The Lady

The Lady

The Lady

Darlene Reilley

I am the land, the sea, the source of all life here.  I am the Goddess who has been forsaken for Christianity.  I am the Chalice, I am the blue water that beats life into you.  You marry your Kings to me; using the mere forgeries that have been created in my image.  And yet, I am not bitter with you, for you are my children, all.

I begin my day before the sun rises, for I must wake her up.  Sleepily, she rises at my command.  As she comes up, I go over the Earth, breathing vibrant colour into the sleepy plants.  I awake the animals, and all of you.  Then I go back to my castle in the sky. 

As you go about your day, I send creatures to keep an eye on you: fairies, elves, men, women, and animals too.  They tell me what you are up to.  I am the force that gives life, for no one is higher than I.

I drink my coffee, and clap for entertainment.  The characters of books leap off the pages; they all tell religious stories.  Except, of course, for the lovely Troubadours.  They really know how to make Me laugh.  I get an idea, and up he comes, a Troubadour.  He sings me songs and flatters me; boy, he knows so little.

After morning tea, I head for Lioness, then London, and sail over Ireland, thinking how wrong all the men are.  I should really do something about that.  “God.” Who is this man?  For only I am the divine.

I sail past the King’s castle in England again, never stopping because there is only greed in his heart.  This, I know well.  I hear a Robin chirping gaily, and I go see what she is up to—babies have come to her this spring.

I come down in England, and land on the ground as a woman.  I play havoc with a few of the mortal men, thinking them only as toys.  And yet, I have created these toys.  I need to resurrect Myself, so I head back home.  I swim in the clouds, and bathe in a rainbow’s light, washing away the memories of the past. 

I can only give light and love and life, I cannot stop human emotion from killing them all.  Maybe they will figure it out, some day.  But that day never comes.  I am Woman; hear me roar.  I have no role to play, except Mother.  I want to make life grow again, to help my children become friends.  I need to be reborn, and this time, I live as Guinevere.

My satisfaction comes from life itself; seeing a sunrise, playing in ponds, enjoying myself in my backyard.  I am the Divine, so I look only up to Myself, and My Mother.  The Grail stories are true, because I have the grail here with me, it’s in my trophy room.  Maybe I’ll let a mortal who is wise, kind, and courageous get it…but only if she/he is worthy.

And so my day closes with a sunset, and I awake the many stars to shine brightly, protecting my children as they slumber.  I sigh as I lay my head upon my cloudy bed, and think of a Tomorrow coming soon, life reborn again.

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Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

 

Day of the Dead

Darlene Reilley

I have lived many lives. First as a tree in a forest; but like all good things, life as you know it ends. In my current reincarnation I am living in an apartment with an unsatisfied lady. Anne sits at my lap, placing her coffee cup down on me as she reads her morning horoscope. She calls me beautiful and strokes the grayish brown wood that someone stained me; underneath all that paint I’m actually blonde, not that Anne would know. And I’m not from Mexico, no matter what she tells you. I was handcrafted in the USA by expert artisans…on 5th and Lexington.

Anne’s been going on all day about the man. It’s been Jack this and Jack that; I haven’t been able to get a word in edgewise. I creak and she shoots me a look.

Those tiles they added to my paint job are as Mexican as I am, and from the same place. The only magic I have in my system is from the Fairies, but they left your world long ago. I miss my friends. They would never have allowed me to be chopped down.

“It’s June,” Anne says. She walks over to the refrigerator and paws at the piece of paper on the front. She chuckles. On the counter beside her I can see the ugly fish dishes she loves so. She sits by me and ponders.

“Thirty-five days until Jack comes home. Thirty-five days left to watch TV and not be criticized.”

I try to ask her why she wants to move in with a man who doesn’t even enjoy the same entertainment she does, but my consultation is not sought. She’s staring at the tiles again. The phone rings. It’s him.

“I didn’t think they let you call from rehab,” Anne says as she closes her eyes. She listens for a few moments, and then with a straight face says, “Sure.” She hangs up the phone and swears.

She stares at the tiles again, and goes to grab her car keys, throwing away a piece of paper as she goes out the door. I am alone again with the quiet of the apartment.

 

He returned to our home. He was sick; they spent many hours away from the home in the faraway place called hospital. Many nights he sat at my lap with a cup of water and gasped as she slept in the other room. It is curious how he never sits before me with food. Is he afraid of food? These humans require sustenance, I have observed, and yet he does not eat. I worry over them; if anything happens to them, what will happen to me? Over the next few weeks their lives transformed. It started out with broccoli and went downhill from there.

Anne came home and found Jack sitting at my lap, and staring into the open refrigerator. He had the broccoli in his hand. He moved to the refrigerator and she sat at my lap. I have observed that these humans tend to live around their refrigerator.

He picks up the soda and sets it down on my top; the lid pops off and some of the content spills. It tastes like sweet rain.

“Are you trying to poison us? This is not at all good for you; it’s all sugar,” Jack said.

Anne rolls her eyes and grabs a cloth. He carries the soda to the sink and pours it down the drain.

“We need to live healthier.”

So they left and returned later with bags of woven cloth from a new store. They piled fruits and vegetables onto my surface and he throws a book out onto my skin. The cover reads Zen Health, Zen Sex, Zen Longevity by Jason West. I start reading the rest of the book but he picks it up and walks out of the room. Anne puts the vegetables and fruit away.

“Why don’t we go right to the chapter on sex?” Anne suggests.

He ignores her, and snacks on a rice cake as he flips through the first pages. They read the book often. From the second day they sit in the kitchen and Jack reads aloud. Charts fill the front of the refrigerator with the cartoons. The lettuce washer took a permanent place in the sink.

They are happy. I hear sighs and moans coming from the room I have never been in, that which they call bedroom. One word rings out above all else, he yells it constantly, “Frugavore!” as if it were a personal chant. Not even the elves and goblins of the ancient woods went for that.

Before long he turns, going over the edge. I see why the elves outlawed the eating of solely fruits and vegetables. He has become the color of the orange. She sobs frequently. He takes the book with him to the bathroom frequently. She comes to sit at my lap and sobs, elbows on the table. It makes me wish I had my limbs with which to comfort her.

She stares at the tiles. It makes me dislike the worker who attached them to my surface with glue. I wish I could pick them off and fling them in that bag that leaves the house every day.

The two-liter bottle of soda returns. He won’t let her keep it in the refrigerator. They argue over the matter. The soda remains on my skin. She has reverted to her old ways. The cartons of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia are her companion now, along with bread and things of substance. I feel that they will not last long together.

She answered the phone again and grabbed the keys, heading out the door. They return shortly, she is munching on a chicken leg from the bucket, which I have not seen these many months.

“Your old place is up for rent. I think you should call the man,” Anne continued chewing her drumstick.

He does not get the hint, and instead stares at the bucket which she sets down on me.

“That is so gross. Why don’t you just eat a gallon of fat?”

“I just might do that. Get your shit together and get out,” she waived the chicken at Jack as if it were an ancient Elf-made sword.

He storms away in disgust and she sits at my lap happily eating her chicken leg. She hums a song I have not heard in many months. She stares at the tiles.

When he completes his packing I can see his stuff by the door in a pile. He turns to look at her.

“I need a ride to the apartment.”

“Take a cab.” She suggests, licking her fingers.

“Give me a ride or I take the table.” He responds.

I quiver in horror.

“Fine. Go pull it around; I’ll start taking your things downstairs.” She said. He started to walk away. I see a funny glint in her eye. She caresses my skin. “Don’t worry; I won’t let him have you.”

She leaves after they take all the items out of the apartment. It is quiet for a long time. She returns holding a cup of Coke with ice that she loved. She sets it down on my surface and stares at the tiles. She goes around opening every drawer, every cabinet. She circles around and puts her hands on her waist as if to comfort herself.

“This is mine.” She walked over to me and put a hand on my skin. She sighs.

I sigh.

 

 

 

First printing: “Day of the Dead.” In Student Literary Arts Magazine. Michael Darcher, Sharon Russell, Kathy Swart, Corrina Wycoff, Deborah Bransford, Andrew Bussey, Kevin Gray, Darlene Reilley (eds.), Tacoma: Consolidated Press. 2012. 22-31. Print.

Reprinted: “Day of the Dead.” DarWrites. Darlene Reilley. 2017. Web.

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The Shovel

The Shovel

The Shovel

Darlene Reilley

 

Listen, if it weren’t for Angel I wouldn’t be here. I can handle my own. But I couldn’t protect her alone. I’m Maggie. Maggie Jones, twenty-eight blonde, average height and build, exhausted, and resident of Puyallup, Washington. Eddie always called me thin; he loved my Russian accent. Focus, Maggie.

The Detective in front of me wants me to risk everything on a gamble. He wants me to risk the safety I have worked ten long years of my life to achieve for one reason, Angel, my five-year-old baby girl. The stakes of the game? Everything. The room smells like a mixture of latex, day-old coffee, and sweat. The Detective wants me to tell him how I met the handsome, arrogant man that lived next door. I have no choice but to trust him. 

“Miss Jones, did you hear me?” I look up from my pale fingers. Detective Joe Callahan has a five o’clock shadow at noon, and wore a rumpled blue suit with his tie loosened as if he had been up all night. He was handsome.

“Yeah.” I took a sip from the thick black sludge with two sugars and cream. A piece of hair fell in front of my face and I swatted the blonde lock away. “I tell you what I know. You help me protect my daughter.”

“We’ve established a safe house for you, and we will do everything we can to help you, Ms. Jones.” His voice was flat like he said the same thing to a number of women each day. I rolled my eyes. Callahan’s cell phone vibrates on the table and he picks it up, touching the screen and pulling something up. His face is masked.

“You don’t know what this guy is like.  I called you guys twice and what did I get? Not even a drive by in the middle of the day.” I swung my hands wide and raised my shaking hand to cover my mouth. “The only reason I’m here is to protect Angel. I want your word, Detective, that she’s okay.”

“We’re going to do everything in our power to put him away. You have my word, Maggie.” At my nod he turns a switch on the small voice recorder in the center of the table. “State your name for the record, please.”

“Maggie Jones.”

“Tell me what happened, Maggie.”

“Okay. Just remember, you asked for it.” I look down at the white lined paper with Angel’s drawing. “Here’s what happened…”

 

Ted Thomas moved in next door six months ago. At first he seemed like a nice retired army man; he was middle-aged, cute, and not afraid to help out with a fence board. I had my hands full with my daughter, a full work load as a bartender at Maxwell’s, and took classes during the day when Angel was in school. Everything was fine at first, but then something changed. Ted worked in his garage every day; turned it into a wood-shop from the sound of it because the high-pitched squeal of his saw was going at all hours.

That morning was a Monday. I saw Angel off at the bus stop and started pulling weeds from the flowerbeds out front. Ted came out to watch me. It was weird; I mean, who watches someone weeding a garden? I waived, but he just stared at me. Five for Fighting played on my iPod. I loved that song…One Hundred Years…you know the one. I ignored him and yanking the weeds out with a few blue flowers mixed in. After a few minutes I looked up. He was gone.

A few days later I bought a white mailbox at Fred Meyer. Angel and I painted it really nice with puppy paw prints and hand lettering. The next day I went out to take the old off the post, but it was rusted and wouldn’t come off. It made me mad.

I grabbed the red shovel from the garage. The front door slammed next door; Ted was out in front of his house on his cell. I didn’t wave. I was mad. Furious at my ex who cancelled again on our daughter, annoyed with his twenty-year-old girlfriend Missy, irritated at my dead-end job, and peeved about the babysitter who quit without notice halfway through a shift without telling me why. I was fiery at the world in general and my lot in life, and I was tired. I was sick and tired of living in fear.

Some people say that women don’t have rage inside them; I say those people haven’t seen Snapped on Oxygen. Let me tell you, we are quite capable of rage. It festered inside me, and I let it out on that beaten rusty old mailbox with the faded fuchsia flowers. I hated those flowers and everything they stood for. I don’t know how many whacks it took to get the thing loose, but after a while I heard a ping, a thud, and the mailbox fell onto the red carnations.

When I looked up, he was gone. Angel’s school bus came up, and later that day you showed up on my doorstep. Later that night, Angel watched SpongeBob Squarepants before dinner. I was in the kitchen cutting greens for a salad. I switched to cutting the ends off carrots and I heard the crunch of gravel outside. It was odd because the house on the left was empty; the one on the right is the one Ted lived in. I thought it was the neighborhood kids come to play, they liked to ride their bikes in the driveway, but when I looked up through the open kitchen window, I saw Ted. I screamed.

“Sheesh, Maggie. You scared me. It’s okay; I’m just looking for a cat.” He laughed. “God, you scared me.”

“You don’t have a cat.” I clenched the knife in my hand. He stood there in jeans and a long sleeve black shirt. It was over seventy out and too hot to wear that. He had a baseball cap pulled down over his head, and wore sunglasses. He smelled like soap and his hair was wet as if he just came out of the shower. Something was wrong, I just couldn’t pin it down.

“The little girl down the street lost her kitten.” He said, putting a hand on the open window sill. Only a thin mesh screen separated us. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Don’t. Do. It. Again.” I breathed heavily as I heard Angel in the living room laughing at SpongeBob. She began to sing along with the song on television. The hair on the back of my neck tingled and my forearms were covered in goose bumps.

He looked towards the street, and I saw a pair of black gloves in his back pocket. “There’s the little bugger. Night.”

“Goodnight.” I replied. I watched as he walked down the driveway—but he turned and didn’t look for a cat, instead he whistled as he walked back towards his house.

“Mom, is dinner done yet?” Angel yelled from the other room.

“Not yet.” I said, and went to check the locks on the front of the house.

 

“That’s all of it?” The Detective asked. I looked up from my fingers at him. He had a pen in his hand and took notes as I talked, despite the tape recorder. His hand stilled.

I nodded. “That’s all I know. I didn’t see him again after that.”

“He ran. We were able to track his movements to the Greyhound station downtown. He bought two tickets heading out of town, but never got on the bus. We are checking the airports and car rental places in town, but he’s in the wind.” Detective Callahan pulled a few photos out of a folder. “These are graphic.” “I want to know what he did. You said you would tell me if I came here.” I steeled myself for whatever evils the man had done; the worse that ran through my head was a few parking tickets, maybe a hit and run, but what splayed on the table before me weren’t parking pictures of parking tickets. They were pictures of women—the same woman—me. Each of them were thin, blonde, and in their late 20’s.

“What the hell?” I asked.

“These women have all gone missing from around the Sound. Six in total; all disappeared within the last six months.”

“That’s when he moved in next door.” A chill ran through my system. Oh. My. God. The entire time the guy next door was playing the nice neighbor to me he was doing only God knows what to these women. They wouldn’t have pulled me in here if they weren’t sure it was him, and he ran. Only guilty men run. “Detective, what did he do to them? Are they just gone, maybe they found a new home or maybe runaways?”

He shook his head. “That doesn’t fit the evidence, Maggie. We have recovered four of the bodies. We believe the man you knew as Ted Thomas was a serial killer. He picked these women for a reason.”

“You’re saying he killed them.” I shivered and rubbed my bare arms with my hands.

“He was the last one seen with Melina Andross before she disappeared. We have evidence linking him to five out of the six crimes; but his data wasn’t in our system until we followed up on the peeping tom you called in.”

“Mommy?”

I looked up to see Angel, my daughter, coming in with a uniformed man. She ran right up to me, her blonde pigtails swinging as she ran, and jumped on my lap, hitting with a thud. The uniformed officer called Detective Callahan over.

“Angel.” I kissed her cheek and pulled her into a hug.

“Did you like my picture, Mommy? It’s you, Mommy. You beat the bad man.” Angel smiled. “Do you like it?”

“It’s beautiful. I love it.” I looked down at the picture on the table. Oh, God, please don’t let her freak out. She’s doing so well with this, and she’s probably going to be scarred for life after this, and you know Eddie will blame me…oh, no. What if he uses this to try and get custody? No, he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. Would he?

“Yes. I love you, Mommy.” She gave me a wet kiss.

“I love you too, Angel.”

“Let’s get you ladies set up for the night.” Detective Callahan came back.  “The Assistant D.A. will see you first thing in the morning.”

 

 

I woke at three in the morning. I looked over at the neon green digits of the alarm clock while Angel snored softly next to me. She clutched the one-eyed bear in her hands.

Come on, what you heard was nothing. There’s nothing out there that can hurt you.

I heard a whizzing sound through the open window, and a thump out front. Fear shot through me.

It’s just a movie. They’re cops. Cops like movies. It’s probably coming from downstairs.

I listened for another moment and heard another whizz and a thump, then thudding coming closer, up the stairs. The hair on the back of my arms stood straight.

That’s not a movie. Something’s wrong. Get out. Get out now.

I stood and lifted Angel; her dead weight was heavy in my arms. I carried her into the bathroom and locked the door. I looked around; there was a window and a small bathtub with a sheer white curtain. I shut the curtain, turned the light off, and flipped the latch on the window. Angel stirred.

“Shh. We’ve got to get out of here. You understand?” She nodded.

“Okay.” I set her on the closed toilet seat and opened the window, lifted her up to it and she crawled out onto the sloped roof. I followed and shut the window behind me. We could go up and be trapped or we could go down and run for it. I felt a squeeze on my hand, and looked down at my daughter. I could see her clearly in the moonlight. I held a finger up to my mouth. Angel nodded. We scooted over to the edge of the roof and I saw a trellis.

“Piggy back ride.” Angel got onto my back. “Hold on and don’t let go.”

We swung over the edge of the roof and onto the trellis. The wood frame bit into the flesh of my feet. I didn’t stop, but crawled down. We hit the ground and Angel jumped off of my back.

I took her hand and looked over towards the front of the house. I could see the unmarked car in front of the house, with a limp figure hunched over the steering wheel.

Shit. He got to the cops.

I heard movement upstairs in the bedroom through the open window. I took Angel’s hand. We made our way towards the woods in the back of the house that separated this house from the next. We just reached the line of trees when I heard the window open behind us.

“Get down.” I pulled my daughter behind me as I took cover behind a tree.

“Maggie.” Ted called, sending chills running throughout my body. Angel huddled closer to me. “I know you’re out there, Maggie. Make it easy on yourself and come to me. If you make me come after you, you will regret it. Angel will regret it.”

“Come on, baby, we’ve got to get out of here.”

We made our way toward the next property, and I was going to run right across the street, but dark vehicle came around the corner.

“Get down.” Angel and I ducked behind a shrub as a familiar black SUV slowly came around the corner. We huddled behind the prickly shrub down against the ground. It slowed.

Don’t look over here. Why don’t you go the other way? Come on, you crazy animal, keep going. Don’t stop here; please don’t stop. Oh, God, my baby. Please protect my baby…

I prayed for the first time in my life.

No one listened. The car stopped.

“Angel, I need you to run as fast as you can back to the house, to Detective Callahan. Stay in the bushes, and don’t stop for anything. You run and don’t look back. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mommy.” She said. I hugged my daughter tightly. The man was coming closer.

“Go. Run. Now.” My daughter ran back the way we came. I looked around for something to defend myself with.

“Maggie. Maggie. Maggie.” He stood in the middle of the road.

I had a slim chance. I looked around for a weapon of some kind. I made my way over to a shed. Leaning against the wall was a dark shovel. I grabbed it with both hands and held it like a baseball bat. It would work to knock him out, but I needed him close to me and in a battle of shovel versus gun, odds were the gun would win. What I needed was a distraction of some kind.

He walked towards the bushes. I didn’t have time; he would be within eyesight in a moment. I crept out of the shed and hid in the darkness behind it. The door slammed shut behind me. I watched as he came closer. I could see him in the glow of the moonlight; he looked normal—like a guy out looking for a lost kitten, only this time he had a gun.

“Maggie, Maggie, come out, come out, wherever you are.” He reached the door and flung it open.

I seized my chance and I came at him using the door as cover. He turned at my approach, but I had the rage. Like a mother bear protecting her cubs, I roared and blasted out of my hiding spot. I hit him hard with the shovel. The first impact sent the gun flying, the second hit knocked him to the ground, and I couldn’t back off until he stopped moving. I didn’t dare to take the chance.

Sirens blared in the distance. A door opened nearby and a man called out. I couldn’t turn away from his fallen and bloody body. Tears stung on my face like the first time I opened my eyes under chlorinated water.

Detective Callahan appeared. He took my shovel, and held me close as his partner, with gun drawn, checked Ted. He shook his head and holstered his weapon. I looked over Callahan’s shoulder. I could see my daughter in his plain white SUV. I knew we were safe. I knew that my Angel was okay.

“Maggie, you’re safe now; it’s over.” Callahan said.

Yeah, it’s over. My Angel is safe. We can sleep now.

“Is he…” I whispered.

“He’s gone.” Callahan’s partner said.

“He killed the officers at the house.” I shivered.

“We were coming to relieve them when we saw Angel come out of the woods. She told me where you were. You’re safe, Maggie.”

“I…I killed him.” Tears welled up inside me but I couldn’t let them fall. Oh, God, I killed him. What’s going to happen to me? What’s going to happen to Angel?

“It was self-defense, Maggie. You did what you had to in order to save yourself.” Callahan looked over at his partner, who holstered his weapon. More sirens wailed in the distance.

“Are you going to arrest me?”

“No. It was self-defense. You protected yourself and your daughter. Come on, someone wants to see you.” Callahan led me to his white SUV. Angel was sitting in the back seat. Callahan opened the door and she jumped out at me. I held her close. Angel is safe. I am safe. The tears began to fall.

 

 

 

 

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The Legacy

The Legacy

The Legacy is reveals how Sorcha Kennet’s life transforms when she discovers her true heritage.

The Legacy

Darlene Reilley

 

“I’ve got a story to tell you, Sorcha. It’s about our family and the legacy we carry.” As he said it he picked up a silver hand mirror off of the bedside table and handed it to her. “But first you need to see the results of what happened for yourself.”

 

Sorcha hesitated, remembering the ache, but she looked in the mirror. Sorcha gasped. Her hand reached up to a face that was not her own. Instead of her blue eyes, they were dark grey, and her long hair blonde hair had turned into a deep auburn. Her skin was a darker shade as well. She felt the fire running through her system. She caught her gaze and saw a flicker of red in her iris. She felt the necklace at her throat. What once felt like molten lava was now the same temperature as her body.  She met her Uncle’s gaze.

“Tell me the story, and don’t you dare leave anything out.”

 

Sorcha Kennett jogged on the treadmill to the steady beat of her heart and the loud blaring music of the latest Katy Perry song. Her red t-shirt and black running shorts accentuated her curvy figure. She had arrived at Uncle Max’s Michigan estate late that afternoon. The estate had been empty except for the staff because the family was vacationing in San Juan, away from the chilly temperatures and snow. She had missed that boat. It was all Lance’s fault; Sorcha had stayed at Oxford to spend time with him, but he had other plans with one of the freshmen from building C. Ex-boyfriend, she reminded herself.

Sorcha had come home to lick her wounds. She ran—from Lance, from the piles of homework, even from her family. She thanked her lucky stars that the house was empty—a week holed up would be the perfect way to figure out her next move. Her thoughts were interrupted when the door opened, and a man with a gun came into the gym. It was aimed at her.

“Turn it off and get down.” Sorcha turned the machine of and stepped down. He ogled her, making her wish she had picked old tatty running clothes.

“Put your hands up.” He motioned her closer toward him with the gun. “Who are you? The house was supposed to be empty.” He had beady eyes and his breath smelled like rotten eggs.

“I’m Sorcha. I’m visiting here.” She put her hands up in front of her facing out. Her heart beat raced. Who was this guy, and why was he in her Uncle’s house?

“Let’s go.” He forced her toward the stairs. She struggled, but he grabbed her arm and pushed her against the wall holding the gun to the middle of her back. He leaned closer to her and spoke right in her ear. The hair on the back of her neck stood straight. “Don’t struggle. Do not resist us, or the Shadow Prophet will kill you.”

Sorcha believed him. He pushed her up the stairs and down the hall to the library door. Sorcha froze just inside the door. They were not alone.

Oh, God. I’m too young to die. What are these people doing in this house? Why me? Why now?

A tall thin man with brown hair stood in the center of the room. He wore a pair of blue jeans and a grey sweater with a gray shirt underneath. He looked as if he stepped off the cover of GQ. Her heart tripped for an entirely different reason this time. She almost called out to the stranger.

“Boss, look what I found.” He closed the door behind them.

No hope there. Stay strong, Sorcha. Wait until you have an opportunity and get away. That’s what Uncle Max would do. Keep your cool, and get away. Focus on that.

“What have you found, Peter?” The man asked, but soon his attention was diverted. “Who are you, gorgeous?”

“She said her name was Sorcha, Boss.” Peter said.

The tall man took her hand in his own and kissed the back of it, then led her over to a couch. He pushed her down.

“Check the rest of the house—and Peter?” The man near the door turned. Now that he wasn’t holding a gun on her, she could see Peter was a short round man dressed in black. “No more mistakes.”

“Yes, Master,” Peter scurried off.

“Who are you?” Sorcha asked. Calm. Keep calm. Figure it out and get away. “What do you want?”

“I’m Ezekiel Blake.” He pointed to the wall safe. “Do you know the codes to this?”

“No,” she answered. An awkward silence filled the room.

“I believe you, Sorcha.” She let out the breath she had been holding. He turned back to the safe. “I believe you because your life is on the line. You will tell me the truth, because if you don’t I’ll kill you. The house guards are dead. But you’re lucky, Sorcha. You arrived just in time to witness the greatest moment in history. Sorcha Kennett—yes, I know who you are—you are going to witness the resurrection of the Shadow Prophet.”

Sorcha froze. Uncle Max kept three guards on at all times at his house and it wasn’t just for family protection. She had seen the inside of the vault once, but Uncle Max always said that it held their family legacy. If Ezekiel man wanted something in there, it was trouble.

“What do you want?” she asked as he made his way over to the wall safe and began playing with the combination.

“I am here to recover something.” He said, focused on the lock. “Something your family stole from mine a long time ago.”

She wondered how she could escape, but her cell and keys were upstairs. The nearest neighbor was miles away.

“You’ve never seen the combination entered?” He asked.

“No. We’re not allowed in the library when the Senator is working,” her eyes settled on the fireplace poker. It was near the other end of the brown leather sofa. She scooted towards the other end of the sofa, but the poker was just out of reach.

“What’s so important in there?” She asked.

“Nothing you would understand,” he responded. The safe opened with a click.

Peter barreled through the door.

“Boss, the rest of the house is empty.” He was breathless.

“Good,” Ezekiel held out his hand. “Give me your weapon, Peter.”

Peter walked over and handed over the gun. He cowered.

“Boss, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that she was in the house.”

“I know you’re sorry, Peter.” His eyes were wild as he looked down the barrel at his minion. He had served his purpose and it was time to get rid of excess baggage. Peter whimpered. “Stop. Sniveling.” Ezekiel shot Peter in the forehead. Blood dripped down his forehead and he fell backwards. A pool of blood formed under the body on the tan and brown Persian carpet.

Sorcha screamed. Ezekiel covered the room and stood before her. He lifted her off of the couch and pushed her against the bookcase between the vault and the fireplace. The poker was on the opposite side of the fireplace. Sorcha flinched as Ezekiel pressed the cold steel of the gun against her neck.

“I think I’ll save you for later,” he sneered. She looked into his eyes and saw inky blackness and an evil unlike any she’d ever seen. It shook her to the core.

“You won’t get out of here.” He pressed against her and came up so close that his mouth was right beside her ear. “By the time anyone notices what’s happened, we’ll be long gone, my blonde beauty.”

She struggled against him, but he hit her in the forehead. Sorcha fell limp to the ground.

 

When Sorcha came too, she didn’t know if hours or mere minutes had passed. She was still in the library and her head throbbed. The vault was open and there was a full black duffel bag at the base of the bookshelf, with a little black pouch with a golden Celtic cross design on top. Ezekiel was by the door talking on his cell phone.

“Get the plane ready. We’ll take off as soon as I’ve arrived.” He shut the cell and crossed back to her. He knelt down beside her and brushed the hair out of her face. Sorcha saw her chance and seized it. She kicked him, landing a blow. Sorcha stood. He recovered. They fought hand to hand. Both were trained in Martial arts. She was good, but he was better.

Sorcha had one distinct advantage—his strength was his weakness. With each punch or kick he grew tired. Sorcha wore him down. He threw a kick that caught her in the stomach and sent her flying. Sorcha grunted as she hit the bookcase. Her hands reached out to break her fall, but her right hand found the bag. Her hand came around the pouch.

“Don’t. You. Dare. No one will beat the Shadow Prophet to his glory,” he screamed.

She opened the bag and a heavy red stone with gold setting on a simple gold chain fell into her hand. Sorcha slid it over her neck.

He lunged and tried to punch her, but she blocked it. Sorcha felt a jolt of energy coming not from her, but from the stone. She countered his every move, and out of nowhere she had a flash as everything around her slowed.

She saw herself in the near future.

Sorcha watched as she dispatched Ezekiel. The ring came off his finger. She gazed down at her hand. The ring and necklace were a matching set.

He retaliated by aiming a gun at her and firing. The bullet missed.

Sorcha let out a breath and looked over at the man, returning to the present.

The necklace felt as hot as molten lava onto her neck, but it didn’t scorch. Instead the power urged her to finish the battle. With renewed energy she gained her feet and reached toward him. Sorcha pummeled him. Ezekiel fell to the floor, and in that moment she reached for his hand.

The ring slid off of his hand and attached itself to the middle finger of her right hand. Sorcha screamed. Her head fell back and she rose off the ground; her hands splayed as a red and orange orb of light emanated from the ring and the necklace. The orbs merged and surround her within a ring of fire.

The heat of the transformation burned in her eyes turning the blue orbs to bright red. She focused the energy with her hands towards the man who invaded her family home, killed the innocent, and promised more violence.

The enemy stood. Sorcha pushed the energy towards him and burnt him from the center of his body out. His body exploded, spraying bits and pieces everywhere.

Exhausted, Sorcha sank to the floor. The surrounding fire extinguished itself as she reached the floor and collapsed. Her red eyes closed. Her world went dark.

 

Later, Sorcha felt herself return. She was somewhere soft, and she smelled the lavender candles that her Aunt Lisa bought for her bedroom. Enya played nearby.

“You’re okay,” a deep voice said.

“Uncle Max? What happened?” she asked. Her eyes hurt.

“Something that shouldn’t have happened until your 21st birthday, but you were always ahead of the rest of us,” he said.

“What do you mean? Why can’t I open my eyes?” she asked.

“Turn off the lights and leave us,” Uncle Max dismissed the other person in the room. The door opened and closed. “We’re alone.”

“What happened Uncle Max? Why do my eyes hurt? The last thing I remembered was that man—Ezekiel. He was in the house and, oh, God, what happened?”

“Just a minute,” he said and lifted a soothing pack from her eyes. “Go ahead and open them, Sorcha.”

She opened her eyes to the dim light of the bedroom. The only illumination came from the bedside lamp. She looked up at the man who raised her.

“Well?” She demanded.

“The house was broken into while we were on vacation. They killed three security guards, the cook, and the butler. You took them out before they could harm anyone else.”

“I don’t understand. Why do my eyes hurt? I know I stopped him. I know…oh, I know what happened.”

“You remember?” Max said.

“Yes, but I don’t understand why. Why did it happen? What did he want? He was raving about something our family stole from his a long time ago. I think he was crazy; he called himself the Shadow Prophet.”

 

 

 

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Bones and Stones

Bones and Stones by Darlene Reilley

 

Bones and Stones

Darlene Reilley

 

Every student of history knows there are two truths: the written truth which is clean and tidy; and the real truth, which is messy and dirty. This is my truth—the one you won’t find in my textbook, Arabian Antiquity. This journal entry records what happened when things go wrong. I am safe now in my red-brick tower office at the University of Washington. It is December 11, 2018. My office doesn’t have a window, but I don’t mind because it is warm and dry. Four years ago, I wasn’t safe or comfortable in the Iraqi prison; I wished that I could die. I remember the bone-deep chill that came from sitting on the raised stone bed as if I were sitting there now. I wish that I could forget it. I hope that one day I can move on.

My past haunts me as I lie in this six-by-eight cell. A chill races through me and I shiver. It is so cold and I am so alone, I ache for memories. I remember fire: orange and yellow licking at wood in the fireplace of Boyne Highlands resort during a ski trip. I remember crackling wood and comforting heat after ski lessons on white powder. I shudder as I hear the metal gate clank down the row. Heavy footfall echoes through the long, empty hallway coming closer. I sit up and scoot back into the corner. Not only is my butt freezing, the cold stone against my back sucks what little warmth I have. I am Nina Anderson, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Washington. I am an American. My social security number is 528-04-0000.

As the heavyset guard approaches, I smell the anise—he drinks Arak and may as well swim in it. He keeps in in a flask in his pocket. I try to step away, but my surroundings prohibit movement. I retreat into memory. I remember kicking up leaves as my brother and I ran across the baseball field in fall, past the red-bricked Shay Elementary, and onto Lake Road to go to school at Harbor Springs High School. He always went first. Despite the chill, we wore shorts so we wouldn’t have to change when we got to the gym. I only complained once. West answered quickly.

“We’re from Michigan, Sis,” West said. He kept a fast pace, but slowed when I needed it. “We don’t get cold.”

I remembered daydreaming of hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows in my mind as we raced through a carpet of soggy fallen leaves before the sun came up so we could play basketball in the gym with the teachers. Mom never had the time to make marshmallows; instead, we drank Swiss Miss with white mini marshmallows.

Keys jangle. I cringe. I tuck my feet up and hold onto them, rocking to comfort myself, but each time I hit the stone wall I wished I could just disappear. I don’t know how long I’ve been here; I don’t know how long ago my land rover was taken. I wish we hadn’t taken that shortcut through Iraqi space. I wish that my interpreter and my driver were still alive. I wish I could join them in death—could wither away into the stone so they couldn’t hurt me. But my captors won’t let me die. I tried three times. Each time, they brought me back, healed my wounds, and then tortured me more.

As much as I wish I could escape cold situations, I can’t. My mind is drawn to them. I go into my mind as I did in childhood and remember another frozen situation. West and I would walk a mile home from work every day together. In the wintertime, when Michigan was covered in a foot or two foot drifts, I would dream of flickering fireplaces and create poetry as we walked home. We didn’t have a fireplace at home, but I saw them on the television shows which babysat us while Mom worked three jobs just to keep a roof overhead. It was one of those jobs which gave us the privilege of learning to ski at the local resort.

I grew up in a little town called Harbor Springs, Michigan. It’s in the Northern, Lower part of Michigan. If you hold up your hand and close the fingers so it looks like a mitten, you can see where it is: the indent between the ring and third finger is Little Traverse Bay. West would walk from his job at Gurneys to Showbiz Video where I worked. He always brought me a turkey on white with mayo and cheese and one of Gurney’s massive dill pickles. He ate a pastrami sandwich on rye with a bag of corn nuts. We sat in the back room of the video store surrounded by X-rated movies encased in black. We ate dinner together before Dennis came in to close.

Each day, Dennis would offer us a ride home. We always said no thanks; we’d be okay walking home. As long as we together, we were fine. I would put on the bright red coat Mom bought me from Kmart for Christmas. West wore a dark navy coat which matched mine in all but size. We gathered our things and walked over to the post office to get the mail, then headed up State to the big hill which was the fastest way up the bluff because the boardwalk which ran up the center of the bluff was impassable; they never plowed it.

West called it training for basketball. I called it the hill that hell forgot. Once at the top, we would wait for traffic to clear and then head up State Street. After three country blocks, we reached the house where the lilacs bloomed in spring, and turned right on E Lake Street and then left onto upper State Street. They never plowed upper State Street, so I followed in West’s large footprints. Three blocks later we were home.

Footfalls of a different nature came closer. I extend my bare feet out. My right foot is tingly and asleep. I force it to move. They will be here soon enough. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, or for how long they’re going to keep me. I just know that I can’t let them see me break. I will not illegally trade ancient artifacts. I will not do what they want me to. I will be loyal to my home and my profession. They will have to kill me first.

The door opens and I see my guard with another man. I groan. The last beating wasn’t enough; he had to bring a friend to help?

He tells me to stand in Arabic. I knew where I was based on his dialect—I was in South Iraq; my interpreter told me that before he shot her at the land rover. I shouldn’t be here. I try to stand, but it isn’t fast enough for him. He reaches me and hauls me to my feet. I hop on one foot as the other is still asleep. He tells me to leave the cell.

I pass the guard without making eye contact. That would only enrage him. I keep my head down and my eyes on the blackness of the floor. No light comes here except via the guard’s Energizer flashlights.

As I walk down the hallway, I see a side hallway that leads to the stairs he brought me down. I struggle to get away, but he forces me along the hallway. The second man shoves me into an interrogation room. The man with the truth serum is there. He is thin and tall with gold wire-rim glasses. He smells like peppermint and too much cologne. If the police asked me to draw a sketch of him I could, but these are the authorities. I hate him. Because of him, in one of the induced states, I told them they have an original artifact. I am forced to sit in the chair and they tie my hands to the wooden arms of the chair.

I will do everything in my power to resist. I will not let them they have an original Solomon treasure. I hope that I can hold out long enough to make it to the authorities and get the good guys in here—the people who need to protect this treasure and study it for everyone; not just pillage it. The antiquarian looters in front of me disgust me.  I hope that history will forgive me for telling them what I have—I hope that the artifacts are saved from these monsters.

I ball my hand in a fist as he injects a yellow liquid into my right arm. I can’t pull away. The world swirls around me. The man asks me a question, but all I can think about is David and our first kiss. I wished I were back in his arms now. The guard slaps me and tries to get my attention. I laugh hysterically and he smacks me again.

I look down at my lap. I try to speak but nothing comes out. The doctor tells them to give it a minute and the serum will kick in.

I remember David. The day he said he loved me at my brother’s basketball game was amazing. The floors were pushed out on one side and we were in the upper part of the gym which overlooked the lower. Matthew Jenkins made a basket and put the Rams ahead 21-15. David put his hand on my arm and motioned for me to follow him around the large divider and into the gym. During halftime, the kids would come in here and play, but everyone was focused on the game so it was empty. The crowd thundered.

David bounced a basketball to me. I picked it up and dribbled, then took a shot from the three-point line; it sunk with nothing but net.

David clapped. I ducked my head and blushed.

“What’s up?”

I motioned to the area behind him where the crowd roared. I looked up and could see the scoreboard between the mesh of the divide—we got another two points.

“Look, I know we’re both going to go to colleges soon and all,” David said. He touched his dark black rimmed glasses and shoved them up on his nose. His hair was short and spiky. “I know you want to go to Michigan. I’ll be heading for MIT.”

“Is that what this is about?” I asked. I set my bag down on the sideline. “David, we can still see each other.”

“It won’t be the same,” he said. He stuck his hands into his pockets. “I just want to say that. . .”

The buzzer sounded, and I could hear the start of the last period. We were missing the most important game.

“Can’t this wait? I want to see the game,” I said. I started to walk over to the divider, but a hand on my arm stopped me.

David spun me around, and we slammed into each other. It wasn’t pretty. He kissed me, our noses squishing until he tilted to the right. His glasses bumped up against my cheek. I didn’t mind.

“I love you.”

Someone thwacks me right across my cheek, and it smarts but I only feel a distant throb because of the serum. I look up at the doctor who is my torturer. I wonder if he knows that there isn’t anything at this point that I will tell him, but he doesn’t care. He wants what he wants, and there isn’t anything I can do to stop him. He gave up on geniality a long time ago.

 

I wake in the chair. I don’t know if hours or days have gone bye. There is someone in the room behind me. I don’t know who it is. My mind swims in a mix of exhaustion and whatever is in that mix they inject me with. I grew up in a tourist town that was full of heartbreak. I couldn’t wait to get out of it. Mom died when I was nineteen. I didn’t go straight to college as my advisor suggested, or into the Army as my brother did; instead, I headed out on a road trip that spanned the entire continental United States. I couldn’t do anything to make me happy—I searched for months for the thing that would make me happy and didn’t find it.

Then I met a Yogi in an Ashram in Arizona, and he told me to go back to school. He seemed smart, so I did. And then I found something I wanted to do. I couldn’t focus on any one thing at first, but then skulls sidetracked me. The difference between a Neanderthal skull and a human skull is like the difference between the Hulk and Thor. One thing led to another and I got dual degrees in Forensic Anthropology and Ancient Studies. I became a bone hunter, responsible for helping right the injustice of the atrocities humans inflict on each other. I became an expert on the Ancient Middle-East.

I never went back to my home town. Now I wish I had. I wish that I could crawl back into that town and absorb all the comfort it could offer me. I wish I could go home. Here I am lost and wondering if I will ever get out.

I try with all my might to hang onto the person I am—the person I made myself into. She is lost among torture sessions and moments alone with guards. I wish I had the strength to escape.

The door opens. It isn’t my jailor—it’s someone new. He is thin yet wears the same uniform as my captors. I am Nina Anderson, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Washington and consultant to the United Nations on genocide. I am an American. My social security number is 528-04-0000.

 

The world may never know the truth about how I survived—how I escaped and set out on foot across the desert. I took a chance and crossed the desert alone. I found a group of Bedouins who were willing to help me; without them I would have surely died. It took us two days via desert routes before we reached Arar in Saudi Arabia.

When I made it back to civilization, they didn’t believe me at first. Then facts fell into place and the government saw what I did. I am not allowed to share this story with anyone—not even my husband, David. Yet I feel the need to write it down in case anything happens to me, or to the treasure I have worked so hard to protect.

I will always be grateful to the Bedouin tribe who helped me. Without them, I would be just another corpse in the desert.

 

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Dar’s Top 10 Favorite Sci Fi TV Series

So a writer buddy asked me what my favorite science fiction tv series were…and I didn’t know. I had a list…of all the ones I loved…and realized that it was really long. In an effort to be creative and answer a question, I’m going to boil it down to my top 10 Favorite Sci Fi Series…and try to see why I love them so much!

Dar’s Top 10 Favorite Sci Fi TV Series.jpg 

10. Falling Skies

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I love Noah Wyle. That’s why I started watching this show, but I soon figured out it had unique aliens and a plot line that was fantastic – how would Earthlings react to an invasion and how could one person keep their family more or less together while all that is happening? A fantastic series.

 

9. Eureka

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I came to Eureka late…I mean really late – I caught the whole series while everyone else was watching the last season. I don’t remember why I didn’t see it before then, but when I did see it, I appreciated the smart, wry humor and the smart house. I loved that house…I’d live there in a heartbeat.

 

8. Supernatural

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Oh, my, I blame this one on my friends Tina and Laura. Oh, the Hunters…what to do with all of them? This series has fantastic characters and lots of good lines. Bobby Singer is a fantastic character I would love to adopt one day, but he’d take one look at my sci fi novel and run screaming for a salt gun. I think my favorite thing about the series (besides Dean) is the idea of the “Men of Letters,” mostly because I would love to be a “Woman of Letters.” In fact, I think I’m going to bring out the geeky inner me and claim the title now. I am a Woman of Letters.

 

7. Star Trek: Voyager

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No matter where you come from in the Star Trek universe, be it Original, TNG, DS9, V, or other, you’re going to find a home among strangers in the stars. Out of all of the Star Trek series, Voyager is my favorite…mostly because of the idea of journey and how two different groups had to work together to survive. Janeway is one of my favorite characters ever – she’s one of the first examples I remember of a really strong female lead…and from that point on, I think I realized that women could take the lead in sci fi. It didn’t really hit me before then because the majority of popular fiction I read or watched up to that point had male protagonists. I also loved planning to watch it every week. It feels strange now that we can watch it on demand…

 

6. Farscape

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Another one I came to late…actually, after it went off the air (hey, I was busy working in a cubicle and trying to make a living). Oh, how I adore these characters. It’s one of my favorite action-romances because…well, you’ll have to see it for yourself. Earth astronaut in space with aliens…and it’s awesome.

 

5. Battlestar Galactica

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So I was torn with this one – do I choose the original 1974 series with the fantastic, cigar-smoking Starbuck I watched on a glitzing, pixelating tv, or the new series with the fantastic, cigar-smoking female Starbuck I watched in high-def on the massive screen…really I just love saying the name Starbuck regardless of which character it is. I love both series equally…the original for the fantastic new universe and robot…and the new version because Starbuck was a girl and also for the fantastic spaceships.

 

4. X-Files

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Don’t tell my old volleyball coach, but I occasionally skipped practice to see this show…my dog’s name is Mulder for crying out loud, so you can say I’m slightly obsessed (okay, I’m a huge geek who has seen every episode at least three times from the original to the current and yes, I’m looking forward to it’s return this fall…please do a good job, please?). Um…and I still have this poster and several others. Can I call them retro now? Note: I sent Chris Carter a few notes written on real paper over the years. I never once got a response. Hmm… anyway, my dog Mulder looks forward to me saying his name frequently while watching tv in the middle of the night with popcorn…oh, wait, we do that anyway…it doesn’t matter, he’s going to love it and so will I. My popcorn maker is waiting.

 

3. Firefly

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You either love Firefly, or you’ve never seen it. I’m one of the fans who still wants the series to be brought back even if the characters are older…I loved my Captain before he was my Castle. Nathan Fillion is amazing and they should totally do a remake and have him and the cast come back…I’d watch it. I don’t care if there was only one series, they will live on and we will continue to sing the Ballad of Jayne with homemade knit hats.

 

2. Doctor Who

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Space alien comes to Earth and asks companions to come with him to strange places—anywhere in time or space they want to go—and everyone runs! Love, love, love it. I’d go with the Doctor and so would you. Everyone asks me who my first Doctor is and who my favorite Doctor is…and I’m not shy about saying the answers. My first Doctor was the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston…and yeah, the story of Rose and the Doctor sucked me in and never let me go…so of course, my favorite doctor is David Tennant, for so many reasons. Oh, and a note to bridge to this one – I loved Torchwood too.

 

1. Stargate SG-1

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Secret military teams, space aliens, and an anthropologist? You had me at “secret.” No surprise the anthropology-loving student goes for the aliens…but I loved that this series brought ancient mythology to account! Oh, the deep-dive into Egyptian mythology and later Norse mythology. Loved it. And Daniel Jackson is still one of my favorite characters ever. 

 

Supernatural just moved a chair from one side of a closet away from the wall…somebody grab the salt gun!

 

DarWrites  

 

 

Posted in Lifestyle, paranormal romance, Reviews, Romance, Science Fiction, writing craft, writing life, Writing Secrets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movement in Homer’s The Odyssey

Movement in Homer’s The Odyssey.jpg

I am not a poet, but Homer’s Odyssey makes me want to write as beautifully and simply as he does. The Odyssey has become one of my favorite novels because of beautiful lines like: “Side by side the two men took their ease there on smooth stone benches” (125). Robert Fitzgerald’s translated version of The Odyssey shows how passion and good writing can make an ancient tale vibrant for contemporary audiences. Odysseus’s tale is the epic sequel to The Iliad. In The Odyssey, Odysseus is trapped on an island with the Goddess Kalypso, his son sets out to search for word of his lost father, Odysseus is released and goes through trials and tribulations as he heads to Ithaca, his home, where his loyal wife waits after years of separation. I also appreciate The Odyssey because the stories are arranged in selections that act like bite-sized gulps of literature. As a reader, I want to absorb amazing works from all time periods; in modern times we have more distractions than ever and stories told in short passages allow the reader to take in ancient oral stories such as The Odyssey and The Bible. These stories, which were originally written in times before the printing press, were written in small booklets which added up to a whole story. Even though the art form is ancient, this form can be used today. This framework is one of the reasons why The Odyssey succeeds with readers of multiple generations.

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One way Homer created the effect of continuity was through movement in the sections. The Odyssey is arranged in twenty-four segments and each has a full story arc within its structure and a question left unanswered which makes the reader come back for more. Fitzgerald improved the original sectioned structure by including titles which indicate what the story is about such as “A Goddess Intervenes”  wherein Athena speaks to Zeus about Odysseus’ plight (1-15). Homer started out this way because for the Grecians, everything started and ended with the Gods. Throughout the narrative words and phrases are used repeatedly to create continuity. While this could be a stylistic choice, it is most likely because in oral tradition stories were recounted word for word —it was a way to get the story started and a method the oral tellers used to recall the beginning of stories. In The Odyssey, this is shown by the repetition of references to Dawn or the sunrise: “When primal Dawn spread on the eastern sky her fingers of pale light” (19) and that continue throughout the novel (35, 58, 62, 70, 81, etc.). Repetition creates movement because the story flows back and forth from Odysseus’ time to his recollections. Homer also creates the movement of the entire piece by foreshadowing events such as: “How could a single man take on those odds? Not even a hero could” (292). By referencing the Gods frequently, repeating words and phrases, and using foreshadowing, Homer created movement through The Odysseys various segments which creates an overarching design.

Homer weaves setting into action, throughout the entire novel which creates feelings of different places by use of different textures; he wove movement and setting together to create remarkable tableaus: “He went up from the cove through wooded ground, taking a stony trail into the high hills, where the swineherd lived, according to Athena” (247). He creates a sense of movement by mixing moving action through the scenery and following it at a close angle as if it were a camera. The Odyssey did this in a way I’ve never seen before. One example is: “The tortoise tags the hare—Hephasitos catches Arȇs—and Arȇs outran the wind” (134). This line is fantastic in its simplicity, yet creates a vivid scene that has echoes down through literature.

The most memorable moment in this epic poem for me is when Odysseus returns to Ithaca in disguise and no one recognizes him except for his dog who is “Abandoned there, and half destroyed with flies, old Argos lay” (320). The next section is beautiful:

But when he knew he heard

Odysseus’ voice nearby, he did his best

To wag his tail, nose down, with flattened ears,

Having no strength to move nearer his master.

And the man looked away,

Wiping a salt tear from his cheek… (320)

Although the section is simple, it is like a passage from Thoreau—elegant and compacted. All great literature has moments where the reader feels for the main character, and for me, the main character’s dog. That Homer and Fitzgerald both took the time to focus on the love of the dog for its master showcases their exemplary writing style and humanity.

I recently read an article about a book by Professor Thanassis Papadopoulos and his team who, after sixteen years, are believed to have found the Palace of Odysseus in Ithaca. This leads me to wonder how much is myth and how much is truth about Odysseus—and who tells the story. I do not know if one man, Homer, or a troupe of writers crafted this epic poem. There have been questions about Homer just like there are about Shakespeare. I do know the story continuously builds; the twenty-four books of The Odyssey echo the type of story I want to tell. Before I read this, I did not know I could do that. Now I know that others have done it, and in the tone of The Odyssey and Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, I am going to tell my story that way—with episodes inside the story. I think the readers of today would respond to and appreciate individual episodes which are self-contained stories—stories within stories which add up to a total experience.

You want to know how many stars? Really? It’s Homer’s The Odyssey. You’d be crazy to not read it now. 5 stars and lots of love – it’s one of our literature touchstones – a relic and a masterpiece!

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Works Cited

Homer. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. The Odyssey. First Vintage Classics Edition, 1990.

DarWrites

 

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Sympathetic Characters and Violence in Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy

Sympathetic Characters and Violence in Vladimir Sorokin_s Ice

Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy, a compilation of three books: Bro, Ice, and 23,000, is an epic tale of what happens if alien entities fall to Earth in a meteorite and must take over human bodies to get to their next plane of existence. Killing humans is an unintended side effect of their pursued goal. I kept getting hung up on the characters in this book—while I felt sorry for them in their human forms, once the aliens transformed the humans, they were unsympathetic.

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The first book, Bro, follows Alexander Snegirev from childhood through death, charting only the unique events in his life. The layout of this book harkens back to the epic tales which followed a character from life to death. One example of this is in the beginning, when Alexander experiences a major trauma:

“And his voice was forever drowned in a terrible crashing sound. This crash swallowed all the voices in the carriages. The crash struck me in the back as though I was a rug hung out for cleaning. And a huge rumble, like a giant, thumped the dust out of me in one blow. I collapsed. (29)

This passage is told from the perspective of a young boy whose carriage explodes with his Father, Brother, and Uncle in it. Then, in the next section, we learn that he “no longer had any home” (31). The boy is empathetic because of his hardships.

Alexander is a misplaced child, who people keep shunting to other relatives or friends of the family; no one brings the child to his mother, who is his only surviving parent. One of the things that it was difficult to get past this; although though the boy was empathetic, it made no sense; the child should have been sent to his mother, but the wandering of the character in the novel, which seems to kick off the missing part of his life and search for meaning, stems from the disappeared parent. This brings an interesting idea to the forefront—the missing parent syndrome of many books and movies.  Sorokin writes:

I remember my mother frequently, I thought about her. But it didn’t occur to me to try and find her, to search for her. She had become inaccessible not only in the world around me but inside me as well. (30)

At first, I thought it was a cultural thing, so I asked a friend what her what her family would have done with such a child. She told me they would have searched for the Mother, and if no immediate relative was found, the child would have been placed up for adoption.

An older Alexander learns that there is “an expedition” is heading out to search for a meteorite (41) which “fell in eastern Siberia in 1908” (43). But when Alexander reaches the ice, he transforms into Bro (76-77), an alien entity which is obsessed with saving its siblings and transforming them into beings that are not trapped on Earth. The hardest hurdle for me to understand was the way the Children of the Light are transformed from human to alien—by hammering them with an ice hammer (102). Throughout the book, people are hit on the chest multiple times, beaten, sometimes to death. The aliens kill to survive and transform, escaping what they consider to be a prison.

I said earlier that it was difficult for me to understand this book. Part of it may have been the translation and the half-upside-down print (at least one hundred pages were printed upside down; when comparing it with a friend’s copy in New York, I realized it was a copy error). The other reason I was unable to connect is because of the gratuitous violence which was described in graphic detail—no one was left untouched from children to elders. Several times I tried to put the book down, but I kept coming back to it because I knew I could learn from it.

One thing I want to do with my own novel is create unique aliens and technology. I will write war scenes, but do not want to write gratuitous violence—it must have meaning. The aliens in this book do have reasons why they do what they do; it is just difficult to grasp because they are hitting and killing my species in explicit nature. Violence is part of life, and all parts of life should be explored in good fiction. I want to do it in a way different from Sorokin’s—my aliens should kill Earthlings because there is no other choice, not just because they can. I want readers to be able to connect to my characters, not just the earthlings, but all beings.

2 stars.

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Works Cited

Sorokin, Vladimir. Ice Trilogy. Trans. Jamey Gambrell. New York: New York Review of Books, 2008. Print.

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Shock and Awe in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

Shock and Awe in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.jpg

In Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children’s Crusade, a soldier bounces through time, meets aliens, and relives points in his life, centering around Dresden, Germany, during his tour during the Second World War. Vonnegut uses anaphora for a comical, poignant effect. As I read this book, my mind trails to two things: first, I appreciate the concept of a story within the story and the details which brought the book to life. Most of all, I love the wry sense of humor that ran through the book. “My name is Yon Yonson, I work in Wisconsin, I work in a lumbermill there” (9). With this simple line that brings to mind stories of childhood, Vonnegut sucks me into his world and makes me feel for the character. I repeat the line when I grocery shop. The lesson I focus on when I read Slaughterhouse-Five is the mix of shocking carnage mixed in with the love and basic everyday stories.

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Vonnegut blends the memories of the past in the character’s present.

And I let the dog out, or I let him in, and we talk some. I let him know I like him, and he lets me know he likes me. He doesn’t mind the smell of mustard gas and roses. (9)

How unexpected and nonchalant is it that he writes “mustard gas and roses” (9)? The world that Vonnegut created in this story is amazing and never strays from the war-hero normal guy nonchalance. Another line that sticks with me is: “there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre” (24). Vonnegut does not pull punches; the insights into the nature of humanity hit like a punch to the solar plexus. We want to hear the story because it is told from the perspective of a survivor of war. Vonnegut creates a plausible, likeable character I want to root for.

I loved the repetition of phrases throughout the book. Besides the Yon Yonson line, Vonnegut repeats “so it goes,” which is an alien statement (45). Throughout the book it is repeated over and over to reinforce the character’s statement that he cannot change “the past, the present, and the future” (77).

One unexpected and thought-provoking idea is that of the soldier who does not want to fight. Vonnegut explores this: “Billy stood there politely, giving the marksman another chance” (42). The idea that a soldier, even an inept one, would give the enemy a second chance at killing them is absurd. But it works because even in the thick of war, “the marksman should be given another chance” according to Billy Pilgrim (42). The idea that a soldier doesn’t want to “save himself” because “Billy wanted to quit” (43) is attention-grabbing—soldiers are programmed to fight, but what happens if the training doesn’t take? What if he is “cold, hungry, embarrassed, incompetent” like Billy (43)? This is an interesting line of exploration.

Billy Pilgrim’s ineptness as a soldier is explored throughout the book. “The most dangerous thing [the Germans] found on his person was a two-inch pencil stub” (68). There are probably many soldiers who go unarmed, but who only carries a pencil to war? And yet when Billy ducks for cover after an air raid siren (73), the reader is touched. We can imagine a soldier traumatized by war as being affected by a siren wail which would “scare the hell out of him” (73), even if was only “announcing high noon” (73). It is reasonable to believe a soldier who has been through difficult events would have PTSD.

I love Vonnegut’s style. My takeaway of this book is summed in one sentence: “He had an hour to kill before the saucer came” (93). This line triggered something in my imagination that explored the What If game. It made me rethink my own main character, the antagonists of my book, and how everyone has someone who loves them at home. All characters start out like kids—someone loves them. For me, the idea of a character waiting for a saucer to abduct him is both magical and ordinary. I want to channel that same feeling into my own work.

5 Stars.

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Works Cited

Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children’s Crusade. 1969. New York, The Random House Publishing Group, 1997. Print.

 

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Ethnographic Fiction: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness

Ethnographic Fiction

 

In The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin has written twenty chapters in a woven epic account of Genry Ai’s experience as an Envoy to the planet Gethen. The book works because of the way Le Guin braids the accounts of Ai and Estraven together. Both characters have unique voices with specific language choices to differentiate themselves and their societies.

Left Hand of Darkness

By showcasing status and cultural differences, I have a deeper understanding of both cultures and the theme of the book. But how does Le Guin do it so well? She mimics the format of ethnography to tell the story from an emic and etic perspective worthy of her father, eminent anthropologist Alfred L. Krober, who studied at Columbia under Franz Boas, the father of American anthropology, before he started the anthropology department at the University of California, Berkley. Krober took Le Guin with him when he did fieldwork. Le Guin grew up steeped in anthropology and weaves the tales together to make a fictional ethnography.

The novel wants to get to the truth of the contact between two species and does it well. It is told from a first-person, close perspective. I’ll let Genry Ai sum up his experience: “I was alone, with a stranger, inside the walls of a dark palace, in a strange snow-changed city, in the heart of the Ice Age of an alien world” (18). I went back and reread the beginning. Each page is exquisitely detailed like ethnographic accounts. I thought it was ethnography when I read: “Though I had been nearly two years on Winter I was still far from being able to see the people of the planet through their own eyes” (12). Anthropologists want to get to know people from their own perspective. This also hinted that Ai would not have been able to see the world through their eyes without the interaction between himself and Estraven—without jail and the journey across the ice, the relationship between the peoples of Gethen and the Ekumen may not have happened.

My favorite section from Ai actually discusses Estraven:

He spoke as if ashamed of me, not of himself. Clearly there was significance in his invitation and my acceptance of it which I had missed. But my blunder was in manners, his in morals. All I thought at first was that I had been right all along not to trust Estraven. He was not merely adroit and not merely powerful, he was faithless. All these months in Ehrenrang it had been he who listened to me, who answered my questions, sent physicians and engineers to verify the alienness of my physique and my ship, introduced me to people I needed to know, and gradually elevated me from my first year’s status as a highly imaginative monster to my present recognition as the mysterious Envoy, about to be received by the king. Now, having gotten me up on that dangerous eminence, he suddenly and coolly announced he was withdrawing his support. (13)

This paragraph sets the story up nicely. Le Guin establishes Ai’s two-year experience and brings me in right when things change. Ai’s language is similar to language found in ethnographies.

An example of the anthropological language used is “shiftgrethor—prestige, face, place, the pride-relationship, the untranslatable and all-important principle of social authority” (14). All societies have social codes which must be adhered to—when the codes are broken, awkward moments or worse occur. Saving face occurs in societies the world over and in good literature—it is a human universal.

Estraven’s account takes over later in the book. The shift in perspective was jarring because it was unexpected. Through the shift, I understand the society not only from the external alien’s viewpoint, but from an inside view as well and was a great move. Estraven talks about Karhide and the differences between his nation and Ororeyn, the neighboring and enemy nation (149-161).  Le Guin also has Estraven talking about Ai: “He is ignorant of us: we of him. He is infinitely a stranger, me and I a fool, to let my shadow cross the light of hope he brings us” (151). By shifting perspective, Le Guin not only shows me how the insiders see themselves, but also how they see the aliens. Estraven notes later that “[t]he Orgota evidently do not often come into their Fire-Hills” (224) because their hand-drawn map is missing “Mount Dremegole” (224). This statement not only shows how the people of Karhide are—they go into the mountains with no other reason than to go climbing, but also how they feel about their neighbors.

The tone in Estraven’s diary entries when they are on their way read like some of the ethnographic accounts I have read. Throughout the journal entries, the days and months are in the Gethen calendar; Le Guin includes a copy of the calendar at the end of the book (302-304). My favorite account of Estraven’s is when he asks Ai: “’How would it ever occur to a sane man that he could fly’” (260). The difference between Ai’s people and Estraven’s are exposed in their discussions.

In ethnographic writing, legends and oral stories are often recounted. Throughout this novel, Le Guin also includes oral stories because the people of the planet have not invented writing.

The differences between the societies are more than cultural—they are biological too. “Culture shock was nothing much compared to the biological shock I suffered as a human male among human beings who were, five-sixths of the time, hermaphroditic neuters” (48). By introducing two societies which are so vastly different, Le Guin shows me how the societies are also similar. But I had to laugh outright when I came across this: “The King was pregnant” (100). The idea is so foreign, as is the idea of peoples that shift genders—and that was what Le Guin wants. By using the language of anthropology, based in her travels with her father, Krober, Le Guin shows us that writing can both be ethnographic and literature—this is the first book I’ve read like this, but will be on the lookout for more.

The unique ideas explored in this book, the depth of detail, and the idea of having oral stories woven into the story are magnificent gems. I appreciate that Le Guin uses anthropological terms and the ethnographic account to explore the interactions. I am integrating oral stories into my book and this is a great example of how to do it.

5 Stars. Ms. Le Guin is a fantastic writer and this book is wonderful.

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Works Cited

Le Guin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness. New York: Ace Books, 1969.

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