Friday, April 10, 2015

Credence in a Cure

Virginia kept an eye on her son. She could tell when a fit was about to erupt on her poor boy. He was far too young to have such a terrible illness. One she feared he was nearing the end of.

Water sloshed and sizzled as it boiled out and dribbled down the side of the pot to the stove burner. Virginia turned to push the run down automaton out of the way when Toby began to cough and wheeze harder and louder than before.

She rushed instead to the boy. “Mother, the pot!”  

The old woman rushed in from the porch as quickly as an old woman could rush. She pushed the pot to the cool back burner. “Not so much of a mess, it’s mostly steam now.”

The old woman looked over at mother and child. Virginia was in an attempt to make Toby take that horrible medicine. She didn’t see that it did her grandson any good. In another few moments, he would have another great fit. The space between these bone-rattling cough spells were getting closer together.

She refilled the pot and pulled it back over the flame to boil again. The old woman wound the automaton back into motion. “This old clunker needs to be replaced, Virginia.”

Virginia smiled as she tucked her son back under the warm blanket. His body calm for now. “Then we might have to replace you. The old clunker just needs a couple of parts replaced.” She glances over at the woman adding ingredients to the pot. “The meal one that is.”

The boy laughed which started another fit, this one worse than the one before. Virginia started to pour another spoon full of syrup, but the bottle was empty. “Mother, sit with him, please. I have to run to the cellar for a new bottle of medicine.”

The old woman sighed that swill was worthless. “We could try another of the old remedies. That last one helped for a day.”

“No, those silly superstitions don’t ever work. He needs real medicine. Just sit with him and I’ll go down to look for it.” Virginia sighed as she walked down the cellar stairs.

The old woman looked at the automaton. “Don’t make a mess of it this time.” She shook her finger hard at the clockwork machine and made her way to her grandson’s side.

The small breath the boy took in rattled and wheezed. He looked up at his grandmother, his eyes filled with a knowledge. The knowledge he might not see the sun tomorrow.

It broke the old woman’s heart. He was one of the few joys left in her limited days. He couldn’t leave this world before an old crone like she. Toby’s dog, a shaggy thing that always tracked dirt even when there was no dirt to be tracked, leaped up on the bed to lay next to the boy.

The old woman looked at them both the way the boy absently scratched the old mutt’s head. Would it work? It was a silly old tale, but some silly old tales could bare some truth in them. She looked at the cellar door and listened to see if Virginia was still rustling about for the last bottle of foul liquid that never really made anything better.
The old woman hurried into the kitchen and buttered two pieces of bread. She carried them back over and sat on the side of Toby’s bed. The dog’s nose perked up smelling the fresh baked slices.

The old woman grinned softly at her grandson. “I’m sorry, Toby.”

He looked at her strangely as she pet his head. “For what, gran… Ow!”

She kissed his head as she put the strands of hair she pulled from the boy’s head between the slices of bread. “Now feed it to the mutt and say what I whisper in your ear while you do.”

His granny had always been a strange woman, maybe age made her even more so. He sat up a bit more as he listened to her whisper into his ear then offered the dog the odd sandwich and repeated the rhyme. “Eat well you hound, may you be sick and I be sound."

The old woman grinned and kissed his flushed cheeks as she tucked the covers around him. “That’s my boy.”

Virginia closed the cellar door and sighed. “Found it. Mother I wish you wouldn’t reorganize things so much.” She hurried over at the sight of the dog and made a sweeping motion with her hands to shew it off of the bed. “Go on, furball back to your own bed.”

When she looked down at the boy he was fast asleep and seemed to be in a peaceful rest. “He looks so comfortable. It’s been so long since he’s looked this way.”

“He’ll feel better in the morning, I’m sure of it.” The old woman patted her daughter’s shoulder and gathered her skirt to rush to the kitchen as she scolded the automaton for allowing the soup to burn.

Virginia sat close to her son and picked up a book, she was too tired and worried to eat anyway. The dog gave a whimper and what sounded like a cough. She turned and looked at it, then shook her head as she turned back into her book.

The next morning she woke to someone tugging on her sleeve. “Mama, I’m hungry. Can I have eggs with cheese for breakfast?” That small voice a little hoarse but strong sank in and Virginia’s eyes flew open.

Her son stood next to her chair, his cheeks a healthy pink, his eyes bright. The weariness of illness gone, his hand was warm, not cool and clammy. His grip on her hand was strong, not weak. This couldn’t be, could it?

She hugged him tight until he wiggled free complaining as little boys down when they want to be man of the house.

The old woman set a platter of biscuits down on the table and smiled softly when the boy ran over and climbed into a chair. He was well again.

Virginia wiped tears from her cheeks as she started to sit at the table. The freshly turned soil in the yard, at one end of the dark earth, was a stick the dog’s collar dangled from it. She turned to the old woman. “Mother, what did you do?”

She looked at her grandson dig into the food. The first time in so very long he has eaten more than a few spoonfuls of soup. The old woman gave her daughter’s shoulder a squeeze. “Be thankful one of us remembers some of those silly old superstitions.”

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter C. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bells of Wesley

They stood together on the balcony of their hotel room that overlooked the large city. Dirigibles carrying their
passengers floating through the sky in the distance. Sarah grinned. “What a spectacular view. I’m looking forward to seeing the sights.”

Jonathon slid his arm around her waist with a mischievous expression as he kissed his wife. “I have all the sights I need to see right here.”   

She laughed and wiggled away. “You saw plenty last night and if you want to see more tonight you’ll take me out, Sir Jonathon Adam Hargrove.” She picked up a brochure. “Take me to the Franklin Wesley Gallery first.” 

He smiled. How could he not indulge her? Her life was about to be cut short. “Where ever you wish my dear.” He kissed her taking a long drink of her essence.

When they part she blushed feeling a touch dazed. “We should order breakfast.” Sarah walked over to the bell rope and started to tug when Jonathon rushed over.

His hand closed over hers to stop the pull. “We should go out for breakfast. You wanted to see the city.”

When Sarah moved away to fetch her coat and hat, he slowly put the rope back into place as he watched the bell. When it lowered back into place without so much as a ting he sighed in relief.

His eyes stay on the bell for a moment as he moved away from it to help Sarah with her coat.

When they stepped outside the paperboy stood on the nearby corner. He rang his hand bell and called out the headline. “California becomes 31st state of America.”

The moment Jonathon heard that sharp ting and tang of the bell he started to tremble. “Sarah, this way, away fr..from that.”

She looked at him, for a second her husband looked as though he’d seen a ghost. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, yes, the café is just this way, my darling.” He guided her down the walk away from the boy and his bell. He attempted not to show too much haste in his efforts.

Sarah noticed he finally calmed when they had gone far enough the ringing was washed away by the sounds of the city streets. It was a very odd behavior for him, he was the calm in their marriage. She was always the emotional one. She dismissed it with a shake of her head.

Thankfully they reached the café and Jonathon opened the door and the tiny bell at the top tinkled to let waiters know patrons had arrived. He froze in place; his hand trembled on the door handle.

He backed out the door still holding Sarah’s hand. She followed him; she didn’t understand his reactions to these places. He didn’t act this way back home. Maybe the city was too much for him. He’d lived his entire life in the small country town they grew up in. “Jonathan what is the matter?”

He shook his head and wrapped her hand around his arm and started to walk her down the sidewalk. “Nothing, everything is fine. That café didn’t seem… clean. We’ll find some place better.

She wanted to protest but didn’t as she gripped the side of her skirt and lifted to keep from tripping as he moved so quickly away.

They turned the corner and his pace started to slow to a stroll, which Sarah was grateful for. She looked up and smiled seeing the great church with its stained glass and tall bell tower. “How beautiful, may we go inside? I love church glass.”

He paused his walk and followed the line of her sight. “Perhaps later, aren’t you famished for breakfast, my darling?” He would be able to distract her thoughts during the meal into other locations.

“Oh, but we’re here now. I’m sure it won’t take long.” She gripped his hand and dragged him up the steps to the doors. “This chapel must be very old, perhaps medieval.”

His voice was tight as he stood before the great doors with large round glass windows with images of Christ in them. “Perhaps. I think it would be better if we came back later, Sarah.”

She opened the door herself since he didn’t seem to be feeling himself much less gentlemanly. “Nonsense, we’ll get caught up in some other exploration. Jonathon, you are acting very strange today.”

She went inside, his hand still caught in hers which gave him no choice but to follow.

His throat felt tight and he eased his hand from hers to keep from venturing further into the building than just over the threshold. When Sarah looked back to him, he gave her a tight smile. “Go ahead, darling. I will… wait here.”

She cast him back a vexed expression then turned away to explore and look at the glass.

The longer he stood there the more his skin felt as though it were going to melt from his bones. It was hard for him to look at anything for too long it made his eyes ache. He had a great need to rush outside and back to the sidewalk away from all that these ancient stone walls held.

He saw his wife had finally started to walk back toward him. She stopped to speak to a priest then carried on to him. It wasn’t Sarah, Jonathon’s eyes followed but the priest. He saw the man in his long black cassock disappear behind a door. There was a small brass plate on the door, inscribed… Bell Tower.

He reached out to Sarah in an effort to urge her to walk faster. “Sarah, let’s go.”

She sighed and looked at him. “What has gotten into you?”

He opened the door and they started to step through when the first tone rang through the building, echoed by the tall open ceiling. It was a deep rich bong of the largest bell in the tower, followed by two higher pitched rings. The sounds began to loop growing in strength.

Jonathon trembled at first, then began to hug himself and crumble trapped in the threshold of the old church. His body shook as he cried out, the sound of a man as he went mad.

Sarah dropped to her knees beside him. “Jonathon… my love what is…”

Her breath caught in her throat and she scooted backward away from him against the wall. This just couldn’t be she’s been so weak and ill through their marriage, surely her eyes had played a cruel trick. This vision couldn’t be real.

One of the parishioners fetched the priest to help the wailing man. He started to kneel down to try and ease the man’s suffering when he saw the eyes. Solid black pools of the deepest darkness known to man. The priest felt his soul tremble as those eyes gazed into his own. He crossed himself and lifted the gold cross that hung over his heart.

Jonathon turned his head away he can’t stand any more assaults. “Get away.”

The priest stood and ran to the alter. He grabbed the aspergillum and ran back to Jonathon. The priest began to recite prayers to protect those present and rid his church of this horror as he flicked the aspergillum.

Drops of Holy Water fell upon Jonathon. He cried out in terror and agony as the bells continued to ring. He couldn’t take any more his body arched, mouth opened wide as if to scream. Instead something else slipped out of the body. It was smoky, the scent of sulfur filled their nostrils as it flew out the door and out to the street.

The priest watched as the demon melted into the cracks. He knew it wouldn’t be last dark soul the Bells of Wesley would terrorize and he said a long prayer of thanks for that. 

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter B. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Ship by Any Other Name

Photo by Elise VanCise. One of the original Hart Line Steamers. 
Hamilton signed deeply and stretched as he sunned on top of the crates. It was a quiet morning on their journey. That thought triggered something, it was too quiet. He sat up and looked at the old steamer’s top pipe, not a single puff of smoke.

At least the water was calm as glass. “Jacob, didn’t you notice the engine’s kaput?”

Jacob sits up from his nap on the bow and cocks his head to listen. “Damn, when did she fail?” He points his finger. “And don’t go sayin I let’er down you didn’t notice either.”

The other man sighs and hops off the crates and opens the engine doors to have a look. “Just grab the tools and let’s have a look. At least the water is calm today and not trying to tinker about in here with rolling waves.”

Jacob opens a hatch on the deck and pulls out the tool box. As the hatch falls back into place he heard a hard knock against the bottom. He opens the hatch to see what tipped over, but nothing was amiss. He’s been at this job too long, now he’s hearing things.

He set the box next to Hamilton who was checking valves. “You know Ham, this tub has given us one issue or another every time we’ve been out. I’m beginning to think that old tale is true.”

Hamilton paused to raise his brow and look at his partner. “What old tale?”

“You know, the name Amelia. You never give a vessel a name ending in the letter a. It’s bad luck.” He pulls out a ratchet to tighten one of the valves that seem loose. 

Hamiton scoffs. “I never pegged you for a superstitious nit.” He adds a bit of grease to the piston. There’s another large knock on the bottom of the boat.

Jacob looks at the other man. “Did you hear that?”

Ham shook his head. “Hear what? The only thing I’m interested in is the sound of this old girl belching to life. Turn her over will ya.”

Jacob goes back to the helm and pressed the button. After a couple of tries, the engine gives a sputter and puff of smoke as it comes back to life. Jacob let go a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. He put his hand in his pocket and gave the rabbit’s foot a pet for their fortune.

The steamer rocked side to side as if it caught a rough wave. The men grabbed hold to keep their footing.
looked around. The engine couldn’t have caused that. “Let’s get her moving.”

Jacob pulled the leaver to slow ahead. The steamer groaned a bit like she’s stuck on something then moved forward. Once they’re underway, he added a bit more speed. His heart pumped with a faster pace as well. “What in hell is going on Ham?”

The other man shook his head. “It’s nothing probably just one of those great whites. You know they love the coastlines.”

Jacob nodded, but his gut knotted and twisted all the same. The deck lurched under his feet again as the bow tipped upward then down. There were more knocks now against the sides of the hull now. Like something wanted aboard and were pounding the sides to come in. Or push its way in.

Hamilton slid from one side to the other as the steamer rocked again. He gripped the railing to keep from falling over the side. His mind froze in shock with what his eyes took in as they fell over the edge.
He crossed himself with a trembling hand. “Dear God in heaven.”

Tentacles writhed against the hull of the steamer. The vessel lurched again. One of the large tentacles slung over the bow and began to wrap around.

Jacob cried out in fear and ran to the back of the steamer to jump into the water for a possible escape. When he had climbed the top of the rail a large mass rose out of the sea.

Smaller tentacles writhed in the air; they dripped water and ooze on Jacob and the deck. The mass shifted and an eye as large as the man before it opened.

Hamilton yelled. “Look out, get back Jacob.”

Jacob tried to rush backwards but slipped in the muck dripped from the beast onto his back. It wouldn’t have mattered, it was too late. One of the smaller arms whipped down, wrapped around the man’s leg and dragged him into the air.

The beast shifted again, this time it opened a large beaked mouth. The beak was razored with sharp teeth and a serpent-like tongue flicked out to sample its find. Jacob struggled in its grip.

Hamilton made his way to the helm. He pulled a revolver he’d fastened there in case of pirates. He wished this were pirates. aimed and held his breath as he fired into the mass of the beast.

The beast only twisted now angry. Tentacles launched out of the water and latched onto the steamer and began to rip into the deck and hull. The smaller arm that held Jacob hovered above the great beak. The beak snapped shut then opened wide for its morsel.

Hamilton cried out as his shipmate was devoured. There was no escape the beast had the steamer tight in its grip and it was too large to attempt to abandon ship. He knelt and began to say his final prayer.

Three weeks later….
Old man Gimley sighed as he lit his pipe holding the weathered chunk of wood. He walked down to inspect a new steamer for the Hart Line.

The foreman stepped off the steamer to greet his supervisor. “Afternoon, Mr. Gimley. What do you have there?”

Gimley looked at the wood and sighed. “Confirmation of what happened to our missing ship. They found a bit of wreckage, no survivors.”

The foreman shook his head. They’ve had a run of bad luck lately. “The Amelia? That makes four in the last eight months. The Nina, Susana, and the Mina all lost. Mr. Hart is not going to be pleased.”

Gimley nodded as he handed the chunk of wood to the foreman and stepped aboard to begin his inspection.
The foreman turned to the boy in the sling painting the name. “Change that name Tucker.”

“To what sir?”

“Whatever you like just make sure there is no a on the end!” The foreman looked at the wood in his hands and the battered letters on it. Maybe some superstitions have a bit of truth to them. “Poor girl, you and the others were cursed from the start.”

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter A. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April.