The Barlow Clan – Chapter 1

*All characters and places in this piece are fictional and do not reflect anyone alive or dead. Flathead National Park is a real place, but as far as the author is aware, it is not haunted. This story may have content that some readers find offensive or disturbing, so discretion is advised, especially to those under the age of 13.*

I

The rustling leaves of autumn drew Callie outside, filling her distracted mind with the sounds of nature. She sat on the ground and watched them gently dance in the breeze. She heard Ranger Stevens before she saw him. He had a distinctive way of walking. “Hi darlin’ you talking to the trees again?” Callie blushed as she quickly rose to her feet to face him. She was hyper-aware of her hand-me-downs clothes and ancient fleece that had either belonged to Hep’s or the twins. No one knew anymore. “Hi, Ranger Stevens, I was just taking a break. Can I help you with anything today?

Callie I’ve told you it’s ok to call me Mike, I’m not a police officer or anything.” His face lit up as he grinned and Callie swayed a little on her feet. Her homeschooling had limited her interactions with real boys.  She didn’t consider her brothers to be real boys) and Mike happened to be a particularly handsome one, but it didn’t matter, Callie Barlow would have been awkward with any boy. The only boys she really knew were her brothers, Hep, Are and App. “Sorry, Mike, how can I help you today?

Well I’m looking for your father actually, is he around?” He took off his hat in anticipation of speaking to Lucas Barlow. Callie was certainly among the softer of the Barlow family siblings. Her eldest brother was exceptionally rough and ready despite all the classical training their mother Joanne had given them. He was very much a carbon copy of his father Lucas. Who was known as crass, angry and loud.  Yet Lucas Barlow was well regarded in the town of Mirth and the Barlow family had lived in Flathead National Forest for generations. “Daddy will be back soon he was doing his morning rounds of the land. Would you like to wait and have some coffee?” Her voice cracked nervously as she asked this, but she was relieved when Mike nodded almost furiously.

That’s great if any of your brothers are around I might speak to them too?” Callie’s heart sank. If it was a palaver with her brother’s Mike wanted, she wouldn’t get a word in. Mike seemed to notice this, and said kindly, “of course you know these woods just as well as them, so you will certainly have some useful input to give Callie.” Callie blushed again at this. Not just because he was so kind, but because he had noticed her disappointment. Nobody took much notice of Callie when her brothers were around. She nodded and beckoned him inside.

Halloween Horror Stories. The Barlow Clan.
Halloween Horror Stories. The Barlow Clan.

It was early morning and the sun had only just risen in the East, but the Barlows had been up since before dawn. It was the family way even before Callie was born, and she knew no different. They would begin their studies at 9am. Well, she would, Hep and the twins had already taken their SATs. Beforehand the chores would need to be done. Chores from which Callie had been skiving off from. “Callie, are you finished checking on the deer jerky?” Her mother Joanne had an ability to appear from thin air. Both Callie and Mike jumped. They had thought themselves alone in the quiet kitchen. “Yes ma’am, mother. I invited Ranger Stevens in for coffee while he waited for Father.” Joanne folded her arms and took in Mike silently. A silence descended and as expected, Mike nervously filled the gap.

I’m sure you could help too Ma’am, Mrs Barlow, it’s about another missing tourist. Two actually. They went into the forest last night. It was meant to be an overnight camping trip, but when they didn’t call their girlfriends this morning at the crack of dawn as promised, well the girlfriends got frantic and called the police. You know the reputation these woods have so the coppers asked Chief Ranger Makowski if he’d look into it. I thought that since Mr Barlow, and your family have had such luck with turning up missing people in the past, knowing the woods so well…” Joanne finally smiled and Mike trailed off. “No problem Mike, I’m sure Lucas would be delighted to help once he returns from his rounds. In the meantime let me get you some breakfast.

Oh you’re very kind but if you could just let Mr Barlow know we will be mounting a search party down at the ranger cabin that I would be very grateful.” Callie’s heart sank. Mike would have happily stayed for a chat if her mother hadn’t appeared. Callie had been so sure her mother was out back feeding the chickens, but Joanne Barlow had a way of knowing when to appear uninvited. She didn’t like Callie talking to outsiders, especially not men, despite what was thought of the family in town. “Are you sure Ranger Stevens? I was about to start breakfast, the boys always come back from their rounds, ravenous.” Her eyes glinted in the early morning light, and Callie could see Mike audibly shiver.

Much obliged Ma’am, but I best be on my way, thank you now.” He dipped his head and slipped back out into the yard. Callie watched him as hopped onto his bike and quickly disappeared down the path from the Barlow homestead. “So, you think he’s cute do you Calliope?” Callie froze, she could feel her mother’s eyes on her. As if feeling into her mind somehow. “Sure, in an awkward kind of way.” She tried to laugh it off, making her tone light, but her mother always knew. “Stay away from men like that Callie, I’ve told you before. They want what’s between your legs and nothing more.” Joanne began making breakfast, and Callie simply fell into the morning ritual once more.

II

Listen this is official Park Ranger business, you know I can’t tell you that information. Besides, they aren’t technically missing persons yet, they’ve only been incommunicado for 3 hours or so. Really, any information we have from their girlfriends and the state coppers is private.” Chief Ranger Makowski was an imposing specimen. Standing at 6 foot 4 and about as broad, it was difficult for most people to argue with him. Of course, Jacob had known Ingrid Hanson since she was a small girl, and her tenacious nature had always endeared her to him. Although he admired her spirit, he was protective of the Ranger service which he had served for decades. It had increasingly come under fire for their inability to locate the mounting missing persons list. He would enforce the rules and regulations, in public at least.

Ingrid, as soon as I get the go-ahead, you know I’ll call you, but right now it’s a private matter.” He smiled a rare smile and Ingrid rolled her eyes. “Alright curmudgeon, but I’ll be back.” Makowski huffed. “No need to throw your fancy college words at me, young lady.” He was still smiling in spite of himself though, as she flounced off.

landscape-2268775_1280
Halloween Horror Stories. The Barlow Clan.

Ingrid was thinking about how good a large coffee would feel to ward off her sleepiness and the cold of a Montana morning when she bounced off Chief Stevens. She landed on her ass and looked wearily up at into his face. There she observed in him the same equally dazed state. She simply groaned. “I’m not caffeinated enough to process this yet.”

Oh Ingrid I’m so sorry are you ok?” He tried to help her up but she shooed him away. “I’m fine Mike, no worries, it was my own fault. It’s an early start and I skipped my morning coffee to get here. Chief Makowski won’t talk to me yet though, so I needed have bothered.” Her keen eyes studied the slumped posture of a man who usually stood proud in his newly earned Ranger uniform. “You ok Mike? You look like you could use a pick me up yourself.” Mike nodded gently. “I was just up at the Barlow homestead…” Ingrid normally wouldn’t have to ask for details, she knew the Barlows as well as anyone else from Mirth. However, her inquisitive nature was the story and she decided this might as well be included. “Let’s grab a coffee and have a chat, Mike.

III

So that’s all she said? That they would be ravenous?” Asked Ingrid doubtfully. Mike looked wounded. “I know but it’s the way she said it, and her eyes…” Ingrid nodded in understanding. Although it didn’t seem like much, Ingrid knew the look Mike was talking about. She had known Mike for most of his life too, she’d palled around with his older sister Mary in school, and he wasn’t a liar. No, there was definitely something weird about Joanne Barlow and it wasn’t her choice of words exactly. It was the emphasis she put on certain things that gave kids the creeps. Her sons were similarly weird if not more rambunctious. Yet Lucas was a typical Montana man. Quiet, hard-working and private. Well respected. The match between them had always struck people as odd.

Some had even gone so far to say that Joanne had used witchcraft, learned from her native ancestors, to trap Lucas. Ingrid always thought that was bullshit. Plus she’d always been uncomfortable with how old-seed Montanans had used ‘witchcraft’ as to describe a woman behaviour when they acted in a way they didn’t like. Ingrid had often thought if a man acted the way Joanne did they would just be labelled as unusual or strange. Joanne Stone had gone to university, which had been unheard of in her day. She’d studied the ‘classics’ whatever that passed for these days, and she’d insisted from day one that her children would be educated at home with her. It had worked so far. Though the boys had only gone to the local college for the environment or natural science, word on the street was their SATs scores where something to be very proud of.

              Joanne had named her children after the Greek gods. Hephaestus was her eldest, Ares and Apollo were her twins and her youngest and only daughter was Calliope. This was the one and only thing that Lucas had pushed back on. He’d wanted to give his children family names. So the compromise was that their middle names were Greek, and first were good old fashioned Montana names. Yet they’d never gone by their first names. Heck Ingrid couldn’t even remember what they were. There was a good chance they were John, Joseph and Thomas, but she couldn’t be sure. She would need to look that up…

She snapped back to her conversation with Mike. Why would she need to look the names up? The Barlow family weren’t the story. The missing men were the story, and the rest of the missing in their droves. Flathead Park had a 78% higher missing persons rate than the national average. She’d found that out from intensive Google searches. “It really seems like Callie is the only ‘normal’ Barlow and I say ‘normal’ very lightly. She was listening to the trees when I arrived at the house this morning.” Ingrid tilted her head and frowned. “What do you mean listening to the trees?

Stevens, get your ass in gear, we’re heading out in 10!” Came Chief Makowski’s bellowing voice. Mike promptly jumped to his feet. “Sorry Ingrid gotta go, I’ll chat with you later, send me a text.” Ingrid nodded languidly as Mike hopped off to his newfound duty as Park Ranger. “You’re a long cry from playing dungeons and dragons with your friends Mike Stevens.” She sighed as she gathered her things. Now to sneak into the Rangers cabin to listen to the meeting.

IV

Ingrid was met with an eye-roll from Makowski, but he didn’t ask her to leave. Truth be told, he was starting to worry about the increased disappearances and incessant attention it was getting from young people. They were doing over-night challenges in the supposedly haunted forest which they filmed and subsequently uploaded to their social media. We spent the night in a haunted forest and you’re not going to believe what happened. They were putting themselves in danger, and it was up to the Rangers to get them out of it. Maybe if someone like Ingrid covered the story it would prove a cautionary tale for future inexperienced campers.

Halloween Story, The Barlow Clan
Halloween Story, The Barlow Clan

It was customary for the Park Rangers to fall silent when Lucas Barlow entered the cabin. His presence was suffocating. Unlike Chief Makowski, Barlow was not a particularly tall man. It was his energy that naturally pulsated and disarmed you. His blue eyes could freeze, and although he was not considered to be a warm person, he helped each and every person that found themselves lost in the woods.

What’s the 411 Makowski?” Barlow croaked as he lowered himself onto the bench, his sons looming behind him. “Simply put, two college kids approximately 21 years of age, go camping last night in the woods. They promised their terrified girlfriends that they would call in at 5.30am no later, on account of the ‘reputation’ our forest seems to be getting.” Barlow’s eyes narrowed at that. “When they didn’t check-in, they call the police, they called me, I called in the staff.” Makowski moved his arm to display the fine team of men and women assembled. He looked at Ingrid closely when he said the next part.

The girlfriends also sent us a video that the boys sent to them around 3.30am this morning, before daybreak. It’s not very clear, but it appears as though the boys are being attacked. We cannot verify this for sure, or even if it is real, however, we will proceed with caution. If it was a lion attack we will need to be vigilant. I will now show you the video.” Chief Makoswi cast the video onto the large wall projector. Stevens turned off the light so they could get a better view, but the morning sunlight was started to make that difficult.

The video started with content which is common on YouTube or other social media these days. The boys joking around, filming each other. Setting up a poor camp. Chief Makowski skipped along until they got to the pertinent part. Boy number one spoke up in the darkness. “What the fuck was that Aiden?” He panned the camera around in the swift jerky motions. “Did you hear that, what the fuck was it?” Boy number two answered. “I don’t fucking know I’ve never heard an animal make a noise like that before.”

Shuffling noises, like leaves and tent canvas. Silence, all but for the heavy breathing of the boys. Then an inhuman screeching noise, which started out low then built in a horrific crescendo. Even hardened Rangers seemed disquieted by the sound, as they shook their heads, shifted in their seats and even covered their ears. When the screeching came to a halt,  the maddened sound of a predator racing towards the boys and their own version of screeching began. Then nothing.

Now the girlfriends say they received no message with this video as if it was set to automatically send to them. Like I said, we don’t know if this is a hoax or not so I would advise caution. We all know wild animals can make a variety of noises…”

I’ve never heard one that sounded like the damned goat guardians of hell before though!” Called out one of the senior rangers and laughter erupted. When Makowski and Barlow didn’t join them it quickly died down. “Like I was saying. This could all be a joke, but it’s our duty to check it out regardless. However, we do not put ourselves at unnecessary risk so be on the lookout for lions or even bears. Now we will break into the usual parties of 4. Someone is designated as the leader…”

Not that anyone would have noticed, but Makowski and Barlow weren’t the only ones not to laugh at the Ranger’s poorly timed joke. Ingrid’s eyes had glazed over as she began recalling her interviews with those who had been recovered from the forest after being missing for days. She remembered how they had described the exact sound she had just heard from the missing boys’ video.

 

*Chapter II will be available next Friday the 11th of October, until then click here for some more stories to keep you going*

 

Copyright © 2019 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

Granny Phillis

The fire, a welcome contrast to the descending mist outside, was soon obscured by all seven grandkids. As they fought over who would be directly in front, the youngest Seán, decided that he would sit with his beloved great granny Phillis. “Hello granny! Happy Halloween. Would you like a sweet?” Her marble eyes found him, and she squinted. “Is that you Georgie?”

Seán smiled, unoffended. “No, it’s me Granny. It’s Seán. I’m Georgie’s son!” Her solum face lit up. “Ah it’s me little pet Seán, how are you love?”

“I’m grand granny I got loads of sweets would you like one? I have the sucky sweets you like!” As she reached out Seán was already obliging with an orange flavored glazier. “Thanks pet, and by the way, we don’t say happy Halloween.”

Seán, a wise nine-year-old, knew not to question his great granny. His sister Susan however, was a boisterous twelve. “My teacher taught me it’s polite to say happy Halloween to your friends and family.” Granny Phillis sat up straighter in her armchair. Seán often wondered if granny was born in that chair because he rarely saw her out of it. Although in fairness, she had been 85 when he was born.

“Susan, don’t talk to your granny that way!” Her mortified Mother squeaked. Susan gave a familiar look. One that normally resulted in an argument. Tonight, however, Susan had a big bag of sweets and wasn’t about to relinquish them. “Sorry, granny Phillis.” She muttered.

Seán cast his eyes over to granny’s face. Although not as indignant as it had been, she still looked annoyed. “Why shouldn’t we say happy Halloween granny?” He asked gently. Phillis glanced at her great-grandson smiling. His resemblance to her husband in both manner and looks had always given her pause.

“Well, young man I’ll tell you why once your father gets me my Halloween treat.” His father Georgie promptly lept up from his seat and went to the kitchen to get her a double whiskey. Seán offered her another sweet and when Georgie returned with her whiskey she took a good swig.

“Now, Seán. Do you know what Halloween is?” Seán tilted his head. This seemed like a trick question. “Oh, I know this!” Susan shrieked. “It’s a festival to celebrate the harvest.” Waiting for her obligatory pat on the back for the correct answer. Her shocked face, when it didn’t come, was glorious to Seán.

“Listen to me. Halloween is a very dangerous night of the year. Why do you think our ancestors had the bonfires? As a way to be grateful for the harvest? Nonsense. They were trying to keep the light going until midnight when it was safe again.” At that Seán’s mother jumped in. “Now Phillis no need to scare the children, come on everyone I think your Granny Tricia has the tea ready, quickly now, into the kitchen.”

The rest of children, grateful to be finally allowed leave their eccentric great granny Phillis alone, milled out of the room. Seán remained, as unlike the rest, had a soft spot in his heart for the elderly. Phillis knew this, and her heart swelled. “Who were they afraid of Granny?”

Phillis shuffled in her chair so she was facing Seán. Her glassy eyes shone in the firelight. “You see Seán, there are many things out there, especially in Ireland. We have the likes of the banshee, the faeries, and the tricksters. Now most of them, are not much trouble. They live alongside us, as hidden as they may. Now you don’t have to worry about them. The banshee weeps at the dead, the faeries love treasures, and the tricksters are feckin’ annoying.”

Seán’s eyes widened. “Faeries are real!?!” Granny held up her hand. “Don’t interrupt me Ghassan. Now those entities have been around longer than us and will be long after we’re gone. They’re in our world but they’re not, and most of them are happy with that. It’s the dark ones that you need to worry about.”

Granny’s eyes deepened, and she sipped at her neat whiskey. Moments went by and Seán had to nudge her. “Sorry pet, I was just thinking back to when I was your age, now that wasn’t yesterday or the day before.” She glanced down at her hands. “85 years or so now.” Seán’s head comically shook in disbelief. Although he knew her age, he never thought about it like that. He had certainly never thought of her as a child before.

“So when I was your age, Halloween was no laughing matter. We didn’t go around begging for sweets from our neighbours. We battened down the hatches as if there was a storm coming…” Sip. “Yes in those days we feared the dark on Samhain, it’s not like it is now. There is always light available when you go outside these days, but when I was a young wan. Well…”

“Must have been Halloween 1932. No no, it was 1933 I think. Whatever year it was, I was a young girleen, about your age Seán. I was sent to me granny’s to check on her, It was early enough in the afternoon around three or so. I was to be back by five. She only lived down the road sure.”

Seán shifted uneasily in his seat, chewing slowing. Granny Phillis loved to tell him tales of her childhood. This time, however, his arms were trembling. “Getting to my granny Síle’s house was one thing. It was another one entirely getting home. You see, the mad McDonagh woman caught me, unawares. She stopped me and started babbling about things I weren’t in the habit of thinking about.”

Phillis shook her head. “In those days regardless of how mad they were, you respected your elders. She was babbling about the demons, and how on Halloween a young girl like myself shouldn’t be out alone. When she was a girl she would be burning a fire with her family, like it was proper, to ward off the bad spirits.”

“Eventually I had to tell her my Mammy was expecting me, and oh God!” Granny Phillis laughed. “She actually gave me a wallop and said, ‘then what are you doing standing around here for, have you no respect for your mother, get home now you brazen brat!’ Well, I hopped off as quick as I could with my arse stinging from the slap.”

She looked up at the door as if to make sure no one was going to correct her swearing in front of the children. “It was already getting dark then, and although normally I felt safe walking the 20 minutes from me granny’s house to me own, I felt frightened that night.” She sipped on her whiskey, and then looked at Seán directly. “I’m not scaring you lad, now am I?”

Seán held his breath for a moment and shook his head. Although this was a lie, he wanted to hear the story. He wanted to hear what happened to granny all those years ago. She nodded and patted his hand. “You’re a good boy Seán, you remind me of my husband Jack God rest his soul.” She tipped her glass to the sky at this declaration and Seán felt the need to tip the bar of chocolate he was holding. Phillis cackled and she took another sip of her whiskey.

“Ah God, back in those days I was so innocent Seán. I thought nothing could hurt me, because they all told me the monsters in the woods weren’t real.” She looked at him directly now, her vitreous eyes filling up. “I’m saying this because you might get a bit scared pet, but you need to know the truth. There are things we know nothing of only legends and hearsay, and most of it is crap. But some of it, well some of it is real, and it came after me that night while I was walking home alone in the dark.”

Seán shuddered, realising he was still wearing his jacket, but the fire gave him no warmth. A charge spiked down his back, and he seen Phillis looking worried too. “Granny are you ok?” She nodded as firmly as her old neck would allow. “Oh don’t worry pet I’m fine, it still just gives me the chills to this day.”

“Well I was walking down the road just before I turn down the lane to my family’s old farmhouse. That house is long gone now. When from the thickets, I heard someone calling my name. Except they weren’t calling me Phillis like most would. They were calling me Philomena.”

Seán’s brow furrowed. “Philomena?” Phillis nodded furiously. “Sure that’s me full name pet. Bet you didn’t know that. The only people who ever called me Philomena was the local priest Father Martin, and me granny Síle. So naturally, I thought she’d walked behind me and got stuck in the hedges or something beside the road.”

“I stopped walking. It was dead quiet at this stage. I heard the voice again. ‘Philomena?’” Granny stopped and finished her whiskey off. She placed the glass on the table beside her. “The voice almost sounded like me granny Síle, except, there was something not right about it.”

Seán couldn’t move. He had lost all interest in his sweets, his eyes transfixed on his great granny Phillis. “I looked around. It was dark now, the moon wasn’t quite out yet. It was that great half dark.”

“My eyes were adjusting to the dark, so I looked into where the voice was coming from.” She paused. “When I tell you I can’t truly describe the horror of what I seen. I’m doing it justice Seán. It was a thin white creature, mostly hidden by the hedges, but what I could see was spindly and sharp.”

“Its eyes were the worst though. They were sunken dark holes. No matter how many times I call up this memory, my brain tells me that the creature, whatever it was, was evil. Evil like the demons of hell that Father Martin used to talk about. And it was calling to me.”

“Well Seán I hightailed it out of there. I was sure it was chasing me the whole way back to the house. Even though I stared out my bedroom window all evening I didn’t catch a glimpse it again. A week or so later I finally plucked up the courage to ask my Granny Síle about it. We were very close. I needed an adult to tell me that it was my imagination, and I was safe.” She glanced at her whiskey glass, willing it to be full again.

“She did to some part. She told me I was safe because it wasn’t Halloween anymore. The things in the dark couldn’t get at me any other night of the year. On Halloween though, the walls are soft…”

“They can creep through, and they want a warm body to possess, and sometimes they succeed. That’s why there’s true evil in the world Seán, because that one night a year, God can’t see what they are doing.”

Silence fell on the room. Seán’s imagination ran wild, scaring himself to almost epic proportions. “How do I protect myself granny I’m scared!?” Granny Phillis turned to him with her shining eyes and grabbed his arm. “My dear boy we are doing it now. The fire, the whiskey, the company of another. They cannot reach where light and love is. I just want you to know that there are risks, but you are more than safe here with me.”

Seán’s fear melted away. He was just about to ask Granny Phillis another question when Susan burst into the room. “We’re leaving now Seán say goodbye to great granny Phillis.” Susan came over and made a show of hugging her great granny, Showering her with kisses. “Love you granny Phillis bye now, you mind yourself.” Her flattery didn’t go unrewarded and she left with a five euro note in her hand. “Thank you so much granny!” She curtseyed and left the room.

Phillis turned to Seán. “My young boy, I love all my grandchildren equally. Do you understand that?!” Seán nodded kindly and hugged his grandmother tight. He was rewarded with a twenty euro note, and a small photograph of his great-grandfather Jack. She put her finger to her lips, and Seán nodded gratefully. As he was walking out the door, Phillis spoke once more. “Remember Ghassan. Let the light burn, even if it is within you.” Seán nodded as if he understood, storing these words in his brain forever. He left his almost blind great-grandmother staring into the fire.

 

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

Want to stay safe? Read this poem.

https://thinkingmoon.com/2018/10/30/consecrate-fire

Reawakening

Dormant for over 1000 years, Mount Codlata had recently begun rumbling. Although local populations were aware of this reawakening, little relocating took place. This was mainly due to Mount Codlata’s home in the desert sands and rocky hills of Goath. As one of the most remote places on Tallabh, the Goath desert was rarely visited, except when a scientist or adventurer found the inspiration to wander its lonely mountains or sandy wastelands.

Deep within the belly of Mount Codlata, magma churned graceful yet frantic now as nearly 100 years of activity would culminate in a spectacular eruption. From afar, scientists and ordinary citizens alike watched excitedly for the natural event of the era. Many had taken time from their busy lives to watch this explosive event which had sparked their imagination. Scientists waited patiently for the eruption, hoping once it began, samples would yield valuable data, as sediment from over 1000 years ago would be thrown forth.

So it was that Mount Codlata ruptured in colours of brilliant ecstasy, as the remnants from Tallabh’s indigenous history spewed forth in a river of hot red magma. The generated findings from this explosion were vast. Keeping many scientists and volcano enthusiasts occupied for years to come.

In its initial explosion, debris was flung many miles abroad, some even making it as far as the shoreline more than 40 miles east of the land of Goath. Much of those pieces were gathered for study and private collections. Many more were washed out to sea, carried away by strong currents. One such current brought pieces as far as the icy shores of the Island of Banbás, where the rocks, already cooled, began to freeze as the winter closed in.

One particularly large rock took several weeks to freeze entirely, but by mid-winter, it was frozen internally. The wind howled on the Island of Banbás, and it’s few inhabitants had all but ceased to leave their homes, during the worst of the weather the Island received year round. Winters on Tallabh last 150 days, as the planet, tilted on its axis, languidly orbits the star Glormaar with a circle of 600 days.

The rock in question began exhibiting signs no rock in the history of Tallabh had done. It had all but begun to shake. It’s idiosyncrasies began with gentle vibrations no one would have noticed without the correct equipment. Slowly it vibrated, then shook, then shuddered, until finally, it convulsed violently. As the days rolled by pieces of the frozen rock began to crack and fall away, until eventually after months of frozen shaking, a distinct shape could be seen.

The rock was now decidedly person-shaped. A tall shapely form, with a look of intense fear and pain on their face. One would have recoiled in horror looking upon the agony. Their teeth clenched, fingers like claws, and body contorted from the misery of a lava-encrusted death.

This body, continued its vibrations, day after day, week after week, month after month. It became with each passing week, less rocky and more fleshy. Had this been witnessed, none would have believed what they were seeing. Occurrences outside the laws of nature would cause dubious horror within. The skin eventually clear of all rock could be observed as dark and smooth. It could now be seen that the form was female, whose face, though contorted, was quite the beauty. Her hair was long, lips full, nose button like. Her cheekbones, while defined, made her face soft.

Then on a day near the beginning of the thaw, her brown eyes opened. She took a deep breath and unleashed a scream which carried across the Island of Banbás. This scream frightened the denizens who spread tales of a demonical temptress in the following weeks. None left their houses that day out of fear.

Chapter 1

A drooping plant, melancholy in its composure, caused Ellie to pause and sit down beside it. Although she had been growing things all her life, this plant was dying right before her eyes, and to her at that moment, she could not but connect this dying plant, to her empty womb. “The universe is giving me a sign and it’s that I cannot have a child.” Fat tears popped out of Ellie’s pale blue eyes and ran down her round cheeks. She had recently been with a doctor, in nearby Bandialann, and the news had been disheartening.

“Look Ellie, I’m really sorry, but we cannot exactly define why you and Eric have been unable to conceive. You must understand, in all our wisdom, our race still struggles to truly understand why sometimes people cannot get pregnant. Both of your tests have come back and there seems to be absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. I feel as though if you are not so hard on yourself that one day you and Eric will have a healthy baby.” Doctor Messa offered her gentle but firm smile. Although Ellie heard the words, her emotions would not allow this to be a peaceful moment of understanding. Her sobs had been loud that day, and Eric, silent in his mourning, had just held her.

Eric had tried for weeks afterward to keep Ellie calm and be positive, but even his inner dialogue was telling him it was hopeless. So when Ellie had told him yesterday morning that she was going to see a witch for help, he hadn’t argued or decried the idea, he had just nodded resignedly. Perhaps this would help Ellie to relax naturally, and that would help matters along. They weren’t that old anyway, barely 40, and people were living to 400 these days with medical advances. So he let her go and kissed her on the head supportively on the way out the door. “Just be safe, ok my love?” She had nodded bravely and set out confidently, back to Bandialann, to a famous witch and healer.

As Ellie sat on the floor staring at the dying plant, she remembered the words of the witch from the day before. Even before Ellie opened her mouth the witch had proclaimed her the mother of a future well-known child, and could she offer her any advice? Ellie had blinked at the outburst, and said through gritted teeth, “myself and my Cayla Eric are having trouble conceiving a child, so how could I possibly be the future mother of a famous child?!” Her bitterness was not hidden, yet it did not phase the witch as she smiled back at Ellie, “Oh my dear, you are so young, why do you worry so? I see children in your future, you just need a little push in the right direction.” The witch rose from her altar, on which Ellie noted a great many things she didn’t understand and glided to a nearby shelf of jars, trinkets, and fauna.

The witch reached in behind several items and pulled out a dusty jar, filled with what Ellie could only describe as dust. “You have finally come along to claim your powder.” Said the witch cryptically, her beautiful green eyes flashing with knowing. Ellie felt uncomfortable for the first time with the women before her. Although she was beautiful, mystery surrounding her. This was perpetuated by the fact that although her brown hair was streaked with grey, she didn’t seem to be that old.

“Now my dear, your future awaits, all you need to do is plant the seeds.” She proceeded to plop the jar of ‘powder’ into Ellie’s hands. Ellie starred into the jar, which seemed to glisten ever so slightly in the light. “What, am I supposed to do with this? Rub it on my body or something?” She asked with undisguised facetiousness. The witch threw back her head and laughed heartily, causing Ellie’s churning stomach to relax. There was something kind about the laughter and Ellie smiled.

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

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The Creature

Storytelling is so personal, it’s difficult to disguise yourself in your words. I was terrified for many years of people actually reading what I wrote. Only my English teacher or my mother were permitted. Having worked hard on my writing technique throughout my life, it’s difficult to tell if I’ve improved or not. This is a symptom of my ‘imposter syndrome.’ I’ve always felt I wasn’t a real writer.

I’ve been especially self-reflective lately. This is mainly due to my age, however there is a certain healing power in it. My internal house work has kept me busy, fixing up old memories I haven’t been in for years. My teenage years were painful for me, and I’ve only established that truth lately. I didn’t want to dwell on my school days or early college years and spent a lot of time avoiding those memories.

Now that I’m more at peace with all iterations of myself, I have the courage to post a story from when I was 14. I present it as evidence of my writings maturation. The only changes I’ve made are grammatical, because nobody wants to see that. Otherwise it is a raw example of a ‘Jenni’ story, circa November 2004.

The Creature

Freezing air filled my lungs. I knew it was going to catch me; it was inevitable. I turned up a narrow cobbled street. It was slippery but I kept on running. It was evening and the sun was setting rapidly. The tall buildings around me let very little light in so this particular street was very dark.

I could hear it breathing very heavily behind me. It was definitely gaining on me. The cold perspiration was running down my back. I could barely breath anymore. The pain in my side was the only thing I could feel. Everything else was concentrated on getting away from my creature. I wanted to slow down but my human in instincts told me that if I did it would be the last thing I ever did.

As I ran I remembered back a month or so ago. When a friend of mine had bought a rare species of monkey from the Amazon jungle. “ Go on!” He said. “ All these foreign monkeys are in fashion!”

Well it’s a pity that the creature I bought wasn’t in any of the archives in the local library. It wasn’t in any rare creature’s book and a friend of mine who studies rare animals said, “well you know what Michael I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve seen a lot of strange things!”

Even the man who found him said that he found him in a rather strange place. He said “He somehow dug his was under some tree roots without damaging the tree, and he was asleep when I found him, so he was the easiest catch I ever made!”

“Amazing!” I thought, “beautiful, wondrous, a new chapter for human kind.” He was four foot tall, with four limbs. It walked on its hind legs but its arms were very small. It was covered in short strong fur. Its features were almost human like except for its eyes. They were large and dark. They seemed to be full of intelligence. It even bowed its head as if in some sort of greeting.

I was thrilled with my new pet, but I did not forget my old one. The next morning I awoke to find my cat John-Joe and the creature on my roof. “John-Joe come down I have your breakfast” but the cat continued to hiss and spit at the creature.

“Raorrrrr.” I snapped back to reality. I was still unable to breath and the creature was barely ten metres behind me. I was now running through the small forest beside the town, towards the docks. Night had fallen by this time,

I thought of the date. The 31st of December, not two weeks ago I had watched my cat plunge to its death. My cat knew, as he stood on that roof that the creature was corrupt. So it jumped off the roof not landing on all fours but sadly in my water barrel and drowned before I could fish him out.

I was very distraught at the death of my cat that I was blind to the truth. I should have guessed the reality of the situation when I read about the strange machine, which had been found by a logging company in the Amazon Rainforest. This I did not find strange. What I did find strange was the fact that my creature’s DNA did not match any compound I had studied in collage. I went to the library and researched this compound but I found no matches.

I was on a high. I believed I had discovered a new compound.  I thought I was going to win the Noble prize for science this year. I was too busy working to realise that my creature was building strange equipment in my garden shed.

*Crunch* I nearly tripped over a tree root, I should be concentrating on the task at hand. I ducked into a large hole in an old oak tree. I felt light headed I paused for a moment to try and catch my breath. I could hear the creature coming closer. So I jumped out of the hole and started running again.

I could see the end of the forest and the start of the docks. I reflected on how intelligent the creature was. I knew my only hope was for the creature to drown.

I had discovered the creature’s machine quite by chance the night beforehand. I was going down to the bottom of my garden to get a sample of earth.  When I heard strange sounds coming from the shed. “Click, zizz, waaag, nawk, tlick” these were the sounds I could hear. I went and looked in the window of the shed and to my great amazement and horror I saw my creature working on his machine. Oh my God I thought this creature is an intelligent life form.

Then it hit me; this wasn’t a creature from earth. I was having flash backs of the news headlines for the past few weeks. “It like some sort of metallic flying disk.” said one “It’s like nothing any scientist had seen before,” said another.  The piece of machinery found in the rain forest belonged to my creature. I thought I was going crazy but now I knew my creature was an extra-terrestrial.

I knew now that if I let my creature continue working on its machine it would eventually transmit Earth’s co-ordinates to its own kind on some far away planet, and that could only mean one of two things: 1. They would be peaceful and want to join in union with Earth and teach us new and exciting things or, 2. They wanted to destroy human kind and all it stood for and take over the planet.

I had to make a decision and I couldn’t make it lightly. As I stood there I realised the fate of human kind rested in my hands. Without further thought I went and got my shotgun and headed back down to the shed.

Before I open the door I asked God for forgiveness. I barged in took aim and shot the creature’s machine. This was my mistake. My creature turn round with anger filled eyes, it let out a deafening scream. I froze for a second then thought better of it and ran.

I could hear a foghorn echoing in the distance and it snapped me back to reality. I ran for the nearest boardwalk. I stopped at the end of it and turned round.  I could hear fireworks in the distance and people cheering happy New Year. The year was now 1980. I thought how far we had come since 6000 BC.

The creature came to a halt at the start of the boardwalk. For a few seconds we stood motionless. The creature took a running start and jumped at me, I ducked just in time and the creature plummeted into the water.

For a few minutes the creature helplessly splashed about in the water with its small weak arms, until eventually it sank. I sat on the end of the boardwalk till morning; I wanted to make sure it was dead.

I thought of how far human kind could have jumped into the future if we could have studied this creature and it’s machines. I also consider how the world could have been thrown into complete chaos if the aliens had prevailed.

I think we will leave this problem with aliens for the people in the 21st century. I stood up and started my long journey home.

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

Jennifer Floody
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Come Back

1

            The steel is cold against my face, hands, and feet because they are bare. I am lying on my right side, legs splayed. My left arm is in front on my face, the hand palm down. My right arm is behind my back, the hand on its side. My face is resting on the steel. I blink several times, to adjust to the dimly lit room. The wall in front of me is also steel. I tilt my head and confirm my suspicions that the ceiling is also steel.

Eventually I twist myself into a sitting position and two facts settle in. Firstly, the remaining three walls are also steel. Secondly, there are no windows or doors. The room is familiar to me, more familiar than who I am. Looking down I see I’m dressed in a loose fitting shirt, with elastic bands on the wrists and waist. The pants are of identical material with elastics at the ankles and hips. They are cream and soft. It is apparent to me that I am female. I reach to my head to find thick curly hair. Even with all this information, I still do not know who I am, or my purpose in my steel room.

My investigation of the room reveals there are small lights which jut out along the  edge of each wall in a square. There are 50 on each side I count, which means there are 1,200 in total. I discover that out of the 1,200 white lights there are two anomalies. One, is on the ceiling in a corner. It is black and it pulls out to reveal wires attached. I feel someone must be monitoring me. The second anomaly is a red bulb, on the bottom of my box. It does not move.

I know this because when I touch it for prolonged periods of time, I fall into a vision.

The hallway of the hotel feels as though it goes on forever due to my slightly drunken state. My black dress and high heels make me feel beautiful, it’s my birthday. I need to get my phone from the hotel room so I can take pictures of my friends and family on my special day. I’m aware there is someone with me in the brightly lit hotel hall and I feel uncomfortable. I don’t want that person there. The door to room refuses to open, as I struggle with the key card. I wish I’d accepted Rupert’s offer to come with me. All the while my mind protests the presence of the stranger.

At this point each time I pull my fingers off the bulb.

***

            Lying on the floor I consider my situation. I should feel discomfort but I do not. I do not feel hunger, or the need to relieve myself. 7 seconds could be 7 hours could be 7 weeks. As I stare at the ceiling I see something different. Little horizontal slits in the steel. They were not there on my first investigation. I stand up and while running my fingers along the slits, I notice my nails are stained with colour. When I push at the slits they move upwards in a diagonal motion revealing a window to outside.

A gentle breeze floats through my box and I remember how much I love fresh air. I can see trees and the blue sky through my small window slits. For a time I listen to the trees rustle in the breeze, feel the air on my skin, smell the potent sap, and I am content. I do not know how long I stand there, until my sensory experience is broken by a tiny bird landing on one of the metal slits which poke out into the world. They drop something into my box which I don’t immediately pick up. I am too enthralled by this exquisite little creature. The bird is brown with a cream chest dotted with darker specks. Its little black beak sings, and the small ruffled feathers on its head vibrate in the wind. It moves in the quick way unique to birds and my trance is broken when it flies off. I am saddened by the loss of my avian friend.

The bird had left me a key. It’s bronze with a round head and nothing engraved on it. It looks new, as though it’s freshly cut and never used. Once again I carefully investigate my box, lit more naturally now by the window, but find no key hole. I hold it in my palm, it becomes warm through heat conduction. Eventually it dawns on me what needs to be done. I placed the key in the tight waist band of my pants, and lay on my right side. I reach out my left hand, gently using my thumb, forefinger, and middle finger, I grasp the red bulb.

            The hallway of the hotel feels as though it goes on forever due to my slightly drunken state. My black dress and high heels make me feel beautiful, it’s my birthday. I need to get my phone from the hotel room so I can take pictures of my friends and family on my special day. I’m aware there is someone with me in the brightly lit hotel hall and I feel uncomfortable. I don’t want that person there. The door to room refuses to open, as I struggle with the key card. I wish I’d accepted Rupert’s offer to come with me. All the while my mind protests the presence of the stranger.

They wrestle the key card out of my hand and push me through the now open door. I am screaming for Rupert and stranger grabs me by the throat until I can barely breath. I pull at their hands, desperately trying to avoid their eyes. I feel pain in my head. They’ve hit me with something heavy. The hot blood flows down my head and my heart is pounding. The pain is deafening, I can think of nothing else. They force me onto the bed. The room is swimming, and the pain is excruciating, my vision blurs…

2

I heave with sobs. The fear pumps cortisol around my body, my stomach churns with a mixture of anger and shame. My face is wet from tears and sweat, my hands and feet are cold. I grab my hair to have something to hold onto. I scream and the sound is flat in my little steel box. I slam my right fist onto the ground, with a dull thud, and eventually the tears subside. When my vision clears and I can see once again, there is a steel handle in the middle of the floor. The kind of handle they have on doors for cellars or shelters. I scoot over the floor to investigate. There is now a vein of gaps in a rectangle around the handle and just underneath it, there is a keyhole. My breathing has regulated and my hands are quivering, but no longer from fear. I reach for the key in my waist band. Concentrating with all my might, pushing the vision from my mind, I slip the key into the lock. It fits perfectly and turns without resistance.

I open the small trap door to find a ladder which reaches down about 20 feet, and see a room below. While I can see some further steel around the ladder and on the floor of the room below, I can’t see much else from the perch in my box. I glance back to the red bulb, which is now white, glowing like the rest. I clamber down the ladder, my legs returning to normal after the shock. The rungs are cold on my hands and feet. Air from the window slowly blows through the short tunnel and into the room beneath. The ladder stops at the mouth, I use my arms until the last rung, then gently drop down onto the steel floor.

I stand surveying the room. It is huge compared to my box, around 3 times the size. It is filled with computers, storage units, and machines. Most of them are lifeless. They do not respond to any of my efforts to switch them on. Eventually I find a computer which does. I sit on a small office swivel chair the same grey as the walls. The computer wakes and requires a password, without hesitation I type:

Artist85Life

            The background picture is a beautiful and familiar garden. There is only one folder labelled ‘messages’. I double-click it revealing 6 files labelled 1 – 6. I double click file 1. It opens a video of a man. He is wearing a deep blue shirt and pants, with a utility belt around his waist. His dark skin perfectly complements his lovely brown eyes. He smiles at me and says cheerfully, “Hi Laura!” My name is Laura. “My name is Laura?” I mumble. He grimaces into a sad smile as though he’s heard me, his eyes soften. I trust him, he is a friend. “I’m Rupert the repairman, and I’m trying to fix the machinery in here. I was hoping you could help me Laura, so I thought I’d send you some messages.”

I smile, glad that he did, realising how lonely I’d been in my box. Rupert’s familiar voice is music to me. “It’s just a theory of mine that I can fix the machinery here in the shelter by sending certain files to you to interpret.” I cocked my head to the right, not understanding him. “Don’t worry Laura, you’re the expert on what I need help with. You knew the password for this computer, which is one step ahead of me!” He smiled and it warms me. His handsome face is not only familiar, but beloved to me.

“Ok so file number 2 is a video like the rest. When you’re done, open file 3 and I’ll give you further instructions. See you soon, hopefully!” He winked and with a charming smile he clicked off. I breathed deeply, readied myself for the next message, and doubled clicked file 2. It was a news report in an art gallery. The pieces on the walls are colourful, modern interpretations of natural landscapes. Trees aren’t just green and brown, they are purple and red. The skies are a plethora of blues, oranges, and yellows. Flowers flourish on the canvases, the hyperrealism is entrancing. The reporter begins speaking. “This artist struggled for many years, her story is one of hard work and perseverance. A career 15 years in the making. Please tell me sir are you planning on purchasing one of these pieces?” The microphone was thrust under the mouth of none other than Rupert! “Absolutely, and I would love to meet the beautiful soul who created these pieces.” The reporter smiled, “well you’re in luck, we are here with the artist Laura Mockingbird. Laura, tell us what was like getting to this point in your career?”

I paused the video on the reporter and the woman who had just walked into frame. This was me, Laura Mockingbird. What a funny name. Long brown curly locks, startling blue eyes, slim frame, and a messy style. The smile on my face was one of pure joy. I pressed play and listened to my own voice. “That’s very kind of you sir, I would be happy to discuss any of my pieces with you.” I turn to the reporter, “it’s one of those journeys of enduring hope. Keep creating, just focus on the process not the end result. When it’s time, you’ll be found.” The reporter smiled signing off and sending the story back to the studio. The video ended here.

In a daze I doubled clicked file 3. Rupert’s lovely face appeared once more. “Hi Laura!” He proclaimed. “Whatever you’re doing keep at it, the machines are lighting up like fireworks. Have a look!” I turned to the room to see flashing lights of green, blue, and red. The machines hummed, grinded, and clicked. “Try the next file, we’ll have this problem licked before the end of working day. See you soon.” In a trance I dragged the mouse over to file 4 with some difficulty. Another video popped up, filmed on a camera phone. Me in a black dress, celebrating with friends and family in a restaurant. “That’s my mother,” my frazzled brain offered, as they applauded me. “I would like to thank you wonderfully supportive people, for being here on such a special birthday for me. My adventure as an artist has been arduous to say the least. I want to shower you all with my gratitude. Without your love, the well of my inspiration would have run dry. Here’s to you all.” The video ended with the clicking of champagne flutes, and myself and Rupert smiling madly at each other. My mind became increasingly foggy. It took me a painfully long time to open file 5.

“Hello Laura, we are doing fantastic,” Rupert’s emphasis on fantastic was encouraging. “Most of the machines are up and running again. We have one file to go, and hopefully we’ll see you soon. Be brave, you’re so strong.” The video ended with his sunny smile. I was more light-headed and detached which each video. All the same I dragged the mouse slowly to the 6th and final file. The video nearly floored me. It was me in a hospital bed. My Mother Daphne, was by my side, holding a hankie to her face, tears welling. My brother David stood by her waving at the camera, “we love you Laura, we want you to wake up more than anything!” My mother offered, “You’re such a strong woman Laura, you’ve always been, it’s time to wake up please.” She managed this between sobs.

The camera turned to Rupert’s lovely face, “hi Laura, It’s Rupert. We hope by playing videos of your wonderful life to you, you might want to wake up. We can’t stand the thought of beautiful talent like you going to waste in a deep sleep. I know we haven’t been together long, but I’m not ready to give up if you’re not.” My head swam with memories. Of my mother inspiring me while I learned to paint. Playing with my brother in the beautiful woods behind our home. Meeting Rupert at my first art exhibition. Our first few exciting dates. My birthday celebration. Being attacked in my hotel room. Rupert’s encouraging voice from my bedside. I closed my eyes.

***

When I opened them again, I was in a hospital bed. My mother’s elegant face was filled with joy as she clasped my hand. David was clapping and cheering, tears in his eyes. Rupert’s handsome face was alight. My new love for him came flooding back and I sobbed, “Rupert, how long was I gone?” He smiled brilliantly, “too long my love.”

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

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https://thinkingaheadblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/shadow-self/

Shadow Self

Story: Shadow Self

“Most people delude themselves into believing they’re not malicious. They don’t consider their shadow self.” She pointed at an older woman pushing a stroller. “See that grandmother walking in the park with her grandkids? She’s thought about what it would be like to drown one of them. It was a fleeting thought. A residual instinct of a by-gone era when one may kill their young to avoid a suffering painful death from starvation. The thought disturbed her, so she pushed it into the recesses of her mind.” Her arm then extended to a middle-aged gentleman, dressed in grey trousers, a shirt, and tightly knit jumper. “Here comes the local primary school teacher. He’s often thought what it would be like if those under a certain IQ were eliminated from the gene pool. Would this lead to a race of superhumans or amount to world peace? This passes through his mind while he corrects the children’s spelling tests during class as they make their way through their maths problems. Some of the children will have no difficulty, others will struggle with mathematical concepts. Would the gene pool benefit from their removal?” I shudder and ask tentatively, “how do you know what they are thinking?”

I don’t receive an answer, and she continues, “that lady running to catch the bus to work. She’s often considered rapists. How women are expected to be responsible for their own safety against them. What if you were proven unequivocally to have raped someone? Should you be castrated? If you’ve been castrated it’s impossible for you to do it again.” I shake my head at her. I thought she was in her right mind when I picked her up from St. Monica’s. “Please Ms Caffrey, why are you telling me these things? Are you feeling ill? Should I bring you back to the nursing home?”

Again, I was not met with an answer, but a continuation of her soliloquy, “of course these people never put serious conjuncture into these horrific concepts. Granny there would never drown any of her grandchildren. She loves them as dearly as she did her own children.” Her brown eyes gleamed, with tears though, not with glee. “Of course, Teacher would never wish the slower children removed as he enjoys the interaction of all his pupils. He is a well-loved and highly praised educator.”

“The Lady trying to get to work doesn’t actually believe that violence towards others solves anything. Surely the bibles ‘eye for an eye’ is as archaic as it is obsolete. What is the interesting part of all this, my dear?” I wasn’t sure why I was still listening to the old woman. Come to think of it my Mother had always emphasised the value of the elderly. That probably explained my volunteerism in the old folk’s home.

“They have all considered these notions. Usually, no sooner as the thoughts enter their head, they have pushed them out again. However, these people are not unusual. They are every human who has walked the Earth. Mostly they are merely invasive thoughts and are dismissed, by those like Granny. Some are like Teacher, who had always shown interest in philosophical avenues, and only wished to consider theories as intellectual simulations, in a harsh dangerous world.” Suddenly I understood, Ms Caffrey was a retired philosophy lecturer. Hence her monologue on the ‘shadow self’ as she called it. I relaxed now, understanding that she was not having an episode of some kind, she was just theorising. “Lady getting to work lives in constant fear of her body being invaded, although her reality of the thoughts generated by her shadow self may be more visceral and lingered upon, she would never be able to carry out the castration herself.”

She looked at me with intelligent eyes. Her neatly styled white hair shone in the morning sunshine. “We sit on the precipice of the cerebral and the savage. Living our daily lives, unconsciously considering actions and thoughts we would never bring to fruition. Well, most of us wouldn’t.” She laughed, “the killer and the writer often have a lot in common. Their imaginations bring them closer to their shadow selves then most others tend to feel comfortable with. Why doesn’t Teacher propose a system wherein those deemed below average intelligence are euthanized?  Of course, he wouldn’t because these people he is talking about are his fellow human beings. With feelings and inner worlds all their own. Don’t forget that everyone has the right to life…”

“…however, if everyone has the right to life, why are some people’s lives taken away from them? Let’s work under the premise that everyone deserves to live.” She smiles at me and I genuinely smile back, she is surprising me increasingly as the moments passed.

“Let’s talk about the thousands of children starving to death every day. They have a right to life, yet their basic human right of nourishment is negated. Now consider this. Those who have become rich through capitalistic means are in some way responsible for the uneven distribution of wealth throughout the world. However, the organisations feeding off the masses protest at any proposal to change the status quo of the neoliberal market, which by the way is only a concept, not a tangible natural law. Therefore, the right to life is void in favour of capitalistic gain.” My head is spinning, but I follow her rationale. I now understand the logic the home had in pairing me with her.

She pushed on, “capitalism, therefore, is a mass projection of humanity’s shadow self. Those of us which are comfortable enough to enjoy cheap clothes, food, and objects, feed the shadow self. We are aware when we buy a product from an unethical organisation, that an unknown someone, suffers as consequence.” I thought of the branded tennis shoes I was all too fond of. “We are feeding the mass sore of capitalism. The sore that is starving so many of our fellow human beings, and stealing their basic human right to life.” She paused, took out a lunchbox and offered the contents to me. “Apple slice?”

In a daze, I took one. “Ms. Caffrey.”

“Please dear, call me Rita.”

“Ok Rita, you call me Celine.”

“Can do.”

“Ok Rita, this is all very interesting, but what do you suggest we do?”

She smiled at me knowingly. “We all know what we should do. No human is separate from the others, what we do affects those we’ve never met. I believe we have two options. Option one consists of changing our ways, every day. Take the difficult route. Buy local unpackaged foods instead of imported heavily packaged goods. Buy second hand or ethically sourced clothing, although the latter may be more expensive. Try more walking, cycling and public transport, stop using a car. Eat less red meat or none at all, change your waste disposal habits, have one child less or no children. Spend more time involved in your community rather than activities that are selfish and pointless. Take one less trans-oceanic flight every year. These changes may cause small indignities in the short term, but our long-term safety must be considered. Recycle. Reuse,” She paused, sipped some water, and continued, “do you turn the light off in a room when you are not in it? Or are you the kind of person that finds life too short for these trifling details? If you are the latter, I think you are wrong. Our abuse of the Earth has reached a very important moment in history and there is no easy way to say this, it may already be too late.” She popped some peeled apple slices into her mouth, and slowly chewed them. As if she were discerning the flavour of the apple.

“That’s option one Celine, and let’s be honest, option one is really tough. Option one involves giving up the vanity of our lives. Option two, however, makes option one look like a delicious cup of tea. Like the idyllic life, all the Climate Justice activists dream and fight for. Option two is letting Earth decide our fate because that is the inevitable conclusion of humanity’s era on this planet. We can continue to hurt the Earth, and our fellow Earthlings through simple inaction. Let the Earth slowly fill with water through melting ice caps. Let the land be reclaimed by the seas and the oceans. Let the wildlife die, the bees, and the coral; The tigers, and the elephants; The grains and the trees. Be selfish. You and I will probably be dead before the real trouble starts, but who knows? The climate is changing, the weather is becoming increasingly frantic, draughts are more common. We are experiencing the beginning of environmental issues scientists have warned us of for decades. While most of us in our cosy positions in the Western world can deny it, there are those who cannot. A quality inherent in humanity is our inability to act before problems escalate. Soon there will be no Earth left for any of us, and at that stage, all you will need to be either rich, powerful or both to save your skin. If you’re not, you will perish with the rest of humankind. While I understand this is a pessimistic view of the future, it’s also a logical one. If life has proven anything to humanity over and over, it can be horribly unfair. We can still look away because our own families are not suffering, but if our leaders don’t agree to changes that are more permanent soon, we may be the ones starving to death. There will come a day the world leaders will be hiding out on higher ground while those they are sworn to protect are washed away by rising sea levels. If you’d like some advice, become someone important. That’ll be the only way you’ll have a chance of surviving the rising sea levels and weather anomalies if this inaction continues.” She paused, it appeared these considerations weighed heavily on her.

“If you think you are a good person, you’re probably right. I am just like you, but I am frightened. We can all do better, we can fight our selfish shadow selves, left over from a primordial Earth where survival was the only goal. We have a new goal now, the safety of life for all, and I don’t just mean human beings. We have a collective responsibility to one another, every Earthling. Save Earth, by changing one thing, then another, then another. You say you’re tired. So am I, life is exhausting. However, aren’t we lucky to have the opportunity to be exhausted by life? I sit here, dismayed by what is to come. The wars, the famines, the deaths, without failing to remember those that have happened already. We are in imminent danger. Those in authority and positions of power cannot maintain acting like petulant children. Real change is needed, comfortable people need to be inconvenienced, we cannot continue forging this path or it will bury us all.”

I pondered for a moment, then asked, “why are you telling me this Rita?”

She took my hand, it was boney but warm, “probably because I have been starved of the joy lecturing brought me.” She laughed, “but mostly because I was told you are a writer, and you may put this in a story someday.”

I laughed with her, and we spoke no more of our shadows selves but of topics more pleasant. We enjoyed the sunshine of the park, and the sounds of nature it brought, but in the back of my mind, creativity had been sparked.

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