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Merideth
Muse-i-licious
RDI Staff
Karma: 177/13
3127 Posts


A Collection of Short Stories

I've been thinking of working on more short stories instead of the overwhelming task of writing a novel, or even novella.

So for your enjoyment and critique I offer the following stories.

M.

And, btw, I will preceed these with a warning: I don't write happy stories and many have a tendancy to be a bit on the graphic side, so if you are looking for light reading, please look elsewhere - thanks!


Posted on 2009-10-17 at 05:09:03.
Edited on 2009-10-17 at 05:18:16 by Merideth

Merideth
Muse-i-licious
RDI Staff
Karma: 177/13
3127 Posts


The Color of Death (previously as 'Her Barn')

Amanda loved the barn. It was her favorite place in the entire world. For its current purpose, storage of old hay and household items no longer wanted in the main house, it was overly large. That was part of its charm though, big and spacious. The house was full of – things; furniture, art, clothing, food, people. Thus the house had always felt cluttered, that clutter and the color that inevitably came with it was damaging to her senses. In stark contrast to that the barn’s nearly empty ground floor was comforting. Ever since she was a child she could recall coming out to the barn for that comfort.

At this particular moment was lying on her back staring up into the high rafters, just as she had done many times in her life. The ground was packed dirt covered in a layer of old hay. It smelled musty, damp and cool. Ashley would be upset that her dress was soiled, he always was, but it did not stop her from doing it.

As the barn had no windows, and only two ways in, the large swinging double doors and a smaller door to one side of them, which she always kept shut, the shafts of light from above were the only meaningful source of light. Her eyes had quickly adjusted to the dimness and had she wished she could have examined the space around her easily. Currently, though, she was at peace watching the tiny particles of dust swirl around in the light as she listened to the heavy swaying of a chain behind her head.

Small shafts of light fell from cracks in the roof. When it rained those shafts of light turned into dribbles of cool water and sometimes even fountains of it if it rained hard enough. Then her dress would get really dirty. At night the cracks were lost in the darkness, but she knew where they were and tried to imagine that if she stared at them long enough they would focus into her field of vision and that perhaps she could see out into the sky that way.

The lights were like fingers, sometimes she thought of them as the very fingers of God, reaching down in His eternal grace to comfort and accept her as His child. The first time she had thought of them as fingers she had thought of them as her mother’s fingers, reaching down from heaven to do the same. For it was here, on this very spot that she had come the day her mother had died.

The drab browns and cool grays that the barn offered had been what she needed. In a way it was ironic. The barn was where she had gone to deal with her mother’s death. Yet the purchase of the barn, which came with the main house and the acres of land around it, had been made in order to save her mother’s life.

Good clean fresh country air is what Amanda’s father, a doctor, had said she needed. So they had moved, the whole family, here and filled the house with plants. Sometimes her father would send off for some exotic plant from countries she had never heard of. They would arrive in great wooden crates. He would then take great care to position it perfectly within her mother’s chambers, and then tend to them as dearly as he did his wife. The crates for those plants were no doubt stacked somewhere in this very barn still.

The plants, the air, the medicine – it did no good. For in the end her mother had still died. Died terribly.

It had been the first time death had touched her. Certainly Amanda had seen death prior to this. Her father was a doctor. But it had always been other people’s deaths. Her mother’s death had seemed in a way like her own.

Amanda had often tried, while lying on the barn floor, to remember her mother when she had not been sick. To remember her mother looking healthy, laughing, playing… there were vague moments of memory, but like the dust they danced constantly and could not be focused on before they drifted into the darkness again. And like the dust she sometimes wondered if they were real, or if they were a figment of her imagination. The mind could play tricks on someone, especially if they thought too hardly. What she could concretely remember about her mother was the blood and the plants.

Everyone thought of blood as one color: red. But Amanda knew it came in many colors. Fresh from a wound against the still warm flesh it was often red. Mixed in with some other body fluid, such as saliva or tears and it could turn shades of pink. Or could take on shades of near black when it came from the darker wells of the human body, the organs, the lungs, or the arteries. It also could take different colors depending on what it landed on. Blood upon a bleached white pillow case looked very different from blood dribbled upon soft damp soil, or upon the robust waxy green leaves of a plant with a name longer than her mothers’ life.

This kaleidoscope of colors, the many reds of blood, the shifting greens of plant life, the clean whites of linen, the punctured black of her father’s medical bag, this is what she always thought of when she thought of death. For her death had not been a pale horse, it had not left in its wake a pallet of dulled colors.

Contrary to what many though, it was this assault of color, not the blood itself that bothered her. The blood was what her mother had needed. Blood was life. When blood was removed from the body, either by the body itself or by some outside force, life could be drained, and that is what had happened to her mother. Disease had crippled her body to a point that it expelled its own life force.

When the last of her life had been purged Amanda could find no comfort in the house. Her father had shed his tears for his wife long before she had taken her last breath. While her older brother, Ashley, did whatever grieving he had left to do in private. So she had grieved on her own.

Hours upon hours were spent on her back in the barn. She let the pale fingers of light and the muted colors soothe her. Privately she wished that her mother had been buried in the barn so she could have her close by. The thought had not occurred to her until after the burial and was not a real possibility, but the dream did not fade.

Even now, twenty long years after her mother’s death, she thought of how nice it would be. She could lay on the ground held in the loving embrace of the shafts of light and talk to her. There were so many things that had happened that Amanda had longed to tell her mother, or to tell anyone who would listen for that matter.

Her brother Ashley had taken over his father’s business when he had finally passed, in a room painted bright blue Amanda distinctly remembered. He had married and had two children now. For herself, Amanda had not gotten married and lived with Ashley in the same house the two had grown up in, acting as a nurse to his patients. The siblings were accused of having a cool detachment from the world around them. In Ashley this was seen as a necessary condition due to his job. In Amanda it was seen as the primary reason she remained unwed.

Such things were of little consequence at the moment, however. War had descended upon the country. The reasons for the war were of little interest to her. Her family’s business had kept her well provided for and it was a business that would continue to matter what side ended up the victor. People would die and get sick even if there was not a war and so doctors would always be needed. Her personal rights were unlikely to change either way.

Those around her though, were very interested in all of it. You were expected to align yourself on one side of the great dividing line or the other. Of course the barn lay on land where it was best to align yourself with the South. Neighbors could be rather persuasive if you claimed otherwise. Ashley had put in his lot with the South, though he had not joined the ranks. Amanda had guessed this was because, like herself, he truly did not feel passionately either way and had only thrown his marker in with the Southern cause so he could continue to live in the home he had grown up in.

If it had not been for the blood spattered gray and blue uniforms that showed up at their door and colored her life with their pain and their death, she likely would not have even noticed the war going on around her. Even the battle that had passed so close they could hear the cannons and see the plumbs of dirt that they caused rising into the air would not have affected her had not the wounded filled the house. That night the blood soaked the linens and the floor until Amanda could see no other color but shades of red.

And so her days were filled with the care of wounded soldiers. Most did not stay long. Bandaged, fed and cleaned up they usually hurried back to their units, eager to begin the fight again. Others died while being treated, or were brought in already dead by some comrade who still had too much hope and not enough luck on their side. Those left in the wooden boxes that were brought to the house, a reminder to all the price the fighting had. Amanda thought of the plants that had been so carefully packaged and mailed in her childhood whenever the boxes piled up in their yard.

Some stayed longer though. Broken bones, amputations, influenza and other ailments that needed more time to heal would often take up residence at the home for some time. Amanda was particularly good with these. Her bedside manners were impeccable. The soldiers found her to be prompt, courteous, kind and not imposing.

When Michael found himself in her care he found Amanda to be the most endearing woman he had ever met. He had taken damage from a cannon ball. His one ankle shattered into a pulpy mess and the rest of his body covered in bruises and lacerations that caused him great pain and threatened to become infected. So she had stayed with him for several nights. Watching the wounds and talking to him to keep his mind off the pain.

During those long nights Michael told her about his sister, Chastity, who was older than him but still lived at home, caring for their parents. He had told Amanda she reminded him of her, it was something she had heard a lot. She was often compared to a sister, a wife, a mother or some aunt back home. She did not think he reminded her of anyone she knew, but she did not tell him that. Instead they had talked about Chastity and about Elizabeth, the girl Michael had intentions to marry when the war was over. Likely he would have to have the foot removed, and then, no longer fit for the battlefield, he would return to them. Amanda knew this, Michael knew this; they did not talk about it. Instead they talked about family, books, food, weather and God. God did not save his foot.

The day before Ashley had told Michael that he had recovered well from the surgery and could go home as soon as he was ready. So this morning he had gathered his things and had asked Amanda to come and say goodbye. They were alone in the room when he told her he wished she were coming with him. That if she wanted to he would send her money as soon as he got settled back home, that she could come and be his wife.

Hours later she lay on the floor remembering the moment he proposed to her. The memory, which did not dance like those of her mother being happy, but instead was solid and very real, mad her brow furrow. Moments after getting the words out his eyes had flickered and she wished she could have seen her face mirrored in them at that moment. It must have been an interesting expression that crossed over her features then. Whatever the expression looked like its affect was easily seen in Michael, who pulled back a step and fumbled over his words. Amanda had been quick to recover though and offered a smile and then a suggestion that perhaps he walk with her out to the barn. It was a somewhat strange request but he was too flummoxed to protest. Together they had walked, he leaning heavily on his crutches, into the barn.

Now, closing her eyes she took a deep breath and smiled as she found she could still smell him. His scent, carried with the bits of dust through the hands of God calmed her as she lay on the dirt floor. She wanted to stay there, to be wrapped in his scent for as long as she could. Eventually it would fade, it always did, but for now it was there and it pleased her so.

If she did not get up soon, though, Ashley would come searching for her. Deep down she wondered if he knew or at least suspected. Part of her also wondered what he would do if really found out. But she was careful and so she hoped that it was not something she would ever have to find out.

Slowly she opened her eyes, beginning to prepare herself to return back to the house. Drawing herself partially off the floor she looked to the south side of the barn, toward the doors. A pair of crutches leaned against the wall by the door. She would have to drag them upstairs to the loft, stash them with the crates the exotic plants had come in, perhaps tomorrow. Today she was exhausted.

Turning slowly she faced the north side of the barn now, kneeling on the ground and smiling as Michael came into view against the dull brown wall. She didn’t want to leave him, she thought maybe she loved him.

Again she wished that his eyes were more like mirrors so she could see the expression on her own face as she looked up at him, but his glassy brown eyes reflected little but the be speckled light around them. It was almost hypnotic how that light moved as he swayed slowly from left to right; the heavy chain suspending him off the floor still creaking against the rafter.

With the chain hoisted across his chest and under his arms his body hung there limply but could almost be mistaken for standing there on its own accord for a brief moment, even with the missing foot. His head drooped too much, though. From the floor it was not terrible for she could still see up into his face and watch the light catch his bulging eyes. But standing the affect was not altogether as optimal as she would like. She had yet to devise a way to keep their heads from drooping like that though. The bones in the neck were too fluid. The last one she had tried to tie a broom stick along his spine but to get the head to not droop forward she had to tie the last ribbon just under the jaw, if the tie was too tight it pulled the lips strangely and tilted the head backwards too much so he looked up at the rafters instead of at her. The effect of that was worse than the drooping. So she let Michael droop. Her favorite position was on the floor anyway.

Slowly she crawled over so she was by his foot. The soil beneath it was wet, and placing a finger on it, still slightly warm. The sticky mud moved between her fingers, smearing her pale skin with the reddish brown muck. Michael’s life, moving between her fingers. As she examined it another drop from the tip of his boot hit the top of her hand and sluggishly dribbled toward her wrist. Her eyes lidded and she gasped slightly at the sensation and the tingling that rippled through her with it.

Breathing deeper now she looked up at Michael, following the trail of sticky red up his leg and to his back. The scalpel had left only a small mark half way up his back near the spine. As he had moved to embrace her in the privacy of the barn he had not noticed it until she turned her wrist just slightly and pulled it out. His eyes had met hers then, the look of surprise in them unmistakable. They never cried out when she did it like that, it was quick and relatively painless. With the artery so perfectly cut she imagined they were only aware of the warmth of their life draining out and down their legs as she helped them to the ground. It was also easy to manage the blood this way, their heads could be cradled in her lap while she held them close and watched the blood flow out of their back and into the soil.

When they stopped moving she could hoist them up on the chain. Which is where she kept them temporarily.

Michael would be hers for the next few days. Eventually his eyes would lose their gleam and his smell would fade and be replaced by the smell of pure decay. She would lower him and bury him with her other men in one of the unused horse stalls. They were all there; save for the first - he was in the lake. She liked to keep them there, in the barn with her. She buried them face up, so when she lay on the barn floor watching the light or the rain drift down they could watch with her.

So that they too could feel the fingers of God caressing them and know the bliss it brought her; so that she would not be alone.




10/16/2009: Got this whipped up tonight. Kind of going off an idea I've had for awhile but until now had some difficulty getting on paper. I think the mood of Halloween coming so close kind of helped.

2/28/2010: Edited this to bring more 'flow' to the piece. Hope the efforts were succesful.


Posted on 2009-10-17 at 05:15:47.
Edited on 2010-02-28 at 14:40:40 by Merideth

Merideth
Muse-i-licious
RDI Staff
Karma: 177/13
3127 Posts


The Children of 408

Part One:
October 19, 2009
The day the world died began like any other.


6:40 am
Whitewash, Missouri

Click “-going to be there from eight till eleven, and hey maybe longer if the party is happening.”
“And you know it will be.”
“That’s true, what am I thinking?”
“I don’t know man… A bunch of Spin listeners grinding out in ghoulish costumes to DJ Cash’dem –

Thud The clock ticked by another seven minutes.

Click, “Because you wanted more… more than I could give… more than I could bear…” Tonic droned melodramatically.

“Okay… I’m getting up” Rachel groaned and started to sit up, then slammed her hand on the alarm clock again and slunk back into the bed again, pulling the comforter up over her head; another seven minutes ticked past.

Click “-at least it isn’t more rain. But if there was more rain in the forecast I could at least rest assured that my tires will make driving safer because I know I can depend on the technicians at Brice’s Tire Company to outfit my vehicle with the best tire for me… taking into consideration my driving needs, my vehicle and my pocketbook. Now to John Philben with traffic. How do things -”

“Uhgghhh… s***.” Rachel groaned again and sat up finally. The comforter flew to the end of the bed and her hand slammed down one final time on the alarm clock. Not only had she missed the weather report, but that corny DJ reminded her that she needed to get new tires on the little Neon that sat in the driveway. Blearily she looked at the time: 6:57

“Shhiiiit…” She repeated with more annoyance than vinegar.

Kicking at the covers she pushed herself out of bed finally. A prayer was sent toward her closet as she hoped there was something clean and ironed hanging it in that she could wear to school. The closet Gods acquiesced, but like all Gods, they had a sense of humor. Rachel ended up in a pair of khakis that were too short and a brown top that was too big, the ensemble was drab and the only matching pair of shoes she could find was black.

Welcome to Monday Morning… she thought to herself.

The trip to the bathroom was much more fruitful at least. Her hair was easy to make look great, a long mane of straight brown satin. A hair clip, a spritz of hairspray, dab of lipstick and eye shadow and she prayed everyone paid attention to her face and hair instead of her clothes.

Downstairs she gathered up her belongings as quickly as she could and headed out the door. The Neon’s lights lit up and it made a small chirp as she hit the ‘unlock’ button on the key ring. She liked how it did that, it was like the car winked at her and said hello when she approached. The first smile of the day hit the corners of her lips when it greeted her.

“Morning Bella…” and patted her blue hood in thanks as she went to open the door. “God I wish you could just drive yourself. You must know the way by now.” Rachel yawned as she started it up.

The car backed out of the driveway, and Rachel paused as she put the car into drive only long enough to turn up the radio, letting the Red Hot Chili Peppers fill the air. Her fingers tapped against the steering wheel with the beat as she drove across Whitewash.

Whitewash, Missouri. Located somewhere between the capital in Jefferson City and a cow Whitewash had been Rachel’s home for the past two years. The culture shock of living in a small rural town was finally starting to wear off. She had grown up in a suburb of Kansas City. Jeff had grown up here though. The two had moved to Kansas City right after they got married but when Jeff’s mother fell ill they moved to Whitewash to help. And so she had ended up landing a teaching job at the local elementary teaching farmer’s kids reading, writing and arithmetic.

The radio switched over to the Beatles as she passed through the one stop light in town and offered up a prayer to the traffic Gods when the light was green for her. One of the school buses turned on behind her and followed her the next two blocks and into the parking lot of Whitewash Elementary (or as the faculty liked to jokingly call it WWE).

She pulled ‘Bella’ into an unmarked parking space. First year fourth grade teachers did not apparently warrant a reserved parking spot. As she gathered her bags and walked toward the back entrance of the school, however, she noted that there were only about twenty parking spaces for the whole school anyway, she had only parked five spaces down from the spot marked ‘Principal’ where the black BMW was parked, and she wondered what the point of the reserved spots were anyway, save for just making the BMW feel special. With a slight rolling of her eyes she found her way inside and to her classroom room 408.

“Marked parking spaces but no wireless internet…” she sighed to no one in particular as she hooked up her laptop to the blue LAN line that had been taped to the floor from the wall jack to the foot of her desk. Even the laptop had not been school supplied. There was a five year old PC that rotted under her desk that they had given her. One week of that and she started to bring in her personal laptop to work from instead. The grant that the Whitewash R IV district had gotten from the state to upgrade computers last year had gone into the High School. So they had lap tops, a new computer lab for students and wireless internet capabilities. The grant they were expecting to get next year would go to the Middle School and if the government felt like giving up more money three years from now the Elementary was on the list. Until then Rachel’s home was more technologically equipped than the school she worked at.

She had just enough time to log into her computer, pull up the lesson plans for the day and update her Facebook profile to ’Monday’s are ugghhhh…’ before the bell rang announcing the admission of the children into the building, 7:25 am.



10/22/2009: This is the first bit I've written up for a post apocolyptic story, hopefully more to come in the near future


Posted on 2009-10-23 at 00:31:22.
Edited on 2010-02-20 at 03:29:30 by Merideth

Merideth
Muse-i-licious
RDI Staff
Karma: 177/13
3127 Posts


Confessions of a Fallen Angel - The Abbey

She was naught but a child the first time I laid eyes on her. I could scarcely believe that the figure that crouched before could be responsible for the pure mayhem that had been described to me. I glanced at the guards who stood at the doorway, they didn’t look at me though, they looked at the girl, and they shook in their boots. Apparently they believed it.

The cell they had shoved her into was small and dank. Soiled hay clung to the walls and the corners of the room. A window, high up on the wall and barred provided the only light, it was enough though in the late morning to see her well enough. She was crouched over naked, shivering and holding her knees to her chest. Dark curls stuck to her like oily black snakes. I could see part of her back from this angle, and the deep wounds that were etched into her shoulder blades were still bleeding slightly, the sight made me wince some.

I didn’t want to get my robes soiled but I had to get down to her level. So I slowly knelt down on the floor and got a closer look at her face. Her eyes were not yet open, and if it were not for the busted lip and the dirt that was smeared across her features I could have sworn she was one of the statues of the angels that watched over the church above us. Cherubic. And when she opened those eyes and looked upon me for the first time I nearly fell backwards. Her eyes were like solid dark coals set on a sheer white background. They were large and her dark lashes framed them in a beauty that most women simply did not possess. Even at her tender age I felt an uncomfortable stirring inside myself, and I knew now why the guards were shaking. There was something about this girl that should be feared.

“Maria... that is your name isn’t it child? Maria, I am Father Sebastian. A priest. Your priest if you will let me. The cardinal wanted me to speak with you, do you remember meeting him?” I spoke in a soft tone, not wishing to distress her any more then she already was.

A flash of red I was not certain I had actually seen rushed over her eyes at the mention of the cardinal and her lips pulled back to reveal a mouth of pointed teeth, the cherubic visage was no longer so.

“Ah... I see you do remember meeting his Eminence. Well, you shall have to forgive his treatment of you thus far my child. He was not sure how to react towards one such as yourself. Quiet honestly none of us do. I came to talk about what happened Maria. What happened at the abbey... do you remember what happened at the abbey?”

She snarled again showing those teeth. I sighed, I had to get through to her.

“Please, Maria. I know you can speak. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m actually here to help you. I can get things for you, some clothing, some food... would that be alright?”

That was when she looked at me, really looked at me for the first time. Those dark eyes searched into my own, I could tell that she saw more of me than perhaps anyone else ever had, or ever would. She was the one who was naked, but I felt it at that moment. But while she looked into me, I caught a glimpse of her, one of a handful of times I would see her unguarded. What I saw was beautiful, and terrifying. She was a creature not of this world, above it somehow, and yet trapped. In a way I feel in love with her right then. I like to pretend that that feeling was mutual.

Love or not she did seem to soften after searching me. And finally nodded a bit.

“Alright then. I’ll be back in awhile.”

She said nothing as I got up and walked out of the room. As I did I made a brief comment to the guards.

“Don’t touch her...”

They looked at me as if they were afraid, although if they were afraid of her or me I wasn’t sure.

I did not go straight for a dress for her, or to the kitchen for some food. But instead went straight to Cardinal Robert’s chambers.

“What is she? Really?” I demanded as soon as I was granted admission into the room.

Robert sat at his small desk, draped in red velvet. His face was smooth and oiled, hair neatly trimmed, and he smelled of musk. Slowly he turned his eyes, deep velvety brown to go with the gown, towards me and smiled slowly.

“That’s why we brought you in... we were hoping that you knew.”

“Me?” I considered this for a moment, and then shook my head with an exasperated sigh. “I see.”

“Don’t look so... upset about it Father. Have you seen the wings?” he almost sounded excited.

“Wings?” I must have blinked then and looked confused for Robert laughed at me and nodded.

“Yes the wings. Surely you noticed the wounds on her back, we had them removed.” He clapped his hands together twice and from the next room a young monk entered, head bowed.

“Your Eminence...” the boy spoke reverently.

“Show Father Sebastian...” he paused for dramatic effect and I tried not to roll my eyes at the ceiling, “the wings.”

The thought obviously did not please the monk who soured around the mouth some and nodded tensely. Without a word he twitched his head toward the room he had come from to me and scurried back to it.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me about a set of wings?” I stood up and brushed my hands together, they felt much too dry I thought, and looked at Robert.

He just shrugged, and nodded toward the room. “I thought someone had...” and left it at that.

In the next room the monk hovered near a table. A white cloth had been thrown over some objects on the table, and already blossoms of red were blooming on the cloth where the object and it came into close contact. The monk gestured but did not get within two feet of the table. I would have to lift the cloth myself to see what lay under it.

Carefully I lifted one corner and took a quick peek at what lay there. At first it looked like a dead crow. I was about to claim hoax when I pulled the rest of the cloth away and simply stood there, staring down at what was most defiantly not a dead crow.

The two wings, for surely they could be nothing else, lay on the table. Each was folded up as a bird holds its wings when not in flight. The feathers were black as night and shined even after being removed from their body. How they had been removed from the body appeared apparent. Violently. They were matted with blood, feathers were bent and a few stripped down to the shaft. I bent closer looking at the bloody stubs of flesh where they had once been affixed to the poor girl downstairs. The wounds on her back matched them perfectly as far as my mind could remember. I measured out the distance from that nub to the first joint, and then to the next and finally to the tip of the wing. They had to have spread out from wing tip to wing tip nearly six feet.

I can recall pressing my fist to my lips as I took it all in: the black wings, the pointed teeth, those eyes in that lovely face. I was not sure what she was exactly. But my first impression that she did not belong upon this plane of existence was only becoming more and more confirmed.

I dropped the cloth back on the ruined remains and nodded a thank you to the monk before passing back into Robert’s chambers.

“What are your intentions with her?” my voice firm as my eyes.

“I need to know more about her.”

“That isn’t an answer Cardinal.”

“It’s all the answer you are going to get until I learn more.”

“Where did she come from?”

“I need you to find out.”

“Cardinal!” I was loosing my temper quickly. “This girl... or... I don’t even know if I can call her a girl. She’s not like anything I’ve ever read about, let alone seen before. No one knows anything about her? Surely someone must have said something, she had wings!”

Robert pursed his lips a little as I raised my voice. “Father Sebastian... I got a report that something was amiss at one of my Abbey’s. I sent Bishop Regau to find out what was going on. He returns with that girl, for lack of a better term, in a cage. There were no survivors to tell of. Only the village people who had watched the Abbey burn to the ground. They spoke of witchcraft and a giant flying bat. Other than that I know nothing more than you. I brought you here because of who you mentored under. Find out what she is. And when you are done doing that we can discuss what we need to do with her.”

It was my turn to purse my lips together. I wondered if I could trust him, if he really had no real clue as to what she was and how she played a part in the demise of the Abbey or if I was becoming a part of some scheme. Then I wondered what choice I really had in the matter.

“I’ll do my best Your Eminence...”

“I expect nothing less. Is that all?”

I now wonder what would have happened if I had refused this assignment. I did have a choice, despite my thoughts at the time. We always have choices. Our life and inevitably our very souls depend on those choices. Whether the decision to do what the Cardinal asked of me saved me, or damned me, I am still uncertain of. Of course I know I cannot hinge my entire soul upon that one decision. I have been given many choices when it comes to Maria, and every one weighs upon me.

“Can you tell me what happened at the Abbey?”

Now dressed and hunched over a bowl of watery soup she looked more like a normal child somehow. The teeth were even more rounded than pointy I thought, perhaps I had imagined them being fang like before. Just as I must have imagined that flash of red over those coal-like eyes.

She shook her head at me as she spooned a carrot and some broth between her lips. Save for sipping up the soup she had not yet even opened her mouth, let alone spoken. This would take time. Hopefully the Cardinal would allow me that time.

“Okay... you don’t have to tell me. Why don’t we start with something much simpler? Your name is Maria right?”

Me telling her she didn’t have to talk about the Abbey seemed to make her relax some. When I asked her name she nodded and slurped a noodle into her mouth, it splashed a bit as she did, even getting a drop of the broth on my chin. As I moved to wipe it off with my sleeve I caught a hint of a smile on her rose bud lips.

“Well that is a start, Maria. How old are you?”

A question she could not answer with a simple nod or shake of the head, how clever of me.

She caught on too, and bit her lip a little bit, chewing on it. I leaned over then and reached out, touching her chin with the pad of my finger. The first time we touched a shiver ran through my body as if some cold finger had run down my spine and a smell that would come to haunt me filled my nostrils, right then I couldn’t place it, but it caused a surge of conflicted emotions to run through me. But I didn’t pull back, instead I looked into her eyes and spoke quietly.

“I’m not going to hurt you Maria... I promise you that.”

Finally she stopped chewing her lip and let her rose bud lips fall open as a single word was said, “Thirteen.”

A smile spread over my lips as she finally spoke to me. Although that smile did not touch my heart for that was bleeding for her. Thirteen years old and already she was laden with something vile.

Ever so gently I pulled my finger back, though the smell still lingered and still tugged at some distant memory.

“There... see? I didn’t hurt you.”

Nothing else moved except her head, which nodded a little. I was getting somewhere with her I mused to myself.

“So… you are Maria, and you are thirteen years old. I am Sebastian and I am twenty three. That makes me ten years older than you.” I kept the smile on my lips as best as I could, waiting for the moment it would be mirrored somehow in her.

“Can you tell me what happened at the Abbey yet?”

Her delicate eyes fell from mine when I brought it back up. Movement shifted from her head to her shoulders and she shrugged, almost as if it did not matter what happened there and another word dropped from her lips. “Dead.”

I sighed slightly at that. “Yes child… they are all dead. But I would like to know how, and perhaps why. Can you help me with that?”

“I do not know why…”

My heart leapt into my throat as I watched her shake her head. Not only had she finally spoken more than a single word, but she did not know why the people had died in the Abbey, perhaps she was not what Robert thought she was. Perhaps she had been a victim, a spectator even of whatever had happened. I felt a little guilty for taking pleasure in her answer, for certainly she was not, but I could not help how I felt.

“Alright. It’s okay Maria. You don’t have to have all the answers.”

I would almost prefer you didn’t my child… I thought as I reached over and placed her hand in my own.

“How about how they died? Do you know that?”

“Me.” The word seemed smaller than her as she uttered it. My heart fell, not to where it was before but lower down into my bowels and it took my breath with it. I could not fully realize what she said. The cherub who sat before me, barely old enough to be out of her swaddling clothing, said that she was responsible for the deaths at the Abbey, all of them unless I heard her wrong.

This moment hangs in my memory. I see her eyes with tears burning at the corners, her lips pulled into a frown at this admission, the way she trembled. I remember her feeling guilty. It was one of the few times she ever would. I wonder occasionally if I truly saw guilt rise up in her eyes, or if my memory has placed that guilt there by my conscience, or by my wishful thinking. But the moment also stays there, suspended in its brilliance, as one of the last times I was shocked by her confession. She would repeat that word many times throughout her life to me. It has always made my heart fall, but only out of pity now, not shock.

At the time though I was still desperately trying to deny everything. I would give this child innocence even if I had to paint the picture of it myself. Carefully I tried to do this.

“You set the fire then? Was it an accident?” I began to pray that both answers would be ‘yes’. That she would paint her own innocence and not peel away the gentle façade and reveal some horrible monster. But as all my prayers about Maria, it was answered with a twist of irony.

“I did not mean to start a fire…”

I did not let her finish, I was too overwhelmed with joy. My hands left hers and clasped together tightly before my chest. “Oh! Thank the Lord!”

She looked at me with slightly widened eyes as if trying to understand what this man was speaking about. Quickly I took up her hands again and wrapped my fingers around hers, noting how small and thin they were.

“It can be forgiven… accidents can be forgiven my child. Just tell me how it started.”

Her fingers twitched inside of mine and she looked up at me, hope beginning to fill in her features. She truly was lovely beyond anything I could have ever imagined possible. “Forgiven?”

I held her fingers tighter and nodded vehemently. “Yes child, forgiven. All sin can be forgiven. You just have to tell me what happened and it can be absolved.”

At the time I believed every word I said to her. I know that that is the reason she spoke to me, she could tell I was being honest with her. Only now do I doubt that all sins can be washed away. Some I think stain your soul. But I did believe them then, and more than that I wanted to give her forgiveness. I wanted to cleanse her soul of whatever darkened it and free her from her burdens, to bring her closer to God – I still do.




10/30/2009: Well this is a beginning of what I hope will become a much larger work.

2/19/2010: Added a bit more here. Hope to have her first 'confession' in the works soon


Posted on 2009-10-30 at 02:16:19.
Edited on 2010-02-20 at 03:28:07 by Merideth

Merideth
Muse-i-licious
RDI Staff
Karma: 177/13
3127 Posts


Janey

Abigail sat beside him in the truck grasping her pink backpack tightly. He could see that she was just as excited as she was scared. Her little sneakers bounced against the seat, something he would normal have told her to stop – but at that moment she was so preoccupied that he decided not to bother.

Smiling at her he turned onto Fourth Street and stopped in front of a little beige house no bigger than a postage stamp. Again he thought to himself that Madge was simply insane. Seven little six year old girls spending the night in that house.

“Daddy! Come on! Everyone has just gotta be waiting!”

“Hold on a minute lemon drop. Now remember what we talked about right? You be good and listen to Mrs. Madge, even if the other girls don’t? And if you need anything all you call me…”

“817-22 ummm… 2279… yes Daddy, I know. I’ll be good, I promise. Can we go now?”

“Yes dear”

Collecting all the necessary first sleepover gear: The birthday gift, the sleeping bag, pillow, ‘Snuggles’ the stuffed kitty, PJ’s, toothbrush, two sets of extra clothes and God only knew what else she had shoved into the bag and what else they had both inevitably forgotten, they went to the front door.

Madge answered, already looking a bit frazzled as the shrill sound that only a gaggle of small girls is capable of creating erupted from the other room.

“I have one more terror to add to your mad house, you sure you want to go through with this?” He grinned at her.

“Abby everyone is in the living room, you can go put your stuff there –“

Abby started to run off when he caught her by the arm and got down on his knees.

“Hey! How about a good bye kiss for the old man? At least pretend you are going to miss me?”

“Oh! Daddy!” she sighed dramatically and gave him a big hug, and a wet kiss.

“Alright off you go…” he released her and gave her a pat on the butt as she bounced off.

“So… you sure you are going to make it?” he looked at Madge.

She laughed and then winked “I’ve got liquor.”

“Well that is one way to put the monsters to sleep.”

Another laugh as she shook her head, “How about you? Gonna make it a night by yourself.”

“Come on, you know me, I got a hot date lined up.”

She laughed louder, “I bet her name is HBO…”

“Yeah very likely. Maybe I should just stick to that liquor idea you thought up.”

“Works every time…”

“Well good luck, be back around ten tomorrow?”

“Yep… night John.”

“Night Madge.”




Liquor.

John cracked open what was going to be the first of many beers that night and settled into the couch. He turned on the small TV and started flipping through the channels.

News – weather – more news – a Seinfield rerun – news – Columbo – some reality show – news

God he wished he had HBO like Madge had suggested. HBO had breasts. He sighed and flipped back to Columbo.

Being a single father was hard. Rewarding but hard. He had dating a girl after the divorce, her name was Marie, and she had great breasts, but everything was so weird and raw and it just never got off the ground. Abby started getting nightmares about then and he couldn’t leave her with anyone else for the night.

After that it was just him and Abbey. Devoting his life to his little girl took up all his time and even more of his energy.

When he was honest with himself he knew that there was more to it though. He could date, Abbey was old enough to go on sleepover now, the nightmares and the bedwetting had, thankfully, stopped. Sometimes Abbey even hinted that he should find a girlfriend, even if it was just a little girls fascination with romance and ‘the way things should be’ radar. She didn’t remember her mother really so there weren’t any feelings of betrayal for him to work around.

The problem was that –he- remembered her mother, Janey. He remembered it all in Technicolor brightness.

He wasn’t still in love with her, in fact he was relatively certain that he had never been in love with Janey. Marrying her was just one of these that… happened. You board the train and then sit in the back seat and watch as it crashes off a cliff, taking you and all the screaming passengers with it.

It wasn’t love and thus there was no ‘love at first sight’ moment. He did not even remember the first time he saw Janey. She had always just been there, such as it went with small towns. They had simply gone to school together. She was however, his senior prom date.

Not that she had been the first girl he had asked. No, that honor went to the lovely Clair Templeton. Clair with the long brown hair and the perfect curves. But Clair had politely turned him down, complete with the kiss on his cheek to seal the deal.

At that point someone – and if John could remember who he might just flatten the tires on their car – suggested that he ask Janey out. She was not particularly pretty. She ran in track so her legs were nice and she had breasts, and even mediocre breasts were still breasts especially when you are a seventeen year old virgin. But her hips were rather flat and she had a pronounced nose. Behind her back they actually called her ‘Jewy’ even though she was as protestant as they come. But the math at the time worked out. He had a tux, she had a dress and neither of them had a date.

John knew he could get up from the couch, go to the back bedroom in his doublewide trailer and pull out a box from under the bed. In it he could find the picture of the two of them at prom. The gold and black balloon arch behind them, the way the black silk dress she had for the occasion didn’t quite fit her right, the strained look on his face from being told to put his arm around her by the camera guy for the picture. Normally she didn’t wear makeup so that night it was grossly overdone, as was her hair. He had forgotten to get her a corsage, so he had tried to tie the boutonniere she had gotten him onto her arm with a hair tie from her car, it dangled off her wrist and by the end of the night was lost.

It wasn’t the only thing that got lost that night. John took a long swig of his beer and tried to forget the sticky inexperienced fumbling that happened in the back seat of her car that night (his had been in the shop getting a new muffler).

He sunk lower into the couch. Columbo was arresting someone, the show would be over soon so he let his eyes wander over the living room. Most of the furniture had once belonged to friends or family who had given it to him when they had gotten something better to replace the item. The only thing that tied it together was the pinks and purples that came with having a daughter. Next to the couch was a miniature pink fuzzy armchair. There was a Barbie lap tray on the floor next to the TV with a coloring book and a handful of crayons left out on it. Hanging near the door was a purple puffy coat and three scarves in various bright colors. Roller skates with glittered stars on the sides were sitting on the coffee table next to the vase full of white marbles and fake flowers she had made out of tissue paper. Without leaning to look he knew the fridge was overwhelmed with pictures torn out of coloring books and her first spelling quizzes with gold stars on them, all tacked up with strange magnets, her favorites being the set of pink flamingos. Her room was like the rest of the house, hand-me-down furniture (with a fresh coat of purple paint to make it hers) and exploding with cheap little girl princess wonder.

He had his sister to thank for a great deal of it. Melissa had pulled through several times and come in with her ability to turn anything into a little girl’s dream. She had even helped him a few times when money was short and the gifts under the tree were sparse. A lot of it was sympathy.

The divorce had wiped him clean, not that he had had much to begin with. When Janey had decided to fight for custody of Abigail he had been shocked, and then appalled. What was even more appalling was that the case was not immediately thrown out. The judge actually listened to her, they went through months of fighting. John had not wanted to drag out all of Janey’s life before the court, but she would not give up and so he had little choice. The lawyers bills went to credit cards and for awhile he found himself paying for credit cards with more credit cards. In the end though Abbey had gone home with him, and even if the child had to spend the rest of her life on government funded school lunches and living in a trailer park, he knew she was safe and that was all that mattered to him.



2/19/2010: Another begining of a story. This has been mainly setup thus far. Will get to the good stuff here shortly I hope.



Posted on 2010-02-20 at 03:24:24.
Edited on 2010-02-20 at 03:30:32 by Merideth

SanSiro
Newbie
Karma: 4/1
17 Posts


very nice work

The stories are very good! as a sometime writer myself, its good to look at someone else work and enjoy it. maybe it helps that im from missouri and ones set there, its nice to think of home.


Posted on 2010-04-03 at 18:09:24.

   
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