E-Journal of Nathaniel Eoghan Steward – October 24th, 2019 “Red Fang” – Part V

I recognized the tone in Marisa’s voice and knew she was being completely serious. So, I immediately looked in the direction she was pointing. Sure enough, standing there amidst the trees across the road, was our quarry. It was still in its wolf/human form. As we watched, the creature kept switching its gaze from Marisa, then to me and back. 

“It must’ve sensed your presence,” Marisa murmured.

I nodded. “The Sangui-Sapio we share is calling out to itself. I felt he was near while I was still on the plane.”

Marisa shot me a puzzled look and I quickly explained what had happened. “I see,” she nodded when I finished and glanced back at the creature across the road. “But why is it choosing a humanoid shape? I would think it would hunt better in its own form.”

“That’s got me puzzled too,” I confessed and told her about the dreams I’d been having. “So, when I saw the article, I knew I had to come. I think the poor creature is stuck and can’t shift back to normal.”

“Do you think the Sangui-Sapio is responsible?” she asked, then frowned. “No that doesn’t make sense. You’ve always told us that the only times the Sangui-Sapio has ever altered your form shape without permission was to keep you safe. Otherwise, it never tries to interfere or takeover.”

“I know, that’s what got me confused,” I told her.

“Not as confused as this poor thing,” Marisa replied and proceeded to cross the street.

Naturally I immediately followed, all the while saying, “Marisa what are you…” Then I stopped myself. The wolf-creature was coming out from among the trees. Its body language was neither hostile or threatening. If anything, it seemed drawn to her somehow… 

And of course, that’s when everything went to hell! 

A passing car’s headlights illuminated the wolf who was completely clear of the trees just then. The sound of tires screeching to a halt, told me that the driver had spotted the poor misshapen animal. Before I could even think, Marisa began shouting at the wolf to take off which it promptly did with amazing speed. 

I think I was the only one not surprised, but that was because my keen eyes saw the animal’s mismatched limbs suddenly shortened or stretched until they were the same length, allowing it to move with a speed only I could match. Not that I did of course, not with the Ranger right there. 

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the vehicle that had come to a halt was a modified pick-up belonging to an Alaska Park Ranger. The driver was already leaping from his vehicle holding a rifle when the beast disappeared from sight. 

Unfortunately, the wolf had not bolted back into the woods as I’d hoped. Instead, it shot across the road and disappeared between the shadowy buildings of the airport before any of us knew what was happening. 

At that point there was only one thing I could think of doing. I straightened up and did my best impression of Bull Shannon from the show “Night Court” and said, “Ooooo-kay,” in his voice.

I knew he was one of Marisa’s favorite characters from the show, but if you had seen the look she gave me you’d have thought I’d done an impression of Dan Fielding, the sleezy lawyer, instead. 

“Seriously? Is that all you’ve got to say at a moment like this?” she demanded, while pointing behind me.

I quickly got what she meant, because I could hear the Ranger reaching for his radio. I immediately pointed at him and shot my mist in his direction. I wasn’t able to stop him from getting a few words out saying he’d located the creature, but I did manage to get him to tell them to search in the opposite direction from where the animal had fled. I also got him to completely ignore us and take off in the wrong direction. 

“Better?” I asked Marisa, only to find she was already crossing the road again to get back to the airport.

Catching up with her, we’d just reached the edge of the buildings where we’d last seen our quarry in time to hear shouts and running feet. This time I was the one to spot the animal, darting between a couple of hangars. Without pausing, I picked up Marisa and raced towards the buildings. To anyone watching they’d have just seen a blur shoot past, since I wasn’t holding back on the speed. And as for the snow on the ground, I can run on top of it, which meant no trace of our passing would be found. 

As soon as we were in the shadows of the building, I put Marisa down and we both started scanning the area for our friend. But because this was real life and not a Disney or Hallmark Channel story, all we could see and hear were people screaming and scrambling away from the tarmac. Although I had gotten the ranger and his friends heading in the wrong direction, the animal had clearly been spotted by people who were now surging towards terminal to escape and raise the alarm.

As we stood there, we could see security armed with rifles were already pouring out of the terminal and nearby buildings. 

“This is not good,” Marisa muttered, looking around for our friend. “And I don’t see him anywhere?”

Neither could I, but I knew he was still near. But with security already spreading out to search I didn’t have time to try and zero in on him. But I did know where he definitely wasn’t. “I’m going to lead them off, keep an eye on my stuff, please,” I told Marisa. 

Before she could ask what I meant, I began misting out of my clothes and let them hit the ground. A moment later I solidified a few feet away not as myself but as the ‘werewolf’.

Marisa smiled.

Gesturing with my snout at the security guards I gave her a wink.

“Okay, but you be careful,” she whispered and then let out a bloodcurdling scream that got everyones attention. Immediately, I bolted from our hiding spot and onto the tarmac, pausing briefly to make sure I was spotted before trying to get away from the terminal area. I purposely alternated running on two feet, then all fours, so as not to discourage pursuit. After all, the whole idea was to lead them away from the area where we knew the creature was. 

Glancing over my shoulder I saw a number of security officers giving chase, as well as a couple who were ‘tending’ to Marisa who was putting on quite the damsel in distress act.  They were leading her into the terminal where she would be safe. Or so I thought. Like I said before, this wasn’t a Disney or Hallmark movie…

TO BE CONTINUED…

E-Journal of Nathaniel Eoghan Steward – October 24th, 2019 “Red Fang” – Part IV

After a five-hour drive to Columbus Ohio, and now coming to the end of a 12+ hour flight, I’ll be touching down in Fairbanks very shortly. Isabella tried getting Otto to come with me, but I pointed out that this was more of a solo trip. As knowledgeable and talented as Otto is, I’m the one who has more of a direct connection to the wolf. The recent dreams have proven this to me, and even this high up, I think I can feel the gap between me and the errant Sangui-Sapio shrinking. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking. I’ll know for sure once we touch down.

The flight crew are asking us to shut down our electronics. I’ll take this up once I’m back on the ground.

Three hours later… 

Okay, so much for my ‘solo’ mission. Apparently, Isabella has been acting as the eyes and ears for Lisa and Marisa without my knowledge. How did I find out? Well, coming off the plane and finding Marisa at the gate holding up a sign that says, “Congratulations on your sex change, Sis… er Bro!”, which included a photo of me in my ‘Nadine’ persona, was a huge hint. You see, I’ve only ever let Isabella take photos of me in that form, so I knew it had to have been her doing.

I was tempted to walk in the opposite direction, only I had this horrible image of Marisa running after me yelling, “So? How’s the new plumbing working out?” I know how tenacious she can be. So instead, I simply walked right up to her and said quietly, “Thanks for going the sibling route, instead of something like, ‘Congratulations on the sex change, Honey. When do I get to try out your new equipment?’.”

She laughed and said, “Ooo… I’m saving that for next time.”

“Me and my big mouth,” I murmured as we headed for the baggage area. “So, how did you land all the way up here. I thought you were riding the rails with our Karneval Schatten friends?”

Karneval Schatten, as the name implies, is a traveling carnival made up of people and beings from various Para-Earths who at one point or another found themselves stranded in this world. By traveling and presenting themselves as performers, they’re able to hide their ‘strangeness’ from the folks of this world. And like Otto and me, they seek out incursions from other Para-Earths and try to return any creatures/beings land up here. If they cannot return the ‘visitor’ to their reality, they will add them to their ranks if possible. However, in cases where the intruder is hostile or more dangerous, they will contact me or Otto to help contain the being.

They travel by an unusual train which can actually travel through various Para-Earths and reappear in this world at a variety of select locations that act as beacons for them. Just don’t ask me for the mechanics of how the train does it because I have no idea. Nor do my carnival friends to be honest. They ‘borrowed’ it from another Para-Earth traveler, who had been gathering and imprisoning them (and eventually me) for purposes I’d rather not go into right now.

Damn, just thinking about that day still makes me shudder. I swear if it hadn’t been for Brandon Elliott, and his grandson Peter, God only knows what might have happened to us and this world.

The rest of my reverie was interrupted by Marisa.

“Once I heard you were coming here, I asked them to drop me off,” she explained, brushing a stray blonde hair out of her face and back into the hood of her parka. “I was ready to head home anyway and figured I could catch a lift back with you after we find your… friend.”

I halted in mid-step and frowned at her. “My sister sent you the article too?”

“No, I found it,” she laughed, “Who do you think sent it to her the others in the first place?”

Eying her curiously I asked, “So, you’ve been keeping an eye out for possible ‘incursions’?”

She nodded. “Incursions, strange phenomenon, sightings… after all I need material for my children and Young Adult ‘fantasy’ books don’t I?” Then she bumped me with her hip saying, “Unlike some people, I don’t have over a century and a half of life experience to draw upon.”

“Touche’,” I conceded. “When are you going to finally try releasing one of them?”

“I want to have a good number of them completed first in case I hit a dry spell so I can keep releasing stories in a timely manner. That way the audience doesn’t wind up getting frustrated that it’s taking so long between books,” she replied as we started walking towards the carriage area again.

“How many have you got on hand?”

“Five, but I want eight at least before I start publishing.”

“Eight?” I frowned as we reached the baggage carousel. “Why so many?”

“That way I can safely put out two per year with plenty of room for travel or…” she paused to snatch my bag which had just appeared on the conveyor belt, “Life getting in the way for a good four years.”

I had to admit she had a point. I often wished I still had a few books set and ready to go some days. But ever since I moved back to the family mansion, I’ve had a number of distractions (which included her and Lisa) to deal with. And this ‘werewolf’ business was only the latest.

As we made our way out the doors of the terminal I could see how much snow had fallen recently. Marisa must’ve noticed it too and promptly huddled closer to me as we walked through the parking lot. Since she is almost as tall as me meant she could rest her head on my shoulder, and promptly did so.

“You didn’t by chance rent a car, did you?” I asked.

She shook her head. “I caught a taxi and came right here. Besides, I wasn’t sure if we’d need a car, skis, or a snowmobile.” Here she paused and looked at me, “Then again, we could just rent a dogsled and tie you to the front. You’re so strong we wouldn’t need a full dog team.”

“You just want an excuse to get a leash on me,” I blurted and instantly regretted it.

“Well now that you’ve brought it up…” she began.

“Uh-oh,” I muttered, looking up. “It’s starting to snow again.”

Marisa frowned, “So? I thought you loved the snow?”

“I do, but with it falling that means no moon or Northern Lights to help us find my ‘friend’ as you call him,” I explained and looked around. I blew out a breath. “I’ll have to reach out mentally to try and get an idea…”

“FOUND HIM!” Marisa cut in and pointed.

TO BE CONTINUED…

E-Journal of Nathaniel Eoghan Steward – October 23rd, 2019 “Red Fang” – Part III

Otto raised one bushy eyebrow and asked, “Nathan, what did you do? Come clean, now.”

“I got hurt during a hunt,” I replied distractedly, as I pulled up a new tab on the computer and began searching for the nearest flight to Alaska. There was one leaving that evening from Columbus, Ohio. I could easily make it if I started getting ready right away. Booking a seat on the plane, I got up and began making for the door only to find both Otto and Isabella blocking me.

“You do know I can easily mist past the two of you,” I pointed out.

“Are you so sure?” asked Otto, pulling out an oversized fireplace bellow. It took me a moment to realize the bellow he was holding was the one I kept next to the fireplace. As usual, I never heard or saw him grab it. He’s a sly one, let me tell you.

Knowing the clock was ticking for me to get to Ohio I told them, “Fine, follow me upstairs and I’ll explain while I pack.”

That got them to let me pass, and the three of us headed upstairs. I told them all about my visit with my friends in Fairbanks and how I’d headed for the Boreal Forest after leaving them.

As we reached my bedroom Isabella headed straight for my closet and pulled out a couple of suitcases, one of which was almost as big as her. Not that she had any trouble handling it. Since I accidentally infected her my Sangui-Sapio (a story for another day), she has the same strength, speed, and weaknesses I possess. And although she has the body of a child, unlike me she has been growing at the normal rate of any 12-year-old girl. Though I suspect, that like me, this will slow down considerably once she reaches adulthood.

In the meantime, Otto urged me to continue my tale and I complied.

Since they already know about my tendency to ‘go native’ when I’m up in Alaska, I was able to gloss over that part quickly. Finally, I got to the part about meeting up with the pack of wolves, and how I’d won their confidence with my mist trick.

“Since the hours of night are so long at that time of the year, I wound up staying with them almost a week,” I explained. “Since we were making kills pretty regularly, there was plenty of blood to keep me sated. Plus, it was pretty cloudy at the time, and we were keeping under the tree canopy a lot, which made things even easier for me to stay in wolf form.”

“Sounds like you were having a lovely time,” Otto nodded pleasantly, as he sat on my smiling. “So, when are we going to get to the ‘Oops’ part of your story?”

I stood there holding a stack of underwear in my hands, and just stared at him. “What makes you think there’s an ‘Oops’ part coming?”

“Because it’s clear from your reaction to the article that you suspect you accidentally infected one of those wolves with your Sangui-Sapio companion,” he answered calmly.

“Psychology?” I asked.

Otto shook his head. “No, more like I know that look you get whenever you’ve goofed something up,” he teased, then his expression became serious. “So how did it happen? You’re usually very careful about not ‘sharing’ your gifts.” His eyes darted to Isabella ever-so-briefly before looking at me again.

As I mentioned before, infecting my sister had been an accident. It had happened back in 1863, shortly after the Sangui-Sapio and I had formed our bond. I hadn’t learned about the mistake until decades later, mistaking her for a ghost at first.

Anyway, I resumed my packing and my tale. “It was the last night I was with the pack. We were hunting bison. Shortly before I met the pack they had lost both their alpha and beta leaders. With me appearing on the scene, they’d had more successes with their hunts and were beginning to eye me as a new leader. Too many failed hunts and they’d be in trouble. Luckily there was one young male who was showing a lot of promise and I was trying to support him, so to speak. Follow his lead and all, kind of thing.”

“And how did he take it?” Otto inquired.

“He wasn’t exactly thrilled about me, but he knew I was effective in helping bring down prey so he tolerated my presence. But during that last hunt, errors were made. He wanted us to go after one of the younger bison. Unfortunately, I could tell already that the herd was keeping a very good defensive ring around their young. No matter how much the pack harried them, they wouldn’t break rank. That is, except for one older bull who at that point was wide open.”

As usual Otto was already ahead of me, saying, “Let me guess, our young alpha saw this as an opportunity to firmly establish himself as leader. Am I correct?”

I nodded. “Oh yeah. Mind you he was a good hunter, but I could see he was going to be seriously outmatched.”

“So, you jumped in to try and help him?” my sister asked.

“That had been the plan,” I winced, “I didn’t want to make him look bad, but I knew he couldn’t take that bison alone. So, I zipped ahead and challenged the big bull myself, giving the alpha a clean shot at the throat. Unfortunately, the bull was faster than either of us expected and he gored me something fierce, got my blood all over his face and neck. A second or two later, the alpha nailed him in the throat and the three of us went at it. The pack arrived moments later, attacking the bull’s rear and sides. And that was it for the bull, we brought him down. But looking back, I suspect that some of my blood was on the bison’s throat where the alpha struck. Which means it didn’t return to me when we called my blood back.”

“You called your blood back?” Isabella repeated with a frown.

“Whenever I bleed, either me or Sangui-Sapio can call the blood I spilled back into me through the skin. Unless something prevents it from reaching me, like being ingested for instance,” I explained.

“Like the Cannibal Killer you fought three years ago?” Isabella continued.

I nodded. That guy had lived up to his name and had taken a bite out of me, along with a chunk of the Sangui-Sapio. He’d been injured in our fight before he bit me. And since the Sangui-Sapio’s first instinct is to preserve life, it went to work pretty quickly on him, making the guy nearly as strong and hard to stop as me.

As if reading my thoughts Otto spoke again. “If this is indeed the case with the wolf, why is the creature taking a humanoid shape? From what you’ve told me in the past, the Sangui-Sapio normally just adapts to its new host’s form. It only tries to shapeshift the body briefly, in or to protect or help the new host. Otherwise, the host appears to be normal. Yet, according to the article, the creature seems to have taken on a humanoid shape and was having rough time of it. Now, why would a wolf do that?”

Once more I thought back to the dream. In it, I was having trouble keeping my wolf form. “I don’t know,” I replied, finishing up my packing. “Which is why I have to get up there as quickly as possible, before that poor creature accidentally winds up infecting another animal or even a person.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Nathaniel’s Private E-Journal – October 23rd, 2019 “Red Fang” – Part II

Upon reaching the bottom of the steps I could hear Otto, Penny, Richard and Isabella in the study laughing about something on the internet.

“Well that certainly makes a change from Abominable Snowman sightings,” Richard was saying.

“Maybe it’s a Wendigo?” I heard my sister chime in, “They travel with the snow!”

“True, but I have never heard of one that far north,” Otto’s gentle bass voice pointed out.

Intrigued, I did a 180 and headed for the study instead of the kitchen. Coffee could wait, this was sounding interesting.

Upon entering the study, I saw that they were all gathered around the computer on the big desk where I work on my novels. There are two computer monitors, which makes it easier for me to do research on one while I work on my story on the other. At this point though they had the story on only one screen and their heads were all in the way, so I couldn’t see what they were looking at.

As I strained to look over their heads, Penny suddenly said, “You’re up early, Nathan.”

I did a doubletake. She hadn’t even turned around to look at me. And I know I didn’t cast a reflection on either monitor. I swear the woman has developed some kind of “Mom Radar” ever since she gave birth to her son Richie Jr. four years ago.

Then again it may just be a survival tactic she developed growing up in Detroit. She doesn’t like to talk about her childhood. But one time she did tell me you needed to have eyes all over your head to survive not only the neighborhood, but the apartment building you lived in too.

Before I could respond to Penny’s observation Isabella spoke up again. “Lisa’s visiting some museums over in Charleston for one the college classes she’s taking, and Marisa’s travelling with our carnival friends. He doesn’t have any reason to be tired enough to stay in bed.”

At that point Otto looked at me and waggled his bushy eyebrows at me saying, “You poor boy.”

Ignoring these little jibes at my expense, I finally got to see what was on the screen. It was clear from the headline what movie they got their inspiration from. 

“An American Werewolf in Alaska?” I read aloud incredulously.

“I know,” cried Penny turning to me. “Alaska has been part of the United States for decades, so of course any werewolf that turns up there is going to be American.”

“I would have gone with ‘Red Fang’ myself,” added Otto.

I stared blankly at him for a moment, which earned me an eyeroll from my oldest friend.

“What?” I cried, wondering what I’d done this time.

Richard came to my aid. “He’s making a joke off of the title ‘White Fang’. You know, the novel by Jack London that takes place in Alaska?”

“Never mind, Richard,” Otto told him, “Apparently, he doesn’t read modern books.”

“Modern!” I exclaimed, “That was written in 1906. If that’s modern, what do you consider ‘classic’?”

Otto simply shrugged, “The Bible, the Vedas, Ovid’s Metamorphases…”

“The Dead Sea Scrolls, anything you were able to check out of the Library of Alexandria…,” I supplied helpfully.

“I wish,” he sighed.

Laughing I excused myself and went to get some coffee. Otto is way older than me, yet in spite of our being friends for the last 120+ years, I still don’t know exactly how old he really is. Oh, he claims he’s given me plenty of hints over time (which I know he has), it’s just… I have a problem with numbers. It’s called Dyscalculia, which is a kind of dyslexia only with numbers instead of letters, which throws my calculations off whenever I’m doing math. I barely passed my classes at the universities, which made me kind of blase when it comes to doing casual math problems, outside of research or for a class. 

Heading back to the study, I found only Otto and Isabella were still there. “Where’d Penny and Richard go?” I asked.

“To wake Little Richie up from his afternoon nap,” Isabella answered, then turned back to Otto asking, “If the creature is real, do you think it might be another Para-Earth incursion?”

“It’s possible, but none of my calculations predicted an opening taking place in that area recently,” he replied.

This piqued my curiosity and I slid into one of the chairs vacated by Penny and Richard, in order to check out the article. There were a few photos, but since they were taken at night, so the lighting was not great. 

Heck, I’ve seen photos of Bigfoot (which never do him justice, FYI) that were more recognizable. And that includes the fuzzy grainy shots like this one.

Turning to my old friend I asked, “Otto? What did you mean when you said you’d have called this article ‘Red Fang’?”

“Well, if you read the article, you’ll find out,” he replied curiously.

Obediently, I did as he instructed. The description of the creature varied somewhat from witness to witness. However, they all agreed it looked humanoid with tufts of hair on its back and misshapen limbs. According to those who got a better look at it, one or more of the creature’s limbs was longer than the rest, which made it hard for the thing to get around. Perhaps that was why it seemed to vary running on two limbs and then all four. However it was only towards the end of the article that two people described the creature’s coloring not as reddish, but red. Almost blood red, to be specific. Looking back to the title of the article, I saw that the encounter had taken place on the outskirts of Fairbanks.

I suddenly found myself thinking back to the dream, and now an uneasy feeling was sweeping over me.

As if knowing my thoughts, Otto observed casually, “Of course, the creature could have made a kill and was simply covered in the blood of its victim.”

I shook my head. A century and a half on this, and a number of Para-Earths, has taught me that if something seems ‘sus’, then it probably is.

Just then Isabella said, “The article said this wasn’t the first sighting of the creature. There have been reports of a red wolf type of creature being spotted as far back as April. You were in Alaska back in January? Did you see the creature while you were there?”

At that moment I remembered a particular incident that had happened during my visit. “I think, I might have…” I replied.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Nathaniel’s Private E-Journal – August 2005 : “Beginning A New Chapter…”

Summer in West Virginia hasn’t changed all that much in a hundred and fifty years and tonight is no exception.  It hit the upper 80’s which in and of itself isn’t so bad, but the humidity makes it feel much worse.  Brian and his family are out of town, so I spent part of the evening with Jack, the town’s physician, and his family.  They know my secret and have kept it to themselves for the past one hundred and twenty years.  It was nice spending time with his mother and grandmother.  As much as time has passed I still see them both as little girls who I used to take up into the evening sky on a warm summer night.  


But only when the sky was clear.  Tonight there are clouds overhead so I can’t even enjoy the stars.  I’d have spent the rest of the evening with Jack and his family, but they were hosting a party with others from out of town and I didn’t want some of our conversations overheard, so I left early and headed to The Crypt.


One of the nice things about having a private club that’s located in the basement level of an old building is that it doesn’t get too hot down there and I’m not the only one who knows this fact.  Even before I turned down the alley and reached the stairs that led down into my club, I could hear the music playing, accompanied by laughter and cheering.  

Upon opening the door I find the room is full bodies gyrating to the latest hit tunes my new disc jockey is playing.  He goes by the name of Scar-Man due to on old wound that runs from his forehead and across his face.  Thank God I got to him in time, otherwise it could’ve been a lot worse.  I’ve offered to help him get it fixed but he always refuses.  “I need to remember where I’ve been… so I don’t forget where I’m goin’,” he always tells me, so I leave it at that.


He spots me from across the room and gives me a questioning look.  Some nights I like to make a grand entrance, other times I don’t.  Tonight is one of the latter.  Instead I find myself in a reflective mood and give a little shake to my head.  He nods and keeps the party going.

I quietly make my way through the crowd in my own unique way.  I pass between bodies that only a fly could navigate without anyone noticing.  Soon I’ve reached a dark quiet corner of the room where I can observe without being noticed.  There is a table here and I settle in and let my eyes roam.  Oddly enough they fall upon one of the old vaudeville posters I have lining my wall.  My mind begins thinking about how things were back in the 1910’s and the 1920’s.  Without realizing it, my eyes swing back to the crowd on the dance floor and I see something wondrous.  My eyes are clearly seeing the young people moving back and forth, flirting, and kissing and having a wonderful time.  Yet in the same moment in my mind I’m seeing another image super-imposed over them.  I see uniforms from bygone eras.  One moment I see the Union blue, then the brown ones we wore back in World War I, in another instant I’m seeing the dresses become flapper style, while the young men are decked out in the old Zoot suits.

The styles continue to change, yet the emotions and feelings are still the same as I watch the figures both before me and in my memories.  Something stirs within me as I stare.  Soon I leave my little corner of the club and head upstairs.  Normally, I’d take the actual stairs themselves, but tonight I take my ‘mist’ form and head upwards until I reach the door that leads to my art studio and slip through the open transom above it.

Once inside my artistic sanctuary I solidify and stare around at my surroundings.  Canvasses, both finished and still under way, line the floor and walls.  

I soon find myself studying each one intently.  My mind begins to think back to when I created each one and the story that led to their creation.  But more than just the stories return, so do the emotions that inspired the imagery.  Before long I find myself exploring where those stories and feelings began which culminated in these artworks.  I’ve often heard people say, “I wonder what the story is behind this art piece…”   Well, I know each and every story behind my works.  Some of them are simple, others could fill page upon page of a number of books.  

“And I’m the only one who still knows most of them…” I murmur to myself as new thoughts enter my mind.  “Do I dare…” I whisper to the silence that surrounds me.


TO BE CONTINUED…

Lisa’s Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: “My Christmas Ghost Story” Part-VII Conclusion

It was hard trying to keep my eyes on Madeleine, while that all-too-familiar mist opened a secret panel in the shelves and deposited its bundle inside the compartment. Knowing Nathan was actually here in the room with me was reassuring, but worrying at the same time. He’d upset Madeleine last time so badly she’d turned violent and had gotten the better of him. I really didn’t want to see a rematch and possibly get caught in the crossfire. So I needed to keep her attention totally fixed on me. 

Finally, I said with complete honesty, “I know what you’re saying. I even sympathize, because I truly know how much pain you’re in.”

“Do you?” Madeleine asked politely. All too politely, if you know what I mean. Her eyes never left mine as she took a step closer. “Pray tell me, how do you know what I feel? Does your situation run along the same exact path as mine?”

“No,” I replied with a sigh. “Although we both share the knowledge and anger from being told we have to wait, I’ve never resented my family to the point I’d resort to violence against any of them. And I certainly would never raise a hand against my younger brother… not even accidentally.”

That made her pause and she nodded. “It was an accident,” she murmured, “I never meant for him to fall back and…” she cut herself off and raised her eyes and I could see both the pain and anger in them. “If he had only told me where they were when I’d asked, it never would have happened?” she screamed.

I think she expected me to flinch or recoil, but I didn’t. That look in her eyes had confirmed everything I needed to know. “How did it happen?” I asked gently.

Her eyes never left me, as if she dared not look past my shoulder where her younger brother stood just a few feet away. “I think you already know,” she said evenly. 

“I know you had started out being nice to him, just the way you used to,” I replied, not tearing my eyes away from hers, I could feel Nathan was behind me which was giving me courage. Only, then his presence began to fade, as if he were moving away and out of the room. What the hell was he playing at? I needed backup right, like right now! Meanwhile, I continued saying, “Then you began asking about your mother’s jewelry, and when he refused to tell you where they were you began losing your temper and started shouting at him. Eventually, you grabbed him and were screaming at him… just how I found you when I burst into this room.”

Madeleine’s gave me a cold smile, “That’s right, you’re so right. It was exactly like that, only then I began shaking him and he started to pull away. Eventually, he struggled so hard I lost my grip and he fell backwards.” Here her voice cracked and I could hear the pain in her voice. “He fell away too quickly for me to grab him and struck his head against the stonework of the fireplace.”

A faraway look crept into her eyes. They were still locked with mine, but I knew she wasn’t seeing me as she continued…

“He began to fall into the hearth itself. I barely had time to keep him from falling into the flames. But I did!” A mania had crept back into her voice as she grabbed my hand. “I did, and that’s when he finally told me where they were… and I retrieved them. I finally had them and could join my Jonathan, but…” Now, her gaze slid away from me and over my shoulder. “But I couldn’t leave my brother…” her voice started to become hard again, “He needed me. He was hurt. I couldn’t leave him lying there on the floor, bleeding.”

Her breathing became harsh along with her tone, as she continued. “If he’d only told me where they were when I first asked, none of it would have happened! And I’d have been able to get to my Jonathan outside, instead I stayed here… and then the door opened and… WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME WHEN I ASKED?” 

Those last words and her glare were aimed at Reginald who was still behind me.

Turning, I saw the tears in his eyes as he stood there, not having moved a inch from where I’d left him when I’d come between them. 

In the background I could still hear the approach of the carriage, it was practically just outside. 

Madeleine heard it too and tried to push me out of the way, only I held her back. 

“TELL ME WHERE THEY ARE! I CAN’T REMEMBER!” she shrieked, struggling against me. “HE’S HERE! TELL ME SO I CAN GO WITH HIM REGINALD! YOU CAN COME WITH US, WE CAN LEAVE THIS PLACE TOGETHER AND FINALLY BE FREE!”

I had no idea how much longer I could hold her back and was about to tell Reginald to tell her what she wanted to know when I heard a familiar voice say, “Tell her, Reginald. It’s the only way.”

Both Madeleine and I froze for a second then I turned and looked over my shoulder. Nathan was standing in the doorway. His gaze was fixed on young boy behind me, who finally blinked, as if waking from a bad dream. Finally, the boy turned to Nathan and said, “Buy our Uncle told me…”

“I know,” Nathan cut in gently. “But this is very important. Especially for her.”

Reginald still looked uncertain but turned to his sister and said, “They’re behind the panel in the bookcase behind you. The third shelf.”

Madeleine looked stunned. “There’s a room behind there?” she breathed. 

“No, just a compartment,” Reginald told her, his lip trembling. He looked more scared than before to me, but I said nothing.

Meanwhile, Madeleine raced to the bookcase and began searching the third shelf until she found the panel and opened it. Immediately, she reached inside with a look of delight which quickly changed to confusion as she pulled out not only an old velvet bag, but the stack of papers I’d seen Nathan place in there moments ago. 

To my surprise, Madeleine put the velvet bag aside while staring at the papers. “They’re calling to me…” she breathed and then started studying them more closely. “This handwriting, it’s my Jonathan’s. What are they doing in there? He only ever wrote to me. Are these my letters? No, they’re something else… along with papers from my uncle. I don’t understand.”

I felt Nathan’s hand on my shoulder as he drew next to me. On his other side, was Reginald, whom he had his other hand resting on. “Be ready to get behind me, this could turn ugly,” Nathan told both of us, in a hushed voice. 

“What did you put in there?” I whispered at him.

“The truth,” he murmured back. 

For the next five minutes Madeleine examined each page, some more than once, before finally raising her eyes to stare at us. “No!” she whispered in a ragged breath. “It’s not true! It can’t be! He loved me! He wanted to be with me… he’d never… These papers are all lies! Tell me none of this is true!”

This was directed at Nathan who sadly shook his head. 

For a second I thought she was about to attack us, but instead she nodded then fell to her knees. A moment later, she began pounding the floor, while sobbing hysterically. “Please tell me it isn’t true…”

Nathan started forward, but I stopped him and shook my head firmly. “No, not you. The last thing she needs is a man telling her she’d been wrong.” Then without another word, I walked over to Madeleine’s shaking form and I knelt beside her. 

“You couldn’t have known…” I began but she cut me off with a violent shake of her head.

“You’re wrong. I’d been warned… I’d been warned by so many people. My father, my uncle, even several of my friends, but I wouldn’t listen to any of them,” she rasped and finally raised her head. “I’d only listen to him. He made me feel so special, like my opinion and beliefs mattered. He’d listen and tell what a tragedy it was that other’s refused to see my wisdom or even listen to me.”

I nodded, “That’s how men like him work. They put you on a pedestal and make you believe you are the center of their world…”

Now it was her time to nod. “Exactly…” Now she turned her gaze to her younger brother, who had not left Nathan’s side. “Did you know?”

Reginald nodded.

“What did our uncle tell you?” Madeleine asked gently.

“Only that I shouldn’t tell you where mother’s jewels were, because you’d leave and that Jonathan might do something bad to you,” her brother replied in sad voice. 

“Oh God,” Madeleine wailed, “You were trying to watch out for me and I… I…” Once more she buried her face in hands and doubled over sobbing uncontrollably.

This time she did not pull away when I reached out and held her close. In fact she returned the gesture and clung to me like a lost child. I spared a look over to Nathan who gave me a reassuring smile.  It was only after I started stroking her hair that she slowly began to calm down.

Once she found her voice she turned to Nathan and said, “Please, take Reginald with you when you leave. Let me remain here until the final day of Judgement. Let the place of my crime be my prison, my place of penance. Seal the door with mortar and stone, then cover the entrance so none will know this room exists. This way I will not disturb the residents and they can live in peace.”

I shot Nathan a look to ask him what we should do, but Reginald was already rushing towards his sister and pulling her close.

“No, I will not leave you,” he told her earnestly, “If you stay, then so must I.”

Madeleine shook her head, “No, Mother and Father have been waiting for you. I’m sure of it. You mustn’t keep them waiting any longer.”

“But they told me that when I became into my title I was always to take care of you. And I promised I would. So I cannot leave without you,” he insisted, holding onto her even tighter. “We’re family, and I love you.”

Outside I could here the carriage come to a halt. Getting up I went over to Nathan and whispered, “There’s someone outside.”

“I know,” he assured me. “But it’s not who you’re expecting.”

“How do you know?”

Instead of answering, he gestured to Reginal and his sister.

Madeleine was gazing at her brother in disbelief. “But I hurt you,” she breathed, “I didn’t meant to.”

“I know,” Reginald smiled and touched her cheek, “That’s why I forgave you.”

Madeleine looked stunned, “You did?”

“That he did, Miss,” said Billings as he entered the room, dressed in the finery of a butler instead of a simple manservant. “I’m afraid you had already fled the room at the time, but he spoke those very words as I held him in my arms. I tried calling to you, but I’m afraid my entrance and poorly worded question had sent you into a panic. A terrible mistake on my part. And one that I’ve long regretted and have hoped to make amends for some time. “

My eyes had widened at that. HE had been the servant who’d found them that night. Then he was a ghost too! And, yes I’m still kicking myself for not realizing that sooner. 

Anyway, Billings continued, “I pray you can find in your heart to forgive me, both of you.” 

“Of course,” Madeleine told him, without hesitation. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea you were trapped here as well.”

“Not trapped, Miss Madeleine,” he corrected her gently, “The decision to stay was my own. The welfare of you both have always been my responsibility. And now, if you will both come with me, you’re parents are waiting just out front.”

This time I caught on before the siblings did. I turned to Nathan and whispered, “The carriage outside, it’s their parents not her murderous suitor!”

He smiled and nodded.

I turned in time to see Madeleine and Reginald accepting Billing’s extended hands and began to follow him out of the room. All three paused at the door to thank us and also with us a Happy Blessed Christmas. 

As soon as they left Nathan grabbed me by the hand and led me over to the window. Down below we could see the carriage. It was a fine looking vehicle, with four horses pawing at the snow covered ground, eager to be on their way. As Billings and his charges appeared, the door to the carriage swung open and a man and woman climbed out. After a warm embrace everyone, including Billings climbed back inside and the door was closed. A moment later, the coachman looked up at us in the window and gave us a salute. Then he snapped the reins and the carriage gently moved forward and disappeared into the snowy night.

“It’s finally over,” I heard Nathan sigh, “Thanks to you.”

I shot him a look. “ME? More like US,” I pointed out, then after a thinking about it for a moment I added, “Well, I guess I did actually deal with both of them more than you did.”

“Yes you did,” he admitted, much to my surprise. “I couldn’t have done it without you. There was no way she was going to listen to me, or any man.”

“So you did bring me here just to help with you,” I accused, well I wasn’t exactly angry, it was more like I wanted him to admit the truth to me.

He gave me a sheepish grin. “Let’s say I was hoping to use your talents as a last resort. I really hadn’t planned to bring you into things unless I really had to. I never expected trying to find that pile of papers was going to take as long as it did.”

“Is that what you and his lordship been so occupied with ever since we arrived?” I asked, thinking about all those little private meetings they seemed to be having.

Nathan nodded. “He found out the papers existed but was having a devil of a time locating them. And in case you hadn’t noticed, this place is HUGE. Not to mention there are a number of hidden corridors and secret compartments throughout the entire building. Although, at his point I think we now know where they all are… I think. Anyway, I only finally found them after I heard you tearing up the stairs and running down the hall tonight.”

“So that was you I heard calling my name,” I murmured.

He nodded. “I had hoped that Billings would get you out of here before things started happening up here…”

“Only I insisted on hearing the whole story after I ran into Reginald earlier this evening,” I finished and then told him about the game of Sardines.

“I see,” he nodded, “I should’ve known your abilities would get you caught up in things.”

“Stop it, I’m not psychic,” I insisted, then added, “Am I?”

He gave me a sympathetic look. “Oh, you are. Trust me, I’ve known a number of psychics. And so have you, Alex and Cassandra for instance.”

“But I’m not anywhere near as strong as those them,” I said looking away. I was really feeling embarrassed. I’d seen our friends do some incredible things with their talents, which I’d never be able to do.

Nathan laughed and put a finger under my chin and made me look at him. “It doesn’t matter how much power you have, it’s what you do with what you have. You’re a sensitive with a big heart. And that’s what allowed us to help Madeleine, Reginald and Billings find peace.”

That made me smile. “Thanks.” 

“Thank you,” Nathan smiled back. Together we gathered up the papers from where Madeleine had left them. I saw they were transcripts from her beloved Jonathan’s trial, including a written confession that he himself penned of his own free will. The man had not only been a sociopath, but a narcissist to boot. There was not an ounce of regret in the pages I scanned, while picking them up. Apparently, Madeleine’s uncle, the magistrate who had excused himself from overseeing the trial, had collected all of this paperwork to keep it out of the public eye. But had never brought himself to destroy any of it, as a reminder of his own failure to protect his brother’s family. 

Finally, we grabbed velvet bag of jewelry and headed back downstairs. Once there we settled down in front of the fire to wait for our hosts and their guests.

As we sat there, Nathan remarked, “Are you okay? You’ve been awfully quiet coming back down here.”

Nodding I smiled and answered, “Of course. How many women get to say they helped bring an end to a haunting? At Christmas time now less?”

“Some would call it a Christmas miracle,” he pointed out. 

I thought about that for a moment and looked at him. “Was it? Did we pull of a Christmas miracle?”

Holding up a hand he began ticking off the facts, “We helped not one, but three spirits cross over and find peace and in the process reunited them with their loved ones. And we also freed the current family, and their future generations, from the threat of a terrifying haunting. I’d say that qualifies, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I guess it does,” I agreed.

Just then we could hear everyone returning from the chapel. I can’t tell you how great it felt great being able to give our hosts the gift of knowing the haunting that had plagued their home for over a century had finally ended. 

Lisa’s Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: “My Christmas Ghost Story” Part-VI

“It’s started,” Billings whispered and reached for my hand. “I must get you out of here…” But he was too slow. I was already bolting up the staircase, skirt held up high, taking two steps at a time.


“Miss Lisa, no!” I heard my companion cry as I reached the top of the stairs and bolted down the hallway. At one point I thought I heard my name called again, but it didn’t sound like Billing’s voice. But I wasn’t really paying attention, because my focus was completely on what I was hearing and sensing from the room at the end of the hallway. Madeleine was still screaming at her brother and I could feel her anger… hell, who am I kidding. She was in a total rage and to make matters worse, she was getting even angrier.

Putting on a final burst of speed I raced into the governess’ old room. The door to the schoolroom was partly open and I could see she had already grabbed Reginald by the arms and was shaking him. She was screaming in his face. I could see tears streaming down the boy’s face as he struggled to find something to say that would make her stop, only he was too terrified to think straight.

Without thinking, I rushed into the room shouting, “That’s enough, you’re going to hurt him!” To my horror, neither brother nor sister seemed to hear me. In fact, they didn’t even realize I was there. They were stuck in their cycle. The scene was going to play out to its tragic end right in front of me, if I didn’t do something to interrupt it. 

I don’t know what possessed me, but I rushed forward and grabbed Madeleine by the arm. 

Immediately, she stiffened and slowly turned to face me. “What is the meaning of this? Who are you? And how dare you lay hands on me.”

“My name is Lisa, and I’m… I’m…” I was about to tell her I was a friend of her brother, but I could see he was staring at me as if he’d never seen me before. I briefly thought about saying I was the new governess, but thought better of it. Instead, I decided on the truth. “I’m someone who has a younger brother, just like you.”

Madeleine’s eyes never left mine. “And you think that gives you the right to touch me?” she demanded.

“Only if it keeps you from accidentally hurting your little brother,” I replied evenly and released her arm. “I know how much little brother’s can drive you crazy. How they can be so irritating and annoying, that you want to just ring their little necks. But then I remind myself, I’m the elder child and I have a lot more experience with life than he does.”

“Not that it counts for much in the end,” she pointed out, almost sympathetically. “You’re not the one people, especially men, will listen to. Nor will they ask your opinions on things. But your brother? Oh they’ll ask him all kinds of things and cater to his whims, no matter how silly.”

“That’s still no reason to treat him like this,” I replied, trying to keep my voice calm. The fact that she was even speaking to me was a good sign, I thought. Perhaps, I’d be able to reason with her and break the cycle. 

“He knows where our mother’s jewels are,” she told me, obviously trying to sound reasonable. “I need them, I’m entitled to them…”

“So you can be with the man you love, I know,” I finished gently.

If my interruption had annoyed her, she didn’t show it. Instead she began to smile. “Yes. That’s right. You understand. He loves me, he’ll take good care of me. We just need to settle his debts and then we can marry. Look, he has already given me his mother’s ring for our engagement.”

She held out on hand and I could see the ring in question on her finger. It was an impressive piece of jewelry. ‘Had he given a ring to any of his other victims?’ I wondered. ‘If he didn’t, perhaps he really had meant to go through with the marriage. But if so, why?’

Meanwhile, she continued, “We are to leave this night and then later return here, as husband and wife. Together, we’ll make this place a home for all three of us.”

“The three of you?” I repeated.

“Of course,” she looked at me as if I’d were a simpleton. “I still have to watch over my little brother. He’s still too young to manage the estate on his own. And as you said just a moment ago, we are the elder child. It’s our job to make sure we watch over our siblings. I’d never abandon, Reginald.”

I had to admit, I hadn’t expected to hear her talk like this. Could her betrothed have actually been serious about her? 

“My Jonathan will be here soon,” Madeleine continued, interrupting my thoughts. ” In fact I think I can hear his carriage in the distance.”

Without thinking, I found myself listening for the sound. She was right, there was a carriage coming. It sounded far off, but at the same time it was definitely drawing nearer. In fact, I could make out the sound of the horses hooves in the snow. Their steps had a certain rhythm that was very soothing. 

“Come with me over to the window,” Madeleine whispered, letting go of Reginald in order to slip one arm around one of mine. “We’ll be able to see the carriage in a little while.”

I let her guide me towards the window in question. We were halfway towards the glass aperture, when suddenly, the image of Nathan landing on the fountain in a shower of glass loomed large in my mind. Immediately, I pulled away from her, or tried to. Only she was expecting it and had a death grip on my wrist. Still, I managed to pull us away from the window and back into the center of the room. I was between her and Reginald now and I could hear the boy breathing heavily behind me. 

As desperately as I wanted to look back at him, I dared not turn away from Madeleine. Her grip on my arm had opened my eyes, in both the literal and psychic sense. There I said it. Nathan was right, I am psychic and boy was I seeing into a mind that had been twisted by an expert. 

My original impression about Madeleine’s anger at men had been right on the money. But it hadn’t always been that way. She had been devoted to her father, brother and her uncle. It was only when she’d been denied her wish to marry that the resentment had taken hold, only to be fueled by her intended. From the glimpses I was getting from her mind, I could see he had all the classic traits of an abusive/manipulator. He had been putting her up on such a high pedestal that she had no clue as to what he had planned for her. I could even hear his words inside my head, praising her youthful wisdom and insights, and how angry it made him that others, including her own family, refused to listen to her. From there he helped foment her resentments,  encouraging her to defy their antiquated concepts of duty and propriety. Yet in spite of all this, she had grieved deeply when her parents had perished in the carriage accident. Her pain had been as deep for her father as well as her mother. 

Perhaps, that was why her ‘intended’s’ manipulations worked so well on her. After her loss, she had felt lost and confused, making her more vulnerable to his renewed insistence on their marrying soon, so he could quote “Ease her pain and sorrows…” Only her uncle became the new obstacle to that plan. So he began redirecting her resentment towards her guardian. And when he would not listen, she began working on Reginald only to become resentful to him as well after he took their uncle’s side. Which had eventually led to the tragic events that in turn brought the three of us to this moment.

Finally, I found my words and said, “You still believe he will come for you this night.”  

“Of course,” she beamed, which nearly made me shudder.  There was nothing warm or tender about that smile. “You see, I was telling you the truth about hearing his carriage approach. I hear it every year…”

That sent a chill down my spine. She was aware of her situation! And she willingly played it out in some vain hope that eventually she’d get the jewels and leave before being discovered by the servant. Which in turn would mean she could avoid taking the wrong turn and falling over the balcony and into the Great Hall.

“Do you know what it’s like to be in love with someone, only to be told you have to wait over and over again?” she continued, still with that twisted, dreamy expression on her face.

I hesitated as my treacherous brain began thinking about Nathan. I had been in love with him practically my whole life. I’d even done as he’d asked and tried going out with other people, seeing if there was someone other than him that I might fall in love with. But, no matter how good things were between me and the person, I never felt for them the way I did for him.

“Ah, I see you have,” Madeleine continued, the smile fading from her lips. Now, she began speaking to me sympathetically. “Then you know the pain I’ve been going through and how the wait can make you desperate. Desperate enough to risk everything for that chance of true happiness.” 

I nodded. “Yes, I do. And it hurts so bad sometimes you want to lash out at the world.”

“Or at the ones who block your way, or…” here she paused and stared past me at her brother, “… refuse to be sympathetic to your plight, no matter how many times they tell you they love you.”

I could feel her anger rising again and a part of me wanted to agree with her and step aside. But another part, that big sister who’d fight hell itself to protect my little brother, wasn’t about to let that happen. I wasn’t sure what I should say next, but then I spotted a movement behind Madeine. 

It was a greenish mist, carrying small bundle, making it’s way to a large bookcase just over her left shoulder.

– TO BE CONCLUDED