Occasionally, I do stuff for Halloween. I might do a picture, or write a story, or both. Once again, this year it’s both. But, like last year, I’m not doing a photo. Rather, again I used a free action from PanosFX. Everything in that picture was positioned and scaled by me. He does good work, he does.
Click on it for a larger version.
Also, I realize that I’m running late. In parts of the country, Halloween is already over. Mea culpa as I had other things to do and didn’t start writing until four o’clock my time. That means three hours for doing the above picture, eating dinner, and writing the story below.
Since this is a themed story, I did not put it in a password protected post, meaning I will not try and sell this anywhere. Yup, an exclusive just for this blog and my readers.
The story itself took a few hours to write and another half hour to edit so be kind in your castigations should it not meet with your standards for fiction.
The story is set in the same world setting as last year’s offering (HERE) and was, in fact, inspired by one of the comments. It’s not necessary to read last’s year’s offering, but it won’t hurt, either.
I hope it’s not too screwed up, and please remember this is outside the genre I normally write.
Bones: The Beginning
© 2017 – E. J. D’Alise (1,760 words)
Flying high, he registered the lights of human spirits come into being, flare briefly, and extinguish upon their passing into the After Realm.
He saw other lights, not as bright as those of humans. Animal spirits, plant spirits, and smaller yet, living things almost too small to see but whose presence suffused into a near constant glow enveloping this world. It was but one of many in an infinite number of worlds in an infinite number of universes, but he often found himself back here, flying over this world, appearing as a large raven to any who might look up and take note of his passing. Not that they could notice him; he flew faster than the speed of time and along paths that crossed universes and realms.
He thought back to a time when he’d interact with living beings, sometimes protecting them, other times guiding them. A time when he was still a part of the Third Sphere of Angels. He went by the name Caim, and it was his interaction with living beings that precipitated his fall from grace. He cast those thoughts aside as a particularly bright light caught his attention.
He’d seen other bright lights before, flashing as bright as some stars in fields of lesser stars, but this one caught his interest because it went out and then came back on again. He slowed his passage through time and descended to investigate.
~ ~ 0 0 ~ ~
Ledora ran as fast as she could fearing it was already too late. She should heed her grandmother’s warning and leave this place, but she couldn’t, not after all her grandmother had done for her. As she neared the town, she smelled the smoke. Smoke and another stench that she knew for what it was; burning flesh.
Her eyes welling up with tears, she strained to keep up her pace, holding her long skirt up lest it slowed her down or even tripped her. The full moon lit her path for it was always at the full moon these burnings were held. She neared the edge of town and heard the chanting of the priests and the jeers of the crowd that grew in volume until culminating when she reached the center square. Out of breath, her sides hurting, she stopped and doubled over as she threw up. She didn’t even notice she’d lost one of her shoes and her foot was scraped and bleeding. Dropping to her hands and knees, she looked up at the figure outlined by the rising flames. She hoped her grandmother had died quickly, but knew from other burnings that it was not likely the case. Unsure if it was a trick of the flames or if real, the figure seemed to move her head and look at her, but right then the flames reached a peak that obscured the person at the center of them.
That’s when the crowd noticed Ledora. They had sought her when they had come for her grandmother, but she had hidden in the forest, where she had always felt at home and safe.
Ledora noticed the people running toward her but was too weak to run; too weak and too sad to do anything but lay down and await her fate.
~ ~ 0 0 ~ ~
Perched on a roof, Caim watched the scene unfold. He’d been fooled; it wasn’t that the one light went out and came on again. It was that the girl had come to this place just as the person on the pyre had passed.
“I know you,” a voice said.
Caim had seen the spirit, knew it was fresh with the memory of life and hence still capable of focused thoughts. Soon enough, the lack of a body would render the spirit into no more than unfocused memories wandering the After Realm. For a time after his fall, Caim had guarded the Realm of the Damned, back before the barriers had failed. This spirit one was not one of the damned. This spirit would wander peacefully in the vastness of space and time, mostly unaware of anything unless called upon by someone who both remembered them and who could form a bridge between the realms. Someone like the person this spirit had been; someone like the girl in the yard.
“You are at rest now; you should go,” Caim answered.
“I can’t, for I am not at rest,” the spirit answered. “I fear for my granddaughter; I fear for her life.”
“You shouldn’t fear so. She is pure of mind, much like you were, and she will join you soon enough,” Cain replied. It was a bit of a white lie for once in the After Realm, identities faded, and spirits did not seek each other out.
“But she should not suffer so,” the spirit pleaded, “and her life is but a small portion of what it should be; she’s not had the opportunity to learn what the world has to offer.”
“This world, this time, has much suffering. She’s just one of many who will suffer this and more as humans learn and grow,” Cain answered, giving the spirit much more information that it could process in its limited state.
“Her name is Ledora,” the spirit said, “I made the name up myself when her mother died in childbirth, her father already long gone.”
Caim didn’t answer. In a short while, the spirit would fade and eventually drift away.
“And she isn’t one of many; she has more connection to the past and more understanding of things than I ever had. She is special.”
Again, Caim didn’t answer, but he did look at the girl who was now being manhandled and pulled along to stand in front of the three priests. She did have a brighter spirit than most. In time pasts, the High Realm might have singled her out for a special purpose, but now it took no notice of this place and the suffering therein. Unjustly damned, humans had been, and Caim and a few others had voiced their displeasure of the blanket condemnation and especially of the singling out of the one gender; a singling out that would have women suffer for millennia.
“You must do something,” the spirit continued.
Cain looked back at the spirit. Instead of fading, she had coalesced into a more defined human form, the kind that would linger and might end up haunting this place for eternity. He’d seen those spirits as well, tormented and often angry even though they soon forgot the reason for their anger. Nevertheless, they would haunt the living while seeking resolution for wrongs they no longer remembered. This spirt, this woman, didn’t deserve such fate.
“What would you have me do?” Caim asked.
“Guide her. Protect her.” As it spoke, the spirit solidified in the form of the now dead grandmother, and Caim could see her restlessness mounting with the progression of events in the square.
“I am outside of time and place. I don’t belong here,” Caim answered
“You care for living things,” the spirit answered, “I can feel it in you. You care for this world.”
“You would have me limit myself to the care of one life?” Caim asked.
“Her life, and lives to come. Lives that may guide others, ease suffering, give counsel to many. Lives that might make a difference to the whole.”
“You do not know what you are asking,” Caim replied.
“I know you long for a purpose,” the spirit of the grandmother answered, “and while not grand, this is a worthy purpose.”
~ ~ 0 0 ~ ~
“You collude with dark forces,” the priest said. He was the oldest; the other two priests nodded as they crossed themselves.
Ledora remained silent. These people didn’t want to hear anything other than confirmation of their fears. As she looked at the faces lit by the still burning pyre, she recognized people who had come to her and her grandmother with tears in their eyes and asked to speak to their loved ones who had passed. Ledora didn’t regret helping them even as she avoided looking at the charred remains of what had once been her kind and vivacious grandmother.
She looked instead to the side, and for a moment, she thought she could see her grandmother, there, near one of the houses, but then she blinked, and all she saw was a crow taking flight.
The slap rocked her head to the side and for a moment, disoriented her. She heard the priest’s voice and struggled to focus on it.
“. . . hear me? Confess to the sins of witchcraft, to cavorting with the Devil, to cursing the good people of this town!”
Again, she held her peace, calming herself as she resigned to her fate. No amount of talking would spare her, no amount of pleading would sway this mob’s desire for blood.
“If you confess, we’ll end your life quickly and painlessly after we bless you and pray for God to have mercy on your soul.”
Ledora had spoken to her ancestors and knew that to be a lie. She again held her tongue.
“Strip her of her clothes and take her to the church,” the priest told the crowd.
Ledora didn’t miss the broad grins on the faces of the younger priest and on the faces of many in the crowd. She had heard stories, and panic rose and was on the verge of overcoming her. She fought it; she fought the panic and focused instead on the thought of her grandmother waiting for her. She looked to the side, hoping to catch another glimpse of her, but there was nothing there but an empty roof.
As they dragged her toward the church, rough hands began to tear at her clothes. She closed her eyes, and just as she did so, she heard a flutter of wings and gasps and exclamations of surprise from the crowd around her. The hands that had been holding her dropped her, and she struggled for a moment before lifting herself so she could see.
A man stood in front of her. A man dressed in black and holding a silver sword in one hand, and the elder priest’s head in the other. The people were backing away, and some were already running toward their homes. Within a few moments, there was only her, the body of the dead priest, and the man. No . . . Ledora could also feel the spirit of her grandmother, at peace at last.
Again, I clarify that I hold no belief in anything beyond our own reality, and certainly not in any afterlife, but that doesn’t mean I’m not well versed in the various beliefs, and I can certainly meld a number of them to come up with my own rendition. I hope you, dear readers, had a great Halloween and enjoyed reading this story.
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