Monthly Archives: February 2016

I am a Woman, what does that mean? flash fiction

(Damn those misplaced modifiers – corrections made)

I am a Woman, what does that mean?
[flash fiction from ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

A shrivelled maple leaf and squashed Tim Horton’s coffee cup blew simultaneously across the sidewalk as a gust of wind presaged another downpour from driven black clouds pressing down on the city’s highrises.

 The bus stop was crowded; the 8:15 Downtown unusually late.

 She waited until they were all staring and said to no one in particular, “Oh, darn, I’ve got a run in my pantyhose!”

 She stood up, turned slowly to face the spot on the plastic bench she’d just vacated and lifted her leg to put her black knee-high boot on the bench. She looked down at her leg, running her hand under her thigh. Her skirt, which couldn’t afford any more hemming rose a few more tantalizing inches.  Looks intensified; you could have cut the anticipation with a butter knife.

 “Oh, I forgot, I’m not wearing any!” Deliberately, slowly, she lifted her leg a bit higher to slide her boot off the bench and pulling down desultorily on the black mini skirt, resumed waiting, standing, smiling at the street. 

 An older woman in a heavy grey coat and holding a folded umbrella scowled at the girl and said in a low voice, “That was uncalled for.”

 The girl looked at the woman, smiled openly, sweetly and replied so all could hear, “Actually it was begged for.”

He said his Name was Jack – a short story

So, I spent the day pondering life once more.  I don’t know how far I got on that particular road today, but at the end it seems fitting to post this little story. 

                                             He said his Name was Jack
                                               [a short story by   ~ Sha’Tara ~   ]

It was a hot and dry day up near the end of the canyon when my old half-ton blew the rear driver side tire. Fortunately I was taking it easy on the old thing as the going had been mostly uphill, something the old crankcase didn’t like much, so after a bit of swerving to gain control in the hard packed wash-board gravelly surface, I was able to pull up beside the road, on a dry patch of sandy dried mud.

I got out to assess my situation. I had no food and no drinking water Hadn’t thought of that since I was only going a couple of hundred miles.  An inaccessible half mile below me the river glistened mockingly in the noon day sun.  All around was dead silence except for a few crickets telling each other to shut up, and heat waves made everything shimmer.  The scent of scrub pine and sage brush filled the air and under almost any other condition that would have been enough to give me complete pleasure.   At that moment though, and perhaps understandingly, I failed to appreciate nature’s simple offering.

 There wasn’t much traffic in those days, as the conditions of the highway were still quite primitive so I wasn’t expecting help anytime soon. I went to the back and looked with some apprehension at the dried cake of mud that hid the spare hanging under the box.  I found a rusty tire iron behind the torn seat, some cracked gloves and a short carpenter’s pry bar and went to work loosening and dropping the spare.

 After some time it came loose and I was able to slide the lifter chain off and drag the spare out. Sure enough, it was as flat as flat can be.  Who thinks of making sure spares are kept up?  Wouldn’t have mattered anyway, I couldn’t find any sort of jack and looking up or down the surrounding countryside quickly told me that I wouldn’t find anything resembling a suitable lever to lift the truck.  Plenty of large rocks to use as fulcrums and supports, but nothing resembling a useful pole.

Well, what to do? I scanned both sides of the road for any sort of habitation and didn’t see anything.  Only one thing left to do: start walking.  I knew there was nothing behind me, so I decided it was best to head north, into the unknown.  At least this way there would exist the possibility of some sort of home or homestead or a highway maintenance yard showing up.

 Being eighteen at the time and having been raised on a homestead, my survivor mentality was pretty well honed and possessed of a bit of matching philosophy. The one thing I was sure of, I would never give in to the problem.  I knew by reasoning based on certain experiences, that life entails problems, that problems require solutions and that these solutions are always available, one way or the other, though none of that alters reality.  Going with the flow is not always the easiest path but it usually is the wisest.

As I trudged along I became very thirsty. The river surface down below continued to mock my thirst so I looked for berries but the only thing I saw were bunches of dangling blue elderberries.  Bird feed at best and not ripe in any case.  Too early in the season for anything else.  As I walked on uphill, each curve showing more endless climb, my feet began to throb in the heavy work boots so I stopped by a rounded rock to sit and loosen the laces.  A dull ache in my head made me want to stretch out by the side of the road and sleep, which is exactly what I did.  I didn’t feel like walking any longer.

 That I lay in dusty sand would not matter much to my dirty white tee shirt or my tattered greasy blue jeans nor to my over-length hair which was several days in need of a serious wash and many weeks in need of cutting. At least there were no flies and sleep came easy despite the choking heat.

That’s when I had the dream that would puzzle, haunt, thrill and bother me for the rest of my life. How could a dream manifest in reality?  How could events in a dream become events in real life which changed not only my mind, but my physical reality as well?  These were, and remain, unanswerable questions, of course.   So let me recap the events instead of getting into the mind-twisting impossibilities remembering always brings up.

I had just fallen asleep (at least it seemed so) when someone called my name and said, Hey Levi, get up. It’s time to go. The name Levi was given to me as a joke after I was stupid enough the mention that I’d wanted to be a priest in my Catholic school days, and there happened to be a defrocked Bible thumper in our logging crew who yelled, “Levi!” My real name is Logan Learned which was also quite entertaining in my school years: “Hey, what have you Learned today?” Laughter.  But now, Levi?  I had to ask why.  Matt, the ex-Bible guy said, “Don’t you know about Levi in the Old testament?  The priesthood of the Levites?

“Afraid not, never read the Old Testament. Only know the Catholic catechism and some bits and pieces of the gospels.”

 Instead of commenting further, he just laughed and the rest joined in, including me. Nothing wrong with Levi, so I became Levi the Levite to my logging crew.  So now I was, in a sense, a priest.  I’m sure my Catholic confessors would not have taken it so lightly, but that didn’t matter to me; I hadn’t been to church in several years and had no intention of ever returning.  Bad memories best left behind, along with my upbringing.  The more baggage you drag along with you, the more your life is stifled and I had too much to live for to let that happen.

I opened my eyes and I wasn’t dreaming. An obviously native man, dressed in a western shirt, clean faded jeans and cowboy boots, was standing over me, offering me his hand.  I took it and he held me firmly as I stood up.  He handed me a bottle of cold water which I gladly took.  Half was gone before I felt sated and thought that maybe that was all the water he had.  He smiled, the skin around his eyes crinkling.

 He must have sensed my concern for his precious water and replied as if I’d asked:

“Lots of water here Levi. Lots.  Don’t you worry about that.”

 “You know my nickname, how come?”

 “It’s the name you go by now, isn’t it?”


 “Okay then. Mine is Jack.”

 “Okay, fine. Thanks for the water, Jack.  I was parched.”

 “Yeah, I know. Maybe we should walk back to your truck now, or would you like some food first?”

 Out of a growing sense of curiosity I looked around. Except for “Jack” nothing had changed.  The sun hadn’t even moved; the heat was just as intense and I saw no food, nor did “Jack” carry any kind of pack.  He wasn’t even holding the water bottle anymore.

“I could use some food, Jack, if you have something without meat or fish, I’m vegetarian and I get sick on meat or fish.”

 From what appeared to be nowhere (sorry about the oxymoron!) he produced a fresh sandwich, loaded with vegetables and cheese. I took it with expressed gratitude and ate it in four bites.  It tasted like “more” and sure enough, Jack produced another one, just as delicious.

“Ok, I’m really curious now Jack. Where did this food come from?”

 “You people always ask these same small questions. Where do you think it comes from?”

 “I have no idea, that’s why I asked.”

 “Ever heard of the continuum, Levi?”

 “The what?”

 “The continuum. You know, what your religions call eternity?  What some people call heaven?  What science calls the abstract concept of infinity with that lazy eight symbol (8)?  If you’ve read the Bible you would know that the Hebrew God fed them what is called “manna from heaven” while they lived in the desert.  Connect with your nickname and look into your memories, Levi, third son of Jacob, founder of the Levite tribe.  Can you see anything there?”

“Afraid I can’t, Jack. Are you telling me that you pulled that water and food out of nothing, like God dropping food from heaven on the Hebrews?”

 “Actually at that point in history we should refer to them as Israelites rather than Hebrews. But yes, why not?  But not out of nothing as you think.  Out of another reality.  We’re always part of the continuum and it’s what feeds the material order.  Without this bleed through of energy, these worlds, your reality, could not exist.  All it takes is for an intelligent mind to image or invent material/physical reality from an endless supply of free energy we call the continuum.  It’s really very simple if you think about it.”

 “Well Jack, I am thinking about it and the more I think about it, the less sense it makes to me. This is too much like fantasy; science fiction, a fairy tale.  If it was that easy everybody would be doing it; everybody would have her or his way and you know what?  It would spell utter chaos, that’s what.”

“They realized this long ago when intelligent beings discovered the ability of manifestation; when the material order came into being and problems simultaneously appeared, as you were so quick to perceive. So “they” – the ones who discovered this ability decided to put a block on manifestation.  Only one would be allowed to manifest reality, that was their solution.  Basically “They” created the concept of “God”and through the eons the concept remained.  “God” gets to decide what is, what isn’t; when it begins; when it ends and all the reasons for it are also God’s reasons, no one else’s.  At least that’s the theory.”

 “Is God accountable to no one then?”

 “Oh yes, God is accountable, but only to his peers; to the “They” who started it all. And also, God isn’t always the same person on the divine throne.  They hold periodic elections and take turns running things.  Hence why you discover “jumps” and “bumps” – sudden bursts – or what your scientist love to call “big bangs” in the process of creation or material expansion and destruction.”

“This is very interesting Jack, but how do you know all of this for a fact? Didn’t you just say it was a theory?”

 “We go by what works, see? You and I, we’re the same with one specific difference: I’m from the other side of the continuum, you’re on this side.  I was on this side long ago, but I, shall we say, translated to the other side gradually, over many incarnations.  It began with a glimpse of the continuum, what you might call a near death experience.  Only it wasn’t near but fatal and total.  That was my first awareness of how much freedom there is in living without a body.  After being given a chance to look around, someone simply sent me back.  I had fallen and broken my neck.  They fixed me up, good as new and I was left with a permanent question mark that became a single-minded focused quest.  I would find this place I’d glimpsed and live there.”

“Then there should be literally billions of people like you out here now!”

 “Not really. You have to understand how the thing works if you want to, say, commute from the outside to the inside.  From the wholly non-material to the material.  After my return I began to earnestly study shamanism, witchcraft, the concepts hinted at by every established religion on this world.  I contemplated anything to do with the so-called after-life.  I discovered that only those who were able to pass through with their material bodies were said to be empowered to return and manifest back in the physical.  So I cheated: I found the trick that allowed me to slip out of this realm into the other with my material body.  Oh, it was immediately changed, transformed if you will, but it wasn’t killed.  There’s no termination over there, see?  Once you’re in, you’re in.  Then it’s up to you to make it work.  Luckily for me, bodies don’t need to be fed or even exercised over there.  They are what you make them to be and they remain that way until you change them.  You couldn’t begin imagine the different “things” I’ve been since I translated.”

 “Time out, Jack, hey? I can’t absorb all this stuff.  Besides, I’m still not convinced you are what you claim to be.  You could be an illusionist; some sort of con artist and my question remains: how do you know about this theory of yours regarding God?”

“Of course, I could be an impostor. Not impossible but I never asked you to trust me, did I?  But think on this, see if it rings a bell or two:  “You were thirsty and I gave you water to drink; you were hungry and I fed you.”

 “You’re quoting the gospels. You sure don’t look like him!”

 “Like whom, Levi Logan Learned?”

“You know who I mean, and I am really confused now.”

 “Excellent. It’s good to be confused on materiality.  Confusion and doubt prevent dogmatism which is astigmatism of the soul, a blurring which prevents clear understanding and appreciation of what actually is.”

“Ok, so there is a God? Or is that only your theory about the “Ruler” of materiality?  Answer me that!”

 “I can’t answer the God question simply because no matter how it is answered it will satisfy no one. Your people are too dogmatic to allow free information to flow through their minds unimpeded by belief systems, you see.  Even you, not knowing whether to believe or not to believe; not knowing if you’re an atheist, a theist, deist or anti-theist, won’t let the God question flow unchallenged.  For you it’s just too big a question fraught with too much emotion to be allowed its freedom to answer itself.

Now listen to this. “There is a God” is the truism that proves there is no such a being as God.  God, as religion preaches and teaches, is categorically impossible.  But according to all I have seen, studied, contemplated and worked with, there is a  “Ruler” that guides material reality, not always for the best.  It’s not God, of course, but it acts as if it were, and appears as God to less-understanding entities.  It is “all powerful” in that it can prevent almost anyone, certainly anyone without the necessary qualifications, from participating in manifestation.  Already explained why that must be.

Unfortunately, power begets power and as intelligence expanded in the “created” (manifested) realms, some of these individual intelligences sought power. Since you can only express power by dictating to others, usually of lesser minds, these intelligences became totalitarian in nature and “evil” was born in, and bred from them, oozing right down to your own tin-pot rulers and dictators, right down to your school yard bully.  Down to your racist, your misogynist, your bigot.  Down to your greedy, planet-eating sociopathic corporate management.  Do you get the picture, Levi?”

 “Huh, yes, I’m sure that I get it. It’s not a subtle point you are making.  But now, where does that leave me?”

“Exactly where you are, or as you were if you choose to ignore this unexpected interference in your rather uneventful System-controlled life. But don’t you have a truck to drive up the road another hundred miles or so?”

 Out of habit I struck my forehead with my right hand. “Ah yes, the truck.  Well, it’s down the road about a half-hour’s walk.  Or maybe you can transport us there and fix it for me?”

 “Would you like me to do that?”

(No shit, I felt like saying. Instead I replied,) “Sure, why not?”

 And I thought to myself, well, that ought to be a good one. What happens next?

 That’s when I woke up. I mean I really woke up.  I could feel the heat, the stink of my sweat, feel the swelling of my feet in my boots.  Overhead the sun was still blazing at its zenith as if no time had passed.  I did notice a couple of things that were different.  I wasn’t thirsty nor hungry and I felt, well, completely blissful.  And then I noticed that my truck was parked just below me, without a flat, apparently ready to go on.  I shook my head and let the dizziness pass before I stood up and took another good look around.  No Jack.  Just the same empty countryside, and the river surface reflecting silver from the bottom of a very deep, dark canyon.  Silent as the grave.

Being a “child of the land” as they say, I looked around carefully for tracks in the sandy soil. Tthere were only mine which indicated the point where I sat down, then laid down.  Nothing had changed and everything had.  And the only witness I had that “Jack” had been there was my old pickup with four healthy tires and except for the cracking of cooling dissimilar metals rubbing angrily against each other under the hood, it wasn’t saying a word either.



Nancy, Part 2 – a short story


Well, I didn’t want to leave you all in such dramatic suspense, so for the time being, I concluded this episode in the life of Nancy the Criminologist.  Enjoy.

Nancy   (Part 2) a short story, by Sha’Tara

Ian seldom questioned his sister. He’d always admired her and there was a special bond between them.  He got up, dressed as fast as he could, “borrowed” the family car which he was entitled to, and drove to the indicated intersection.  When he arrived, Nancy signalled him from a doorway and he pulled the car up.  “What’s up, sis?”

“Got the bastard that did Jenny. He’s inside here.  I told you he was a copper.  Got his ID.  Help me put him in the back seat.”

Together they dragged and carried the still unconscious would-be assailant to the car and shoved him in the back seat.

“What do we do now, sis?”

“We don’t do anything. You walk on home Ian, let me deal with this my own way.”

“You know I never question your motives, Nan, but have you thought this through?”

“No, yes, I’m not sure, that’s the whole point.  I need to be alone with the creep to get my head on straight.  I can’t have anyone else around to screw with my reasoning, OK?  I promise you this, that the car will be back at the house before 6:00 AM.”

“It’s not the car, Nan…”

“Aw, fuck! Go home, Ian.” 

He walked away, dejected that she didn’t trust him to stand by her. What he didn’t understand was that she did trust him, too much.  He was too loyal and that was dangerous.  What she had to do, she had to do entirely on her own.  The consequences would be hers alone. 

She started the car and headed down Heather street. Ian had stopped to watch her go.  He saw her turn and knew she was headed for Belsing’s woods and the swamp below the old quarry.  Fearing he worst, he decided to follow her.  It would be a fair run but Ian, like his sister, was very much an athlete and had run a few marathons.  Six kilometres didn’t mean anything to him.  He began running.  And enjoying it.

As she drove up to the woods, Nancy was thinking about the situation. She knew she had her sister’s rapist in her power.  She knew she could do anything she wanted with him; to him.  The problem was, there were so many ways to deal with the situation.  She wanted to kill him.  She thought about that, then filed the idea for the time being.  She wanted to castrate him.  She thought about that too, and liked it very much.  A woman gets her vengeance where there is no justice.  She looked back at the inert form in the back and heard the man groan, then whimper.

“You nice and comfy back there?” Needling him with sarcasm. “Don’t worry, I’ll be letting you out soon.  We’re almost there.”  She adjusted the rear-view mirror to look at him.  His eyes were open now and he stared back at her without saying a word.  His nose was still bleeding and he was a mess.  “Good!” she thought.  And loudly, “Payback time, Rayburn.”  She’d gotten his last name from his ID.  “I’m going to help you remember the good times you had with my sister.”

“Aw, shit, fuck…” she heard him say, and smiled. “Right you are, Rayburn, you have no idea how right you are.”

The car bounced over the old roadway and she pulled up at the end, near a twisted rusty metal gate that indicated the entrance to “the swamp” as the locals called it; a stinking mess of polluted waters from illegal dumping of herbicides and pesticides, and whatever offal the refuse disposal wouldn’t accept. She opened the door and smelled it.  Perfect, she thought, and took a deep breath. 

It was high enough here that there was no fog. A half moon threw a pale light on the dismal surroundings.  A night bird called, probably an owl.  Omen of death.  She liked it.  She opened the back door and using the switch blade she’d taken from her assailant, cut his ankle restraints.  “Get out of the car.” She ordered, “and don’t force me to help you do it.” 

With his wrists securely trussed up his back there was nothing “Rayburn” could do but obey. He wriggled himself out of the car and slowly stood, reaching a half head taller than the girl.

“This is a great place for our little tête-à-tête don’t you think, Rayburn? It’s private here, so quiet too.  This is where you intended to bring me, isn’t it?  Well, you did, but unfortunately for you, it won’t be quite as much fun as you’d anticipated.  Say something!” She poked him in the stomach with her forefinger.  “I want to hear you brag now…”  She kept goading him.

“God I’m hurting. My wrist, my hands, something’s broken.  My dose is broken too.  I need a doctor…”

“Of course you do, Rayburn. Just like my sister needed a doctor after you were done with her.” 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know you, or your sister.  You’ve got the wrong guy, whatever you’re talking about.  I was investigating a burglary…”

“Oh please, give me a little bit of credit will you? Pitiful denials only make me more angry and what you have to remember right now is, you don’t want to make me any angrier.  I’m on the edge here, Rayburn, and this is looking more and more like your last night on this world.  So, how about a simple confession?  While you’re at it, how about implicating some of your buddies who covered your crimes – and it is crimes – Rayburn?  You raped and beat my sister unconscious four months ago in this place.  Tell the truth, Rayburn.  I’m the avenging angel here and from my point of view, things are going south for you unless you learn to tell the truth, quickly.”

Pivoting suddenly, Nancy flicked open the switchblade in the copper’s face, indicating more pain to come. “I need to hear the truth, Rayburn.  You know the line: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God?”  You were never charged for raping and torturing my sister, so you never had to perjure yourself on the stand.  However, if you perjure yourself here, you will not live past this night.  I’ll give you exactly five minutes to think about that.  Would you like to know how you will be dispatched?” 

She slipped the knife to his groin and slit his pants open. “I’m going to administer a cure for rape, Rayburn.  Just so you know.  It won’t save your life, but it will give you a taste of what it would be like to go through the rest of your life without any balls.  Like that?”  He yelped as she pulled out his genitalia, pulling the tip of the blade through his pubic hair. 

““Never again, never, ever, again…” she said sotto voce. “Let’s see how many brain cells you have working in your favour tonight.  You didn’t leave them all at the pub did you?  Move over to that rock over there and sit against it – now!” 

He did as he was told, his brain twisting with thoughts on how to extricate himself from a situation he’d never been in. He’d always been the predator, never the prey.  He sat down against the stone.  Helpless.  He’d never thought he’d ever be in this situation.

“Did you notice how much like a tombstone this rock looks? It’s perfect for our encounter, don’t you think?  Now I’m going to cuff your ankles again, so you don’t get the wrong ideas.  Men like you always get the wrong ideas and that would mean a sudden termination.  I’m in no hurry, why should you be?”  She strapped his ankles together once more then moved the knife to his penis and pricked it.  He gasped and let out a loud… “Nooo!”  She laughed in his face. 

“OK, thinking time is over. It’s now confession time.  I’m hoping I’ve convinced you that I mean business.  I’m as focussed on this as you were on raping my sister, then me.  Let’s call it an exchange of determination:  you can relate?”

She walked to the car and pulled out her handbag. Attending lectures meant having a recorder.  She turned it on and slipped it into her coat pocket then returned to the sitting man now in serious agony from his swollen, broken wrist and nose, plus in mortal fear for his life.  It finally dawned on him that this was for real: he was literally staring death in the face.  This was the avenger he’d dreamed about from time to time after his depradations. Twice he’d been caught, twice saved by his fellows destroying evidence and twice posted to a different place.  This time, it wasn’t happening.  This wasn’t going to be about evidence because there was no more need for evidence. 

“Ok, Rayburn, I’m going to ask some straight-forward questions and you’re going to answer each one. Each time you lie, I’m going to do something to you that won’t be pleasant.  Those are the rules, and it’s now my game.  Let’s begin.

“Did you rape and beat unconscious, one Jenny Lowry in the night of August 17th of this year?”


“Did you also rape and beat to death a young school girl in Kane county and consequently were transferred after you friends destroyed evidence that would have closed the case against you?”

“How did you…”

“Shut up, unless you’re answering my question.” The knife flashed in the moonlight and he cringed.

“Yes, I did.”

“And two years before, did you also rape and almost killed a store clerk, one Lucy Miller, and were once more saved from prosecution by the police destroying evidence against you, and were you not then transferred as a result?”

Nancy once again flashed the deadly switchblade in the moonlight. It gave an evil glow.  He looked at it and despite his agonizing discomfort, shivered as if death was literally creeping up his spine.

“Yes, that is also true.”

It was at that moment that Ian came on the scene, panting but intent on preventing his sister from murdering the rapist.

“Nan, don’t do it!”

“Jee-sus!  Ian for Chrissakes!” She straightened up.

 “D’you think I’m a total idiot?  Don’t you realize I set this up?  The police here aren’t all completely corrupt, you know.  Some of them wanted to catch Jenny’s rapist as much as I did.  You know sergeant Blakes?  I told him about my suspicions, that the rapist was a copper.  So he told me he’d keep an eye out; that he had his own suspicions as to who it could be.  I needed a confession, Ian.  I got what I wanted.  I’ve got a recording, and now you’re my witness.  We’re going to take this scum to police headquarters and we’re going to follow through until there isn’t a chance he’ll slip through the bars again.”

“Confession obtained under extreme duress, Nan. Won’t hold you know.”

“It’s not all, Ian. I’ve been investigating this for some time.  I have other witnesses who can identify this copper.  And there’s a particular lawyer who’s very keen on getting a conviction on this creep. 

 “Investigating? What do you mean?”

 “My degree, Ian? Criminology?  This is, shall we say, my practicum.”

 “What about his buddies, the ones who destroyed forensic evidence? You didn’t get a confession on that.”

 “Thanks to you for barging in, Ian, you idiot!” She turned to him and gave him a bear hug.  “Love you, love you, brother.  But don’t worry, those points are going to come out during questioning – at the station.  He’s the type that won’t go down alone if he can drag others with him.  There’s more to this case than rape and murder.  There’s drugs; there’s money laundering; there’s cover-up; there’s several corrupt hands washing each other.”

 “Nan, answer me this: if you’d become convinced there was no chance, no chance at all, that you and Jen would see justice done, what would you have done with him?”

 She pivoted, facing the swamp, and said slowly, clearly, “There’s always room for one more piece of offal in there.”



Nancy – a short story


I’m re-posting the short story, Nancy after making some pertinent changes.

Toiling at the keyboard deep into the wee hours, nursing a cold that kept me from the peaceful sleep of the blessed which I’m used to, this is what came out of my fingertips. It was “interesting” transporting myself to a land and place I have never seen, and coming across “tournures” of language that left me baffled.  How do you write English, British style when all you know is Canadian English?  The result is a bit of a mish-mash of culture, but I wanted the fog-filled streets of a mid-size coastal English town with a harbour, and I wanted London in the picture.  You see, this is meant to be an introduction to a longer story, perhaps a novel, though I find writing novels intimidating, particularly in the amount of research a good novel demands.  Well, without further ado, I’ll post this and if you feel like it, you can let me know if “Nancy” is believable.  If not, well, she can get married and have a nice uneventful life as a doctor’s receptionist.  Or a computer programmer.  Or a private investigator.

a short story, by Sha’Tara

Every sound was muted in the thick fog that rose from the strand in those late November nights when the sky was clear, the air crisp and cold. She didn’t mind the fog, in fact she’d been raised here and fog was a standard aspect of the city’s night life. She enjoyed the sense of mystery and romance the street light haloes cast over the streets. As usual when she walked home from work, she was alone on the street.  There was no traffic to speak of.  Sometimes not a single vehicle passed by during her walk.  She heard the growl of two cats having a serious discussion in a garden behind a low cement wall.  A dog gave a mournful howl into the night then all was silent but for the clicking of her shoes.

 “Night Nancy!” had called her mate when she’d left the pub. Nancy worked weekends at the Bosun’s Place to cover her college expenses and she liked the work. It was not a rowdy place as some closer to the harbour could be and she knew most of the regulars. 

On a usual Saturday there might be two or three strangers come and go, but it had been the usual crowd this Saturday except for a tall, too slim, dark-haired woman who had come in alone late in the evening, ordered a pint and sat quietly at a small round table, seldom looking about. She’d left about an hour before closing time, her face pinched, angry.

Nancy’s work shoes clicked rhythmically on the worn cobbles, the sound quickly lost in the thickening fog. She could hear the fog horn from the cape across the bay, and a ship’s horn as it entered the harbour.  She always knew if the ship was going out or coming in.  It seemed to her that being aware of your surroundings and interpreting smells and sounds was not only wise, but sometimes intriguing as well.  She felt happy. 

 Tomorrow she would get her monthly pay and run to the bank to collect it during her break. Later there would be “the gang” which consisted of her older sister and her current love; maybe her younger brother Ian whom she would tease silly in front of his date, and of course David would be down from London with whatever friend he’d call over for a drink or two.  Ah, David.  It had been almost a month since they’d spent time together and it might as well have been an eternity.  You don’t get many breaks when you’re a young physician’s assistant.  She sighed in the darkness, visualizing his serious looking face as he contemplated her. She smiled in the dark.

 She still lived at her parents’ bungalow, in an attic bedroom she’d transformed into a kind of private apartment. Gallant David would pretend to be a country swain, climb a near-by apple tree and slip into her place through the open window.  It was a game; everybody knew they slept together up there whenever David was in town, but nevertheless, it was exciting.  David, she thought.  She could see his face in her mind, his smile, his curly auburn hair that always needed cutting or trimming.  

 That’s when she first heard the footsteps following her. She was halfway home, just five more blocks to go.  She wasn’t too concerned but she knew better than to dally.  She speeded up her own steps, then crossed the street, stopping in the darkened entryway of a second hand shop she was familiar with.  She listened intently; the steps crossed the street and were definitely coming closer. 

 Nancy’s shoes were not designed for running and would likely trip her, or make her slip or slide dangerously or painfully on the wet stones if she tried it. So she abandoned that idea.  She had the advantage of surprise: she knew exactly where the steps came from; she knew they were definitely a man’s tread, so she would have to deal with a man. But her position inside the doorway meant her assailant, if he was an assailant and not just some lost soul or wandering drunk, would give her side and back protection.  She slowly and noiselessly put down her handbag, took off her shoes, keeping one in her right hand, and waited.

 I need to tell you something about Nancy. She’s not your typical girl.  I mean, most typical small town girls don’t usually go in for martial arts, much less work their way up to a second degree black belt.  She had that, and she had the temperament that allowed her to use it with impunity.  She didn’t ask permission, if you get my drift.  She would attack her opponent, disable her, him or them, then stand back slowly swaying on the balls of her feet and wait to see what the other, or others, would decide to do.  If they had any intelligence at all, they’d admit defeat, if in a tourney, or scamper if it was a street encounter. 

Nancy had decided to take up martial arts for self-defence years before, but intensified her training after her older sister was raped, beaten and left unconscious outside of town some months back.  Jenny was healthy and strong.  She’d bounced back quickly but the incident had marked Nancy probably more than her sister. She had a deep, deep desire to find the perp and make him pay.  He’d never been found and the police had totally botched the investigation, which made Nancy suspect the rapist was on the police force and they knew, or suspected and were covering up for him.

 She heard the footsteps slow down, as if the man was hesitating and wondering what to do next. Nancy forced herself to take deep silent breaths.  She sensed her entire body, loosening arms and legs, waiting, anticipating, almost wishing for the attack to begin.  The steps began again, slow, hesitant, closer and closer.  By now she knew this was an assailant and that he knew she was holed up in a doorway.  Finally she saw his outline in the fog.  She couldn’t judge his height but she could see he was stocky – and she thought to herself – like a policeman: he had the bearing of one.  She judged it prudent to assume he was armed, perhaps with a knife, or even a hand gun.  There would be no word, no negotiation.  She readied herself to attack and deliberately uttered what sounded like a small frightened moan.

 The man turned in her direction and saw the entryway. He moved towards it now, confident, certain.  He had his quarry cornered. Nancy fancied she could read his thoughts. “I’ll knock her out, carry her into the alley, tie her and gag her, then get my car, throw her in the trunk and the fun begins.”  She allowed some of her anger to mount but controlled it.  Enough, just enough to do the trick. Her sensei had cautioned her many times about using anger: “Anger is good, yes, it can be useful, but it’s also a poison.  It blinds you; makes you foolish to take chances, makes you want to attack too soon, take shortcuts.  Anger is a dangerous tool, Nancy.”  Then she had demonstrated, making Nancy angry and defeating her with her own calm approach.  For the sensei there was never any battle, just a problem to be solved.  She had learned.

The attacker jumped into the entryway only to meet with, what he must have thought, if he’d had time to think, was a banshee from hell. She kneed him straight in the groin, elbowed his face, cracking his nose, broke his right wrist, then throwing him out on the street, kicked him sideways in the head.  He rolled onto the cobbles, his head lolling.  He groaned, once, then lay still. 

She searched him, found those plastic ties cops prefer to handcuffs these days, and trussed him.  She took his wallet and walked over to the closest street lamp.  “Yes” she said to herself triumphantly, “that’s a cop’s ID.  I’ve got the bastard, got him!”  She walked back cat-like in her bare feet and rolled the man over.  She recognized him.  He’d been coming to the pub as a regular all this time.  He’d been stalking her, waiting for his chance.  First my sister, then me, eh?  My turn, you bastard.  She listened carefully, looked up and down the foggy street: no traffic. Had there been, and had someone stopped, she had her story ready:  “He’s drunk, I’m getting him home.  Don’t worry, ain’t the first time.” 

 She got her handbag, pulled out her phone and called her brother. In a voice that broached no argument she said, “Ian, come over to Main and Heather now, I need the car.” She quickly closed the connection, pulled the Sim card, crushed it, and threw the phone and the card down a storm sewer grate. 


I Yearn to find a Land so Free – a poem


I realize now, they should never allow me to stay near a computer this long: that keyboard is mesmerizing… well, keep on posting then…

I Yearn to find a Land so Free
  [ ~a poem by   ~burning woman~  ]

I yearn to find a land so free,
Where no one need ever fear
From animals or man, thee, or me.

I yearn to see the trees in bloom
Each with a nest in its branches
From which birds sing, no fear of doom.

I yearn to lie on grasses soft
Lulled by waters pure and sweet
Gentle winds holding clouds aloft.

I yearn to see the sun slowly setting
To happy laughter and songs of joy
In the east an orange moon rising.

I yearn to watch a spreading gloaming
Across sweet-scented hay meadows
And on a butte the killdeer piping.

I yearn for the night to claim my bones
Giving me rest in simple dreams,
My name spelled on a gravestone.