Friday Five April 9th

So, this time I’m giving Friday Five another try. This week’s words are: hell, railroad, chief, abridge, past

The obelisks burst up out of nowhere, where the railroad used to be, past where my cousin used to live. We called the police chief but we doubted there was anything he could do. There had been several cases of these obelisks popping up out of the ground in the last few months. The fact that it happened out here in our little town frightened me. What were the chances? 

I wasn’t keen to go, but my sister and her boyfriend begged me. Since her car had been repossessed and he had a suspended license, that left me. My sister asked to borrow my car, but she doesn’t have the world’s most reliable track record. When I picked up Shirley and Stan, he already smelled strongly of alcohol. He was a friendly drunk, never mean, but that didn’t change the facts. But this wasn’ t  the time to have another lifestyle management meeting with Shirley and Stan. 

I pushed the pedal to the metal, so they say, eager to get where we needed to go. 

“We need to get pictures of it,” Stan said from the backseat. “We need proof.”

“We will,” Shirl eysaid confidently. She was sitting beside me, with her seatbelt on, but straining her neck to look out the front window as if something or someone would jump out in front of us. Of course, given the state of things in this county lately, that might very well happen. 

We were not the first ones to arrive. Everyone parked by the side of the road and headed across the field towards the obelisk. Any minute now, state authorities were bound to show up. Stan had jumped out of the car before I even unbuckled my seat belt and was racing across the grass. Shirley was right behind him. I was slower, like always, but I managed. I locked the car-because I had common sense- and made sure I had my wallet and my phone on me. I walked briskly, rather than running like a fool. I didn’t trust what might be in the grass in the middle of the night. 

The truth was, I was terrified. Everyone was acting as if the obelisks were some wondrous event. A Nobel winner in physics was on the news everyday talking about it. I’d even bought her book-well the abridged version for the layman. I didn’t understand a word of it.  Twitter had all the conspiracy theories known to man and even the president tweeted the possibility of alien contact. I’d love to be the optimistic, but I’d seen things in my life that proved otherwise. 

The closer I got, the larger the obelisk, looked. My heart began to race and my palms were sweating. The feeling of panic gripped me, and I thought about fleeing. There were hills of dirt were the object had pushed up out of the ground, and a few were trying to climb it sliding back down. The closer I got I noticed the foul smell and the dirt-like dog droppings and winced. How could they stand it? 

I walked towards to the obelisk, near enough to touch it, but I didn’t dare. It was smooth, but as I looked closer, I noticed the sketching on the sides that looked like faces. Round faces, oval faces, square faces; all with wide opened eyes and wide open mouths and no noses. Liquid dripped down the sides, as red as blood, and I backed away. My blood ran cold; my hands shook. The obelisk began to move, getting taller, pushing more of the earth up. The man on the dirt hill fell over and sank into the mass. People began to scream. This thing was coming up to us from the bowels of hell and there was nothing we could do to stop it. 

To be continued

Copyright 2021 Echo Ishii

Friday Five: March 5

Once again, I’m going to try the Friday Five writing challenge. I don’t have more ghost stories today, but just a short montage inspired by my day trip to a castle. Enjoy the photos.

bracket, teacher, import, maze, moral

The man watched the ship swaying in the bay as the waves beat fiercely against the rocks. Men were moving as fast as they could to unload its riches. The  Provincial Lord seldom imported objects from faraway places and he wasn’t a man to be disappointed. A rough looking seaman handed the box over to him, and he turned to begin his climb to the castle tower. 

The lord seldom left the tower these days. His courtiers and concubines kept to the lower palace, and he could hear them singing and laughing through the rain. Once in a while, he caught a glimpse of a beautiful kimono sleeve gliding past the sliding bamboo doors. But  a low born man like him had no business gazing on the concubines of feudal lords. 

He began is climb up the maze of steps, sometimes veering left and sometimes right but always up and always steep and as the rain poured down all the more difficult. He served the lord as a teacher of languages; Dutch at first, and now English, but only to the retainers. The lord himself had no interest in crude languages from foreign barbarians. To him, they lacked manners and morals. But the great lord was intrigued by the objects they made-mechanical machines, like the bracket clock he now carried up the steps. It has a gold display with and ebony finish and a chime as beautiful as birdsong.  It was made by one of the finest clockmakers in London.  London. The teacher said the words under his breath, liking the strange sound on his tongue. London. Blackpool. Leeds. He’d only seen them as names on a map somehow imagined them as worlds of gears, wires, and clockwork. 

In such a world, he mused, I’d have a machine of gears and steam that could carry me up these steps. He was getting older and worried that soon the feudal lord would think him too old to keep in his service. And then, where would he go? What would he do? Perhaps, he thought, he still had enough health to travel to this place called London and see it for himself.  

Kakegawa Castle, Kakegawa City, Japan

Friday Five: February 12

I’m back this week for the Friday Five. I thought it was time to try again. This week’s words:

retired bucket sit shout version

As always, Anthony knew his version of events would never be believed. It was the story of his life, but at this moment he didn’t care. He  drove cautiously  down the potholed roads, looking left and right, more for what might be following him than other drivers. There was no one else on the road. No one living, that is.  He saw the little house on the corner and pulled into the driveway. It wasn’t a fancy house. It was small with a front porch, and a small garage, and the driveway was little more than mud and scattered stones. He got out of the car and stood alert. In his left jacket pocket, was a root bundle.   In his right, a small mirror. His weapons. He also had a concealed carry permit and his gun holstered by the side, hidden under his jacket. No bullets in it. That was filled with rock salt. He didn’t want to look like a threat, but he didn’t know what he might be facing on this side of town. 

There was no sound. The sun was out. A face peered out from the screen door.

“Yes?” Said a woman. An older woman, with a brown wrinkled face, he could barely make out. She was half hidden behind a rusting screen door. He could make out a faded yellow housedress covering a rail thin figure.

“Is Principal Wright in?” He said. It sounded stupid to call the old man principal but everyone did. He had been principal at East Coverton High School for decades of East Coverton residents until he retired two years ago.

“He’s out back,” said the woman. Smiling. Trusting. People in this town were far too trusting, he thought. They didn’t know the dangers. As if smiles, and Bibles, and sweet tea could fight off the darkness. 

“Thank you,” he replied but the woman was already gone and the clang of the outer wooden door was the only sound.

Anthony went to the back of the house. It was a modest yard with a few plants. There was an abandoned chick coop of at the side. Sitting under the shade of a large tree was Principal Wright. He was idly whittling away with a pen knife looking at a child sitting in a sand box, scooping up dirt with a plastic bucket.  When was the last time Anthony had seen a child outside? He thought they all stayed in to play video games. 

“Principal Wright?” He said it loudly, almost shouting. 

The old man looked up. The sun reflected off his bald dome, he pulled glasses out of his pocket and put them on.

 “You don’t need to shout, son. My hearings fine. It’s my eyes don’t work right anymore.” 

“How are you today?” Anthony said lamely. Now that he was here, he wasn’t sure where to start. The little boy giggled. A butterfly flitted around the wildflowers. Principal Wright smiled up at him. This didn’t look like the scene of a haunting. It was a picturesque tapestry of a lazy spring afternoon and he’d brought a gun. He felt so ashamed. 

“Good, good,” the older man stood up. He squinted at Anthony and moved closer to his grandchild. Protective. 

“What seems to be the problem, son? .”

“You remember me?” 

“I remember the face. You were in the principal’ s office quite bit,” he tapped his head. “Now, I’m old but I known enough young people to know when there is a problem.” The old man was standing in front of the little boy now. Anthony thought about how he must look to them-driving up unannounced, six foot two, with a dark jacket, and the bulge of a weapon. And he saw the fear on theman’s face. It wouldn’t be a fight, but it was obvious that grandfather would do anything to give that little boy one extra minute of protection.

Anthony backed up several feet and dropped his hands to the side. This was all going wrong. He was here to protect them, not hurt them. He hadn’t been thinking.  

“Go ahead and call the police if you want. I’m not here to hurt you.“

Principal Wright  leaned over and picked up his grandson. The boy still held on to his bucket and looked up at Anthony. 

“I think something is after you, and I came to check on you.”  

“Something?”

This is where it got tricky. Few people wanted to believe that there was a ghost chasing them. And he wasn’t exactly the most reliable looking person. 

“I don’t think you’re safe out here. Why don’t you pick up your grandson and go inside. Your wife can help you.” 

“My wife’s been dead for fifteen years.”

“Well, whoever’s in the house.”

“No one here but me and the boy during the day,” Principal Wright said, looking confused. 

Then who is in that house? Anthony thought, reaching for his weapons.

Copyright 2021 Echo Ishii

to be continued…

Friday Five: January 22

I’m doing the Friday Five Challenge from Long and Short Reviews. I decided to continue my story from last week. This week’s words are favorite, costume, stumble, confuse, articulate

***

“We’re ready to start, okay?” Eliza was staring at her. Dr. Brenner suddenly felt like a fool clutching the old green book  like a toddler’s teddy bear. 

“Are you cold?” the assistant asked.

“Cold?”

“You’re shaking,” the young woman pointed out. She grabbed one of the professor’s scarfs that was laying across a chair. “This looks warm.”

“That will do,” Dr. Brenner replied. It wasn’t her favorite. It was an unpleasant riot of colors that her sister, Jessica, hand knitted. That was Jessie for you. Always knitting sweaters for new mothers, the homeless, spinster older sisters.  Jessie used to be an aspiring costume designer before she’d found religion.  When she’d first started the Coverton book her sister had shook her head and loudly declared she didn’t want to hear a word about witchcraft. 

Jen, it’s  not about witchcraft. It’s about discrimination and  social mores.

No, it’s about witchcraft.

She’d thought Jessie a fool then, but not anymore. 

She was being a fool, Dr. Brenner thought. It’s just a book. She put it down beside her on the desk. I’s spine was cracked, its pages yellowed at the edges. A stain marred the ugly green cover. There was nothing to fear from a book, she told herself but her heart knew that wasn’t true. She’d keep an eye on it. She wouldn’t let it out of her sight. 

She sat down in her desk chair with the notebook computer open. 

“Focus on the front. All of your slides will drop down and you can read off of them. When the red light is on you’re recording,” Eliza said, as she leaned close enough for the professor to smell the cloying patchouli scent from her hair and clothes. The assistant dressed like she just woke up; in ragged jeans, a plaid shirt, and clunky shoes. At least she had a mask on. It even matched the shirt.

“I don’t want to show my face.”

“Fine,” the young woman’s fingers danced across the keyboard for a few minutes. Dr Brenner sat back awkwardly, clutching the book as the young woman leaned across her. Her fingers danced across the keyboard for a few minutes. 

“There. It will just show the screen,” Eliza gave her a slight grin and spoke in the gentle, enunciated voice you used for toddlers and  the elderly you thought were not all there. Dr. Brenner was nearing retirement but hardly elderly and certainly in control of her faculties. She pushed closer to her desk not- so- gently shoving the young woman away.

“I’ll get started.”

“If it’s too confusing I can go over it again.”

“No thank you.” She didn’t bother too look up as she heard the woman’s heavy shoes stomp across the floor and out into the main room. 

She worked through the slides, reading them in a slow, articulate voice. No longer than 15 minute chunks, Eliza had advised. The book was still beside her. She bumped her arm against it and a chill ran up her spine.

It’s just a book. A book. 

The slides flicked past. She squinted as the words looked too small. The girl has shown her how to enlarge them. Had she forgotten? She didn’t want to call Eliza in and admit that she screwed it up again. She hunted and pecked at the keyboard, hoping she could manage on her own.

It settled back. 

Good. It was time to go back to reading off the screen. 

There is more about Coverton that I didn’t cover in my first volume.

 What? She hadn’t planned any lectures on Coverton beyond what she’d done last week. It was her seminal work, students expected it, but she had a carefully planned limit on what she would discuss. 

No these were the wrong slides.

There were conclusions that needed closer consideration, so as a result, I got in touch with Anna Darkhorse Levenwood. Anna is one of the direct descendants of one of the victims of the rioters. She’s moved back to the area in recent years after some time abroad exploring the remote areas of..

What? She knew these words, but they weren’t her notes. They seemed faintly familiar.

Then she knew. 

The green book. Coverton Riots. Volume 2. 

In a panic she flipped through the slides. There is was. Chapter by chapter. All of the green book digitally scanned. She hadn’t done it. It didn’t have a digital version. This was written before those days. There should be no copies.

She tried to erase it. She pulled it into the trash can thing at the bottom.

OPERATION CAN NOT BE COMPLETED.

Had Eliza done it? She had no reason to expect the girl, but maybe she had. Maybe the department head, Dr. Voight,  had put her up to it.  She’d never much liked Dr. Voight. 

ERROR.

EXTENSION ERROR.

What did that even mean? She pounded on the keys as if that would make things better. The little phone icon began to ring too. The music icon  opened up and started to play. Another green icon spun around with a little arrow and a small beeping sound. 

SHARING FILES

The video icon popped open and she saw her face…old, wrinkled, eyes opened in fright. 

Dr. Brenner stood up from her chair, knocking it to the floor. She grabbed the book and stumbled across the room anxious to get away. It was cold, so very cold. And suddenly dark. The only light was the unnerving digital glow of the screen. The book felt heavier and heavier with each step, the door further and further away. She called to Eliza, but her throat was dry and no words would come out. 

copyright 2021 Echo Ishii