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Dark Corner

Dark Corner

Shadows slither down the wall like spilled ink spreads over paper. Darkness envelops the world outside the window until all Colin sees are dark masses of black and gray. He pulls the bedcovers up to his chin and listens to the comforting sounds of Mom and Dad as they prepare for bed. 

Colin wills the light peeking through the crack under the door to shine brighter, but knows the darkness will also swallow it soon. It swallows everything, and Colin wishes that night would never come. He wishes to live on a planet that never rotates on its axis and always faces the sun.

“But life would be impossible on such a planet,” the teacher said.

“So would darkness,” Colin answered, and the teacher gazed at him with a puzzled expression.

“Are you afraid of the dark?” His mother asked when she hung up the phone.

Colin nodded, and Mom promised to buy him a nightlight. Dad said the world stays the same in light or darkness, and he should never fear the dark. Colin nodded and gulped down the embarrassment, but refrained from telling it was not the darkness that he feared most, but the man that appeared in its depths.

Tonight is the last night he will sleep in gloom; Dad turned the closet light on and left its door ajar, and Mom left the bedroom door open.

Colin’s heart beats like a drum against his chest when both doors sway themselves shut, as the shadows ooze in through the windows and plunge the room into pitch black.

Colin stares at the deepest corner; his breath clings to his throat and sweat runs down his feet. The darkness is taking shape, condensing and expanding until Colin sees the clear-cut figure of a hooded man standing there, watching him, glaring at him. He senses its icy stare on his clammy toes and closes his eyes tight, like a kitten, hoping, pleading with the figure to leave.

“Tomorrow,” Colin whispers, “you won’t be here anymore.”

The figure’s lips curl into a sneer.

“I’ll always be here,” it whispers in its deep voice, “just because you cannot see me in the light does not mean I am gone.”

Colin gulps, knowing it speaks the truth. Beads of cold sweat form on his forehead and he wants to scream for Dad. But something in the smooth silkiness of its voice stops him. Colin feels a warm touch on his cool forehead and opens his eyes. The apparition no longer stands in the corner. It sits on the bed now and smiles at Colin with loving warmth.

The apparition strokes Colin’s forehead, and the fear melts away.

“Who are you?” He asks.

“I am Darkness, Loneliness, Fear. Everything you cannot see and do not understand. I am The Unknown, and now that I have introduced myself, you will never fear me again.”

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VISCONTI TAROT: Knave of Swords

Staring at Wallpaper

Staring at Wallpaper

Bobby stared at the black-and-white wallpaper in Grandma’s kitchen. It depicted a horse and knight surrounded by twisted leaves and tree branches winding around the figures in an intricate meander. The pattern repeated itself and became a procession of horses and knights galloping across the wall. 

Bobby love to fix his gaze on one spot until his vision blurred and his eyes hurt. The figures blended into one, and for an instant, Bobby glimpsed them move. But then he blinked, shattering the illusion. He rubbed his eyes and tried it again, while Mom set the table.

Pots and pans clattered as Grandma finished dinner. They chatted about Mom’s day at work. Bobby’s gaze broke away from the wallpaper and fixed on Grandma, scrutinizing her face for disapproval or disgust behind Mom’s back.

Bobby had only acted upset when his parents announced their separation and that he and Mom would move in with Grandma. Instead, the separation had brought him relief. His parents’ cold and respectful behavior never hurt him as much as Dad’s grimace of disgust and hatred when Mom turned her back on him. Bobby never caught her doing the same to Dad. But now, Grandma’s face radiated placid contentment, as if her daughter’s permanent residence made her happy that her baby was home. 

Grandma caught Bobby’s eye and winked. He smiled at her, then turned back to the wallpaper.

“You know,” Grandma said, “that wallpaper was already up when we bought the house.”


“Yes, and the house was new. They built this neighborhood for the veterans after the war. We were the first to move in. Only this house had that wallpaper.”

“Which war?” Bobby asked, and Grandma’s face darkened for an instant; it pained her so many wars had come afterwards.

“World War Two,” she answered, “They injured Grandpa during the Battle of the Bulge, and he almost died.”

Bobby nodded, “I remember he had a limp. And he was missing the tip of his finger from working in the diamond mines.”

Mom and Grandma burst out laughing; Bobby gazed at them, confused.

“He never worked in the diamond mines!” Grandma giggled, “He lost that tip in a silly accident pruning that big oak outside.”

“Yes, and he never flew with Charles Lindbergh either,” Mom chimed in, “but he always spun a good yarn.”

Bobby giggled as Mom and Grandma reminisced about Grandpa’s tall tales, and though he wanted to pay attention, his gaze kept sliding back to the wallpaper that enticed him to keep playing his staring game.

Bobby’s vision blurred, and the figures merged into one. He determined to stare for as long as possible, even though his eyes hurt. Flashes of color appeared and tinted the tangled leaves in green and yellow. The background became red, and the knight stood out in relief.

The merry chatter morphed into the sound of hooves and the distinct neigh of the horse on the wall. The knight pulled his sword out of its sheath; the cutting shwing it made rang in Bobby’s ears. The horse sped up as a terrifying roar rumbled through the walls. In a flash of yellow and orange, the tangle of leaves and branches caught fire, and the knight charged toward the flames.

Bobby’s eyes stung from the smoke, and he blinked, shredding the illusion. He rubbed his eyes. When his vision settled, he realized Mom and Grandma were gazing at him.

Bobby tried to stammer an excuse.

“You saw the knight, didn’t you?” Mom whispered; Bobby nodded.

Grandma said, “I could never stare long enough to know if he killed the dragon.”

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Driving Through Quilted Farmland

Driving Through Quilted Farmland

“Where are we?” Gloria asks as she rubs her eyes and yawns. Her neck is a little stiff.

Stuart glances at her and mumbles a reply she cannot understand.

So he’s in a bad mood, she thinks, and looks ahead. He has turned off the radio, and the silent road stretches out before them like a long black ribbon sewn into a green-gold-and-blue speckled bedspread.

Rows of earth-colored crops with many textures dot the scenery and disappear under the deep blue sky all around them. Golden sunrays glimmer on the landscape, and dance to the tune of the meandering wind as it rustles through the corn, the wheat, the barley. It is like driving on a quilt, and each crop a patterned square.

What put Stuart into such a bad mood in the little time she fell asleep? Gloria shrugs, she will not allow it to get to her. It’s a beautiful evening, and Gloria wants to open the window and feel the farmland-scented wind in her hair. But Stuart will only bark at her. All she needs to do is wait, and Stuart will be his lovely self soon enough. The road is long and the wind eternal, she will open the window many other times.

They near a speck on the road; the sun is low on the horizon and the sky will soon blaze in hues of red and orange as it sets.

Stuart slows down as they approach the speck — a slow-moving vehicle. Gloria takes a chance and rolls down the passenger-side window. The breeze sprinkles her face. She sneaks a side glance at Stuart; his puckered mouth signals annoyance.  

“It’s a cart with hay!” Gloria exclaims as if she has never seen one. 

Stuart growls; Gloria smirks. Pushing his buttons now and again does wonders for the spirit. 

They inch to a pause, and Stuart turns on the blinker, announcing to no one he intends to pass. The cart trudges onwards. Stuart edges the car onto the oncoming lane and cautiously overtakes the cart.

Gloria observes the cart as they pass. A man in gray breeches and tall boots walks beside the workhorse, who looks like it cannot carry its own soul, let alone pull the cart. The man seems to take no notice of them, and the horse stares ahead and trudges on, exhausted. Gloria glimpses the man’s brown doublet under his long cloak, and notices his steeple-crowned, broad-brimmed hat.

“Amish,” Stuart snarls and they speed away. She rolls up the window as the wind bites at her cheeks. 

Gloria gazes at him with a puzzled expression, “No, I don’t think they dress like that.”

Stuart rolls his eyes, “Whatever.”

Gloria shakes her head and looks out the window. She glances at the side-view mirror and sees only the empty road behind, tinted in red as the sun dips under the horizon.

 That man was not Amish, Gloria knows. She also ponders the man’s blank expression as they pass, as if he never saw them. 

“I heard no hoofbeats,” Stuart says intrigued, “they made no sound.”

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THE GODDESS TAROT: IX – Contemplation

Contemplation-The Goddess Tarot: IX - Contemplation


Corey lies on his bed and contemplates the ceiling. His fixed gaze and his body’s relaxed demeanor contrast against the racing thoughts in his mind. His life is at a crossroads, and his mind seeks to see as far ahead as possible in all directions before he chooses the path to follow. An innate risk-taker; Corey is always quick to realize and seize an opportunity. He knows the solution—the road to take at a crossroads—will always present itself. 

Until now.

He has two choices: take the job out of state, or move back home and help his parents run the family business.

The job at the big corporation should be a straightforward decision, but still he doubts. It pays very well, and Corey is always open to new experiences. It is a job he has been striving for throughout his college years. He survived the grueling interview process and jumped with delight upon receiving the job offer. The company is solid and offers plenty of advancement opportunities. It even offers to help with MBA tuitions. Yet… 

His other choice is to run the small shoe store his grandfather opened with blood, sweat and tears. It has survived against all odds, and chugged through The Great Depression, several economic downturns, and even the financial meltdown of the 21st-century, though with little expansion. It’s profitable, and Corey would be the third generation to run it. Corey can see its future. In his mind, he sees the 100th anniversary celebrations that will come in the next decade. In fact, he sees far beyond that. But there’s no risk, no adventure in the meantime. The opportunity to expand is years away. And if he takes the corporate job, the adventure starts now. 

So what’s the problem? He thinks. Mom and Dad are still young and healthy, now is the time to try his hand at something else, and learn beyond what his grandfather and father learned in their lifetimes. Corey knows the shop will always be there, a haven to return to when his ship runs aground. So what stops him from taking the corporate job offer?

Corey sighs and shifts onto his side, facing the wall. His bedroom door clicks open, and he hears Dad’s footsteps on the carpet. Confused, Corey turns to face him, but his heart stops when he sees his father’s haggard and ashen face and his blue-tinged lips. Corey opens his mouth to speak, but no words come out. His father stands beside the bed, and gazes at him with the blank stare of a corpse. The apparition carries a gravestone. Shock snags Corey’s breath when he notices the date.

At last, the words flow with the tears, “Will you be dead in two years?”

The apparition nods and fades into the dusky gloom seeping through the window. A sob strangles in Corey’s throat; he reaches for the phone.

“Hello?” Dad’s voice is a soothing balm.

“Dad,” Corey chokes.

“Son! How are you? Did you get the job?”

“I’m fine, how are you?” Corey ignores the last question.

“Fine, fine. A little out of breath lately. Mom thinks I should see a doctor, but I’m sure it’s nothing. The job?”

“No… I didn’t get it,” Corey lies.

In the end, the solution always appears.

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MINCHIATE: Two of Coins

The Antique Mirror-Minchiate: Two of Coins

The Antique Mirror

Catherine wandered through the tiny aisles of the antiques mall. Knickknacks surrounded her as she paced among books, furniture, and pictures of bygone days that filled the dusty old store. She glanced at everything, yet saw nothing at all. The deeper into the store she browsed, the more the number of antiques overwhelmed her, until a creeping claustrophobia crawled up her spine. While hurrying through the labyrinthine aisles toward the front door, one object caught her eye.

The old mirror hung above an old-fashioned iron stove, flanked by yellowing pictures of Tom Mix and James Dean. It was an oval with an ornate brass frame. The tarnished and clouded glass had black spots sprinkled over its surface, but Catherine’s bemused, yet intrigued, image peered from the flowery, corroded metal frame. Something about it attracted her—perhaps it was the way her face appeared out of its hazy freckled glass—and Catherine decided it needed to hang above her night-table. 

At home, Catherine smiled at her own reflection while she cleaned it. The shopkeeper told her the mirror may need to be re-silvered, but Catherine liked the dark, warped image of herself on its surface. The corroded brass and black spots gave her reflection an eerie, Gothic semblance. She looked like the imagined heroines in the gothic novels her older sister, Emma, had read to her at bedtime. Little Catherine had both cringed in horror and squealed with delight as Emma’s soft voice filled the darkened room. Her words painted a snaking dreamscape of villains and ghosts, and through the pages they traveled to dark castles and gloomy dungeons in faraway lands.

Catherine fought back hot tears as a lump snagged in her throat. She tried not to think about Emma too often because the pain still welled up, threatening an overspill of dark and despairing emotions. But now, alone and gazing into a clouded mirror, she loosened her restraint and let the tears streak down her cheeks. 

Emma went to the grocery store one bright summer afternoon and never returned. The police found no signs, no clue to her whereabouts and no suspect. Years dragged on with no news of her beloved sister, and the case grew cold. Emma became just another statistic; her face was a fading memory. Catherine’s childhood vanished with her sister. Catherine’s love of gothic novels was all that remained of Emma.

Catherine wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Then, she stroked the book that always lay on her night-table. It was the same tattered book she took out of her childhood home and carried through all the changes in her life, but never read. At least, she had never finished it. Emma had been halfway through it when she went missing, and Catherine never had the heart to read it to the end. She picked it up and smelled her sister’s memory as she leafed through the pages, never reaching the end. Catherine feared that if her eyes ever landed on the last words, then Emma would never return. 

Catherine pulled herself together and hammered a nail into the wall above the night-table. With a soft, satisfied yet tragic smile, she hung the mirror on the nail. Catherine gazed at her reflection, and for the first time in her life, thought she looked like her sister. Impossible, her logical brain whispered. Emma was blond with piercing blue eyes and milky white skin, while Catherine had a dark complexion with soft brown eyes and black hair. 

“Like Jane and Elizabeth Bennet,” Emma’s voice rose out of the deep well of Emma-memories in Catherine’s mind and filled the room. 

She reached her hand out and touched the damaged surface. Her heart jolted with electricity; Emma’s broad smile beamed through the darkened glass and radiated from the corroded brass frame. At last, Catherine had found her sister.

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One Wish-Bruegel Tarot XVI The Tower

One Wish

Armistice bends his hundred-year-old knees and apologizes to the ants for stepping on their anthill. He tells them he did not see them, as tiny black specks rush to repair their flattened home.

A breeze blows through the trees; Armistice stands up, takes off his reading glasses, and puts them in his breast pocket. He lifts his nose to the air and sniffs into the wind. There is a message in the breeze, and he ponders it. He sensed a change in the world, a rejuvenation borne on the wind, and he feels it now in his heart and in his bones.

“What happened?” He whispers to the squirrel, who stops nibbling to gaze at him.

The squirrel flicks its tail, and Armistice nods, “I don’t know either, but good things are coming.”

He has been on this earth for more than a century, and he is one with the world. This universal and ancestral interconnectedness has filled his heart with peace. He wants for nothing and wishes for nothing but to live in his house with its lush garden and its neighboring forest. He loves it when the deer feed off his flowers; he admires their beauty and grace as they canter from the tree-line and approach so close he might touch them. The deer, the owls, the squirrels, the raccoons, and the wolves howling in the night know the old man will not hurt them; he is their brother.

Armistice sits down in his rocking chair and inhales the cool air. Yes, he wishes for nothing. A passing cloud darkens his mind and chides him for lying to himself. 

He gazes up at the sky, “Okay, okay, I have only one wish.”

The wind gusts, and Armistice watches bewildered as an enormous bird soars across the sky. It beats its wings, and thunder roars in the heavens. Armistice holds his breath and tries to swallow the word ‘Thunderbird’ which has sprung to his lips, but it remains at the corner of his mouth. The bird circles overhead and begins its spiraling descent. It lands by the honeysuckle, and Armistice sees not a bird, but a man with blazing wings shimmering in the sunlight.

“What is it?” The angel’s eyes sparkle as he meets Armistice’s gaze, “What is your one wish?”

Armistice gapes, and the unspoken wish threatens to die within him. The angel’s kind smile radiates patience, and even the forest holds its breath in expectation. A soft, warm light fills the garden and seeps into Armistice’s heart. The wish he has wanted to express for decades rises to his throat. Armistice fears if he speaks it, it will negate his wonderful and love-filled life.

“It won’t,” the angel reassures him, “nothing will change. Your past speaks for itself, and you deserve this one wish fulfilled.”

Armistice gulps, “I wish…”

The angel encourages him.

“I wish for a life with Miss Ann Thrope.”

The angel beams, then raises his fingers and flicks Armistice on the forehead. A flash of light engulfs his world and plunges it into sweet darkness. Little by little, forest sounds trickle into his ears, and something wet kisses his hand.

Armistice opens his eyes and turns toward the kiss. A deer gazes up at him, then nuzzles his hand and leaps back into the forest.

Armistice reaches for the reading glasses in his breast pocket. His hand stops midair. He does not need them. For the first time in decades, he can see the cuticles of his nails and the creases of his knuckles. Marveling, he flips his hand over and flexes his fingers; it is the wrinkle-free and spotless hand of a young man.

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Rising Tide

Death is such a heavy word, thinks Maura; the waves lap and splash around her. She sits on the rock, and the sun dips under the bleakness of her sorrow-laden heart. She wipes tears from her eyes and wishes she could turn back time.

Last week she was settling into her new life as a happy wife, and the future lay before them like a sun-bathed prairie. They had returned from their blissful honeymoon, and the world seemed to shower them with good fortune. On that day, Maura had dared to believe in a radiant forever. How she paid for her temerity!

Painful sobs erupt in her chest, and hot lava spills over her eyelids. Tears heavy with death roll down her cheeks, and she puts her head in her hands and wails. She buckles under the sorrow of a wrecked car and a husband’s life ended by a drunk driver who will never experience the aftermath: a future ripped from Maura’s heart. A tornado rages through her mind as the ocean licks the rock, and the surf surrounds her as the tide rises.

The sun sinks into the water, and Maura knows she must leave the spot where he proposed to her before it disappears under the waves. Even the ocean wants to take back all the happiness it brought her.

Wouldn’t it be better to stay and let the sea drown her in her grief?

“No,” the ocean whispers, as the waves kiss her bare feet and play on her toes, “I’ll spit you back out.”

And Maura knows it is only a passing fantasy in a flash of despair. She cannot leave yet. She stands up and walks inland from the beach. She pauses and gazes toward the rock as shallow waves roll over it. Placing a loving hand on her belly, she smiles; Death left her a precious gift.

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Adrian Ryder tore his gaze away from the book and contemplated the middle distance. He was reading about Perseus and Medusa, but found it hard to focus. The recent dream had sparked a tiny ember of peril that flared and dulled over the following days, but never died out. In the dream, Adrian, riding Ethur, came upon the Ugly Man in the Mist and an evil crone plotting to take Cassie. He had awakened, sensing its reality and the certainty that Cassie’s life was in grave danger.   

The school year was ending, and he kept telling himself this was the last stretch, but the sense of impending menace nagged at him. Yet, the branches of the ever-blossoming trees of the Grove by the Old Cemetery doused this dread almost to extinction. He sought the silence of the biggest ever-blossoming tree and hoped that by climbing it and being in it, not just in the grove, he might move forward with his final school assignment. But the dream…

It showed him the people who wanted Cassie for mysterious and nefarious reasons, but not how to stop them. Later, it had disturbed him even more when Cassie told about the new girl turning into a hag in front of the bathroom mirror. 

He laid his head back on the tree trunk and wished for Athena’s shield, which struck the enemy down in terror, as the soft rustle of the breeze through the blossoms lulled him and their sweet fragrance numbed his worried brain.

“Adrian,” a soft voice said beside him, “Climb down.”

Adrian gazed into a woman’s face. She had Cassie’s striking emerald green eyes, and knew it was Cassandra, her ancestor, buried in this grove.

Adrian clambered down from the tree. He found himself in a moonlit cemetery with old and crooked grave stones spiking out of the gnarled bramble. This place was ancient, much older than any cemetery in New England. He felt it in the moonlight and the soft breeze that swirled around him whispering in a thousand dead tongues. There was an eerie, yet comforting, peace about it. Cassandra stood beside one gravestone shimmering in the moon’s glow, but time had effaced its name.

“Dig,” she whispered.

He kneeled; one moonbeam pointed its long tendril to a glimmering spot on the ground, and Adrian scraped the damp earth with his hands. Dirt caught between his nails and soft brown mud caked his fingers. Digging deeper, the earth’s thick texture changed and covered his hands in fine soot and ash. He suppressed a shudder; they burned witches in this part of the world. Soon his fingers closed over a cloth pouch. He pulled it out of the ground, and turning it in his dirty hands, untied the string and opened it.

A shining gold coin fell on his blackened palm. It had a long, gold chain wound and threaded around it, binding it in a tether like Ethur’s silver bridle. Adrian turned to Cassandra, but she had vanished. A moonbeam caught the coin, and it sparkled in the starry darkness; it had a woman with serpentine hair engraved on one face, the other was a smooth and golden mirror. His heart skipped a beat, but his lips broke into a smirk. He draped the chain around his neck; a hawk screeched and the sound cut right through him.

Adrian’s eyelids flew open. Sunlight hurt his eyes, and the wind gusted through the blossoms. He jerked in surprise and almost fell off the tree. He gazed at his dirty fingers with black soot under their nails. Around his neck he felt the weight of the gold coin: Athena’s shield.

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THE GODDESS TAROT: Princess of Staves


Lizzy stares at the tree’s shadows projected on the wall. Moonlight seeps through the window, and though accustomed to the tree-shadows crawling across the wall, tonight they scare her. A sense of fear and dread hovers over the dim house, and the murmur of voices wafts through the threshold.

“Grandma’s not feeling well, but she’ll be all right, go back to sleep,” her father said, and ushered her back to bed.

Hurried feet shuffle past the doorway, and a gloomy atmosphere permeates the room. The wind howls outside and rustles the branches, which scratch against the window.

Lizzy watches the branch-shadows flicker on the wall. They stretch and twist into a hand with long fingers reaching towards the closed bedroom door. The bony twig-hand passes through the door and enters the hallway.

More hurried feet; stifled sobs and gasps mingle with the creaking stairs and the wailing wind.

“Boo-hoo,” it cries, as the shadows on the wall sputter.

With her heart in her throat, Lizzy gazes as the bony hand expands and morphs into feathered wings surrounding the bedroom walls. The moonlight brightens and emits a golden glow throughout Lizzy’s bedroom. She stifles a sob while sorrow rises from her feet to her chest, threatening to burst it open. It does not burst, but the sorrow spills over her eyes and rolls down her cheeks. 

The sound of flapping wings fills the room, then fades into the night as the tree-shadows settle back into their natural shape.

The wings also lift the dread from Lizzy’s body, and a placid sadness fills her heart now that Grandma has died.

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MINCHIATE: Five of Staves

Was It a Dream?

Was it a dream? Linda wonders as she inspects the back fence. It puzzles her; there are no breaks or marks or upturned soil, no trace of the event. 

In the dead silence of the wee hours, a dog barked. Linda lay in bed listening, unable to sleep, and frozen in fear. Danger, threat, and aggression hovered over the silent night.

Linda recalls lying on her side with her head turned towards the window, and gazing at the back fence through the bony thorns of her bare rosebushes. A bright red full moon shone its eerie silver light on the backyard; it glittered on the frosted ground, and Linda remembers thinking it was too bright.

And how the dog barked. Its howls and growls and woofs pierced the winter night, which glimmered, Linda thinks, the air was too clear, like ice.

She listened to the dog hidden behind the fence, and though its barks rang throughout the neighborhood, she knew it was in the neighbor’s backyard which abutted her own. Such a bright moon! The unnatural brightness disturbed her, and fear throbbed in her pounding heart, yet her sight remained on the back fence. 

A ripping and creaking interrupted the barking, and wide-eyed and ashen-faced, Linda watched the fence rattle. The moonlight shone on the wooden slat as its bottom broke apart, and a big black head poked through it. Sharp white teeth gnashed the slat beside it and snatched it off its nails.

The dog’s head broke and tore at the fence, until the hole was big enough for the big, black furry body to crawl through it and enter the garden.

The dog trampled Linda’s covered herbs and raged through her frosted yard. Its growls and snarls pierced the love and tenderness she lavished on that garden. The dog overturned her patio chairs and table and ripped the cushions. Flower pots cracked, and Linda’s heart raced with fear.

She shrieked when two blazing yellow eyes peeked at her through the dormant rosebushes. Paws reached out towards her, scratching and mauling, trying to enter. She feared the dog would shatter the window and attack her. 

Linda pulled the covers over her face, hoping the dog would not see her, and listened to the thunderous barking outside the window.

Daylight and all is still. In the crisp gray dawn, Linda inspects the untouched the fence. 

Was it a dream? 

She searches for signs of disruption, but finds none. No trampled herbs, no chewed garden hoses, no gashed cushions, no dog hair on upright patio furniture.

Linda pulls her coat tight around her chest, and stands in her rubber boots, gazing towards the rosebushes whose skeletal branches show no sign of attack. Yet, she knows the black dog peered at her through the window.

Was it a dream?

She wants to believe so, until Linda’s puzzled gaze catches the blood-red paw print scratched into the glass, just above the windowsill.