The Path – December 1892

IMAGINATION AND OCCULT PHENOMENA —

William. Q. Judge


The faculty of imagination has been reduced to a very low-level by modern western theorisers upon mental philosophy. It is “only the making of pictures, day-dreaming, fancy, and the like”: thus they have said about one of the noblest faculties in man. In Occultism it is well known to be of the highest importance that one should have the imagination under such control as to be able to make a picture of anything at any time, and if this power has not been so trained the possession of other sorts of knowledge will not enable one to perform certain classes of occult phenomena.

Those who have read Mr. Sinnett’s
Occult World will have noticed two or three classes of phenomena performed by H. P. Blavatsky and her unseen friends, and those who have investigated spiritualism will know that in the latter have been many cases of similar phenomena done by so-called “controls”. Others who made no such investigations have, however, on their own account seen many things done by forces not mechanical but of a nature which must be called occult or psychical. In spiritualism, and by the Adepts like H. P. Blavatsky and others, one thing has excited great interest, that is the precipitating on to paper or other substances of messages out of the air, as it were, and without any visible contact between the sender of the message and the precipitated letters themselves. This has often occurred in seances with certain good mediums, and the late Stainton Moses wrote in a letter which I saw many years ago that there had come under his hand certain messages precipitated out of the air. But in these cases the medium never knows what is to be precipitated, cannot control it at will, is in fact wholly ignorant of the whole matter and the forces operating and how they operate. The elemental forces make the pictures through which the messages are precipitated, and as the inner nature of the medium is abnormally developed, acting subconsciously to the outer man, the whole process is involved in darkness so far as spiritualism is concerned. But not so with trained minds or wills such as possessed by Madame Blavatsky and all like her in the history of the past, including the still living Adepts.

The Adepts who consciously send messages from a distance or who impress thoughts or sentences on the mind of another at a distance are able to do so because their imagination has been fully trained.

The wonderworker of the East who makes you see a snake where there is none, or who causes you to see a number of things done in your presence which were not done in fact, is able to so impress you with his trained imagination, which, indeed, is also often in his case an inheritance, and when inherited it is all the stronger when trained and the easier to put into training. In the same way but to a much smaller degree the modern western hypnotizer influences his subject by the picture he makes with his imagination in those cases where he causes the patient to see or not to see at will, and if that power were stronger in the West than it is, the experiments of the hypnotizing schools would be more wonderful than they are.

Take the case of precipitation. In the first place, all the minerals, metals, and colored substances any one could wish for use are in the air about us held in suspension. This has long been proved so as to need no argument now. If there be any chemical process known that will act on these substances, they can be taken from the air and thrown down before us into visibility. This visibility only results from the closer packing together of the atoms of matter composing the mass. Modern science has only a few processes for thus precipitating, but while they do not go to the length of precipitating in letters or figures they do show that such precipitation is possible. Occultism has a knowledge of the secret chemistry of nature whereby those carbons and other substances in the air may be drawn out at will either separately or mixed. The next step is to find for these substances so to be packed together a mold or matrix through which they may be poured, as it were, and, being thus closely packed, become
visible. Is there such a mold or matrix?

The matrix is made by means of the trained imagination. It must have been trained either now or in some other life before this, or no picture can be precipitated nor message impressed on the brain to which it is directed. The imagination makes a picture of each word of each letter of every line and part of line in every letter and word, and having made that picture it is held there by the will and the imagination acting together for such a length of time as is needed to permit the carbons or other substances to be strained down through this matrix and appear upon the paper. This is exactly the way in which the Masters of H. P. B. sent those messages which they did not write with their hands, for while they precipitated some they wrote some others and sent them by way of the ordinary mail.

The explanation is the same for the sending of a message by words which the receiver is to hear. The image of the person who is to be the recipient has to be made and held in place; that is, in each of these cases you have to become as it were a magic lantern or a camera obscura, and if the image of the letters or if the image of the person be let go or blurred, all the other forces will shoot wide of the mark and naught be accomplished. If a picture were made of the ineffectual thoughts of the generality of people, it would show little lines of force flying out from their brains and instead of reaching their destination falling to the earth just a few feet away from the person who is thus throwing them out.

But, of course, in the case of sending and precipitating on to paper a message from a distance, a good many other matters have to be well known to the operator. For instance, the inner as well as the outer resistance of all substances have to be known, for if not calculated they will throw the aim out, just as the billiard ball may be deflected if the resistance of the cushion is variable and not known to be so by the player. And again, if a living human being has to be used as the other battery at this end of the line, all the resistances and also all the play of that person’s thought have to be known or a complete failure may result. This will show those who inquire about phenomena, or who at a jump wish to be adepts or to do as the adepts can do, what a task it is they would undertake. But there is still another consideration, and that is that inasmuch as all these phenomena have to do with the very subtle and powerful planes of matter it must follow that each time a phenomenon is done the forces of
those planes are roused to action, and reaction will be equal to action in these things just as on the ordinary plane.

An illustration will go to make clear what has been said of the imagination. One day H. P. Blavatsky said she would show me precipitation in the very act. She looked fixedly at a certain smooth piece of wood and slowly on it came out letters which at last made a long sentence. It formed before my eyes and I could see the matter condense and pack itself on the surface. All the letters were like such as she would make with her hand, just because she was making the image in her brain and of course followed her own peculiarities. But in the middle, one of the letters was blurred and, as it were, all split into a mass of mere color as to part of the letter.

“Now here,” she said, “I purposely wandered in the image, so that you could see the effect. As I let my attention go, the falling substance had no matrix and naturally fell on the wood any way and without shape.”

A friend on whom I could rely told me that he once asked a wonderworker in the East what he did when he made a snake come and go before the audience, and he replied that he had been taught from very early youth to see a snake before him and that it was so strong an image everyone there had to see it.

“But,” said my friend, “how do you tell it from a real snake?”

The man replied that he was able to see through it, so that for him it looked like the shadow of a snake, but that if he had not done it so often he might be frightened by it himself. The process he would not give, as he claimed it was a secret in his family. But anyone who has made the trial knows that it is possible to train the imagination so as to at will bring up before the mind the outlines of any object whatsoever, and that after a time the mind seems to construct the image as if it were a tangible thing.

But there is a wide difference between this and the kind of imagination which is solely connected with some desire or fancy. In the latter case the desire and the image and the mind with all its powers are mixed together, and the result, instead of being a training of the image-making power, is to bring on a decay of that power and only a continual flying to the image of the thing desired. This is the sort of use of the power of the imagination which has lowered it in the eyes of the modern scholar, but even that result would not have come about if the scholars had a knowledge of the real inner nature of man.

Entonces, El Dolor de Los Ninos

resting infant hands

a young girl in a delivery room. old and painted dirty white, peeling, the large industrial windows filthy, without shade revealing everything in the room to the world outside. the view to them is of factories and an industrial gray colored sky. the girl lay in a worn and stained hospital bed, her legs held up in stirrups. she cried. a steady stream of tears and sweat flowed from her forehead and  legs; there was pain. a pair of hands. the surgical gloves covered in fresh blood as they manipulated a long pair of forceps extending from the girl’s vagina.

the pain is greater, sharper and more exact in location. she tries to be strong but can’t. she sobs and turns away from the rage  but the pain is too great. blood and death dominate…

we see a child in waiting, playing with others in a white room. the children are all half formed. without gender. hairless and incomplete. as they play, one is summoned a sound. the others stop playing and watch. the one called steps up to a wall of white drape. it spreads them apart and steps through. looking forward at an endless tunnel, lit by an almost blinding white light emanating from within the walls, seeing a brighter source of light emanating from what seems like it’s end. A turmoil of light and shadow erupts from the point of light. it grows dark… red. the red rushes up to the formless child, as if the walls were made of linen and cotton, soaking up blood. the tunnel, now shaded in an angry red, begins to bleed, dripping down upon the child, and soaking it, red. it turns to where the curtain wall should be, but it is not. The child turns back and before it stands a figure. a tall white phantom masked figure dressed in a long white robe, its eyes hidden by a surgical mask, untouched by the red that is filling the tunnel. from under it’s clean white robe, the figure reveals a long metal instrument with a shining blade at its end. the hands of the figure are thin, almost skeletal covered in blood. looking up at the figure, the child’s mouth is open wide, it’s solid black eyes glisten with tears of terror. the figure rears it’s instrument back and high up, then brings it down upon the child’s head. the child lay dismembered on the floor. the figure walks away.

 

the girl sits on a bench in a park area across from a school. there are children in the school yard playing. first and second graders. the girl watches them. her eyes still. she watches as the children are then herded back into the building by the teachers. she stares at the door they had just entered when another child steps into view. it is looking at her. but she can’t see what the child looks like, silhouetted against the blinding white light of the sun. but from what little she can see, the child has no hair. the arms short, the fingers short, almost non-existent. the arms thin. the ears small. the feet small. the clothing it wears sparse and torn. the child turns away from her and then runs into the school.

in her hands, the girl holds a black leather bound book. the letters on the cover are gold but we can’t read them because her hands hide them.

 

Passed this point, to get passed this point…

That’s what she thought… get passed this…

Then Inez’s life would be at rest…

She had imagined, a journey upon a sea of black…

Nothing where she imagined the shore to be…

The children she left without a care…without a life…

Sobbed within the darkness of the waves…

Lost as a child…

No Mother…she thought, never found…

No Father, never sought,  just as lost…

She pondered the emptiness of her imagination as she held remnants…

Inez examines a young Puerto Rican woman showing scars…

The scars of a badly performed abortion evident…

Surrounded by the memories of children aborted…

Washing up on shores of living limbs…

Reaching out from the depth of misery and sorrow…

 

Inez awakens…

Perhaps, sixty years of age…

Home alone… the room is black and all she can hear is the dark of the night…

A home she purchased alone years before…

Using the wealth she gained as a doctor…

Performing abortions…

She had been married but Charlie, her husband, aptly died while they were still in medical school….

The house sat on ten acres of land surrounded by hundreds of acres of protected park land…

She lived alone as she had always with a daughter, Alma, a few pictures on the wall showed the girl was in her twenties…

Inez’s hand moved quickly across the page as she wrote her notes to recall…

The other hand held the probe of the stethoscope bell against her chest…

Catching the resonant beat of her heart…

The only light in the room was an old desk lamp…

Darkness surrounded her….

A thumping sound came from the basement…

Inez looked down the hall at the dark stairwell from where the noise came…

The noise continued as she stepped down to the basement…

Holding the bell shaped probe of the stethoscope to her heart…

She walked down the stairs approaching a thumping, dull wooden sound…

The sound of dull objects pounding on metal…

Down in the basement she turned on the light…

Revealing an expanse of priceless artwork…

Passing it all she walked to an open large, heavy wooden door at the back wall of the basement…

Musty air exhaled to escape and mingled with fresh air in the rest of the basement producing a queer smell…

She reached up into the darkness turning on the lamp that hung from an old mangled wire….

The noise continued as she approached the room at the back wall it was coming from…

Lining the rotted walls of the unkempt secret room were a series of old wooden file cabinets that bore a likeness of a the city morgue…

Row upon row of the dead were kept in coffin draws…

Rolled out when needed like files in a filing cabinet…

It sounded as if an animal was in the cabinets and were daringly trouncing about inside…

An animal?

What kind of an animal would get into this room? Rats!

She had rats!

Damn it! she thought…

The pounding continued until it came to settle within one of the draws…

She listened carefully trying to pinpoint the source…

Sounding as if the animal were running from draw to draw and settling…

The arrhythmic pounding seemed to be coalescing into the heartbeats of many coming from a single draw…

Inez stood before the draw listening to the slow, muffled drumming…

Holding the stethoscope probe to it and listening carefully…

As she had done so often when listening for the heartbeat of a child in it’s mother’s womb before…

Hearing the soft heartbeat thump, thump, thump…

An animal?  

She ran into the main basement room, found a hammer and a screwdriver…

Inhaled a deep breath and counted down as she pulled the draw back quickly…

The fetus folded, lay still, dead and moist: Aborted… one would assume…

Threw herself away from the draw, ran out of the room and locked it…

Stepping back from the door, her eyes fixed on it’s stillness…

Pressed the stethoscope bell against her chest, listening to her heart…

Haunted…

Standing at the wooden door of her basement…

Listening, as the draws alone opened one by one…

Listening as the sound of whimpering children’s hearts murmuring filled the room…

She imagined the death of her husband the moment she let him go to find his end and her freedom…

Raising herself from his death as she let him die…

The door resonating, pounding the door from the other side of their existence…

“You have hurt us…” they said.

“And we will hurt you…”

 

Helena Montes sat in the kitchen nook beside the bay window. Sipping coffee she read the newspaper. The morning sun streamed through the trees. she wore a stethoscope around her neck, the sensor plate in one hand pressed against her chest.

She dressed. She slipped her long ageless supple legs into the stockings. She dressed in a short blue dress.

She pulled the Mercedes out of the driveway and streaked down the road, driving across rolling hills and farmland.

She drove into town and parked the car in a municipal parking lot at the entrance to town. She strolled through town, greeting friends and townsfolk as they met her happy smile and returned the greeting.

She walked into the bakers shop and stood on line with a few others. They greeted each other and talked. Helena purchased a dozen rolls and bagels and walked out.

 

She walked into her office greeted the nurse, Robin, a young newlywed living in town.

Helena examines a Puerto Rican woman with extensive scars from a bad abortion.

 

“Alma, go see your mother…”

“How would she know…?”

“Your dreams are the result of your own life… there is so much to learn from her…”

“But I love you so much…”

“Do you Michael?”

“I do… That love no matter how real or sincere doesn’t result in the relationship we have…”

“There are so many assumptions to consider…”

 

“Don’t you recall mother?”

 

“I don’t…”

 

“You called me…”

 

“I recall falling asleep in the rocking chair, having a terrible nightmare…”

 

“Really? Why?”

 

“Mom, you always wanted me to have a child…

A husband…

Listen to the order you prefer,

That’s not what I wanted… do you recall?”

 

“I don’t…”

 

“Mother, are you alright?…

Mother, this isn’t the life I wanted, this is what you want…

You wanted us to marry and have a child…

I’m not even sure I even want to be married at all or marry Michael…”

 

“I wanted your life to be the life I wanted for myself when I was a little girl…”

 

“And now, this is the life you wanted?”

 

“No, I never had a life that I could  grow from…I had to choose my life along the way…

No directive or guidance…No one was ever there for me… To accept the choices made for or left for me…”

“Which is the life you now want me to have with which to have my child…the life you imagined for yourself you wish for me without a say?”

“No Alma…”

“You already have chosen that existence for me…”

“There is so much joy in giving birth…to nurture….a man can never have what you can…”

“Mother, I don’t want that, I hope to have what I want.”

“But you do…”

“I why would I want what you feel I should?”

“Don’t you also wish for the child to have a life with a mother who wants the child as well?”

“No mother.”

“But you will Alma…”

“Like you wanted me?

“Of course, love…”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes…you have doubts?”

“About you and my existence mother?”

“I had a dream, a nightmare of children hurt and in pain, they knew nothing else…

“They expected nothing…”

“They lived in that very moment…”

 

The love they needed was forever to be one of sorrow…

They stood about waiting…

Watching, knowing where the children were going and rising from the black ground…

And they could see nothing they would want of birth…

Imagine the life they were becoming a part of not being the end result of their birth…

They imagined more so but they couldn’t turn back…

They couldn’t turn back the life offered was one they couldn’t turn down…

But live it as is best and worse they could imagine…

Nothing to fulfill, nothing to chose but accept death and fall where they must…”

“Do you understand what you are, Alma?

You are the child of a woman whose wrath is the scorn and hate of others…

You are the child born of a woman who blamed and aborted the children of others for her childless life…

Aborted the lives of others out of vengeance…

Realized she could steal another’s to have her own and rid herself of a useless man…

Having a child is the joy of seeing it appear from the womb, the joy of watching that child grow up.”

The child poured forth, its birth, its spirit now free of any restriction of any afterthought was lost…

As if to stretch and awaken from a deep sleep…

To rise from a sleep that was never complete…

The children, risen from their sleep angered to rise…

Risen to become anger from a sleep of hate

 

Alma calls from the room…

The sores erupt as births…

The emergence of a child born, from the body of its mother…

Blind from birth…

To be born like cancer, to be born from death…

These children are triggered to fruit by the very death of its mother…

I am a child of misery poured forth.

Looking in the mirror, Alma’s puss filled sores cover the whole of her body…

Embodying the dead children, becoming a mass of ill-formed arms, legs, heads, eyes and mouths from the fetus’ of the children she aborted…

 

Witnessing the army of ill formed children rise up from the open land around her…

A woman stands across the field watching…

A child speaks, the wraith, speaks as the the wraith form for the woman who watches from across the field, and was a patient of the doctors.

This child appears from the composite of aborted fetuses that embodies Alma… the children aborted are the victims of Inez who are the deceived minority patients, convinced to abort what they thought were deformed children, only to satisfy the animal within her that sought to restrict other minority women from having children… her anger was deep…why should she not have a child.

Having killed her husband, we learn that Inez killed her husband believing his impotency kept her from having children….

But it was her that was sterile…

The anger drove her to open a practice in a depressed neighborhood where she performed abortion after abortion…

Killing the children she could never have…

She re-imagines the sensation of life within the mother’s belly…

Quivering with anxiety dying in her hands…

While still within the body of the mother…

 

Alma, is a stolen child.

Alma knows now that she is not her mother’s true child, but a child left and disposed, a replacement for her mother’s twisted dreams.

Alma had been summoned by the ghosts of those whose suffering and death we’re not allowed to live because of her mother’s quest for sacrifice, a more suitable punishment for a vengeful woman, who cherished her daughter more than anything else in the world…

Alma, finally consumed by the dead children, consumed…

The mass undulates in the bed…

As her daughter calls as if from far away…

Inez runs off down the steps… She slips and gets hurt…

The house shutters, the floor shakes, the walls quiver in a giant wave…

The faces of children suddenly appear from the fabric of the wall…

As if they were pressing through from the other side…

She runs for the exit door…

Grabs the knob…

The little hands reach out and grab her, pulling her down…

She yanks at them, pulling the door off of it’s hinges.

She falls back to the floor and looks out through the door, across the field…

An army of children appear, standing in line across, like land mines laid across a field.

Inez rushes the door and charges through the army of children…

She runs out onto the field where an army of angry of children, who slowly sink into the ground, dragging her with them…

The house weakens and is consumed by the Earth, then falls into the darkness…

Punishment for the divine…

 

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Broken Slate

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Miguel lost count of the number of times he awoke each morning before sunrise and sat at the edge of the bed, his hands gripping and pulling at the mattress, stomach heaving with nausea waiting for the sun to rise as if it would bring any solace. His hands pushed down, straightening his back. Both legs bounced in place, each to a different rhythm, shaking the bed hard enough to awaken his wife Maria. Maria lay on her outstretched arm night gown falling limp to that side, flowing like white water over her exposed ample breasts. Maria watched him for a moment then crawled over to Miguel on all fours, draping her arms gently over his shoulders, pressing the back of his head to her bosom. “Miguel”, she said. Her voice like a child’s, soft and sweet, soothing.
“Te puedo ayudar, corazon? What’s wrong?” she asked.
“It’s nothing,” he said.
Maria rubbed the back of his head with her breasts. His eyes closed. His legs stopped bouncing. His breathing slowed and his grip on the mattress loosened. She kissed his neck, in a line to his ear. His head fell back deeper into her bosom. She pulled away from him and crossed to the other side of the bed. Miguel fell gently back onto the bed. Maria lay on her side. Miguel turned over and stood on the bed on all fours, looking at his wife.
“Make love to me, Miguel.”
Miguel looked at her for a moment. Then all at once he felt a rush of pressure throughout his body. He weakened. His heart beat relentlessly. He grew dizzy.
Miguel is a young Puerto Rican, living in Brooklyn with his hardworking loving Papi, a proud mother, married to a loving and doting wife and father to a five year old girl, seems discontent and wonders why. Miguel has a good job that pays him well, working with Papi at the moving company, and comes home everyday to a happy clan. He participates in many familial and extra-familial activities, but still feels empty. Like butterflies fluttering in his empty belly.
Miguel stands alone in the backyard of the tenement they live in. His Papi had long ago renovated the back courtyard before the family had moved in, before Miguel was born.  Miguel was born into and played in it all his life with his friend Andy. He recalls his childhood. The new world the backyard had become for them. The fantastic lands that each corner and brick planters had become in their imaginations.
As always he could feel the ground tremble underneath. He always believed there was something under the slate courtyard; as a child he imagined a great dragon, as an adult he often imagined it to be just water. He stood on the cold spot, that stretched across the yard, and lay his head down on the ground, as he did when he was a child (flashback), and pressed his ear to the cold stone to listen to the dragon roar.
Miguel talks with a neighbor from the other building that shared the courtyard. They whisper about the old man in the rocking chair, who is always at his window, looking down on the yard. Papi often visits the old man, but rarely talks about him. Mommy knows little about him.
Miguel talks with his friend, Andy, about their childhood and the games they played.
MIguel tells Andy he is considering breaking the slate to open the ground. Andy thinks he is crazy.
Cold night. Misty. Miguel awakens to the roar of the dragon in his head. He can’t sleep. He walks to the window overlooking the yard. Then prowls the apartment, listening to the others as they sleep. Miguel steps out and goes down to the basement and takes the sledgehammer from his Papi’s tools, sacred tools that were once used to build the yard, which he would now use to destroy it. He goes out and listens to the court yard ground. The fierce rumble below his feet. He finds the loudest point and begins to beat the ground there.
Papi is asleep. He awakens, realizing the danger.
The neighbors awaken calling out for him to stop the noise. The old man watches. He stops rocking. Papi comes rushing out, but not before Miguel breaks the ground.
“What have you done? What have you done, Miguel?”
Papi stares at Miguel, his face quivering, exasperated.
“What good have you done by destroying the courtyard? By exposing the water?” Papi looked Miguel in the eyes. Miguel’s eyes dribbled with tears.
“I don’t know,” said Miguel. “I don’t know, Papi. I guess there is no good in what I have done. But I don’t do it to achieve anything good.”
“Then what?”
It was there and I knew it. But I needed to see it. I needed to see that it was there. That it really was just what I thought it was.”
“Mi hijo. No te entiendo. What did you think was underneath?”
“Water.”
“Agua?”
Miguel walks away leaving everyone baffled with an answer he certainly feels is sufficient.
“Agua, Miguel? Bueno, entonce . . . then what?”
Miguel stepped through the door into the basement hallway, and was gone from sight.
“Miguel! Answer me, carajo!”
Papi immediately begins to repair the courtyard.
Miguel takes vacation time from work. His wife is a little upset about that. She would rather they had gone away. It is a waste of time sitting around the house drinking beer, sleeping, eating and watching your retired Papi repair the courtyard.
The following Monday, Miguel calls into work and tells his supervisor, Papi’s closest friend, that he will not return.
The friend rushes over to speak with Miguel’s Papi. Miguel watches from the window as the two talk outside. He can’t hear what they are saying. The friend leaves. Papi then enters the building. Miguel could hear through the daytime silence of the building Papis heavy footsteps sound louder as he neared the top floor where Miguel and his wife lived.
“Miguel!”
Miguel sat at the kitchen table drinking beer. Papi found the door unlocked and stepped in. Miguel greeted him with delight. Papi was angry. He then berated him for being so lazy and taking advantage of the family’s kindness to him.
“I didn’t ask for it,” said Miguel.
Miguel continued to spend his days at home, mostly alone. But often walking to see old friends down at the old social club, where the Latin music rippled through the summer silence, keeping everyone up until late at night. During the day he often sat alone outside on the stoop drinking, then at the end of the day greeting his family as they arrived home.
The family, distraught and angered over Miguel’s sudden breakdown.
Miguel would spend his evenings alone in the courtyard, standing over the freshly laid slate, and then walk the presumed path of the underground water flow. It flowed toward the old man, who sat still at the window, in the dark, looking down on the courtyard.
The next morning, breaking his two-week-old routine, Miguel stood at the point of the flow where it met with the wall of the old man’s building. Everyone came to him to wish him a good day, even Papi.
After everyone was gone, Miguel walked outside of the building and followed the assumed flow of the brook into the street, then through and out of the neighborhood.
When the family returned home that evening, Miguel was gone.
As time passed for them, they all believed Miguel was gone for good.

 

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ABUELA

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“Bring me more.”

“Quickly!” Abuela roared!

Lilliana scurried out of Abuela’s room and off into the hall, down the stairs and doubling back into the kitchen, where a large iron stock pot filled with meaty gruel boiled violently, spilling it’s slop over the top and onto a filthy black iron stove. She placed abuela’s giant clay soup bowl on the wooden table opposite the stove, then dipped the big wooden ladle in the soup and stirred.

Lilliana looked at her reflection in the worn and stained metal tile finish of the wall behind the stove.

She wasn’t pretty anymore. Not since Abuela took Lilliana from her parents. Her hair matted now, when once she was young her hair draped gracefully over her shoulders, black and shimmering. Her black eyes had once drawn stares but were now ringed with black circles. Her face wrinkled and worn, pasty white, lips parched, mostly hidden by her matted hair. She wore a stained blue house dress that clung to her bones; bones that poked through her skin like trash filled Hefty garbage bags. It seemed to her that her breasts would grow no larger than the pimples they were.

Puberty would never be the same for her as it would be for so many other girls

The gruel continued to pour over the side. It was the only way to make this gruel right, abuela said. Bring it to a boil and keep it there. Simmering won’t stop the demons, boiling them will. To kill them though, you had to eat them, and abuela did. Everyday she ate demons, as she called them. Everyday. Always as a soup. She hated the soup, but it had to be done. The demons were out there and as long as she was alive and still had her powers, she would eat them

The soup boiled but wasn’t filled with enough meat. “Anton!” Lilliana turned to the stairs and called down the basement. “Anton! I need some more meat for the soup.”

Lilliana turned back to the pot on the stove, leaving the door to the basement open for Anton to drag up some more meat from the freezer.

Anton was a tall lanky black guy, with a big head and black happy Einstein hair, wearing a long black t-shirt, faded blue jeans and pink Keds sneakers.

Anton was abuela’s manservant. He did all the repair and heavy work around the house. As well as dragging bags full of demons up from the freezer when Lilliana needed them. He did all the gruesome work on them too. He found them at night, brought them home and kept them in cages, then killed them and chopped them up. Though Anton was mostly silent, Lilliana could occasionally hear him whisper something to them. “Anton? What do you say to them, can I come down and listen to what you say to them and hear their response.” “What they say isn’t so important and your Abuela may not allow that…”

“Then why do you talk to them?”

“Oh, just something to do before I kill them I guess. It calms them. I like them calm. They thrash around less when I’m cutting them up.”

On this day, though, Anton agreed to take her down later to speak with the last one before he killed it

Lilliana returns to Abuela with her soup.

“Abuela! I have your soup. Abuela gave Lilliana a start… she seemed dead at first but Abuela raised her head, she had fallen asleep. She stared….”Abuela, are you ok?”

“Tired and hungry.”

“I brought up another helping of the gruel.”

“Good…”

And she raised the bowl closer to her mouth… as using her arm like a mechanical shovel and crane, she shoveled the putrid gruel from the bowl to her mouth, the contents of which was hot murky liquid and chunks of fresh bloodied meat that danced in kind that almost seemed to be alive as abuela shoveled… Lilliana watched the madness in abuelas motions Like a child’s legs crossed and playing with it’s toys, consuming her favorite food in an effort to rid the world of demons, she imagined…

Abuela paused in exhaustion.

“Abuela, can you tell me more about the demons?”

“I tell you this because you must know, you will eventually do the same and will need to know…. They hide in the bodies of young human children to cast spells which is when you bring them out into the light. Once they become visible you must eat them quickly, seasoned appropriately and why they hide in little bodies is to fool everyone but the most knowledgeable and aware.”

Back in the basement, Anton takes Lilliana down to meet a demon, a little girl of about ten who calls herself Trisha.

“You know Anton is really a sweet guy, he treats you nice until the end.”

“No he doesn’t then why am I here?”

“Because of Grannie and what you are and what she has to do…”

 

“What are your parents like? Do they know about what you are?”

“What do you mean?

“A demon? That you are a demon.”

“But I’m not a demon.”

“Everything will be easier if you’re honest.”

“But I am being honest.”

Lilliana talks with Trisha, asking her questions about her life at home. What her parents are like. Her home. Her friends. Her toys. School. Does she like boys? Trisha often whimpers, afraid of Anton. Lilliana tells her that Anton is really a sweet guy. He just has a job to do

As they talk, Anton paces by, after chopping at meat in the back room, putting it in the freezer, then returning, bending down to Lilliana who sits outside the cage on the soot covered floor with Trisha, and reminding her . . .

“Trisha is a demon, don’t let her fool you.”

Anton walks away up the steps.

Lilliana asked her outright . . . “Are you a demon?”

“What’s a demon,” Trisha asked her pouting innocent lips…

“Well, you…”

Trisha sobbed uncontrollably.

“I’ve done nothing wrong, I don’t understand. Why was I taken? What is he going to do to me?” Lilliana looks back as he works..

Anton watches from the open door of the cutting room

Trisha asks about the locked door.

“What’s in there?”

Lilliana motions to the door down the hall from the cutting room…

“Abuelas secrets, all the scary things that make her who and what she is…”

“What about you? Let’s play some games, what games can you or want to play?”

“Hide and seek!” Trisha spoke with some elation distracted by the current terror…

“I’ll hide, you seek…”

“Ok… I’ll look for you…”

Lilliana lets her out to play, closing the basement door. They play awhile but Lilliana doesn’t recognize her own strength and so Trisha finds the play to rough. Together they press their ears to the secret closet door. They can only imagine. Lilliana tells what she knows about Abuela’s past. That she was a Bruja, and she made clothes for a living, clothes that some said had magical powers. To wear her clothing could be either good or bad luck, no one ever knew. And so the people of her small town in PR exiled her. What happened to all the clothes she made? Perhaps that is her secret.

The bell from Abuela rings out, deafening them. Lilliana runs, dragging Trisha into the cage and leaving her crying. Anton calls down from the top of the stairs to the kitchen. Lilliana fills another bowl from the seething pot on the stove then hurries back up the stairs to tend to Abuela, as Anton unloads another bag of demon meat into the pot While Lilliana sits with Abuela on her bed, feeding her, she looks out of the window to the empty streets.

Their home was a condemned tenement in Brooklyn, the only one on the block left standing. The building was surrounded on all sides by a debris ridden one-acre lot. In the distance she could see children playing in the schoolyard, from which Anton had found and taken two demons in the last year Lilliana turns to Abuela and asks.

“Do you ever wonder if you’ve chosen the wrong child, Abuela?”

She looked up from her soup bowl? Her eyes glistened when opened so wide. Suddenly her head grew twice its size and thrust forward to meet Lilliana’s. Abuelas exposed monster teeth, the ones she needed to chew the demons well but hid in her gums behind her mortal set, and sneered at Lilliana.

Saliva and blood dripped down from her stained fangs, a horrible stench from her breath warmed her face and made Lilliana turn away, sick and afraid Abuela relaxed, sitting back. Her head shrunk back to normal size, her teeth slowly retracted, allowing her to speak again. “Lilliana. Your mother and father wondered the same thing when I went to them with the truth. I told them what some children had become in the wombs of their unsuspecting mother. That two of their own children might be demons. And when I found them to be so, they fought me, until I killed them all. Except you, Lilliana. You were born free of demons. They had not found you because you were supposed to die in your mother’s womb. But you survived.

Don’t doubt my powers, Lilliana. Don’t doubt my knowledge, wisdom and awareness. I know that it may all seem amazing and fantastic, and terribly cruel and morbid, but the horror’s we live with must be found and our world cleansed. Trust me, Lilliana.

Lilliana bolted from the room crying

Lilliana sat in the kitchen with Anton, who had made them both some hot tea. Lilliana asked Anton if he ate the soup too. No! Only her grandmother could, because if a mortal drank demon remains, they would be possessed themselves, and she would have to kill and eat them also. Demon infested adults were much more difficult to deal with. Younger mystics could deal with them better than an old ugly fart like Abuela. Perhaps Lilliana would one day be groomed to carry on Abuela’s mission.

Lilliana asked Anton if he was ever afraid they were making a mistake. That they might be killing innocent children

I used to, Lilliana. For a very long time I was doubtful of what I was doing for your Grandmother.

Did you ever say anything to her?

No! Oh no! I’m sure she knew everything I thought, as she knows all that you have in your mind, and anyone else’s that she cares to invade. But I never said anything to her

Then you’re no longer doubtful?

Those doubts are all gone. I trust your grandmother, as you should too. And you will. . . eventually.

Lilliana went back down to the basement without Anton’s permission to speak with Trisha in whispers, hiding behind a column beside the cage, while Anton hammered away at the meat in the cutting room down the hall. Trisha asked all the questions. Asking about Lilliana’s own past. Her own childhood. Lilliana becomes sad and feels strongly for Trisha.

Trisha asks what a demon is.

“You are, you lie…”

“Everybody lies, all children lie. How do you know the children from the demons?”

“The wings.”

“If I’ve got wings, show me or show yourself the wings I have.”

“I’ve never seen them.”

“Never? Then how do you know? I’m scared of you, not a demon like you imagine that I am. I just go to school, play with my friends and toys…”

Anton pokes his head out to listen, believing he hears voices, but then goes back to work…

“Go ahead go down and look… All you have to lose is your innocence…”

Lilliana walked quietly down the hall to the cutting room, never having seen inside the room before never having seen a demon dismembered. She stepped in and watched in horror, as Anton chopped his away at the body of a small child. She looked away, sickened, and saw a sledgehammer leaning against the wall in the corner of the room.

Trisha reached passed Liliana for the sledge hammer and lifted it over Anton’s head. Anton turned and saw her, as Lilliana brought the hammer crashing down on Anton’s big head, smashing it to pieces like a ripe pumpkin at Thanksgiving. He fell to the ground. She knelt down to check if he was breathing, leaning close to him. Not a breath seemed to come from him. His eyes opened wide and she pulled back Lilliana, whispered Anton.

Lilliana. You should’ve listened to your Grandmother.

His eyes closed and he was dead.

Lilliana ran down the hall to the cage, keys in hand that she had taken off the hook in the cutting room.

She unlocked the cage as Trisha’s face brightened. Trisha scurried from the cage, holding Lilliana’s hand as they hurried up the stairs to the kitchen. The kitchen door to the backyard wouldn’t open. Lilliana wasn’t allowed out and she never saw how Anton left the house. All the doors were bolted Abuela’s bell went off Abuela knew.

A great roar rattled the plaster walls. Cracks like lightning opened up to shine their light. The house shook. And like thunder, there was a constant slow pounding that came from above, causing the whole house to quiver. Abuela became the monster, a slithering giant snake like beast.

Abuela was stalking them. My God! “What is that!” asked Trisha.

“My grandmother”… said Lilliana.

Lilliana and the girl ran down further in the basement, to the locked door that keeps Abuela’s secrets. Lilliana smashes the lock with a chain kept nearby and enters the room filled with Abuelas mementos of magic. The girls rummage about noting the overwhelming magic that comes to life to… Abuela slithers in after them, confronting herself, she is quickly immersed in herself. Lilliana battles her Grandmother. Lilliana wins and frees the girl Trisha thanks Lilliana, sprouts a demons reptilian wings and flies away, laughing… Lilliana finishes her story… related to the children from the neighborhood, pointing out how she had taken on her demon hunting chores…

 

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Featured

The Astronaut

 

My father…

Yes, I recall your father… He was the last human I saw when I left, he seemed disappointed…

He would’ve been the last man to travel in space…you took his place when the agency discovered the truth about long distance space travel, that he wouldn’t be able to go…

Yes, the fear that human anatomy could not handle the journey…

Humankind couldn’t it turns out Androids are our heroes now… They cost less to maintain as heroes… strange, you do look like my father…

Do I?

Yes… Existing humans were used as the models for many early Androids and eventually great Android artists appeared and the whole concept fully developed until we ended up with sentient beings replacing human beings and only the rich and elite could afford Androids of themselves… The poor lived but soon died off leaving me, a legacy human, a real human…

I must be so different from everybody, everything…

Quite…

I dare say I might feel like you, a legacy…

Your closer to human than Android, but unlike me, you can be eliminated…

I’m a legacy being, a living museum piece for many to see…

I as well perhaps?

Doubtful actually, many like have existed and changed the way existence developed…

And children?

There are none…

The world, humanity, existence has changed since, I am an immortal legacy being but eventually that will end soon I would expect…

I’m sorry Dave, they’re waiting for you…

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Featured

The Screaming Closet

screaming closet
The Screaming Closet
A Story by Ralph Pitre 9/19/2017
Still you seek where the light is not, patience, for in time I will reach out from the darkest and show you the horrors of the cosmos…
  • unknown
Me
Love as an element of horror, lives unknown until the knife stabs from behind…
  • unknown
Elsa, a Spanish name.
In Spanish the meaning of the name Elsa is:
Truth.
Elsa walked the length of the hall, her steps small and gentle befitting a woman of her advanced age and still the floorboards creaked underfoot as if from a great weight on the worn yellow and red linear patterned carpet.
Reaching the far end where the wall ran perpendicular to the hall, the doors of two side by side guest rooms were left ajar. Elsa looked into the room on the right where a very tall, very pale man, bluish almost, was in the middle of fitting the sheets tightly around the mattress. He stopped as he felt the weight of her look; nodding to her and she to him. From the left hand room, room number 508, Coltrane’s “Offering” called to her, crying it’s melodic tenor from scratched vinyl on a turntable beside the bed.
The room was empty but for the muffled sound of the strong wind outside. Elsa stepped in to scan the whole room taking note of the empty wheelchair diagonally across the room by the closet door. Walking across the room to the window with the curtain partially drawn, she looked out. She could see the tree struggling against the fierce wind and rain as it grew with each body writhing, rising from the ground along its ancient skin, thunder and lightning drawing them forth.
Elsa closed the curtain and turned back to see the tall bluish man staring at her from the entry door. She looked at the wheel chair to which she crossed the room to stand at the closet door where she could hear a faint sobbing yet distant, that quickly became a frantic cry then a terrible shriek then died, to become sobbing again and then silence. Resting her head against the door, her initial expression of concern became one of endearment… she waited a moment, exhaled deeply, looking down at the tattoo drawn across the pale underside of her wrist, two forearms clutched by two hands…so little time left.
Clover
Lightning cracks the jet black sky…shattering the pane, setting the soul aflame and the world burns, fueling the fire….
The Clover Grill, a dive bar & restaurant, loud and packed with locals, No’la scored a table by the window for herself, Mat and Davida, her camera crew and associate producers, all their gear piled next to No’la sitting on the broad front window bench; however, she couldn’t score the one thing she had been searching for; answers to the Goodbody Mystery. No’la could offer nothing more than a written review of existing Goodbody myth, now decades old…
The smell of an electrical storm… the smell of wet asphalt filled the air, blowing into the grill every time the door opened at the Clover Grill & Bar, on a corner two blocks off the tourist strip out by where the locals lived, it’s old brick and worn woodwork kept its charm while guests enjoyed food, drink, company and an old record player with a shelf stacked with vinyl, new and old, jazz, stomp and zydeco of this small popular eatery on the edge of town…
No’la had eaten very little of her plate of red beans and rice letting it become lumpy paste that she randomly reconfigured with her fork…the hickory coffee, served in a demitasse was still hot enough to allow bubbles to dance randomly building a tiny sculpture from which nothing could be gleaned.
Lost and numb the lack of accomplishment that had become an unwelcome friend for life, reminded her of the day her father was arrested. No’la recalled what she perceived as a happy life in those days when her father never shunned her when he came home from work and she would jump on his lap and ask about the tattoo on his arm under his short sleeve above the elbow; a black & white drawing, a thick chain winding around his back, where a golden ankh hung to end in a hole drawn around his vaccination mark.
No”la was a good investigative journalist at the time her father was arrested. She had been looking into reports that several precincts colluded together to extort money from local businesses and move drugs when eventually it all led to a series of arrests that included her father. A bad cop, perpetuating a family belief that you’re never good enough; it wasn’t enough to be poor, but to have a thug cop for a father….
She was pulled off the story. No’la wasn’t guilty she just knew someone who was and that was enough…
Davida stared at No’la as she grabbed her phone and left the table… I’ll be right back she said…Damn him…No’la had been waiting for his call..Clyph, their boss, their lousy producer in NYC, a hard ass exploiting No’la’s talents and her weaknesses cause all he had was weakness.
Davida had met No’la several years ago soon after No’la had graduated from school… Davida had found herself with no real focus on her studies and the career she announced to family she would pursue… but there she was lost among a throng of pursuer, all running from what they perceived as commitments to their life choices…the shining light crossing the field with a focus on her goals was No’la, who seems to know what she wanted and how to pursue it…
And there was Mat, his mother named him Matador…Born in the bayou as much a modern child slave as could be, he escaped without ever reporting the kidnapping, the abuse and raised himself, hit the military hard then exposed himself to a world documenting the madness… Mat was their warrior, clearly aware of No’la’s issues and No’la and Davida as a loving but estranged couple, Mat kept the trio strong and in gear. With him, once he knew their goal he was their guide, their bodyguard and the only rock steady focus they could trust. Mat spoke little of his past; special task tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. In his stories, and there were many, bits of those tours laced the other stories, constant chatter about so much paranormal that he had taken to heart after losing the stability he thought he had as a warrior. Ghosts, monsters, aliens and all things paranormal gave his life purpose, purpose he lost.
Getting up from the table, away from the noise and the music stomping from the old turntable spinning from an upper shelf behind the bar, No’la walked outside the Clover Grill and stood beside the door, under the recessed canopy avoiding the rain. Phone cradled to speak into she spoke “Hey, what’s up? Clyph…” and the rain had finally started after all its blustering threats, it was a light rain, a drizzle really, normal for this time of year if it stayed light, which it wouldn’t if the angry sky above had anything to say about it…
“No nothing yet”…she told him
“We’re getting something to eat now and still no hotel yet…we’ve called all over…. And now this storm is approaching…”
Skin glistened from sweat and rain, a small protest march started to swell outside of the Clover Grill… Police and mob presence swarmed to bloody each other good, faces broken, blood splattered with a hit of the police club, the crash of a Colt 45 people watched, flooding the street craning their heads from inside the Clover to see what little they could…
The violence swarmed like red rain spilt…black and white bodies flailing, the violence, torrential blood and rain splattered the asphalt black…a black protester stepped from the mass and alone confronted a cop accusing him of killing his brother…
“I can’t talk now Clyph it’s getting violent out here…the march that’s turning into a riot…It’s okay, no nothing at all on this Mr Goodbody, and nothing yet on May…she’s the only victim anybody knows about… no one knew where she went after leaving the hospital…and she’s the mystery, her talk about Mr. Goodbody who seems to have imprisoned her, perhaps tortured her and why she went back to him…it is a mystery, you talk to people who deny it’s importance but it’s obvious they have knowledge and are reluctant to talk about it.”
Listening to Clyph as he spoke…overwhelming frustration…
“It’s been awhile there aren’t many left who know the story, I interviewed who I could, no the lead detective is dead, I spoke with his partner…the partner was a woman who disappeared, maybe…”
“Okay, okay fine I’ll get you an updated file when we’re out of here.”
A black man, over-dressed tatters of rags and clothes, stood aside of the march beside an overflowing garbage container preaching his brand.. looking at the throng, tears filled his eyes…the anger he could see on them, in their hearts, had gone the violence spent…
Mat steps out to stand beside No’la, as if being there would protect her from the protest that hit close to home, prompted action from him but No’la stops him, Mat no…He glared across at the cops holding a protester down on his knees…the anger throbbing fuel on fire, coursing through him until it burst. The cop feeling Mat’s glare, smiles and throws a vicious punch at the protester…Mat looked to No’la, you okay? Yeah let’s get inside…he said.
Just then the angry cop reared back holding the club, and swung…burst…and there was more…
Life is not without the comfort of pain…No’la once said in her sleep…she couldn’t recall any dream or nightmare and Davida could never tell if it was No’la actually saying those words Do you think anybody will ever understand you, No’la was once asked?
Why should they?
No’la preferred being alone, no Mat how lonely she might feel or how much she loved another, her world was solely her own and she preferred it that way, alone… relationships were invasive, a distraction. Once, at a channel party formal dinner to pitching ideas for television shows, in front of hundreds of other guests during a brutal argument, No’la called relationships cancerous, malignant viral entities that clouded one’s thoughts, stopped the heart. Everyone thought she was pitching a show and gave her a standing ovation as she walked out of the ballroom.
Davida, No’la’s best friend and lover, her co-producer and an uber-exuberant No’la supporter since their days at The News Agency was so enamored by her, she was the guardian angel in No’la’s life. Always there, she became as alone and isolated as No’la. Without doubt, Davida believed No’la would come back from her self imposed exile, from life as a significant writing talent to currently making what she called pornographic documentaries about the paranormal. No’la became obsessed with the stories, the research, the culture of believers in all things out of this world who seemed as alone as No’la, strung out on isolation she both loved and hated…
And it burned, No’la could smell it, as always, something burning that she couldn’t identify, always there… burning.
Twenty years ago…
One would hope the hate she had for her father would have died with him, but that hate was greater as a result of what he took from her, something of hers died and she didn’t know what, a lost soul in a cemetery, blank headstones everywhere and nowhere an answer…
Father was mother’s god. Beyond love her dreams saw divinity in him and like him she believed he had been possessed by demons she fought. Both broken one shattered completely. Never finding fault in themselves they believed father’s troubles was the work of demons and their belief in God was overwhelming. The demons worked overtime on father until the day he died. Mother was terrified of suicide because it was a sin instead she chose a long and drawn out method of penance suicide… it was a Mater of time after finding a job in a place doing work where death was inevitable…and it worked.
In all of this, No’la had been left alone never part of the family, part of their madness, no one seemed to care. She watched as Mother fought their demons and father submitted… she could never understand their logic and never knew if dying by their own hand or at the hands of others was victory or defeat. Either way, those same demons seemed to follow her after they were done with father..
No’la’s father would eventually put a gun in his mouth, waiting for a police escort to join the guards who lived in the apartment with them he held a cup of coffee he fired the shot seconds after taking a large gulp…as if thrown from a bucket the blood splattered across the wall mixing with the less viscous coffee, draping a slow black and red curtain…
Over the years the Goodbody Mystery passed from real life mystery to paranormal myth; is there a difference? The archives relate the following: in 1977 an unidentified woman was found roaming the streets by a 12 year old boy who said that she was looking for a place she escaped from but wanted to go back to, that didn’t make any sense but… “I’m trying to find Mr. Goodbody, he’s in a red house, can you help me find him?” Who was Mr. Goodbody? No one ever found out. Naked and wet in the city’s perennial rain storms in a desperate search for Mr Goodbody, she spoke of the big red house, with a water pump in the yard and a “screaming” closet somewhere inside the house. Tim, the 12 year old boy who found her didn’t understand and convinced her to stay where she was, out of the rain at a bus shelter while he went to find police. The police had taken the woman to the hospital where she was treated for exposure, a variety of still broken and badly set bones, bruises, festering wounds and so on… She was kept under observation by a psychologist who used a hypnotist, a blind hypnotist, go figure, to discover that her name was May, born locally in 1952, she was kept inside of a room with several other women in various states of tortured existence when she escaped by slipping into what she called the death bin with two other bodies and did so before Mr Goodbody could catch her. It was apparent that she had been kidnapped, held prisoner and tortured, with other girls some still alive and some dead..the name Goodbody wasn’t much to go on and ultimately she really didn’t know where she was kept.
“This guy often thought of killing himself I would too if I believed I was possessed for over 20 years…”
“What?”
Davida and Mat sat across from No’la, Mat reading out loud from a pulp conspiracy magazine called The Truth, Deal With It! Davida barely listened to Mat’s revelations instead she nursed her cup of coffee deep in thought about No’la and her persistent issues…
“Yeah, over 20 years.”
“What are you guys talking about?”
“Mat found a story about a guy possessed by a demon for 20 years…”
“He’s been possessed by a demon for…?”
“It’s not a demon, I never said demon.”
“A politician?”
Mandy their storytelling waitress approached the table with a fresh pour of coffee listened and wondered.
“Mandy, have you ever heard of the Goodbody Mystery?”
“You talking about that girl who was found walking the streets here in the rain, somewhere ’bout here in this neighborhood I think…”
“Yes it was…”
“Not really…word was she up and took off, disappeared.”
“She did…”
“I saw your video equipment…you doing a TV show about it…”
“Just a segment… a piece…”
“I think the whole thing was a hoax anyway, not really a big deal that I know of.”
Mandy rushed off.
Mat continued…
“Well, but then he does call it a demon later on in the article but a benign demon.”
“What the hell is a benign demon, a demon without horns?”
“I don’t know, that’s what the report says…”
“Well he’s accepted the possession for 20 years…”
“Well that sounds dumb and boring.”
“I think it deserves some consideration. Not everything we cover has to be scary paranormal.”
“Well it’s no fun if it’s not scary. Anyway, this is wasting time and we need to find a place to sleep tonight…”
Outside, the storm was growing and still a number of people were out despite the effort by police to clear the crowd, No’la noticed a petite elderly woman standing in among a crowd waiting at the corner and staring at No’la. The light changed and the crowd rushed to cross the street as the elderly woman entered the Clover Grill. No’la noticed a barely visible tattoo on the woman’s arm, peeking out from the sleeve of her jacket as she passed their table, she raised her arm to close the umbrella. No’la looked in through the window to spy Davida and motioned toward the old lady then followed her into the Clover. The elderly tattooed woman walked straight back to the far end of the bar.
No’la rushed to sit grabbing her sack she shuffled through some of her papers, finding the right one…just as Mandy walked up from behind her
The tattoo…!
“You done honey?” asked Mandy.
“Yes, I am, except more coffee please actually. Sure, you know if you need a place to stay for tonight that woman who just walked in runs a small place near the hospital just a couple of blocks away, mostly outpatient guests from the hospital nearby, but she might be able to help, her names Elsa. She just walked in and sat at the end of the bar.”
“That little old lady with the tattoo…?”
“Yes…” Mandy rushes off for the coffee pot…
Across and along the length of the bar, through the growing crowd they watched Elsa, wearing a light rain coat over a heavier jacket over a light house dress with a busy floral pattern…seated on a far end bar stool she was happily ordering from a friendly and smiling bartender.
Mandy returned with a coffee pot and…”Yeah…that ain’t no tattoo, ya know not for decoration at least.”
“Then what is it for?”
“Branding, that’s a tattoo you get when you’re, entitled to someone….”
“Entitled?”
“Branding used to be what a slave owner used when he wanted to mark you as his so that everybody understood….”
“She wasn’t a….”
“No, she’s too young to have been a slave in this country, but she did belong to someone…”
“How do you know?”
“I just know, you hear things…”
And she rushes off again…
No’la couldn’t see the tattoo but she was sure Mandy had one…
“Creepy…”
“I agree.”
“We missing something?”
“Tell me about it.”
A quick sip of hot coffee and No’la was off
“Going to the bathroom…be right back.”
No’la suddenly turned up the flame…the flame Clyph tried to stifle suddenly alight.
Even a few tourists made it this far off the beaten path mingling with the locals at the bar and the tables covered in food and drink. The bathroom, the only bathroom was towards the back hall that led to the kitchen and the back patio. A woman stood in line ahead of her. The turntable pounded out some local Cajun stomp. No’la stood in line behind the woman just behind Elsa. She stared at the bit of tattoo peeking out from under her sleeve, painted on the underside of her arm just above the wrist. She could overhear the conversation she was having with the bartender, the state of business at the hotel, her work with the woman’s health board and how they’re leading the effort to help women in town why the grill sold and advertised to attract tourists but the grill needed the business. No’la wondered if she knew the story of May and the Goodbody mystery.
No’la glances down the bar to see Mandy nod to acknowledge where Elsa is seated
The bartender approached with Elsa’s food order as the bathroom became vacant and No’la lean’s quickly into Elsa calling her May?
“Excuse me?” Annoyed.
“Oh my, I’m so sorry, it’s…”
“Elsa, yes, can I help you…”
No’la was surprised…
The tattoo was…of two arms embracing, wrist over wrist. “I love your tattoo, I noticed it as you entered.”
Embarrassed, Elsa pulls back on her sleeve, trying to hide the tattoo.
“A betrothal tattoo, something i did for my husband long ago when he was alive. Silly at the time but now he’s always sort of with me.”
Two arms embrace, forearm over forearm though one seemed to be pulling, the dominant arm pressing the other and creating shadows where the pressure would be…
“Can I help you with anything?”
“Sorry, my colleagues and I are looking for a place to stay the night and Mandy the waitress mentioned you might be able to help…that you run a hotel or inn nearby?”
“I do, just a couple of blocks from here, you stuck in town?”
“Yes the storm has shut the airport.”
“You call around?”
“Yes…”
“I have a couple of rooms,”
“Here’s the address,” she said while writing it on a bar napkin
“Just head on over, it isn’t far from here. I’ll meet you there and so you know, it’s mostly an outpatient hotel serving the hospital across the street.”
“That’s fine, anyplace clean will do…”
“It is…better hurry…bad rains coming.”
Elsa walked off
“Thank you, Elsa.”
Elsa waved back as she left the grill and put her rain hood on…
No’la turned back for the bathroom just as someone else went in. I can hold it and she hurried back to the table.
No’la hustled back to the table….
“Guys, lets go. We have someplace to stay…”
“Awesome, the old lady?”….Mat & Davida, follow No’la out the door…Yeah.
Attention…
No’la stepped out of the Clover bar, holding the door open as Davida and Mat followed. She looked up to the sky, into the rain, the drops blinding then washing away a vale that revealed a night sky without a star. A sudden instance of vertigo overwhelmed her, drawing her eyes up, into the abyss then letting go, she began to collapse, Mat caught her from behind…held her for moment asking, “Coming?”
Continuing her thought while Mat helped her stand still, “I called her May”…
“What?”
“I called Elsa, May.”
“The old lady?”
“Yes…”
“Slip of the tongue it was…”
“Perhaps…the tattoo, I’d forgotten that May had a tattoo until the moment I noticed Elsa had one as well…the same one in the same place she described…”
“Elsa might be the right age at this point but was it the same tattoo?”
“The description was similar except Elsa’s tattoo was faded…which would make sense…”
They crossed the street looking at the debris the protesters and authorities had left strewn throughout the asphalt, smeared in blood, broken signs…the war fought, the remains of the loser littered the street…
They felt like fish underwater as the rain poured down, heavy and thick to fill the already moist air…they lost sight of Elsa, looking down Dumaine, dark and nothing at first but then there she was, tiny Elsa looking even smaller now that she had walked more than a long block ahead… how did she get that far so fast?…then she turned right around the corner, into a yard?
No’la couldn’t see that any street lamps were on along Dumaine. The homes, dark perhaps empty, shuttered but more likely home to squatters hiding in plain sight…didn’t help to light the darkness to see any life…
No’la turned to look down Dumaine at the well lit streets they were leaving behind. “I think someone’s following us…”
Mat turned, peered into the darkness and yelled to the stranger, a man, alone, dark, homeless, pushing a junk filled shopping cart silhouetted against the street lights… he stopped and called to them.
“Li se prèske tan, tout bèl pouvwa wè ou, vle ou, men se chemen an ou pran ki te ranpli avèk vicieux a, unblessed a, ki pa gen okenn chemen men sa ki w ap atire … jwenn wout ou … pa leur. ..turn tounen … tout bèl pouvwa a wè ou menm ak ou gade lwen, avèg bay verite a …”
To Mat she asked, What’s he saying?
Something like, “It is almost time, glory sees you, wants you, but the path you take is filled with the wanton, the unblessed, who have no path but that which you are attracted to…find your way…not theirs…turn back…the glory sees you and you look away, blind to the truth…”
“On va bien vieux! Merci pour la bénédiction …”Said Mat, walking back on his heels.”
“Ce n’est pas une bénédiction mais un avertissement.”
“Oke di ou mèsi de tout fason … men mwen panse ke nou ka nwaye si anyen.”
No’la pauses in the rain as the others pass and recalls having once heard her father speak similar words on his worst days…but about himself…
The homeless man walked up from behind No’la, lightly grabbing her shoulder to saying something that only she could hear but couldn’t understand…
“Madame, fènwa a ap tann ou, pa pran lòt moun yo … ale pou kont li.”
Mat rushes back to take her away…and she slipped easily from the homeless man’s hand resting on her shoulder.
No’la, Davida and Mat moved on down the block…looking back, No’la suddenly felt great concern, looking for the homeless man who was know gone…
A struggling fatherless family a mother and two children whose gender weren’t apparent cowered, shielded from the torrent under a willow tree just ahead down the block, across the street from an old brick house.
The family stared at No’la and the group as they crossed the street… “This is it, this is where she turned…” she turned to look at every one…
This is the home May described..
Elsa’s?
May’s….
You sure?
Yes…
No’la stepped sideways, staring at the house May described…a feeling of great accomplishment…she almost stood in the middle of the street, watched by the homeless family and Mat and Davida all enthralled by No’la’s amazement…
“It was the hotel May had escaped from…
“l’attente…”
“The what?” No’la said.
“French for “The Waiting.”
“Really,” said No’la. “Waiting for what…”
“Below the hotel name it says “L’endroit pour ceux qui attendent, ‘The place for those in waiting.’”
“But, waiting for what?
“Décès,” Mat turned to look at the others, “Death, I suppose…”
No’la slowly circled the house, stepping side by side the mansion, asylum and hotel as it stood now, a place for the infirmed and questionable, waiting…
“Look around the house,” No’la said. “look for the water pump she described, a fire engine red water pump.”
The District Commander had at first come to meet No’la over a drink at the hotel they first staying…”There are many secrets to keep, in my lifetime and this is one of them. I have to be careful, you understand?”
“Yes, I do sir…so there is a story?”
“There’s always a story, the trick is to verify it as more than the myth it has become.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“A long time ago, at that time I wasn’t the District Commander, just a captain… I assigned a very good detective to what seemed… a waste of time…” Pausing he looked away, she waited as the pause lengthened….but she waited…”Timothée, a fine detective…would still be if…let me take you to him, I have his permission…
“Ok,” she said.
“I have a car waiting outside…”
It quickly became obvious that the drive, by the Commander himself was longer than it had to be, the house kept in mystery…the car finally stopped in front of a small bungalow that had suffered water damage from the floods.
He turned to her seated in the back behind black steel mesh…”Go in, he’s expecting you.”
“Thank you Commander…”
“Be quick, we’re not young men…”
No’la shuffled across the back seat to get out and rushed through the rain, to the door… it was unlocked. The Commander, seated in the front, looked through the rain….
A voice greeted her, “You are No’la?”, as she stood inside the door, “I am.”
“Take the chair beside you,” he said softly, as if he were tired of talking and what was left were weak streams of air. She sat, without a greeting…she could barely see where the detective was seated though she could tell he was across from her hidden in the shadows cast throughout a dark house from weak exterior light.
“… I found May exactly where the boy said she would be a large red brick house with a big yard and a manual water pump in a side yard. I stood out front and felt as if there was someone at a window, watching, but I wasn’t sure.”
“You saw the house?”
“Well that’s where I first found her, right in front. Then I rushed her off to find my car and took her to the hospital. The rest of the team could never find the house, I could never find the house again…”
Across the street from the hotel where Elsa disappeared into, a family watched as No’la and the crew climbed the stoop to the hotel steps.
Of dark and dirty red brick the house was built, windows dark and stained, the art vague from a yellow film of uncleanliness; the roof covered in dirty unkempt black roof shingles gave the old edifice the feel of a tired church. Likewise a wall extended away from the front to surround the property throughout, the house angled uncomfortably suggesting that nothing made sense; something was wrong. The building at odds with the quaint style of the rest of town but for the front doors; French, unwashed stained glass covered in a wrought iron design that extended into the wood frame at the top of the front stone steps rising a few feet above the ground.
Mat looked back across the street at the homeless family who were likewise staring, back across…The mother, weighed down by bags and the weight she carried but more so grief evident on her face…three children surrounding her holding their own beside her, wanting both her strength and protect her.
Mat approached the brick wall from one side of the stoop that hid the back and side of the building. Balancing himself along a wrought iron runner he looked into the dark yard, trashed with high grass, branches fallen from trees deep in the waste he could vaguely see a very thick mass, perhaps a tree, quivering in the play of light and shadow…
“Pa ale nan…” mother said while giving the Sign of the Cross… The family watches them enter the house one by one. No’la hesitated a moment then disappear into the house and No’la takes note but still goes…Mat responds to their silent fear, looking back…they watch him walk away with concern, his countenance with the inevitable…
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Featured

Canto

canto
CANTO
And there was stillness throughout…
The voice of billions silent, gone in weeks the act of a small band of terrorizing white supremacists experimenting with viral strains to created an agent and render intended targets, politicians, mute. It worked too well and spread quickly throughout and far more hurt than expected and so many to blame…
The applause died, in that short moment of silence before Sophia began to sing, there was a great anticipation, a longing. She bowed her head for a moment, then raised it to look out into the audience, tears welled to fill her eyes as the voice they had all come to hear, filled the room and cried. Cry, they could hear, the voice of God. Cry, others knew, it was and cried in anticipation of the first sound.
Sophia sung with an angel’s voice. The voice had become part of her, one with her, as if she had already been born with the voice of an angel.
The creation of a new set of vocal cords as replacements for a damaged set was hard enough, but to design and manufacture a set of organic vocal cords whose sound was greater than natural or imagined. That is why no one succeeded in centuries. It simply worked or it didn’t. These spectacular voices, it seemed, were beyond the ability of man to create them, and yet man did create them. It is said the designer Mariana literally knew the secret and used it to produce three of the greatest singers in all of history. Two possessed by women, one by a man. Those are gone now, and the few that exist are prized possessions of private and corporate archives as valued artifacts of art and science. They are from a time long before when science had achieved artistic status. Where scientific creations were as much artistic creations. No one in centuries had ever dared to consider implanting one until Sophia.
Sophia sat quietly alone in the waiting room upstairs from the stage contemplating how close she had come to be with the angel’s voice. The voice had taken on a life of it’s own. No longer did Sophia just sing with the voice, but they sang as one.
They had come to know each other so well, the angels voice had become a singular being… Margarite unwraps the scarf around Sophia’s neck, gently caressing her neck, then kissing her on the neck then to her lips. Sophia pulls away.
“Is it the voice you love Margarite? Or me?”
“You of course.”
“Sometimes I don’t know which, sometimes I wonder what attracts you to me. What keeps you with me?”
“I stay for you, Sophia.”
“I know that the voice has great power that no one seems able to resist, including myself. I find myself in love with the angel as much as I do you and I don’t know whom I love most. I feel lost, stuck in the middle of a terrible triangle of emotion.”
“Sing for me Sophia, sing for me, softly so the guards outside can’t hear.”
Is it the voice Margarite loves or Sophia? Margarite often caresses her neck, kissing it, often asking for a softly sung poem, just a few lines, so as not to arouse the guards waiting outside to escort them to the party and ultimately take the voice away.
She clothed herself after the show, wrapping a scarf around her neck, drinking a nutrient drink.
Later when the party is over, Sophia will go away and hide behind a partition to remove the voice placing it in a secure safe, and then taken by security away from her until the next performance. But for now she must have it for the party.
We live in a world where many instruments are still made and the voice of an angel is one of them. The process by which a voice can be man made like any other instrument is unique and amazing. As detailed in a revealing science article in The New York Times the voice is literally grown from cells, and genes manipulated to become a self sufficient organism able to survive both inside and outside of the body. The performer swallows a small organically grown device, destroying the existing vocal cords and bonding with the body. The new vocal cords sing what many call the voice of angels. There are sacrifices to possessing the voice. You become a mute, because the vocal chords must be removed and cleansed in a solution. The chords are for singing only, speaking with them is not advised, the user or the listener. With the voice in place, the performer can never talk out loud or fully. She must whisper for fear that the full sound that is so heavenly would deafen the listener. It is only through song that one can listen. Only then is the voice under control.
Fifteen years ago Sophia had heard recordings of the voice implanted in the body of the Great Marlena and decided then she wanted that voice. She was a great and popular singer already but she wanted to be like no other since. No other singer had ever done this since Marlena. And Marlena had given up her voice as she neared death. No other singer dared for fear of losing their original voice and becoming a mute and slave to a voice that wasn’t your own; the voice of the angel’s. Her then manager had lectured her on this matter and was ultimately fired when her sign language interpreter took on those duties.
She formed a consortium of investors who were willing to pull money together to acquire the voice and implant it in Sophia.
The party awaits her in the grand ballroom.
Escorted by her interpreter, Sophia attends the party where she is congratulated. She greets everyone as a mute, her thoughts voiced by her interpreter who is trained to listen to the soft whisper of her voice.
She had become one with her voice. They longed for each other when they were apart. Of late she sensed the voice had become tired. Why? She could never tell. The voice had no way of communicating with her except through feelings. She knew that it was tired, that it was unhappy. The voice itself was taking on sentient awareness. This she divulged to no one but Margarite.
Sophia is called into the back room where she waits. The board chairman owned three angel voices. The other two were in use by singers. While those two had a grand history of performance, Sophia’s had only one great singer other than herself, attached to it. It had been created for Marlena over three hundred years. She spent twenty-two years performing with it right up until the day she died. Several decades passed until it had once again implanted. In a series of seven male and female singers over a century and a half, the voice never again performed as it had for Marlena. Not until Sophia. The board chairman, Mariano, was a huge fan and connoisseur of the voices and with his money hoped to collect all of them.
In the back room the board chairman explains they want to take the voice back. They want to implant the voice in another woman. They have already tested the implant on this other woman and it has performed well.
Now she knew why it was tired. They had conspired to take the voice away.
In conversation with Margarite, while the guards make their way to take the voice from her, it is suggested she ask for one more performance.
The chairman insists she perform now, for the party, in the ballroom, her final performance and then the cords will be removed.
As the chairman walks to the stage, Margarite and Sophia quietly discuss what to do next. Escape? Sophia finally decides to kill herself. She takes a knife from the buffet table, which she hides in her long sleeve.
As the chairman announces her entrance she slowly makes her way through the crowd.
Alone in the dark of a loft that overlooks the stage from above the rafters of the theater a man sits poised with a rifle aimed at Sophia, his right eye pressed against the sight, his right index finger lightly placed across the trigger.
She sings her saddest aria, making the guests cry. It is from an opera that tells the story of betrayal and suicide and vengeance against the betrayers. Sophia then attempts to stab herself in the throat, but not before the sniper shoots her down, saving the voice which still seems to resonate, to sing a voice of tears. Cries to save the voice can be heard from the guests.
Margarite rushes the stage, calling for help, and no one seems to care. Attendants of the board rush the stage to remove the voice from Sophia, without a care for Sophia who lay barely breathing, blood flowing crimson from the bullet hole in her head. As the board attendants step away with the voice safe in its container, Mariano the board chairman standing over the scene, tells one of the attendants to help her. Reluctantly and surprised, he does so.
Sophia speaks to Margarite and revealing she knows that it was Margarite, then dies.
We see the voice safely stored in a box, retired.
Margarite sits at Sophia’s grave, sobbing and haunted by what she has done. Margarite had given up her natural voice for the chance to have Sona implanted in her. After many tests and private performances doctors report the organ will never again perform as great as it once did. “But why?”
The doctor can’t explain.
The voice was retired and Margarite stayed forever mute.
The voice had been implanted in man, a male singer to try and coax the voice to sing could not…
Having known the voice had been implanted in the other performer.
And she knew. That breathless moment just after the applause, the paralysis of fear suddenly gone, she looked at every face that looked at her, and it was all of them. The moment was hers. Sophia bowed her head, the voice trembling within her. It wanted to sing.
The fear and anxiety that had rushed up to paralyze her died with the applause She looked back at them as fear and anxiety rushed to paralyze her, for a moment, as the applause died, the fear died, she looked down and she knew. The moment was hers. They were hers and they would listen as she sang for them. Not because they had paid for her to sing, but because they had become disciples and they would be witness to the divine in her voice.
Sophia sat in the antique high-back chair as Margarite reached from behind to massage and caress her.
                “That breathless moment just after the applause, the fear gone, looking at their faces. I knew the moment was mine.”
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