Charley Miller’s Bar

CMB

Charley Miller’s Bar was an exercise in contradictions. It combined a variety of old world looks and new world technology to create an atmosphere that had become the talk of the town. The floor in the center of the bar was nearly always covered with ice which kept it cool even when the weather was hottest, and no one ever seemed to question why the ice never melted.

It was a custom whenever a patron made a toast, cheered an event, congratulated a constituent, or consoled a friend for the entire bar to throw their emptied ice filled mugs to the floor in the center of the bar. The broken ones were disposed of and the whole ones recovered and washed for reuse. In addition to this practice, the bar boasted several menu items that had been favorites of the town for nearly a century.

It had been opened near the water in a small Port near St. George for more than seventy years. At least that was as far as records could count or locals could recollect. Aunk Miller’s family had owned it since they had traveled from Cairo in the early 1700’s. Mystery and intrigue had come with them to the states as well as a great deal of British wealth, and industry. As the town grew so did the notoriety of the iterations of the bar.

It had been Miller’s Saloon in 1712, and was run by Bahman, the 29 year old son of Charley’s great great grandfather. It was renamed The Watering Hole in 1755 and passed in ownership to Aunk’s father Frederick, it then became Aunk’s and was renamed The Egyptian Tavern since 1912, and now in 2012 it was known as Charley Miller’s Bar.

Its current fame was due to a reality TV show known as Bar Fight, a food station show where local bar establishments squared off to determine which had the best fare, drinks, and ambiance. The Bar had been featured as number one for several weeks, and tourists as well as locals poured in to partake of the bars offerings.

Aunk was a very old man now, it was his grandson, Charles Miller who had taken over and renamed the bar. The twenty seven year old owner had been in and out of the bar most of his life and knew well many of the patrons and also the history of the bar and its owner, though he did not share much information about his family.

What was well known was that Aunk was the owner with the greatest longevity, and that the Egyptian Tavern had been a widely recognized and respected establishment long before Charley was old enough to have learned to walk. Aunk Miller had been the owner for more than 75 years at least that’s what had been recorded. But that wasn’t his real name, and no one knew what his real name was or why his family had given him that nickname. They had been calling him that since he was a little boy. There was one tattooed elaborately on his left shoulder. His grandma had told him the left was the sinister hand and Aunk had just laughed and said to his grandma, “Don’t worry grandma, I can handle the sinister one.”

It was said that Charley’s great great grandmother had married a man from Egypt. No matter what the social implications may have been of her marrying a foreigner, no one ever outwardly displayed anything but respect for her husband or his family. He lived a long time and was almost one hundred years old when the bar was given to Aunk’s grandfather Fredrick and renamed. Fred had been twenty six at the time.

Charley wanted the bar to be known worldwide, and that meant exposure. Aunk had no objections to that kind of notoriety. There were other reasons why people would want to come to the bar. Notoriety was a useful thing when it was certain you needed to be found.

Midway through the bars Battle of Onion Rings, as the show’s current episode was called, the phone rang. Charley was in the middle of an explanation of how his great great grandmother’s hand ground Egyptian spices and daily made batter created an onion ring that was a delicacy, when one of his barmaids pulled on his apron and he had to excuse himself. When he returned his face was pale.

Eunice Baker, a local woman had been crying on the other end of the phone. She sounded delirious, and it took several minutes for Charley to calm her down so he could ask her what was wrong. All he could get out of her was that she was looking for Aunk, that she was in trouble and didn’t know what to do. Charley promised to call his grandfather as soon as they finished the show, but he was shaken and it took several minutes before he could get back into the swing of his earlier enthusiasm. After another few hours of filming, chicken strips and shrimp dishes, the film crew packed up and Charley called his dad to locate his grandfather.

Charley’s father was an importer, and brought Egyptian goods to the States. He sometimes also arranged tours for people interested in travel to Egypt. He did not seem alarmed. He attempted to calm Charley and promised to contact Eunice Baker soon.

***

Eunice Baker was married to a man named Tom. Tom Baker had been what you might call a tempered man since he was a young adult. He had not been good in situations of adversity. In addition to this he seemed to lack a tolerance to alcohol. His coworkers liked on occasions to bate him to drink in order to be entertained by his bad behavior. It had sometimes ended in charges for destruction of property, and occasional assault charges, but Tom had never seriously hurt anyone.

Eunice worked for a local fishery, and many of the people she worked with knew and liked her husband, at least when he was sober and happy. But their current financial state had been cause for Tom to spend more frequent nights hanging at the bar with his coworkers. Several rounds had found their way to the floor in sympathy for his current distress mirrored by his friends. The barmaid had signaled closing and turned off the tap. Tom had gotten angry but his friends grabbed him by the arm and ushered him home.

Since he had not been allowed to let off his steam at the barmaid, he took his anger out on Eunice. At first she had tried to be understanding but he took this as being patronizing, then she tried to comfort him but he did not want to be pacified.

“You’re hopeless,” She had said and stood to walk away. But Tom grabbed her arm and swung her around. The slap that grazed her cheek stung but did not have its intended impact due to the momentum of her spin. She did not stop, but continued to spin until she was facing the other direction and could run away. She headed for the kitchen, and grabbed the first thing she could get her hands on. She did not intend to hit him as hard as she had, but he came up unexpectedly fast behind her and the large crescent wrench which had until recently been the means by which she shut off her water, hit him across the temple. As his body fell to the floor she held in a scream. Blood oozed from a deep gash and Eunice stood frozen in shock, gasping and staring in horror.

It’s possible that she fainted. When she revived she was sitting slumped near her husband’s body. She didn’t know what to do so she put his body in a large sheet and used a wheel barrel to dump him in the compost bin on the side of the building. Next to it were several blocks of baled hay, and chopped fire wood. She went back into the house. She wasn’t certain what to do and she was still quite shaken.

She picked up the phone and called Charley Miller’s Bar. When Charley didn’t answer she broke into tears and the barmaid asked her to hold on. When Charley came to the phone she burst into tears again and began shrieking.

“I don’t know what came over me, I’m in trouble and I need to speak with your grandfather.” she said breathlessly.

“I don’t know where he is….” was all he could get out before she trailed off into another series of unintelligible babbling.

“Calm down, don’t worry I’ll find him, what happened?”

“I can’t explain over the phone, just please have your grandfather call me as soon as possible.” she answered and cradled the phone.

Now all she could do was wait.

When Aunk arrived he was driving a garbage bin, a truck with a long rectangular vessel at the back. It was used to collect tree trimmings, compost able items, and large recyclable items. Aunk stepped from the truck and approached the house. When he got to the door Eunice came to the screen with her finger to her mouth.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything,” he said.

Eunice nodded as if she understood. “If you need anything there’s plenty of stuff in the compost heap.” she said.

“Fine then, why don’t you run your errands and when you come back this evening I’ll have everything taken care of.”

Eunice gathered her things and left the house. When she was gone Aunk first cleaned the blood stained kitchen. He used clean gauze linens he had brought with him, which he placed in a bag, he would need them later. He waited until it had gotten dark and then he went to retrieve Tom from the compost. He placed him in the back of his truck on a bed of hay and placed the bag with the bloody rags beneath his head.

He knew that Tom had not done well in his life, but like many men he might not have deserved to die.

When Eunice returned, her house was restored to normal. She put down her bags and walked into the kitchen. The faucet had been repaired and the wrench had been removed from the counter. Everything was clean. She was sad but she was still feeling a little overwhelmed. She could not bear to look into the compost container; she would save that for the early morning light. So she sat in her kitchen chair and had a glass of tea then she went to bed.

In the middle of the night she thought she faintly heard the whistle of a train and the sounds of a locomotive steam engine, but there had not been such a train in this area for years. She had returned to sleep peacefully, but when she woke she rose with trepidation and went to look into the compost container. When she got outside she was stunned to find what seemed to be a large copper and gold toned sarcophagus. Though it looked like it had been combined with the parts of some steam type machine, it could only have been that. It was not locked or sealed and the top opened with ease. Eunice opened the lid and was startled to find inside a newly wrapped mummy. She released the hood and backed up. She didn’t understand what was happening.

Inside the sarcophagus was the newly wrapped body of her husband Tom. From the looks he had been covered with wrappings that had been covered with his own blood. Eunice was horrified and paced the floor trying to think of what to do. She had just about decided to go to the police and make up some crazy story, when the bell rang. When she answered the door, Tom stood there alive and fully healed.

“The least you could do is let me in out of the morning air, or am I to catch my death of cold into the bargain. You’d think after last night that I had been through quite enough.” he said. “One day I shall have to endure the ‘til death do us part, but let’s not do it again this way shall we.”

Eunice did not know what to say, so she opened the door and let him in. She followed him to the bathroom and ran him a steaming tub of water.

“Not too hot, I don’t think I’ll want a bath that warm ever again. Seems I can remember feeling the steam surging through my blood. But maybe that was all a dream.”

“You ain’t mad at me are you, Tom?” Eunice asked as she cooled the water in the tub.

“I don’t think I could be even if I wanted to. All night all I could think of was how wrong I had been to hit you and what I could have done for things to go differently. What happened was my own fault.”

Eunice looked at him. Something was definitely different. He looked like himself, but it was not the Tom she knew.

In the dark of night Aunk had taken him to the chilly caverns below the bar and laid his body on a table etched with hieroglyphs, and as he dealt with the preparation of Tom’s body he laughed and talked to himself.

“Grandma was afraid of the devil, but he ain’t got nothing on the power of Osiris.” He laughed again. He wrapped the body in oils using the blood stained gauze he had used in Tom’s own home. He filled the sarcophagus with items gathered from Tom house and lined the bottom with straw collected from the side of his house. Inside he placed a drop of Tom’s blood, and laid the body in the nest of things gathered there. He poured a mug of beer and set it at Tom’s feet. When all was done he would return to Eunice.

***

Aunk had been the caretaker of this artifact for more than two centuries, though none knew and any time death would approach he would lie in the sarcophagus and Osiris would spirit death away and leave its essence in the caverns below the bar. The stone walls themselves were as cold as death and no mortal could stand to linger there for any duration. Aunk, once reviving himself, would take a new wife, have a son, and train a new custodian for the family business. The bar must always exist for the caverns to go unnoticed. His family was large and prosperous, and his sons and his son’s sons offered redemption to mankind.

In the beginning, they had not known the power or the purpose of the sarcophagus. They had attempted to bring back lost loved ones but had discovered that good people who had lived well and were loved no matter how short had no reason to return and usually ended up ill tempered, or evil in nature. After this discovery they only brought back those who needed to change their Karma, redeem themselves, or improve their lives and the relationships with the people in their lives.

Aunk had been the caretaker of the Sarcophagus of Osiris, as it had been named, though the body of Osiris had never lain inside, since 1810 after the death of his great grandfather who had held caretaker-ship for more than a century himself. Though he could have easily continued, he had begun to feel the weight of the evil and inconsistency of mankind. His son, though he had thought immortality a fine trait, had decided that to protect the aged container and it’ caretaker was just as noble a calling. His great grandfather had enjoyed more than 115 years of living well, and he had helped thousands of individuals change their lives for the better. He sat and tried to remember what the old man who had given him the caretaker-ship had said.

On his 30th birthday, Aunk and his great grandfather had gone for a walk. There was no need for him to explain where they were going or what they were going to do. Aunk knew it was time and he was prepared. He hugged his great grandfather and thanked him for being good to his family. They sat in the bar and made a toast together, tossing their ice filled glasses to the floor in respect for the dead. He knew it was the last time he would see him alive. He sat and recollected the story of how the sarcophagus had come into their lives.

***

Bahman, his grandfather, had been a boy of twelve in 1695, at the time of its discovery and he had been the thirty-seven year old foreman of the dig. It had been discovered by a team of European archaeologists and in the beginning no one had ever explained why it had been given that name.

When it had first been found all the crew was buzzing hoping to find riches and the mummy of some ancient king. The sarcophagus looked more like a steam operated machine fashioned to look like a replica of an ancient burial container rather than an authentic artifact. They were disappointed to discover it was empty.

On the first night after they dug into the chamber, an old man approached him and bid him wrap his aged body in blood covered linen wraps and place his body into the sarcophagus. At first he thought him mad and struggled with the old man as he attempted to bleed himself. In the process he was stabbed and lay dying near the old man, who asked him as he lay bleeding, “If you will take my place, you will live the lives of many men, but take care, besides the caretaker only those seeking redemption may be entered into the box.”

He did not understand. A proud and educated man, he did not want to die and leave his son to live alone. So he agreed to take the old man’s place. The old man stabbed him again and collected his blood in a gold and copper vessel at the base of the tablet upon which the sarcophagus was placed. He soaked the wraps and bid the terrified lad who had been with him to assist him with wrapping his father’s body. Despite his fear he did as the old man said. As they wrapped him the old man explained many things.

“A drop of their own blood will bring them back as they are but better, a drop of a youth’s blood will take away their age but the formula for how far is not known though always an adult, a drop of the caretaker’s blood will pass the responsibility on to the next. It must be a deliberate act to activate the transfer. It will not occur from a cut or an injury, but must intentionally be place into the container by the individual to whom it belongs.”

When his father had taken his last breath, Bahman and the old man lifted him and placed him into the sarcophagus. The old man dripped his own blood into the container and placed at the base of his feet a chalice of wine. “In celebration of life, from now until the end.” he said and closed the lid.

He sat with the boy in silence for a time. When several hours had past, he bid the boy help him up.

“I do not have long. I shall not see the morning. Bid your father bathe, drink the wine, and thank Osiris for the second chance. Be he a better father to you, and live a life that helps mankind and he shall pass on unto your family the opportunity to offer the same to others. Do not forget the things I have told you.”

“Are you the devil?” young Bahman had asked.

“No sir, nor will your father nor any caretaker ever be. And they need not fear him. The only evil that any need be concerned about is that within mankind itself.

Bahman struggled to hear the old man. His voice was getting raspy and week. “Let the good pass on.” he kept repeating but Bahman did not understand.

He had walked with the old man the entire night and left him near a tavern. He would not see him again. He returned to the dig site before sunrise. When he went inside his father sat at the edge of the basin of water. Bahman relayed the old man’s instructions and information and after his father had followed them to the letter, he apologized to his son and promised until it was his time to pass on the caretaker-ship he would not leave him again.

He sold everything he owned in Egypt, married the daughter of a wealthy archaeologist, and moved to the New World. Convinced the sarcophagus was a fraud his father-in-law gave it to Bahman’s father as a wedding present. When they reached what would later be the port of St George, Bahman’s Father began construction of their home as well as laid the foundation for their business. Everyone thought he was crazy to build on top of the stone shelf. They delved with dynamite for weeks and built the structure right on top of the stone itself. No one knew the caverns directly below would become home to the sarcophagus.

As time passed and his family prospered, his father bought all the land surrounding the business, including the beach property, the dock, and the land on which the shelf rested. It was secure and people did not approach. It had grown eerie and dangerous looking.

Bahman’s Father had been a member of the community for thirty years before he had cause to venture to use the ‘box’ as they lovingly called it. A young girl had fallen from one of the cliffs and drowned. Her mother was in anguish, and his wife bade him help if he could. She knew little of the box, but knew that Bahman’s father had helped others.

The girl was a rebellious youth, troubled and unruly but her mother loved her. Aunk’s father put her in the wagon and took her away. The girl showed up on her mother’s doorstep, the next morning. She was tired, pale, and ever so sorry to have caused her mother to worry. She assured her she had only passed out, that her breathing was shallow but she had not died. She was able to convince her mother, and no one else knew.

***

Eunice sat in sheer disbelief. She had assumed that Aunk would dispose of Tom’s body, not resurrect him. This was certainly better but how was it possible. When Tom was done with his bath, he collected the ice cold mug of beer and made a toast, “In celebration of life from now until the end, and thank you Osiris for giving me a second chance.” He then downed the entire mug of beer.

He looked at Eunice earnestly then said, “We are never to speak of this. Aside from being considered as having lost our minds, it would be a disservice to Aunk and his family. He must have risked a great deal to be able to accomplish this. We must be certain we are never the reason that he comes to any harm. ”

“But what we do about the sarcophagus?” asked Eunice.

The two sat in silence and thought for a moment. The morning was passing rapidly and it wouldn’t be long before people were out and about and someone was sure to notice an ancient sarcophagus sitting on the side of their house.

Tom threw on a robe, and Eunice followed him outside. When they got to the side of the house they were surprised to find the sarcophagus had been removed. Tom shrugged his shoulders and looked at his wife.

“I guess they thought of everything.” Tom said and escorted Eunice into the house.

From then on Tom was a model citizen, a devoted husband, and a credit to mankind. Most of his coworkers and friends found it remarkable that he was no longer affected by alcohol. When they sat in Charlie’s and made a toast, Tom would raise his glass, smile and nod his respect to Charlie and turn his mug upon his napkin. He no longer drank iced drinks, and when he had finished his toast he would stand and bid his comrades good evening and go home to Eunice.

Charley Miller’s Bar © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights

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Afloat (A Pilna Dezigner story)

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Pilna Designer (prounced Dez ig nir) was named by her Great Aunt Ginnie, who said that she would never be anything but a plain child no matter how her mother showered her with precious gems and designer clothes. Her mother had said “you can’t name a child “Plain”!” So they agreed that her name would be an anagram, symbolic of the child rather than descriptive. Having a last name spelled like designer didn’t make matters much better. As Pilna grew older people realized that ‘plain mixed up’ described Pilna to a tee. Content to sit and wonder what to do about situations rather than attempting to solve them, often left her in circumstances that bordered on bizarre.

One Monday morning Pilna woke to realize her alarm clock had not gone off. While she sat wondering why the almost nearly regular chimes had not sounded, her phone rang.

“Pilna, it’s not like you to miss our morning coffee,” said her girlfriend Sherry from work.

“I can’t talk now, I’ll be late for work!” said Pilna.

She ran into the bathroom and turned on the water in the shower. While she searched through the clothes in her closet, she wondered what she would do now that she didn’t have time to stop for her regular morning coffee. While she stood wondering in the closet, the water in the bathroom began to run over the edge of the tub spilling onto the floor and soaking the bathroom floor before spilling out onto the bedroom carpet.

As she stepped out of the closet, she splashed into the 1 inch deep puddle that was steadily becoming wider. While she stood wondering where the water had come from, her bathroom was becoming a steamy river which now began to flood into other areas of her small two story cottage.

“I don’t know what to do!” she said spinning in circles, “I have to go to work.”

Suddenly aware that the water levels were still rising, Pilna returned to the bathroom to locate the source of the stream. A washrag left from yesterdays cleaning spree had blocked the drain and was not allowing the water to escape. As she reached into the tub to remove the rag from the blocked drain, she wondered how she had forgotten the rag in the tub. So tidy, it was not like Pilna to leave cleaning supplies lying around when she was done. Everything went back to its usual place.

While she sat wondering the phone rang again. Her girlfriend had called back to see if she needed a ride.

“I’m in the middle of a small crisis.” said Pilna.

Her girlfriend knew what that meant. When Pilna was like this, strange things usually happened.

“I’m coming right over,” answered Sherry.

On the way to Pilna’s cottage, her girlfriend noticed a number of blaring sirens. Her heart jumped as if it were attempting to leave her chest. “Why were there so many sirens?” She thought aloud to herself.

When she arrived at Pilna’s, the door which opened into her backyard was open and Pilna stood half naked, half drenched still in her bathrobe wringing water from various items of clothing.

“Why aren’t you dressed, and why are you wet?” asked her friend.

“I was surrounded by all this water and as I sat and wondered how I would get it cleaned up my yummy new terrycloth robe had been soaking up water from the floor.” Next to tears, she sat and she wondered how she would get finished in time to make it to work.

“Never mind about work,” said Sherry as she began to pile wet clothing and linens into a laundry basket.

Pilna suddenly smiled. Her Great Aunt Ginnie always told her no matter how disastrous a thing may seem it always turned out better when you were prepared. As she sat and pondered her Aunt’s words she suddenly remembered an impromptu purchase that she had made several months ago while shopping with her mother.

“What do you need with that?” her mother had asked about the small portable carpet shampoo/vacuum cleaner she had suddenly felt compelled to by, “You hardly have any carpet in your house.”

“It just feels like something I should have” had been Pilna’s answer.

Her mother had learned in the past not to argue when Pilna’s response was similar to this. Somehow the reason for a thing would appear eventually.

As she sat and wondered at her mother’s agreeable nature a loud explosion disrupted her train of thought. It was far away enough not to have been deafening, but loud enough not to have been very far away. Pilna sat and wondered what could have happened.

“Let’s get this water up,” Sherry said interrupting her musing once more,”We’ll have time to investigate the source of that sound when we have resolved our present dilemma.

Pilna liked how Sherry had taken partial ownership of her difficulty and wondered as she knelt and vacuumed warm water from her carpet how she had managed to acquire such a wonderful friend.

When they had put all the wet clothes in the washer and all the wet shoes in the warm laundry room to dry, Pilna emptied the vaccuum and dressed. As she dressed she wondered if it might be prudent to call her employer and let him know she would not be in to day. As she thought of this the phone rang several times.

When she answered her mother responded quickly out of breath, “thank goodness you’re still at home. I thought I had lost you.”

While Pilna sat and pondered what her mother had meant, Sherry watched a television report about an explosion in the building that housed the company in which they worked.  The explosion had ruptured water mains, caused electrical and fire damage and injured several people. Debris was floating down the street on a stream created by the broken main.

Pilna burst into uncontrolled laughter. Her mother waited at the other end of the phone, and Sherry too waited.

When she could control her laughter Pilna said,”I have saved us both from injury, and we are no worse for wear but it seems no matter where we planned to go today we were destined to end up afloat.”

Sherry looked at her and they both resumed laughing. Her mother cradled the phone happy to still have her strange wonderful girl, but as she sat and watched the television report she wondered what exactly the girl meant.

 

Afloat (A Pilna Dezigner story) © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights 

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Girl Chameleon

girl cameleon

Today I rode the train wearing a short plaid skirt and black sweater, my long hair pulled back in a pony tail. Today I had the culture of a community that was ancient, passed down for centuries. They valued male children and looked upon females as little more than servants, and even in this country after establishing their own communities, making certain their children spoke the language, and amassing a great deal of wealth and power, they still treated females as less important. I headed to my job. I was not in a hurry. It would be there when I arrived no matter how I looked. I had arranged it this way as I often was not sure what state I would be in on the morning next.

I sat and did my 8 hr shift and walked the 4 or 5 blocks it took to get to the train for me to ride home. I sat as men eyed me, some with admiration, and others with mixed messages. I was too aggressive for an Asian girl. I was not supposed to feel comfortable looking people in the eye. But I was comfortable doing a lot of things that others did not expect.

The next morning my hair waved and as I looked in the mirror to brush it into a simple ponytail I decided to stop at the corner store to pick up snacks for my trip across town. I put on a long floral skirt, my cowboy boots and a sweater then headed for the store.

“Hola,” said the clerk in the store. And continued in Spanish asking a question she knew already I could not answer.

“Hola Esme, you know I don’t speak a lot of Spanish, my parents are black and white, and they do not have any language skills.”

“Why you don’t take a class or two, it’s not good for Hispanic girls not to speak the language no matter who their parents are.”

“You’re right, maybe I will consider it. Gotta go, see ya. Adiós, muchacha.”

I went to the station and waited for my train. Two young Latino men flirted in Spanish. I smiled, but I did not understand them.

“I’m American; born and raised, I’m sorry I don’t understand you.” I said.

“It’s okay, I teach you beautiful, many things.” one guy responded.

“It’s okay, really I have to go. This is my stop.” I said.

“Oh you think you too good for me eh?” he asked almost hostile.

“No,” I said, “but I really have to go.”

He stood in front of me, but as the train stopped the train police encouraged him to leave me alone and I stepped off the train.

I spent another 8 hour shift listening to the other Hispanic girls talking about the quiet little Asian girl who sometimes temped at the office. It was strange how they interpreted her quietness as aloofness, and accused her of being rude and acting as if she was better than them.

I rode the train home in silence and sat with an elderly Asian woman who kept eyeing me as if I were about to take off with her purse. I felt sorry for her.

On the following day I could practically sport a curly Angela Davis Afro. I pulled it into a curly ball on the top of my head and wore my giant loop earrings. I wore a turtle neck and a fitted pencil style skirt over tights with pumps. No matter how attractive I felt, today would be a difficult day.

I walked to the train. No one spoke to me, and no one bothered me. This was the only time I ever seemed to have concerns about how people responded to me. On a day like today when the train was filled with people I could be certain some guy was going to call me a bitch because I wouldn’t talk to him. I could also be certain that white women would look at me funny or make comments about my clothes, and I had a pretty good idea how things would go at work. I had been dealing with this type of thing for a long time now and could sort out how my day would be based on the state I was in when I woke up in the morning.

When I walked in the door I could already hear the heavy sighs and whispers. One of the girls said. “I hate when she comes, she always has that angry look on her face and that attitude.”

Like anybody else wouldn’t get an attitude if the first thing they heard every day was someone talking about them. And as far as angry, well let’s just say on this day in particular my work load was heavier, people found fault with everything even if it was correct, I got shorter breaks, and on top of all that they were rude and even nasty to me. At the end of this eight-hour shift I often had to remind myself of the reason I kept this account. It was bad if I had to do more than one day of this. But oftentimes the day following would be the flip-side.

When I woke I showered and washed my hair, no pony tails today. I wore it loose and covered it with a baseball cap. I wore my jeans and a pair of sneakers. I walked briskly to the station, ignored everyone on the train, and when I got into the office all the girls were running around kissing my ass. Depending on how awful the previous day was, I did damage control. I resubmitted reports that were rejected as perfectly sound and refused to redo them. I defended against comments and criticisms, especially about clothes. I threatened to tell management about gossip, and accused the staff of reverse racism. I even had the nerve to feign illness and leave early.

When I woke the next day I felt more like myself. My hair was always a good indicator of what state I was in, and I reached up to feel it’s curly resistant mass. I reached over to the bedside table and grabbed a brush. In the bathroom I ran it under warm water took a finger of petroleum jelly and brushed the belligerent curls into submission and after smoothing the front and sides pulled it into a ponytail in the back. I put on a pair of black skinny jeans, a fitted top layered with a t-shirt over it and a pair of high heeled boots.

My name is Fille Chameleon. I am in many ways just like any other 27-year-old female executive. I own my own temp agency and help other young women like myself to find employment. I am a go-getter, a motivated, focused, intelligent and aspiring young woman no different than any other woman that is in every way except one. Let me take the opportunity to tell you why and explain a little about myself.

I was born in a small town called Rochester, Illinois. There is nothing out of the ordinary about it. It is small, a population of less than 4000 people. My growing up there might have been a wonderful thing except for the fact that I was out of the ordinary. The year I was born my parents lived between a couple with a boy genius named Thaddeus whose IQ was greater than Einstein, and a women the town would have stoned as a witch if such things were legal. My parents had moved there thinking a small town experience would be a wonderful environment to raise a family in, and it should have been, but after my birth that idea changed drastically.

You see, I am something of a freak of nature, not odd-looking in fact in most ways quite pretty. But to people I am a bit of a mystery. Our housekeeper was the first to notice. At 2 weeks old she had been shocked to happen through my nursery and discover an Asian baby in the crib where once an African-American and Caucasian racially mixed baby used to be. She ran to tell my mother who first had been ready to call the police to report me as kidnapped, but waited until after having gone to my room to see what had happened.

It was true, there was an Asian baby there, but my mother had carried me full term and recognized me right away. After some convincing, our housekeeper grew accustomed to my occasional deviations from my ethnicity. In my first years, I changed racial makeup on a regular basis. It was hard for me to attend school because my parents never knew what I would look like from one week to the next. They decided it was best if they sought a special school for me and in the meantime decided they would home-school me.

The boy next door had grown accustomed to my changing and had begun theorizing that it was due to some molecular instability. He had decided that genetic patterns for a particular ethnicity would accumulate while I slept, and whatever was most abundant would be dominant and it would be what I reflected when I woke in the morning. The variety he found was based on those in my heritage, which could be endless considering my mixed culture. He also theorized that the distance in my history from that heritage affected the length I stayed in a particular ethnicity, based on the fact that I could stay weeks in my actual form, but only days as others.

The witch next door had another opinion. I was either gifted or cursed. There were many days when I felt both of these. By the time I was seventeen I had been the victim of every racial slur known to man. It was silly to think that other races of people didn’t experience racial tension or oppression, or some difficulty based on their ethnic, social, or cultural differences. No matter what female I was when I woke up, there was always someone who had some comment or treatment based on a stereotype, a cultural belief, or some social norm that dictated how women of that background should be treated.

My parents had thought that it would be necessary to find a solution to my problem. I chose however to embrace it, and upon finishing high school decided to begin my own temp agency. I chose assignments who did not mind a different temp everyday and I employed ladies of all ethnic backgrounds. I chose this route so that when I changed it was not an issue. I could sometimes keep one assignment until the company began looking for a permanent employee. Often they would request one of my selves but I would decline saying that person only takes temp positions and offer them someone else.

I made a pretty decent living and aside from the social difficulties I had a pretty good life. It did have its difficulties. I could not generally have a steady boyfriend though I had worked out ways to date. If I wanted to see someone more than once I would simply call him in the morning to check his plans after knowing who I’d be that day. People who enjoyed my company usually didn’t mind making spontaneous plans and if they had plans I would chalk it up to scheduling at my job and promise to call the next time I was free. I never let men spend the night.

There were other things too, like tattoos or piercings that were obvious impossibilities. I mean, how did one explain that every single employee had the same tattoo in the same spot, or a nose ring? I was lucky not to have visible birthmarks to explain away. It’s also why I never chose hairstyles particular to my ethnicity. Some things were just not worth having to cover for or explain. I learned about clothing preferences, mannerisms, speech patterns, and even behaviors. Some I mastered, others I avoided.

My phone rang early one Saturday.

“Hey “Girl”, drawled a Creole voice at the other end of the line, “How are you today?” Francesca was my best friend. She was the only one here in the City to know about my odd circumstances. Her family practiced black magic so she more easily accepted things that were out of the ordinary.

“I’m just laying here, why?” I asked impatiently. I knew her mannerisms, and was well aware that it would take the next ten minutes of pleasantries and formal good mornings before she would get around to asking, “What you doing today?” in her slow drawl.

“Housework,” was my bland answer.

“Met a guy yesterday that knows you from childhood. Claims to know about your issues; Says he used to live next door to you in the Midwest.”

I sat up in bed, “Oh my god is he like really smart and nerdy.”

“Well he does the smart part, but he looks kinda dreamy, if I didn’t get the impression he was interested in you, I’d be trying to keep him for myself. I guess you want the number then, I didn’t give him yours.” she drawled.

“How did you get on the subject of my issues?” I asked.

“Oh well, he never told me exactly what they were, only said you were a unique sort of girl too mysterious for a small town not equipped to deal with rapid change, and that your special differences made it necessary for your parents to move to somewhere they could find help for you. I just assumed he knew.”

I tried not to sound too excited, since she sounded disappointed. “Maybe he has dreamy friends.” I said. Francesca perked up quickly; the prospect of trickle down always made up for anyone who was interested in me. But this was different, most of the guys I dated I couldn’t have real relationships with, this guy actually knew about my unique circumstances.

She waited another five minutes before giving me the number. I talked another ten minutes so as not to appear too enthusiastic and waited another five or so before calling just in case she had actually been on the line with him when she called me. Francesca was the type of girl who enjoyed doing such things.

I picked up the phone and dialed the number. I’m not certain why I felt nervous. I had known him all my life. But now he was not a boy he was a man and from what Francesca said he was a knock out. And she was a woman who knew man flesh. She never used the word dreamy unless a guy was thoroughly attractive. She liked muscle, but she preferred tight compact men not big. She liked athletic, but not like football players, that is unless it was soccer. The phone rang multiple times and then the machine picked up.

“Hi, it’s Fille” I was just calling to leave you a number where you can reach me. Call when you have time.” I hung up. I hoped I had managed not to sound too disappointed. I got up and made myself some coffee.

At noon while I was playing my music and cleaning my kitchen the phone rang. I turned down the music then answered. “Hello.”

“Hey, it’s Thaddeus, I was on the other line with my mother when you called, how are you?”

“I’m well, how are you. Are you the smartest man at your university?” I asked.

“10th, but it’s not about how smart, it’s what you do with your smart. I hear you have leveraged your smart and created a fabulous Temp Agency. That was an ingenious way to figure out employment. But now that your all grown up I’m curious to know how you manage relationships.”

“And I’d like to know if you’re interested in Francesca?” I said.

“I was until I discovered she knew you. She’s a woman who’d make any man curious. Just the same, I wouldn’t risk choosing any woman who’d ruin a possibility of getting to know you better.” I could hear his smile through the phone. “Why worried?”

“No, just don’t want to get in the way.” I answered.

“When can I see you, can we have dinner tonight?” he asked.

It was the first time a guy had asked me out that I didn’t have to worry about what I looked like when I woke up.

“Sure, look for the Fille with the curly brown pony tail.” I said.”Where would you like me to meet you?”

“Is there a mall you like, I have some shopping I’d like to do.”

I gave him the directions and the name of the mall and hung up the phone. I was excited though I’m not sure why. I showered and put on something neutral though I was tempted to wear something more fetching. This was a man I knew, but I didn’t want to play the games other girls played, not with him. I wanted to really get to know him.

In an hour I was in the mall looking around for him. I felt a weird sensation that raised the hair on the back of my neck then I realized there was a really intense, handsome guy staring at me.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. But you’re fun to watch.” he said and smiled.

We walked through the mall occasionally stopping to purchase some clothing item or special electronic item he needed. It was easy to talk to him. He was intelligent and respectful, interesting and considerate. He didn’t rush or complain, and when things weren’t right he managed it with aplomb.

“Where would you like to eat? I like pasta but you can you can pick the place.” he said.

We found a restaurant that had lots of variety and sat and talked and ate like we hadn’t been away from each other for the last ten years. The time sped by and we rose to leave.

“I’d like to see you again soon if that’s possible,” he said before going to his car.

“Sure, you just let me know.” I said.

“How about tomorrow, is that too soon?” he laughed nervously.

“If you don’t mind a late start, I like to sleep in on the weekend.

“That’s fine.” he said. He dropped me at my car and drove off.

The next morning when I woke, I was the Asian girl. I laughed and put on a silk top and some jeans. I waited outside instead of letting him search for the house.

“Hello china doll,” he said followed by, “breathtaking.”

I smiled and followed him to his car.

“This will be interesting, how often do you change?” he asked.

“It varies, sometime every day, sometimes once a week. It depends on what I am changing from too. I believe what you said when we were little is true, the more prominent the ancestry the longer I can maintain it.”

“So how long do you stay Asian?”

“About three days usually, if I don’t have stress; I think that affects me too. When I’m the Black girl she can only take one day of punishment. Right after her the White girl shows up and usually cleans house. Then I go back to my own self. I stay a few days sometime a few weeks.” I said.

“Then why the change, you were just yourself yesterday?”

“Yes, and I had been so for days before, maybe seeing you yesterday altered my chemistry. Do you do that to women, change their chemical balance?” I smiled.

“Not to my knowledge, but you never know. You look Asian, but behaving like you do would get you in trouble in an Asian community.”

“Sometimes, but sometimes Asian men find my Americanized values exciting.” I laughed, “And some drop me like a hot potato, saying I’m too aggressive, too forward. I tell them I’m fine with that, that I plan to marry a black man anyway. One guy even slapped me.”

“What’d you do.” he asked shocked.

“I had him arrested for assault; the precinct chief in my neighborhood has a lovely Asian wife. He didn’t like the fact that he had put his hands on me.”

“Does he like you?”

“Not like that, but I know lots of different kind of people who help me from time to time. Of course I can’t be certain he would have helped if I had been the black girl, but maybe for him it’s about a man putting his hands on a woman, not just about that woman having been Asian.”

We spent the entire day together, after that we talked every day when we couldn’t see each other and made plans for the weekend. I spent time with him no matter who I was, no matter who he was with. I met his friends and he would introduce me as his girlfriend when I was myself. I smiled even though we had not talked about whether we were an actual couple. His friends often questioned me about our relationship. Some of them even tried to hit on me, saying, “He’s always got a different girl every week, sometimes more often than that, you don’t want a guy like that, you deserve somebody better.”

“That doesn’t seem like a very good thing to say about a friend. It doesn’t seem like you have his best interest in mind.”

“I’m protecting you both while serving my own interest.” Marcus had said.

Though his friend Marcus was the biggest asshole, I knew that this was mostly about competition, and sex. They were only interesting in knowing whether we had actually slept together so they could see if their own chances would improve. Each had tried in a turn after seeing him with someone else. I told them we were getting to know each other and it was perfectly okay for him to date other girls. We weren’t mutually exclusive.

“So you can go out with other people too?”

“Yes, but I would never date his friends, if I decided I wanted to have a relationship, that might cause me some problems now wouldn’t it. Besides, do you always press up on his dates to see who he’s sleeping with?”

“No, but if I meet a girl who I think is special and he doesn’t seem to me to value her I don’t see anything wrong with trying my own luck.”

I had no way of knowing if the others were all me, and even if they weren’t we had not reached that part of our relationship. The cuter ones I aimed toward Francesca, she could choose who she thought suited her. Despite the ego competition stuff they mostly seemed like nice guys.

“Your friends all want to know if I’m sleeping with you.” I said one day at dinner.

“How many of them have hit on you?” he asked.

“So far, all of them, but anyway who’s counting?” I smiled.

“They like you, that’s all and they think I’m treating you wrong because I see so many different women. But if they knew me they would know I would never do anything to hurt you, and that in reality I only have eyes for you. I can’t help that what my eyes see is not the same every day.” he smiled back at me in a dreamy lovesick sort of way.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were getting sort of attached,” I said trying to keep things light.

“Well if I didn’t know better I’d say I was in love and you were avoiding the point. So tell me, what I should do?” he asked.

“That depends on if you can stand the effects of a gift and a curse. People change how they treat me just based on how I look, some days better some days worse. They don’t understand that though I may look different on the outside I feel the same way they do inside. That human beings are not different because of their skin color, or ethnicity, or culture, or financial status, or belief. They are all the same inside.”

“And if I said I could deal with all that.” he said.

Then I kissed him.

“I love who you are no matter what you look like. Besides what man in his right mind would turn down the opportunity to have a different woman every day and never leave home. I can’t wait to spank that pretty little black girl.” He said and laughed.

I didn’t know when our relationship would get to that point. But it was the most wonderful thing to know that when it did no matter what I was when I woke, he would always love who I am.

Girl Chameleon © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

The Hook up

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I woke up at the wheel. It took a few minutes to realize I couldn’t move. I was dazed and afraid. I looked into the rear view mirror and could see my body leaned limply against the window. I was alarmed. I didn’t feel dead, but how else could I explain being able to see myself lying in the back seat, and how in the world did dead feel anyway.

I wasn’t a bad driver, and always took extra care to make certain I was cautious when I was behind the wheel. A handsome gentleman approached the car from the emergency vehicle. The police had blocked off the freeway and had flares marking the scene to redirect the traffic. He stood looking in the window and I smiled at him. He looked grimly through the back window.

“She sure was pretty,” he said.

I began to cry. I had to be dead. But how had it happened, how could it have happened without me knowing?

They opened the back door to the car. My body tumbled forward. The man from the emergency vehicle gently caught me, and laid me back on a stretcher on the side of the road. I watch as they lifted it. The jolt as they raised it shook my body.

I woke at the steering wheel. My car was still moving about fifty five miles per hour. I slowed down and pulled over to the side. A few moments later an emergency vehicle pulled up to the car. When the driver approached the car the hairs on my neck rose. I smiled at him through the window. He smiled back. I rolled the window down.

“Can I help you with something? He asked.

“You already have,” I said, “And thank you, if you don’t mind can you escort me from the freeway, I’m very tired and don’t need to be behind the wheel. I didn’t realize I was as tired as I am, and I certainly don’t want to cause an accident.”

He hooked my car up an escorted me to the cab of his truck.

I looked back and saw the admiring look on his face.

“You sure are pretty, would it be okay if I called you sometime?” he asked.

I figured it was the least I could do since he had saved my life.

The Hook up © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Night Terrors and the Bears Who Abet Them

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“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” 
― Plato

Achilles, Teddy Bear Extraordinaire, Esq. stretched, feeling a bit of a cramp from the tight hold his little girl Alison had on him before she went to sleep.

He managed to escape her death-grip and bounded toward the head of the bed. Reaching under her pillow he found his sword and shield. He sat down and waited for the Dweller-in-the-Dark to arrive.

It wasn’t long before the room grew cooler than the warm London winter outside. The closet creaked open and shadows danced as if they were alive, heralding the arrival of… “Hello?”

Achilles looked around the room and saw the shadows dancing everywhere but no sign of the actual source of the voice. Bouncing to the end of the bed, he looked over and saw a pool of inky blackness slowly spilling from under the bed. “Back from whence you came, spawn of darkness.” Achilles liked to open with classic lines when he could.

“Now that’s just hurtful. True, I am a spawn of darkness, but it sounds so wrong when you say it.”

“Ach.” Achilles put his sword down on the bed and threw his shield over his head.

A new one. Why did he always get stuck training the new ones? “Get from under the bed, newbie and try not to wake the kid.”

“As a matter of fact, yes, I was only recently assigned to this neighborhood from Darkness, Inc. I understand you are going to be my training bear?”

“No, I’m not. I didn’t get any paperwork. No one informed me you would be coming. What happened to Eugene, my previous dark-spawn?”

The darkness on the floor began to reform itself into a towering monstrosity covered in claws and teeth. It’s squeaky voice belied its terrifying appearance. “He got a promotion. He had done so well here, he was assigned to work in a war zone in the Middle East. I think your paperwork was sent but to the wrong address. We had some computer problems recently, our programmers were frightened when they dreamed they were routed by the MI-6. Major glitches after that, I tell you.”

Achilles stretched his right leg, noting an old injury in need of new thread. “I told them no more newbies. I am too old to be taking on apprentices. Look at me. I am almost six years old. Worn out in the seat, one of my eyes has been replaced with some cyborg machine part. I have low-grade stuffing that crinkles and stays that way. I am trying to go into retirement quietly and happily. Alison is almost seven, soon she won’t even need me to keep you away.”

The Dweller leaned forward and stared at Achilles from the top of his furry head and ears to the bottom of his dirty white soled feet. “You look great to me. Still strong and vigorous. I asked for you, you know. I had heard how you single-handedly held off an entire wave of Fevered Nightmares when she was only four. For three nights you fought brilliantly and when it was done, you emptied every stable of Nightmares from as far as the West Coast of the Americas. People are still having good dreams out there, or so I’m told.”

The Terror whispered quietly with a voice filled with admiration. “I knew I had to be trained by you.”

“I still have a limp from that night. Damn near tore my leg off. Never did get it sewed on right.”

Achilles got his sword and picked up his shield. “Okay, new kid, here’s how its gonna be. I will train you. God knows adults need their fears to be robust and vigorous and this is the time when kids take their fears into adulthood. You will learn how to invade their dreams, undermine their self confidence and prey on their fears. Once we begin training, I will not be taking it easy on you. You will have to fight like hell. Don’t do a good job and I may be forced to destroy you. Got it?”

The Night Terror drew itself up to its maximum size, nearly six feet tall. It flexed its mighty claws and leaned over the bed exuding menace. Achilles bounded back to the pillow right below Alison’s head. “Got it. If I want to graduate to terrifying adults I have to survive here. No holds barred.”

Spines formed along the back of the Terror and its eyes glinted with an internal fire. He continued speaking as his voice deepened, becoming more frightening. “I chose you because Eugene left more notes on you than any other Teddy he had ever worked with. He had incredible respect for you. He told me all your weaknesses.”

Circling around the bed, the Terror reared up and its voice became like thunder. “Like your left eye was nearly blind and you were vulnerable there.” The Terror swiped high and wide from the left, trying to remove the machine eye Alison’s brother sewed on one night after the Nightmare Incident. Achilles met the attack with his spirit sword slicing deeply into the Terror’s flesh.

Vaulting over the sleeping form of Alison toward the Night Terror’s face, and with a flash of his sword, he attacked drawing ichor from over one of the Night Terror large reptilian eyes. “School’s in, new kid. First lesson: never believe everything you read. Second Lesson: Old Bears are the most dangerous.”

Alison’s fear of night noises would one day alert her to a burglar in her home, saving her life. This was the circle of fear and awareness fostered in her childhood by forces unseen.

The Night Terror and the Teddy Bear’s battle would rage into the night until she was ten and her fears firmly grounded.

Achilles retired and was laid to rest with honors when Alison went off to college.

And what of the The Night Terror?

Surviving Achilles, he was promoted from Night Terror to a Complete and Utter Terror and crossed the Pond. Almost immediately he found work at the Pentagon promoting the Cold War in the early 1980s.

He became one of the most successful Fears in modern history.

Night Terrors and the Bears Who Abet Them © Thaddeus Howze 2014, All Rights Reserved

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The Glass Dragon

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I peered at him through the glass case and wondered how and why anyone would trap a dragon under glass. It wasn’t unbreakable. I thought if he wanted to, the heat of his fire could melt it, and then he could have escaped. But when he made no attempts I ventured to speak with him to find out why.

“How can a beautiful, powerful creature like yourself be trapped in a case made of glass?” I asked.

“Foolish mortal child, do you not know how dangerous it is to speak to me. Have your senses been dulled by the breath of air out there, leaving you witless. Or maybe you do not know the power contained within the glass.”

I wasn’t sure if he was referring to himself, or if he was trying to explain to me some power of the glass case. It isn’t prudent to allow a dragon, even a trapped one to know you aren’t smart enough to understand what they are talking about. I certainly didn’t want him to think I wasn’t intelligent enough to continue having a conversation with, so I said.

“Yes there is great power, but I may brave it to know the story of how you came to be here and why you choose, if a choice it is, to stay.” I asked.

He shifted in his see through prison and sat on his haunches like a cat so he could talk to me.

“When I first came here the case was twice the size. The wizard who had invited me assured me that it would benefit mankind for men to see me and the glass would provide protection for both them and myself. After a few days he promised to release me and allow me to return to my home, but at the end of the time he refused and I grew angry. I blew a blast of fire to breach the glass but found that as it heated, the glass only shrunk. Even when I am speaking it heats the glass ever so slightly and the case begins to shrink. It will continue until I am merely a miniature and there is no space for breath or movement. I will die and the wizard will use my remains in potions and spells, tonics and treatments, magic and elixirs,” Was his answer, but not the entire truth.

The glass shuttered as we spoke. I backed away realizing that what he said was true. Each time he spoke the heat of his breath manipulated the composition of the glass and it quivered. I gathered that since he had discovered the nature of his prison that he had not spoken much to minimize the speed at which the glass continued to shrink. But I quickly came to the same conclusion that he had come to immediately, he would never escape, his destruction was inevitable. But that conclusion had flaws, of which I had no knowledge, not understanding the indestructible nature of dragons. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to speed his demise, though I had several more questions which I thought I might enable me to be able to discover a way to help him. But maybe I could ask in a way he did not have to answer.

“Can you show me where the wizard is?” I asked.

He shook his head and pointed toward the library stairs. It was a winding stair that seemed to lead to several hallways which led down hidden corridors in the back of the library. I thought he would come out if I waited long enough.

“Does the wizard come here every day?” I asked.

He nodded. I didn’t know how to word my next question so that he would not be required to answer verbally.

“How long have you been here?” I asked finally.

The bottom of the glass case was covered with a layer of gold scales. When I looked closely I realized they were still attached to skin. The dragon had molted and shed his outer skin once each hundred years. There were a total of three skins, I noticed as he fingered each beautiful layer. Despite his incredible power, I noticed a tear in his eye. I pretended not to notice. As I stood looking at him, the wizard slowly and quietly approached.

“So you would like to free him, eh?” he asked as he appeared beside me.

I jumped startled. “Well yes, if you will allow me. I had been wondering why you found it necessary to cage such a beautiful creature.”

“Did the beautiful creature tell you what he was doing when I trapped him?” the wizard asked raising a brow.

“Well no, I did not actually ask that question.” I answered.

“And I am certain that he would not have told you even if you had asked. That beautiful creature had subdued a class of young maidens and was very gingerly tearing them limb from limb. Had you been among them you would have been a simple meal for him as well.

“Is this true I asked,” looking at him in disgust.

He nodded and bowed his head.

“And you were trying to trick me into feeling sorry for you, thinking if I got you out, I would be your dessert?”

This time he answered me verbally.

“I am what I am; it would be foolish to think that I would behave otherwise. Yes, if you had managed my release I would have eaten you straight away to build my strength for I would immediately have to battle the wizard, fight off any knights in the vicinity, and have strength to fly away. It has been three hundred long hungry years and though starving me will not kill me the shrinking of this glass surely will.”

I understood his logic, but I felt betrayed nevertheless.

“Dragons are very powerful and see things quite clearly. It is why I chose a trap which is already clear and magically made in such a way so as to trap him further upon the use of any of his capabilities. Even his strength works against him. As his scales grow stronger so grows the strength of his prison.”

The glass had been fired by the breath of dragons, made from the sands of scales, crushed by dragons themselves. Infused with a spell of attraction, the scales sought to become a part of a dragon again at each heating but the quantity of sand grains used reconstituted to a scale which was only enough in the end to reform a dragon of minute size. Heating also redoubled the strength of the glass as the strength of his own shed scales was added. The more that his own scales combined to the glass the more the glass case was programmed to again become a part of the dragon. Soon it would mold to his form and shrink to the size of a house cat. The intense pressure would cause his skeletal structure to implode leaving a hollow glass form remaining, filled with his liquid essence. But the dragon was not ready to become merely a tool to provide the wizard with endless wealth. He had one more trick up his golden sleeve.

“But how once I have passed away will you penetrate the glass? Think you that you have the strength to bore threw a glass that I myself cannot penetrate?”

“Ah, but there is a secret that bears no telling, that is if I wish to keep you there until the end has come.” answered the wizard.

It was an old game, and the case was half the size it had been at the beginning. Each opponent seemed evenly matched and neither could trick the other into revealing their secrets. Both knew well what was at stake and vied constantly to discover some flaw or weakness that would give the other the advantage. The dragon had told too much to the girl, and not of the right things. If he had played the role of a convicted sinner he might have at least earned her sympathy. Now she was merely a spectator of the wizard’s intentions. She knew not his secrets, and now that she felt betrayed would not be assisting with his release.

But what that dragon had not told was that though his body would indeed liquefy, he would not die. His essence would remain trapped inside of the glass, and the dragon-shaped vessel would become a magical void, similar to that of a black hole, pulling in the magical energy of any powerful being able to breach the glass and combining them with those of the dragon. It could however do no damage to mortals with no magical energies. A single drop of the golden brown liquid would be worth a fortune, and could be used to produce healing potions, powerful spells, and a myriad of other magical uses. The glass vessel would never be empty.

What the wizard had not told was that a collar of the very same glass particles had been placed about the end of his tail and that the pressure from the shrinking would break the glass at that joint leaving quite a tidy opening through which to pour his essence. The remaining piece of his tail would serve as a suitable cork that would prevent the essence from spilling out.

“Why if you will never be free do you prolong this game? Think you that in another three hundred years I will be too old to benefit from your valuable essence. Think again, by then I will be the most powerful wizard in the land, with all of your virtues at my disposal.” bragged the wizard.

The dragon grew angry and spouted flame at the glass in a last great attempt to breach the glass before it was too strong. The glass molded to him and in the heat shrank further. The pain of the pressure caused the dragon to release one final burst of flame and as he did so the glass enveloped him and the particles of scale condensed until a glass miniature etched in gold stood where the case once stood, mouth opened poised to breath flame.

The wizard approached him and touched the end of his tail. A perfect ring around the neck of his tail broke clean and exposed the liquid inside. In an attempt to keep from losing any of the valuable liquid he put his index finger on the tip of the broken tail to cover the small opening that now existed there. Suddenly he gasped and a shriek the likes of none the young girl had ever heard escaped from the wizard’s mouth.

A pain like nothing he had ever experienced began to reverberate through his entire being. The tiny glass dragon was absorbing his entire being into the inner space with the liquid of the dragon, and it was being done through his fingertip.

The dragon laughed aloud.

“I thought that you were dead,” said the girl.

“What know you of dragons young lady? My spirit lives in my essence. Though my body be destroyed I may take upon the physical form of another dragon if he is not stronger than me. But I cannot leave here on my own, though it pleases me that the wizard will not survive me.”

The wizard in too much pain to move or attempt to draw his hand away listened as the dragon told the girl the truth. He outlined the wizards fate and explained the possible uses of his essence as well as how to locate buyers who would neither cheat her nor be a threat. It was a moment before the girl realized what the dragon was proposing.

She did not remark on her surprise and said rather to him, “Isn’t it funny, you would have eaten me but it is me who will live the rest of my natural life benefiting from wealth obtained by selling your essence.”

“If by funny you mean humorous, no, I do not relish having to rely on anyone for my survival, and if you mean odd that the tables have somehow turned you may be correct. I will have need to serve you in order to prevent my powerful essence from falling into the hands of others like the wizard, and so it seems we are bound to each other. But the mortal life is a not a long one, it will be necessary to make certain you have a family line with trustworthy individuals onto which you may pass your fortune including me. Soon we will be able to leave this place.”

The wizard who had not spoken for some time looked up at the girl, “Help me, do you want my death on your conscience?”

“I don’t see how your death could be on my conscience, it is you who trapped him, you who put him in the case, you who planned his destruction, and you yourself put your hand to the open glass. I shall have no regrets about a demise I did not cause. Feel you in your last moments that it would have better to allow me to have been eaten by the beautiful creature, rather than losing all the power you thought to possess? Well I won’t lose any sleep on that, you will become a part of his power, and I will be the instrument of his freedom. Though neither has gotten exactly what they wanted, you have certainly gotten what you asked for.” answered the girl.

“Well said,” commended the dragon.

As they spoke the wizard was absorbed into the vessel leaving nothing but his hat and his robes, which the girl folded neatly and placed on one of the library shelves. She then pick up the dragon’s tail and seated it nicely into the hole, picked up the glass dragon and headed home. On the way the dragon told her stories and secrets.

When she arrived home she placed him on her mantle, and all who saw him said what a beautiful creature he was. The girl simply replied, “Yes, he is.”

The Glass Dragon© DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

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The Arrow

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Cupid was an odd little bug, not the lovely little cherub always depicted in classic art. In truth it was a full grown androgynous asexual pixie, a point of contention that may have been the motivation for starting all of this falling in love stuff to begin with. If it could have claimed a side it might have, then maybe there wouldn’t have been so much hostility about relationships and the way in which they were managed. But considering what each side had to offer it wasn’t certain things would have been much better if the option had been available.

Cupid hated women; fickle, unpredictable, emotional, demanding, inconsiderate, judgmental, selfish, temperamental, harpies with little sense and less enthusiasm. They had all the equipment and ingredients for love, compassion, consideration, desire, and companionship and they wasted them chasing material things. On occasions one with a modicum of the right qualities would surface, but often their abilities to make choices was superseded by their superficial nature. It wasn’t to say they had no good qualities, but what difference did that make if they were squandered, wasted?

But men weren’t much better; self important, dishonest, egotistic, noncommittal, power hungry, greedy, sadistic, philanderers. The greater majority of them were more easily lead by their reproductive parts rather than the massive brain given to them to make survival of their species possible. With all that brain power, you’d think they might have realized that relationships were an integral part of every aspect of life, and the more successful they were at them the better things would be.

But being a member of neither sex Cupid had a right to be critical. Watching these creatures botch and mangle attempts at relationships purporting to be in love, claiming to understand the concept was more than what might be considered palatable on a daily basis. Considering themselves civilized, when they were little better than their prehistoric counterparts. What good was technology if they destroyed themselves and the world they lived in?

So Cupid went to the angels and said, “Why must humans be allowed to continue to be so hateful and reprehensible without experiencing even the slightest of consequences? Do we not still have the ability to affect their choices?”

“Well, yes we do, but it is not as easy as you might think. We do not control them; they make their own choices and decide their behaviors. But here, if you wish to try to intervene, I will make you an archer. You must practice hard to become an excellent marksman, as well as a craftsman, for you will create your arrow. I warn you however, it is not as simple as just point and shoot. You will find humans complex to manage.”

 

Cupid was dedicated, practiced daily. The thought that humans needed a lesson in love was the greatest motivator in the creation of the arrows which would match the magnificent bow and quiver being made specifically for the task.492_cupids_arrow

To Cupid using the bow had come second nature, and by the time the angels were ready to commission a bow to fit the enchanted arrows Cupid had mastered both aim and shot. But the real skill was in learning what to shoot.

 

It was obvious after several attempts to guide humans to love that they were in some way greatly challenged. Even after the object of love was identified and had been pierced by loves arrow, the intended recipient often did not respond even when the person was clearly right in front of them. In fact several times the recipient ignored them knowingly. Love wasn’t blind, humans were stupid. They were literally choosing not to love, creating barriers that did not even need to be there.

So Cupid strengthened the intensity of the arrow, thinking now that resistance would be futile. But that arrow was so strong several of the love interests became obsessed and subsequently stalked the loved one. After a few fatal attractions and unnecessary deaths, the arrow was scaled back to its original intensity.

But by this time Cupid was beginning to get discouraged. Since humans insisted on choosing what was bad for themselves then Cupid decided to make bad selections for them hoping by some coincidence that they would turn toward the real love. But that expectation was also not realized. Humans simply kept the poor choice, allowing themselves to be abused, unhappy, and sometimes even endangered.

As absolute power corrupts absolutely, Cupid became possessed with the same behaviors and judgments that were found to be an abhorrence in humans, and rather than doing the duty that had been charged, wanton disregard for the safety of humans became a standard practice. Cupid decided to become a spirit of mischief, foiling the plans of mankind, confusing and corrupting their intentions whether they be honorable or no.

The angels punished Cupid, who though still an archer, was now no longer charged with the responsibility of encouraging the presence of love. But being skilled with the bow and the ability to craft the arrow, Cupid was content to continue to interfere in relationships making unmarried women want married men, and if a man wanted a woman then she would be persuaded to want someone else, and if a woman desperately wanted someone to love her would condemn her to be alone.

But humans were a victim of their own chaos, Cupid never claimed responsibility for the mess that had become of mankind, after all they themselves made the choices. For centuries mankind has looked for love in all the wrong places. Maybe they should spend some time figuring out what it is so that when they find it they will recognize it. Otherwise it will continue to evade them.

Like the proverbial forest, they are deep amongst the trees. Let us hope they will one day be able to see it.

Until they do, you may want to keep an eye out for stray arrows.

The Arrow © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

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