Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Afterlife

Sometimes it’s not about living. Sometimes it’s about the discoveries you make in death.

“It’s the things you learn in death that will surprise you,” a voice said behind me. I had thought I was alone.

The funeral home stood empty and quiet in a way that was quite ominous and foreboding of the upcoming services. Nobody moved in the room, but I could hear distant voices, telling me that we were not alone.

“I thought they weren’t allowing anyone in until the viewing,” I replied. I had been hoping for privacy in the moments before the mourners spilled in.

“They don’t know I’m here,” he replied, taking a seat in the front row.

“Do you have no respect for the privacy of others?” I asked, anxious to know how he had found me. I thought I was hidden from all.

“I have the upmost respect for others. Unfortunately, privacy is no longer something you are privileged to. There’s no where you can hide now, especially from me,” the man said, looking around.

“I don’t understand,” I replied, searching for answers to the many questions that had recently piled up.

“Privacy is a right, kid. And it’s not something that is given to all, especially one such as you.” He spoke in riddles, which only seemed to anger me.

“Seriously? This is a really bad time. Perhaps you could come back at another time?” I asked, hoping he’d bite. “Maybe a time when I’m not waiting on a funeral to begin?”

“I could, but that wouldn’t be as convenient. Here, I know you’re not going to run because you really want to see this thing through.” He stands from the chair and walks over to the coffin. I had hoped they would choose a closed ceremony, but my mother had opted for the open casket. He peered down into the coffin, running his finger along the edge of it as he turned to face me. “It’s creepy, isn’t it?”

“What?” I asked, wishing he’d just leave.

“Looking at a dead body you’re so close to.”

“What would you know about it?” I asked, hoping to deter the conversation from my own mixed emotions.

“I’ve been in your spot,” he said quietly, flipping the switch on the CD player. Remembrance music filled the room. “I’ve stared down into my own coffin and seen the serene expression of a dead man. I’ve been the ghost searching for his way.”

“Did you find your way?” I asked, wishing he was wrong about the ghost part. I had actually been hoping that him seeing me meant that I wasn’t a ghost after all.

“Eventually,” he said, sitting back in the front row. “But, it took a while. There were certain things I had to discover before I was able to move on. Certain things I had to be guided through.”

“Such as?”

“Well, it’s different for everyone. Some people hold onto a loved one or a trinket, while others hold onto things more complex. There is no easy way to predict what ties each of us to this Earth. Only you will truly know,” he says, looking around. My family is starting to gather outside of the room, as the clock ticks closer to the hour. “All I can tell you is that you’re destined for great things. And I must be going.” He stood from his chair and walked to the door, pausing for a moment when he came to my family. I could hear him telling them that they could enter the room and to let him know if he needed anything. He was a human who could see me.

I watched as my family poured into the room. They were a large bunch, comprised of my parents, stepparents, three sisters, and one set of grandparents. They almost filled the room by themselves. If many more people showed up, the room would be a crowded mess. I walked to the door and peered down the hall. I could see the mystery man standing at the front counter of the funeral home, working on a computer. I looked back and forth between this man and my family for a few moments, debating whether or not to stay for the memorial. Curiosity won out and I headed down the hall, not making an ounce of sound.

If the man was surprised to see me, it didn’t show on his face. He simply looked up and nodded at me. He didn’t say a word as he walked into an office behind me. I followed, not knowing if that’s what he wanted. He sat behind the large mahogany desk and stared up at me.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Daniel Stoor?” He looked around the room as he spoke.

“I was wondering if you could answer a simple question for me,” I said, suddenly uncertain. If knowledge is power, then this man was much more powerful than me, for he certainly held all of the knowledge in this room. “At least I think it’s a simple question.”

“We’ll see after you ask it Mr. Stoor.”

“Were you once a ghost?” I asked him, trying to be straight forward.

“I told you that I once stood where you did. Don’t you suppose that made me a ghost?” His eyes were wistful, as though remembering another life.

“I think so, but I’m not certain of anything when it comes to ghosts. Until two days ago, I wouldn’t have even thought they existed.”

“And you were right to think that,” he said, glancing behind me. A couple of my friends had just passed by the counter on their way to the service. “Ghosts don’t exist for long usually; so, they don’t really have enough time to make their presence known.”

“How are you human now?” I asked, holding out hope for a remedy for my current plight.

“Some ghosts – a very select few – are chosen as guides for the other ghosts. They are known as spirit guides. Once they have passed their time as a ghost, learning all there is to know about their abilities and ways, they are granted the title of spirit guide and their humanity is restored to them. It is a lengthy process that takes a few years at least. However, the reward is well worth the wait.” He watches the desk behind me, as though waiting for someone to arrive. Or perhaps, he is just making sure no one is watching him talk to himself.

“How does one become a spirit guide?” I asked, holding out hope for myself.

“There are two things that go into a spirit guide. The first is that a spirit guide must be destined from birth to die early. The younger a spirit guide is, the longer he or she will be able to guide others when humanity is restored. He or she must also prove to be loyal, cunning, and free from earthly ties during spirithood. It does nobody any good if the spirit guide is looking for pieces of his or her old life instead of helping new ghosts move on,” he said, getting up as an elderly couple comes to the desk.

“Do you know ahead of time who is destined for spirit guide?” I asked him as he headed for the door. I watched as he turned to face me.

“I don’t know, but I do know the signs to look for.” He looked at me for a moment longer before heading for the desk to help the couple. I stared after for a few minutes, wondering if I was one of the elect few who qualified for spirit guide. I certainly fell into one of the categories and certainly I could work my way into the other category.

I allowed these thoughts to plague my mind as I headed down the hall to the memorial. I could see people spilling out into the hall as the turnout for my service was much higher than I ever could have anticipated.

* * * * *

Creative Commons License
This work by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Anthromagic ~ Chapter 26

With a sudden fury and a flash of light, the thing that I’d feared was standing right in front of us. Over seven feet tall, it had to hunch down in the small tunnel. Its wingspan was probably fifteen or twenty feet across as it batted its wings feverishly, forcing Mytal to slide back into me as I collided into the wall.

“Do not worry my lady.” Mytal said, looking over his shoulder at me. “You will not be harmed.”

I remained behind him, cowering in fear while the beast stood upon its three clawed feet and let out a massive screech. When the Earth-shattering noise came to a halt, I heard Mytal let out a sigh and whisper his thanks. Behind him, I gasped quietly and wondered if this person standing in front of me was actually Mytal or an acquaintance of the creature that was attacking. Peeking around the obstacle in front of me, I watched as the scaled neck of the monster lurched forward and snapped its jaws around Mytal’s forearm. Mytal grunted loudly and lunged forward, grasping the neck and allowing the beast to pull him. Drawing a small dagger, he forced it into the creature’s neck as he was tossed aside like an old, unwanted possession. The beast roared back and swung around to face the enemy he’d just discarded; in the process, his stone encrusted tail, whipped around and slashed my stomach. The pain was agonizing, but no blood poured from the gash that formed from one hipbone to the other below my ribcage. Staring down and crouching over in anguish, I haphazardly prodded and poked the gash, waiting for the red to spill out.

“You get Mytal, I will help her ladyship.” A rough voice echoed against the rock wall. As I looked up, I could see an entire army attacking the beast that had injured me while a small regiment aided Mytal. Around me, I felt hands latching onto my arms and legs, preparing to lift me from the ground. Refocusing my attention to the area immediately surrounding me, I zeroed in on a tall man dressed in black pants, white shirt, gold sash, and black cape. All around me, the other men were dressed in regimentals and trying to help me, but this one man just stood staring at me with a crooked smile playing upon his lips.

Creative Commons License
Anthromagic by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Anthromagic ~ Chapter 25

As I was about to ask Iphsalin how I would know if it was this Mytal guy, she ran off with the speed of a cheetah. I called after her, but she never turned around. Turning round in my place, I tried to determine which direction was best to take at this crossroads but I saw no indication of which way would lead me to Mytal. Thinking it would be easiest to retrace my steps in case I got lost, I chose to go straight and began walking. As I made my way through the open desert-like plain between the two tunnels, I heard the sound of wings flapping. I looked up and down, turning around several times trying to locate the creature that was creating the ruckus but I found no one. At the mouth of the next tunnel, there were a pile of bones with three black feathers lying beside it. The sight of the bones irked me and I picked up my walking tempo. Just moments before I had heard the sounds a bird might create and now, lying in front of me, I saw bones – in this place, I wasn’t sure if any of the conclusions jumping around in my head were too far-fetched to be possible.

Walking deeper into the darkness of the rocky tunnel, I realized that the sides and ceiling of the cave were quickly narrowing and the tunnel was shrinking with every step I took. With the ceiling just inches above my head, the tunnel leveled out again and I kept my eyes peeled for Mytal. From Isphalin’s description, I expected him to be a frightening creature whose very presence would startle me, but that wasn’t the case at all. When Mytal appeared, I thought I was imagining things; standing before me was a large creature, but he did not frighten me.

Despite Mytal’s massive horns and jagged teeth, I felt at ease around him. He told me that one of his powers was the ability to calm people; he couldn’t control emotions by any means, but he did possess the skill to make people calm even in the time of a crisis. I informed Mytal that his gift might become useful one day and then I silently questioned where that idea had come from. The mixing between my original ideas and thoughts and my new thoughts was advancing to the point where I was questioning the validity of the old and accepting the new as the solid truth. In my mind, I knew this realization frightened me, but I had no suspicions on how to stop the transition that was occurring.

“My lady, you look puzzled.” Mytal said to me, breaking the silence that we had been walking in.

“Mytal, good sir, I am puzzled.” I informed him, stopping mid-stride.

“The transitory state has her ladyship in a state of bewilderment?” It seemed to be a statement more than it was a question.

“Yes.” I nodded in agreement.

“It will soon be over.” Mytal said soothingly and offering his hand. “I will console her ladyship if she should wish me to do so.”

“Thank you Mytal, but no. I believe I will be fine without consolation.” Walking again, Mytal fell into step beside me.

We continued on in this manner for at least a half-hour before Mytal stopped suddenly beside me. From deep within his throat, I heard a growl rising up from Mytal that frightened me. Apparently, Mytal cannot work his magic to keep people calm while he is attempting to be intimidating. Frantically, I threw my head back and forth, trying to find what had startled Mytal to react in such an extreme manner, but I found nothing and began to worry. The tunnel was immensely dark, I couldn’t see anything, and I had no way to protect myself if we were attacked. Without communicating with me in any way, Mytal managed to place me between him and the wall. Behind me, I felt the rough surface and toothed edges of the wall press lightly into my back. Mytal’s growl continued to grow in volume and deepen in intensity. I knew something was coming, but, because I couldn’t see or hear it, I had no clue what it was going to be when it finally got there.

Creative Commons License
Anthromagic by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Anthromagic ~ Chapter 24

“If-sa-lynn.” I said slowly, hoping I had pronounced her name correctly. “May I ask you something?”

“M’am.” She said kindly, turning her head around again. “You need not ask my permission for anything you do. On the contrary, it is I who should ask permission to speak with you. May I?”

“Speak with me? Sure.” I asked, confused. Concluding that this exchange meant that we could talk now, I proceeded with my questions. “Why does his lordship want to ensure my safety?”

“He does not wish anything to happen to you miss.” She said smiling.

“But, what am I to him?” I persisted.

“You? Miss?” She asked, her eyes glazed over and a blush rose to her cheeks. “You are his everything.”

“What?” I asked with a sharp intake of breath. “Exactly what is it that you mean by his everything?”

“Surely, her ladyship knows what is meant by these words. Surely.” She repeated.

For the next fifteen minutes, Iphsalin repeated these words over and over again: “His everything. Surely.” I didn’t understand her incessant rambling but I didn’t interrupt her either. She sounded worried and upset. When she stopped her chatter, I tried to console her.

“Are you okay? I’m sure it isn’t too bad.” I told her quietly.

“Oh, her ladyship is not mad?” She smiled and sounded relieved. “I began saying things which were not meant to be said yet and I feared that you would be maddened by your confusion.”

“No.” I said, lifting my eyebrows and raising one end of my mouth. “Not mad. Perfectly content.”
“This I am glad to know.” She said, stopping at another crossroads. I assumed we were at another transit and that I would be getting another guide. “Here I stop. It is best if you keep moving. Mytal will find you as you go. He wishes you not to be frightened when you see him.”

Creative Commons License
Anthromagic by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Night's Final Hour: A Mother's Day Special

The following is a special post for Mother's Day. The next chapter of Night's Final Hour will still be published today. This is just a letter from Ivy to Benjamin giving you a glimpse into other characters of the story. Enjoy and Happy Mother's Day.

* * * * *

Dear Benjamin,

You asked me to tell you about my family. I have a feeling that you may know more about them than I do, but I’ll do my best anyways to satisfy your curiosity. You’ll have to be patient though, as it may take several letters to tell you about them all.

I’ll start with my mother since she is the most immediate family still living. As for her birth, all I can tell you is that she was born many, many years ago (she would yell at me if I shared her age) in Nashville, TN. Unlike my father, she is not a native of Nuitville and would not have come here if it weren’t for my father. Why she remains in town now is beyond me.

My earliest memory of my mother is of her in the kitchen. I couldn’t have been more than three or four at the time. I was walking and talking, but not yet in school. It was a hot, spring day and my mother was preparing a snack in the kitchen – strawberries, I believe. She was chopping the greens off and cutting the juicy parts. I was waiting at the kitchen for my snack.

The knife missed the berry and sliced her finger instead. It wasn’t a large cut, but it was deeper enough to send red oozing out. My mother started to say something, but bit her lip instead when her eyes met mine. She quietly walked to the sink and washed her finger, crinkling her nose as she did. I remember thinking that my mother must be quite a woman to withstand such a cut and not cry. I was young – any cut warranted tears.

Beyond this memory, I’m not sure what to share. My mother is a brave and caring individual who is stuck in her ways and doesn’t like change. She’ll back you in all that you do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she approves of all that you do. She’s an individual who knows what she wants and goes after it. I’d like to think I’m a lot like my mother, but deep down, I know that I’m barely a thing like her.

Your friend,

* * * * *

Creative Commons License
Night's Final Hour by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Anthromagic ~ Chapter 23

When I was awakened by Joshua, he had a tall slender woman beside him with silver hair. She smiled slowly as I blinked and tried to regain focus in my eyes. I sat up and spun my legs off of the daybed. She extended one hand before me and I shook it hesitantly.

“I am called Iphsalin.” She said. Her voice was rough and scratchy. From her looks, I had expected an elegant and silk tone to escape from her lips. “From this point until the next transit, if it should please our ladyship, I will guide you.”

“Thank you.” I told her, blushing at the title they kept using incessantly. I was neither pretty enough or graceful enough to be anyone’s ladyship, but, earlier, when I had asked Joshua to quit using the term he became frightened so I did not dare to ask Iphsalin. She bowed slightly and spread out her arm in the direction of the tunnel on the right.

“This is the way that our journey requires us to take.”

She began moving toward the tunnel and I followed. At the mouth of the tunnel, I glanced back to wave at Joshua who I expected to see shrinking with the distance, but he was not there. Joshua, the chair, and the daybed had already disappeared. When I turned back around, I was met with Iphsalin’s face smiling at me. Her body was still facing forward, but her head had turned one hundred and eighty degrees in my direction.

“He’s gone back to check on the gateway. Being newly constructed, his lordship wants the protective force tested regularly to ensure your safety.” She offered the information freely and her head slid back around to the front.

I shuddered at the flexibility of her neck and then stopped in the tracks. Wondering if Sikal’s poison had altered my molecular make-up, I twisted my head to the left in an attempt to see if I could now look directly behind me. My neck cracked sharply and I winced in pain; my face would still be looking in the same direction that my body was facing. Iphsalin had provided me with another piece to the puzzle however. Wherever I was, or wherever I was going, there was a lordship and he had the power to hand out orders. I had already began to plot different ways that I could trick him into ordering me home, when a thought came to me: I needed to know why his lordship would want to ensure my safety, someone he’d never even met.

Creative Commons License
Anthromagic by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.