Mother, Soldier, Physician, Reader, and Writer
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Under a New Pink Sky
Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. Every night for the past several nights, at least. When there was time, Erina could linger and watch. She’d tuck her chin to her knees and wrap her arms around herself, letting the balmy wind lift the hair from her neck and tickle her. She’d watch as the purple clouds waltzed dreamily against that too bright sky, watch them pick up tempo and play peek-a-boo with the moon.
The Dragon's Lair
There weren’t always Dragons in the Valley. Really there wasn’t much of anything in the Valley: churches mostly. The bigger Catholic churches with their stained-glass windows offset the smaller, more plain Protestant buildings. The name on the map, if you could find it, was Glimmer Valley, but that seemed too fussy to the church flocks who did most of the voting and the talking. Calling it anything but “the Valley” marked you as an outsider, which was largely unwelcome by the masses. Once a nice sit-down diner tried to put down roots, right between two white chapels. The parishioners quickly ran them out when they found out they were selling Coca-Cola, which was surely somehow endorsed by the Devil. Really, there wasn’t much of anything in the Valley. Until Mikhail and his nephew Magnus arrived.
The Witch Pool
Maman walked for miles to see that body. She was angry, real ugly angry about it, too. She let her shoulders hunch like the weight of the anger was drawing her down into the earth. Her footsteps were a harsh stomp and her mouth tugged down at the corners into a nasty scowl. When the wind whipped, long strings of gray hair escaped the chignon and tore about her like a storm. It was an ugly sight when my mother was mad, everyone said so. Especially me.
The Doe Drinks Here
The doe drinks here. Stripped bare, her skin puckers a mottled mushroom grey in the chilly October air. She shivers, gooseflesh prickling up her spine, dipping low to cup her hands in the water. While she drinks, her eyes dart, scanning the tree line, cautious against anything lurking in the wood. The last shards of light from the dying autumn sun lit upon her face, purple bruises cast under her eyes like shadows. The stream laps at her dirty feet, tasting them. Her hair hangs, long tangles matted with dirt forming curtains around her face. On her right hand flashes a chunky iron ring. So, she has not been stripped completely, it seems.
One Cold Night
“Don’t go,” murmured the husband, laying a weighted hand on her shoulder. He might have kept her there, pulled her back from the door, had it been even one degree colder. The blustering wind howled then, shaking the glass in the windowpanes. He arched his eyebrow, as if it had proved his point. The wife ducked out from his grasp, plopping herself on the floor to pull on the thick woolen socks.
He Was an Assistant Pig Keeper
It may not be popular among the animators at Disney, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more compelling tale than that of Taran in The Black Cauldron. The 1985 animated film is loosely based on Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain, a re-imagined take on Welsh mythology set in the Middle Ages. Taran, a teenage wannabe-warrior and his oracle pig face off against the Horned King, and make a few friends along the way. It's cheesy. It's predictable. And it is the best example of a classic fantasy since once upon a time.
The Psych Intern
The psych intern is a mouse with silver blonde hair and large eyes obscured by glasses. She shakes constantly. She shakes during morning report, shakes over the keys of her computer, shakes as she brings her Styrofoam cup to her pencil thin lips. Her voice trembles, sputtering over her ink smudged notes. She isn’t unkind—not that any of us have interacted with her enough to determine her kindness. I don’t know what it is that bothers me so much about her. It must be the shaking.
Clara peeled off the blood-soaked trousers with a groan that sounded like release. Her shoulders ached, her thighs quivered, her heels felt as though they were made of glass—one more step and they might shatter. She thought about keeping the jacket, too exhausted to fumble with the buttons, but ending up shedding that too. The cats, just as accustomed to blood as the rest of them now, sauntered over the snuggle in the warm pile of clothing. Clara shooed them away. It had been Kate’s idea to keep the cats—to eat the rats who in turn might eat their rations—but as the rations dwindled, Clara thought she very well might want to catch her own rats. She thought about turning a nice juicy rat over the spit, popping with fat turned to grease. Maybe they could spare a bit of pepper, flavor it the way her father might do a rabbit or a stew. Her vision evaporated with the squeal and a hiss of a cat in pursuit. The rats were all skin and bones here anyhow. Like the cats. Like Clara.
In the end, the world returned to the chosen. We emerged from oaken hollows and mossy dells. Sifting through the ash and smog, we coaxed life from the dry, barren ground. We wove gowns from folly and hosted feasts among the hubris. Barefoot, we padded through the irradiated forests, luring three eyed fawns and bloodthirsty rabbits with the song of flutes. Praise to the chosen, we who stand when man has fallen. Praise to the merciful keepers of nature.
So loud were the sputtering pops of the driftwood aflame, the waves crashing against the craggy shore, and his own whooping hollering cheer, that at first Declan didn’t hear her. Then, in a perfect pause between the fire, the waves, and his jubilant exclamation, came the voice again. It might have been an angel’s voice, the way Declan whipped around, breathless, desperate for the first sign of island life he had heard in weeks. She might have been an angel too. Declan ran a trembling hand through his sweaty hair when the beauty, half submerged in the sea, asked a third and slightly exacerbated time:
The Children are Waking
Abel discarded another shovelful of earth and wiped his brow. It had been a tame winter and though the ground was soft, the morning sun was warm, sending trickles of sweat down his hairline and the back of his neck. Birdsong filled the air and from the short distance to the house, Abel could hear the slam of the backscreen door. He nodded to his brother, Adam. That would be Mother. If Mother was up, then it meant it was almost time for the Wakening. The boys felt a pang of excitement. They had been digging since sunrise, after all.