Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Step on my Grave

The black cloaked figure stood in front of the Friends Cafe, right in front of the pile of cornstalks and pumpkins they put up every year as "Halloween decorations." My first thought was that they'd added an element to their traditional display.

I had to laugh at the "corny" specter, although half the citizens of this town would be arguing about whether the addition was appropriate before sundown.

Ina looked at me like I was crazy (which she knows I am) and I pointed to the black cloaked figure. It was hard to tell if it was supposed to be a black headless giraffe or the specter of death. But it seemed to move, the cloak turning in the nonexistent wind.

A sparrow landed on the figure's shoulder and it didn't move. I relaxed. They'd just added a manikin to their display.

The cowl turned toward us. The sparrow flew away.

Ina's response surprised me. In spite of her reputation as an airhead she's usually pretty articulate--I could swear she's memorized the dictionary--but she clutched at my arm and squeaked, backing away.

My throat closed up, maybe in panic. There was no hint of a face inside that cowl, but I felt like I'd been pinned to a specimen board. Hm. Specimen number 85389741, human female, expired of natural causes. Shock, maybe.

I've never been superstitious--a lot of superstitions, like "don't walk under a ladder" or "don't swing an ax" are disguised common sense. So at this point I could pretty much limit the thing to either a practical joke (probably aimed at Ina, everyone knows how gullible she is) or someone dressing up for Halloween early.

I dragged Ina across the street, keeping a wary eye on anything that might hide the practical jokers who were likely to come bursting out at us. The boardwalk (built specifically for the tourists) wouldn't hide them from anyone crossing the street. The big cracker-barrels with their fall flowers were pushed right up against the wall.

Still I approached warily, pretending that I had no intention of even looking at the thing.

The material was odd, more like a cloak of shadow than fabric. The head kept pace with us, turning as we approached.

We passed right by it, but no one jumped out.

We stepped through the door with double sighs of relief. When I looked over at the big window the figure was gone. The autumn display looked just as it always had, with the exception of a few pumpkins that had probably been smashed by teenagers.

It had never occurred to me that death might hang around after his work was done. After that tourist died in the cafe last year it was closed for a few days. The locals still go there, although their prices are terrible.

Their spinach sandwiches are to die for.

TerPer

The next step in the atheistic politically correct change spree will be to change the name of Santa Claus. It's SOOOOO politically incorrect and cheuvanistic to specify a gender for the religion-neutral...oops. NOT religion neutral? Can't have "Santa," because that means Saint, can't say "Father" because it's not gender neutral. Nor "Christmas" (as in "Father Christmas") because that references an organization that is in itself (according to the change-spree-ists) politically incorrect. Hm...

So we'll call the politically correct, gender neutral, religion neutral version Parent Holiday, but that both has the word "Holy," and the word "parent," which suggests a system of adult superiority.

Ah, Winter Person!

Rats. Can't have the word son and be gender neutral, and using "win" could insult all the losers out there...so the mid-cold-season festival-representative will now be called Terper!

:/ Sea-son. Ick. This could get complicated.

The halfway-between-spring-and-fall (now known as Faceplant) festival-representative will now be called Terper!

Don't forget to hang up your stockings!

Christmas Poem

The earth sleeps here beneath the snow
and waits with bated breath
for one who said that He would come
and break the chains of death.

The earth sleeps now beneath the snow
much like our Heavenly King
Before He rose from death's long night
As Winter turned to Spring.

The earth sleeps still beneath the snow,
the while the Angels sing
All wrapped in white, in silent night,
and waiting for its King

Lauren (written 2010)

Politics

I listen to the words
And wonder what they mean

I hear the meanings
And wonder why they speak

I understand their intention
And close my ears

To their words.

Writing Prompt from Manuscriptsatmidnight

The edges of the paper still looked sharp, but crumbled when I tested the theory. I'd heard stories about the old family house, somwhere down in Georgia I think, or maybe Tennessee. If it's still standing, it's hiding itself well. The stories linger, passed down generation by generation, the horrors and joys of the old ivy covered house, buried somewhere--elsewhere--in a faerie tale wilderness.

A gatehouse they called it, those who stayed. The rest of the family fled, and those who returned found only an empty wilderness, marked by the ancient road that had been there since before the family existed.

My sister used to call it an obsession, a figment of a borderline OCD personality, whatever that means.

She disappeared the day after my 19th birthday, said she would let me know when she found it. I still remember that party, the way she stood back in a corner and watched, as if she had already dissociated herself from our world.

I hadn't known about the photo.

I laid it gently on the side of the desk, carefully lining up the edges, leaving precisely half an inch of dark wood visible.

The desk came from the old house, according to family legend, and there I'd found the old photograph, tucked back in a corner.

Again I rifled through the drawers, looking for more photgraphs or other memorabilia, but they were empty.

The hard part was not knowing if she'd ever made it. Had she ever walked up onto that weathered porch, peered through the broken and boarded up windows? Was there more to be seen beyond the sepia dreams of another era?

To the left of the porch something moved. I closed my eyes against it, looked again. A faint shadow, a man perhaps, half obscured by the undergrowth, his head turned toward the house. The old paper didn't hold the image well, not even well enough to know whether the odd shadow was anything more.

The old stories told of this as well, the old caretaker who appeared when he felt like it, who the family had tried to fire so many times that he'd become legend in himself.

Now the shadow had its head turned toward me, bright eyes visible against the shadows, the ancient gnarled piece of wood that had been leaning against the porch in his hand.

I stroked a hand over the picture, wondering at the colors seeping from my hand into the photograph, as if the sunset outside echoed against the old house.

Each generation there are those who feel the pull of the Other, a need that nothing else can fill.

We belong to the House, to the Caretaker. We are the Family, and even the least of us are drawn back toward an old road that leads nowhere, to a sepia darkness that hides and holds both horror and joy.

The sunset beckoned, staining the ancient oak floors with red and gold and blue. Leaving the photograph lying on the desk I followed the pull to the front door and stepped out onto an old ivy-covered porch, the rainbow toned sunset just fading.

I glanced back, caught between worlds. The room behind me faded, like an old photograph found in an ancient desk. The computer blinked complacently at me, and I stepped onto the porch.

We belong to the house.

Frog Prince

Castansa shoved the slippery bullfrog at her maid. "You kiss it. You get the kiss, I get the prince."

"He said a princess..." Hana's fingers twitched just enough to keep hold of it.

"Then he's out of luck. Kiss it, or put the thing outside for the cat."

Hana stared down at the frog-prince. He was starting to dry out, and he looked at her out of those big eyes. She swallowed, remembering the bullfrogs her brothers had caught in the swamp behind their house.

"It has to be a princess?" she asked the frog-prince. The frog shifted his front feet and stared up at her. Hana lifted him up to her face. From the corner of her eye she saw the princess laughing.

"Kiss it!" Castansa giggled.

The maid closed her eyes. She gingerly laid her lips against his side. Soft, not slippery at all.

Arms came around her and she jolted, her eyes flying open. Her face was much too close to another pair of eyes. Male, human, smiling eyes.

A noise pulled her attention from the impossibility of it. They both stared down at a rather large frog sitting in a puddle made of Castansa's gown.

"Princess Castansa?" The frog croaked, sounding so much like the princess that Hana's eyes widened. "What will I tell the King?" she asked faintly. She bent and gathered her former mistress against her apron. The frog slapped its tongue against her wrist and she shoved it hurriedly at the prince.

"Well, Princess." The Prince said to the slippery creature in his hands. It was rather larger and uglier than he had been. He smiled at his rescuer. "You aren't a princess, so I guess the curse had to go somewhere. Should we put her out for the cat?"