Happy is he who...writes from the love of imparting certain thoughts and not from the necessity of sale-who writes always to the unknown friend.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)





Saturday, September 29, 2012

Entry # 25


THE CAPTAIN’S INHERITANCE
by Bruce Hesselbach

Remembering how Emily had raved about her five brothers during her bouts of fever, Brian inquired of the elders of the town whether Emily had any living relatives at all. They took his inquiries as fear and reluctance to visit the witch’s cottage, and yet they honestly had to assure him that no, there were no relatives whatsoever.

And so, late one day in fall, Captain Brian Aille rode up to Dedman’s Mountain. The land was spectacular with all the trees in yellows, reds, and browns, with the air so light and fresh, and the sky so brilliantly blue. The trails on the mountain seemed somewhat overgrown. Bindweed flourished as a groundcover under the stately trees, as if to grasp the mountain in its grip and pull it underground. 

The clearing, once full of flowering magical herbs and plants, was being choked by weeds, and looked rather blighted. The house, once so like a tower, had the door ajar and two windows broken. Inside, the art and calligraphy had all been removed, either stolen or burned.

“This is terrible,” Brian thought. “It was once a beautiful place, and the old woman who lived here was a good person.”

It being late in the day, Brian decided to spend the night. He built a fire in the chimney and found some blankets. He decided to sleep on a couch on the first floor, not wanting to go in the bedroom upstairs where he had strong memories of the plague. Soon twilight came on, and Brian rested on the couch thinking about the lives of the herbalists. What fine people they were, devoting their lives to healing others. 

All the same, the octagonal house had an eerie feeling to it. One could hear the wind in the trees sighing like dead souls. The associations of the house with a reputed witch were somewhat unsettling. Creaking of the house in the wind seemed to give it a life of its own. 

Looted, gutted, the poor house itself seemed to have suffered as much as its owner did in the grip of fanatical and evil persecutors. Was there still some spirit left in this remote and darkened place? The sparks of the fire shed a faint dancing light on the old wooden walls and beams. 

Suddenly he heard a kind of coughing sound, like someone clearing his throat. Instinctively, he grabbed his snaphaunce pistol and tensed for a fight. Instead, he heard a deep, rather apologetic sound.

“Brian Aille, we mean you no harm. We are the five brothers of Emily Dwergma. We will show ourselves if you are prepared. We do not want to frighten you.”

“Where are you? Come out into the open.”

“Our appearance will resemble spirits, but we are not ghosts. Please understand that we are your friends.”

“Just come out where I can see you,” said Brian, and he laid his pistol on the bed.

Out from the wall across from him emerged a figure. It resembled the transparent outlines of a ghost of a handsome young man, except that nose looked like actual human flesh.

Next came a ghost of another young man, except that the ears looked like actual human flesh. 

After that came a ghost of a young man whose eyes looked like normal, non-ghostly eyes.

Next came a ghost of a young man with a normal human mouth.

Last of all came the ghost of a young man with feet and hands that looked like regular, tangible flesh. 

“Are you Emily’s five brothers? Are you ghosts? Was she really a witch after all? Am I just dreaming this?” Brian said, his head spinning.

“We are not ghosts or spirits but beings that have existed since the world began. We were created by the curators when this world was first formed. Our duty was to test the living things as they were first created. We reviewed their features by sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell and we discovered which ones were good and which were flawed. When our work was done we were buried under stones and a mountain stream was diverted to flow over us. We slept for centuries. 

“Then Emily came. She had great powers of second sight and she knew that we were sleeping below the stream coming off this mountain. She built a dam and moved the stream out of the way. Then she dug through our stony prison and let us see the light again.

“We thanked her and vowed ever to be the brothers that she never had. We helped her to find and grow magical plants and we taught her many things. However, no one can escape destiny, and we could not prevent her from being killed. 

“Before she died she asked us to look after you. She said we could help you in many ways.”

“Thank you, thank you,” said Brian, not knowing if he wanted to banish these spirits or befriend them. “What magical powers do you have?”

“We can only be seen or heard by our friends, and, at present, that means only you. We can travel anywhere in the world and back in the blink of an eye. We can walk through walls.”

Each being then introduced himself in turn by pointing to his fleshly part. The one who called himself Eyes said: “Eyes can see for hundreds of miles. Ears can hear for hundreds of miles. Touch can feel the vibrations from feet approaching hundreds of miles away. Taste can detect poison as well as superior food. Smell can tell who is present within hundreds of miles, can distinguish between people, and can even tell if people are related to one another.”

The one with the nose said: “But these are not magical powers to us; they are how we are made. To us these talents are no more magical than the operation of your own senses.”

Brian stroked his chin. “These talents, as you call them, could be very valuable to a military man. One would never need scouts or spies. You would be better than a whole regiment of scouts.”

“We are pleased to be of service, Brian,” Ears said. “When you need us, just pound your fists together. We will see and hear it, and we will be there.”

And, with that, the five brothers vanished.

“Well, wouldn’t you know it,” Brian thought, “I’ve got an inheritance after all, and me an orphan. Who would have thought.

Entry # 24


Hotspot
By Rob Holliday

“Are you sure,” asked her husband. “I mean, those smudges could be anything.”

“Yes, Mr. Bell. I’m sure. I’ve had it reviewed by the top radiation oncologists in the country. I’m terribly sorry for this,” replied the salt and pepper haired doctor with kind eyes.

She sat there, the ongoing conversation muffled by the cotton ball shock that muffled her hearing. Again? This can’t be right. Yes, of course it’s right. Did you think it would simply go away? It’s not a scolded dog, it’s cancer.

The doctor continued, “We wanted to be sure because our treatment options are…limited, thus the reasoning behind the PET scans. And you can see here,” indicating the printed images of her body lit up with fluorescent glow, “this hotspot here is more than likely the genesis location for the metastasis, these smaller hotspots are simply where the growth has become more aggressive.”

Her husband leaned in, an urgency in his voice, “So what do we do now? You know that funds aren’t a problem, so where do we go from here?”

She watched her husband and the doctor have a polite conversation about her impending death. Granted, her husband spoke in hopeful terms and the doctor replied with gentle candor. She stood up to leave and both men stopped talking.

“I’m ready to go now. Doctor, can we come back again to discuss what options I do have? I’m feeling a bit…overwhelmed.”

Both men stood. “Of course Mrs. Bell. I’ll consult with my colleagues and we can have a follow up discussion tomorrow or whenever suits you best. Of course, we’d like to provide you some time for making decisions so the sooner you have the options, the sooner we can begin to plan our way forward.”

She replied, unable to focus on his face, “Thank you. We’ll return tomorrow.”

She turned to go as her husband spoke with the doctor in muted tones. “Milton, please, we can discuss this more tomorrow. I’d like to go get some ice cream.”

Her husband shook the doctor’s hand and turned to his wife near the door to leave. “Of course, sugar, I’m sorry. Thanks again, Doctor, we’ll see you tomorrow.”

They left the office, their hands intertwined. They arrived at the convertible coupe, the top still up. “Milton, let’s put the top down, it’s nice enough, don’t you think?”

“So long as you won’t get chilled, love, it’s fine with me. Let me get the blanket from the trunk.” He opened her door for her, shut the door and went to the trunk. He retrieved the ultra suede and fleece blanket and got in the car and tucked her under the blanket. He fired the engine, a throaty growl coming from the exhaust. She laughed out loud.

“My, I’ve never noticed how wonderful a sound that is. That rumble that just says, ‘Let me out, I’m ready to run’. Let’s go for a drive today. Can we do that?”

“Of course. What about ice cream?”

“Yes, that too. Let’s drive down the coast and stop at our pier for ice cream, hmm?”

“You got it.”

He popped the roof locks, stepped out for a moment as he retracted the roof and secured it under the tarp in back. He hopped back in and backed up the red 1952 Jaguar C-type with a goose to the gas and transitioned to drive, letting the wheels spin a bit, gravel rocketing away. He glanced at her, admiring the girlish grin on her face. She looks 17 again. Oh to go back and be that age again.

He maneuvered through town and made it to the seaboard highway and let the motor open up. The sky offered azure blue with a golden orb, clear and crisp. He leaned over to her, she turned her head to him and he pecked her on the lips. “I love you”.

“I love you too.”

They glanced back and forth at each other, savoring the day, preserving each look in their minds eye as a snapshot for all eternity. He looked back to the road to see the 50-ton Peterbilt rig storming down on them, the driver drifting with fatigue.

He caught his breath as she offered a near paralyzed gasp and turned the coupe sharply to the right, both of them closing their eyes as the grill of the truck beared down on them.

They opened there eyes and found themselves careening onto the shoulder, his reaction to shift to neutral and steer back toward the road before catching the guardrail and plummeting over into the Pacific. The car came to a jolting halt, both of them catching their breath. They turned to each other.

“Oh my gosh, dear, are you okay” from each to the other. “Yes, I’m fine.”

They paused and both laughed out loud. “Wow, talk about a day of extremes, worst luck, best luck, “ she offered.

He smiled at her resilience. “Still want that ice cream?”

“Yes. And now you have to buy me two scoops and jimmies on top, just like we did at the boardwalk back home.”

“You got it.”

He checked his mirrors with a small laugh and gunned the Jag back out on to the highway. They arrived at the pier as the sun slipped beneath the covers of the horizon for another evening, the pier lights magical.

“Well, I’ll be. It’s nearly deserted. Lights are on though, should be able to get that ice cream still.”

They walked arm in arm together, her head on his shoulder as they strolled down the pier toward the ice cream house. Drawing only a couple strange glances from passersby, they knew their romance was anachronistic. They didn’t care. Nor did he care about the strange look from the young man who served her the two scoops of ice cream with jimmies. They strolled to the end of the pier and sat down together, watching the sun’s final glimmers as the night sky rolled out a starry carpet, the shy moon waiting for its turn.

She offered him a bite of her ice cream, which he gladly took. He offered some of his butter pralines and cream, from which she took a healthy bite, leaving a milky swipe on her nose. He touched it with his napkin, leaving her clean. He didn’t notice the bloody mess it left behind on the napkin. Nor did he notice the other couple leaving the end of the pier in a hurried step, glancing back at them as they left.

“I guess this generation has forgotten romance, they simply don’t see enough of it,” he reflected.

“You’re right. But maybe some of them will learn. Who knows, after seeing us, maybe they’ll think more highly of it, you think?” she inquired in reply.

“I don’t know. We can hope. But in the meanwhile, I’d just like to enjoy our ice cream. I love this spot. Do you remember…”

“Of course, I do. It was right here that you first told me you loved me.” She leaned in for a kiss, which he obliged with chaste vigor, she still his cherished love. She didn’t notice the gore he left behind on her lips but took another bite of her ice cream instead.

“I think this would be somewhere I could stay forever, Milton. But only if you’d stay too, of course.”

“You couldn’t drag me away from you or this place. Forever it is.”

Back up the highway, a young officer collected up the papers caught in the brush along the guardrail.

“Hey Billy, whatcha got?”

“Found some papers, must have flown out of the car. Looks like medical papers of some sort.”

“Well, see if it has a name on them, check for two. Not sure how easy it’s going to be to identify them once we get the wreckage untangled from that semi rig. Too bad about the car, this was a classic. We got a partial plate and looks like a man and a woman in there, but that’s all for now.”

“Yeah, here it is. Josephine Bell. And… emergency contact, husband Milton Bell.”

“Alright, I’ll call it in. And check for any doctor’s or such, maybe there’s someone we can call.”

“Yep, right here. Doctor Ted Yates, oncology at All Saints. Man, look at this, the diagnosis. You think they felt anything when the rig hit? May have been a blessing in disguise I suppose.”

Diagnosis: Recurrent pancreatic carcinoma, stage IV. Prognosis terminal, expectancy 1-3 weeks.

Entry # 23



Marker
Bump!
Bump!
The noises woke him up from a dead sleep and that wonderful dream. What a nice one it was too with that brunette who was so damned hot! The sun, the water, sailing along and making love on the deck. Hmm hmm! He smiled a few moments as his thoughts revisited the dream.
Even better, in the dream he didn't have any gray hair which was so nice. Wish I could have that in real life.
Bump!
Hearing the sound again caused him to sit up in the bed and look around the room. The French doors into the bedroom looked just like they did earlier in the day except for the hallway shadows.
I've got to get some curtains for those doors soon.
That was something the realtor had mentioned when he was looking at the house he remembered. After several weeks waiting for the closing it was one of the things he didn't focus on. Somehow they went from looking charming to something that was kind of disturbing especially with that applique spider web  attached to them.
Getting up Josh went to the window and looked out. Nothing was there! The October chill however was very noticeable, he had to get a bathrobe soon.
First night in a new place, I'm sure I'll get used to it and what in the hell is making those noises I'm hearing?
Making his way back to the bed he heard it again.
Bump!
Bump!
The hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood on end. This was definitely getting on his nerves. Rousing himself from the bed he made his way over to the window once again. An eerie feeling came over him, his stomach twisting within him. Just before he reached the window he heard the sound once again.
Bump!
Bump!
Pulling the curtain back he peered out of the window. Noticing the branch blowing back and forth eased his concerns. Seeing it hit the window casement eliminated it almost completely for the moment. He let the curtain fall back in front of the window then he headed back to bed.
Sitting down on the edge of the mattress he still felt on edge. His stomach hadn't quite completely calmed down yet. Willing it to stop churning just wasn't working.
Bump!
His ears pinpointed where the sound was coming from this time. Groaning, he rose to his feet and stepped over to the window to look out again. Man, this is getting tedious!
Pulling back the curtain he was seeing some kind of glowing ball that was floating. It faintly lit the concrete of the driveway and the light fog. Attention riveted, he watched it float on by. He wanted to go out to touch it but yet was frozen in amazement. Slowly, it moved along to the garage door and then over the privacy fence.
Josh stood there a few minutes to see if anything else would happen but it didn't. Mystery temporarily solved he went back to bed. Laying down he fell into a dreamless sleep for the rest of the night.
Waking to a bright shining morning the events of the evening were still fresh in his mind. Dressing quickly he went out to the driveway past the plastic carved pumpkin by the door. He followed the path of the glowing ball to where it went over the fence. Peeking over it to the other side he now could see something that he didn't notice when he looked at the house.
Why didn't I see those before?
Row upon row of grave markers greeted his vision. The graveyard was accented by the fall colors of the trees surrounding it. He realized he might have quite a few more rather unwelcome visitors if he stayed.
Why did I have to move in the day before Halloween? Is it too late now to get out of that contract?

Entry # 22


The Time Travel Jeep
by Stephanie Karfelt


It is so weird coming back to my hometown. The Laundromat is now an art gallery. Abstract zombie nudes are displayed facing Main Street, next to Rockwellian oil paintings of apple trees. The corner store’s become an upscale coffee shop full of white people with dreadlocks. Sipping my skinny, non-dairy, salted caramel latte, I’m torn between nostalgia and caffeinated bliss. The Jeep struggles as I mercilessly accelerate, running a yellow light. I laugh. Norman, Ohio has gone hipster. Never saw that one coming.
Forgetting to slow for the railroad tracks the Jeep bounds recklessly over, the satellite radio cuts out in the middle of White Stripes. Coffee splatters over my sweater. I wipe it off with a sleeve. Blotches now dot it. The family will notice. They’re going to be checking me for crow’s feet, and taking bets on whether I’ll ever marry again or just get a cat.
Oh, God. My heart sinks into my stomach. I shove the coffee towards the cup-holder, spilling it all over the console. I don’t care. A four-lane highway now takes up what used to be a farm and Gram’s house. I yank the steering wheel and the Jeep skids into the parking lot of a brand new gas station. I park about where Gram’s rose bushes used to be. Leaning my head against the steering wheel, I know I shouldn’t have come here. Gram died in a nursing home three days ago. Seeing the house gone makes it worse, like she’s been erased. I miss her. Selfishly need her advice. What would she tell me to do? She wouldn’t, she’d feed me spice cake and tell me to get a cat.
Static AM music scratches from the speakers. MC Hammer’s ‘U Can’t Touch This’. “Not even,” I slap the dial, silencing the radio. What is wrong with the satellite radio? I didn’t hit the railroad tracks that hard! Then everything changes. The gloomy overcast day is suddenly full-on sunshine. Blinking against it, I try not to see that the gas station is gone. I’m parked in the middle of a half dead rosebush of mammoth proportions. The backside of Gram’s butterscotch colored house is in front of me. Most of the leaves are off the Maple tree, and the yard needs raked. There are clothes hanging on the clothesline even though it is the end of October. I’ve had a stroke. Oh my gosh, I don’t want to have had a stroke. I’m too young for a stroke.
I nab my keys and root for my cell, coffee drips from it. I clean it with my doomed sweater, and slide it into a pocket. Swinging the door open, I get one leg out before it rebounds in Jeep fashion, against my leg. The smell of Maple leaves mixes with a familiar scent of baking, Gram’s poppy-seed cake. My eyes tear up and I slide out. I’ve had a stroke, I’m dead and this is heaven. Norman, Ohio is heaven. Never saw that one coming. I slam the door shut. Thorns jab through my pants, snagging the material. Automatically I stuff my keys into my pocket, and pat the other making sure I didn’t forget my phone. Like I’m going to be using it here. Is there cell reception in heaven? I’m about to test this theory when Gram comes around the corner of the house. She stops and stares at me. She’s alive and healthy, wearing her green housedress with her stockings rolled around her ankles. It used to be the in thing, back in the day, she told me that once.
“Lizzy? Is that you?” The sound of her voice makes me cover my mouth and start to cry. That’s my grandmother!
“Why did you park in the backyard? Elizabeth Marie, get out of my rosebushes! Those were my Mother’s! I brought a clipping with me….” Back in…carried in a handkerchief.... I echo the lecture inside my head. I remember this one! “Move it! What is wrong with you?” she grouses. I run across the yard and hug her hard. She smells like mint julep shampoo and laundry soap, like Gram, she pushes away and frowns. Her perceptive grey eyes are exactly as I remember, I don’t even care that I’m dead.
Poking me right in the middle of the chest she asks, “Why aren’t you at work? You’re gonna get fired.”
“Gram? I…” I trail off, what do I say? I’m dead, we’re dead. Doesn’t she know? Why doesn’t she know?
“What’s wrong?” she’s frowning. “You look so…tired,” she finishes diplomatically.
“I’m on my way to a funeral.” I touch her.
She makes her “tsk” sound, grabbing my arm. “Want a piece of poppy seed cake? You look skinny.” She’s my favorite person ever. We round the corner of the house and her old rat terrier comes barking. I’m not in heaven. Duke would never have made the cut. I still have the scars he gave me last time I gave him a bath. Bit me right on the nose. Duke died…I try to remember, it was before Gram started to forget. She opens the screen door and her cat wraps itself around my legs, purring. It died long before Duke. The wallpaper in the kitchen is outdated. Gram takes plates out of the cupboard and cuts the familiar poppy-seed cake. I can never make it like hers.
“Will you give me the recipe for this?”
“Since when do you cook?” she teases.
“Jon always loved it when you made it. He said it wasn’t the same when I make it.”
“Who?”
I almost answer, almost say ‘Jon, my husband who died,’ but can’t. My gaze moves to the kitchen table. Gram’s Scrabble board is set up. She always spent hours a day playing Scrabble by herself, trying to talk one of her many visitors into a game. Next to it is the newspaper. The front page has an article about the dawning of the computer age. It’s dated October 31, 1990. I was eighteen years old in 1990. I sit down at the table. Gram slides a slice of cake at me.
“Now who died? You didn’t tell me you were going to a funeral this morning.” I lived with Gram in 1990. Am I in heaven? Or 1990? It definitely can’t be both, I remember 1990.
“And whose car did you park in my rosebush?”
I take a bite of her cake. Maybe 1990 is heaven.
“Gram, do you want to play Scrabble?” Her smile lights her face. I’ve missed that smile, she forgot it years ago. Scooting her plate towards the Scrabble board, she warns, “Mix up the letters before you pick them. No cheating.”

Time slows. Gram puts ‘Oxter’ on the board, pats my hand and gets up to make tea. I’m leaning towards heavenly 1990. Then a car pulls into the driveway. Tearing out from under the table, Duke conks his head on a chair, barking like the idiot he is. I’d forgotten he did that! I think I’ve missed him too. Jumping up and down, he wets a bit. No, I didn’t miss him. Standing, Gram plunks letters on the board and gives me her Scrabble victory smile. Obovoid.
“Is that really a word?” I try to check if it is really a word on my cell, but there’s no reception in Heaven, or 1990. The dog barks so loud, I go to the door and look outside. It’s my Uncles. I shove through the door and we hurry outside.
They’re digging in the trunk of a convertible. I remember this car! Slamming the lid, they look at me. I stare back at them, suddenly not sure. These are my Uncles, I decide after a minute. Except they’re young, and good looking. My stroke theory makes a comeback. It can’t be normal to think your Uncles are attractive. Definitely a stroke. Duke is jumping up and down, nipping at my handsome Uncles. Gram holds onto the railing to step off the porch.
“Go move your car!” she orders me, explaining. “Lizzy parked in my rosebush!”
I dart forward and kiss her. She grins.
“You better not have wrecked my flowers.”
I race for the backyard and Duke chases, snapping at my feet. We both hop into my Jeep. He starts licking the spilled coffee off the console. I don’t care why or where, I’m glad I’m here. I slam the door shut and everything disappears. The sunshine is gone and I’m staring at the Quik-Fil gas station again. My cell rings in my pocket. Automatically I dig it out and answer. It’s my sister.
“Lizzy? You’re late, the funeral started! And Uncle Nick is telling everyone you stole Duke and lied about it for years. I said I took that dog to be put to sleep myself. Do you think Alzheimer’s is genetic?”
Slowly I turn to look. Duke shows me his teeth. Not exactly a cat. Never saw that coming.

Entry # 21


Silence 
(Short Halloween Story)
By: A.H. Browne

He awoke in the middle of the night. Unaware as to what had awoken him. Looking around his room yielded no results as to why he should have been woken up. 
Casting sleep aside, he threw the covers to one side and got out of bed to use the bathroom. As he came back, he realized something was wrong. Something inside him—an alarm—went off. He didn’t know what. He couldn’t figure it out. There was something though. Something not right. 
Silence. …
It was silent.
Too silent.
It was the middle of the night. But… this was different. It shouldn’t be this quiet. Something was off. 
The power in the apartment. It was not on. 
No big deal, he thought. Probably just a power outage. 
He walked over to the window and looked out. The whole neighborhood seems to be out.
Walking towards his battery powered radio, he turned it on.
Silence…
What the hell is going on? He thought to himself, a little unnerved. 
There was something else though. Something else that was bothering him. Something not quite right in his apartment… 
Where were his dogs? He owned two large cumbersome male Dobermans. They weren’t under his feet as was normal. Those logs always blocked his pathway to the bathroom and refused to move during the night. He always managed to trip over them. But they weren’t in his apartment. So where did they go? 
He wandered around the entire apartment; he didn’t see them anywhere. Calling their names yielded no results. This wasn’t like them. They hid from absolutely nothing and always were by his side. But where were they now?
No electricity. ... 
No dogs. …
No radio. …
Complete and utter silence surrounded him.
He grabbed his keys; a flashlight—checking to make sure it worked; and walked out into the hallway. Locking the door he went into the hallway to find his dogs and figure out what was going on. 
They weren’t in the hallway or anywhere to be found; by once again, calling their names. 
But the neighbors’ apartment doors were wide open. … All of them. As many as he could see up and down the hallway. 
He knocked on the nearest neighbors’ door and walked inside, calling their names, flashing the light around. 
No response.
Their electricity was off just like had been in his apartment. He couldn’t find their cat; calling its name produced no hairy glob running to greet him. 
He walked into the bedroom still calling out to them—as well as their cat. Pushing open the bedroom door, he saw. …

Nothing. 

They weren’t in their bedroom. They weren’t anywhere in their apartment. 
He went back into the hallway; continuing to walk through the hallway and each apartment as he came to them. No electricity in any of them. Using his flashlight produced no help in finding people hiding in corners, animals scurrying underfoot; nothing. 
No animals.
No people.
No electricity.
Nothing.
Absolutely nothing.
He didn’t understand what was happening.
Where did everyone go?
What happened to the electricity?
What the hell is going on?
He walked out into the cool night air of the city. There was nobody outside. There was no electricity as far as the eye could see. 
He walked into the middle of the street as his flashlight gave out. He banged it against his hand a couple times, but it was done for. 
As he stood there—glancing up and down the street—a slight fog slowly crept quietly along the street.
Silently it slid in along the street as it came ever closer to him. He stood watching, unsure of what exactly was happening. Unsure of what he should do, but remaining transfixed on what was coming his way. 
The fog seemed to grow thicker as it enveloped him. No longer able to see through it, he felt something cold and slimy glide along his body, grabbing at him as it gathered around him. …

Then it was gone. 

A horn blared at him from the street as a car slammed it brakes to avoid hitting him. 
“What’s your problem?! Get out of the damn street you crazy jerkoff!!” The driver shouted at him as he jumped onto the sidewalk near his building and out of the way; dropping his flashlight into the street as he did. 
He looked around to see lights on, people walking the sidewalks, and everything was … back to normal. 
He looked around, trying to figure out what had happened. People simply walked past him as they went about their nightly stroll. He could see nothing amiss. 
He turned and headed back to his apartment. He reached for the door handle to his apartment building, but it wasn’t there. He looked around as an ear shattering scream broke the silence. It seemed to surround him, causing him to quickly cover his ears with his hands as it grew in pitch and became deafening. He saw absolutely nothing when he looked around. There were no buildings; no street … nothing. 
The fog appeared again as he felt something running through his fingertips—that were pressed against his ears—and down his cheeks. He pulled his hands away and saw blood. 
The scream continued to pierce his brain as the fog enveloped him once more. Unable to run, unable to make a sound, he was helpless as he felt the thousands of slimy cold hands wrapping around his body. The screaming only increasing as the hands tightened their grip. … 



She awoke in the middle of the night. Unaware as to what had awoken her. 

Entry # 20


Halloween Tackle
By Gregory Hart

When I was a kid, I was almost scared of everything that goes bump in the night. The best analogy that I can give you is that of me being like Shaggy and Scooby Doo but without all the eating. Hahaha!!! Anyway there was one Halloween where I dressed up as a ghost and usually my mother was the one who took me trick or treating while my dad gave out the treats to those who came to our house. But this night was going to be different because my mother happened to get sick and she was the one left to give out the treats, while my dad took me trick or treating. He didn't know all the houses that I normally went to so we ended up going to all the houses in the area. So needless to say, I got a lot of candy that year.

There was this one house that went out in the Halloween decorations and with the tricking part of Halloween and me and mom always knew this and because I scared easily when I was a kid, never stopped at the house. Well my dad stopped at this one house even after me telling him not to stop there. After much convincing on his part, I finally caved in. I was thinking at this point, what harm would it do me? Boy was I ever wrong in thinking that.

I get out of the car and begin making my way up to the door, spooky lighting and music playing in the background somewhere. The front yard has an oak tree and in front of the oak tree was a raised flower bed that would now go little pass my knees. I had to pass this flower bed to get to the house.

Unknown to me, the owners of the house had raked up a lot of leaves from the tree and put them into a pile behind the flower bed. In the pile, they had covered someone up underneath them. I'll come back to this bit later. As I continued up towards the house, I heard a bunch of leaves being rattled. I stopped and looked around me, satisfied nothing was wrong, I continued on to the house.

Two steps later, I heard the noise again. This time I stopped and took my time looking around again but this time looking in the tree branches themselves, thinking that a cat or some animal was in it making the noise. When I didn't see anything, I naively continued on to the house for the candy. Here's where the pile of leaves came in. I took two more steps and the next thing I realize is Dracula is coming out of nowhere and he was heading for my direction.

Well, I screamed and began running away from the house. Not only was I was running away from the house, I was running away from the car as well. From behind me I heard the owner yelling at me Hey! Come back here! Don't you want your candy! Needless to say, at this point, I didn't care about the candy. All I was thinking was HOW THE HELL AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF HERE WITH A MADMAN CHASING ME AND TO HELL WITH MY CANDY!!! I kept going and wasn't going to stop for anything, including for my dad who was now calling for me to come back to the house.

I would have left the yard too if it wasn't for someone tackling me to the ground to get me to stop running. I was kicking and screaming so hard for them to let me go all the way up to the front door of the house, which come to find out it was my dad who had tackled me. He and the owner of the house spent the next five minutes or so trying to calm me down and explain to me that it was all a joke and there was nothing going to hurt me. 

Well after everything was said and done, my mom had a kick out of telling my dad to listen to me the next time when I said I didn't want to stop there. One thing was certain; he never took me trick or treating again after that. It's one of those memories that I'll never forget. As for all that candy that was still in my bag, it was a miracle that I never lost any as hard as I hit the ground when I was tackled.

Entry # 19


Just One Night
By Amy McNamara Fraher

It was a crisp night; the wind howled, not a single star in the black velvety sky, and yet the moon appeared as if it was gigantic orange ball. The month was October, the month for ghosts and ghouls, the month that celebrates the day of the dead, the month that some say is brought on by Satan; but for most it is the month for sweet, yummy, and oh so delicious holiday known as Halloween. From the very first day of this wonderful month; and for some it may start even earlier than that, the ideas of costume and decorations start to unfold. Children began to concoct just who or what they want to be, the layout of their path of which houses have the best treats, the practicing of saying that perfect phrase, “Trick or Treat… Please”. Adults climb into their attics, basements, and garages to collect their desired yard ornaments; may they be spiders, witches, zombies, or just a typical pumpkin. Lights and cords alike are strewn across the yards, devious carvings of the pumpkins displayed by the front door, “Beware of the Dead” signs entail the walkway, and as for the entry way – the pit of all things good – is usually donned with a fall-like wreath or a wickedly decorated welcoming of some sort.

Welcome to the world of Halloween! Or as Emma liked to call it, Welcome to the world of the “best-est” holiday ever! Well with the exception of Santa Clause and Christmas… Emma was seven years old, Emma loved candy, and most of all Emma loved Halloween. To go to the local outlet store and gaze at costume after costume, her mind changing every time she saw one that had a pointy hat, which donned glittery wings, that came with a tail and cat-like ears; the decisions that had to be made. Does she carry the typical pumpkin container, does she bring her pink pillowcase that she used last year that held tons of candy, or does she pick something new? The right container says it all in regards to candy volume; no candy too small due to it getting lost in the shuffle, no candy too large since that is valuable wasted space. Now that Emma had just the right costume, just the right container, and with her dad’s helps finding just the right path; her goal was to get the most candy ever in the few hours that Halloween existed!

As the clock strikes with the small hand on the six and the big hand on the twelve it is show time. Emma dressed head to toe appearing as a young vampire; her costume existing of a long black silky dress, and a matching long black silky cape with red on the inside, her hair twisted back so you could see her pale white skin and blood red lips enclosing her white vampy teeth, her hands adored black spider rings, with the final touch of a small rubber bat riding shot gun on her left shoulder – Buford was his name.

“Dad, it’s time! I don’t wanna be the last kid out the door! Dad!” Emma shouts.

As Dad grabs himself a flashlight and Emma’s red glow stick he replies with the usual “I’m coming! I’m coming!”

Out the door they go, pre-drawn map that Emma herself drew of the neighborhood in one hand and a black plastic cauldron in the other hand, with Dad trailing behind. As each house was approached Emma prepared for her moment; cape on straight… check, teeth in correctly… check, cauldron positioned in left hand (right hand was for ringing the doorbell)… check, all systems were a go!

“Trick or Treat! Please…” Emma proudly says to the elderly woman sitting on her porch swing, of course making sure her goody basket was duly noted.

“My, just look at you, it seems I have been visited by a mystical creature of the night,” noted the elderly woman, and just as she noticed Emma’s costume Emma noticed the two mini snicker bars placed in her bucket. Emma said her farewells and moved on.
After going from house to house and neighborhood to neighborhood, her pointy black boots were beginning to hurt her feet; not only that but Dad was seeing wear and tear on his as well. Emma couldn’t wait to get home and dump out all her goodies on the table, she would divide them into various categories like “the good stuff” (candy bars, starbursts, and twizzlers) “the grandma candy (the kind that the elderly have had around forever and none dares to eat), “the chewies” (gum, tootsie rolls, caramels), “the teeth breakers” (lollipops, jawbreakers, and fireballs), and finally the strangest items left were “the no-eat-ums” (Halloween pencils, Halloween erasers, and small silly toys… like MORE spider rings).

As Emma and Dad approached the house the street was filled with many visiting children seeking their own treats. Mom and big brother were handing our infamous popcorn balls out to a devil, a witch, and two princess fairies.

Emma went into the house and kicked off her boots, you could hear the swoosh of her bucket emptying onto the floor followed by squeals of delight.

“Emma, did you get me any Kit Kat bars? Emma…” Mom asked.
When Mom received no reply, she went into the living room to find Emma fast asleep amongst all of her Halloween treats; probably dreaming of more spider rings.

Entry # 18





This Old House
By
Paul Freeman






The old house looked the same, all crumbling mortar and rotten timbers, even the overgrown ivy appeared no different. He allowed himself a self-satisfied smile, who would have guessed, he thought to himself, that he would come back after all these years and buy the old heap. His eye was automatically drawn to an upstairs window, a dark gaping hole in the off-white wall.

Somebody had boarded up the front door and downstairs windows, they needn’t have bothered, nobody from around here would set foot inside the place. He remembered growing up in the area, none of the kids would come near this place, even the bravest of them were petrified of the old house. It was still considered ‘the old house’ back then, he smiled as he remembered.

The place was haunted, they said. ‘Don’t go down there or the White Lady will get ye.’ Some swore they had seen her, looking out from that top window, dressed in white. There were countless sightings and rumours, ‘walk three times around the house at midnight, on the night of a full moon and she’ll appear,’ they said. ‘Old Mick saw an English man do it back in the fifties. The man was never seen again.’

All nonsense of course, superstitious rubbish. He believed it as a kid though. He even thought he had seen her himself. He had accepted a dare to go into the house, he didn’t want to but he was thirteen and there was a girl to impress, he could not turn down the challenge. He got as far as the front door when he heard a creak, he imagined a rope swinging from the rafters, when he looked up there she was. Her white gown floating in the breeze. She was staring at him, two black pits for eyes, that look turned his insides to ice. He ran and ran, to hell with impressing girls. He cried all the way home. He could laugh now.

They even had a name for the ghost, Mary McGuire, maid, married and widowed all in one day. The story goes; it was during the Irish civil war, the Irish rebels had fought the British army to a standstill and a ceasefire was declared. The Irish sent a contingent to London to negotiate a peace treaty, that treaty resulted in the island being divided, twenty six counties were set free, six remained under the control of the British. This sparked a civil war between pro-treaty and anti-treaty factions. Setting brother against brother, father against son. Ironically the pro-treaty side who formed a government used British guns against their former comrades.

The story doesn’t say which side Mary McGuire’s new husband fought for, only that on the evening of her wedding he was called away, there was an ambush and he was shot dead. So, a widow on her wedding night. They say she was distraught upon hearing the news and was found hanging from the ceiling of the bridal chamber the next morning. Every night since she comes down off the rope and comes to the window searching for her lost love.

He shivered at the memory of the old ghost story. She’s going to have to find somewhere new to live, he thought to himself, his construction firm had big plans for this place and there was no room for ghosts in the new development.

He kicked in the door and stepped inside into the darkness. It smelled of decay and neglect, the staircase in the hallway was rotten away, even the ceilings had gaping holes, he could see right through them. It’s about time this place was demolished, he thought.

He heard a creaking noise, a shiver ran down his spine. He felt a breeze on his face, he swung around his eyes opening wide in shock. He couldn’t breathe, his chest felt as if someone had stabbed him in the heart with an icicle.

Falling…falling…blackness.



*****

The old house looked the same. The estate agent felt an odd, unpleasant sensation every time he came out to the place.

“So what happened to the previous owner?” A voice interrupted his thoughts

“It’s a strange story, he was a local lad, made it big up in Dublin with his own construction company. He came back here a few years ago with big plans to develop this site into a shopping centre. Then he just disappeared,” the estate agent answered the young couple.

“How very odd,” the woman said.

“Hasn’t been sight nor sound of him in years. The company just want to get rid of the place now,” the estate agent shrugged.

“Well that’s to our gain so, we really like this village and plan to start our family right here,” the man said, smiling at his wife.

“Well, she’s all yours, come by the office later and we’ll sort the paperwork.” They shook hands and the estate agent left the couple to wander around their new property.

As he walked from the overgrown garden he glanced back. What was that in the window? He knew all the old stories about the house, every local did. He wondered should he have said something to the new owners… and have them laugh at him for spouting such superstitious nonsense? He shook his head at his own foolishness and with a wave left them to it.
  


Entry # 17


The Best Costume Ever
By 
Rose Blackthorn

I watch them as they cross the street, caroling, gamboling, some almost cart-wheeling in their excitement. They are a joy to behold in all their many costumes. There are witches and ninjas, cowboys and furry blue monsters. There are princesses and hobos, a lady bug, a clown. There are babies in strollers disguised as a pea in a pod, or there, a bumblebee.

The decorations on the houses are an invitation, letting these little masqueraders know which to approach. Tissue paper ghosts hang from trees, plastic jack-o-lanterns glow, and molded zombies push their way up from beneath piles of dead leaves.

“Come on, hurry!” Daisy says beside me, hidden beneath the bushes. “All the good candy will be gone!”

I won’t be rushed. I’ve been looking forward to this night all year, and I’m going to have the very best costume ever.

There, rushing past my hiding place, is a group of children. They are all of an age, perhaps ten years old. One is a pirate, black greasepaint on his cheeks to pretend beard stubble, and a black patch perched over one eye. Another wears a red and blue body suit, a large black spider on the chest – he is a superhero. I’ve seen them before, but I’m not impressed. Here’s a girl in a sparkly dress and shoes, a wand held in one hand, spangled wings strapped to her back. 

“Billy, we’re running out of time!” Daisy hisses, poking me in the side with one bony finger. 

“Shut up,” I whisper back, watching the last of the group approach the nearest house. He’s smaller than the other boys, dressed in a satin vest over a dazzling white shirt. Real leather shoes, shined by someone who knows how, peek out from beneath freshly ironed slacks. He wears a black cape, thrown back with pizzazz to show the scarlet lining. His black top hat is a little too big, but still dapper. A tiny fake mustache has been glued to his upper lip, and he carries a stuffed white rabbit under one arm. A magician, yes he is. Seeing him is like magic.

“Billy!” Daisy whispers, poking me again, but I ignore her.

“Trick or treat!” the children yell, holding out bags and baskets when a woman answers the door. She oohs and aahs over their costumes, handing out her dole of candy. The first three children quickly head to the next house on the block, but the magician is saying thank you for the candy.

“Shut up,” I say to Daisy, wiggling out from under the bush. When the magician leaves the house, cutting across the lawn to catch up to his friends, I’m right behind him. In the shadows of the nearly leafless trees, I reach out to touch his hand, snatching at his sleeve like a stray wisp of wind.

***
We make it home just as the big clock in town chimes midnight. Mother oohs and aahs over our costumes, and Father laughs when he sees mine.

“Magic, huh?” he says, scratching a cracked yellowed nail along his bony chin. “Where did you find it?”

“Over on Sycamore,” I say, turning so he can see the whole outfit. The black and scarlet cape swirls, the shined leather shoes gleam, and the boy’s pale skin glimmers in the moonlight. He was a small boy, and it’s a tight fit, but I’m proud of this year’s costume.
“Alright, children,” Mother says, “Time to put your costumes away.”

“But Mom!” Daisy complains, letting Mother help her out of her costume with a pout. “Halloween only comes once a year!”

“Yes, I know dear,” Mother says, laying the blond girl’s skin, dressed in a ballerina’s leotard and tutu, across the nearest headstone. “But it will be Halloween again before you know it.” She’s smiling, though it’s hard to tell; her lips rotted away long years ago.

End

Entry # 16


The Note: The Day We All Died
by Colleen Douglas

I never did find out what happened that day. We know it was a nuclear attack but, no one really knows from where, or why. We knew it was coming but, we also knew there was nowhere to go. I remember my husband and I going to a nearby park with our old dog to play catch; to have fun before we all died. I remember the bright light and the blast. I remember standing there watching, then feeling myself being lifted off the ground, hurtling through the air. I heard my dog screaming as if someone were ripping off his legs one by one. I had been too afraid to scream for him; had been too afraid to scream for my husband. I remember instinct taking over and my body curling in on itself, my arms wrapping around my head. I remember finally hitting the ground after what felt like hours in the air. I rolled over and over countless times, I didn't fight it, there was no point. My body couldn't remain curled up, the force of the air demanded compliance. I remember allowing myself to go limp and letting the wind to carry me over the ground.

Then the air stopped moving. It might have been only a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, days, weeks, months or even years that I laid there, when I opened my eyes, the sky was grey and dark with ashes falling like thick heavy snow. I was covered in a layer. I couldn't see the sun or even the light from it. I remember sitting up and looking around at what was left. Everything was flattened. Nothing left, the grass, there were a few trees that had survived the blast but just barely, the limbs on one side gone, the roots on the same side pulled from the ground.

I remember getting up and shaking the soot from my hair. My first thought was to find my husband. I'm not sure how long I searched. I screamed for him over and over again. I realized at some point that my cheeks were wet; I had been crying. My throat was sore from screaming. I found my dog or what was left of him in a tree; the only way to tell it was him was his tags attached to his collar. They had been just a joke really, being bright red with violet zebra patterns.

I continued my search for my husband, I came across a man that been impaled by a bit of wood about the size of a 2' by 4"; it had pinned him by the chest to one of the few remaining, still standing, trees. His screams still haunt my dreams.

I wasn't the only person left. There were others but it seemed everyone one was in some form of panic or shock. They were no help, not that I was asking. After a time, it was like my mind jump started itself back to life. Before the blast, back in my old home, my mother and I used to go out of our way to find old abandoned buildings and scavenge random things we could either find a use for or sell. In video games I had also always been a scavenger. Even at that time, nothing had changed.

I went back to the pile of rubble that once been my home and searched till I found one of my larger backpacks then proceeded to search for anything of potential use in my own and several other used to be houses. I remember coming across bodies and not feeling a thing and then wondering, is that really such a bad thing?

Then I left. I left that area completely, though, what I was looking for I really didn't know. I think I was running on pure instinct at that point; just had to find somewhere safe. I learned early on to avoid other people. Desperate people only equal feral animals. People had always liked to pretend they were better than animals but, there was no pretending now; no, everyone knew that to survive meant doing things we never would have done before.

With nothing left for me I just travelled from place to place until I ended up here. Where here is exactly, I'm not sure. It's been a long time since I've seen a map with a "you are here" dot. I'm also not sure how long it's been since "the end of the world" as people have been calling it. I don't see the "end" part; as far as I can tell I'm still breathing, still starving, and still generally alive. I'm not sure how I survived being so close to the blast site. Not sure I'll ever figure it out or even if I really want to. The only way I know it's been at least a few years is that I've got more wrinkles than I remember having. I'm not real sure how old I am now though the occasional man not out to rape and pillage, will tell me I'm still attractive. Not sure I should believe them, though. I know the years have been hard on my body. Scars litter every inch of my skin but I don't care. I think of them as trophies for all the battles I've won or lost and learned from. Though, if I had to guess I would say I'm probably in my early to mid-thirty's or maybe even in my forty's as I was in my late twenties when the bombs went off.

Doesn't really matter how old I am though. I'm not sure how I survived this long. Gods knows I shouldn't have; I think it was pure dumb luck. I miss my husband, and my dog, and all my friends and family. I can't remember the last time I could call someone a friend and mean it. It's been so long since anyone one could trust anyone else; everyone's in it for the one and only. Even in a large group it's every man for himself. I tried that scene once, got tired of always having to watch my back and sleeping with one eye open and a weapon at the ready. It was like that on my own too but, at least out on my own there was less chance of getting stabbed in the back by the guy who was supposed to be watching it.

I think of that first day, the day of the blast, as the day we all died 'cause god knows there is nothing left of the people who once lived. Their bodies and faces may look similar but, their minds can only hold the memories of what they use to be. I'm not sure what happened to the governments or the armies; all I know is I've never seen any official looking person since the blast. Not sure they could do anything with this world of chaos anyway; especially, since they couldn't get it right even when there was at least the illusion of order. No way can they do anything now.

The reason I've written this is more out of boredom. There comes a time when one realizes that their life is coming to an end. I'm tired; I'm tired of it all; all the running, the fighting, the killing. Preying on those weaker than myself; that list seems to be getting shorter. I'm finished even if I have to end my sordid existence myself. I didn't write this so others could learn from my mistakes or anything as selfless as that. I wrote this as a simple, "Hey, yeah, I existed!" sort of thing.

I lost what was once me after that blast and sometimes I miss that me. Sometimes you have to kill yourself to survive or just kill yourself and rid the rest of us of your living existence so we can eat you and take your belongings.

Entry # 15


"The Swamp Vine"
by Matthew C. Nelson

And so the legend goes....

A long time ago, before the land across Europe was greeted by Ponce De'Leon and his crew, smaller shadow-filled swamps surrounded the much larger Okefenokee. In one hidden swamp, a small village lay nestled within a circle of cypress trees, one which the local people called Turtle's Shadow. Along the edges of the village, a little girl by the name of Swamp Flower, used to play for hours. One day, her grandmother, Sand Crane, approached and sat beside Swamp Flower.

"Swamp Flower", Sand Crane looked to her grand daughter as she spoke, "I know you are growing faster then the vegetables in the garden, and faster then the swamp deer along the edges of our village, but I hope I need not remind you to stay away from Grandmother Cypress."

Swamp Flower looked at Sand Crane directly in the eye and replied, "The large tree that sits with its roots deep within the earth over there?" She pointed to what was perhaps the largest cypress tree in the area, it's roots so massive that they began to erupt out of the ground and back in, forming loops all along the ground.

Sand Crane nodded without looking to where Swamp Flower pointed, for she knew better then most of its direction. "Child, only those who are ready to take the first steps towards womanhood are allowed to approach, and you still have several more seasons to go. Though you might think you are ready, trust me when I say that you are not. My sister...your great aunt, Water Weed, thought she was ready and approached well before her time, and vanished without a trace. We have no wish for that to happen to you as well.

Now, "Sand Crane slowly attempted to rise, "help your dear, old grandmother up, would you?" Swamp Flower placed her hands beneath her grandmother's arms and slowly lifted her up to her feet. Turning to head back towards the center of the village, Sand Crane looked back at her granddaughter one last time. Removing a freshly picked flower from her pouch, she gently placed it within Swamp Flower's hair.

Swamp Flower silently watched in amazement as her grandmother headed back towards the village. How did she always have the knack for reading her mind? Why, also, was it possible for her grandmother to say something that always made her frustrated? She slowly began to count off her fingers until all of them were stretched outward. That, plus a few fingers, were how many seasons she had already seen pass by. How was it, then, that she was not ready? She had heard rumors of women as young as two hand's worth of fingers, and almost one other complete set, had gone before Grandmother Cypress, and successfully completed their steps towards being a woman. Surely, one or two years shy of that was good enough...right?

Swamp Flower looked at the grand tree, and slowly found her feet walking towards it, all the while thinking about her grandmother's sister, Water Weed. Maybe she was just not ready. Maybe she had performed the ceremony wrong. Yes! That had to be it! Smiling, her feet began moving faster towards the tree, her gait increased to match her steps. Within minutes, she stood directly beneath the branches of the massive tree... and stopped.

Slowly getting down onto her knees, she looked up above into the hidden branches and tried to follow with her eyes all the patterns of the vines that wove into and out of them...that is, until one of them moved.

Swamp Flower blinked several times and directly stared at the odd-shaped vine. It was no false sight, or trick of the eye; the vine really moved. Then, having unfurled itself a bit from the branches, a set of reptilian eyes opened and gazed at her. Beneath the pair of eyes, the vine gave way and appeared to crack in half, only to reveal a matching pair of glistening white teeth shaped in the way of a half-smile.

Opening wider, the mouth yawned a few times before speaking. "I know your name, child...just as I knew your kin before you...Water Weed. Are you prepared for the ceremony, or will you succumb to the same fate that Water Weed did? Hmm?"

Swallowing once before speaking, Swamp Flower whispered, "I am...ready."

A chuckle erupted from the alligator's mouth before speaking, "We shall see...we shall see." The "vine" slithered down and appeared along side Swamp Flower. "Before going before the great spirit, Grandmother Cypress, you must give up something of great value...a sacrifice. What will your sacrifice be, child?"

In that moment, Swamp Flower understood why her grandmother had given her that flower. Try as she might to persuade her granddaughter to not go before Grandmother Cypress too early, Sand Crane realized that Swamp Flower had already made her mind up. So, Sand Crane gave her the gift of a swamp flower, in hopes of ensuring her granddaughter's success.

Picking the swamp flower gently from her hair, she set it down before the "vine". "I give you this token of my faith, as well as my belief, that I am ready."

The "vine" looked to child's sacrifice and nodded before leveling its eyes back at Swamp Flower. "You offer a token of love and family. It is accepted, child. Let me lead the way."

Turning back towards Grandmother Cypress, the alligator guided Swamp Flower towards a small opening within the tree and entered it...and vanished.


Resting now back at her hut, Sand Crane sat brewing some tea near the fire, when a lone, damp cypress leaf came fluttering in through the window, and gently stuck to the side of her face. Reaching up to grab it, Sand Crane gently smiled at it as a long tear rolled down her cheek.

"Good luck Swamp Flower...good luck."