Moments in Magical Modernity: X


X.

Pixie-small feet find terra firma as a mother warns against flying on the public sidewalk. On the baseball diamond in the park, there are complaints against winking from third base to home in a kickball game and the rules are changed to keep things fair all round. Starlings swarm and meld into eccentric shapes at the turn of a childish finger, the tiny birds eager to please an equally tiny artist.

Nemiah, the park’s caretaker, watches with appraising eyes as his young students imagine unruly hedges and bushes into lovely topiaries for the Children’s Garden, coaxing the plants into the shapes without every clipping or snipping a single leaf. Animals, geometrics, knights on horseback, and shapely towers materialize under the fruitful imaginations of nature-sensitive children.

Leina leads her prenatal yoga class in her studio of soft blues and whites. She guides and transitions her class through the movements in soft, soothing tones, the sound of water pouring and rushing through her dulcet voice. Together, they bathe souls and bodies weary with the work of fostering and growing life in consolation, commiseration, and calm.

A young satyr blushes from his horns to his hooves with joy as a lovely, rosy redhead accepts his invitation to the Solstice Block Party and Dance with a pretty smile.

Childhood and growth are as full and varied and joyful and tumultuous as it can ever be. Babyish “I love you’s” still give way to the intermittent “I hate you’s” of adolescence and puberty. New life is celebrated profusely and milestones. First steps, first words, first flights, first shapeshifts, first discoveries of hands, feet, tails, wings. Lullabies are sung over cradles, midnight feedings stumbled and whispered and sleepily cooed through. Children grow and learn. They make friends and attend school. Magic does not separate them. Rather, it pulls these little ones together in a world sewn together by Magic.

A little girl is awoken in the deep night, sensitive ears catching the sound of crying through her open window. Peering out, she spies the neighbor boy weeping in his darkened bedroom with only the silver of moon to witness. Weeping for fear of the shadows.  A bit of paper folding, a silvery bit of flame whispered on a breath, and the little Mrs. Darling nightlight floats across the hedge barrier to rest on the boy’s window sill. There the paper lantern sits to cheerily flicker away throughout the night and assure him that he is not alone. Never alone.

981d75d98fc78658a985bf30078dbe39

Photo Credit – Pinterest

Advertisements

Moments in Magical Modernity: IX


IX.

The public library is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The Night Librarian is a woman named Lydia Dumont and everyone knows that there is no one better-suited for the job. She is knowledgeable on just about every subject the library holds within its walls; after all, she has lived out the necessary centuries in order to be thusly educated, as well as quite proficient.

Lydia is a statuesque woman with piercing grey eyes that look up at you (or down at you, depending on the sort of question you have just asked her) over cunning cat-eye framed glasses. She always wears a ruby-red lip and impeccably manicured nails to match, as if she has decided that the ’50s and its styles rightfully belong on her person. And, of course, they do. You will ever find her in hourglass-hugging pencil skirts and sheath dresses, kitten-sharp high heels, and hear her declare Calvin Klein a “darling” for his everlastingly vintage vision in dress designs. Oh, her hair, you ask? That is…well…Shakespeare would say “whatever color it please God” (Much Ado About Nothing, 2.3.30). Or rather, in this case, whatever color it please Lydia. Blonde, brunette, redhead, silver fox, ebony-tressed…one can only imagine how they will find the Night Librarian from night to night.

The library is Lydia’s domain, a kingdom all her own. Everyone knows that she rules absolutely here when night falls and the midnight oil burns late. University students spend many a night here, the Librarian’s expertise frequently a lifeline for them. Yes, she is often referred to simply by her profession and in hushed, respectful tones. There are stories of her ire and wrath for those who disrespect the sanctity of her domain and her complete authority within it. There are whispered tales of unsavory behaviour–an excessively foolish set of kits and cubs literally foxing first-edition volumes, for example–resulting in said individuals or even whole coteries never seen in or near the library ever again.  And fines? Return her precious texts late? Let’s not even joke about such a thing. Raucous behaviour is one thing; the loss or, in her mind, theft of a priceless reliquary of knowledge? You had best set your affairs in order and make yourself right with your faith.

Do not, Sirs and Madames, mess with the Librarian. Or you may come to fear the shadow of her citadel.

c5ea96fac002d4fbe7d24f17253d2436

Moments in Magical Modernity: IV


IV.

The day after the local werewolf Running, the Hollow Bean always opened early (or stayed open extra late, depending on how you looked at it) and was positively slammed! Pearla gave an exhausted flit of her wings, took another spoonful of saguaro cactus flower jelly straight from the jar (her own personal stash), and once more unto the breach!

The café and coffee house was packed with tens of ravenous werewolves amongst the other usual nighttime crowd. Exhausted teenagers laid flopped out on booth benches or with their heads pillowed on their arms, their corresponding adults trying not to nod off over their bacon and eggs and coffee. Older wolves had long ago repaired to the quiet and tranquility of their homes. Good thing the Day After Running was tantamount to a religious holiday so they could all go home and sleep.

Pearly tucked a soft, rolled-up scarf beneath the tousled strawberry-blonde head of sleepy Sierra Bondarich before refilling Ilya’s coffee mug. Jessica looked just about to follow her daughter into sleep so Pearla set a scone with an extra dollop of honeydew cream in front of her, for deep sleep and sweet dreams when her head hit the pillow at home.

Hurrying back into the kitchen to refill her tray with orders, Pearly took a moment to breathe out a tired sigh.

“Sounds like you need breakfast yourself,” came the booming voice of Kingsley, the Hollow’s owner and cook. He was no fairy but a large stone-skinned ogre; however, if anyone personified ‘gentle giant’, it was Kingsley. He refilled Pearla’s tray with ready, steaming orders, and then motioned with his overly large fingers for her to open her mouth. When she did, he tucked in a piece of caramelized bacon. It was sweet, a bit spicy, with a creamy crunch that made her tingle from the crown of her bun to the tips of her twinkle toes as she chewed it.

“Kingsley, what is that?” Pearly marveled, feeling invigorated beyond even magic’s norm.

“It is special recipe I am developing, for stamina and strength. But! You tell me if you start getting rash anywhere. If so, I will need to back off on seven-league peppercorn. So you tell Kingsley, yes?” And with that, he shooed her out of the kitchen so he could continue cooking.

The heavy tray balanced as thought it weighed nothing, Pearly made her way back out into the sleepy buzz of the Hollow. She set down a few plates for some electro-hobs (common nickname for Nockers these days) who had just finished the third shift at the power plant. They were eager for their homes and beds when the buses started running again in an hour. Tired Nockers were surly Nockers, however, and so Pearla never told them what that extra sweet taste was in their coffee but the charisma-spun sugar always helped to make them just a little less…them. And, plus, there were children present so if they had put up a row, a knock with her moonglass tray would have been enough to quell it.

Soon the werewolf families started to trickle out, murmuring thanks to the staff of the Hollow and leaving generous tips as they went.

Pearla and Trystan tidied up tables and set everything to rights again, the latter helping out with carrying exhausted thirteen year olds to cars if any was needed. Lillian secreted treats into jacket pockets and breathed sweet-dream kisses onto cheeks that were still childhood rosy beneath the dust of the night’s Running. Soon, the Hollow’s busy buzz fell to a light murmur as they began to prepare for the morning shift fairies to come in. When Elyria, Barton, and Jessamin arrived, Pearla, Trystan, and Lillian pulled on their scarves and jackets and happily made for home.

Upon her arrival in her tenth floor apartment, which she ironically called her ‘little bungalow’ (she loved living high up, it reminded her of her grandfae’s bedtime stories about once upon a time when fairies were tiny and lived in trees ), Pearla was greeted by the sleepy yawns of banana-leaf-eared hobcat, who then promptly went back to sleep in her corner. The fairy barista shrugged off her coat, leaving it where it fell, and, with wearied flutterings and all the grace of an exhausted cartoon princess, she fell into bed.

[Cover photo credit – https://www.pinterest.com/artofjlmeyer/]

Flash Fiction: The Despairing Truth


“You must stop this, sir! You mustn’t speak this way!”

The lady’s hand pressed against the bodice of her dress as if to keep her heart from breaking through the cage of her ribs, corset, and stays and bursting right through the delicate silk of her dress. His words shocked and startled her and she struggled to stand her ground.

“Nay, Madame! I must and will speak my mind,” the gentleman insisted.

The lady drew back from him as if in fear. Spoken words were dangerous, as they could not be unsaid. Spoken minds were even worse, as they could be forever remembered.

“I beg you, say no more!” she pled, anger beginning to forment within her at this intrusion to her serenity. “I am a married woman, I remind you.”

“And your husband is a fool to make such a devoted wife penniless after his own foolishness!” he spoke hotly now at her mindless defense of the man all knew to be a thoughtless cad.

Her breath was stolen by that hard-slung word.

“Penniless?” Impossible. “You are mistaken, sir. Utterly mistaken. My family–”

“Has been in debit for months, Madame.” His voice betrayed his sadness as this fact. “Your fortune is in shambles. Your husband has borrowed against promises and his debts are being called in. Even now, the bailiffs are on their way to your residence.”

The warm summer day had turned deathly chill to her and she felt herself grow faint, grasping at the tree under which they stood to keep herself upright. He reached to help her but she held up a trembling hand to ward him off.

“I must get home. The staff will be aghast and my children so frightened. Please, take me home, Stanton, and, as we go, you will tell me all. Do you hear me? All!”

Stanton did as commanded, offering her his arm to lean on. He led her back towards the road, hailed a hansom and, as they drove through the busy morning streets as quickly as may, he detailed Isabelle’s husband’s descent into disgrace, shame, and penury at the gambling tables and moneylender’s counters.

Isabelle’s face grew pale and then stoney as marble by turns as her eyes were opened to the unabashed truth to which only she had been a stranger. “Then we are indeed ruined,” she breathed in horror-stricken resignation, “Utterly ruined.” Not only in lack of money but their respectability – her respectability – was now stricken through in black. Lowell had ruined not only himself but also her, shattered their children’s prospects, and their family name.

She turned her eyes to the man who sat across from her, those eyes made brighter by the tears that filled them, her hands twisted together so tightly as to almost tear her delicate gloves. But she did not cry. Instead, she fixed her face like a flint on this man who claimed to be her friend and asked,

“Stanton, what am I to do?”

The look on his face said all she needed to know.

Missing the Thrill


She feels strange, standing here, in a dress instead of her silks, heels instead of boots, and, instead of a helmet, a hat more complex than a gig harness. She feels like a fool, all truth be told. The running of the Belmont Stakes and here she is, on the sidelines. Her muscles are amazingly relaxed and loose. Perhaps it’s being here, on the track, the scent of the dirt rising into her nostrils, mingled with the scent of the horses that will run it. They aren’t even in the gate yet but she can smell them, she can hear their nickering, the stomp and thud of hooves, and feel the ripple of muscles as they are loaded into the gate. She can practically feel Winchester moving and shifting beneath her, his muscles coiled, ready to run.

She had fought, bit, and clawed her way into that gate. She had been good, too. One of the best. Winchester’s Country Gentleman had never run better than when she was his jockey. She misses it, all of it. She misses walking him around the paddock, over the track. She misses counting out her eight pairs of goggles and layering them just so atop her helmet. She even misses the taste of dust in her throat.

Then, in the back of her memory, there comes the thunder of the track, the world tilting to the left, and the scream that haunts her dreams even now. But while she’s here…she can forget, at least for a little while, ironic though it might seem.

She smiles, hearing the bugle peel out over the Stakes, signaling the race is about to get underway. Turning from the fence, she begins to make her way up to the stands, though she moves slowly. Prosthetic legs and heels, a far cry from her jockey boots.

Arsenic Candy (complete)


Author’s Note: This is quite the departure from any sort of story I’ve ever written, I think. But I enjoy its bite. I finally figured out how to finish this quick-write (only took me four years to do so). Enjoy.

= = =

“I taste arsenic on the back of my throat. Are you trying to kill me again?”

I slowly, gently nudged the brown-glass bottle to the back of the open cabinet in front of my chair with the toe of my shoe. “No,” I said, not moving from my microscope, though I knew my voice carried a bit of five-year-old pout. The sort of pout that you get when something doesn’t go your way but you can’t admit it.

Of course I had been trying to kill him. I had been trying to kill him for years. But it seemed that he had developed a tolerance for rat poison after all the dollops in his morning coffee. Oh, well. Scratch experiment #275 for a failure. Back to the drawing board, I supposed, literally and figuratively.

He just shook his head and looked at me in that contemptuous, pitying way. “You’d do better with ricin,” he commented rather sagely and shuffled over to his lab table.

Who was he to pity me and, moreover, give me advice on how to kill him? It was his fault I was still stuck here, amongst these fumes and biologicals all day long. If he’d simply approve my thesis, I could move on and be done with it. But no.

“I have determined,” as he loved to say, “that your thesis lacks depth, structure, and you need more time to perfect your method of experimentation.”

More tests, more experiments, more data. Evermore data. It had been seven long years, my financial aid was just about dry, the university was dead set on being rid of me, and here was the old geezer pissing time away because he was a lonely, old, sadistic prick.

The place smelled like mothballs and formaldehyde and it clung to me when I left. Even showering with hot water and lemons didn’t get rid of it. That was no way to pick up a girl in a bar or club: smelling like a convalescent home. Once, a girl told me that being with me was like sleeping in a coffin or a morgue. Yeah, that relationship went well, meaning it was blessedly brief and long ago.

I hadn’t had sex in three years. Three damned years with nothing but my own hand for company! Even the macabre girl was good for a roll at least.

So, yes, I was trying to kill him, had been for years. But the old dotard just wouldn’t keel over and die. It was like he had made a deal with the afterlife to be my personal torment here on earth just so long as he could keep living, keeping me from my goals, from even the barest acknowledgement of the scientific community. Because of a foul ordinance of the university that required doctoral candidates to have the signed approval of their supervisor on any article they wished to publish, my professional dossier was empty. Old Crab wouldn’t sign off any even the merest observational report that was intended to leave his lab.

Yes, Old Crab. And he looked the part, too. His eyes were beady and black and glittered in the lights of the old-fashioned Bunsen burners that he insisted on using, scoffing at modern heating plates. His hands were gnarled and he had arthritis so badly that his fingers sort of clamped together most of the time so that he looked to have two claws instead of ten fingers. When he flew into a rage, he turned a bright orangey red. Not even a pinky red like most humans. His skin was so sallow that the red fused into an almost carrotish color when the blood rushed to his face and neck.

I hated this man, hated him with all my gut and being. I was ready, I was done. I wanted to be free. But I was so invested, so in debt, that I couldn’t afford to just walk away. I had to graduate, I had to have at least something to show for my years of servitude. I was so busy stewing in my utter rancor and hatred that I didn’t realize that it had fallen quiet in the lab. It was never quiet. Old Crab was always clanking things together and dropping stirrers and such. So quiet was a curiosity. A curiosity that made me turn around.

And I couldn’t help it. I laughed. I laughed and laughed and laughed until I cried. And then I picked up the phone.

They said he died of heart failure due to old age and an extremely carcinogenic habit of particular cigarettes (Weren’t those things banned years ago? He must have eaten them like candy).

Me? All I could think of was the sight of him on the floor, arms and legs splayed out in like a crab that’s been flipped onto its back and stomped on.

Is this what they would call a frabjous day?

Visual Inspiration – Photo Prompt


From Strangling My Muse:

What was I supposed to do? It just fell open and everything started happening! Cities with skyscrapers built of spindly black lines sprouted up, coordinating suburbs circling in on themselves in their cul-de-sacs further down the page. Little drawn people of all shapes and sizes and, apparently, professions began running hither, thither, and yon, some even going so far as to traipse off the pages and scamper off into the library in search of their own private heaven in the guise of the science, education, or fine arts sections. How am I supposed to find them and put them back? Oh, no, no, no! No Ark exodus! No, come back!