THE FOGDOGS

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THE FOGDOGS

        Emileeannalee was an impish muundog. She flitted in the forest freely at night.

        This Halloween night brought ground fog and with it fear, for the fogdogs may follow. Fogdogs hunted the muundogs mercilessly. Fogdogs appeared in the fog as an enticing glow drawing muundogs, like a flame draws a moth, away from Truuluuv the moon.

        What fogdogs did with captured muundogs, no muundog had returned to tell.

        Halloween night in the forest was a festival of many colored lights as fairies, imps, gnomes, pixies, muundogs, and even trolls sparkled.

        Emileeannalee sat upon a branch doing her best to enjoy the festival. Emileeannalee would glance apprehensively at the ground fog below. Truuluuv the moon caressed her and seduced her to remain.

        Then Emileeannalee saw below in the slowly dancing ground fog the glow of her two dear muundog friends Bethesaadzsaad and Dilaanaad.

        Bethesaadzsaad said, “Hello, Emileeannalee. Can you help us to carry all this candeedeew up to you?”

        Emileeannalee and all muundogs loved candeedeew. She broke from the embrace of Truuluuv the moon and descended to the side of her two dear friends.

        Emileeannalee said, “I cannot see the candeedeew beside you because of the ground fog. Where exactly did you set it?”

        Bethesaadzsaad and Dilaanaad vanished and there stood two fogdogs.

        Before Emileeannalee could flit away the two fogdogs lunged and each took hold of an arm of hers. The teeth of the fogdogs felt like moss but still Emileeannalee could not free herself.

        Emileeannalee cried out as she was dragged away into the fog but there was nothing her friends of light could do.

        They never saw her again.

        A baby girl named Emily is born to Beth and Dilan Caleb this Halloween night.

        Emily shrieks and cries in horror.

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FALL OF THE SPARROW

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FALL OF THE SPARROW

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        I had a great idea for Halloween night.

        It was going to be a beautiful clear night, not really spooky, but there was going to be a total eclipse of the full moon to set the festive Halloween mood. The “blue moon” this October would turn into a “blood moon”.

        I was going to fly my new Carlson Aircraft Sparrow Ultra-LTA around all night, cloaking the Sparrow with gossamer fabric to make it look like a bat.

        The new Sparrow Ultra- LTA was designed as a low-altitude personal conveyance. You could fly it to work but you couldn’t shop with it, not yet anyway (because of the added weight and all). It was more like… sky surfing.

        The Sparrow resembled a hang-glider. The big wing and the suspended mini-fuselage below were made of ultra-thin neoplastic containing the Helium-Honeycomb technology. The suspended mini-fuselage was mainly a place for me to stand and guide the Sparrow. The Sparrow basically worked like any lighter-than-air (LTA) craft. “Heavy” atmospheric air was taken into special cells and so the weight of the craft was increased for descent and landing; expelling the “heavy” atmospheric air allowed the pure helium in their special cells to lift the craft. The Sparrow was propelled forward by Push Technology ultra-light ultra-fast thruster compression cells along the big wing. Of course it was solar powered but you could charge the compression cells for night flying.

        When the full moon came up so did I. I was thinking that it was too bad I couldn’t carry candy to drop from the sky but then I thought I’d probably knock out some little kid. Puncture his little pumpkin. Jack his lantern.

        Of course, some drone hobbyist kid was probably going to send up a drone to demand a treat from me.

        The Sparrow rose slowly and silently up to 100 feet. I leveled off there and proceeded to “surf” the evening atmosphere. I was once again “Luke Skylicker”. Except that tonight I was disguised as a giant bat for the people below. “Bat Mensch”, maybe?

        Actually, my fellow engineers called me “Mary Poppins”.

        The evening below me was beautiful with the constellations of streetlights and houselights. The full moon continued her regal promenade above the eastern horizon.

        As I surfed high over the local neighborhoods I started to notice faint squeals from the trick-or-treaters below.

        The eclipse of the moon began. The bright moon began to molder in the corner as the earth’s shadow crept upon her.

        I began to notice patches of mist passing me but there was no breeze to speak of.

        I continued to surf airspace. I had enough “wing” stored to stay up three hours and witness the entire progression of the moon’s eclipse.

        So far no drones had harassed me.

        Hmmm, I wondered if I could order a pizza to be delivered by a drone to me up here.

        The earth’s devouring shadow upon the moon turned to a russet color like dried blood.

        I noticed the moving patches of mist with increasing frequency. I figured it must be some mild condensation phenomenon at this height. But I tried to hypothesize what could be moving them. Differences in density?

        The patches of mist appeared to be in a vortex around me. What the hell? Suddenly I was engulfed in mist, in a fog. I got nervous. I couldn’t see any lights besides the orb of the moon that was being bitten by the shadow of the earth. It was time to descend slowly and safely below this weird fog. Talk about trick-or-treat!

        As I slowly descended the fog appeared to stay around me. Was this fog all the way to the ground? Where the hell had it come from? Was it a toxic cloud?

        I could not see so I had to descend hoping that I would finally touch earth and not some tree or chimney or power line… I was truly frightened.

        I touched grass, thank God.

        Just as I was about to disembark my little fuselage I heard a squeal, then a growl, then a roar! There were shadows racing around me in the fog. Did I land in a zoo? There was no zoo near where I lived!

        I shouted out, “Hey! Where am I?!”

        Something was running towards me!

        Suddenly a pig fled past me, squealing and grunting.

        My mouth fell open.

        I thought I saw a dog approaching but as it passed me chasing the pig I saw that it was a black jaguar!! I fell back against the fuselage in shock.

        Then I heard the rumbling and the ground shuddered and there came a horrifying scream.

        I was the scream!

        I swear a huge hideous dragon undulated past me. A monstrous scaly scraggly dragon like dragons you have seen a hundred times in fantasy pictures.

        I had collapsed in the narrow fuselage. I had soiled myself.

        I looked up. The moon was in total eclipse and entirely the color of dried blood.

        I came to what was left of my senses and I initiated lift-off of the Sparrow to slowly rise straight upwards. I just wanted to be away from that nightmare. I thought that perhaps the fog was a toxic expulsion after all and that it must have affected my brain chemistry. I had to have been hallucinating! Yes, my mind must have tricked me!

        I thought with sobriety, “So now I’m going to be a hundred feet in the air and hallucinating…”

        What had I done? What could I do?

        And then within that fog still somehow swirling around me I began to see figures…and… oh, God, faces! Men and women and children with mournful faces and open mouths. They were trying to tell me something but I couldn’t hear them or understand them.

        And who tries to understand a hallucination?!

        I heard myself screaming again.

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        They find my body roasted hanging in the power lines above the fallen charred Sparrow. There is a gathering of appalled men and women and children dressed in their festive costumes, looking and pointing up at me. The power company engineers and the firemen and the police are trying to retrieve my smoldering corpse.

        I am up here, above my death, a patch of swirling mist, a miasma, sucking upward into the blood moon.

        I see that I am not drawn alone.

        So how was your death?

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TEMPEST

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TEMPEST

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        Patricia was such a cute little girl.

        Patricia’s father had killed her mother and then he had killed himself. A neighbor rescued her.

        Patricia had no family remaining who would or could take her in. She became a ward of the state.

        My wife Domenica and I took Patricia in as a foster child. We needed the money.

        I felt so sorry for Patricia. She was so sweet after all she had been through. I could only imagine the therapy she would need in later life.

        My little half-breed Pitt Bull named Napoleon seemed charmed by Patricia but when Patricia played with her imaginary friend, Napoleon would bark. And whenever Napoleon barked, Domenica would say, “Get rid of that dog!”

        I asked Patricia, “What is your friend’s name?” And she answered so sweetly and matter-of-factly, “Tempest.”

        I said, “What a nice name. Where did you learn that name?”

        Patricia replied, “From my mommy and my daddy.”

        I asked, “Did they have a friend named Tempest?”

        Patricia answered, “Tempest is my sister.”

        I asked, “Sister? I didn’t know you had a sister. What happened to her?”

        Patricia replied, “She’s here.”

        I said, “I mean: where is she really?”

        Patricia answered, “She is dead.”

        I asked, “Dead? Oh, Patty. What happened?”

        Patricia recited, “She was sick. My mommy and daddy said we were twins. Patricia and Tempest. My mommy and my daddy knew Tempest had to die. She died when mommy borned us.”

        I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Patty. Tempest would have been nice, right? A good sister. You would have been a good sister to her, too.”

        Patricia said, “Tempest knew she was sick. She knew they were not going to let her be alive. She told me to help her. She said she would make me sick if I didn’t help her. She hurt me.”

        I didn’t know what to say, except, “That wasn’t nice. Sometimes a sister can be mean,” thinking of my own sister.

        When I told all this to Domenica she said, “Great. Now we have the plot for a horror movie.”

        I said, “Oh, come on. It’s a miracle she isn’t more traumatized after all she has been through.”

        We soon found out that Patricia walked in her sleep.

        One night little Napoleon woke us up with frantic barking. We stumbled downstairs to find Patricia in the kitchen in front of the stove. The oven was turned on!

        Napoleon was hopping excitedly. Domenica turned off the oven and then she opened the oven door. She looked inside.

        Domenica sighed with relief.

        Then Domenica turned her head and looked at me as if daring me to dismiss her worry. I just pursed my lips in concurrence.

        As we gently guided Patricia back upstairs she suddenly turned toward little Napoleon and she called down, “Hot dog!” and Napoleon yelped and whined and ran.

        Napoleon would not come into the kitchen after that. And after that I could see that Domenica had distanced herself from little Patricia.

        Domenica was conflicted and she felt so guilty but she asked me at the breakfast table, “What have we gotten ourselves into? I’m sorry for Patty but we don’t need the money that badly.”

        Then Patricia came into the kitchen for breakfast and she said, “I washed my hands. Did you, mommy?”“

        I whispered aside to Domenica, “See? She called you mommy.”

        Domenica answered Patricia, saying, “I was trying to wash my hands,” and then she hissed to me, “I’m taking a shower,” and she left the kitchen.

        I smiled at Patricia.

        Patricia said, “Mommy doesn’t like Tempest.”

        I said quickly, “But we both love you, sweetie.”

        I returned to my coffee with renewed interest. Patricia stared at me for several minutes. I made a silly nervous face at her. Then I remembered, “Hey! Tomorrow is your birthday and its Halloween, too! What do you want? What are you going to be?”

        Patricia said, “Tempest.”

        Domenica screamed from upstairs. I heard a loud thud.

        I dashed up the stairs and into the bathroom. Domenica was writhing on the floor outside of the shower doors, naked, wet, and crying in pain.

        Domenica had been scalded. She cried, “The water turned boiling!”

        I told little Patricia to be good and to remain at the house while I drove Domenica to the emergency room.

        As doctors salved and bandaged Domenica’s blisters I mumbled in a daze “Something went wrong with the water heater…”

        One doctor asked, “What kind of water heater do you have? These are like burns from a boiler!”

        On the way back home Domenica wept even though she was sedated, “If you love me you’ll take Patty back to Social Services…!”

        I pleaded, “Are you listening to yourself? Why are you blaming that poor little girl? Please don’t be hysterical. I’ll find out what happened with the damn water heater. OK? Domenica? OK?”

        Domenica became coldly silent and she said softly, “OK. Dear.”

        I sighed because I knew I was in for “the treatment” as only a Latina can give it.

        And of course I couldn’t find anything wrong with the water heater.

        I couldn’t sleep that night. I was crap at work the next day and my co-workers were especially steeped in assholery. I was almost glad to go home to face Domenica’s retribution.

        But when I got home I smelled carne asada grilling. To my surprise, Patricia was helping Domenica in the kitchen. They were both smiling. There was a birthday cake on the counter with orange frosting. I said thankfully, “There are my girls.”

        We ate dinner together pleasantly. I complimented Domenica, “This is great carne asada. Different. What did you use for marinade?”

        Domenica held up a dog-food can. Patricia giggled.

        I suddenly realized that Napoleon hadn’t greeted me when I got home.

        I looked around and asked, “Where is Napoleon, anyway?”

        Domenica smiled with her teeth. She frightened me. Patricia giggled.

        I yelled, “Where is my dog?!”

        Domenica replied coldly, “Near to your heart.”

        I stood up in loathing and fury. I had a sickening premonition of horror that this was no practical joke!

        I screamed, “What have you done with my dog?!”

        I was holding the big steak knife. I was shaking. I felt dizzy, nauseas. I was in a nightmare. I couldn’t wake up.

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        When I woke up, Domenica was lying twisted on the floor, dead. She had been stabbed repeatedly. I was sitting beside her.

        I was crying over Domenica’s slashed body.

        I was sawing at my wrists with the bloody steak knife.

        I heard Patricia singing softly behind me.

“See-saw,

Teeter-totter,

Baby’s Breath

For daughter Patty

Teeter-totter,

See-saw,

Tempest holds

The Devil’s Claw.”

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PATRICK BUTCHER’S HAUNTED THEATER

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PATRICK BUTCHER’S HAUNTED THEATER

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        Patrick Butcher had been a child star on “an American television sitcom depicting the home life of a family of benign monsters”. He had played the precocious kid vampire named Ruddy.

        He was now physically a middle-aged adult sitting on a couch, leaning over the coffee table, and talking with his new agent, Konrad Phillips of Rad Productions.

        Patrick exclaimed, “We tied Bowling For Soup in the television ratings!”

        Konrad Phillips nodded sympathetically to Patrick, saying, “Yes, yes, that was an amazing decade. But now you are making some decent money again with the ‘nostalgia’ appearances that I am arranging. And our CD (What Ever Happened To Ruddy?) gets decent airplay during Halloween. But, Patrick, you need to diversify so that you can hold-on to the money this time.”

        Patrick removed the rolled-up hundred-dollar bill from his nose and he asked hesitantly, “What did you have in mind, Konrad?”

        Konrad raised both of his hands to Patrick, saying, “Just hear me out, OK? Anybody knows: you can’t go wrong with real estate. And I’ve been looking into a property that is right up your alley.”

        Patrick snorted, “Too many shysters have gone up my alley already.”

        Konrad countered, “And Moby Dick still blows in your nose. But just hear me out.”

        Patrick asked, “Ahab was a Jew wasn’t he, Konrad?”

        Konrad replied, “Captain Ahab, no, Patty-Boy, but King Ahab, yes, and yes, dogs licked his blood for worshipping Baal.”

        Patrick smiled, “You like it when bitches lick your ball, don’t you?”

        Konrad said, “Will you listen to me? I’m serious. Otherwise you can just chase Moby Dick until you’re sunk again.”

        Patrick laid back and beckoned Konrad, “Fine. Come on, come on. So tell me already.”

        Konrad explained, “I found you a theater for sale…”

        Patrick sat up, interrupting, “A fucking theater? Are you out of your belfry? Theaters don’t make any money!”

        Konrad continued, “Listen: it’s a bargain. And theaters make their money at the concession stands. Besides, this one is perfect for you and your career!”

        Patrick asked, “How the hell…”

        Konrad said, “It’s haunted.”

        Patrick asked, “Who the hell…”

        Konrad said, “Imagine: Patrick Butcher’s Haunted Theater.”

        Patrick asked, “Why the hell…”

        Konrad said, “We own the rights to your character Ruddy, remember. You can play Ruddy as an adult now, the host, the mascot of the Patrick Butcher’s Haunted Theater.”

        Patrick asked, “What the hell…”

        Konrad said, “We…You’ll feature classic horror films.”

        Patrick asked, “Where the hell…”

        Konrad said, “It’s a bargain! The costs will be minimal. The concession stand will be a gold-mine! Paranormal paraphernalia: the merchandising will be a gold-mine!”

        Patrick asked, “When the hell do we start?” but then he suddenly soberly remembered and asked, “What makes it ‘haunted’?”

        Konrad sat back and cleared his throat. Then he shrugged and smiled and leaned forward, saying, “In 1903 six-hundred men, women, and children died there trapped in a fire.”

        Patrick, wide-eyed, asked, “How the hell…”

        Konrad answered, “Design fuck-up: all the doors opened inward. The place was packed with families there for an afternoon variety show. When the fire broke-out the fleeing people inside were pressed against the closed doors by all the others in a panic behind them.”

        Patrick moaned.

        Konrad, now in a reverie, continued, “Not even the smoke could get out of the theater. Finally, someone saw smoke in the alley-way and called the Firemen. But Firemen couldn’t get the doors open by then because of the piles of bodies. When they finally opened the doors a little they had to hook the charred corpses out the doors before they could push the doors open all the way.”

        Patrick said, “Oh, gawd…”

        Konrad continued, “It was too late for everyone. Afterward, the burned bodies of men, women, and children had to be stacked like lumber in the alley-way.”

        Patrick sarcastically asked, “And you think I should own that?”

        Konrad snapped out of his nightmare reverie and shook his head, saying, “They rebuilt it after that. With all the safety features that were missing. Missing because the former owners had been in such a hurry to open the theater.”

        Patrick made a sour face, “I’m so glad.”

        Konrad said, “People have said that they can still hear cries for help in the alley-way and sometimes they smell smoke and sometimes they see ghosts circulating lost in the theater.”

        Konrad concluded, “It’s perfect!”

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        Konrad Phillips of Rad Productions really knew how to do his job. The Halloween opening of Patrick Butcher’s Haunted Theater was sold-out online in a matter of hours. The (almost incidental) feature was “Night of the Living Chainsaw Massacre”. Patrick Butcher was there on the blood-red carpet in his Ruddy the Vampire attire. The Channel 66 “News at Six” camera crew was set-up.

        The Channel 66 “News at Six” news babe, dressed like a slutty witch, asked in exasperation, “So where is the ‘sold-out’ crowd of movie-goers? Looks like you sold us out, Ruddy. Trick or fuckin’ Trick, asshole?”

        Patrick stuttered, “I don’t… I don’t get it!” and he turned to Konrad who now was covering his face from the cameras, “What the fuck, Konrad?”

        Konrad ran into the theater.

        The Channel 66 “News at Six” news babe ordered her camera crew, “Let’s fly. This is crap. I’ll get you for this, Cruddy. You really do suck… vampire ass,” and the Channel 66 “News at Six” team drove away with a squeal.

        Patrick covered his face with both hands and screamed, “I’m finished! Konrad, you have fucked me for the last time!”

        Suddenly, Konrad was back beside Patrick and he hissed to Patrick’s face, “Get a grip, you loser! I know how we can turn this around.”

        Patrick was suddenly aware of the smell of smoke. He turned toward the theater. Smoke was indeed beginning to billow from the lobby doors.

        Patrick screamed at Konrad, “What have you done? Are you insane? You think we’re going to collect any insurance money?! I’m not going to jail!” and Patrick ran into the theater followed by Konrad who was yelling, “Wait! Wait! Wait!”

        Patrick ran down the darkened aisle toward the movie-screen stage from which the smoke appeared to be emerging. The smoke suddenly ceased. Patrick yelled, “What the hell…”

        Konrad arrived next to Patrick, gasping, “You idiot! I didn’t do this! I didn’t do anything!”

        Suddenly the theater doors slammed shut one by one in rapid succession. Patrick and Konrad followed the sound of each slamming door with a jerk of their head.

        Konrad then turned around toward the towering movie-screen and blanched. He cried to Patrick, “Look! Oh, Jesus, Jesus…”

        Patrick screamed.

        On the silver screen was a scene as if it were a mirror image of the theater but the scene was crowded with translucent apparitions of men, women, and children.

        Patrick and Konrad whirled around and gazed wide-eyed at the empty theater seats. Then they turned back around and the apparitions in the scene on the screen applauded, and they could hear the applause!

        Suddenly a flickering blood-red light immersed the theater. Shadows raced along the walls. A great concert of wailing and crying arose all around. Acrid vapor filled the theater.

        Patrick thought he was going to faint.

        Konrad thought he was going to vomit.

        Patrick and Konrad grabbed each other in a desperate hug of terror.

        They closed their eyes forever.

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        On television What Ever Happened To Ruddy was playing behind the Channel 66 “News at Six” news babe as she recounted, “It was a pathetic Halloween hoax by a washed-up former child star and his shameless agent. We’ve seen it so many times. Now Patrick Butcher and his agent, Konrad Phillips, have been unavailable for comment, apparently vanishing after being exposed as media ghouls.”

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WHISPER YOUR NAME INTO MY HEART (3)

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Chapitre III ~ Coups De La Queue Du Démon (Blows of the Demon’s Tail)

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A s punishment for my insolence in the council chambers of the King my father, the Queen my mother has ordered the whipping of Magge my nurse my tutor my confidant.  In front of my eyes are two soldiers, one on each side of Magge, holding her erect with her arms pulled tautly outstretched.  She is stripped naked and stands in a pile of straw within my own bed chamber.

        The King my father and the Queen my mother and Mafeo The Motherfucker watch as the Executioner prepares to flex The Demon’s Tail down upon poor Magge.  A third soldier restrains me as I scream saying ~ No, no, no, no, no!~

        With that first stroke The Demon’s Tail pops like a giant ember and Magge screams and I scream with her.  Her innocent blood sprays onto the straw at her feet.

        With that second stroke Magge screams through bravely clenched teeth and she shudders.  I hear myself wailing.

        With that third stroke there is a snake of blood crawling down her bare leg.  Magge’s head falls forward onto her breast and she is limp.  The two soldiers hold her still erect like a crucified doll.  Should I thank the Devil that she is fainted?

        With that fourth stroke her excoriated flesh shakes but she only moans in delirium.  A second snake of blood joins the first in a pool on the straw at her feet.

        With that fifth stroke her unconscious body convulses in animal resistance and she makes an unearthly howling sound.

        With that sixth stroke there is a bursting halo of bloody spray that strikes us all.  The King my father says ~ Enough! ~

        The soldiers let Magge collapse face~down.  Her six bloody slashes pulse and disgorge a bloody tide that the straw cannot devour.  I am released by the soldier and I throw myself beside Magge and I kiss her face.  I become bloody.  The Queen my mother unto me sternly says ~ I only hope you have learned your lesson. ~

        I clench an imaginary sword and to them I say ~ Someday I will recite this lesson to all of you! ~

        As the King my father and the Queen my mother turn away and leave with their soldiers, Mafeo looks back at me and I swear I see a glimmer of sadness in his eye.

        Magge moans and I fall back to her and I clutch her hand and I say into her face through scalding tears ~ I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry! ~

        Magge opens her eye and whispers to me, saying ~ I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry. ~

        My three sisters and the Physician enter my bed chamber and immediately drop to their knees and tend to Magge.  With a whisper my eldest sister Héloïse says ~ Mafeo told us to come.~

        I stand myself back up above them and see my defaced image in the far mirror.  Unnoticed I take a razor from the Physician’s open bag.  I go to the mirror and I am talking to myself saying ~ Six lashes they were forbidden by royal convenience to give unto you?  They shall not look again upon you without seeing their injustice! ~

        Under my left eye I begin to cut with the surgical razor.  I end having a number ~ 6 ~ carved like a tear for the six lashes of injustice suffered by Magge.

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SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 11, The Brotherhood of The Harrowing

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SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 11, The Brotherhood of The Harrowing

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          Esmeralda held onto my arm as we walked toward the exit of the little museum.  Her touch was so tender.  My heart was flying away.  I wanted to paw the ground with my hooves.

          Outside she released me to shatter in the sunlight.

          “This way,” she said.

          “Where to now?”

          “The Brotherhood of The Harrowing.”

          “What’s that?”

          “Brotherhoods are responsible for the beautiful Holy Week processions, remember?  The Brotherhood of the The Harrowing is the one associated with La Paloma Blanca Ministries through our donations.

          “What does this have to do with me?”

          “La Paloma Blanca Ministries has been invited to carry their float for a portion of the procession route.”

          “What’s the big deal?”

          “Each Brotherhood cares for and parades a life-sized sculpture of Christ, Mary, or a Saint.  Some of those sculptures are over 300 years old.”

          We continued up the slowly winding cobblestone street.  A young man on a bicycle coasted past going downhill.  We came upon Indian girls sitting on the curb.  They wore the colorfully patterned Mayan clothing.  One was reading a tabloid newspaper, one studied a book, one was sewing, and the two youngest ran towards us clutching trinkets for sale.

          “Ah, muñecas de preocupaciones” said Esmeralda, stooping to greet the little girls.  “Voy a comprar dos bolsas, por favor.”

          “What did you buy?”

          “Muñecas de preocupaciones.  ‘Worry dolls’.  When children get scared they are given a little doll the size of a paper match.  They’re made of sticks and colorful threads.  They tell their fear to the doll and then place the doll under their pillow.  While they sleep the doll takes away their fear.”

          The young man on the bicycle came by again pedaling uphill.  He was leering at Esmeralda.  When he saw me glaring at him he stood on his pedals and showed me his bared ass.

          “Making new friends?” asked Esmeralda.

          “Could I have a couple worry dolls to stick in my eyes, please?”

          “I think you’ll need a whole bag” she laughed.

          We continued past a leather shop, several fabric shops, places to eat, souvenir shops, and a jewelry shop.  We finally came to a woodcarver’s shop.

          “This is it.”

          “This is the Brotherhood?”

          “Yes.  I’m going to introduce you to Arturo Luna who owns this shop and who dedicates himself to this Brotherhood.”

          The shop was filled with wood panels, boards, and blocks of every shape and size.  The smell was delicious.  The floor was carpeted in wood shavings and sawdust.

          “Is he in?” I asked.

          “Believe me, you would know if Arturo Luna were in” Esmeralda smiled mischievously.  “He must be in back at the altar.”

          We went through a wide doorway into a room that was cool and dark except for a lighted altar at the far end.  The floor sloped downward like a theater.  As we walked in, even before my eyes became accustomed to the dim light, I could hear how high the ceiling was.  There was a man standing in the candle light down on the altar looking toward us with his hands spread in welcome.

          “Arturo,” called Esmeralda in greeting.

          Then I saw three figures standing before the man on the altar.  Yes, it was Lucas, it was Irma, and it was a guy so big and round that I had to blink twice to make sure it was not two people.

          The big man turned and raised his hand to shake mine.  His skin was so blue-white it glowed with light from the altar.

          “Arturo, this is Alonzo.”  Arturo Luna was an albino with big round eyes that were ethereal pink.  His hand covered mine but it was warm and he was gentle.

          “Well, Alonzo, what do you think?”  He gestured toward the man standing up on the altar who had not acknowledged us at all.

           “Jesus Christ,” I whispered.  He was a statue of Jesus.  But not an idealized statue.  He looked like a real person with flaws in his shape and complexion.  In fact his complexion was dark not white.  The skin glistened.  His eyes seemed alive.

          “You like those eyes, don’t you” smiled Arturo.  He whispered conspiratorially, “They are made with black diamonds and diamond dust.”

          “Did you…?” I began to ask.

          Arturo quickly raised a finger to his lips and looked around.

          “…carve Him?” I finished.

          Esmeralda laughed and said, “That statue is over 400 years old.”

          “How do you know?”

          “It was a gift to the first church in La Antigua from the conquistador’s estate.”

          “Why is it here?”

          “That first church was buried in a volcanic mudflow in the 1700’s.  Some devotees risked their lives to rescue that statue.  Since that time, it has been in the care of similar devotees who came to be known as…”

          Incredibly, as if on Esmeralda’s cue, Arturo rose on his toes and bowed like a ballerina, “The Brotherhood of The Harrowing.”

          Lucas spoke up, “Yeah.  You might say they rescued Jesus from hell.”

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THE DEVOURED HEART

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THE DEVOURED HEART

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        It was nearly midnight as I hiked up the trail into Coyote Hills.

        It was going to be October 16th, my mother’s birthday had she still been alive.

        During my climb I stepped aside for only one traveler, a whirring night-bicyclist, her bright light beaming as if she were a falling star descending past me.

        A fog had begun to engulf the lower Coyote Hills.

        The fog luminescent in the moonlight, the peaks of the higher hills still visible darkly, the stars sparking above, I arrived at the crest of the trail where the great Weeping Willow tree spread.

        The great Weeping Willow was often a campsite for homeless people but I never saw the same person there twice. Or ever again. This night there was no one; only the debris of previous habitation.

        I stood beneath the great Weeping Willow and sighed at the unbroken view. I inhaled deeply the perfume of sage brush.

        Then I caught the scent of wild onion. I thought, “This is odd. Wild onion grows near streams.”

        I turned and I chilled with a shock.

        There stood a young woman, her long pale hair like fog cascading over her shoulders, her pale skin pearlescent in the moonlight, her eyes eclipsed beneath long dark lashes, and just as dark were her lips. She wore a short pale dress that might have been satin.

        I said, shaken, with a nervous laugh, “You startled me.”

        The young woman’s expression was of indifference.

        I offered, “It is beautiful up here, isn’t it?”

        The young woman did not reply. I felt that she was studying me. She raised her slender arm and with her fingertips she delicately wiped her dark lips.

        I offered, “My name is Adam.”

        The young woman then softly said, “I am Jannah.”

        I asked, “You aren’t really dressed for hiking, are you? I mean, it’s a great dress… You know… Just, uh… Not typical.”

        Jannah said, “I am not hiking.”

        I asked, “I’m not ruining your night here, am I? I won’t be long. I just came up here to say a prayer for my mom.”

        Jannah seemed to shudder imperceptibly. Then she said softly, “Then don’t leave because of me. I don’t mind.”

        Jannah stepped lightly toward me. I was mesmerized by her manner, her voice, her truly haunting presence.

        I thought to my imagination, “Down, hound.”

        Jannah stood now not far from me, looking out at the moon. I still could not discern her eyes under her long lashes and averted gaze. I thought her dark lips looked more… more wine-stained than made-up. She was an unnatural beauty. I smelled wild onions again and I liked it. I felt myself flush.

        Jannah smiled and she asked, “Should we talk the moon down?”

        I laughed, “I’d like that.” I suddenly wanted to howl at the moon like a coyote.

        I said, “So what brings you up here tonight, Jannah? You could be dressed for dinner.”

        Jannah answered after a moment, “I did dress for a late dinner. And I often appear here on nights like this.”

        I said, “Yeah. It is a unique place. That is so cool that you think so too.”

        We both watched the creeping fog below.

        I finally asked, “Are you up here alone, really? Are you meeting your boyfriend?”

        Jannah whispered, “Yes. And no.”

        I joked with intent, “You do have a boyfriend, right?”

        Jannah delicately wiped her lips as she answered, “I have had many men. And women.”

        I laughed in astonishment.

        I said, “Jannah, you are totally something else.”

        Jannah suddenly seemed sad.

        I quickly added, “But in a good way. I’ve just never met anyone like you.”

        Jannah smiled again, “Obviously, you would only meet such a person as I once in a lifetime. Ordinarily.”

        Once in a lifetime. She was right, I thought: Love at first sight. I felt giddy.

        I ventured, “Would you like to go out together some time?”

        The scent of wild onions became overwhelming. Jannah answered, “We are out together now.”

        I took that with perplexed encouragement and I asked, “Well then… Again, some time… Again?”

        Jannah tilted her head as if pondering a great conundrum.

        Had I been presumptuous? Had I misinterpreted her friendliness? I suddenly felt foolish.

        Jannah then said softly, “No.”

        I fell inside myself and I blurted, “But why?”

        Jannah replied, “Because… I have a… feeling for you…”

        My heart leapt. I quickly affirmed, “And I have feelings for you.”

        Jannah turned and took a step toward me and she raised her face.

        I gasped.

        Jannah’s eyes were sewn shut.

        I glimpsed moonlight sparking off of tears.

        I gasped again and again in anguish as Jannah turned slowly and left me alone on that peak.

        She had devoured my heart.

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