword and pointed it to the man’s overlarge belly. He’d sworn he’d kill all who had her. “You’re talking about my sister!”

But the auctioneer didn’t even blush. “Every whore is someone’s sister. Now put that toy away before you hurt yourself with it.” The man spoke as if he were a child. Since Slath’s people were much smaller, Korthlundians were always mistaking him for younger than he was.

His father put his hand on Slath’s sword arm. “However much he deserves it, put it away, son. We’re here to find Sphry, not avenge her.”

“I’m here to do both.” Slath glared at the auctioneer who paled as he realized Slath’s size didn’t coincide with his age or ability.

“Now look here, you can’t condemn a man for doing his job.”

“Slath, put it away. I won’t see you hanged for killing such trash.”

Slath hesitated. It had never occurred to him that he might face consequences for killing his sister’s debauchers. Slath sheathed his sword.

“Who bought her?” his father asked, adding a few more coins to the pile.

“I don’t rightly recall,” the man said. “But whatever brothel it was, she’d hardly still be there. Sailors use up whores fast.”

“We’ll try them all,” Slath’s father insisted.
* * *
Slath blanched as they went through the first brothel’s front door. Girls wearing nearly nothing, many Slath’s age or younger, stared at him with hollow eyes. Slath couldn’t help the tightening in his groin at the sight of so much flesh.

A plump woman with large breasts hurried forward to greet them. “Welcome, sir, what can I interest you in today?” The woman’s eyes widened as she caught sight of Slath. “The boy isn’t for sale, is he?”

Robrek slammed the woman against the wall. “This boy is my son.”

A huge man grabbed Robrek from behind and threw him out the door onto the cobblestone street. Remembering what his father said about being hanged, Slathek merely got out his miniature of Sphry and asked about her. The woman shook her head.

The next brothel wasn’t as bad as the first. Three woman—one white, one brown, and one black, lounged on couches. They weren’t chained, and they wore robes of a transparent fabric. Slath could see the full outline of their bodies. Slath tore his eyes away from the women, but as his father talked to the brothel owners, Slath’s eyes kept drifting back to the women, running his eyes over their bodies, and wondering what it would feel like to touch one. He’d heard the sailors talking of the pleasures of a woman’s body, but he’d had no chance to find out for himself.

Hours later when they finished making the rounds of all the brothels in the harbor district, Slath’s groin was throbbing, and he could thinking of nothing but room after room of nearly naked women—any of which could be had for a few coins.

After Robrek went up to bed, Slath sneaked out of the inn and back to the brothel district. He entered the one that had seemed the cleanest and where the whores had seemed the most eager to serve. He handed over the coins to the brothel owner and chose a whore as black as ebony with huge breasts and firm thighs.
* * *

Hoping his father wouldn’t know where he’d been or what he’d done, Slath whistled as he walked back to the Traveler’s Haven. But his father was waiting for him at one of the tables near the door. “So do you think you’re a man now?” his father asked. “Do you think bedding your sister makes you one?”

Blood rushed to Slath’s face. “She wasn’t my sister!”

“She’s somebody else’s sister, somebody’s daughter! Those women are little better than slaves, like your sister is!”

Slath ran from the inn. At the dock, he tore off his clothes and dived into the water of the harbor. The water was frigid, far colder than it ever got in Mahngbhayo. But not cold enough to cool his burning shame. He swam for the rock out in the harbor that the sea lions used. It was farther than he’d realized, and he was shaking with cold and exhaustion by the time he pulled himself onto it. The sea lions barked at him, but kept their distance. “Did you speak to her like the dolphins did?” he asked the beasts, but he could hear them no better than he’d been able to hear the dolphins. Only Sphry had had that magic, and he’d dishonored her. He vowed he’d never sleep with another whore. But as the sun began to rise, he realized what his father wouldn’t admit. It had been seven years since Sphry was taken. His sister was dead, and the family fortunes were dwindling due to his father’s obsessive search. It was time to stop looking for her and tend to other matters. If his father wouldn’t, then he’d have to.
* * *
The bark of the sea lions took Slathek by surprise. He hadn’t realized he’d been that close to his ships. He stopped and gazed on the three ships he now owned. While his father searched fruitlessly for Sphry, Slathek had made the family prosper, becoming a sharper trader at eighteen than his father was at forty-five. But as Slath looked at the sea lions, he realized he’d dishonored his sister far more thoroughly than that single night with the whore. Sphry was the magic of his childhood—a magic that healed and mended. He’d replaced that magic with the cold comfort of gold.

Perhaps he wouldn’t commission the dolphin statue after all.

Bio:

My work has been published on Short-Story.Me and was chosen for inclusion their annual print anthology. My novel, The Goddess’s Choice, is forthcoming from Reliquary Press. I teach writing and literature at Auburn University.

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Shadows on the Wall by Dan Voltz

Apr 08 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

“I’m interested in werewolves only so far as they can tell us something about humanity,” I said.
Jose stared at me blankly. He was wearing his Florida Marlins baseball cap, which was dirty and crusty with dried sweat. He had on a punk metal t-shirt, and shorts that had chains and looked like they’d been cut off at the knee with rough scissors.
“But my whole life is werewolves,” he said. “It ain’t like I got any other interests, Mr. Nancy.”
I cringed every time I heard my last name. There was no denying that my pudgy figure, short skinny arms, and pale skin undercut my many attempts at fostering a sense of my own masculinity. People always called me “ma’am” on the phone, and I had long ago admitted to a certain amount of femininity in my mannerism. My last name was like a mirror I couldn’t look away from and sometimes it made me feel ill when I heard it.
I put my hands on my hips. “Jose, this is the twelfth grade. It’s time to expand your horizons,” I said. I turned to the chalkboard and began to erase the elegant white lines that served as the only record of an hour-long lecture. “You’ve got to have some other interests. Perhaps even something that’s real. Skateboarding, maybe?”
Jose tilted his head to the side and narrowed one eye. “What did you say, Mr. Nancy?”
I brushed the chalk powder off my hands. “What? You’re not a skateboarder, then? What do they call them these days? Skaters? You’re not a skater?”
“I can’t believe you just said that to me.”
A cloud of white chalk residue lingered in the air. I stifled a cough. “I’m sorry?” I said. “Are you mad about the skateboard thing?”
“The werewolf. Thing. You’re gonna be so sorry you said that, man.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “Is that a threat? Because if that’s a threat I will send you to the principal’s office without hesitation. Absolutely none.”
Jose looked at me for another long second. His eyes were dark, hidden under the brim of his cap. “It’s not a threat, man. Just makes me feel bad for how dumb you are.”
“Yeah, well. No hats in class. Mister,” I said.
Jose tilted his head and walked out of the classroom.
The next morning I woke up with my wrists in handcuffs. I remember the sun peaking in through my thick, velvet curtains and thinking that I had overslept. There was a moment of panic, my eyes snapping wide, the desire to look at my clock.
I always made sure to wake up every day before dawn. That gave me time to go for a walk, make some scrambled eggs, and check the internet news before heading to the school at 8 a.m. It was in my attempt to confirm the time, to roll out of bed and check my clock, that I first discovered the handcuffs. And so slowly was reality setting in that the handcuffs frustrated me only because, were it not for my bindings, I might be able to make it to work on time.
I can be a very narrow thinker sometimes.
My mind became much clearer when I heard the growling.
It would not be unfair to say that I have always appreciated my privacy. My room was smallish, for I had a one bedroom apartment. The presence of noisy neighbors and my dwindling hearing ability (too much headphone jams when I was a teenager) had necessitated the soundproofing of my walls. I watched a lot of poetry on television, after all, and poets are not generally very loud speakers, especially when it comes to appreciating the nuances of a reading while trying to ignore the domestic violence next door.
I was thankfully still dressed in my pajamas. They were blue, soft, and the shirt had three large plastic buttons. My imitation silk sheets, however, were curled around my ankles, as though they were binding my legs.
I looked at the ceiling. It was only for moments, and halfheartedly, that I struggled against the handcuffs. Before any exertion, I knew it was pointless. It was impossible to ignore the conclusion that someone had broken into my apartment, drugged me, and, while I was passed out, confined me to the bed.
This situation in itself may not have been quite so alarming had it occurred after, say, a drunken evening at the bar. As I remained relatively convinced that I had come home directly after teaching, it was difficult to find comfort in the plausibility of drunken debauchery. The growling from the hallway lent credence to the conclusion that this was not a mutual or planned—if inebriated—event on my part.
A shadow crept along the pale hallway. The living room lights must have been on, and in the darkness granted by thick draperies, the shadow was truly startling in its stark contrast. The figure of the shadow looked mostly like a man, only eight feet tall, and elongated in all proportions. It was approaching my room slowly, one lumbering step at a time. I noticed then, even in shadow, the drool hanging from the shadow-caster’s mouth.
Sweat began to bead around my hairline. My puny arms started shaking uncontrollably, my hands fidgeting, twitching.
I was immediately flooded with regret, not for all of the transgressions of my life, but for the day before doubting the existence of werewolves. The drool, the deformed shadow, and the hideous growling left in me no doubt that I was having such an ironic visitation—a visitation that any of my twelfth grade literature student with a rudimentary grasp of foreshadowing could have seen coming.
“I’m so stupid,” I said. My lips quivered, and the words came out like jello. I pushed my head back into the pillow. “Why am I so stupid?”
A growl was my only answer—but as the source of that primordial sound rounded the corner and crossed the threshold of my room, I collapsed back into my bed not with fear, but rather relief. I rolled my eyes, closed them, and then returned their gaze to my doorway, where I could see clearly Jose standing there.
I regained control of my bladder. “What are you doing here Jose?”
Jose stood in the doorway and stared at me. I couldn’t make out the fine details of his face. He was wearing the same clothes he had on yesterday—the intimidating shorts, the punk rock t-shirt—only absent was his baseball cap. Without the cap to confine it, his long hair erupted in all directions, like an untempered of weeds in a vegetable garden. I couldn’t be sure due to the strong back light, but I thought his hair looked almost gray.
“You’re on very thin ice here, Jose,” I said. I tried to be stern, but my trembling voice betrayed my intention. “Very thin ice indeed.”
“It’s not like I had a choice, Mr. Nancy,” Jose said. It may have been my imagination, but his voice seemed deeper, more mature, and more resonant.
“I know, I know. You’re still upset about that thing I said, aren’t you?”
“Not the skateboard thing.”
“Right. The werewolf…thing. But, I mean, really? How necessary is this? If you inspect my bed you’ll find, I’m sure, a small wet spot between my legs. That’s, um, recent, and a testament to my truly felt fright.”
“Mr. Nancy,” Jose said. He wouldn’t step into the room. He wouldn’t let my eyes adjust. “You’re a teacher. An English teacher. You of all people should appreciate the rules of things.”
I stared at his silhouette. “There’s an exception to every rule!”
Jose hangs his head. “Of course you would say that, Mr. Nancy. That’s what all English teachers say. You should think before you say those things.”
“I know.”
Jose patted his hair back with his hand. Then he took something out of his pocket, I couldn’t see what. He took a step forward and closed the door to my bedroom behind him. The room was suddenly cast in darkness, the only illumination coming from a single jagged shard of sunlight that broke through a separation in my curtains.
Finally, with the door closed my eyes could adjust. Slowly I was able to start making out the details in Jose’s face. I could see his arching eyebrows, his chubby cheeks scarred from chicken pox. I could see his pouting lower lip, which, combining with the flat forehead that made him look, somehow, extra-intelligent.
Whatever was in Jose’s hand, he brought it up to his mouth. No, he put it in his mouth. Then he took his hand away and showed me a mouth full of sharp, jagged teeth. After that, he put a fake plastic wolf nose over his face—the kind you buy for three dollars at a costume shop.
“That’s a really fake nose,” I said.
Jose shrugged. “The teesh ahr real.”
“What?”
He pointed to his teeth. “Real.”
“Oh. Shit. You went all out. I especially liked the, um, drooling in the hallway.”
Jose nodded.
“Right,” I said. “Can I say something first?”
Jose shrugged.
“And, just as a side note, shouldn’t you, ah, be coming at night or something? On a full moon? It’s freaking daylight out there.”
Jose cleared his throat.
“Okay.” I pulled against the handcuffs. “Well. I guess, you know, I’ve sort of lived for English. Not like I have a family or anything. Well, will you take care of Eli?”
“Wha?”
“My cat. Will you?”
Jose nodded again.
“Good. He’s a good cat. I’d hate to see him put down. He bites sometimes. Chases me around when I haven’t fed him and bites me. You know. It’s not like he did anything. He shouldn’t pay for my, um, mistakes.” I took a deep breath. “Now that I think about it, do you know what would have worked better? If there had been a pack of werewolves.”
Jose hovered over my bed, listening, grinding his teeth.
“Because then I could have been sure to notice the four shadows on the wall. You know. And really hammer home the point.” I tried to make a hammering gesture with my arm, but just pulled the chain on my restraints.
Jose shook his head. “Hoo muckh.”
“Yeah. Yeah, you’re probably right. Anyway. This isn’t exactly what I meant when I said I would die for my art. Well. I never said that. I suppose if I had, a painting would have fallen on me shortly thereafter. Or something. Impaled with a pen. You know.”
Jose was tapping his foot. “Ah’ve got hkool.”
“Right. Right. Hope the sub’s okay.” I took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m ready.”
And then Jose, the would-be werewolf, leaned forward, and dug his teeth into my neck. I screamed. My body convulsed and every muscle tensed and my eyes bulged so much I thought one of them might dislodge.
I saw the blood splatter against the headboard, could feel more of it escaping from my neck, running down the canals in Jose’s teeth, dribbling from his chin, staining my sheets. There was a lot of blood. My blankets grew hot and sticky and heavy.
I took a deep breath and screamed some more. Then everything went black, but slowly, like it was a fade out on TV before a commercial.
It occurred to me, to late to move my lips, that I should have told Jose that Heaven wasn’t real. That would have been a good one.

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