‘When did it all go wrong?’ General Anderson asked herself.
‘We started off trying to defend our freedom and independence but somehow along the way we have lost ourselves.’
She didn’t voice those concerns out loud. She was sitting at a desk and opposite her was a representative of the enemy. This alien species that had come from nowhere to take over the earth, or reclaim it, so they said. They were tall and willowy with huge heads and pointed craniums. They claimed to have come to earth 6000 years before and had taught the earthlings about agriculture, farming, irrigation and how to build great monuments. They claimed to have taught the Mayans, the Egyptians and other ancient civilisations all their secrets.
Well it didn’t seem finished and a few people told me that it needed some more, so here is part two.
Jane opened the door to her apartment. To her relief her husband had managed to wake up, all by himself and judging by the sound of the shower was preparing himself for the day ahead. It was twenty minutes past ten and he’d been asleep since eleven o’clock last night. She had heard practically every snore. She was beginning to worry that he’d gone into some kind of hibernation. She’d always suspected he was at least half bear, he was hairy enough from the neck down. When they’d met he had a good head of hair too, but that had since deserted his head like snow deserted the mountains in summer. He claimed that thirty years of marriage to her had caused it to fall out.
She walked over to her open suit case and took out her travel kettle. She knocked on the bathroom door. “Who is it?” Her husband called out. Who does he think it is? She wondered.
Putting on a bit of an accent she replied “It’s Lolita your Spanish maid can I come in and squeeze your bottom?”
I reposted a short story that I wrote a couple of years ago about the discovery of a secret from the past.
This is the final part:
I flicked through that infernal diary.
No, no mention of her wedding, but I stopped at another entry.
January 7th, 1918
Edgar and Theodore have enlisted. Emma and I both cried and begged them not to go. They looked so solemn. They had to go, they said. Foolish Pride! We had had such a lovely Christmas together, just the four of us and then they had to spoil it but joining the army. The war has been going on in Europe for some time, but America only joined in last year. I never knew why they did. What do we care about Europe?
November 15th, 1918
The war has ended. Finally, we have heard that Theodore and Edgar are coming home. They were both injured in battle and have been recovering at a Hospital in London but they should be home soon. Neither of them wrote about their injuries at all.
Emma and I have been getting on fine, keeping house together. We haven’t had an argument or a fight once, who would have thought it?
This should be the best Thanksgiving ever.
November 22nd, 1918
Both Edgar and Theodore are different now. The war has made them withdrawn. I can understand why Edgar might have been affected by it, he’s lost and eye. Theodore doesn’t seem much damaged, he’s walking awkwardly but I couldn’t detect any other sign of injury at all.
February 14th, 1919
After months of pain down below I finally went to see Doctor Chinnery. He told me what I had begun to fear. My womb is deformed and I will never be able to have children. He told me it was probably something that happened to me as a child. I suddenly remembered when Emma had pushed me out of that tree house all those years ago. It was all her fault. She told me about Theodore’s war injury the other night too. Apparently, he had been shot, in the groin. So at least Emma won’t be having any children either, I don’t think I could bear that!
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I hadn’t gotten over how nasty and resentful Great Aunt Sally was coming across. She had always seemed such a sweet and dear old lady, always handing out sweets to me and my brothers. Clearly, she had been quite different on the inside. The thing that had caused me to pause and reread that particular entry was the bit about not being able to have children. If neither of them could have children then how could my Mother have been born?
I thumbed my way past pages, ever forward, hoping to find some answers. I wish I had stopped there and not read further but I did.
It seemed that they lived together, in this house and been quite happy together. Even Great Aunt Sally’s rantings seemed to die down a bit. I skimmed over snippets of parties and gatherings, Christmases and thanksgivings. Great Grandmother had moved in and eventually died. The passing of years played out in monologue until I stopped at an entry that made me shudder.
April 17th 1935
I had noticed something odd about Emma that was causing me to wonder. Since Christmas she seemed to be gaining a little weight around the middle. It was odd because we ate the same things. Neither of us had much of a sweet tooth. I noticed she had a kind of glow about her too. I challenged her about it and she admitted the truth. All those years stripped away and we were children screaming and shouting at each other, just like in that tree house. She told me she always knew I hated her and she hated me too. She admitted choosing Theodore because I had told her I loved him. Then she admitted that she and Edgar had been enjoying each other’s company. She was pregnant with Edgar’s child. I nearly killed her then. Only one thing stopped me. The thought of that little baby, that sweet innocent child. I decided that I would keep her secret for now. For the baby’s sake.
Then the final entry.
August 19th, 1935
The baby was born. A beautiful baby girl, we’ll call her Alice. Emma had managed to convince Theodore that he was the father. As if he could be capable of it with his manhood all withered, but I suppose love will make you believe anything. Edgar knew, of course, but he was keeping himself well out of it. I moved out of our double bedroom to that room at the end of the landing. I couldn’t sleep with him any longer knowing what he’d done. What Emma had made him do. Now the baby had been born safe, I didn’t wait another minute before I went and told Theodore the truth. He hadn’t wanted to believe me at first. Then he looked at me with dead eyes. How much he had changed from that handsome, blue eyed young man he’d been. The War had started it, but I had just finished it. He was dead on the inside now. Edgar was out in the barn chopping logs, making himself scarce. Theodore stood up and walked out of the house. I saw him through the window, go into the barn. I heard the gunshot too.
I went back upstairs to Emma. She was still sleeping softly. She’d had a hard time of it, but I’d helped her through. She begged me that if anything should happen to her, if she died in childbirth, that I would bring up her little girl. Of course, I would. That was all part of the plan. It was easy in the end, so easy. She always kept that gold locket around her neck. A quick pull was all it took really.
It’s the end now. All that Love and Hate, all those years. We had hated each other but now I was free. I will bury her outside under that tree that Theodore planted not long after we all moved in. Theodore will help me. We’ll bury Edgar too. I’ll lock this book up in the box that my sister loved so much and I’ll put the key in the locket around her neck and bury it with her. Nobody will know, but just for myself, I had to explain, why I killed my Sister today. I hated her, that’s why.
I looked down at the book. I had never felt so chilled in all my life. The Summer’s heat, it was 100 Fahrenheit in the shade, failed to dispel the sudden cold. I shivered uncontrollably.
I remember Grandfather had been a quiet man who barely spoke. He’d died when I was six or seven. My Mother had met and married my Daddy at college and he’d moved in to the family homestead and had me and my brothers. I remember it had been a happy home then, happy families. Mother and Father, Father’s brother, Uncle Peter and his wife Auntie Annie and their sons, my cousins, Bobby and Elwood. My brothers Denny and Will, and of course Great Aunt Sally. She seemed to love all the children running around. How could a woman who had shown them so much love have had such potential for hate? They’d all gone; moved away or passed over. Looking back, that game of happy families seemed so shallow and empty now.
Coming back suddenly to the present, I decided that it was best that this secret died. I didn’t want my brothers reading it, or their children.
I worked with a single-minded purpose that I’d always had. I didn’t have trouble finding wood to burn, or kindling. The dry summer had provided plenty. I built a huge pile of logs over that body and I didn’t let myself think about who it was anymore. I took out a match and lit the pile. It caught straight away, the fire raging through that tinder dry kindling. I then threw the leather-bound diary into the heart of the flames. It seemed to act like a solvent, making the fire explode. Sparks flew up and landed on the timber roof tiles of our family house. Within seconds the house was on fire.
For just a moment I stood there open-mouthed as the flames licked along the roof and down the clapperboard facias. I thought I caught a glimpse of an old lady at the upstairs window, peering out through the lace curtains. Could it be Great-Aunt Sally?
Then I came back to reality. My Mother was in the house. The house was on fire. Quickly I ran into the house and up the stairs. My Mother was still on her bed at the other end of the house. She coughed then and started to stir slightly as I picked her up. She was so frail that I didn’t have much difficulty in holding her up and moving her towards the stairs. The smoke was building up now. I grabbed my handkerchief and put it over my mouth and managed to half-drag my mother down the stairs and out of the front door.
We both lay on the dry grass and watched as the family house burned. I hoped to God that the past would burn with it.
“you’re trying to duck the issue, what can that stuff actually do?”
“Look It’s just a simple compound. It can’t do anything.”
She held up a sealed phial of liquid between her blue latex gloved fingers. The look on her lovely face was calm and composed but there was a light of something in her eyes. A certain fervour, determination and a detachment from reality. It was a scary combination.
The committee for the regulation of dangerous substances was in full session. The committee consisted of some of the brightest minds in science and a few politicians who were the ones who sounded like they knew the most.
The Minister for public health asked his question again.
“We know you have been working on this for some time. What is your purpose? What do you hope to achieve?”
“I hope to achieve peace” she replied in her soft, light voice.
Yesterday evening was my final creative writing class…
The exercise was to write a story or poem about the ‘Last’ of something.
I bravely decided to write a Pantoum about the last day of Winter.
If you are not familiar with that form of poetry, it is quite restrictive and complicated.
The rhyming pattern is ABAB and the second and fourth line of the first stanza become the first and third of the second stanza, then the final stanza also has the first and third lines of the first stanza repeated as the second and last lines. I said it was complicated, didn’t I?
I wrote this story last year, but it fits today’s Word of the Day prompt so I thought I would share it again with you.
Down at the bottom of the garden, where the Ivy and brambles are all overgrown and the little patch of nettles is getting a bit out of hand, there lived a fairy called Aera. A pretty little thing she was, no bigger than a monarch butterfly, with tiny hands and delicate feet, encased in little boots made from bluebell flowers. Her dress is made from two daffodil flowers sewn together with thread. She has transparent wings that glimmer with a silvery blue gleam when the sun shines on them just so.
She was friends with most things in the garden. She would fly with the bees and have a little chat to them. They didn’t stop for long though. Bees are very hard-working and don’t stop work for idle chatter, at least not for long. They did stop to give Aera the time of day because she was so lovely and often told them where the best flowers were. They, in turn, would give her a cup of their honey to say thank you. Aera also flitted with the butterflies. She’d known them since they were little caterpillars and she loved to see them grow into beautiful butterflies.
Aera chatted to the small birds, the Robin and the Wren. Mrs Wren was a particularly close friend. Mrs Wren has so many little babies to feed that sometimes Aera would help her find little seeds and worms.
There was a Magpie that came into the garden and Aera was not so fond of him. He was noisy and mischievous and often played too rough.
“Come out to play Aera. Let’s play who can shout the loudest? I bet I Can? CAW CAW CAW.” The Magpie would say.
“No thank you, Mr Magpie, I would rather just listen to the wind in the trees rather than your noise. Please go away.” Aera was always as polite as she could be but Mr Magpie made her cross.
If he wouldn’t go away, Aera would use some of her Magic and then the Magpie would fly far away and leave her alone.
The people who owned the house didn’t go into their garden very much and so she knew she could fly around and not be seen.
One day the family moved out and sold the house to a young couple. Aera heard them talking.
“Oh Darling, look at that mess the garden is in, all the weeds and the overgrown Ivy and nettles. You must do something about it.”
“OK Love. I will chop down the shrubs, pull up the weeds and concrete over the lawn. We can have a barbecue and invite our friends around.”
Aera was very upset. If they chopped down the shrubs and pulled up the weeds it would destroy her house. She wouldn’t be able to fly around, they would see her.
“Aera, what are we going to do?” Said Mrs Wren. “I have my nest in the shrub they are going to chop down, and I am just about to raise another family too.”
“Aera, if they pull up all the flowers, we won’t be able to make our honey.” Said the bees. “What are we going to do?”
Aera decided that she was going to see the great Owl who lived in the Oak tree in the park.
He was so wise, he will know what to do.
“Mr Owl, Mr Owl, can I speak with you?”
It was still daylight and Owls sleep during the day and catch their food at night.
“Yes, Yes, Who is it? I’m awake now. I hope it’s important, I need my beauty sleep don’t you know?” Said the Wise Owl, rather grumpily.
“Oh it’s you Aera; I haven’t seen you in the longest time. How are you, my dear?”
“Oh Mr Owl, I need your help. New owners have bought the house and are going to chop down the shrubs and pull up the weeds and concrete over the lawn. The bees will not have enough flowers to make their honey and Mrs Wren and I with both lose our homes. What can we do?”
“I hear this sort of thing is happening more and more. Don’t they know the damage they are doing to nature? Hmmm, let me think.”
After a short time, Mr Owl spoke again.
“I think you should find out more about the new people who have moved in. They might not know much about nature and how important a garden is for the wildlife. Find out if they are the type of people who recycle their rubbish. If they are then they might change their minds if you can convince them how important it is to have a garden, for the bees and birds and the environment.”
Aera flew back to her garden and decided to listen at the window of the house. Normally it wasn’t polite to listen at doors and windows, Aera’s Mother had taught her very good manners. This time though, there was too much at stake. Aera heard the lady speaking to the man.
“Have you finished with the newspaper; I want to stick it in the recycling. We’ve got to do our bit for the environment”
“OK Dear. I was thinking, I read the other day that people use too much water, watering their gardens in the hot weather. Maybe we should get a water-butt. That way we can store the rainwater and that would be better for the environment too.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t bother with that dear. When you concrete it over, we won’t need to water it anymore.”
Aera had heard enough. They obviously cared a bit about the environment because they were recycling their newspaper but they still didn’t have a clue about how important gardens were for wildlife.
Then she had a good idea. She had a little magic she’d stored away for a rainy day. She decided she would use her magic to help everyone.
When she got back to her little home, hidden away amongst the Ivy and the brambles, behind the nettle patch, she took out her magic pouch.
It was full of magic fairy dust that she had been saving for something special. That night, when most people were asleep in their warm beds, Aera flew out of her house and started sprinkling her magic dust over the garden. She sprinkled some over the house too. As it was a warm night, the bedroom window was open, so she flew in and sprinkled her sparkly dust all over the two people sleeping and snoring in their bed. Aera said her magic words; they are in fairy language so you wouldn’t understand them. Then she went to her bed, knowing she had done all she could.
The next day the postman was delivering the letters on his round, just like he normally did. He was surprised to see a large golden envelope addressed to the house at the end of the street. The one with the overgrown garden. He posted it through the letterbox and continued on his way.
“Dear, look at this letter we have received. It’s from the Natural Garden Club; we’ve apparently won a garden makeover in their competition. Did you enter us for this competition?”
“No, I don’t remember. Maybe it was your Mother, you know she enters lots of competitions now she’s retired.”
“Well someone is going to come round next week and talk to us about it.”
“That’s nice dear.”
The following week, a garden designer in a purple suit came round to talk to them about their garden.
“Well we had plans to chop down the shrubs and pull up all the weeds and concrete over the lawn and turn it into an entertainment area,” Said the lady.
“Goodness Me!” Exclaimed the garden designer. “Don’t you realise how important these little gardens are to our wildlife?” He said. “We need to do all we can for the environment. When people concrete over their gardens, it makes flooding much more likely. The bees need all the flowers they can get to make their honey. If the bees die then our crops will fail. The wildlife really needs a small patch of weeds at the bottom of the garden so it can thrive. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I will tidy up the garden and trim back the shrubs. I will reduce the weed patch, so it’s just a small bit at the very bottom and I’ll build a patio by the house so you can have your barbecue. How does that sound?”
“OK, we didn’t realise how important having a garden and a weed patch was for the environment we are happy to do our bit, aren’t we dear?” Said the owner to his wife.
Now the garden is neat and tidy but it still has the flowers, the lawn and the shrubs. At the very bottom of the garden is a very small patch of nettles and some Ivy and brambles, and just inside, just out of sight, you can still catch a glimmer of a very tiny house. A small fairy called Aera lives there and she’s very happy.
I keep hearing people say
I’ve gotta kill my wild ways
but I’m a wild kind of guy
with no chance to change
better keep outta my way
if you think me strange
I am what I am
and that’s the way I’ll stay.
Everywhere I go, I hear
Talk of the Devil
Wherever I appear
It’s Talk of the Devil
But I’m no satan’s spawn
I just won’t be a pawn
In this society.
People say I’m just so weird
My evil image means I’m feared
but see beneath the look
and I’m just as scared
Whatever I did or said
It’s hard when no one cared
I just couldn’t conform
and the crowds just jeered.
Everywhere I go, I hear
Talk of the Devil
Wherever I appear
It’s Talk of the Devil
But I’m no satan’s spawn
I just won’t be a pawn
In this society.
Let all the crowds jeer,
I don’t care anymore
Let them say what they say
I don’t care anymore
In all their gossip, I just revel.
I don’t care, let them say
Talk of the devil
But I’m no satan’s spawn
I just won’t be a pawn
In this society.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty, written 26th March 2005.
The fog descended thick and fast over the harbour.
Within moments the boats and the jetty had soon disappeared out of sight and memory, evanescent.
It was a fog like none of the locals had seen before. Mists and fogs were not rare in Winter or Spring. Whenever the weather brought a change in temperature, the lake gave off a mist that often didn’t burn away until lunchtime. This was different. For starters, it was Summertime. In addition, it was much thicker than usual and it brought with it a kind of ghostlysilence, a mysterioushush. It felt that time itself had frozen.
In addition to the ominouslack of sound, there was a scent in the air. It reminded her of something from her childhood. Something that she had long forgotten but dwelled within the darkest recesses of her mind. It filled her with emotions. That longing for the past that people call nostalgia, a sense of comfort that came with it, but was tinged with anxiety. Her heartbegan to race, she felt an upwelling sense of adventure. She was going on a journey. She knew this fact as sure as anything, but she did not know how.
This experience was like a witch had cast a spell over the area, an enchantment. Then she remembered her parents warning to her when she’d told them she wanted to move away into this quiet, primitive part of the world. They’d warned her that strange things happened up in the ‘boondocks’, that was her Mother’s colourful way of describing anywhere wild.
She’d ignored her Mother’s warning, but until this moment, had not regretted it. She’d felt somehow like she’d come home. Away from the busy city and bustling towns, this was where her spirit felt she belonged.
Suddenly she remembered what the smell reminded her of. Her Grandmother, who disappeared nearly twenty years ago. She had only been a child then, not more than six or seven. She remembered her Grandmother’s perfume, a mix of Eau de Cologne, lavender and rose petals, tinged with cinnamon and freshly baked bread. This exact same smell came to her through the mist.
She recalled then, her Grandmother’s confession to her before departing.
“I am a Witch, child, not a wicked witch. I have been no more naughty, or nice, than anyone else. We are, all of us, flawed with imperfection, but I have strived to walk in the light. You too have inherited the gift. It skips generations. Your Mother, my dear daughter, has not got the skill and therefore I have been forced to keep it a secret from her. I must leave soon, but One day you will remember this, and then we will undertake our journey together.”
After her Grandmother disappeared, they had mourned the loss of her. She’d felt a forlornmelancholy for weeks. Her Mother had been distraught. The emotional scarsburned deep.
How could she have forgotten this, until now? Upon reflection, she realised that it must be part of the spell. The forgetting and the remembering.
Now it felt that she had only been waiting for this moment.
A figure stepped out of the fog in front of her. Still wrapped in the black woollen shawl, worn whatever the weather, her glowing white hair still cascaded down to her shoulders, with that hint of pale gold that was a remnant of her once sultrybeauty. This was her Grandmother looking as if she’d just stepped out from her memory.
The lined face beamed a smile and she reached out a hand to clasp her own.
To her surprise, the hand was as warm as the smile.
“There you are, my precious. It is time to make this journey. Be strong, I will guide you.”
The fog began to lift. The scene had changed. Where the lake once stood, with its jetty and boats, there was now a deep chasm. Where the log cabins once clung to the side of the hill as it gently descended to the water, there was nothing but rocks and trees.
On the other side of the chasm stood a castle, a grand and shining fortress of light and splendour. The sun shone resplendently on that mighty castle, yet around it, darkness billowed like a deadly storm.
The sight of the fortress filled her with reverence, she wanted to cry out and rejoice.
At the same time, the darkness, like a poison, injected her with dread and fear.
Her grandmother must have felt her hand tense in hers, because again she spoke, in reassuring, gentle tones.
“Don’t be afraid, my dear. The journey is a difficult one. We must pass through the valley, filled with the souls of the damned, harvested by the Reaper. They call out in their eternal torment. Be stoic and do not fear them. I have you, and together we will walk over the bridge. Keep to the light, and we will be safe.”
All around them, she saw wreckedand shattered souls, surrounded by darkness, but she stepped onwards, guided by her grandmother’s hand, she kept to the path and made it to the gates of the castle.
The Gates opened and she was engulfed in the glorious light that shone from within.
Back in the hospital, her life support machine rang out a single note, like a dirge, but on her face was a smile of peace.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 25/January/2019
Well, what did you think? Did the story take you on a journey? Did it conjure up any feeling within you? Let me know in the comments.