Tag Archives: Short Story

A Very Long Walk

[a short story by Sha’Tara]

It was another cool, crisp and clear late Autumn afternoon, the kind Krista loved to go walking in. She followed the riding trail down to the edge of the Maskua river as it meandered through the low lying lands of this agricultural community. As she walked she noticed the oaks and maples had less leaves on them and the colours were reluctantly fading. Denuded tops allowed lopsided windows into a pale, clear, blue sky.

Many thoughts flowed through her mind. She knew she had it good as her home-based business only required a few hours a day to keep going and she enjoyed it. The two children, Toby, now thirteen, was in Middle school and Trina was finishing her high school. Both children were quiet as a rule and caused her little problems. Both were somewhat introverted and had few close friends, something she did not mind at all.

Her thoughts turned to her husband Dan on his last year of duty in Afghanistan. One short moment of trepidation, then she reasserted herself. He would be coming back, of that she was certain. She had vowed to herself never to dwell on the possibility that he could become a casualty of war. ‘Not in my reality’ she said often with total conviction. ‘Do you still love him?’ a small, nasty little inner voice taunted. ‘With all my heart and soul’ she replied truthfully. Krista, though still very attractive and not without admirers and opportunities, was the completely faithful partner. She would never stray.

She carefully skirted the muddy pools that remained in the trail all winter in the shadier spots and kept walking. She heard crows cawing but not using the excited voices when discovering a sleepy great horned owl or a red-tailed hawk. She heard ducks and geese on the river but could not sight the stream yet. There was much brush where she passed and one more little rise before she could see the meandering river reflecting the blue sky from shore to shore.

She saw a page from a note book crumpled and stuck in some blackberry brambles. She thought of reaching for it but decided against it. ‘Whatever is written on there, none of my business,’ she said to herself and kept walking. You could say she was observant but not overly curious.

She saw something else in another tangle, a grey and blue baseball cap. ‘That’s a team cap from Trina’s high school! Must have flown off a rider’s head or been brushed off by a low-lying branch and the owner chose not to come back for it. Oh well… her or his loss. Maybe they’ll come back for it later.’

She had topped the rise then and saw the river. She stopped to admire it – her favourite place in the entire walk. She had had many a good mother to daughter talk with Trina on this spot. The current was sluggish now and reflections of dark spruce and bare poplars cast mesmerizing shadows in the waters of the far bank. She moved her head slowly to the movements of the inverted tree dance trying to find a tune in her head to go with it.

Something unusual brought her to look closer to her side of the river. There was a piece of cloth floating down there, of blue and white coloration. It looked like it was caught on a branch. This time her curiosity was aroused and she worked her way to the edge of the water for a better look.

That’s when she realized she wasn’t looking at a piece of cloth but at the body of a drowned person. She saw long hair floating off from the submerged head and a white hand bobbing in and out from the surface. She gave a gasp, but instead of screaming as she wanted to do, she plunged into the stream and waded in the freezing water that came to her breasts by the time she reached the body of a young woman.

She tugged and pulled and finally untangled the body and dragged it to the shore, turning it over to look into its face…

“Oh God, Trina! What have you done? I told you he wasn’t worth it! You promised me it was over.”

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Little Beaver

A short story, by Sha’Tara
(Part 2 – with last paragraph from part 1 to make the link)

They followed her until she came to the edge of a small lake. She made several signs in the water with her fingers, then stood facing the sun, not moving a muscle for a long time. It was as if she was asleep they said later. They approached stealthily, as trained hunters can do, two from one side, two from another and one from behind. When the one behind her was close enough to grab her, he stretched out his arm to put his hand around her throat. As he did so, she turned and let out a blood-curdling screech. Her right arm shot out and at the end, what seemed like huge talons, locked around the man’s neck and snapped it as if it was a dry twig. Still screeching, she unfolded huge wings and flew away to the west, over the trees.

The four men brought back the body of their dead comrade to the village and told their story.

At first no one believed them, but they saw the marks on the dead man’s neck and the story became more and more believable. I was confused. I thought I knew your mother quite well. I knew she was strong, but she was not a beast. I also knew she was a healer, not a killer. Your mother would not have killed the man, just beat him down and made sport of him, taunting him for being weaker than a mere woman. Then she would have challenged the other four men to try their skills against hers. She would have beaten them, as easily as an eagle takes a rabbit. I know this about your mother.

My son, sometimes people think they know the truth. Sometimes they believe that they saw what they say was there. I believe that there are others, like your mother, out there. Some are not like her in spirit. Perhaps these young fools thought they followed your mother, but I know she was a master at disappearing from any stalker. In fact that is the only time anyone was ever able to claim to have crept up on her unnoticed. I believe, to this day, that the creature they encountered was another one, perhaps a spirit which resembled her. I know it wasn’t your mother.

When she returned to the village after three suns she was smiling and happy. She showed unbelief when she heard the story, and would speak to no one. It was as if she was hurt by their willingness to believe such things of her. The story became a part of her legacy, nevertheless. She became restless again. You were three summers when she exuded that strange scent again, and I went with her to a hut in the forest. We made your sister that time. I will tell you about your sister, but for now, let me finish this part. I decided to return to the place where she had made the hut, after two suns had passed. There was no hut, not a single sign that anyone had ever been there. I know it was the right place. I had broken a twig to mark the place, and scuffed the earth in one spot. The broken twig was there, and the mark of my moccasin in the earth, but nothing else. No scent and no flowers. I was saddened and apprehensive.

When your mother began to show signs of being pregnant, I rejoiced. She had told me it was a girl child this time. It didn’t matter to me. You were so beautiful already, and slightly different than the other young children. You were already taller than all the others, and your eyes were of a yellow hue. Your hair, though thinner than mine, was longer and had the same strange waves in it. I knew by observing you that you would become a great hunter and chief in your time. I dreamt also of having a daughter who would be as strong and intelligent as your mother; a true Shaman, who would belong to the tribe, and not to the wilderness. We are too small a village to hire and keep our own Shaman. We need one born among us, one with the great powers of your mother, so the people from the other villages will respect us and come to us in their time of need. You see, as long as She-ya-neh, your mother, lived among us, we had no disease and we were never attacked or raided.

About four moons after we had been in the hut, your mother came to me at dusk. It was a beautiful evening after a sunset filled with the fire of the Great Spirit. It meant well for the fishing…

The man stopped here. He reached down and poked the embers of their small fire. The boy ran into the bushes then came back and wrapped a warm beaded blanket around his slim figure.

“Please continue, Father. When I am chief, I will need to know all about my mother, so I won’t have to listen to stories made up to make her look bad and discredit my place among the elders.”

“You are wise, my son, far beyond your summers. Your mother did not take her gifts away when she left. I believe that soon, you will find within your hands, great powers, my son. You will be the Shaman we have been asking for. Chief and Shaman. No one has had such honour among us before. Yet I know this is to be…

“So that evening, your mother knelt before me in our house. In her large eyes, I saw tears. She seldom showed tears. Her face was sad, yet I felt a deep excitement in her. She spoke into my mind as she always did when she expressed deep feelings.

“I am going away tonight. I will not be returning, ever. Our son is well. Nothing will happen to him now. Our daughter will be with me, and well taken care of. Some day, you will meet her. I cannot say more. Now let me go, and do not come after me, or even look at me as I go. Put your love in our son, and when I am gone, find him a suitable mother and wife to cook for you and to comfort you at night when it is cold. I must return to the place where I come from. Here, take this talisman I wore in my hair all these years, and when our son is old enough, put it on his head. It is a living thing, a gift of the Great Spirit for the great travelers. Do not forget. Yo nah la! Aheya noha!”

With these strange words, she crossed her arms in front of her face, closed her fingers gently then turned and walked away. I heard her footsteps for a short time, then nothing. I stepped outside our house, holding you in my arms. The night suddenly became very still. The coyotes quieted down and the owls stopped hooting. Even the frogs became still, and the breeze died down. After some time, I saw a great fire in the forest. It lit up the sky, even the underside of the clouds. Then I heard a great waterfall roaring, after which the fire rose up and soon there was just a thin trail in the sky, above the village. Then, like the shooting stars, it was gone. I never saw your mother again.

My son, look up there. See that small star village? Often your mother pointed there and sighed. She said she felt something being sent to her from those stars. She also said that the spirits who travel the trails of the stars must obey their own seasons. Stars wander all over, and sometimes they are close enough to each other to send visitors there. The visitor must then wait until the star returns at that same place to return to his own village. Your mother’s people travel the paths of the stars, my son. They come once, then are gone. Sometimes, they can return, and sometimes not. It takes much power to follow the paths of the stars, and you must also be a true friend of the Great Spirit if you do not want to lose yourself in that great blackness between the star villages.

Listen to me, my son, if one day a tall grey-eyed woman appears to you, or wanders into your village, or meets you on the shore of a far-away lake, do not look upon her as a man looks upon a woman. That woman will be your sister. Remember that. When you marry, you shall marry one of our kind, one born in a village within this valley. That is how it must be.”

“Thank you father.” The boy yawned and leaned against the man. Overhead, it seemed to the man that one star twinkled brighter and faster than any other. He pointed at it with his finger but the son had fallen asleep on his lap. The man rolled himself off the log and wrapped in their warm blankets, they both slept peacefully as the moon was hid by a bank of black clouds rolling in slowly from the far mountains.

Little Beaver

[a short story in two parts, by Sha’Tara]

(This short story is a bit long for a blog post so I split it in 2 parts.  Hope you find it enjoyable, at least as much as I found writing it!  Remembrances? Oh the wonderful mysteries and mystical ways of the mind as it wanders ‘the star paths’.)

(and, for Roger of Woebegone but Hopeful, if you read this, note the colours of the flowers mentioned here and see if they remind you of someone! 🙂 )

“My son, it is time to tell you about your mother.”

The man and his young son were sitting on a log by the river, as the moon rose over snow-covered peaks. The water made a lapping sound and somewhere across the little river, in the bushes, an owl called. It was followed by the evening ritual song of the coyotes.

“You were just past three Summers when your mother left us. You hear many strange stories about her, but I must tell you what I know, so you will be less confused.

They say your mother was a great Shaman — she was. They say she was crazy: she was not. Many Summers ago, a party of hunters from another village came upon a young girl wandering alone in the mountains along the big River. She could not speak our tongue, and she was different than anyone they had ever seen. She had very large eyes the colour of water in ice. Her hair was like the water when a small breeze moves it, and it resembled the bark of the cedar in colour. They kept the girl through the hunt. In one moon cycle, the girl had learned to speak our tongue perfectly. When asked where she came from, she explained, “From a cave full of fire. I was in an egg which was shot out of the flame and when it stopped rolling, it opened and I do not know anything else. I remember a name which in your language sounds like ‘She-ya-neh’ but I do not know what it means.”

The hunters came to our small village with their captive. My father, the chief, had the women clean the girl and inspect her. He decided to buy her, if she displayed a healthy bleeding. There was much feasting at that time. The hunters stayed in our village, enjoying the food and the girls were happy. Some babies were made at that time, yes. I was very young then, too young yet to enjoy the girls, but I made friends with the strange slave girl. She did not speak much, so we just sat together, or swam in the river. She was very strong and fast, faster than any boy. She won all the foot races, and could climb trees as if she had a squirrel’s claws. She became fascinated with our canoes and soon could paddle away so fast, only the strongest hunters in the bigger canoes, could catch her. She was forbidden to use the canoes then.

At her bleeding, my father decided to buy her. Again, there was much feasting. Then he made a ceremony in which she was set free from bondage, and could become my wife. After two more Summers, we were finally married. It had been expected that she would be very fertile, and give me many healthy sons. However, no child could she grow. Years passed and the women began to shun my wife. She became a loner, mysterious, sometimes disappearing in the hills for an entire moon cycle.

During these years, she demonstrated the ability to heal broken bones and to prevent disease from spreading. She talked to the animals, and even the spirits of the plants and the land, obeyed her. Yes, she was a great Shaman, my wonderful and barren She-ya-neh. She never seemed to miss not having children. She was full of curiosity and everything to her was a wonder. She was, hmmm, very promiscuous also — well — she went with many men, and they told stories of her ways which were strange to us. I was not jealous of this. One could not get jealous of your mother, unless one were a woman. Many women in the village came to hate her popularity, her crazy, wild ways, and especially her freedom among the men.

Your mother’s physical strength was known across many valleys. How she shamed the men in their hunts, their sports, their fights! She could outrun any man, outsmart and outfight anyone. She had skills with her hands and feet we had never seen. She was as fast as the lightning: when she struck a blow, it was impossible to see where it came from.

During the high water season, when the canoe races are held, she would taunt the men to best her. She was not, by law, permitted to compete with the men. So she would sit quietly in her canoe, behind the starting line, wait until the men were into their race, then push her own canoe in the race, soon overtaking even the fastest one and always finishing first. How my own heart swelled with pride to see her win that way, yet how puzzled I was, that such a woman could not bear a child for her man, or for any man.

Let me now speak of a time, many summers past our wedding. One day, just before the long shadows, she came to the shore where I was preparing my canoe for the fishing, and took my arm. Her eyes spoke a powerful thought and her body gave off a strange, pleasant and irresistible scent. I tried to explain that I was very busy and we could do that later, at night, but she spoke again, from within her mind, and I went with her. We walked for a long time, through places I had never been, until we came to a clearing. In the middle, there was a small hut, large enough to accommodate two adult people. All around were flowers, and even on the roof: red and blue flowers. They gave off the same scent she did. It was like a drug to me. I reached for her, as you have seen the young men and women do, but she stopped me. She undressed me, then herself, and together, we rolled our bodies among the strange flowers. Soon, my head was buzzing like a nest of wild bees, and my heart sounded like our drums at the great feasts by the ocean. She then took my hands, and pushed me inside the hut. I felt as if I were inside one of those great black clouds that give off lighting and thunder.

At that time, we made you. When she was pregnant with you, she became more normal. She was careful for you, and after you were born, she was a perfect mother. She took you everywhere, and you always slept next to her. She gave you her milk freely and you never went hungry and seldom cried. All her energies were spent on you. No more sports or men or wanderings in the forests. She stayed near the village and attended to her duties as healer and midwife with great diligence. She began to be liked by some of the women again.

But one day, she disappeared. She left you in the care of her best friend, and just walked away. This was bad luck, because in the village were five strangers, hunters, who had heard the stories about her sexual prowess, and her fighting abilities were now a legend. These young hot-blooded fools decided to track your mother to see where she would go, and perhaps to beat her down and have their way with her.

They followed her until she came to the edge of a small lake. She made several signs in the water with her fingers, then stood facing the sun, not moving a muscle for a long time. It was as if she was asleep they said later. They approached stealthily, as trained hunters can do, two from one side, two from another and one from behind. When the one behind her was close enough to grab her, he stretched out his arm to put his hand around her throat. As he did so, she turned and let out a blood-curdling screech. Her right arm shot out and at the end, what seemed like huge talons, locked around the man’s neck and snapped it as if it was a dry twig. Still screeching, she unfolded huge wings and flew away to the west, over the trees.

[End of Part 1 of 2]

Seabird Point, a short story

[short story by Sha’Tara]

Introduction: I ask myself so often, why do I writ these emotionally charged stories that tell stories that rarely, if at all, see real life emulate? Then I realize that what I cannot have; what man’s “real world” will not give me, I need to prove to myself that it can be regardless. Man’s “real life” is the fake news. This simple little story and how it concludes is “my” real life. I choose to believe that what you will read here could be the normal world you wake up to in the morning. Dream on? Sure, why not, I’ve spent much of my life dreaming until I made those dreams a reality I could not only live with, but actually love being a part of. So, have a look at an alternate world, and thank you for reading.
____________________________

Jeffrey Lewis is a rich man, at least by the standards of the ten or so thousand population of Seabird Point. He may not be well liked by the residents of his chosen locale, but they are deferential to him nevertheless since his pleasure craft factory employs most of them.

Seabird Point is a promontory that looks upon the open Atlantic and boasts a well-advertised seasonal tourist industry and between that and the Lewis Yacht Manufacturing Inc., the three mandatory schools – elementary, Middle and High; a lawyer’s office, real estate, the bank and a doctors’ clinic with part-time satellite medical drop in, not much else. Oh yes, I forgot to mention the Presbyterian church that serves for every kind of Christian and bake sale and craft event locals can dream up.

Sorry, I forgot another main aspect of Seabird Point, La Bella Roma Ristorante. How could I forget that? Apart from the yacht plant and government establishment, it’s the largest employer in town in the summer. It is also Jeffrey Lewis’ favourite eating place. Even at the height of the tourist season when every nook and cranny of Seabird Point has been rented out or filled in by unsuspecting south bound migratory tourists with more money than brains, Mr. Lewis can bring himself and his entourage to the Ristorante and get a table.

Today is such a day. It’s eighteen hundred hours; the sun is low but bright over the sparkling chop and not a cloud in the sky. A steady breeze stirs the magnolias restless. Voices of people can be heard through the smoke and aromas of barbecues behind scented flowery hedges. Well, what do you expect? This is, after all, Seabird Point. Are there problems here? At the height of tourist season? Certainly not outside the camouflage.

Jeffrey Lewis’ chauffeur driven limousine flashes its grey paint down the main avenue. He’s hungry and eager to find his comfortable place at the table overlooking the break water past the yacht club with its sea of waving masts and brightly reflecting hulls. The parking lot is full but that doesn’t matter. The imported British chauffeur stops the car by the steps leading to an open set of double doors. He briskly steps out and opens Mr. Lewis’ door. Jeffrey nods, puts his white yachting cap and jacket on and steps up. He is greeted by a young and very attractive hostess in a short black décolleté, past the usual Friday evening line-up of hopefuls for the lobster feast, to sit alone at his large empty table. The sea is beautiful this time of day he thinks as he receives his drink and the waiter makes a pretense of listing the menu specials. Jeffrey absentmindedly waves the card away to have his usual, specially prepared and served piping and spicy hot.

He waits. There’s a commotion at the entrance. He turns to observe, partially interested. A family of tourists, he expects, is getting antsy waiting for a table? He sees a wheelchair being pushed forward by a small woman, and pushed back by the hostess. Two waiters attend the scene. Interesting. No altercations are permitted on Seabird Point at the height of the tourist season. It’s just not in the program. Who is re-writing the lines? Everyone in town knows how to behave to pluck the most amount of money from the migration.

For some time now Jeffrey had begun thinking over his life. It had been exciting once but now that he owned the fastest racing yacht along the coast, where was the challenge to win a race, or the pleasure in receiving the expected award? The plant was doing well, certainly, but it was a boring enterprise over all. Mostly small orders for cheap fiberglass fishing boats. It smelled also, even in the office on the fourth floor of the Lewis Building three blocks from the factory. His wife had left him for a skipper and his two daughters were safely out of his reach, one in New York married to a law firm (or was it a lawyer?) and the other in San Francisco pretending to be an artist on his money. He’d had several affairs, but they were much like his contracts for small pleasure craft – they wouldn’t take a long voyage in deep waters. And Jeffrey had once loved deep waters.

He heard the woman pushing the wheel chair cry out. That’s it, he thought, I’m intervening in this. I can’t have this in my town. He gets up and walks tall and very white in his uniform, to the entrance. The woman holding the wheelchair is short, as he’d thought, but feisty. She wasn’t going to be pushed out so easily.

“Ah, excuse me please.” Everyone in Seabird Point knows Mr. Lewis’ voice.

Silence now, except for the woman who looks him in the eye and says: “Look, I don’t know who you be sir, but I know this. There’s a large table over there where you was sittin’ and I just asked if I could push my son’s wheelchair in and we could sit there. Me ‘n the three kids,” she points to a young girl of about fifteen years much taller than her mother and a younger boy about twelve, “been on our feet most of the day. Sir, my son in this here chair is dyin’ see? Some cancer thing they got more names fer ‘n Carter’s got pills is the cause.

“So I took my savin’s to bring him to this place as I was told of from my friend Cathy who does the Internet thing. Nice place she says, and beautiful view of the ocean. Took all I got but I reserved a bed and breakfast that would take my little Jeff in and we come by train yesterday. Today I made a reservation for dinner here so he could see the ocean while I fed him but they stuck us in the back along a windowless wall. That wasn’t the deal, sir. Jeff wanted to sit and watch the gulls soar, the yachts move on the water and the sun set on the open ocean. We be from Kentucky sir. There ain’t no ocean to see or smell. It was gonna be this one time for us all. Janie, will you wipe his mouth girl? Sorry sir, he can’t quite manage no more… and sometimes I think I won’t either, but each day comes and we manage it, all of us together.”

Customers and staff alike, everybody is struck dumb. The woman’s story hangs like a pall over their self-centered lives. But Jeffrey Lewis has a vision. A beatific vision. He is transported to some kind of heaven while listening to the woman’s dream. Such simplicity, such beauty. Hell, such power. In his mind he compares her to his prize yacht and realizes she is much more, by far. This is it, he thinks, this is what I’ve been waiting for, hell no, what I’ve been setting myself up for, all those years as seas just billowing past my bows as if I was nothing at all, just another piece of driftwood from an expensive wreck.

Tall and imposing, he looks down at the owner of La Bella Roma Ristorante, Mr. Arturo Bellini who, upon being advised of the commotion, had waddled his portly self to the scene still wearing his chef’s hat.

“Signore?” One word that leads to the predictable answer:

The servile tone is almost overbearing, “Ah, yes Mr. Lewis. We will escort her out immediately. I’ve called the police. There will be no more outburst, I promise you.”

“You don’t understand, Art.” Jeffrey intones in an exaggerated soft southern drawl, “Throw her out and I buy this place and shut it down. No, I burn it down myself and sit out there on the stone wall to watch until the wind blows away every speck of dust and rust of it. You will bring this woman and her family to my table now.”

He turns and walks back to his table, taking his drink to another seat, leaving the view side open for the wheelchair. He punches his cell phone and calls off the local constabulary. Then he makes two more phone calls, one to his pilot. The other to a private clinic in New York.

It’s a truly magnificent evening as the breeze dies down and the chop eases off. A small flock of rock doves lands among the terrace tables and the iridescent birds peck intently for fallen crumbs as the sun drops from a pink sky to a much deserved rest below the phosphorescent sea.

The Garbage Man – PART II

(Continuing then, with the story of the Garbage Man.)

CONTENTS DELETED.  If you need this section for reference, contact me via email:

shatara@telus.net

A half mile and two rolling hills later Beanna and Edgar sighted the town. It wasn’t terribly fortified, having a combination of a low rock wall with an opening for the road, some part of the outer perimeter protected by a sluggish river and the rest a simple wooden palisade. At the gate stood two watchmen awaiting the arrival of this unknown pair.

I don’t have any healing skills!”

You do now, and you will soon realize how powerful those are at disrupting disease and death.”

{end of part II}

 

Lisa and Tom, a short story

by   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara

The healer’s hut appeared at the edge of the woods where it had stood since she built it when still a young woman. She had walked steadfast with her guides, despite seeing her mother beaten, dragged away in chains, condemned to burn at the stake by the vicar and the entire congregation. She had never forgotten both, the terror and horror of those times when a new priest had been appointed, a “witch hunter” who declared open warfare on all the women whom he fancied were opposing him whenever they performed any kind of healing on a member of his congregation. Lisa spent much time then in the wooden jail that had no heat, one small hole to look out of, a slot under a door that was always nailed shut, to pass sustenance if and when those in charge of the “house” remembered, or cared. Thanks to superstition, Lisa was never molested by the men who periodically broke down the door of the dungeon and dragged her out for more “questioning” and serious threats. Thinking that her life was forfeit in any case, Lisa did not respond to the questioning, the intimidation and the whippings. All they heard were moans and sometimes cries.

Then, it all changed. There was a King again and the rebels were defeated and mostly slaughtered. The vicar was publicly hanged when it was discovered he did not hold a proper license. All the healers were set free to fend for themselves at that time. So Lisa went back where she had been raised. Her mother’s house had been ransacked, then burned down. With the help of a neighbour who limped badly from a war injury and needed her services, she built herself a comfortable hut. When it was done to her satisfaction, just before she moved anything in from the near-by tent the neighbour had loaned her, she knelt reverently and remembered her mother’s love an dedication in a long prayer of thanksgiving. Then, in the presence of her guides and the friendly neighbour as her sole human witness, she vowed to give her life to service of the village, yes, the same people who ten years earlier had tortured her mother to death and kept her in a dungeon for close to ten years.

Lisa’s method to deal with the past was to plant lavender around the hut and the path leading to the meadow.

Old Cruickshanks, the friendly neighbour was long dead now. The old white-haired man walking so steadily and deliberately towards Lisa’s hut was none other than his eldest son, Tom. Tom had always “had a feeling” for Lisa, not surprisingly for in her youth she was a lovely girl, something that aroused even more jealousy among the females of the village. But of course, Tom’s love was not just for her beauty; he loved her. He knew, of course, of her vow, and had talked much about it at the beginning of her new life at the edge of the woods. Many a time he’d had opportunity after he drove her via the farm’s surrey, into the village, now more of a town, so she could minister in whatever capacity.

Youth is callous, and demanding. Tom did not want to be, but he had needs. Lisa was well acquainted with those needs even though she remained steadfastly a virgin.

“We could be married, Lisa, there is nothing in God’s law or the King’s law that prevails against it, only your choice. Is that not so?”

She would pull away from him a bit then, bringing her hands demurely to her lap, picking at a button on her light blue coat. “I’m sorry to hurt you Tom. You are a kind, decent, caring man which any woman would be honoured to have, but you see, marriage is not for me. I am truly sorry, but I cannot, ever, break my vow. My gift is dependent upon the vow of chastity, you must understand. I’m not being difficult, and I am very aware that I owe you so much for all that you have done for me over the years, but I can only reciprocate with as much care and kindness as I know how. I have no such love for you, Tom as you have for me. When I made my vow, lo those many years past, the desire for connubial bliss and a family of my own was taken from me. When you look upon me as a woman, you are looking at nothing more than a shell. Do not be distracted by this…” and she pointed to herself as they trotted along. Tom hid his tears as best he could, not wanting to add more injury to a pain-filled episode.

So it went through the years. Tom stopped importuning Lisa and made a vow of his own: he too would never marry. The farm would go to his nephew with a legal stipulation that his brother and his wife could live out their days on the farm, if they so chose. Tom was surprised how his choice gradually made his heart so much lighter. The years passed by fast then. He and Lisa grew older and white haired, and anyone not familiar with their story would have naturally assumed they were brother and sister, so much alike they were in being soft spoken and kind to all.

“I am getting older, Tom, and my young days were not easy. This body is hampered greatly by what was done to it. Then there’s the dampness too. But mostly, mostly, my friend, I am very tired these days. There is a powerful pull in my heart, whether from God or some other beings whom I once called my guides, but I am being called home, Tom. I needed to tell you so you would not be devastated when it happens.”

She had stopped talking that day and had turned to look over the small meadow to the north. Then she had turned her face to the cloudy skies and he saw there the deep grey distant look in her eyes. He knew she was seeing something he could never see. Something that was hers alone. Then she had started crying. That was such a rare event in Lisa’s life he was taken completely unawares, not knowing what to do. He did not want to violate any boundary between them by touching her or holding her, but he wanted her to know he was trying to share her sorrow. Then suddenly he just knew. “I understand” was all he said, or needed to say, and the tears stopped as suddenly as they had come. Lisa smiled.

As he neared the hut, now a bit more of a cottage, he smelled the crushed lavender. He stopped at the door, waited a couple of minutes, then turned around back to the farm for the wagon and a shovel.

The Mob Wars

The Mob Wars
[short story from   ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

What do you think, when you look upon a mob?  Or worse, you encounter one?  That had been the lesson of the day and the cadets in the class, all five of them, 3 girls and 2 boys, could barely restrain their yawns.  They really wanted to laugh at the instructor but there were rules at the Academy, and laughing at an instructor was bad business.  Punishments varied but they weren’t something you wanted to think about.

“A mob is dangerous.” droned on the talking head instructor, a short dark-skinned female who spoke the lingua franca as if she’d learned it from a computer.  Hardly surprising since she had learned it that way.  She wasn’t from the Clayborne worlds but from another galaxy altogether.  Still, she was human and you could relate to her as long as you remained totally mechanical, never betraying any emotion towards her, or her course material.  “A mob has no leader, that’s what makes it dangerous,” she carried on.  “If you see a mob coming towards you, purposefully march in another direction and as soon as you can, find a safe place to hide until it passes by.  Any grouping of ten or more individuals walking together and sharing information, or making loud statements constitute a mob by legal definition.  It is your sworn duty to the Imperium to report any observed mob activity, noting its coordinates and direction.  Anyone who observes a mob formation and does not report it is de-facto part of a conspiracy and liable to a charge of sedition.  The penalty, as you know, is ten years in the mines, the location of the punishment to be determined by the courts but always outside your home worlds.”  

We may be cadets but we weren’t born last night, or even the year before.  The Claybornes, a grouping of three planets orbiting their sun practically equidistantly, thus making each world almost a mirror image of the others climate-wise, were a relatively recent addition to an expanding Imperium.  “Space, the final frontier” boldly claimed a cartoon character from a series of funny little anecdotes that had been transcribed upon holos and would sometimes be available for viewing.  The quaint language and costumes and the posturing would bring out waves of rollicking laughter wherever they happen to be projected.  Final frontier indeed: the abysmal ignorance and hubris of our ancestors makes us wonder that we ever got off the ground of our original world at all. Too quirky.

I was writing about that line, the final frontier.  Even now with everything we’ve discovered and learned, most of it at great cost and unnecessary loss, we still cling to our ancient xenophobia and bigotry.  Once we “know” a thing, we believe that we’ve found the truth, or at the very least, some truth, something we can hang on and build upon.  Our awareness, our ideas, we believe, can be stacked up one upon another, like the modules we fabricate then build living units or space ships with.  It’s as if we choose to forget that no matter how long these modules fit together they must eventually disintegrate, starting with the oldest ones, but we don’t notice the rot and rust, and we keep on building on top.  There comes a point of attrition and entropy and whatever is, soon is no longer.  Simply put, the base collapses.  We accept that but we never see to apply the obvious lesson in it to our interaction with what can only be called the nature of things.

Which brings me back to my story about the mob.  Whatever the Cirillian teacher says about mobs, she really knows nothing at all about them.  But we Clayborners do know about mobs.  Our own societies were basically evolved from a mob mentality.  You see, the Claybornes were chosen by the Imperium as a dumping ground for all sorts of individuals who could not be coerced into the herd mentality, or group-think that serves the Imperium’s aims so well.  We are recent descendants of “deplorables” and “undesirables”  Our grand parents were those who could not be cured.  Many were anarchists.  Some were judged with criminal mentality because they openly defied and called down the Imperium.  And oh yes, we had more than a sprinkling of lower class criminals, the murderers, rapists, bank robbers, psychopaths.  As a fourth generation myself, I say good for them.  It’s here, on our own Clayborne world which we call Armistice, that you can really see the evil that is the Imperium. 

I discovered subsequently that the Imperium had hoped we would not only “break” open these worlds and extract every ounce of resources that could fuel their space economy and finance their Earth-based economy, bolstering ever-expanding wars of conquest, but that once the worlds were bled dry, that we would destroy ourselves, with a little destabilizing help from Imperial guards. Considering the make-up of our local civilization, it seemed inevitable that we would destroy each other when times got tough, a time when the resources ran dry and the Imperium ceased supporting us with the necessities of civilization that could not be manufactured locally.

Even early on in the colonization of the Clayborne worlds, that is exactly what happened.  Unwisely, to say the least, the Imperium representatives gave the game away too soon, when dreams of independence rode high in the minds and hearts of the colonizers.  Conflict ensued.  But at first it wasn’t against the Imperium.  That seemed too big a slice to tackle.  In anger and frustration, various groups, and towns led by gang lords, armed themselves by whatever means, mostly clubs, compound bows and arrows, long handled barbed spears and long knives or machetes, as well as agricultural implements which had reluctantly been allocated to them, and began to attack each other for control of the worlds.

That wasn’t according to plan since by now little or no effort was being made to mine the planets.  Everybody was too busy strengthening their defences and protecting their fields and other food supplies while attempting to lay waste to “the enemy’s” fields and food supplies, transports and storehouses and stealing resources and useful labour and women.

We could almost hear the screams of anger from stock market and “trading houses” all the way though space from an incensed earth, home base of the Imperium, as resources from the Claybornes’ came to a quasi-standstill.  Fortunes in speculation were being lost by the month, the week, even by the hour.  Action was demanded of Arch Imperator, Junes Kohlmadir.  She did what her kind do best: responded by massive force of arms against the wayward planets.

The Imperium intervened  with iron fist and jack boots.  Martial law and a general ban on every sort of weaponry was declared.  Walls around fortified towns were dismantled, sometimes with explosives, more often with slave labour from those arrested for disturbing Imperium-mandated peace; those that is who hadn’t been publicly executed in the first reactionary wave of the new military dictatorship.  They executed thousands of individuals, including women and young children – as an example.  As any thinking person would know and expect, more violence ensued, now directly aimed at the Imperium troopers and subsequent governors sent to negotiate and re-establish a working peace.  Adding insult to injury, the Imperium representatives decreed that any existing facility that could produce a space-faring vessel was to be utterly destroyed, not simply mothballed.  The Imperium set up its own space station to repair and upgrade its own ships.  All merchant ships had to have (and pay for) a complement of Imperium troopers on board, and an Imperium representative to accompany the captain at all times whenever it landed on one of our worlds.

This is the tipping point, where the Imperium, instead of subduing us, only succeeded in uniting the entire planet against the Imperium.

These people, my people, learned through bitter and bloody experience to hate the Imperium with passionate fury and vowed never to let the predators get their resources as cheaply as they had in the past.  We vowed to fight the Imperium to the last man, woman and child on our world.  There would be no free interference in our affairs.  Autonomy or death, was our slogan and war cry.  In the morning the call to arms and resistance would show up, painted on walls, fences, and even on the side of Imperial armoured personel carriers and tanks.  So the people began to organize; to create larger and larger political groups and legally challenge the Imperium’s manipulations.  We lived in wave after wave of bloody crackdowns and brutal repression but any talk of surrendering resulted in another body hanging from a pole, or tree, for the troopers to cut down and dispose of.  We would no longer be the Imperium’s “hewers of wood and drawers of water” forever, or until our worlds became unable to sustain life due to heavy extraction of natural resources and unchecked man-made pollution and we were abandoned to perish in the depths of space, with no hope of ever seeing rescue transportation off our dying rock.

Whenever the Imperium landed a detachment of Guard troopers, mobs formed and there was the inevitable bloodbath.  It is said that half of the population of Armistice died in the anti-Imperium “mob wars” that had already lasted two generations when, at sixteen, I found myself fighting for freedom.

So, ask me, do we know what to do if we encounter a mob?  Sure, if it’s from our side, join in.  If it’s from the enemy side, slink away and report its movements to our side, then form our own defensive counter-mob and attack.  To hesitate is to loose.  Now we are solidly united with our own spilled blood against the Imperium.  There would be no quarter from our side, for we are the legitimate people of this world.  

“Let me repeat:  a mob is a leaderless group of ten or more people bent on destruction and murder.  Report any mob to the nearest Guard post.”  Yes ma’am, thank you ma’am and why don’t you pack up your stupid course materials and return home by the first shuttle, with no due respect, ma’am?  Take some Star Trek holos back with you and base your next history course on them.  Maybe your students won’t turn into zombies on the first day. 

Meanwhile, what’s the real mob? There can be but one answer to that: it’s the Imperium.  The real Mob is always the largest, most powerful predatory group, for a mob takes what it wants because it has the power to do so.  Smaller groups, or “mobs” serve but to justify the real Mob’s oppression, or to do some of its dirtiest “wet” work.  Think “terrorists” as the vanguard of the Mob.  Oh yes, I have read quite a bit of the home world’s history to understand why here, on Armistice, we do what we do, and why we call our world by that meaningless term.  A mob, leaderless?  Never, no such thing.  The “leader” may not be a human being, it may be injustice, hunger, oppression, enslavement, but oh yes, a mob always has a leader.  In fact such a leader is the most powerful and motivational if it isn’t human, but an irresistible force, when choice is no longer choice.  Where, or when, anger and hate fill the collective vat of despair and feet begin to walk; hands grab sticks, stones, anything defensive or offensive, and charge down the street.

There came the inevitable bloody clash between Armisticians and troopers.  I was wounded in it and captured.  I was then seventeen earth years of age.  I am now an old but still strong woman from the hard labour I have performed my entire captive life.  I survived the mandatory torture and gang rapes, solitary confinement, sub-standard food fare and damp, cold, filthy accomodations.  Today, from my life imprisonment cell on Rebus, one of several Imperium prison planets, I write this for the “counselors” to read and ponder: “Down with the Imperium!  I still hope to see its final downfall.  How dare you call yourselves “civilized” and us “savages” and “terrorists.”   You are nothing but cowards who starve and kill women and children so your elites can wine and dine, get richer and brag.  Your lives are as hollow as the insides of our tiger reed.  I could almost pity you but will never: I vowed eternal hate and enmity between us and so it shall be.

Signed:  Selinia Armstrong of the free world of Armistice