“Follow me,” I heard the voice through the window. I lifted my gaze from my book and listened. Only the sound on leaves crunching underfoot in the woods. Who would trample tonight? I shrugged and renewed my reading.

I’d read the same paragraph twice when I set the book aside. The voice beyond my window bothered me. I did not recognize it. It was no one I knew and yet, there was something familiar about it. I closed my eyes and recalled the voice; gruff, yet youthful, neither manly nor womanly, but not a child’s.

“Follow me,” it had commanded, confident but with a hint of… malice? Treachery? The memory sent chills down my spine. I endeavored to ignore it and retrieved my book, Faust by Goethe; a man who sells his soul for knowledge.

The wind ululated outside my window while the fire crackled in my room and a sinister atmosphere had descended on the night. I turned the page and screeched when an illustrated Mephistopheles—with hooves, bat-wings and horns—startled me. I shoved the book away.

“Follow me,” the voice whispered.

My heart racing, I crawled out of bed and peeped through the window curtains. The night was crisp and starless for the moon shone so bright it cast silver shadows on the land. Frost lined the windowpane; the trees were bare, their branches reaching heavenward like skeletons begging for mercy, and their fallen, frozen leaves sparkled in the moonlight.

A shadow fell across the moon and for an instant I thought someone had passed by my window. I squinted. The moon lit the world again and there was only the sound of footsteps crunching the leaves.

I froze with fear, stiff as the trees, and listened. There was someone traipsing outside but I could not see them. I gasped and panted; my breath came short and fast and fogged the glass. I dared not move for there in the mist caused by my breath a lanky figure appeared, which faded as the window cleared. I breathed on the pane, and, in front of a tree, I saw the same figure.

“Follow me,” the voice hissed in my ear.

I spun my head. I was alone. I turned back to the window and this time the figure stood before the nearest tree, clear and defined in the moonlight. I rested my fingers on the windowpane; snow fell.

“Follow me!”

“No!” I cried and the glass split where I touched it. A trickle of blood appeared on my fingertip. I ran to my bed, jumped in and hid under the covers.

The next morning I tiptoed to the window and peered through the splintered glass. Copious snow covered the ground, the bare branches heavy under its virgin white, while the sun glinted in orange and yellow sparkles under a bright blue sky.

I gasped. Beneath the nearest tree, the sun shone on a patch of snow imprinted with a distinct pair of hooves; the long, horned shadow of a devil reached for me across the frozen ground. 




Swallows and Storms


Kayla sat on the porch and watched the swallows whirling in the sky. She loved swallows with their erratic soaring flight; such tiny creatures, so free, their chirping like sonorous kisses from Mother Nature.

Clouds blanketed the sun and Kayla knew it was time to go inside, yet remained seated with her cat, Chunky, curled up on her thighs; the pattern of his tiger-like fur formed one giant spiral, as though time and eternity swirled into existence on her lap.

The swallows disappeared as if by magic and fat raindrops fell. Chunky lifted his head and meowed. She ran soft fingers down his back and he purred. The rain fell harder, plink-plinking on the flowerpots and tap-tapping on the porch roof. Chunky’s purr gave a soft wavelike backbeat to the melody. What lovely music! Kayla smiled at Chunky who blinked up at her, giving her an eye kiss.

“You’ll catch your death of cold sitting out in the rain,” Momma’s voice echoed through her memory.

“What’s the point now?” She cooed at Chunky.

Thunder roared and lightning zigzagged across the clouds like electric eels falling from the sky. The front door opened; Kayla listened as a murmur of voices filled the house and condensed the atmosphere into heavy gelatinous sadness.

“Jesus, what a deluge,” someone inside said, “she always loved storms.”

“At least the service finished before the rain started, I felt the first drops as we left the cemetery and hurried to the carriage,” a woman answered and, in a quivering voice, continued, “I think she sent this down on us to say goodbye.”

The back door opened and Momma stepped onto the porch. She looked at Kayla and tears sprang to her eyes. Momma’s lip quivered when Chunky stood, stretched and rubbed himself against her legs.

“I told you you’d catch your death,” Momma whispered “why didn’t you listen?”

“Because I love the swallows and the rain,” Kayla said, but Momma only heard the rolling thunder.

Poppa emerged from the house and embraced Momma.

“Don’t you do this, don’t you throw your life away over rain too,” he pointed at the chair, “our little Kayla soars with her swallows now, she is the rain and her voice the thunder, all the more reason to love them.”

Momma sobbed into Poppa’s shoulder and stroked the back of Kayla’s empty chair. A gust of wind blew through the porch and Momma thought she’d caught Kayla’s scent. She glanced at Poppa, he’d smelled it too, but it could only be the honeysuckle, for Kayla was gone forever. Poppa led Momma inside, Chunky rubbed himself against Kayla’s chair one more time, then followed them into the house.






Best Friends Forever


Clara and Marnie were best friends and would walk home together every afternoon. They lived down the street from one another and the long walks offered plenty of opportunities to talk, laugh, play, gossip and leave the school day behind them.

One day, they were walking in silence; Marnie had noticed Clara had turned quiet and dour of late and didn’t enjoy Marnie’s lively conversation.

“Don’t be silly!” Clara said when Marnie pointed out the change.

A day came when Clara was even quieter and Marnie watched her out of the corner of her eye. She knew something was wrong, but said nothing and listened only to the sound of their feet upon the sidewalk, the trill of the birds and the hum of motors as cars zoomed by them.

“Last night I dreamed I died,” Clara broke the silence and even the birds stopped chirping, “I’ve been dreaming it every night for the past month.”

“Maybe you’re worried about something?”

Clara shook her head.

“Can you die in dreams? How does it happen, how do you die?”

A shadow darkened Clara’s face, “In pain.”

They walked on in silence, Clara pensive and Marnie afraid to pry further.

“I think it will happen tomorrow,” Clara said as they reached Marnie’s stoop.

“How do you know?”

“In the dream I see the date. I get run over by a car on the way home, and as I’m  bleeding on the street, someone’s radio mentions the date and time.”

“Well, I’ll stop it,” Marnie put her hands on her hips in her best Superman stance, “I won’t let it happen.”

“How can you stop it?”

“We’ll take the bus.”

Marnie’s determination comforted Clara a little, and thought maybe dreams were like wishes: if spoken aloud, they won’t come true.

The next day when the school bell rang, the girls collected their things and hurried out into the sunlight. They headed straight for the yellow school bus. They both had bus passes, but only used them in inclement weather. Marnie and Clara hated the bus. The kids waiting glanced sideways at them and murmured that the sun was out, so why were they getting in line?

“It’ll be okay,” Marnie squeezed Clara’s hand.

The driver stepped out from the bus.

“Sorry guys,” he blocked the door, “this bus broke down. If you’re within walking distance, I suggest you hoof it, otherwise, wait here and we’ll fit you in the other busses. Again, if you can walk home, please do so and leave the remaining seats for those who can’t.”

Marnie and Clara exchanged looks; Clara shrugged, resigned to her fate. Head down and quiet, they set off homeward.

They’d reached the avenue and had gone a few steps at the crosswalk, when screeching tires rounded the corner. Clara was in the speeding car’s path; Marnie a step behind her.

“Clara!” Marnie yelled and pulled her back. Their weight spun them around and Marnie, unable to control her footing, fell into the street as the car struck her. The beeping stoplight announced they had twenty seconds left to cross.

Clara screamed and rushed to Marnie’s side.

“I told you I wouldn’t let you die today,” Marnie choked; blood spewed from her mouth, her limbs at odd angles.

“I won’t let you die either,” Clara cried and tended to her friend until the ambulance arrived. She thanked her stars they’d taken that First Aid training at school.

* * *

I glance at Grandma Marnie, who’s standing tall, and hug her. She’s reminiscing about the accident many years ago, a story I’ve heard countless times. Tears roll down her cheeks and I stifle a sob as the pallbearers lower the coffin into the ground. After a lifetime together, we are laying Auntie Clara to rest.

OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Queen of Batons


Lady Margaret


The shutter clicked and Malcolm examined the picture on the display, smiling. He’d captured the top half of the castle tower with its tiny windows, battlements and turrets. A single ray of sun slanted across the stone, its moss sparkling in the light. A rainbow smeared the cloudy sky behind it.   

Malcolm frowned and rubbed the screen with his thumb; it wasn’t a speck on the camera. He magnified the image and sure enough, there, in the topmost middle window, he’d captured a face. A beautiful woman with jewels braided into her fair hair peeked out from the tiny hole; the tears on her face glittered like diamonds and tugged at Malcolm’s heart. What was she doing there?

He gazed up at the tower hoping to see her still but could not with his naked eye; so he raised his camera again, pointed it at the window and zoomed in with his powerful telephoto lens, but only a dark void in the arched window frame glared at him. He snapped a picture nonetheless.

“Excuse me,” Malcolm stopped a security guard and pointed at the tower, “how do you get up to that window?”

“You don’t, the tower is closed off to tourists, the inner floors and stairways are long gone. There is no way of getting up there.” 

The security guard looked at Malcolm through twinkling eyes, as if hoping Malcolm might ask the question, but Malcolm thanked him and hurried to catch up to the tour group.

The tour guide was gabbing. Malcolm had stopped listening; she annoyed him and her grating voice scratched his spine and set his teeth on edge.

Eyes still on the tower, and despite the woman’s screech, two words got through: “Lady Margaret”. He settled his eyes on the tour guide and met her gaze. She, happy she’d caught his attention, smiled and directed the lecture at him.

“Legend has it Lady Margaret, the lady of this castle, was a wealthy man’s daughter who married the man she loved, Lord Angus of Ang. He was a good, kind lord, young too, and he fell in love with Lady Margaret on sight. Theirs was a happy marriage until one day, the lady vanished.”

“How?” Malcolm asked, intrigued.

“No one knows. People say she left, others say someone murdered her and buried her somewhere on the grounds, but all agree that she disappeared without a trace.”

“Why would she leave?” The tall woman next to Malcolm asked.

“There are rumors a warlord fell in love with her and had to have her, despite her lawful marriage to Lord Angus. The legend claims she sacrificed herself and ran off with the warlord lest he kill the husband she loved so much. Lord Angus sent out search parties and even arranged a quest for all the knights in the land, but no one ever found her.”

“Who would have murdered Lady Margaret?” Someone in the back called out.

“Lord Angus thought the warlord had killed her and waged a war on him. They both perished in the battle, so the mystery remains.”

The tour guide paused, gazing at the tower, then turned to the group, as if wondering whether to speak or stay silent.

She opened her mouth and took a deep breath, “There have been sightings of her ever since she disappeared. People say she peeks out from that tower window, but in the blink of an eye, the lovely, sad face vanishes.”



On The Meadow


Darren lay on the meadow, pebbles sticking into his back through his T-shirt. He loved spending time among the trees and often felt he had a special connection with nature. Sometimes he thought the trees reached out to him, as if they wished to tell him a secret. He would then close his eyes and listen, but could never understand the message.

On this occasion, bathed in the warm sunlight, his mind was on the ground, how wet and cool and lumpy it was. He breathed in the grass, the moss and damp earth. With closed eyes, he thought about the millions of feet that had walked upon the piece of dirt on which he lay. Animals, insects, birds and humans, how many had trampled here?

Minutes passed, and he noticed a slow and steady thumping; he opened his palm and touched the ground. It pulsed, thud, thud, thud, louder and stronger as if footsteps, big stomping footsteps approached. Darren opened his eyes, and a shadow fell across the pastel blue sky. He turned his head to one side just as a boot stomped beside his shoulder. Another plunked down by his hand.

Traipsing boots and gaiters soon engulfed Darren; the pungent scent of leather and mud stung. The ground shook with the footfalls, and the boom of the march so near his ears sounded like cannonballs. He lay motionless, heart racing, while above him the sky turned red, and a reeking cloud of wool, metal and gunpowder seared his nostrils.

As the boots marched away, Darren sat up and glimpsed the backs of British soldiers, their long red coats, muskets, bayonets and tricorn hats fading into the forest. Darren wanted to stand up and rush after them, but the sun was too bright and the heat weighed heavy on him. He lay back down and closed his eyes.

The setting sun was casting an orange hue over the meadow when Darren awoke. He perked his ears and listened for footsteps, but heard nothing except the sounds of the evening forest. Darren walked home—his own footfalls loud in his ears—wondering whether the troop had been a dream or the specters of a long-dead reality.

MINCHIATE: Two of Coins



Always Missing


Ada always thought a part of her was missing, like she wasn’t quite herself. As a child, she would stand in front of the mirror and squint her eyes, tight, tight, until the distorted image of a young boy appeared through her half-closed lids. Then she would dig deep, deep through her reminiscence for she was certain she knew him. 

As she grew, she stopped playing the game and the boyish reflection in the mirror faded away, taking with it the notion of missing, until it became like a dream of a childhood that never happened.

Ada waited at the cashier and gazed at the glass door which overlapped two realities, the world on the street and the reflected world inside the supermarket. As she picked up her paper bag, Ada caught her reflection suspended in these realities and for a moment thought she looked like a young man. Ada shrugged and walked through the glass doors.

“Oomph,” Ada said as the young man bumped her; he struck her funny bone and through the numbness she lost her grip on the paper bag as groceries scattered on the sidewalk.

“I’m so sorry,” the young man kneeled down to help her.

“Thank you,” Ada mumbled and smiled.

When she caught his eye that suspicion of missing returned with such force she almost lost her balance and had to steady herself with her hand on the ground. The young man noticed her predicament and grabbed her elbow. The touch of his fingers on her skin sent lightning up her arm and into her brain and made her light-headed. Ada thanked him again and averted her eyes; uncomfortable under the man’s intense scrutiny.

“I think I can manage,” Ada said and gathered the remaining groceries. What to make of that gaze and the sensation that something deep inside wanted to come out?

“Agnes? Aggie?” The man whispered. Something pinged in the back of Ada’s mind.

She shook her head and stood up. She meant to run, but the man put his hand on her shoulder and the gesture stopped her.

“It’s you! Aggie! It has to be you!”

“I don’t know who you mean, my name’s not Agnes, please let me go!”

“Aggie,” he insisted, “look at me, don’t you remember?”

Ada forced herself to look into his eyes and the image of the young boy with her face crawled out of the recess of her memory.

“Who are you?”

“Don’t you remember? I’m August.”

She savored the name on her tongue; it tasted of honey and tears, talcum powder and play-doh, of sunshine and grasshoppers, of memories she’d locked away long ago and forgot.

“How?” She mumbled confused, perplexed, bewildered; no synonym could describe her emotions.

“I always knew you were alive,” he smiled, and she basked in it, “even when everyone thought you must be dead, I knew you were out there. I felt you. Twins feel one another.”

Twins? The word rushed through her spine and opened the floodgates of remembrance; a house in the country, chasing insects, fireflies, a warm hearth, cookies and always her brother beside her, behind, in front, together, as if joined at the hip.

One recollection shook her to the bone. They were playing outside and her brother announced in his tinny, sparkling voice he needed to go potty.

“I don’t, I’m staying,” she heard her own kitten-like voice piping through the sound of time, and she’d remained, smelling the flowers.

A shadow fell and a man and a woman so tall they blocked the sun stood before her. They smiled baring ugly teeth.

“Do you want to play with puppies?” They asked in silky voices.

She did.

“Then, follow us.”

She had. Then, only that old presentiment of missing. Later, a warm house, a good school, loving parents with lovely teeth, college and a career, yet always that sense of missing.

“I went with them?” Ada whispered, her voice as meek as the little girl she’d been.

They were sitting on a stoop now, their eyes on one another.

“You vanished. No one saw anything. The police thought someone had come along, snatched you and killed you. Not me, I always knew you were alive.”

“And our parents?” (Could she call them Mom and Dad, too? Should she?)

“Hit them hard, hit all of us hard. We lost the farm and have lived here and there since, never staying in one place; always missing you.”




Light and Shadow


Julie stared at the empty seat in front of her, a fake smile pasted on her lips and gaze cool as ice. She seemed the incarnation of the Snow Queen, but inside, she was a pure fire sparked from rage and fanned with insult.

I’m seething, she thought.

Melvin and Cora, she cursed.

Revenge, she wished.

The train stopped at the station, and the doors opened. An old woman, short and chubby, took the seat facing her. She smiled at Julie. Julie pursed her lips into the kindest grin she could muster as the train left the station and plunged into a tunnel.

Light, then shadow, fell on the railcar as the electric lamp crackled, the woman’s face clear and kind, then old and ugly. The train’s clatter screamed in Julie’s head, chug-a-chug, Melvin-and-Cora, on and on, so loud and steady she thought she would explode.

The old woman glanced around, then smiled at Julie again. Julie stared straight ahead; if the old woman smiled one more time, the invisible chain which kept her wrath from exploding would shatter.

The old woman noticed the slight tremble in Julie’s hands as she opened and closed her fist to the rhythm of the Melvin-and-Cora mantra in her head.

“Let it go. He ain’t worth it.”

The woman’s voice rang clear above the din of the train against the rails, her face in light.

“What do you mean ‘he’?” Julie hissed through gritted teeth.

The woman shrugged, ugly in shadow, “Only a man can anger a woman so much. I know your wrath, and trust me, it’ll poison you.”

Julie pursed her lips, the fire inside threatening to explode.

“There’s a dragon inside me, and I don’t think I can keep it chained much longer,” Julie muttered, half hoping the woman wouldn’t hear, but deafness did not ail her old age.

“What did he do? Cheat?”

“Yes, with my sister,” Julie fought back lava tears.


“He’s not worth it.” (Light)

“I know, but it doesn’t make me less angry.” Julie’s jaw clicked when she spoke.

“Then, for your sake, let that dragon out. Don’t keep it bottled inside, it’ll rot you.” (Shadow)

“How would you know?”

“Because I’ve been where you are. He slept with my sister and I vowed revenge.”

A chill crawled up Julie’s spine as the woman spoke, her words mirroring Julie’s thoughts. 

“Did you get it?”

“Oh yes, I screwed with their lives and hounded them to death, slow and steady, for years. But I got nothing in return.”

Julie gulped. How could the woman know she was planning a slow and simmering revenge?

“What was his name?” Julie asked unnerved, yet intrigued.

“Melvin,” The flickering light cast the woman into shadow, and Julie blanched.

“My sister’s name was Cora,” the woman continued.

“What? How?” Julie gaped.

“I kept my dragon locked up and made their lives miserable. I took their money, their livelihood, their happiness. Whatever they built I destroyed. I used everything in my power to screw them six ways from Sunday.”

Julie remained silent as the train chugged on, the wagon eerie in the sputtering light.

“They died in poverty and starvation.”

“Are you sorry?”

“Yes, but now I can redeem myself.”

“What do you mean?”

“On my deathbed I repented, and here I am.”

The train came to a halt, still in the tunnel; the light held steady and shone bright on the old woman. They locked eyes and Julie almost screamed; the woman’s eyes were her own, and her gaze, albeit old and bitter, was the same gaze that greeted Julie from every mirror.

“I’m telling you, Julie, you can change the course of this lifetime. Let the dragon out. Revenge is not the way; you’ll end up alone and sick and bitter.”

The light flickered off and thrust the wagon into darkness. Julie’s spine tingled at the woman’s hot breath by her ear as she whispered, “Heed me.”

The light flashed back on and Julie found herself alone in the wagon; the train resumed its slow ride to the station.