How wonderful is this? This is why I write dark stories, and this is why I always have heroes and happy endings.
How wonderful is this? This is why I write dark stories, and this is why I always have heroes and happy endings.
The Bunsen burner’s blue light heated the water, boiling it, turning it to white steam. The steam rose and rose and rose up the pipe. First one gear, then another spun. Slow, slow, slow, faster, faster faster. The spinning gears spun belts which spun more gears until a large gloved hand poured Grammie a cup of warm tea.
“Mmmmm.” Grammie snuggled back in the pillows, her hands wrapped around the floral tea cup. “It’s a hug in a cup.”
Red grinned. She tugged on her hoodie and slipped her wrench back in her basket. “Well Grammie. It looks like all it needed was a bit of tightening up, some oil for the gears, and some more gas in the burner.”
“You’re so smart. I don’t know what half of that means.”
Red shook her head and gave the Official Tea Automaton 1000 one last look over. “Remember to call me on your vid next time, instead of using your headset, okay?”
“Of course, dear. I just don’t like the vid because then I have to make sure my hair’s neat.”
“Grammie.” Red leaned in over the old woman. “I love you. Your hair doesn’t have to be perfect. You’ve been sick, you know?”
“That’s no excuse.” Grammie tucked a gray curl back in her bonnet.
Red’s vid chimed. She held her wrist up to eye-level and pressed the accept button. “Hey, Mommy.
“Are you almost done helping your Grammie?” Mommy looked away from the screen, disappeared, and reappeared with Red’s baby sister, Blue, squirming in her arms.
“Yes, ma’am.” Mommy raised the dangerous eyebrow.
“Okay. I want you to head straight home. Don’t talk to strangers.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Red frowned. She knew better than to talk with strangers.
Kissing her Grannie good-bye, Red hurried out. Her basket of wrenches, nuts, and bolts banged against her knee. Crisp orange and yellow leaves blew across her path. Heavy dark clouds flew across the sky. Red tugged the ties of her hood to keep out the wind and skipped down the sidewalk. As she came around the corner of her street she saw Mr. Wolf in his top hat, stomping her way. His cane poked the ground with every other step. Poke. Poke. Poke. Red imagine the ground didn’t like to be stabbed by Mr. Wolf’s cane. Poor, poor ground.
Red stepped back behind the large old oak at the corner hopping Mr. Wolf hadn’t seen her.
“Out of my way,” Mr. Wolf snarled pointing his ugly old cane at Red, “or I might just have you for dinner.”
Red shook in her boots. She ran around to the back of the tree.
“Boo!” Mr. Wolf jumped at her.
Red screamed and ran all the way home never seeing the toothy grin on Mr. Wolf’s face, nor the angry look Joshua Woodsman gave him from behind his white picket fence.
Mommy had hot chocolate waiting when Red rushed in the back door. The warm chocolate with three white marshmallows floating in it drove scary Mr. Wolf right out of her mind. Safe in her warm home, Red forgot about the man with the cane, as little girls do.
Early the next morning, Red’s vid chirped. Wiping sleep from her eyes, she saw Grammie on the screen.
“Good morning, baby bear,” Grammie said.
Red moaned something, still trying to wake up.
“Exactly! It’s just beautiful today. I’ve made some cookies and my Tea’s not working again. Can you come fix it?” Red rolled out of bed, strapped her vid on without turning off the screen, and hurried down stairs to ask Mommy. Grammie squeezed her eyes closed, quite motion-sick. The mother and daughter and grand-daughter conferred, and with Mommy’s permission, Red was on her way.
“Don’t talk to strangers!” Mommy yelled as Red flew out the door.
A light sprinkle of rain showered down on Red. She tugged her hood up and splashed through the puddles as she raced down the street, basket of tools in hand. At the corner, by the oak, she stopped and took a deep breath. The air tasted wet and woody, with a hint of burning leaves. A thin trail of smoke rose from Joshua Woodsman’s back yard. Red peeked over his fence. The boy in camouflage, rake in hand, stood beside a pile of leaves. Small orange and yellow flames flickered here and there, accepting their offering of the tree’s once-green foliage.
“What are you doing?” Red called over to Joshua.
He glanced up at her. “Mom asked me to burn the leaves before I go hunting.”
“Is it fun?”
Joshua looked at the fire and smiled. “Of course. “
The smoke circled into the air. Red squinted. Had she caught the flash of a top hat through the smoke? Or the soft tap of a cane on the wind? Last night’s fright surfaced in her imagination with more teeth and claws than reality.
“Why, good morning dear children.” Mr. Wolf appeared from around the corner, unusually cheerful. “Where are you going, Red, on this wet morning?”
“Grammie’s Official Tea Automaton 1000 broke again.” Red shifted from one foot to the other. Why had he stopped to talk with them?
Mr. Wolf raised a sharp eyebrow. “Again?”
“Yesterday it kept making cold tea.” Red saw Joshua frown at Mr. Wolf out of the corner of her eye.
“It spit cold water in Grammie’s face.”
Mr. Wolf laughed. “She may need to invest in the Tea 1000.1.”
“Isn’t that the one you invented, sir?” The way Joshua said ‘sir’ made it sound impolite.
“I keep telling her that,” Red said quickly before Mr. Wolf could snarl at Joshua. “Gotta go.”
“You know my dear,” Mr. Wolf leaned down, now eye to eye with Red. “There are some beautiful yellow and orange flowers over in the park, just down the road. Why don’t you pick some for your lovely Grammie before you go fix her Tea 1000. Old ladies love flowers.”
Mr. Wolf grinned, his teeth white and gleaming.
“Than-thank you, Mr. Wolf. I’m sure she’d like that.” Red dodged around him and ran up the road towards the park. Grammie would like some flowers, and, more than that, it got her away from Mr. Wolf. Red ran faster.
The damp park, dripping with the silver rain, boasted a plethora of fall wild flowers. Red forgot creepy Mr. Wolf again as she rushed here and there selecting the best offerings of the wide field. Soon her tools lay buried under handfuls of yellow, orange, and burgundy buds and a few spectacular leaves. Red paused and checked her vid.
“Oh!” She realized she was quite late. If she didn’t hurry Grammie would vid Mommy and Mommy would vid Red and Red would be in trouble for not going straight to Grammie’s house. For the second time that morning, Red ran. She ran back up the street, back to the corner with the oak, down the road, into the forest and the little path that led to Grammie’s house. There it was! No vid yet. Maybe Red wasn’t in trouble today.
Warm light gleamed from Grammie’s cottage windows. Steam billowed out the side chimney, white and welcoming and promising cookies.
“I’m here Grammie, and I brought you flowers,” Red proclaimed as she hurried in the front door without knocking.
“Oh, what a good little Granddaughter you are, Red,” Grammie, sounding hoarse, said from her room.
Confused, Red stepped into the dim bedroom. Grammie laid back on her pillows, hidden in shadows.
“Are you sick again, Grammie? You sounded fine this morning.”
“Come closer, little Red, so I can see you. My eyes are weak.”
Red moved to the side of the bed and started. “Grammie, why do you have whiskers on your chin?”
Grammie pulled back. “All old ladies have whiskers.”
“Grammie? Why are you wearing a top hat?” Red’s heart hammered in her chest. “You’re not my Grammie!”
Mr. Wolf sprang out of the bed, grabbing for Red.
Red stumbled back tripping over his cane, spilling her basket of tools and flowers. He lunged for her. Red hit him with her favorite wrench and bolted into the kitchen. Mr. Wolf caught her hood and yanked. Red smashed her fist down on the Tea 1000’s lever. The automaton spit cold water in Mr. Wolf’s face. He sputtered and Red broke free. She darted for the front door just as it opened.
Joshua Woodsman raised his rifle and shot Mr. Wolf dead.
A muffled thump sounded from Grammie’s bedroom.
Red and Joshua shared a glance and hurried to check the noise. They found Grammie stuffed in her own closet with her own sock stuck in her mouth. She gathered both children close and covered them with embarrassing kisses. Using Red’s vid, they called the police and both their mothers.
Soon the house was in a flurry. The Tea 1000 spit cold water on everyone. Flowers and tools littered the floor. Mommys hugged and hugged and admonished and hugged again. Red and Joshua were bundled up, they must be in shock, and given cup after cup of hot chocolate. After answering all the mustached policeman’s questions, they were sent home.
Poor Grammie had to endure another day of the Tea 1000’s bad manners until Joshua walked Red to her house the next day and Red, armed with a wrench, fixed him. Grammie wasn’t too upset. The Tea 1000 had spit in the evil Mr. Wolf’s face, after all.
These both made me laugh:
“Well, if they hadn’t he couldn’t have grown up to be a prince. Haven’t you ever been in a fairy tale before?”
“As a hero, he understood weeping women and knew how to make them stop crying-generally you killed something…”
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Curled up together while the autumn storm raged outside, nine cousins listened to Aunt Abby’s story:
Once upon a time, a ghost named Bruce haunted an old abandoned barn out in a cow pasture. He liked the barn with its old tin roof and gray pine-board walls worn down by wind and rain. He liked the old field with its tuffs of grass and wild flowers in the spring. But, Bruce was lonely. Haunting an old barn and scaring away kids was all good and fun, but sometimes he wished the kids would stay. He wished they’d run and scream with him instead of away from him.
One day, a brown and white puppy dog came sniffing around the barn.
“Hello!” Bruce called, floating up.
The puppy raised its nose from where he’d been sniffing a pile of trash and growled at the ghost.
Bruce darted back in the window of the barn. After waiting a moment, he peeked out. The puppy barked again. Bruce flew up through the floor to the dangerous second story. He counted to five: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
After several more attempts to not be barked at involving the gutters, the empty trough, and a blue glass bottle, Bruce realized they were playing hide and seek. He thought and thought for the best place to hide from the puppy. The old watering can? The fox hole in the barnyard? The chicken coop?
He tried each one and every time, bark! bark! the puppy found him.
Around and around the barn the ghost and the puppy raced. Here! There! Under! Over! In! and Out!
“Jude! Oh Jude!” a Princess shouted.
Bruce and the puppy came to a sudden halt.
“Jude? Where are you?”
The puppy gave a cheerful yip and raced out of the barn and into the Princesses arms. She cuddled him up and he licked and licked her face.
“Where have you been, silly dog?”
With a giant wiggle, the puppy escaped her hug. He tugged on her beautiful pink dress leading her back to the barn yard.
Bruce wisped through a wall. Playing with the puppy had been fun, but if this Princess swy him it’d be all back to screaming and running away. Bruce decided to hide for real and wafted all the way up to the very tip top of the barn.
“What is it Jude?” the Princess asked.
Jude barked at the ghost. Nothing. He barked again. No ghost.
Suddenly, an orange and brown owl, hooting indignantly, darted from the top of the barn. She spread her wings and gracefully swooped around and around the princess until she lighted on the ground.
“He’s hiding up there?” She pointed with her wing.
“What?” the Princess said unsurprised by the owl’s ability to talk. She was, after all, a very wise and round owl why shouldn’t she speak. “Who are you?”
“I’m Imogene the Owl. Jude wants you to meet his new friend, Bruce the ghost, but Bruce is hiding at the top of the barn.”
“He’s sure you’ll be afraid of him.”
“I’m not afraid! My fairy god-mother, Ellie, made me unafraid of everything.”
The owl blinked her two large eyes at the Princess. She never ceased to be amazed at the silly gifts fairies gave their charges. “Very well, I’ll go tell him.”
“I’ll come too,” the Princess said.
She hiked up her very full skirt and tromped into the barn with Jude at her heels.
Imogene shook her head at the silly, unafraid Princess, beat her wings, and flew back up to the roof to speak with Bruce before the something bad happened.
The floor creaked and groaned under the Princess’s every step as she made her way to the stairs leading up into the gloom. Several boards were missing, but being brave, she climbed over these with Jude under one arm until she reached the dangerous second floor. A shaft of weak light fell across a ladder on the other side of the room.
“We must climb that ladder!” The Princess exclaimed.
Jude sniffed the floor. He didn’t trust it one bit, but the Princess hurried across.
Up in his hiding spot, Bruce listened to Imogene as she told him about the Princess’s fairy curse. Maybe, just maybe this girl could be his friend if she wasn’t afraid of anything.
A scream sounded from below.
Jude barked: hurry hurry!
Oh no! Bruce flew down from the top of the barn passing through walls, floors, hay, dust, nests, and droppings.
“Princess!?” he shouted.
Then he saw her feet dangling through the dangerous second floor. Dirt covered her perfect glass slippers and a cut bled on her knee. The boards had given way under her as she tried to reach the ladder. Worse yet, her scream had woken Joshua the Dragon who slept under the barn. He loved Princesses most of all for dinner and he was very hungry when her yells woke him from his long autumn nap.
Bruce charged through the floor and stopped in front of the Princess.
“Hush! Hush.” Bruce pressed his finger to his lips. “You’ve woken Joshua up.”
“Who’s Joshua?” The Princess asked between gasps as she tried to keep from falling through the hole.
“He’s the dragon that lives under the barn.” Bruce tried to grab her hand but he kept floating right through her.
“What’s a dragon doing here?”
“Waiting to eat people.”
“Oh dear.” The Princess wasn’t afraid of Joshua the Dragon, she was far more worried about trying to explain to her parents how she ripped her dress and then got eaten. They wouldn’t be happy with her. “You have to find a way to help me up.”
Bruce zipped around and around thinking who could help. Think. Zip. Think. Zip.
The Princess slid further down into the whole.
Joshua the Dragon growled and climbed towards her.
Jude barked and barked chasing after the zipping, thinking ghost only to run back and bark at the dragon, and then tug on the Princess’s sleeve.
“I’ve got it!” Bruce flew like the wind out of the barn.
Faster and faster he floated. Bruce passed through trees, houses, and even a cow until he came to the creek where the water nymph, Constance, lived.
“Constance!” he called. “Help! Help!”
Out of the creek, rose a silvery girl with long locks of hair that flowed behind her when she swam. In her arms, a little nymph boy with big eyes sucked on the empty shell of a snail.
“What is it Bruce?”
“The Unafraid Princess fell through the floor and woke Joshua up and now he’s going to eat her!”
“That silly dragon always forgets he swore to stop eating princesses years ago.” Constance set the little nymph boy down. “Stay here Rook, until I get back. And no teasing the fish!”
Together, Bruce and Constance hurried back to the barn, passing back through trees and houses, though Constance made him go around the cow, instead of through it, much to the joy of the cow. Back in the barn, Constance, with the help of Jude, pulled the Princess up through the hole and onto boards that were safer.
“Just because you aren’t afraid,” Constance said. “Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make wise decisions. Didn’t Ellie the Fairy explain that?”
As Constance said her name, Ellie appeared.
“You called?” she said.
Joshua roared. The whole barn shook.
“My goodness. What is that?” Ellie peered down into the whole.
“That is Joshua the Dragon, which your Princess woke up because she’s not afraid of anything.”
“Well, not exactly—” the Princess started to explain, but Ellie loudly interrupted.
“Why would you go and do something like that?”
“I didn’t mean to wake him up.”
Joshua spread his wings and flew up into the room breaking the dangerous second floor to bits. Ellie fluttered out of the barn with the Princess who was still not scared. Constance grabbed up Jude and hurried out of the dragon’s way with Bruce behind them. Interrupted from her afternoon sleep by all the racket, Imogene came to see what had happened.
“I smell a tasty Princess!” Joshua snapped lashing his tail. “And I’m HUNGRY!”
Everyone stared at the big green dragon.
“No.” Bruce said. “No. You can’t eat her.”
“Why not?” Joshua growled. Smoke drifted up out of his large nose.
“Cause she’s my friend. And her dog is my friend.”
“Isn’t Imogene the Owl your friend, and Constance the water nymph, and Ellie the Fairy?”
Bruce looked around at not just the Princess and Jude, but also at the others gathered to help him.
“Don’t forget me!” a small voice said. “I’m your friend too.” Out of the barn fluttered a small moth with wild hair.
“Hello Remi,” Joshua said. He blew a soft puff of air at her to help her over to Bruce.
“Thank you, Joshua,” she huffed quite out of breath.
“All of you are my friends?” Bruce said.
“Of course!” Ellie shouted.
“But I’ve felt so lonely.”
“Maybe it took the unafraid Princess to remind you that you have lots of friends,” Constance said.
“Are you really going to eat me?” The Princess reminded them of why they were all here.
Joshua opened his big great mouth. Rows and rows of teeth gleamed in the sunshine. Smoke billowed up out of his throat.
“No.” He clamped his mouth shut. “No. I just remembered I promised not to eat any more Princesses.”
The unafraid Princess ran over and gave him a great big hug.
“I knew there was nothing to be scared of.”
“He thinks that since we’re all here, we may as well play a game of hide-and-go-seek.” Bruce translated.
“We should!” Ellie yelled.
The dragon, nymph, fairy, princess, moth, owl, and puppy darted back into the old barn while Bruce closed his eyes and started to count.
Note from the Author: I have always had a love for stuffed animals, and I have always loved Winnie-the-Pooh and the Velveteen Rabbit, so the other day I decided to try my hand at a stuff animal story. I’m going to share it here every other Friday, between Cousins stories, until I’m not sure what to do with it. This first part, the Prologue, is a reworking of one of my earliest writing bits. It was probably the second or third thing I ever wrote. It’s nice to have a place to finally put it. I think you can probably see some influence from many of the British children’s stories I loved growing up in the cadence and wording of this prologue. Enjoy!
There is a waterfall at the end of the world. It falls softly, musically, beautifully down from the side of a watchful, mothering, mossy cliff. Now, this cliff is not a normal cliff, no. It guards a special clearing, a special opening, a magical entrance, if you will. This place guarded by the cliff is a playful vale surrounded by a forest of delightful dogwoods, who share their lives with little red buds and cherry blossoms, which bloom year around in soft purples, whites and pinks. A little enchanted path—made of purple, gray, and green moss-covered stones—comes in from the western side of the forest and right up to a door in the cliff. Where the path ultimately leads back east beyond the trees and little hills no one knows, but a few creatures wander it at times.
The stream flowing from the waterfall is shallow and slow moving, shimmering as the sun happily dances on its surface. Bright orange goldfish and iridescent guppies play in its warm waters, and at all times of the year you will find multitudes of tadpoles, frogs, and turtles lazing in its softness. As the water falls from the protective cliff, it forms hundreds of multi-colored rainbows through which butterflies and birds dance all the amiable day. They fly gracefully in a cornucopia of colors and types: parakeets, parrots, love birds, doves, ducks, and even chickens, monarchs, swallowtails, and even the red lacewing.
In the clearing watched over by the waterfall, near the small door by the path, you will find all manner of stuffed animals: puppies, kitties, dogs, and cats, horses, ponies, cows, goats, pigs, and guinea pigs, bunny rabbits and hamsters, gerbils, snakes, lizards, and a few spiders, lots of mice, and some rats, a few hedgehogs, chinchillas, and ferrets, some wolves, and some foxes, lots and lots of bears, a few tigers, elephants, giraffes and alligators. You will find, in this clearing, almost all manner of animals, yet something sets these apart, dear one, something makes these animals so special that they have been allowed a home here for an extraordinary reason.
When the sun sets in our world, over our homes, it rises in the clearing. It slowly breaks over the stream, turning the water in to a pot of flowing gold, the rocks in to expensive jewels, and with great excitement and anticipation it awakens the animals. They turn to the path looking, waiting, waiting, for they are not yet able to let go.
Silence fills the forest.
Then . . . children burst forth from the door.
All manner of children from every place in the world and of every nationality, young and old, happy and sad they come to the clearing. The stuffed animals squeal with joy as they run looking for that special little person who meant more to them than anyone else in the waking world.
The children dance in the stream with their fish, they roll on the ground with their dogs, and sit quietly with their cats. Tears of loneliness are wiped away, and every dream is listened to with great seriousness and no judgment. The loudest and roughest playing is always allowed here, but no sort of meanness is ever tolerated to man or beast for this place, this special place, of beauty and love, is the place where your stuffed animals go when you grow up. This is where they wait quietly, patiently for you to sleep and dream of Them. Then one day they are strong enough, and you are strong enough, for them to take the path east away from the door in the cliff.
But, while there, my dear brothers and sisters, you will find your bunnies, fish, birds, and dogs. Your stuffed animals, my children, are not forever lost to you, no. You will find them at the end of the world where the water falls.
Beyond the fluffiest white clouds, over rainbows, and under rain drops is a world of small toys . . . of teddy bears and stuffed animals. When their children grow up, or unspeakable horror die, the animals step through the door under the cliff. Teddy bears no longer hugged or needed to keep children safe fade away and come here. Here? Where is here? Why, here is the place of every stuffed animal ever truly and completely loved by a child, loved to the point of break down. These treasured animals come to this special place called Holiday.
This is where Tock woke up.
This is a short allegory about Christianity. I’ve been trying to find a good story for years to describe our rebellion against God. We often glorify rebellion, especially in America, and I’ve wanted to try to show that we rebelled against a good King when Adam fell in the garden. I rarely write allegory because it becomes frustrating and breaks down the closer you examine it. Thoughts appreciated.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful kingdom by the sea. Her buildings were carved from the white glistening shells of the ocean. When the sun rose in the east and set in the west the Pearl Kingdom glimmered and shown so brightly that far off wanderers could see her light.
A wise and good King tended the kingdom, both in the city and the green fields that surround it. The people lived free and happy lives protected by the King and his knights from her enemies and guided gently away from any ills by his wisdom. No trash marred the beauty of the Pearl Kingdom. No families lived without a roof over their heads, food on their tables, or clothes on their backs. No one went without work for their hands to do, or art to share with others. Everyone helped their neighbors. The countryside was orderly with good crops and fat cows and sheep, goats and chickens. Little wild places broke up the farms full of hidden delights for children and adventures alike. It was a good Kingdom ruled by a good King, a jewel on the Earth.
But, one day, darkness came.
It was not a natural slipping down of the sun into the sea and a rising of the silver moon, but a pestilence, a plague. It whispered in the ears of the unwise and the foolish that this land wasn’t the best and the King wasn’t the kindest and wisest. It whispered that far across the land an Onyx Kingdom lay where everyone could really be free. Where everyone could be their own king.
A rebellion arose against the good King. His once happy people shook their fists in his face and hurled horrible words and rotten food at the beautiful white walls of the castle. Then, they followed the darkness out across the land to the Onyx Kingdom where they could be free.
Free to lie about and do nothing. Free to forget their neighbor and keep even what they didn’t need. Free to say aloud what they thought of others without restraint, and free to eat and drink until they grew sick with diseases. They were free to mock the kingdom they left and the King. They were rebels and traitors condemned under the law to die if they ever came home. Instead of cowering under their condemnation, they fought the Pearl King, and stole from their old kingdom. They crept in at night to take and whispered to any who remained in Pearl Kingdom to come away with them.
But the King wasn’t content to let the darkness just have his Kingdom. He wasn’t content to have his people blind, sick, and lost in the unlit streets of the Onyx Kingdom. He wasn’t content to let his people be eaten by the King who ruled that land for that was their fate. When they had grown fat in the darkness, the Onyx King’s slaves took them and fed them to the Onyx King.
He sent light with a promise of hope and mercy. Here and there, it slipped in searching under windows and behind doors for the King’s true people. The wealthy of the Onyx Kingdom pushed the light away, so it went to the poorest of the poor. It went to the lazy, the deceased, the dead. The light went into the darkest of the dark and searched out the King’s true people.
The Onyx King sensed the light in his shadows and sent his goblins and trolls to snuff it out. Over and over, they slayed the lights, but the Pearl King only sent more and more. Little by little, his true people came back. They came back filthy, broken, reeking of their own laziness and putrid rotting. The ones who made it to the Pearl Kingdom fell on their knees and begged mercy knowing they had to die for their rebellion. They knew they had broken the old laws. They knew they’d broken the King’s laws. Traitors had to be executed. But, they begged the good King for mercy. The King washed them, clothed them in royal robes, and gave them rooms in his castle. He helped them see the black lies they had believed. They dared to hope in the King.
Not everyone came. Not all who once lived in the Pearl Kingdom returned. Many, far more than the ones who came, stayed in the Onyx Kingdom. They hunted down the light. They slew those who listened to it. They revealed in the darkness. The Onyx King sent them out into the highways to attack and maim the ones trying to return to the Pearl Kingdom. Some they killed, and some returned to the darkness deciding the Pearl Kingdom wasn’t worth fighting to get home to.
The Onyx King was hungry. He wasn’t willing to let one person from Pearl Kingdom slip through his fingers. He wanted the ones who had left him back. He smiled. He had a plan. They were traitors and there was a law, after all.
The Kings met on the line between light and darkness. Behind the Onyx King gathered his vast black host. Behind the Pearl King stood only the weak and broken host of those to whom he had shown great mercy.
The Onyx King laughed at the Pearl King.
“This is a trick. They can’t be free. What of the old laws you yourself wrote?” he said. “They must be executed as traitors. It is the law.”
The Pearl King agreed. It was the law. Only death could a traitor expect.
The executioner came from the black land with his dirty axe on his shoulder.
“I will pay the price, Oh Father King,” a quiet, meek voice spoke out.
From out of the crowd of broken people needing mercy stepped the King’s only Son. The Pearl King nodded, granting the Son’s request. “If you pay this price, these people will be yours forever. Not one will ever be the Onyx King’s again.”
The Onyx king nodded, delighted to watch the Son die for such a group of useless people. He was losing nothing by their redemption for they were the poorest of his poor, scrawny and hardly worth eating.
As the Son knelt before the executioner, the poorest of the poor fell to their knees and wept that the good and kind Son would die in their place.
He freely laid his fair and noble head on the chopping block and the axe fell. His blood was shed in their place.
The poorest of the poor cried and wept.
“The price has been paid,” The Pearl King announced. “I declare peace on the earth and my good will towards my people. Pardon has come to all who now come because they heard the light.”
Much to the Onyx King’s surprise, many of his vast host quit his ranks, dropped their swords, and walked through the Son’s blood to join the poorest of the poor on their knees behind the Pearl King.
“And now, my law has been satisfied,” the King said. “Grace has been shown. The Dead are no longer Dead.”
With his words, the earth cracked between the two kingdoms and the sky broke apart casting the Onyx Kingdom into utter darkness never to see the sun again while the Pearl Kingdom rose into the heavens.
Lo and behold, the Son who had died rose up. All the host of heaven cheered with joy. He took his great spear and cast it down into the darkness right into the heart of the Onyx King.
His people surrounded him, forgiven, loved, the law satisfied and the Darkness slain.
Inspired by Bethany Jennings, I decided to do my own character interview. In the past, I always thought these were dumb. Most of my aversion stems from the fact that I write in a very visceral manner. My stories are quick, painful, bloody, and over. I don’t really have a strong sense of my main characters until the third or fourth rewrite. I’m a pantser and one of the failings of writing without an outline is that you don’t get a real sense of worlds or characters until after the book is finished. Then you polish polish polish and attempt to herd cats into a basic plot.
I’m not sure why reading Bethany’s character interview inspired me to do one as well, but it did. So, I’m going to roll with it. We’ll see what happens.
Abby Jones’ Interview of Ralph
Ralph sat in his chair kicking his feet. He’s even shorter than I pictured him. He’s not a dwarf, just not a boy blessed with long legs. His green hair is the brightest point in my gray and brown office. It shines like a beacon of joy and oddness.
I sit down opposite him and hold out my hand. He shakes it with a shy smile that pulls down the right side of his face. We exchange a few pleasantries while he continues to swing his feet back and forth since they can’t reach the floor. After getting over the shock of his bottle-green hair, I notice how strong his arms are for a boy his age. I notice the gentle shape to his beautiful brown eyes. They’re going to melt a lucky girl’s heart some day, I find myself thinking. A sense of sadness softens my smile. No, they won’t. I, even as I interview him, know his fate. I know no girl will ever have the opportunity to love the twist of his lip, or his brown eyes, or his green hair. I shake it off. Now is Ralph’s chance.
Let’s start with the basic’s okay, just to warm up. What’s your name?
Well yeah. Unborns like me don’t get last names. It’s not like we have fathers.
What’s it like to be an unborn?
Not much different from being a born, other than the last name thing, and the skills.
Skills? (Yes, I’m playing dumb to draw him out.)
You know: skills. Each unborn is harvested with skills. I guess it’s the King’s way of making sure someone wants us. I knew this guy once in Gang White (he leans in and his legs stop swinging) with the most useless skill ever. It’s amazing they didn’t just shoot him. His skill was whistling. He could whistle like his lips were some crazy flute. You should’ve seen Colin’s—that’s Gang White’s Master—Colin’s face when the boy just lit up and started whistling like a wild little bird. (Ralph shakes his head.)
What happened to him?
He got sent to the scroungers. Died I think. I don’t remember now.
And what’s your skill?
My skill? Well, it ain’t whistling. (His mouth dips down at the right with every word.) My skills metals. Iron specifically. I can work it real well, least that’s what Kent and Gil say.
Kent and Gil?
Gil salvaged me and Kent’s his brother. They’re Greenhome’s blacksmiths.
Yeah, you know, salvaged. I broke the law back when I was part of Gang White. They were going to throw me in the Prison. Gil paid the cost of my crime for me and they sent me to Greenhome instead. He’s my salvager. I, I owe him everything.
Do you like living in Greenhome?
Like? Of course I like it. We have food, clothing, and Christmas. I never even knew about Christmas until I came to Greenhome. Can you imagine? All those years on the Street and never knowing about Christmas. Seems sad now. Besides, if I wasn’t at Greenhome, I’d be in the Prison or I’d be dead . . .or both. The Prison isn’t a place you want to be. I heard (again he leaned forward) that they’re all crazy in there and they do things like sew weapons into their skin and stuff. I even heard that they eat each other when they die. (He shudders believing the stories boys tell each other after the lights go out. His legs start swinging.) I’m more thankful than I can say that Gil salvaged me. I just hope, I hope I can live up to that someday.
It has to be pretty amazing to have someone willing to do that for you.
Yes it is. (His face reddens. He wipes his eye the back of his hand and sniffs.)
So, let’s change the subject. Tell me about your green hair.
Well, it’s green cause I liked the color. When I made my first lantern with Gil and Kent’s help, I smashed a green piece of glass and embedded it in the metal. It was really neat to see the glass melt and then harden. I gave it to Gil. He hung it on his door. I’m going to make him another one and give it to him for Christmas, but this one will be a lot better. I’ve learned a lot since then.
No one thinks it’s strange for you to have green hair instead of brown or blond?
Brown? Brown hair would be strange! That new kid Jonah has brown hair. He stands out like a sore thumb, so does that girl Adele. Her hair is gray. It’s not like silver or something, just gray.
So, everyone in Greenhome has hair like yours?
Yep. Some of us just stick with one color, like my green. But other kids, mostly the girls, change their hair color almost every month. It’s crazy. Who needs a new hair color that often?
How old are you, Ralph?
Twelve, I think. I’m short for my age, but I’m strong. I can beat most of the older boys in an arm wrestle. Even the one’s in training with Duke.
Training with Duke?
Yeah, every kid trains with Duke when they turn sixteen to learn basic fighting skills and how to shoot a gun. If you want, or if he wants, you can stay in and join up with Greenhome’s army.
Are you going to join Greenhome’s army?
Naw. I’m going to be a blacksmith like Gil and Kent. I’m gonna make the guns, not shoot them so much.
Don’t you think it’s strange for Greenhome to have an army, especially one filled with sixteen-year-olds?
Are you crazy? Have you seen the Streets? Look around. (He swings his arms wide.) The world isn’t a safe place. Why last summer, I heard that there was this place out west that couldn’t harvest kids, so they sent a gang to go steal other people’s kids. You think Soul and Duke are just going to let some people come steal us? You think we’re not going to help them fight that gang? Besides, Duke always says we’re safer for the training than we are without it. At least, he always says, “we ain’t in danger of shooting ourselves with the wrong end iffen we know which end the bullets come out”.
And it’s not like it’s the little kids learning. Only the older kids get trained.
I can’t help but smile at his impersonation of Duke. It’s almost spot on. Well, Ralph, I think we’re just about out of time. Any last thoughts or something you’d like to say?
I don’t think so. I just want to make sure I did Greenhome, and Gil and Kent, proud. They gave up everything for me. An unborn from Gang White? I want to make sure I don’t say anything that might get them in trouble.
I think you did just fine Ralph.
Okay, good. Thanks for talking with me.
He vaults out of the chair and tares out of the room running and whooping like a boy on the first day of summer. I can’t help but smile at my dear brave Ralph, smile and hope he strong enough for what’s coming. He was right about the people with no harvested unborns. He was right about the gang coming for children. I fold up my paper and put away my pen. I’m glad I had this time with a twelve-year-old blacksmith apprentice because I’ll never have it again.
Ralph is a character in my Gentle Magic Fairy Tale, Icicle Rain.
So, how’d I do on my first character interview?
Torn from the sleeping safety of the womb
Where do you go?
Having lived not here,
Having lived not there,
But torn, unborn.
Not in heaven,
Not in hell,
But born on the other side of a Door.
Opening beyond our own,
Just beyond the edge of sight,
Beyond my reaching fingers.
Where do you go?
Where do you go to live?
Beyond the Doors.
– Unborn, by Abby Jones
(The opening poem to my Work-in-Progress Icicle Rain. I’m working on a parallel world where aborted children go to live out the lives that were taken from them. It’s a Steam Punk, Western Fairytale. The Oregon Curiosity Shop on Esty can give you a visual on the Steam Punk side of things.)
As many of you know, and some of you don’t, I was once really into Goth stuff. Fishnets, trench coats, and black, black, black filled the closet of my early twenties. I loved all things fairies and vampires even more. For you moms out there, I eventually grew up and out and normal, except for the vampire part. There is hope.
My first two series—When Skies are Gray, and the Marriage of a Hunter—centered on vampires. (Please think Stoker, not Twilight.) I love them for their ability to communicate sin’s hold on our flesh even after we’re saved. I love them because they never overcome the thirst. I also love them because, done well, they are scary and interesting. (Think Vampire Hunter D and ‘Salem’s Lot not Sookie Stackhouse, or Antia Blake.) I like them for the moral dilemmas they present as arch villains, saved monsters, and half-breed anti-heroes. (Think Buffy, Angel, and Blade not Vampire Academy.)
But for all my love, last year I left them behind. I didn’t want to. I did a little kicking and screaming. But now I’m glad I did. It was time to excise them from my writing just like my gothic clothing removed from my closet, and my fairies taken down from the walls. Not because there was anything sinful or inherently evil about any of that, but because it was time to grow up. It was time to grow up and write something lasting for children.
As I started writing this blog post, I held my sleeping three-month-old nephew in one hand and typed with the other. It’s not quite the hunt-and-peck method employed by my grandfather, because I can almost type in the dark, but it’s not far off either. As my role at church changes from served to servant, my life becomes home-centric instead of career centric, and as my nieces and nephews grow up, my husband has encouraged me to think about what I want to teach them and what I want to share with my church. (It’s kinda like Metallica in their wild youth compared to the tame nature of their concerts now. They got kids in their life.)
Do I want my nephews and nieces to know monsters can be saved? YES! The dear little ones need salvation even now! Each of them will face their own monsterness some day, by God’s grace, and they need to know there is cleansing and salvation. Do I want to showcase that in the overused, abused vampire setting? Maybe not. Maybe I want to challenge myself as a writer to move beyond serial killers and vampires to more subtle evil, more subtle monsters cause that’s more like real life. Real life isn’t often serial killers and being stalked by beautiful people who want to drink your blood. The very reason they seem so shocking to us is their rarity.
But, they will meet self-focused people who will only be interested in what they can get out of them. They will meet themselves someday, in a dark alley, and they will wonder what happened to the innocent child who thought naps were to be avoided. They will face the choice to do what is right, or do what is easy. They will face the lies of this world—that they can see—and the truths of heaven and hell—that they can’t see. They will have to decided to be courageous or cowardly, and in those moments, I want to give them something they can hold on to, like I was given.
I don’t want to write books that I have to hide until they’re eighteen. I want books I can give then at eight. I don’t want to give them books with only butterflies and puppies, but books that are good at their heart because their focus is on the heroes and not the villains. I want to write books that show the beauty of a saved monster, not just the harshness of it.
With this in mind, I am dissecting my love of vampires and creating something new for my fairy tale world. I want a creature linked to the soul, cursed by their own selfishness, forced to renew themselves by what they once were, and ultimately savable. But I don’t want them to be blood and lust based. I don’t want them to be stories with only sexual desire at their center. Our world is so full of that already. We’re completely unaware of how soaked and tainted we are by it. (If you don’t agree, walk through a mall and focus on how much lust is used as the main selling point.) The stain goes so deep. I want to take what I love about vampires and use that to create villains that are the perfect foil for my heroes.
The vampire world, like the gothic world, once held so much charm for me. But as I see what others are doing with this mythical creature, I’m less inclined to be associated with them. I seem to spend half my time trying to explain to people why I write what I write and then nobody reads it. A few friends did read it, and I got lots of positive reviews on line. I’ve been honored by having people say I’m redeeming vampires for Christ, and that they’re as good as Ann Rice and not at all like that Twilight stuff. But, they weren’t serving my church. They weren’t something I could let stand on their own. I had to support them with lots of caveats. I had to imagine them on a shelf next to books I would never in a million years read. I had to face the fact that I’m in my mid thirties and still writing about vampires. Time to grow up. No. Time to grow. I need to grow. I need to find a way to communicate what I love more clearly, simply, and effectively.
I’ve always tried to avoid the fantasy troupe of taking something we’re all familiar with like elves and having them in my world just with a different name. I’ve always thought that was kinda dumb. Just call them elves. But, I’m about to give it a try, and I hope to do it in a way I don’t find dumb. (I also swore I’d never write YA fantasy…but here we are.) I take heart in the fact that one of my human characters turned into a wolf when he went to the Spirit World, making him the closest I’ll ever get to having a werewolf. And he wasn’t really that. It was more a subtle, sub-conscious thing.
So, as I get finished with my first rough draft of my Fairy Tale, things are moving and growing. Things are twisting and tangling in my mind. I hope to have something that I can love as much as I love vampires, but with less baggage and more purity. I think that’s part of growing up too: respecting purity. I will never under why we have to see the darkness to respect the light, but I’m thankful God is longsuffering and never leaves us or forsakes us.
If you follow me around in real life, on FaceBook, and or read my Blog, you will quickly realize that one of my favorite concepts in stories—right after the idea of the Undeserved Rescue—is Brotherhood. I love action flicks with a core group that would kill for each other. I love stories about enemies becoming inseparable friends. I love stories about cops and their partners. I love war stories because of the brotherhood concept. Band of Brothers is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, but I feel like you see this same idea play out, to lesser degrees, in StarTrek: NG, Firefly, Sherlock, and Chuck. It’s all about the person next to you. It’s all about the guy willing to spill blood to defend you, even his own. It’s what I love about Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. It is what I love about Lord of the Rings.
With all that said, it’s not surprising that my Fairytale has at least two brotherhoods forming in Book 1. I’m diligently working on a brotherhood within the antagonist’s army and a brotherhood centered around my protagonists. Since brotherhoods tend to form in the middle of intense situations like combat, and since I’m a bit conservative and think combat should be left to men, and since it typically has been left to men so men are the ones forming these brotherhoods, my protagonist is a male. In fact, most of the books I’ve written have a male protagonist.
Most of the books I enjoy reading have male protagonist. It’s not that there aren’t books with lead females out there. It’s not that women don’t have adventures. It’s just that I never find books and stories with lead females as interesting or as fun as I do the ones with lead males. This started back when I had a choice between the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Can you guess which one I picked? (If you guess Nancy Drew you need to start this article over and try again. 🙂 )
Why is this?
I’ll be honest, and a bit hard on my own sex, I find stories with lead females a bit annoying. Either the woman is doing something completely ridiculous in some vain attempt to prove that she’s just as big and bad as the guys are, or she’s standing in a corner screaming with a phaser not three inches from her hand while her man gets beat to death, or she’s eye candy. There are very few stories where the woman is a woman. And the ones where she is being a woman can be a bit harder to make interesting because they can end up catty, manipulative, and self focused. I just don’t think they’re as fun as male driven stories. (And yes, if you’re wondering, I was a Tomboy growing up.) What it really came down to was boys had adventures and girls had boyfriends. I would rather have an adventure.
Then, a dear friend laid down a challenge. She pointed out the many wonderful relationships I have with other women. I’ve been blessed with a wise mother and extra mother, grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-Christ, wise older women, and a very dear best friend, and many nieces. I have more dear women than I can possibly name in my life right now. I have women who are going before me into old age and widowhood, I have young women coming up behind me into marriage, life, and adulthood. I wouldn’t trade these women for the world. I love each and every one of them. My dear friend, who is a woman, asked me why I don’t have more of those types of female relationships in my books? They are some of the best friendships I’ve had, why don’t I mirror the brotherhood concept with a sisterhood concept? If I hated women being written just to have boyfriends, why was I doing the same thing. (Don’t read this the wrong way, I think loving a man and being loved by him, being married, is one of the most wonderful and rewarding relationships you can have.)
I was floored. I couldn’t believe how long I’d missed the opportunity to share something that has always been a part of my life. Facepalm.
Again, I find myself beholden to a woman while I write about a man. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be: Women supporting women who are helping men? So now I’m weaving women together. I have a mother and now I have a GateKeeper and a few elements who are women, plus some other girls. I’m shooting for a story that has brotherhoods, sisterhoods, and also some marriages.
I hope to show the positive sides of women and sisterhoods without reducing them down to catty relationships. One of the things I hated most about the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan was his sisterhoods. Every woman in the book constantly manipulated the men around them for their own ends. It grew very frustrating. It was like watching all that is the worst part of you instead of being encouraged to be better. I want to have a story more like Lord of the Rings that makes you want to be a better person when you finish reading it.
With this challenge accepted, I will be working on my female characters. I will be exploring what makes women and men different and how those things compliment each other. I have some good books to read, good movies to watch, and of course some interesting personal experiences to draw from. Plus, I have a whole host of Godly women ready to help me! I’m gearing up and ready to go!