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.
It’s hard to own up to your weaknesses but I’ll try.
Busyness: I confuse doing a lot with progress. I tend to overcommit to projects and putting things I enjoy doing on the back burner. It’s makes me high strung and impatient. I think if I learn to set more realistic goals, I will enjoy life more.
Comparing myself to others: telling myself that I’m a failure because I haven’t accomplished what someone else has. It means I don’t enjoy my own accomplishments enough and shows a lack of gratefulness.
I’m trying to change both by starting each morning with a quiet time to meditate or pray and each night before bed reciting what I’m grateful for in my life or something positive about that day. I hope I’m getting better.
And my last weakness…processed sugar: I know Oreos are bad for you, but they are good!!
This week I continued last week’s story which was here.
impound partner lip knowledge full
“What do you mean there is someone in my house?”Principal Wright asked in the same tone of voice he used when he was still a principal and Anthony was in the office for the second time in a week. His little grandson was pulling away from him, trying to get down, but he had him a firm grip.
“When I came to the door, I was met by a woman in a yellow dress,” Anthony replied, he bit his lower lip, a bad habit, thinking things through. His knowledge of ghosts and specters was largely self-taught. He’d seen ghosts most of his life, which his aunt had called the touch. She was the only one who’d believed him, and gave him a few tips about warding off ghosts. Fighting them, however, was another level. He didn’t have any mentors in the ghost fighting world or a partner in his paranormal investigations. All he had were web searches and, apparently, a disregard for self-preservation.
“From what I saw of her, I think she’s a powerful specter. She was able to speak. And open the door.” Though that could have been the effects of the wind.
“You think my house is haunted?” The man said.
“I don’t know if it’s the house or you,” Anthony said.
Principal Wright finally set the boy on the ground and grabbed his hand. The kid mumbled some words that Anthony couldn’t make out. He wasn’t good with small children. He knew that. But now he had to guard them both. Anthony, you have your hands full.
“Maybe you and your grandson could go out for the day?”
The little boy grabbed his grandpa’s leg and clung to it. “With eyes these bad I don’t drive anymore.”The other man shrugged and coughed. He looked up at Anthony.
“Now listen son. I understand you think helping. And I know this town has a reputation, but I can assure you my house is fine. Why don’t you come on in with me and we’ll prove it?”
“I know what I saw.” Anthony insisted. Did he? There were times when he doubted himself. Once you saw a real ghosts you began to see ghosts everywhere. Most were just wispy images that clung too long to the real world. Others were more defined. And a few, like this one, spoke and moved and those he was certain about.
The old man and the boy had already begun to walk back towards the house. If he tried to force them to stay outside, he’d scare the crap out of them again. Ghosts got stronger when they smelled fear; the irony of fighting them. He saw no choice but to follow them inside. They went around to other side to the car port. The car itself was large, and old, with rust on the rims and looked like it hadn’t been driven in years. It looked like it hadn’t been washed either. Anthony’d seen better vehicles in impound. No wonder the old man didn’t drive much anymore.
He stepped inside right behind them.
“It’s cold in here,” the man said, “this place never warms up. That’s why we go out in the backyard.”
It was cold in the house. Colder than it should be. Ghost haunted cold. He pulled the root bag out and kept it in his hands. Anthony walked through the house with slow careful steps, looking down the hallway. Nothing. But she was here. He knew she was here.
“Popsicle,” the boy finally spoke a recognizable word. His little legs ran towards the freezer. He pulled out a red one. Anthony remember those. He used to have them when he was a kid.
He was surprised a kid wanted a popsicle in a place this cold. He shivered. He was wearing a jacket. The old man and the boy wore nothing but short sleeves. How did they stand it?
The grandfather patted the boy on the back, ushering him out of the room.
“The only time he goes is with that popsicle,” the older man said.
“I used to love them too when I was a kid.”
“It’s the cold. Keeps him occupied.” Principal Wright stepped closer to Anthony. Something about him seemed quiet, timid, afraid.
“The woman in the yellow dress. She’s here everyday,” he spoke in a whisper.
“What?” Anthony replied with shock. Too loud, but the boy wasn’t paying them any attention. They heard the pleased giggle and the little slurp and suck sound of the kid downing the popsicle.
Principal Wright shushed Anthony to keep his voice down.
“She drops off the boy each morning. No matter what I do. I tried going to a hotel, but there they were. Every morning. Got to watch. If I don’t…,” he rolled up his sleeve, showing scars up and down his arm. The were deep and ugly, in a pattern of hexagrams.
“She gets in a fury if I don’t watch the boy.”
Anthony heart sank to the bottom of his stomach. His legs felt like lead. So he wasn’t afraid for the boy, he’d been afraid of the boy.
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.”
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.
I love notebooks, pens, and paper. I also love decorative tape. There is a store near the local grocery store that has ink pens, markers, colored pens, chalk, cardboard, construction paper, origami paper and handmade Japanese paper (washi).
We only have a small one now for my daughter’s goldfish but I’d love to have a tropical fish tank. I used to have one many years ago. Tropical fish require care and it’s not easy but they were beautiful.
My home does not have central heat so I love my electric carpet. Since I’ve been working from home, it’s vital in the cold months. My cats also love the electric carpet so I have to share the space.
Chocolate chip cookies
I love chocolate chip cookies. They are a fundamental part of my food pyramid.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
This is a challenge from Long and Short Reviews. Stop by and read some of the other entries. I had fun writing this on Friday night, so I edited a bit and posted Saturday.
This week’s words: seminar, mine, law, crisis, address
“Professor”, the young woman said, as Dr. Brenner looked up. “The camera is at the top and you need to speak into it.”
It was hard to understand with the girl’s mask on. She wasn’t a girl she was a 25 year old woman, but all the graduate students looked like boys and girls to her nowadays. Dr. Gretchen Brenner was near retirement, but once a semester she did a seminar for the law department. This time she had to do it online. She hated all this.
She remembered her first lecture- ready to address an assembly hall full of students who took in each word and wrote furiously on notepads. Now the college didn’t have the numbers it once did and most of them half listened and stared at their phones. But at least it was real life. Now she had to prerecord lessons in her stuffy little office at home.
The grad student, Eliza, had on a mask but was making another of her frustrated snorting noises. “Maybe we should move to the kitchen. The light in here sucks.”
At least it was better than Zoom. She loathed that. Talking into the void to students who couldn’t or wouldn’t show their faces and she got an odd feeling about some of them. As if, they weren’t really there. She was afraid so often nowadays. Every noise made her jump. Every rattle of the pipes made her heart race. The house had been broken in twice; and the police did nothing. Broken glass and some stolen loose change wasn’t much of a priority.
Dr. Brenner hadn’t wanted a grad assistant this year. Ten, fifteen years ago when she was at her prime there would be plenty for a bright, young woman like Eliza to do. But she didn’t do any research anymore. Her inquisitive mind had carried her along paths she’d wished she’d never known. She was never doing research again. At least Eliza was good at all the computer stuff she couldn’t be bothered to do. But the girl had little regard for personal space. Always moving the chairs or opening and closing the curtains or running some type of extension under her desk. Dr. Brenner would complain more but then maybe Eliza would get annoyed and never return and lately she hated the thought of no one ever coming by. With the break ins and the noises, she felt better with Eliza here.
Now, the girl was shuffling the books on the shelf.
“I have those in order.”
“I think it might be better if we can see all of your books in the center. That way they can see all your work.”
Crisis in Coverton County. The most famous because it went mainstream. The original academic paper had a far more cumbersome title “The Coverton County Riots: A socio-political analysis of discrimination, regional unrest and government response”. It was full of details and legal minutiae that no one outside of a narrow field of interests would even care about and only reached the larger public because of the supposed cause of the first riot-witchcraft.
Last year, the Coverton County Riots had been featured in a Netflix documentary. Dr. Brenner tried to watch it-but it had far more sex and violence than she remembered in her thesis.
One of the books on the topmost shelf thudded to the floor. It was a hardback, faded, with a broken spine. Eliza leaned to get it, but the old professor was surprisingly spry and scooped it up first.
“Is that another one of yours? We can put it in the center? ” the assistant asked.
“ No.” Dr. Brenner said more forcefully than she meant to. “This copy is mine. I mean, it’s for my eyes only. It was never published.”
No one saw this book. It only had a limited run, and the publisher was gone. The whole warehouse burned to the ground.
“Okay, sure,” the girl just shrugged. Nutty professor. Crazy old cat lady. That’s what Dr. Brenner read in the shrug of those shoulders. The girl went back to her keyboard, blissfully unaware of panic and fear that wrapped itself around the older woman. Completely oblivious to the darkness that seemed to come over the room as soon as the book had fallen.
Dr. Brenner’s heart raced as she clutched the green book to her chest. This was the book she’d written that no one else could be permitted to read. This was the follow up to Crisis in Coverton County that should never see the light of day. She should have destroyed it. She was certain she kept it locked up in the safe box in her bedroom. How had it gotten down here? Had someone or something take it out?
I appreciate any place I visit, so it’s hard to narrow it down. I always like to visit my friends. When I graduated from college I went to visit one of my classmates who had a job working for the park service in Wyoming. It was the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’d ever seen. It was one of the first times I’d ever seen an elk and didn’t realize they were so large.
Speaking of wildlife being larger than you expect, I also went to a sea turtle preserve off the coast of South Carolina. I had a summer job as a camp counselor but one weekend we got a chance to visit a preserve and learn about sea turtles. We traced the sea turtle tracks along the beach.
I got a chance to take a short tour of Italy because it was work related. Some day, I’d love to explore more leisurely. I did get to visit the Colosseum and Pompeii. Pompeii was eerie. You saw a whole town stopped in time. As a history buff, I was truly amazed. There have been a lot of recent discoveries in Pompeii so I’d like to go again.
My husband and I went to England for our fifth anniversary. We both wanted to visit a country we’d never seen. We did the tours in London, but Stonehenge was really special. I’d seen pictures of it all the time but it’s a whole different experience up close.
This is a little closer to home. The Oshino Hakkai Springs World Heritage Site is a series of ponds and deep water wells. Its truly remarkable and last time we visited I got some lovely photos. Enjoy.
This is a new challenge from Long and Short Reviews. There are words to use in a writing prompt. I’m a little late, because I just read some others, but thought I’d try something quick. I gave myself fifteen minutes and this is what I came up with.
deport, direction, deliver, distributor, sister
My sister stood in front of the customer and plastered on her best smile. She was much better at customer service than I was. For one thing, she was dressed in a cream colored suit, with flawless make-up, and a French twist bun. My hair and face had been under a work helmet all day and even I was afraid to see what I looked like.
“We work with all the best cybernetic distributors in the business,” she said. “I’m sure we can find what you need.”
“You came highly recommended,” the new client said.
This woman was one of the upscale cyborgs, with sleek silver suit and gold and pink wings. She was clearly designed for aesthestics more than war; though she’d probably been a private body guard at some point. She followed my sister to the direction of the conference room while I went back to work. New customers got a one on one so that Gina could assess whether or not we’d take them on. It’s not so much that we couln’t work on any cyborg that came through the door; it’s that we wouldn’t. Our father and mother had built Drummond Cybernetics Services from the ground up and weren’t willing to take on just anyone. We served the only the best. Custom made security cyborgs and even military grades if they were from special forces. Off-world professionals who needed to customize their bodies for space travel. Occasionally, we even did an android or two. All the grunt soldiers could get cut-rate replacement parts delivered from anyone, so we didn’t really do those kind of cyborgs.
I am trying not to get too wrapped up in goals, especially since last year. There were many big changes in work, so I had to adjust to the new realities of my job and keeping my family ok, and my child educated. Most of my year felt like survival mode. I have gotten much better at the work side of things, which meant learning a lot more new computer skills. And I absolutely loved spending more time with my family. Our family outing became bicycle rides and my husband repaired all our bikes and bought new tires. I treasure these times.
Everyone always wants to lose weight. I do, but I’ve learned that the pick a weight loss number approach doesn’t work well. So, I decided to change my diet about three months ago. I have high cholesterol, so I want to get that under control. A local market sells locally grown produce (some organic) and has special sale days and recipe cards. So each week, I try to learn a new vegetable dish to make. So far, the one’s that were successful were ginger and honey carrots, roasted beets, and zucchini carbonara. I also found a place that sold more wheat and grain bread rather than plain white. Hopefully, with better eating habits an more family bicycle trips I can improve my health this year.
Family and Friend Goals:
I want to improve my contacts with writer friends. I hope to be better about blogging, but also about beta groups. Currently, I joined a Japan based groups for writers. We meet on Zoom an that was fun.
Last, my writing goals did not go as planned. I had a hard time with it. On the positive side, I read more craft books. I was making outlines, but I needed to learn how to make effective outlines for characters. I did get another book in my series published (Terran Attraction) and I wrote two novellas. One of them turned out fairly well, so I’d like to try a follow up. My writing goal for this year is writing, writing, writing. I want to submit to a lot more short story anthologies this year. Mainly, I want to stay positive and focus on my accomplishments rather than my failures.
Blake’s 7. At the Horizon fansite, they have just started doing group rewatches from Season 1, Episode 1.
The Twilight Zone. I want to rewatch all of the originals. I have amazon points cash in, so maybe I will purchase the set. It’s a bit pricey for my region at the moment, but we’ll see.
Bugs. This is a somewhat obscure TV show (iTV?) from the 90’s, but I really enjoy it.
I did my annual New Year’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy watch but haven’t read the books in years. Perhaps, it’s time.