Stories

Lyra and Malachi chapter 1

I started this novel about a month before baby #4 had me hurling my guts out in the toilet, and by the time I was up for writing again, the thread of inspiration was gone.

The characters in this novel are amongst my oldest and dearest, so one day it will be written and published, come hell or high water. For now, it will continue to grow and mature in that secret place where stories reside before they’re ready for the world.

When I re-read this chapter, I thought that the end seemed forced and unnatural, and lacked the strength of the opening. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not tackling this particular story for the time being.


 

News of the Father’s arrival spread like a wildfire through the town’s grapevine, and after only two days everyone had heard the name: Evan Malachi, the traveling priest. He was staying with their own pastor, would be delivering the sermon on Sunday, and was already completely booked up for lunches and dinners for the entirety of his stay.

Lyra was at the early morning market when she first heard the name. As she studied through her lists of groceries, two middle-aged women passed by chittering about how attractive the traveling priest was. By the time she was juggling three baskets full of vegetables, she had heard all about Father Malachi. No one was able to agree on his age, but they all reported that he had vibrant gold hair and a handsome face. Those who had already spoken to him said that he was engaging and articulate, with charisma to spare.

It was no surprise to Lyra when the first thing out of Mrs. Grady’s mouth was, “Have you heard about Father Malachi?”

Setting one of the baskets down on Mrs. Grady’s table, Lyra replied, “I’ve heard of nothing else.”

“I have yet to meet him, but everyone who has is absolutely smitten with him. Oh, if only there was a way to get him over to our house for dinner!”

“I’m sure that you’ll think of a way to ask him,” Lyra answered, distracted. She was staring at her list, frowning at the realization that she had forgotten to write down the price of the carrots. No matter what everyone else said, that darned Father Malachi was already making her life more difficult than she cared for. She was going to have to estimate low, and suffer the difference in her pay.

“Here’s the price for the groceries, Mrs. Grady. I’ll be back to clean after I finish making the rest of my deliveries.”

“Do a thorough job this time. We’ll never know if a certain visitor is going to be coming over.” Mrs. Grady took the receipt from Lyra and disappeared towards her husband’s study, while Lyra let herself out through the back door.

After her father’s death four months ago, Lyra had taken up employment between three different households, managing the basic upkeep and errands. None of them were rich enough to afford a full-time servant, but they could pay her for a couple hours of work every day. Lyra was barely managing to keep her father’s house, and after only four months she was already beginning to feel worn down.

Her father had been a carpenter, and the two of them had lived comfortably. Her mother died when she was very young, but her father often shared with her the locket he wore that contained her mother’s picture, and told wonderful stories about his deceased wife. Whenever Lyra snuggled against her father’s chest and listened to him talk about her mother, it was easy to imagine that she had stepped out to pick wildflowers, and would come back home soon to pop delicious, puffy bread dough into the oven to bake. When her father died, she lost her mother a second time as well.

Lyra worked hard, and despite Mrs. Grady’s implication, she was one of the best maids around. Her three houses were better kept than Mr. Neils, the only man in town with both cooks and servants. She refused to work for someone who was always holding the subject of rent and threat of eviction over her head, and Mr. Niels already had the rest of the town in the palm of his hand. Lyra didn’t want to give him more power over her than he already had.

Like everyone else, Lyra attended church every Sunday, but not because she believed in it. She wanted her employers to see her there and rest assured in the idea that she was too pious to ever steal from them, but the truth was that Lyra hated God. She would sit in her pew every week and curse Him for taking away good people like her father and mother, while money-grubbing landlords like Mr. Niels continued on in perfect health. Lyra couldn’t love a God who ran the world in such a fashion. She still cried every night over the death of her father, but she was never going to let her sorrow show in public.

As far as she was concerned, Father Malachi was a pawn for a vengeful and petty God, and the sooner he left, the sooner her life would continue on the same as before, though she didn’t particularly like where it was going – or, rather, wasn’t.

Even still, after leaving the third household to return home, having spent the entire day endlessly hearing others talk about him yet again, her curiosity was piqued. Despite herself, Lyra was beginning to look forward to Sunday.

Lyra started her work early in the morning, so she would always have the afternoons and evenings free to herself. She liked to spend them in the meadow just outside of town when she wasn’t busy with her own survival, and had beaten a little path through the woods with her journeying, though she was careful to make sure that it looked like it was only used by deer – the meadow was her secret, and she didn’t want it to become a popular spot for picnics. Her own chores were simple and easy to complete now that she was living alone, and once she was done she set to work making a little basket of food. Then Lyra was off.

It had turned into a hot summer day, but the shade of the trees was cool and pleasant. The worries that usually plagued her began to fade away as she walked through the forest, remaining behind as she moved towards her sanctuary. The birds were singing energetically in the tree tops, and Lyra closed her eyes as she took in a deep breath, taking a moment to feel the forest around her with her spirit.

A loud thump and breaking twigs made her jump and gasp, and Lyra’s eyes snapped open to see a startled looking man standing in front of her. He had vibrant gold hair that hung freely around his shoulders, and his face was smooth, young, and handsome. His eyes held Lyra’s gaze, a vivid shade of turquoise that held more wisdom than she had seen before, even amongst the eldest members of her community. He was wearing a simple black cassock with buttons down the front, but his figure looked strong and fit underneath, and around his neck he wore a gold cross on a long chain. Lyra didn’t have to guess at his identity.

Father Malachi.

“Good evening!” he exclaimed, somehow seeming more off-balance than Lyra felt. “I believe we haven’t met before; I’m–”

“I know.” Lyra tore her eyes away from his, then pushed past him to keep going to the meadow. She felt indignant, that he would invade her private sanctuary then look as if she had stumbled across his secret. He followed after her.

“Forgive me if I startled you.” His voice was like velvet, soft yet masculine, with a cadence that penetrated her heart and set it at ease. Lyra liked it, and could easily imagine herself sitting and listening to him preach every day if she didn’t have anything else to do; she now understood why no one could talk of anything else. He continued speaking, “I was doing a touch of exploring, and I hadn’t realized that any people knew about this path. I wouldn’t have bumbled so much if I had expected to find you.”

Lyra stopped and turned to face him. “Look, Father, as far as I know I’m the only person who knows about this place, and I’d like to keep it that way. I come here to be alone.” She hoped that her emphasis would help him understand the hint, though she was conflicted about whether or not she actually wanted him to leave. Somehow, she had ended up with Father Malachi all to herself, to talk about whatever she desired with no one around to interrupt. Lyra found that she had a lot on her mind that she wanted to say to the traveling priest, or perhaps more to God through him.

“I am sworn to secrecy, my daughter.” He smiled as he drew his fingers across his lips.

Lyra quickly walked across the meadow to sit down on her favorite spot of soft grass, biting the inside of her cheek to keep herself from crying. Father Malachi had made her think of her deceased father, and her soul stung with the absence of her parents. She had every intention of letting go and sobbing, but he was still following her and she didn’t want him to see her weaknesses. Lyra didn’t say anything as she straightened her skirt over her legs, then pulled an apple out of her basket and began shining it to give herself something to do.

“May I ask your name?” Father Malachi sat down next to her.

“Lyra,” she snapped.

“It’s a beautiful name, and it suits you well.” Without asking permission, he reached over and took the apple out of Lyra’s hands, then took a big bite through it’s shiny red skin and crisp fruit. “Mm, it’s very delicious. Thank you.”

Lyra was stunned. “That’s . . . mine!”

He grinned and held it out to her. “Would you like it back?”

“No!” Lyra couldn’t make heads or tails out of his behavior, and she wondered if he wasn’t entirely of sound mind, but that didn’t stop her outrage. “That was supposed to be part of my dinner!”

“What else did you bring?” He reached for her basket, but she snatched it up and held it against her chest.

“Go away!”

“Got you.” Father Malachi took another bite of the apple and winked. “Are you feeling better now?”

Something new and indescribable filled Lyra’s center, a sort of epiphany mixed with even more confusion. “What?” All of the fire was gone from her now.

“You were on the verge of tears, but you didn’t want it to show. Unfortunately, my dearest daughter, you’re not as skilled at hiding your feelings as you think you are.”

Lyra felt insulted yet relieved. “I was under the impression that everyone else in town was feeding you. There’s no reason for you to take my food as well.”

“Yes, I have been promised an assortment of exquisite meals from the finest cooks that your town has to offer, but that doesn’t change the pleasure of an apple. So, my dearest daughter, is this really the entirety of your dinner?”

Lyra felt herself blushing, partly in shame over her meager meal, and partly because he kept referring to her as his ‘dearest daughter.’ She was already becoming attached to the traveling priest, and she knew that it would break her heart to watch him move on. “Yes . . .”

“But you can cook, with talent as well.”

“How did . . .?” Lyra stared at him, numbly handing over the basket when Father Malachi gestured for it.

“Smoked gouda,” he said as he pulled out her cheese. “It combines wonderfully with fresh apple, yet is a little more costly. From the state of your dress, you are carefully managing your finances, yet you still decided to indulge in this particular treat.”

Lyra clenched her jaw and said tightly, “I stopped cooking after my father died four months ago.”

“Ah, the reason for my dearest daughter’s pain.” Father Malachi set the basket down and wrapped an arm around Lyra, pulling her against him. “It’s perfectly acceptable to hurt. You don’t have to hide from me.”

“I miss my daddy.” Lyra felt like she was reverting to childish behavior, that she wasn’t carrying herself in a manner than was appropriate for a grown woman. Tears slipped out of her eyes, and she wrapped her arms around Father Malachi’s neck as she began to cry. “I miss my daddy so much!”

How did this end up happening?

Somehow, Father Malachi had pierced her mind and stolen the thoughts that she kept hidden there.

Lyra was a small child, crying in the arms of a stranger over the loss of her father, and now that she had grasped him she didn’t want to let him go. She wanted to stay with Father Malachi, to always be his dearest daughter, to depend on him for the safety and protection that she had been living without.

What was it about Father Malachi that made her feel that way?

Stories

Writing Prompt – Angels and Demons

It was a cruel twist of fate that landed me in the classifieds section, searching through the “roommate wanted” ads in hopes of finding someone that I could tolerate living with for at least a few months while I got my feet back under me. I’m not going to lie, in my heart I cursed God through the entire process.

I couldn’t say what it was about that ad in particular that drew my attention. The wording was the exact same as all the others, but it gave me a good feeling in my gut, so I went ahead and made the call. Given the urgency of my situation, I hurried through all the preliminaries over the phone, and settled on the move-in date for the next Saturday. I met my roommates for the very first time after I pulled up in my truck, loaded with the most precious of my possessions that I could salvage.

The first to greet me was a heavyset woman who introduced herself as Gabriel. She was warm and friendly, though a little more eager for physical contact than I was personally comfortable with, so I pulled my hands away and stepped back. She smelled strongly of brownies, and there was no doubt that baked desserts were a major part of her life. I wondered how I, myself, would fare if there was an endless supply of cakes and cookies around the kitchen.

She led me inside the house and showed me to my room, followed by the standard tour that ended with signing the lease on the living room coffee table. It was then that he appeared, taking me by surprise.

When Gabriel had pointed to his door, she had simply said, “This is Bub’s room,” which had inspired the mental image of a man built similarly to her, perhaps with a few tattoos to cover up a teddy bear personality, but my supposition had been wildly off base.

Bub was lean and muscular, as if he ate nothing but raw eggs for breakfast every single morning. He was clean cut, austere, and never once smiled, even when I called out hello and told him my name.

“I expect you to follow the rules,” he said sharply. “I won’t hesitate to evict you if you don’t, and I won’t feel bad about it after.”

I kind of liked him. He wasn’t the sort that would party as the trash piled up, and as long as I didn’t get in his way, he would leave me to my own devices.

“Oh, don’t mind him.” Gabriel laughed. “We like to be relaxed around here, as a ‘no judgment’ zone where everyone can feel safe.”

Bub’s eyes flashed angrily, and as he advanced on Gabriel I grew worried that I would soon be calling the police for domestic violence. His fists clenched, but his voice was quiet and calm as he said, “I don’t like to be undermined. I will continue to tolerate a great many vices from you, but I will not be dismissed and undermined. Rules are rules, and they will be followed.”

Gabriel was cowed. She giggled to cover it up, then asked if I needed help moving in. After I declined, she went straight for the kitchen. Bub, on the other hand, followed me out to my truck and began unloading boxes, his muscles flexing as he moved with ease.

“It’s disgusting,” Bub said. “Gabriel can’t say ‘no’ to anything, no matter what it is. She’s going to wind up dead with the way she’s going.”

“She seems like a nice person,” I said, not wanting to get in the middle of anything. My plan was to keep entirely to myself until the day I could return to living alone.

“All angels *seem* nice, until you actually get to know them. They have no self control at all.” He spat on the ground to emphasize his dislike.

“I’m sorry, what?” I wasn’t sure if I had heard Bub correctly. “Did you say angels?”

“Yes. Angels. Didn’t you know that Gabriel is one?”

“No!” I sputtered. “I didn’t know they existed.”

Bub’s smile grew wicked. “Did Gabriel tell you my full name?”

“She called you ‘Bub,’” I replied, feeling uncertain.

“It’s Beelzebub,” he said with glee. “*The* Beelzebub. Welcome to our home.”

He left me alone then, and for awhile I sat in the driver’s seat of my truck, thinking about what I had gotten myself into. I wondered if I should put the boxes back in the bed, turn the key in the ignition, and drive away to fight against fate in different location. However, as the sun began to turn the deep orange of late afternoon, I opened the door and continued moving into my room. I decided that maybe I wasn’t going to keep to myself over the next few months after all. Maybe fate had big plans for me, and I might as well see them through.


The original writing prompt on Reddit was:

You just met your new roommates Gabriel, an obese, glutoneous [sic] angel; and Beelzebub, a muscular, athletic demon. Turns out that angels who have never faced temptation are terrible at resisting it. On the other hand, demons who know nothing but temptation are masters of discipline.

I chose this particular prompt because I like angels and demons and it’s been a long time since I’ve written about them, even though the prompt is basically the plot to an anime called ‘Gabriel Dropout’. Since I have seen that anime, I was mindful to not rewrite it.

At the time I wrote this, the other responses defaulted to using college dorms as the setting. However, when I lived in California, the cost of living was so freakin’ high that all of us normal folk had to pool together just to afford rent, so I became acquainted with a number of people who still had roommates well outside of college (myself included). I decided to use this arrangement as my main premise, thus saving me from reliving the drudgery of school.

First person, because I like Lovecraft and copying his style allows me be vague about a number of things, thus saving me real life time. Seriously deep thinking behind that decision.

The question about whether Gabriel is a man or a woman depends on which spiritual circles you run with, since they go both ways. I like the stereotype of the cheerful, padded woman who’s always baking, so I went with that. Demons, on the other hand, never have any controversy about which sex they are, so Beelzebub is a man. I made him a bit scary, to keep with the common image of demons.

For the prompt, I wrote a basic set up with an open ending, and truthfully didn’t edit it past a second read-through. I’m currently working on a For Realz novel, so I want to devote most of my free time to that, rather than to the internet. This was just a bit of brain candy for the fun of it.

Stories

Control [short story]

I wrote this when I was 15, and it won a Moderator’s Choice on Elfwood — one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me during my teenage years. I’ve decided to post it in its original, award-winning (snerk), form, for old time’s sake.

I’m honestly really embarrassed by this, so do me a favor and don’t read it.


It’s strange, how you never think you will become the subject of discrimination. When I was a child, such a thing happening to me never crossed my mind. I never thought that my existence would be confined by a barbed wire fence. I remember how it all started, as clearly as if it had been engraved into my mind. I’m one of the few who can wield the power of magic, and for that reason alone I was hated and despised.

Continue reading “Control [short story]”

Stories

The Midnight Window

I recently came across this short story that I originally wrote in 2008. I liked it enough to use it as editing practice, and brought it up-to-date to my current skill level.


He was watching them again.

He found his nose pressed against the cold glass window, his eyes locked on the room beyond, unconsciously counting the rising and falling breaths of each dark lump snuggled warmly in the bed, and he had no memory of how he had gotten there. They were bigger. They always seemed bigger each time he huddled against the side of the house, watching them sleep. He wondered how many years it had been, then found it absurd that he would even still care.

He used to also watch through the window on the other side of the house, gazing at the sleeping woman with some unknown regret pounding at his frozen heart. Used to, that is, until a man appeared next to her in bed, and he realized that his former position was no longer empty. After that, he lost all desire to venture beneath that particular window, and the pain that seared him never flared up again.

Now he spent his time with the small ones, peering at them through the blackness. Sometimes he would stay there all night, unable to tear himself away until the threat of dawn forced him into hiding. Those two sleeping mounds, buried under blankets, contained the last living fragment of him. When he saw them, he felt calm.

The littlest one woke up one night. Her head had lifted from the pillow and she looked toward him, riveting him in place despite his desire to flee. She didn’t seem afraid as she slowly slid out of bed and tiptoed up to the window. He could see her face clearly, and her long blonde hair that flowed down her back over her lacy nightgown. Her familiar blue eyes met his, as she put her hand against the glass, and he felt compelled to press his own hand against the other side. Then she whispered a single word,

“Papa.”

Something shot through his insides when he heard her speak, and he found himself floating as a silver mist, terrified that the wind would scatter him across the surrounding forest. It was some time before he found the strength to will himself back to solidity. He learned something crucial about his nature that night, and it gave him the resolve to stay away.

He didn’t know how much time passed before he went back, but the longing had become to much for him to deny. There was a third shape now, much smaller than the others, nestled between them with a tiny fist held up into the air. He knew what it was, and was surprised that he didn’t care. Perhaps he was now too far removed from his humanity to experience that emotion again.

This would be the last time that he would gaze at his children. They had moved forward with the life that he could never share, and it was time for him to let go. He was a vampire now, and didn’t belong in the world of the living. The final threads that kept him chained to the place were broken, and soon he would forget that they had ever existed.