Coming home

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Photo via Mariamichelle via Visual hunt

Sorcha huddled in her cloak, watching for any sign of land as the ship glided through the choppy sea. There was nothing but mist in every direction. She reached up and clasped the medallion around her neck and sent a silent prayer to the Goddess, asking for a sign to lead them to their new home.

“You shouldn’t put your trust in the gods, little sister.” Sorcha looked over at her brother. Eamon crouched near her, a hand resting lightly on the hilt of his sword. He never released it unless he slept, and even then there was a blade close to him. He didn’t trust anyone, not since their village had been attacked by the Emperor’s Chosen.

Sorcha didn’t know what made the Emperor send his elite soldiers against her village. They’d had little warning; only the sounds of the hooves of the horses told them something was coming. It was enough to send the women and children running into the forest while the men prepared to defend their home.

Bandits were common in the areas where the Palenkiri had their villages, so the women expected it to be nothing more than another incursion. The men would fight them off and come and get them. They waited, well hidden in trees and under bushes, the youngest children kept silent by sweets or being allowed to suckle their mother’s breasts.

When the men didn’t come, the women grew worried. A few whispered that they should go back to the village and see what had happened, but the elders among them overrode that and they continued hiding. Finally, at sunset, a small handful of men – no more than ten – staggered into the forest. They called the women out.

Several of the women and children remained hidden while the elders slipped out of their spots and approached them. The men collapsed and bolts of energy struck the women, incinerating them. Men in blood colored uniforms flooded the forest, stabbing swords into the underbrush. Men and women in robes embroidered with strange designs set the forest ablaze.

Still, several women and children escaped to meet up with a straggling band of injured men who’d played dead until the soldiers had gone after the rest of them. They fled to the nearby coast and bought passage on the first ship they could find leaving Lytharia. It was setting off, at the Emperor’s desire, to put settlers on an island that had recently been discovered. The survivors all agreed it was far enough away to hide them from his wrath.

“Let her keep her faith, Eamon,” Gerrick said. “It’s probably the only thing keeping her going right now.” He put a hand on Sorcha’s shoulder. “We’ll be there soon, Sorcha.”

Sorcha nodded, and sent another prayer to the Goddess as the ship bucked again. She steadied herself by bracing against the cargo she leaned against. Suddenly, the wind, which had been swirling around them and holding the fog in place, changed direction. The sails billowed out and the fog was blown away.

Several people cried out. Before them, an island jutted out of the sea. Snow topped the mountains, but the lower areas were green and full of trees. They could dimly see something that looked to be a shimmering snake, which those knowledgeable took to be a river. “There’s our new home,” Eamon said.

“Home,” Sorcha said breathlessly. Months of fear and uncertainty melted away. She felt her medallion warm under her chilled fingers. “We’re home.”

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Even books will last

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Photo via Visual hunt

Sora pushed the plaster and wood out of the way. “This place is ancient,” she said.

“I told you,” Kapi said, heaving the large chunks of brick and mortar to the side.

“How did you find it?” Sora asked, slipping in through the gap.

“I was looking for fossils,” Kapi said. She adjusted her face mask and turned up her oxygen. “You’re going to want to kick up your O2. This place is kind of dusty.”

Sora did as her sister suggested. She pulled out her small hand light and activated it. Bright light flooded the room. An old table and chairs, made fragile by extreme age, sat in the middle of the room. “What is that?” Sora asked, pointing to a strange device made of metal. It had handles on the front and was divided into two pieces.

“Let me check,” Kapi said. Her eyes flickered from side to side as she accessed the compendium of ancient devices. “It’s a refrigerator and a freezer. They stored cold foods in it.”

“Interesting,” Sora said.

Kapi pointed. “That’s a stove. They cooked on it. The door below it is an oven. They made bread and cakes and cookies in that. That’s a sink. Those are cupboards. This must be a kitchen.”

They moved on. Kapi identified each room they entered, pointing out the different bits of furniture and appliances. They reached a room that was empty except for a set of shelves with strange looking objects on them. “What are those?” Sora asked.

Kapi frowned. “I’m not sure.”

They got closer and pulled one off the shelf. It was very brittle. The outside was made of some kind of a kind of composite material with ancient writing on it. It covered something and the girls carefully lifted it. Inside were sheets of something filled with pictures and more of the ancient writing.

“This is odd,” Sora said.

Kapi scanned it. “A book. This is a book.” She was excited. “It’s how they shared information and stories in the old days. Do you know how much collectors would pay for these things?”

“We need to get them out of here without the Antiquities Office learning about it,” Sora said.

Kapi pulled out the preservation bags. “That’s why I came prepared.” They loaded the fragile books into the bags and headed out. Sora smiled. The books would pay for the girls to finally get out of the slums and into their own apartment, maybe even put them in jobs where they could afford the rent on it. It would be nice to have a good life again instead of being a pariah after their father’s less than popular opinions on how nuclear war created the issues they faced.

An apple for the teacher

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Sophie looked at her mother and sighed. “Mom, I’m in college. You don’t give your professors apples.”

“Why not?” Emmeline asked. “You never know. It might do you some good.”

“Mom, apples for teachers went out of favor years before I even got to elementary school.”

“Just trust me. Give it a try.”

Sophie took the bag of apples from her mother. “Fine. I’ll do it your way.”

“Don’t eat any of them yourself. Or give them to your friends. They’re only for your professors.”

Sophie rolled her eyes. “I hate apples, and most of my friends do too. So you don’t have to worry about that.”

“Good. Now, enjoy your day, sweetheart.” Emmeline kissed her daughter on the cheek and shooed her out the door.

Sophie climbed into her car and headed towards the university. This was her first day as an incoming Freshman and she was nervous. High school had been hard enough for her. If her mother hadn’t insisted on it, she wouldn’t even have applied for the scholarships and grants. Surprisingly, she’d gotten a full ride scholarship to the local university, and two grants which were enough to pay for her books and various lab fees.

Sophie got to the university and put up her parking pass before heading into the private parking lot. She found one near the front of the lot and slid into place. She got out and grabbed her backpack. She hesitated, looking at the bag of apples. With a sigh, she snagged them and closed and locked her car.

Her first class was Biology. She hated science, but she needed twelve credits in science as one of the graduation requirements. She settled into a seat near the front of the room and waited. The rest of the class drifted in and then the professor came in. She seemed to be an irritable woman with a nervous twitch.

The class didn’t start for another ten minutes. Sophie got up and pulled out one of the apples. She walked up to the professor. “I know this might be weird, but I have these fresh apples and I thought you might like one.”

The professor stared at her and the apple for a moment before taking it from her. “Apples are a healthy snack. I can use one right now.” She took a bite. She smiled. “This is really good.” Sophie smiled and returned to her seat.

The class began on time. The professor’s attitude completely turned around. She seemed to enjoy the lesson and engaged the class in conversation. When the class was dismissed, Sophie headed off to her next class, bemused at the shift in personality.

The rest of the day, as she gave out apples, all of her professors seemed much happier after they were eaten. Sophie began to have her suspicions as she headed home. Emmeline greeted her with a smile. “How was your first day?”

“Mom, what did you do to these apples?” Sophie asked.

“Just a little charm to make your day a little easier,” Emmeline asked. “I know how hard the first day is on everyone. Don’t worry about it. It’ll wear off by the end of today. And tomorrow, your professors will enjoy their day as well.”

Sophie shook her head. “Mom, you can’t go around changing people’s personalities. It’s not safe. Not to mention against the Witches’ Codex.”

“What they don’t know won’t hurt them,” Emmeline said. “Now, stop your fussing and help me fix dinner.”

Sophie rolled her eyes. “Yes mom.”

Like father, like son

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Photo via Visual Hunt

“Okay dad, what is this?” Scott asked, looking over his father’s latest acquisition.

“It’s your grandad’s oldest car,” Michael said.

“What is it?” Scott asked.

“It’s a 1921 Hudson Phaeton,” Michael said. “It’s a classic.”

“I figured that,” Scott said with an amused smile. “What are you going to do with it?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Michael said. “Your grandad left it to me in his will. Your damn uncle has been fighting me over it for the last two years. The judge finally told him to go fuck himself, in proper legalese of course, and I got it. As well as everything else left to me.”

Scott sighed. The animosity between Michael and his brother-in-law, Scott’s Uncle Nick, had been ongoing since the day Scott’s Aunt Sandra brought him home to meet her family nearly twenty five years earlier. “What did Uncle Nick have to say about that?”

“Nothing, though your aunt was begging me to give it all to her anyway,” Michael said. “I told her no, that she’d made her choice and had to live with it. She called me selfish and walked off with that asshole. I just signed the paperwork. The sheriff and several deputies went out yesterday and collected the physical stuff while all the bank accounts and other financial assets were remanded to me this morning.”

“Grandad will be happy,” Scott said.

“Yeah, he will,” Michael said, smiling softly. “You think he’ll come visit tonight?”

“It’s his birthday, isn’t it? He usually pops by to make sure we’re still celebrating it,” Scott said.

“Your mom should be by soon too. Our anniversary is in two weeks. What do you think I should do for that?” Michael asked.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to judge anymore with her,” Scott said. “She’s gotten so picky over the last five years.”

“That car crash really rattled her brains,” Michael said.

“It’s too bad she didn’t survive it. I think she’d have been amused by Uncle Nick’s stupidity,” Scott said.

Michael looked at him. “Do you realize how crazy we sound right now? Talking about your grandad and Elaine like they’re still alive?”

“Yeah, well, it’s your fault you know,” Scott said.

“How is it my fault?” Michael asked.

“You’re the one who inherited grandma’s ability to see and talk to the dead. You passed it along to me. Now we’re stuck with the ghosts of our family hanging around to keep us company for the rest of our lives,” Scott said.

“How are you going to explain that to your wife and kids?” Michael asked with a grin.

“How did you explain it to mom?” Scott countered, grinning back.

“I used that trick I taught you to make my mom visible to her so she could meet her,” Michael said, laughing.

“Then I guess I’ll do that with mom and my potential wife,” Scott said. “If she doesn’t run screaming I’ll know I’ve picked the right one.” Father and son laughed and went back to polishing the beautiful old car.

Window to the soul

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Photo via Visual Hunt

“Sam, your cat’s creeping me out again.”

Samantha Harper – called Sam by everyone who knew her – stuck her head out of the kitchen in her tiny apartment. Sure enough, her emerald eyed Ghost was staring at her current boyfriend. She’d rescued Ghost from a pack of teenage bullies who were bent on killing the tiny kitten he’d been. After bringing him home to nurse him back to health, he’d never left.

She shook her head as her boyfriend started pulling away from Ghost. Tom Williams was a weird one. She’d met him one night after work and he’d attached himself to her. He was a sweet guy, if a little dense at times. But he was fun to be with and she liked his sense of humor.

She sighed. “Did you pet him?”

“No. I sat down and he jumped up next to me. He hasn’t blinked in the last five minutes,” Tom said.

“Ghost, come here, baby,” Sam called, clicking her tongue on the roof of her mouth. Ghost blinked but didn’t move. “Ghost, do you want some tuna?” Sam returned to the kitchen and got out one of the cans of tuna fish she kept for her cat. She hated the stuff but Ghost loved it.

She put a few spoonfuls on a saucer and sealed the rest up in a dish and put it in the fridge. She set it out in the dining room. Ghost continued staring at Tom. “I don’t think he’s interested,” Tom said.

“Huh, that’s weird. He’s always come running when there was tuna on the line,” Sam said. She ducked back into the kitchen as the pot of pasta she was cooking started to boil over. “Just ignore him. He’ll get bored and wander off eventually.”

She didn’t hear his footsteps, but he was suddenly behind her. “Want some help?” Tom asked, way too close for her personal comfort.

“No, I don’t need it. Besides, the kitchen is too small for both of us,” Sam said, trying to back up. Tom stayed with her until she was pressed up against the fridge. “Why don’t you go sit down in the living room? Food will be ready soon.”

“I might just want something more than food,” Tom said. As he reached for her, he let out a blood curdling scream and jumped back.

Ghost was attached to his leg, teeth and claws gouging his flesh. A gun dropped out of Tom’s pocket. “What the fuck?” Sam kicked the gun under the fridge and slammed a fist into Tom’s face. Tom dropped like a rock. Ghost didn’t let go. “Ghost, baby, let him go now.” Ghost growled as she reached down to move him. “Okay then. You stay there while I call the cops.” She grabbed her cell phone and dialed 911.

When the police collected him, one of them told her that “Tom” had no less than seventeen warrants out for his arrest for sexual assault, battery, and attempted murder. “You were very lucky, ma’am,” he said. “What gave him away?”

Sam, who was holding Ghost in her arms, snuggled him closer. “My cat. He knew something was up and protected me.”

“Animals will do that, ma’am. They’re sometimes smarter than people,” the officer said. “Lock your doors up tight and take care.”

Sam carried Ghost back in the house. He was purring and rubbing up against her face. She took him into the bathroom and washed the blood from his face and paws. He stayed calm and collected for it. She took him back into the living room and cuddled with him on the couch. She looked into his emerald green eyes. “Thanks, Ghost. I owe you one.”

She could have sworn a soft voice said in the back of her mind, You saved me. Now I’ve saved you.

A storm is coming

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Photo via Visualhunt

Esther stood on the front porch, watching the storm as it rolled in. The sun had already gone down and there was only a sliver of the once peaceful summer day visible on the horizon.

“Essie, you should come inside.” The querulous notes of her aging mother’s voice irritated her.

“Mother, I’ve told you not to call me Essie. That was cute when I was five, but I’m thirty seven. Use my given name. And I don’t see the reason I should come in. The storm hasn’t even started yet.”

“Don’t argue with me. You may think you’re all grown up, but you’re still my child and I’ll turn you over my knee if you don’t listen,” her mother said.

Esther snorted. Christine Phillips hadn’t been able to do that in more than twenty five years, once Esther’s height had started catching up to her father rather than her petite mother. Esther’s mother had hated the fact that Esther wasn’t the delicately shaped doll that she wanted.

Esther’s father sighed. Samuel Phillips was a respectable old country doctor who’d long since retired. He was in the rocking chair next to Esther on the porch. “You should listen to her, Esther. Respect your mother, even if she is a screeching harpy.”

“She never let me watch storms out here when I was a kid. I’m not missing this one,” Esther said stubbornly.

“The day a woman doesn’t listen to her mother means the world is ending,” Christine said, her voice going up an octave.

“Mother, I haven’t listened to you in years. The world hasn’t ended yet,” Esther called. Samuel shook his head and puffed on his pipe.

“Sam, don’t you be smoking that nasty stuff with a young lady next to you,” Christine snapped from just inside the door. Samuel dutifully put out the pipe. “Esther Leigh Phillips, you get in this house right now.”

“I’m watching the storm, Mother,” Esther said.

There was a crack of thunder and lightning split the sky. Rain started pouring as if someone had burst a dam. The porch was wet in seconds. Samuel got up quickly and he and Esther hurried inside, both of them drenched.

“I told you this was a bad idea. Look at you. Covered in blood,” Christine said. “Now you’re getting it all over my nice, clean carpet. What is wrong with you two?”

Esther and Samuel looked at each other in confusion, turning to horror when they each took in what they saw. Blood dripped down their faces and their hair, soaked into their clothing, leaving dark red rivulets on the ground behind them.

“What the hell?” Samuel asked.

“The world comes to an end when a daughter doesn’t listen to her mother,” Christine said.