The Box . . . The Story Continues.

A few weeks ago, as part of the 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups, I wrote a post called The Box which seemed to spark some interest. (I am repeating it below so you don’t have to go look at that post unless you want to) Yesterday, I declared I was going to try to extend some of my challenges into fuller fledged stories.  I hope you like it.  Eek!

It came special delivery with a simple note attached in handwriting she had not seen except in the letters her mother had kept. Love letters, from her father, a man who left Cindy long ago. A man she would rather forget.

“I’m sorry,” the note said, attached to the red box.

The small box was heavy and cool, made out of material that Cindy could not identify.

She tried to hide it away in a closet, but it seemed to call to her.  She pulled it out and placed it on the mantle, where she intentionally ignored it.

Until the night it glowed.

At first she thought she was imagining the glow. A spark, deep in the center of a box that looked almost solid, it disappeared when she looked directly at the box. She avoided looking whenever she could. She started avoiding the room.

Sometimes, though, when she walked by she would catch a glimpse of a spark that simply could not be there.

“The sun must be hitting it just right,” she told herself, even on cloudy days.

Other times when she walked by the room, she heard the call that had made her pull the strange box out of the closet.  Words she could not understand sung in a tuneless melody.

“I wish my neighbor wouldn’t listen to her music so loudly.”

After that, she kept the door closed, living as comfortably as she could in the other rooms of her cozy cottage.

But then the power went out. A surprise snowstorm knocked down tree limbs heavy with new growth, causing chaos in the area. Cindy had no choice but to go in and light a fire for warmth. Carrying a flashlight and some matches she opened the door, to find a room full of warm, sparkling red light.

The box was glowing, and she couldn’t ignore it.

The room itself felt warm, as if the fire had already been lit.  But there was no fire, only the glow of the red box.

She stared at the box in shock. Her emotions warred inside her. The part of her that loved mystery wanted to walk forward. The nugget of anger at her father that she had held onto for so long pulled her back. Fear of the unknown battled with her innate desire for knowledge. She found herself slowly walking forward, as if the atmosphere had grown thick and she had to wade through it. She reached her hand up and touched the smoothness of the box, still cool despite the warmth in the room and the strength of its light.

“What is this?” She whispered, knowing there was only one way to find the answer. “What did you send me Daddy?”

She found the clasp that held the box closed. Her hands trembled as she tried to figure out its elaborate mechanism.

She opened the box, and music filled the room along with a flash of energy and light so powerful it flung Cindy backward, where she hit the bookcase and fell on the floor stunned.

When she came to, the brightness had faded somewhat and she found herself looking at a man she could only remember in flashes, and from faded photos that her mother had saved with the letters. The man she remembered from then had been strong and handsome, with dark black hair and deep eyes that tricked the viewer, often appearing to be different colors–one a dark brown, the other glinted almost green.

This man looked different, except he had her father’s eyes. His hair was long and silver. His rugged features aged and tired, reflecting a man hardened by unknown trials but also the lines of laughter.

“Daddy?” Cindy asked, her voice cracking in fear and surprise. She pulled herself up onto the sofa, feeling the weakness in her legs caused by the crack to her head, but also disbelief. How could her father be in front of her? How could he have appeared out of a tiny red box?

“I finally found my way back to you,” he said, and his voice brought back memories of long ago.  “I never meant to leave you, little girl.”

Cindy found it difficult to form words. “I don’t understand,” she whispered.

“I know you don’t,” he said. He picked up the red box that was still glowing but not as brightly, and handed it to her. “But you’ve opened the box, and now you will know the truth.”

Holding it in her hand, Cindy suddenly knew. She felt its pulse. She heard the music of its song, and she knew. The box was from a place that she only remembered in her dreams, a place where she had only ever been with her father at her side

Holding the box brought back a memory of a scene from long ago, which she thought was just part of her nightmare. The scene came to life in front of her eyes:

Her mother clasped tiny Cindy in her hands as her father rushed them away from a house much bigger than the tiny cottage she called home now.  He led them to a cave hidden underneath some vines.

“Here’s the passage,” he said. He hugged them both tightly and gave them each loving kisses.

 “I don’t want to leave you behind,” her mother said.

“It’s the only choice,” her father said. “I will come for you when it is safe, and I have destroyed the Wizard. Otherwise we will always be hunted.”

“But what of this other world?” her mother asked. “What if they realize that we are not from there?”

“They will never know. I’ve arranged everything. I’ve even given you a little cottage that I furnished with love. It’s not home, but I hope it will serve. Goodbye, I love you both.”

And with that her mother stumbled the last few steps into the cave. They looked back toward her father and a light flared between them. Cindy closed her eyes against the glare. When she opened them again, they were in the cottage. The cottage she would live in, watching her mother’s sadness. The cottage she would inherit when her mother succumbed to the sadness and withered away as the years passed and her father did not return.

Cindy opened her eyes again, to see her father standing in front of her, tears pouring down his face.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, his voice clogged with emotion.

Cindy looked at the box in her hands. She knew that it had come from a very special place.

A place called home.

The Continuing Adventures of Alice (100WCGU)

This week’s 100 Word Challenge for Grownups from Julia asked us to use the phrase ….‘What was the rabbit late for,’ wondered Alice…… That seemed simple enough, until I realized the other part of this challenge:

the last 10 words are going to be used to start a piece by someone else next week!!”

I refuse to worry about whether or not my last 10 words are a good prompt or motivator for someone else. I just wanted to see if I could write in “Alice’s” voice.  Here is the result:

The White Rabbit

The White Rabbit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What was the rabbit late for,” wondered Alice. “I mean, rabbits can’t really be very important people, can they? Important people are always rushing off to meetings and whatnot and barely have enough time to stop for a cup of tea. Imagine a rabbit drinking tea.” She laughed at his thought, until she walked into a log that had fallen across her path. At her present height of 8 inches tall, the log seemed more like a mountain, and its covering of velvety purple moss made it challenging to get a handhold. “Why this log would be a proper throne for a king.”

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Alice (fron...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Alice (frontispiece) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Little Announcement

I am tired of myself and my excuses. If I want to be a writer, I need to indeed follow a story through to its end. As I embark on a novel writing project, I am even more aware of my excuses and my backing away from challenges. So, I am giving myself a new challenged, based off of these 100 word challenges. How many times have I used the challenge to spark a little piece of fiction, only to leave it dangling while readers clamor for more? I am going to attempt to finish those unfinished stories, but still keep them succinct.  I will post them here for your reading pleasure (or for you to completely ignore if that suits your desire) Wish me luck.

Invisibility

Ready for a strange post. Nathan suggested the other day that I write something about my Dad’s disappearance into Alzheimer’s as well as my feeling of being invisible a lot of the time. I may still write that, but this strange little story came out of that nugget of idea. Enjoy!

 

INVISIBILITY

They hadn’t always been invisible.

Through a mysterious set of circumstances, each member of the Singleton family simply disappeared, over a period of a few months.

I don’t mean disappeared as in their bodies found out in the woods, or changing identities. I know them. I’ve met them. I’ve asked questions and listened to answers. They came to me with their story in the hopes of a cure.

“If you tell our story,” Eliza Singleton, the daughter, said. “Maybe someone will be able to help us. Or, at least, we can prevent someone else from disappearing too.”

“Only if they believe me,” I joked because their story still seems unbelievable, even though I sat in the room talking to the voices of these four people who were there and yet invisible. I have researched their story fully, interviewing those who knew them when they were visible and those who sometimes talk to them even in their invisibility. I have seen pictures and walked in their home. I have heard hours and hours of testimony, although sometimes their own voices fade as if the invisibility wants them to swallow them completely. When that happens I wait patiently, knowing that at some point I will hear them again. I have done all this, but I have never seen them in person.

They never appear.

Brad Singleton went invisible in an instant, on the same day his daughter would enter the world of invisibility, perhaps because he had often seemed larger than life. Maybe the brightness of his flame led to the inevitability that he would burn out quickly.

At first glance (according to photos they brought me) nobody would suspect that Brad had so much charisma. At only 5’5” he didn’t fit the model of tall, dark and handsome, although he had dark hair and deep eyes. His appearance didn’t really matter, as his personality was bigger than his height. With subtle flirtation and jokes, he could charm everyone in the room, despite his short frame.

This served him well in the classroom. The dull-eyed college students, only there because the other option was unemployment or jail, would wander in, hoping that somehow they might pick up a skill that could rocket them to immediate wealth and success. They didn’t realize that to learn something would require work and actual participation in class. Faced with their blank stares daily, Brad launched a counter-attack shining the full glory of his personality on each student in the classroom. He seduced with jokes, he educated with charm, and eventually he broke through their self-built walls so that, by the end of the semester they had actually learned something from him.

One day, he went into his classroom prepared to dazzle. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. “Be prepared to have your mind’s blown.”

The class looked around, puzzled. “Where is that voice coming from?” they murmured to each other. “What kind of joke is he playing?”

Brad struggled to get their attention, to have them look at him, but nothing seemed to work. They wandered around the room, looking for his voice, but then said things like, “This is ridiculous. I’m leaving.” Eventually, they all left the room, leaving Brad alone and invisible.

The rest of the Singleton’s had their moments to shine as well. Brad had fallen in love with Mary because of her beauty, which outshone every other woman at the party where they met. The emerald green dress she wore helped emphasize the perfection of her coloring; auburn hair, deep blue eyes, skin that seemed to twinkle in the light. Her shyness surprised him, but Brad just turned on the charm a little higher and the story unfolded as love stories should.

But Mary was the first to turn invisible, although her fade into invisibility wasn’t as instantaneous as Brad’s. She would fade back at all social gatherings, letting Brad lead the way. When her children were born, and became individuals themselves, she basked in the glory of their achievements great and small.

Nobody noticed that each day she seemed to be a little less substantial. Looking at pictures of the family from that time period, there always seems to be a glitch in the film. One could see the faint outlines of objects appearing behind Mary.

In the last picture of her, taken when her youngest daughter Eliza graduated from college Mary appears like a ghost next to her daughter. It was Eliza’s shining moment, graduating from a prestigious college with a job already lined up to start in the fall after she travelled around Europe for a few months. Eliza knew there was something different about her mother, but it didn’t distract her from the joy and excitement of the day. She wouldn’t notice her mother’s complete invisibility for months, because their only contact was to talk on the phone. Once they tried to Skype each other, but Eliza thought it was some kind of technical glitch that made her unable to see her mother.

It was not a glitch. Mary still existed, however nobody could see her.

Andrew’s invisibility fell on him soon after his mother’s. Unlike Eliza, he struggled in school and ended up dropping out to create his own way in the world. Like Brad, Andrew thrived on personality alone, gathering people to him like moths. The party never ended when Andrew was around. Until one day it did.

He invited people over for a blow out in his apartment. People came, carrying with them their favorite drinks and a few edible delights. He opened the door and let them in, but nobody said hello. They just seemed to look through him, and then their eyes would catch on someone they knew or a prospective pick-up and they would wander into the party without a word to Andrew. Andrew had not only become invisible, but nobody could hear him, except, of course, his family as he discovered in a desperate phone call to Eliza.

“Something weird is happening to me,” he said. “It’s like nobody can see me or hear me.”

“You are just feeling down on yourself,” Eliza replied. “I’m sure once you find your dream job you’ll feel better. Just go have fun at your party.”

Andrew didn’t have fun, he simply disappeared.

The next morning was Brad’s fateful class.

Eliza knew that feeling of worth that comes from doing good work and making a difference in lives. She did it every day, solving crises in her office, helping friends with their romantic troubles, and enjoying life to the utmost. If she had one complaint, it was her inability to meet someone that she connected with. It seemed that she was doomed when it came to falling in love. She would go out with friends to clubs, or hang out at parties, and inevitably everyone would pair off leaving her alone guarding the bags and sipping on a drink.

Sometimes she felt invisible.

The night after her phone call with Andrew, she joined the rest of her family in the invisible world.

“Where did Eliza go?” Her friend Susan asked, returning to the table to gulp down water after a frenzied time on the dance floor.

“I’m right here,” Eliza said, simultaneous to Beth’s reply, “She must have gone home.”

That’s when she knew. She was invisible.

The Singleton family still exists. Although their voices fade in and out, you can talk to them. How else would I learn their story?

“We are still here,” Brad says. “We can, sometimes, even see each other. But to most of the rest of the world, we are simply gone. We’ve been to doctors all over, but nobody has a solution. That’s why we decided to talk to you.”

“Being invisible sucks,” Andrew grumbled from the corner where I assumed he was smoking a cigarette, as I saw a slight spark and could smell the acrid odor.

“How do you feel,” I asked Mary.

“Me?” she answered, sounding surprised that her opinion mattered to me. “Well . . . I kind of like that we are all together in this,” she said. “We never really had time for each other before, or at least it felt like that. But . . .”

As she spoke I saw a flash, an image of a woman of faded beauty sitting in the chair where her voice came from.

Brad interrupted her, “We had plenty of family time. I can’t help it if I have lots of friends and you don’t.”

“I’m sorry,” Mary said, and her image disappeared again.

If Brad had really listened to her words, I wonder if Mary would be visible now.

The Singleton family did not die. They continue to live their lives just like you and I.

Except now, they are invisible.

 

 

The Mysterious Stranger

I hesitated as I opened the door to the dimly lit coffee house, tucked in the basement of a building that showed the age and beauty of centuries. Would I come out of this meeting alive? Would I be able to get the information I so desperately needed without revealing too much to this mysterious person known in spy circles only as The Brave One.

I blinked, hoping my eyes would adjust to the dark interior. Despite the ban on smoking, the atmosphere felt thick with redolent smoke of mysterious meetings from long ago. This place had always been a location for secret trysts and rendezvous, for sharing information that can only be whispered in safe ears.

It had not changed. Lit only by a series of beautiful ceiling lamps that illuminated their intricate designs and dangling jewels more than the room or the people, one would only be able to see one’s immediate neighbors in booths built with high backs  at angles that you had to make an effort to see anyone else in this tiny space. It was built to keep secrets safe.

I followed instructions, heading to the back in a dark corner tucked away for extra protection. I checked my hidden pocket for my extra protection, not knowing what I would find. Nobody would ever revealed any information about The Brave One, so I did not know what to expect. Anyone who would have given even a hint at who The Brave One was, disappeared never to be heard from again.

I admit, I was afraid. But the information I needed was too important.

The light hanging over The Brave One’s booth was different from the others. The delicate beauty of the other fixtures added a touch of romance to the scene, however this light spoke only of danger, of sharp knives, of death.

Despite the small space, the distance between the door and that mysterious booth seemed to grow longer, as fear weighed down my footsteps. Finally, however, I reached the gaping maw of the booth, and fell under the feeble circle of doomed light, only to discover . . . 

LOL, I can’t go on. This little jaunt into spy/action fiction is brought to you by the fact that I met the fabulous Dory from If I Were Brave yesterday for lunch, and neither of us turned out to be psycho killers. Following a great discussion, we moved over to an adorable coffee shop/bar (that is not in the basement of an old building) that had this incredible light fixtures hanging all around.

“How would you even begin to describe those?” Dory asked.

“I have no idea,” I said. “But we should try.” Now obviously, I could not describe them with any specific detail, but they did suggest an atmosphere of sorts, leading to this little foray into silliness.

Silly things happen when blogging buddies meet.

In Search of Her Story

I mentioned a few days ago that I had signed up for a class to try to help me get toward my goals of writing a novel. The course has started, and for my first assignment I am supposed to suggest two ideas for what I would like to write. Suddenly, despite the hundreds of ideas that have poured around me at different times in my life, I am drawing a blank. This is it. This is real. I must now make a commitment, and if I ever really want to write fiction I must make some choices. I woke up in a panic, still no closer to a clear idea. But then, I realized, the Storyteller plays a role in this. I may not know the Story, yet, but I am the Storyteller, or at least I am her apprentice. I sat down and began to write this:

The young woman, Leahannah,  wandered through the rows of light, cultivated trees at the edge of the clearing. She never stepped over the line into the dimness of the forest  abutting this protected grove, for despite everything she had learned from the Storyteller, she still had fear of the Others. Those fears, ingrained in her since childhood, sometimes interfered with her learning and growth as she tried to master the skills of the Storyteller.

Leahannah felt like she was disappointing the Storyteller by not letting go of these fears.

She wandered closer to the line between darkness and light, peering into the depths of the trees. She kept seeing eyes peeking back at her from the crevices of trees or under bushes. Were they real or imagined? Were the eyes from human animals, the Others, or real animals on the hunt?

A chill went up her spine. Not one of fear, but of realization. She still thought of the Others as animal, and that would never do. If she wanted to someday step into the role of storyteller, she needed to overcome her ingrained fears and recognize the truth. A surprising tear formed in her eye at the thought of losing the Storyteller, for the old woman had saved Leahannah by making her the storytelling apprentice. Without her, Leahannah would still be doing drudge work and living on scraps, little better than the Others people hated so much.

But the Storyteller was old and had been for a long time. Each day, each time the Storyteller used the magic to tell stories, Leahannah noticed she got slower, and seemed to  fade into the glow of the magic never fully coming back to solidity. The Storyteller was becoming the magic. It did not look painful, and in some ways it seemed Storyteller embraced the change–as if becoming the magic was the final transition necessary to fulfill her purpose in life.  The transition would carry her stories on into forever.

That couldn’t happen, however, unless Leahannah was ready to become the next Storyteller. She couldn’t do that until she passed the next trial; the sharing of Her story, a story that spoke from her very soul and from the heart of the magic. It couldn’t be a story told before. It couldn’t be a simple story. It had to be a story that drew the listeners in and shared important messages without them even knowing it. It had to be full of magic, but the magic that comes from Leahannah’s being, not magic borrowed from the Storyteller.

Leahannah sighed. This was her struggle. Where was she to find that story? She could tell stories of the village, but those would not work. The villagers did not want to hear about themselves, at least not in a recognizable way. She could tell a story of the gods, but those were not new. Where could she find Her story? The story that she needed to tell.

Leahannah heard something in the dark woods behind her. A crackle of leaves, perhaps, maybe a bird or a whisper of wind through the trees. She peered into the darkness and felt her heart grow, a spark of magic building. Suddenly she knew, she would find Her story in the darkness. She would find her story with the Others.

She began.

Cough, Hack, Create

I guess it is inevitable, travel for 11 days in various weather with strange sleep patterns. Come into contact with lots of people, including children who (we must admit) carry germs like they are candy. Book end the travel with many hours in a flying tin can, breathing recycled air and other people’s farts, and you are bound to get sick.

I managed to stave it off long enough to celebrate a slightly belated anniversary with Nathan and a lovely B&B called The Old Mill on the Falls where our room overlooked the falls.

The view from our window in the morning sun.

However, as soon as we returned from that trip, my body could fight no more. It started with a cough, and now the cough has been supported by enough snot to make my brain fuzzy, which means there will be no brilliant observations or analysis of my further Slovakian adventures today.

Never fear, though. I still have back-up writing up my sleeve. Today I will share with you a piece of fiction I wrote the morning after my return, when my body woke me at the wee hours of a Slovakian morning, and my mind starting a whirling.

Before you read, here’s a little background. The story was inspired by The Cage of Shame also called the Cage of Opprobrium. Here is the description of that cage from map handed out by the Information office in Levoca:

“This medieval metal pillory from the 16th century, standing on fixed bases, is situated next to the Town Hall. It is decorated by wrought hearts and lilies–symbols of the innocence and love. It was serving for punishing women, who were caught walking at the streets without the man’s guide after dark. The punishment in cage lasted usually 24 hours. The first punished woman in this cage was the mayor’s daughter, who broke the curfew restriction. She got double punishment, because she ought to set an example for other women. She had to stay locked in cage for 48 hours.  Today the pillory is a big attraction for the visitors of Levoca.”

A Caged Heart

I was put in this cage by my father.

Yes, the man who called me his “sweet intelligent girl,” who taught me to read when other girls remain illiterate, who has encouraged me to pursue every dream that has crossed my mind–he has put me in this metal pillory for all the world to mock.

I must stay here for 48 hours.

“I am the mayor of Levoca,” he said in his official voice. “I cannot have my daughter flaunting my rules. You will remain in this cage as an example to all other women. As you are the first to receive this punishment, and my daughter, you stay in this cage for 48 hours. Any woman who follows your ways henceforth, will sit here for only 24 hours. This is my decree.”

The order was written down, in the beautiful flowing hand of the town clerk, and I  was marched over to this cage to sit in shame and silence.

At least they let me have my shawl, for the breeze at night can be chilly. I stare at the deep blue sky through the elaborate metal work, dreaming of spreading my wings and exploring a world I cannot see.

The first few hours were the hardest as the entire town found some reason to walk over to Town Hall and pass my cage. Some sent looks so pitying, my heart nearly broke with shame. Some, who have always been jealous of me, cut me with scathing comments.

“You are surrounded by hearts and lilies,” Velika said in her mocking way, “love and innocence have nothing to do with you! Nobody will love you now, you brazen woman.”

Her words hurt, and others said similar things. But, in a way the unkind words are easier to take than the few kind words and sympathetic looks. My heart grows with pride and strength with each negative comment, and I am able to face the hours ahead. I will sit here in quiet dignity, alone with my thoughts and the sky, and later the brilliant stars. I will not complain. I will not defend myself. I will not explain. I will accept my punishment with dignity, and set the example of how to behave to anyone who makes a similar mistake. I will make my father proud.

But I will never forgive him.

I know, I broke the rules. But if a rule is unjust should it exist at all? Days seem short here in Levoca, even in the summer. I have more energy than can fill the daylight hours. Sometimes, after the sun sets, I find myself feeling trapped without the ability to go outside and celebrate the beauty of the nighttime sky, or listen to the music as it pours out of the tavern where men gather to discuss the successes of the day. Sometimes my father is kind, and recognizes when I need to feel the freedom of the open air. he will escort me on a walk around town, where I breath in the smell of the stars and bathe in the light of the moon.

But I am not allowed to walk at night alone. Women may not be out after curfew, unescorted.

Sometimes my urge to prowl overwhelms my common sense. When father is busy dealing with late business and arguing with the town council in unofficial nighttime meetings, my skin itches to get outside and celebrate the mysteries of the night.

I love the night.

I have walked out alone before. I do nothing wrong. I simply walk and think and study the stars in the sky. I send up a silent prayer to God for the magnificent beauty of his creation. When the moon is proud and full, I smile and talk to the face of the moon, sharing my secret desires. Only the moon knows my secrets. The moon knows who I love. The moon knows who I hate, despite how much I try not to hate. The moon knows what I fear. I open my heart to the moon and then I am able to return home to sleep.

Last night the moon called and I needed to share. I saw Marek talking to Velika earlier in the day. Velika smiled showing just the right amount of teeth and her cheeks flushed in dainty perfection. My mother always tells me to show fewer teeth, and my face turns red like a tomato when I blush.

Marek laughed, his handsome brown eyes flashing across the distance. He reached out and touched her shoulder in an intimate gesture I had never seen before. He had put that arm around my shoulders before, but somehow this gesture was different. What I had always seen as a sign of affection for me, seemed like a touch of brotherly protection compared to the fleeting connection I had just witnessed.

My heart disappeared at that moment.

The worst part is that Velika saw me watching, and flashed me a look of victory. She does not love Marek. She is always talking about Boris or Danick. But she knows my feelings, and she lives to hurt me.

You must understand why I had to leave the house that night. I wanted to walk over to Marek’s house to catch a glimpse of that face I know so well. I would be able to tell with just once glance if that face now loved my enemy and if I had lost hope forever.

In my desperation to see his face as I have always known it, unmarred by a love for someone so unworthy, I forgot to be cautions. My friend the moon failed me, reaching into the shadowy corner where I thought I was safely hidden and revealing my presence to any who wished to observe.

As fate would have it, the man who saw me was Velika’s father. The father of my rival as well as the rival of my father.

That is why I must accept this punishment with strength and dignity. I cannot bring more shame to my father, even though I believe the law unfair. I cannot give the town a reason to dismiss him.

So I remain here, surrounded by bars of delicate beauty. I will remain strong. I can easily ignore the taunts of the townspeople, even though Velika keeps returning to mock me.

My only fear is how I can face Marek. He has yet to come. Perhaps he does not wish to see his lifelong friend as a caged bird. he always called me his “little bird friend” because I sing and flit around all the time.

My song has now been silenced. I hope he will not come because I cannot face the disappointment in his eyes. If I see in their depth his love for another, my heart will break and my punishment will be complete.

Waiting (100 Word Challenge for Grownups)

We waited in near silence for a sign, barely daring to hope. Would we hear the pealing of bells announcing victory? Or would it be the pounding footsteps of booted soldiers carrying messages of doom?

Mother’s voice cracked in a broken whisper, “Is it me or are bells ringing?’

I strained to hear, and only found ringing silence, broken occasionally by the rise of the wind or the crackle of a log on the fire.  Soon I could only hear the beating of my own fearful heart.

“Is it me or are bells ringing?” asked Grandma, echoing mothers words.

This time I cautiously opened the door.

The Mysterious World of Bubbles

The Weekend Theme over at Sidie’s Blog is one simple (but to me) very magical word: Bubbles. I took a little trip into fantasy fiction this week, I hope you enjoy.

I have a secret. Most people don’t know this, but bubbles contain real magic. No, I’m not just talking about the visible magic of swirling colors that you can see, or the ability to ride away on invisible breezes. That’s just the nature of bubbles, not really magic.

What I am talking about is real, honest to goodness magic. The kind that takes you by surprise and whisks you away to the unexpected before you even know it happened.

Don’t believe me? I am living proof, because I have spent my life with bubble magic. I was once a normal girl like you, spending days with my family and playing silly girl games. Until one summer day, long, long ago when I discovered the secret of bubble magic, and my life has never been the same.

“There’s no bubble magic,” you scoff. “There’s no secret.”

If you aren’t careful, you might find yourself lost in the land of bubbles. And once you’ve been there, your life will change forever.

Have you ever looked into a bubble? I’m sure you have. You’ve seen the swirling colors moving around the perfect sphere until Pop! The bubble disappears with a tiny splash.

But, if you look deeper into a perfect bubble, so deep that you can’t see anything but that bubble, you might be one of the lucky few who see the truth. The shifting colors are not just blobs of color, but windows into another world filled with tiny towns, magical beings, mystical forces, grim castles, and dangerous creatures. Bubbles are the windows and doors to lands most people only find through books and imagination. Bubbles connect here from there, but only for crossing over isn’t without its risks, and only a few people ever discover the truth.

Or maybe I’m the only one.

It happened long, long ago. The summer sun sizzled and my brother, sister, and I couldn’t get motivated to do anything but complain about the heat. Mom didn’t want us wandering down to the swimming hole because our aunt and her family would be coming at some point that day, and Mom didn’t want to have to hunt us down. She made us help get the house ready, which didn’t help our moods as we cleaned in the heat. By 2:00, there was still no sign of our cousins, and Mom had thrown us out of the house, tired of our whining and complaining. Still we weren’t allowed to wander far. We each tried to find a cool place in the shade of the porch or by fanning ourselves with handmade paper fans, but the sun was slowly wilting our spirits into submission.

Then Mom, who I think felt a little guilty for keeping us trapped in an oven, brought out a special treat. Well, two special treats, an ice-cold pitcher of lemonade and a big basin filled with bubble juice. She showed us how to capture the liquid in rings she had made for us out of twigs, and fill the sky with bubbles.

I loved every single bubble.

Eventually, however, my brother and sister couldn’t take the heat anymore, and decided to take some lemonade into our tree house and read while they waited for our cousins.

I kept playing with the bubbles. The ever-changing colors inside the bubbles fascinated me. I felt like they hid secrets that I would understand if I could just make a bubble that would last longer, or a bigger more beautiful bubble. I set about experimenting with ways to create bigger and better bubbles.

Thus began my bubble obsession. My cousins eventually arrived, but I didn’t care. I spent their entire visit of two weeks experimenting with new ways to make bubbles. New tools for bubble rings. Different ways to make bubble mix. I was determined to make the biggest most beautiful bubble ever.

To both my joy and sadness, I succeeded.

Twilight had set in, and all the other kids were running around trying to capture fireflies and place them in tightly lidded jars with holes in the top. We only kept them for an hour and watched their beautiful semaphore before releasing them back into the world to find their mates. As much as I loved chasing fireflies, I didn’t join in, focusing on my bubble experiments.

I had formed a giant ring by patiently weaving together reeds that I had gathered from where they grew by the swimming whole. It had taken several days to complete, but I was sure it would create the world’s best bubble.

I dipped it into the thickest, soapiest, most colorful bubble concoction I had yet created. Raised it carefully, and then took a few running steps so the air would fill the bubble juice and make the bubble grow. It grew. A bubble the size of me. A bubble with every color of the rainbow, and some I couldn’t name. A bubble that contained what looked to me like tiny houses and tiny people in a world that mirrored my own, except that it had richer brighter colors than the tired colors that came from a summer filled with more heat than rain.

The bubble seemed to twinkle and glow, pulsing with energy. Then, in a surprising move, it didn’t float away on the slight breeze like all the others, but floated toward me. It did not pop on contact but enveloped me. Suddenly I found myself inside the bubble, looking out on the world I knew. That world wavered as the bubble rose, and the interior world of the bubble became more solid seeming, carrying with it a lilting song of the inhabitants of that bubble world, including birdsong more sweet than any I’d ever heard, the chatter of many voices, and the movement of people and animals I’d never met before.

As you can expect, I was very excited to have found my way into the bubble world. However, there is one thing I wish I had known that I didn’t find out until a few magical moments later. Before you decide to find your own way into this magical land, you need to know the truth. The only way in and out of the land is through the perfect bubble, and that gateway only lasts until the bubble goes POP!

If you want to return to the land of your home, you must find your way to another perfect bubble, made by another person who sees more in the joy of bubbles than rainbows . . . and that person is hard to find.

Are you the person to make a bubble for me so that I can come home?

Call for Stories

I dragged my lazy carcass out of the house today, in the hopes that change of scenery would help me focus on goals rather than on the meaningless call of mindless computer games. I cashed a check given to me a week and a half ago (I told you I was lazy) and, money in my hand, decided to treat myself to a few things:

  • a package of three moleskin journals to help organize my thoughts on my various projects
  • a warm bowl of french onion soup
  • a hot chai latte

As I munched away on my delicious lunch, I had an internal dialogue with The Storyteller in hopes of narrowing down what exactly my Simultaneous Stories project might be about (you know, the one I announced the other day).

Together the storyteller and I began brainstorming about types of stories we might want to include and we came up with a long list of possibilities. This is where you come in. Below you will find this list. Now obviously I will have to narrow down more, but I’m casting my net out wide to see what I bring back.

If you have a favorite post or two that fits one (or more) of these categories please share the link in the comments. I’m looking for everything: serious, funny, picture posts, poetry, fiction, non-fiction. All I ask is that you limit your submissions to only a few. Think of this as you submitting your best posts for possible publication. There is no way I can include every post I’ve ever loved in this collection, but I hope to be able to include a couple of posts from several different bloggers.  If you link below I will read and hopefully begin to figure out what this project is really about.

So here is the overly long list:

  • stories about (and from) different ages of life
  • stories about what it means to be “Other”
  • stories about acceptance
  • stories about letting go of jealousy, resentment, frustration
  • stories of hope
  • stories about finding perspective
  • stories about a specific day in the life . . .
  • fantasy stories
  • stories of female power
  • stories of nature and respecting nature
  • stories of sisterhood and brotherhood
  • stories of purpose
  • stories that link us; stories about connection
  • common stories told across cultures
  • campfire stories (could include ghost stories)
  • stories told in picture form
  • stories about being a parent
  • stories about war
  • stories of childhood
  • stories of misunderstandings
  • stories about magic

As you can see, this list is way too long, but its a beginning. Now, look over old posts, or if something inspires you, write something new. Then link it here in comments and I will get busy.

Thanks in advance. Join me at the campfire and let’s share stories.

Nathan's puppets tell a story of the summer, Okoboji 2011

Important Request: If you suggest a post and do not use your real name on your blog, please either mention your name in the comment or e-mail me with the information. If I use your writing, I want to do it correctly (with formal permission and correct information). Thank you!

The Gift of Magic

This fabulous photo inspired the following.

“Hush!” the wizened old woman whispered to the excited child next to her. “It will happen soon, but we must be cautious or they will not welcome you.”

Theresa almost vibrated as she tried to contain her excitement, which would normally come out in bursts of giggles and songs. She knew that she would never be given another chance if she ruined this opportunity, as Wise Mother chose  her apprentices with care, and dismissed them quickly if they proved unable to handle the Magic. Theresa had dreamed of learning more about the Magic from the first moment she watched as Wise Mother shared a story in the village center, including images drawn in the sky that showed the adventure to all. Theresa stared at the images  and wished she knew how to create such beauty.

“Theresa, look,” Wise Mother whispered as quietly as possible, her breath tickling Theresa’s ear with each word. “They are here.”

Theresa watched in awe as the fairy ring of mushrooms began to glow, a light that emanated in many colors from the heart of the mushrooms. She lost any urge to sing or move as a faint hum filled the air, seeming to come from everywhere at once. Later Theresa would try to remember the tune so that she could sing it, but it eluded her with the complex beauty of nature singing. Wise Mother explained that it was indeed nature, the grass, the trees, the mushrooms and the earth sang with the joy of the coming meeting.

Eventually Theresa noticed that a variety of small beings had appeared in the glowing circle. Each one was indescribably beautiful and unique. She recognized them only from the lore and stories handed down at the village story circle. Fairies representing every color of the rainbow, and some colors with no names. Tiny gnomes, their wrinkled faces sparkling with joy. Brownies, whose stick-like bodies almost blended in with the color of the earth. There were other creatures as well, that Theresa could not identify.

Suddenly a silence fell, at the appearance of the largest of the fairies whose beauty and glow surpassed all the others. Her wings seemed to shine with flowing colors that sometimes looked like water shimmering, and sometimes like the twinkle of stars. All the tiny creatures bowed their heads toward her, and even the Wise Woman shifted and kneeled, pulling Theresa down.

The Fairy Queen spoke with a voice like butterfly wings, that seemed to enter straight into Theresa’s head bypassing her ears.

“Who have you brought, my young friend?”

At first Theresa was confused, as Wise Mother was anything but young. She was older than the oldest grandfather in the village, and he remembered her as being old even when he was a child. Her wisdom showed in every crinkle of her face and her eyes were hidden by the deep folds of age. But, Theresa realized, compared to these creatures who seemed to be simultaneously ancient and youthful, Wise Mother might indeed be young.

“I have brought someone to be blessed by you,” Wise Mother answered. “I think she is the next person to protect your gift.”

“Are you sure?” The Fairy Queen asked.

“I am sure,” Wise Mother replied. I have tested her, and she has passed each one with strength.

“Then we shall bless her.”

With that the humming began again and grew as all the creatures moved toward Theresa, in a way that startled her.

“Do not be afraid,” Wise Mother whispered, looking deeply into Theresa’s eyes.

The fairies who could fly surrounded her head and her shoulders. The others reached up and touched as high as they could.

With each touch, Theresa felt a sense of warmth move through her body, toward her heart and her mind. Suddenly, the world seemed to shift, and the woods surrounding them took on a sharper appearance. The hum became words, that she could understand. She felt at peace and the urge to lie down and sleep.

When she awoke on the forest floor the creatures were gone and the mushrooms were simple mushrooms again. Wise Mother sat next to her, looking down with tears in her eye and a smile on her face.

“You now have the Magic too. You are, indeed, my heir.”

And so Theresa’s story began . . .

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