Adventures for the Average
IDEAGEMS ® January 2006
A MONTHLY PUBLICATION OF SERIAL FICTION AND FACTBASED ADVENTURE TALES PRINTED WITH EARTH-FRIENDLY RECYCLED MATERIALS
Volume 1, Issue 3
Inside this issue:
Ready for Something Hot, Steamy, and a Little Scary? Snow and ice got you blue? Sorry to say, our pageturning suspense, “Boundary Waters,” will keep you in the deep freeze, but the magical fantasy, “Nadia and the Blue Dragon,” promises to transport you to a warmer — albeit eerier — clime. Reading the next chapter of “The Spoiler” is sure to steam up the windows on your bus or train ride to work with nail-biting suspense. This third issue of AFTAW will deliver the sizzle as Gina, the ordinary human, gets a uncomfortably close to her alluring vampire roommate. Add to this plot boiler our new fare: “Cutlass Moon,” a small epic where a fanatical female environmentalist clashes with a film-making crew who must survive jungle warfare in the midst of brutal civil strife on an exotic tropical isle. Whew!
This month, we also feature the works of fresh authors, beginning with Yvonne Brunot, former historic re-enactor. She exposes the sub-culture of LARPing, Live Action Role Playing. Micro-financier Prasanta K. Ghosh poses an intriguing point-of-view on women in the world economy in a creative visual piece. In another visual poem, Laurie Notch comments on the forms that fill our lives. We introduce you to the single-line illustrations of Linda Kent and the ceramic sculpture by Jamie Studebaker. Speaking of artwork, of sorts, check out this month’s installment of the graphic novel, “Katie Madigan and the Errant Knight” where she is carried off into the Enchanted Mist.
Natalie and the Blue Dragon, Part II “You got my name right, but why me?” Natalie nervously queried the warrior angel with the great broadsword. “Because you believe in us. You’ve always known deep in your heart that we exist — even when people have scoffed.” “But this is something for little girls fantasizing about fairyland, not for a burly black
Natalie and the Blue Dragon
We Pay to Art
Boundary Waters 5
We invite you to send your tales — real or imagined — of suspense, romance, and adventure. Besides, aren’t you getting tired of reading only Cytheria Howell stories? You could offer a breath of fresh talent! — Cytheria Howell, Principal Author/Editor and Incurable Romantic
“Natalie, the physical self means nothing. It’s the essence within that matters and that never changes from birth through death and beyond.”
woman pushing fifty!” “Natalie, the physical self means nothing. It is the essence within that matters and that never changes from birth through death and beyond.” “Ah-ha! So I am dead.” “If you were dead, could you feel this?” Askuwheteau took her hands in his. “How should I know what I
Ready for Something Hot, Steamy and a Little Scary?
could feel? I’ve never been dead before.” She felt a flush rise to her cheeks. “Come. We have work to do. You won’t be needing those heavy garments.” He gently pulled her winter cloak from her shoulders and removed her hat, scarf and gloves. “Wait, a minute! I’ll freeze out there.” (continued on page 2)
Have You Been LARPed?
A Word With You
Women’s Freedom… In a Man’s Eye!
Mystery of the Majestic
Katie and the Errant Knight
Curriculum Vitae 19
Natalie and the Blue Dragon (continued from page 1)
“Trust me,” he softly assured. With effortless motion, he picked her up and mounted her on the back of the winged beast. Then he swung up behind her and wrapped his strong arms about her waist. Natalie couldn’t explain it, but she knew she had been transformed back to the spry, willowy woman she once had been. Kesegowaase launched on whoosh of wings. Soon they were flying high above the snow-buried city of Portland, Maine. A warm wind blew through Natalie’s sea of wavy hair as she looked down through the mist and snow to catch the last twinkling string of street lights. When she looked up, they were sailing across the stars. “Where are you taking me?” she worriedly asked. “To a place of the lost.” “Why?” she asked with trepidation. “Because one of them needs your help, a little girl.” “Where is this place?” “It’s at the place of your birth.” “New Orleans? But the entire city is a disaster zone after the hurricane. What on earth can I do for anyone there?” “You can help.” “You keep saying that but you’re not telling me how!” Exasperation filled her voice. Natalie shrieked for fear of falling from the great height of the dragon’s back.
“You need to listen to your spirit guides and find her,” the angel explained. “What spirits? You mean all those people who died in the storm surge?” “No, I mean the ancient spirits, the ones that surrounded you when you were born and watched over you while you were growing up, the ones that have dwelled in the city since the early days when your ancestors fought and won their freedom from enslavement.” Kesegowaase, the great dragon, flapped his leathery wings to set down in the middle of city in ruins. Empty houses stared blankly with lightless windows. Natalie’s heart sank upon the recognition of her old New Orleans neighborhood.
Empty houses stared blankly with lightless windows. Natalie’s heart sank upon the recognition of her old New Orleans neighborhood.
Askuwheteau jumped down with Natalie in his arms. Natalie shrieked for fear of falling from the great height of the dragon’s back. On the flit of angelic wings, they floated gently to the ground. The towering Algonquin angel set Natalie square upon her feet then drew his hands from her waist. “Here’s where you will start your search.” “Search? For who? What exactly am I looking for?” “You will know when you find her.” The brilliant blue feathers of his wings spanned above his head. “Now, I must go. I have another mission I must see to. Kesegowaase will be your companion. Use him wisely and don’t stray from his shadow.” In a single downbeat of wings, the angel soared into the cobalt sky. “Wait!” Natalie cried and reached up to him. “Don’t leave me here! I don’t know what I should do!” She dropped her arms and watched him disappear into the dawn. Golden rays of light sparked the great dragon’s scales into the fiery iridescence of a thousand shades of blue. Natalie raised a hand to shield her eyes against the brilliance. Kesegowaase stomped toward her. She cowered then realized he was only covering her with his protective shadow. “Well, where to now?” she asked. The reply was a loud snort and the flick of a thick scaly tail. Natalie looked toward the foreboding cluster of abandoned buildings surrounded by dark pools of water. “You don’t mean go in there?” Kesegowaase nodded. “Well, you just let me get back on your back. I’m not walking through muck and debris!” She jumped to reach the creature’s withers but fell quite short. The dragon slowly began lumbering away. Natalie ran on long spindly legs to keep up. “Come on, Kese-go-what’s-it. Give me a ride!” Her plea fell on deaf horns. Natalie made sure to keep in the dragon’s shadow for the sun was climb ing with fierce intensity. The air grew stifling hot. Natalie wiped the sweat from her brow. “You can stop it from feeling cold. Can’t you at least stop the sweltering?”
Kesegowaase snorted and pushed forward on fearsome talons. Natalie kept by his side. After treading precariously through splintered wood, fallen cinderblock, and twisted iron, they approached an antebellum mansion with stately pillars. Natalie took a step toward the threshold and peered past the open oak doors into the pitch. “What is this pla—?” With his giant snout, Kesegowaase pushed her through the jam and into the darkness. Before she could turn back to run out, the doors closed shut. Natalie pounded the dense oak and cried out, “Kese-go… dragon! Let me out! Angel, where are you? Don’t leave me here!” She realized she was alone in the dark. The smell of must and decay wafted past her nose. Slowly, her eyes adjusted to the murk. Down a long corridor, she espied a faint glow. On creaking floorboards, she gingerly made for the light, but the more she approached, the more distant it lay. When she stepped back, the light grew closer. “What the heck is going on here?” She tried rushing toward it only to find the light receding to a barely perceptible in prick. She gasped in frustration. “How am I supposed to find my way without any light?” A slight breeze blew past her left ear. It bore a whisper of a voice beckoning, “Follow your heart.”
To be continued in upcoming issues. Subscribe today to find out what happens on Natalie’s quest for truth, faith and love.
Story Notes: This story was written for a dear friend of mine in Maine whose loved ones suffered the painful destruction of Hurricane Katrina that devastated that grand old city, New Orleans. -- Cytheria Howell, Author
Adventures for the Average Woman
we pay to art
color inside the lines
but butterflies are free Art and Poetry by
Linda Kent http://unclescam.org/lindabio.html Master Artist!! Green Thumb to DIE for!! Painter of fine strange puppet faces Inventor of Kerosene-powered Television Queen of the Line Drawing
Volume 1, Issue 3
The Spoiler, Part III Early dawn had painted the room in hues of grays and blues. Marsha found herself lying on a plush velvet settee in royal blue in the center of an elegant parlor decked with opulent drapery and gilded furniture covered in satiny brocade upholstery. Over the sofa’s back to her right gaped the blackened maw of a white marble fireplace above which hung a large gilded mirror that reflected the lattice windows. Ahead of her was the carved mahogany door that rested slightly ajar. “Where,” she spoke in a raspy voice, “where are the others?” Raeph, sans tricorn, cloak, and domino, sat beside her and offered a silver goblet of cool water. “I assure you, it is not drugged.” Marsha eyed it warily but thirst overcame caution. She gulped it down. Raeph’s long fingers reached from the white ruffled cuff of his sleeve to take the empty vessel which he set beside a silver pitcher and bowl upon a white marble-top console table that stood to his right. “They’ve retired to their rooms, madam, for having stayed up the long night.” She tried sitting up and winced for her sore limbs. Her hands and feet were stiff and numb from having been restrained the night before. “Here, madam, let me help you.” He sandwiched her swollen hands between his fingers and massaged. She studied his archaic manner and dress. “You sure don’t look like a two hundred and fifty-two year old highwayman,” she commented woozily. That’s it, ol’ gal. Let the drug do the talking, she internalized. Keep him thinking you’re doped up. But I am doped up, you dope! I feel like a bobble-head - a wobbly bobble head. Marsha giggled at her messed-up thoughts. “Your laughing suggests either latent effects of the drug I gave you last night or a bad set of nerves. Here, move this way.” He got her sitting upright on the divan with the soles of her feet on the plush oriental carpet that covered the teakwood floor. “Hey, what happened to my shoes?’ Marsha tittered while studying her twid-
Marsha’s only option was to jump in and swim for it, but the cumbersome eighteenth-century barmaid’s clothes she wore would only sink her.
dling toes. “I took the liberty of removing them for the sake of your swelling feet. Now, I shall massage the blood back into your appendages and then your tethers shall be reapplied. Unless...,” he traipsed off leadingly. “Unless what?” Marsha prompted. “Lest you give me your sworn oath not to assault my person as before. That was viciously pernicious and highly unwomanly of you, madam. “ “It’s called self defense. Most twentyfirst century women do it.” He gripped her arms forcefully. “Do you so swear, madam?” Marsha gasped in pain and raised the first three fingers on her left hand. “Scouts honor.” He drew her over to the marble table and placed her hands in the bowl. Then he poured water over them from the pitcher. The cool rush stung the welts from the ligatures. Marsha flinched. “Patience, madam, and bear this out.” His thumbs rubbed the skin of her hands in the water and admonished, “Madam, I intend on your being my honored guest here at this, my newly acquired estate. I do not wish that you insult my hospitality with futile attempts at escape.” “Honored guest, really?” The giddy Jekyll in her stepped behind the outraged Hyde. “Since when are honored guests drugged, bound, and carried off into the night?” The red flare of sunrise ignited ire in her glaring eyes. Raeph sighed and bent down to rub feeling back into her feet. “I regret, madam, how I was obliged to resort to such fiendish treatment of your person but given the circumsta--” The heavy silver pitcher quashed the segueing syllable with a sharp blow to his head. “Thing is, I never was a scout.” Marsha informed. She stumbled on her numb and swollen feet to the door and found herself in a great foyer lined with mirrors. A great staircase ran down the center. She saw the main doors to her left and pounded the teakwood parquetry. Not a soul appeared on the property – only a large growling mastiff.
She slammed the door shut and looked for another way out. Dead ahead, behind the staircase sparkled the sunlit panes to a set of French doors. She pushed through them and landed out onto a porch. She leapt over the white railing and bolted across the lawn down to a trail that was thick with brush and hanging Spanish moss. Glints of sky poked through the foliage above. The path led to a wooden dock. Marsha skidded to a stop at its end. There were no boats. Only dark murky swamp water covered with patches of green scum. She turned to seek another path of escape then saw the mastiff bounding toward her with teeth bared. Her historical romance-novel protagonist cum kidnapper bellowed her nom de plume, “Gwynyvere!” He was at the land’s end of the dock and moving fast. Several of the other characters from her novel followed him: the reverend, the Widow Ames, other figures she could not name, and Parfrey, the fop. They cut off any hope of her backtracking. “Pangloss, Stay!” Raeph ordered the guard dog. Marsha’s only option was to jump in and swim for it, but the cumbersome eighteenth-century barmaid’s clothes she wore from the previous night’s theme party at The Olde Towne Taverne would only sink her. She frantically fumbled with the hooks to release the heavy skirt and petticoat. They fell to the weathered wood of the dock. The crowd gasped. “No, Gwynyvere, don’t!” Raeph seized her with such force he knocked the wind from her. Marsha hung suspended over the slimy water and gasped for air. Her white cap fluttered off her head to land atop a layer of scum. Within seconds the still surface of the lagoon began to ripple. “Look,” her captor directed. Marsha watched the ripples rise into long spiky ridges. The alligators rushed to the cap in the hopes it would make a tasty breakfast. They spun and slashed their tails to show their disappointment. Raeph held her and breathed heavily. “You gave your word, madam. I am abashed by your deceit.” Streaks of red (continued on page 5)
Adventures for the Average Woman
The Spoiler (continued from page 4)
“Cover her up, man! Wrap it about the nether region so that her shame is no longer evident. Or has the snuff completely corrupted your sensibilities?”
ran down the left side of his head and splattered onto his white shirt. With his left hand, he clung to the bloodied lace handkerchief he’d used as a stanch. Marsha forced oxygen back into her exasperated lungs by wailing while being dragged back toward the house. The tall man who’d held the book brandishing her author’s portrait on it to discern a likeness to her face the night before now held the door. He wore the waistcoat and breeches of a manservant. His thick brown hair was pulled back into a short curled pigtail. His skin was of a darker shade suggesting racially mixed ancestry. Raeph battled with the struggling Marsha to get her inside. The others spilled inside and queued behind him back to the room Marsha had fled only moments before. “Thou art grievously injured and in need of medical attention, sir.” The parson in
sober Quaker vestments pointed out as he padded along in rapid pace. Without regard to the pastor’s observation, Raeph charged, “Reverend Fogarty, please be so kind as to escort the women and children outside. Parfrey, tear down one of those curtains.” The pastor spread out his arms and gently herded the fairer members out the door that he pulled closed before stepping back into the room. He pulled out his Bible and held it in his right hand almost as though it were a shield. Parfrey yanked down one of the verdant velvet curtains. “What shall I do with it?” he asked and sniffled. “Cover her up, man! Wrap it about the nether region so that her shame is no longer evident. Or has the snuff completely corrupted your sensibilities?” Despite his debilitating head wound, Raeph held her firmly with his arms about her arms and waist.
Boundary Waters, Part III
He patted the torqued muscular thigh of an anguished woman molded in plaster. The title on the pedestal read “Delilah Agonistes.”
“My work,” she explained with a hand outstretched toward the dangling appendages. The wind moaned and rattled in the rafters. “The storm’s till raging,” she noted. Her assailant checked his trembling frost-bitten hand. “Where’s my watch?” he asked. With arms crossed she turned toward him. “On the table, next to your hat.” He fumbled with it to see the hands moving toward the twelve and the four.
Volume 1, Issue 3
She stole past him to stoke the fire. With the iron poker in hand, she turned to him and grinned. She looked ghoulish in the gray glow of late afternoon. He swallowed his pain and looked out the plate-glass window onto a horizonless field of white. “Hungry? I’ll get some stew going,” his hapless victim announced. “I, uh, I need to use the restroom.” He stood up on wobbly legs. “It’s down the hall. Can you walk?” He shuffled stiffly on half-frozen feet down the corridor past masterfully carved busts and bodies of classical beauty. He patted the torqued muscular thigh of an anguished woman molded in plaster. The title on the pedestal read “Delilah Agonistes.” Another piece showed a willowy woman climbing out of the fleshy belly of a fallen female. Its title was “Aphrodite Metamorphosed.” Entering the small bathroom with its bland décor proved a relief on a multitude of levels. He painfully pulled off the mittens and set about his business.
“Get your filthy mitts off of me!!” Marsha screamed while she struggled to break free. She kicked at the man in the frilly attire with her pale, fleshy legs. Parfrey held the curtain in front of him in mimic of fighting a bull in a Spanish ring. “Quickly now, wrap it snugly,” Raeph urged. Parfrey dodged two kicks then landed on her with the drapery that he wound about her limbs. “Hold her legs, man, and help me hoist her into that chair.” Parfrey grappled the feisty woman and assisted Raeph in accomplishing his mission. “You body-snatching bastards!” Marsha hissed and spat.
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He hobbled into the kitchen to find a kerosene lantern lit in the center of the solid wood table. Claire was nowhere to be seen. He checked the living room then heard a door open and close from behind. He turned toward to see her standing with the limp furry body of a rabbit dangling from her left hand. In her right, the blade of a carving knife winked sharply. He stepped into the kitchen and coolly asked. “Do you need any help?” “Can you use your fingers?” She focused on the point of the knife slicing through skin and sinew. He reviewed his snow-burnt fingers. “Yes.” With a wave of the knife, she indicated a wooden crate containing unpeeled potatoes and carrots. “Think you can cut up some of those? There’s a knife in the block over there.” Holding a potential weapon re-instilled a sense of control. He set to cutting up the (continued on page 13)
Have You Been LARPed? In my early twenties, I was introduced to a curious pastime called Live Action Role Playing. Abbreviated as LARP.ing, I found the participants in this hobby enthusiastic and practically brimming over with excitement for this variety of acted-out gaming. Not much of a recreational gamer myself, I listened to the stories and plotlines that my acquaintances who “LARPed” narrated to me with polite interest. These individuals seemed, at the time, to have discovered a font of creative energy. Not only that, this diversion also generated a social life, creative endeavor and personal self-expression mixed into a fun, albeit somewhat exhibitionist, package. I was intrigued; since I had nurtured the dream of writing a fantasy novel since before college, I thought how wonderful that there existed a whole social group of people who frequently acted out imaginary adventures. Who’d have thought such a neat thing existed? As I understand it, the way most LARP games work, is a person or several people, pick a story that they think might make a good framework for a game. They may pick a story from literature (Tolkien’s Middle Earth) or a series of stories from popular culture (Star Wars or Star Trek) or use an original story set in a particular era such as the Middle Ages or Victorian Era. The writers then determine the major plot devices and out comes, tally up the number of characters needed to participate and write up a package to sell their idea to fellow gamers. The writers often act as moderators (or Game Masters) during the course of the game to make sure that everyone involved achieves a pre-determined set of goals. Next, the groups who have written and marketed their game have to find a good location for all of this to take place. Sometimes they make arrangements with hotels or historical sites. I have heard of private games that were played on family estates. Naturally, the more atmosphere and character a location possesses the better. Gaming organizers also have to pony up money to the hosting sites well in advance of the actual game, so any participants choosing to play have to pay for the privilege of joining in. Some games are planned as far as three to five years in advance. I learned most of this via casual conversation at various gatherings and Page 6
As I understand it, the way most LARP games work, is a person or several people, pick a story that they think might make a good framework for a game.
parties during my twenties. It would appear that any large group of individuals so joined in their social/creative endeavors would have fostered a sense of camaraderie and unity nigh unto unshakable. So it would seem. What I have observed as a nonLARPer is that there are certain boundaries to healthy human interaction and “do not trespass” are three words most LARPers are unable to utter. I have witnessed social interaction that defies chummy and barrels straight into incestuous. If writing and directing games is what has brought these people together, they should all desire to be strangers. When once invited to a gamer friend’s home, I arrived only to find out that another gamer was there. My hostess, who knew that I didn’t game, had invited her second guest at the last minute, thinking that she and I had certain interests in common. I was amenable to meeting someone new, although somewhat disappointed at missing an opportunity for quality time with the hostess. Choosing to make the best of it, I began to look forward to a casual evening of conversation. That pleasant intrigue of making a new friend slowly tightened into a knot of dread as I began to understand that the other guest was incapable of discussing anything but her These people thought that games were life and life was games.
past roles in LARPs. Despite the times that I and my hostess politely mentioned that I hadn’t ever participated in live action role-playing, this person could not be turned away from her chosen topic. I excused myself earlier than I had planned, and left for home with my sanity intact. It would have been one thing to listen to a grown woman talk ceaselessly about her pets, her children or her vacation slides of Austria. It was quite another thing to listen to endless details about adventures that never really occurred. I was somewhat shaken by this experience; I couldn’t imagine how choreographed intrigues could be more compelling or interesting than, well, real life. I was soon to discover that LARPing was just one of many symptoms of social dysfunction that appeared to be endemic among a whole community. These peo-
ple thought that games were life and life was games. Sure enough, in the following years I witnessed broken relationships, strange standards of loyalty, odd priorities, and circuitous ways of communicating. In essence, it seemed to me that many of these individuals had never left high school. Some of them had, in fact, known each other since grade school, and simply had carried their social roles from there into adult life. As I approached my 30th birthday, I was ever more alarmed at the needs that some of them consistently expressed for pity, control and attention. As an individual who has spent a certain amount of energy trying to marry my love of arts and crafts with vocation (or at least a decent living), it has been stunning to meet people who seem to have found the one creative outlet that they truly wish to immerse their lives in, but who never, by contrast, ever really seem to be happy. Complaints of sickness, boredom, depression and isolation are the usual responses to my inquiries of being. Creepy as it may sound, my observations confirm that most of these folks are engaged in a pursuit of unhappiness rather than happiness. In January of 2001, I called a handful of people whom I had considered true friends from among this social group. I told each individually that in the interests of my personal well-being that I would no longer attend most parties or gatherings involving large numbers of the LARPing community. I explained that I liked each of them as friends, but was beginning to feel the emotional strain of trying to ward off the negative social interactions that were the constant background to these occasions. I hoped they would understand, and that we could continue to meet in more intimate, private visits. I know now, even among these chosen few friends, I have been relegated to the “out of sight, out of mind” role. It is January of 2006, and to the best of my knowledge, little has changed in the way the LARP milieu operates. The games go on. What, I have to ask myself, do these people think that they’ll win? -- Yvonne Brunot is a Washington D.C. artist, dancer and amateur anthropologist.
Adventures for the Average Woman
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A Word With You Every issue, I like to have a word with you, our devoted readers, old and new, simply to reassert AFTAW’s mission: to offer a breath of relief to every woman (and man, too) who grows weary of the trifling things in life: treadmill job, long and boring commutes, dreary housework. Where’s the joy? Where’s the thrill? Where’s the romance? Well, it’s all right here between these homespun pages. Through the words and images of our serial stories, graphic novel, and true-to-life articles, you can temporarily escape into worlds of intrigue, mystery and excitement. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the humor! If you are new to AFTAW, you will note how our stories are told in continuing chapters, like the serial publications of yore when people didn’t have televised soap operas. The stories in AFTAW are in truth condensed novels not yet in full-form print. The segments selected are edited and inserted to pique your interest in the characters, plots, and themes that rattle around in this humble author’s brain. (The noise! The noise! Believe me, it gets real loud in there at times.) It is my
Volume 1, Issue 3
Each new issue is an evolution. … To date, we have 300 in circulation in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area. We also have special editions for Maine and Hawaii featuring literary fare tailor-made to each unique locale.
hope that readers will develop a taste for these women-centered tales of suspense, mystery, and off-kilter romance to the point of craving more, more, more. Each new issue is an evolution. For instance, our first release was only eight pages. Our third has grown to a whopping twenty! Woo-hoo! Add to that great news that the demand for our amusing little rag has grown. To date, we have 300 in circulation in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area. We also have special editions for Maine and Hawaii featuring literary fare tailormade to each unique locale. In fact, AFTAW distribution is expanding nationwide, reaching Raleigh, Richmond, Minneapolis, New York, Boston, Atlanta and Miami. We’re even being read across the salty sea in London, England! It’s unbelievable! We are proud to say that AFTAW now features the works of contributing writers and artists from all over, including India. We are also garnering the modest support of local commerce — just enough to keep the printers on my coffee table cranking out more
pages — for which I am grateful. But as with any creative production, AFTAW needs much more in the way of financial assistance to keep a-goin’. So, if you’re a reader, please subscribe. (Just fill out the tacky little coupon insert and mail it in with your check for $15.) If you’re a business owner, please call the number listed above or e-mail us at ideagems@ aol.com to purchase ad space and help keep the dream and the stories alive. More than money, we need talent. If you’re a struggling unknown seeking a platform upon which to take that first stand, then please, please, please, submit. It’s true we can’t offer recompense at this stage, but at least we can put your work and name in print in the hopes some big shot publisher or patron out there will see it, like it, call you up, make a deal, sign a contract, and get you the fame you always dreamed about. (Let’s not forget the tons of royalties!) — Cytheria Howell, Principal Author, Editor, and Incurable Romantic
Woman’s Freedom… In a Man’s Eye!
Those of you who might become skeptical of me since I am a man after you read the caption, I don’t blame you. I would still want you to read, interact, and help me answer these questions. So, please stay posted to this publication for my column on the issues of women in the world economy.
Prasanta K.Ghosh is an author, M.B.A., and Microfinancier of women’s education and economic development in India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adventures for the Average Woman
DECOY “People use love and emotions like bird hunters use decoys: to attract for ulterior reasons.”
— Jamie Studebaker To see more of Jamie’s adventuresome artwork, go to:
www.jamiestudebaker.com Studio address: Jamie Studebaker 1201 W. Lenoir St. Raleigh, NC 27603-1937 (919) 417-2986
Neomodern Nosferatu, Part III Saturday morning, Gina noticed Clive had not returned to his roost. She found the closet door ajar and peeked in. The narrow mattress was perfectly rolled up and everything else neatly shelved and stowed. The sun arced across the sky to set for another night and still no sign of Clive. Gina bit her knuckles and sat by the phone. He would surely call to let her know he was stranded somewhere or… Ordinary humans had harpooned him. Gina began to fret. She ran to the foyer closet and grabbed her purse and keys. She opened the front door and paused in mid-gait. It was dark out and she would be vamp bait. Moreover, she had no idea where he had gone the night before. He had left her no information about the location of the private party who offered him a gig. Gina shut the door, hung her purse back on its hook in the closet, and poured herself a jelly glass of Chablis. She would ponder the mystery of why she cared so much for a
Volume 1, Issue 3
Chilling realization crept up her spine. “You get this from your victims. It’s blood money. Look, it even has blood on it! No, I won’t touch it.”
perfect stranger and polish off the bottle before lapsing into an uneasy sleep on the sofa in the glow of an allnight oldies movie marathon. At a quarter past five, her eyes opened simultaneously with her apartment door. “Clive? Is that you?” she crackled from a wine-parched throat. She sat up and felt the blood rush from her aching head. She saw a figure enter the kitchen then approach her in the living room. “Go to bed Gina, and get some sleep,” he quietly urged with a tug to her elbow. Gina sensed something amiss. She couldn’t see for the darkness, but she felt he was unusually tense. “What’s wrong? What happened?” she asked. “Nothing, now let’s go to bed.” He pulled her into the bedroom and sat with her on the bed. He opened her hand and placed a wad of bills in her palm. “Here, take this to pay the bills.”
Clive gave a peck to her left cheek and got up to go into the closet. Gina clicked on the nightstand lamp to see the roll of hundred dollar bills. She went up to the door and begged to know, “Where did you get his?” “From my gig. Just use it,” came his muffled voice. “Now, please. I am very tired and must get some rest.” Gina pried apart the bills and counted twenty of them. She noticed red blotches staining the surface of several. Chilling realization crept up her spine. “You get this from your victims. It’s blood money. Look, it even has blood on it! No, I won’t touch it.” She opened the door and tossed in the small treasure. Clive burst from the enclosure. He was wrapped in his kimono and had cold cream on his face. In his hand, he held the money roll. “Yes, I get this from my socalled victims, but it’s gain gotten in earnest,” he flared. “Now, please take it.” He forced the wad back into her hand. (continued on page 10)
Neomodern Nosferatu (Continued from page 9) Gina persisted in her outrage, “Ripping off the desiccated doesn’t sound very earnest.” Clive heaved a sigh and took a seat on her bed. “It’s not like that. They pay me to suck them.” “They? Who’s they?” Gina pressed. “The people who hire me for their parties. They pay me to cavort in drag and suck them,” he said in a low tone. “What sort of sickos want to die like that? Or do you offer them eternal bloodsucking life in exchange for cash to put more ghouls on this earth?” Gina waved the bloody dough in his face. “They don’t die. They just get high.” Clive explained. “I’m a drug to them.” Gina sat down on the chair at her vanity and asked, “How is that possible?” “I do it through controlled sucking,” he stated. “So, you do turn them into vampires,” she surmised. “Of course not.” He stood up to make his objection. “For that to happen, I’d have to drink their blood down to the point of death. Then I’d open one of my veins for them to drink in order to restore them. It’s an exhausting painstaking process which I don’t measure out to just anyone. No, I take just enough to make them lightheaded. The special enzymes in my saliva get them high. Excuse me.” Clive went into the bathroom to wipe the gunk from his face. Gina sensed there was more. “And that’s all you do to earn this kind of money?” she called after him. Clean and pale, save for black eyeliner about his eyes, Clive knelt before her and placed his hands on hers. “No. Then I fornicate with them.” “With men?” she gasped. Clive patted the backs of her hands as though she were a misguided child. “Of course with men. It’s the hottest thing going on in the gay and Goth underground, and hey, it’s a living.” He stood up and gazed down at her. Gina stared at the crumpled up bloodstained money. “If you can make this kind of dough, why would you even need to stay in my crummy little rat-trap?” Clive sat on the edge of her dresser and gently fingered her hair. “Do you think it’s
Like any child who feared the monster in the closet, Gina jumped under the sheets. Only her monster bothered to tuck her in and kiss her goodnight. easy for me or any other vampire to rent or own? Most of us have no identification papers, or at least those that can’t be proved fraudulent. I can’t just go out and file a birth certificate of some obscure decedent anymore. With the computer age came clever document trackers and debunkers. We Old World vampires have yet to get savvy about cyberspace. So, like your urban vagrants, we’re doomed to live life disenfranchised of modern amenities on the fringe.” He gently pulled out a loose strand and brushed it from his fingers to the floor. “At any rate, I feel safe here with you. Now please, accept my offering in appreciation for a warm haven in a cold, harpoon-filled world and pay your bills.” “I never ever imagined I would one day be taking money from a zombie hooker,” Gina sniggered. Clive leaned menacingly close and locked on her with wide black-rimmed eyes. “I take umbrage at your deprecating remark. I am not a zombie. Now go to bed.” Like any child who feared the monster in the closet, Gina jumped under the sheets. Only her monster bothered to tuck her in and kiss her goodnight. Sunday lazed by. Summer rains pattered against the panes. Gina examined the cuts on her fingers and noticed how amazingly fast they were healing. She had thoughts of Vampire saliva being harvested for medicinal purposes and imagined how they would be milked like venomous snakes. She shook the disturbing image from her head. That would be inhuman. She chalked up her delusions to the steamy July weather common to the former swamplands of Washington DC. Deep in the tree-lined recesses of Takoma Park, she managed slight relief from the heat and humidity by blasting the air conditioner. Gina wallowed through the day by reading the paper, balancing her checkbook, and conducting basic housekeeping. There wasn’t much to do in the way of cleaning; for Clive kept the place immaculate. All Gina had to do was make her bed then clear away the empty wine bottle and glass from the kitchen table.
When she entered the kitchen, she saw a long-stemmed red rose sitting in a blue crystal vase in the center of the table. She cleaned up the clutter from her Saturday-night binge and stood by the sink. From her ninth-floor window, she watched the sun set behind the trees. Clive stole up from behind and set his hands on her shoulders. Gina jumped. “God, don’t do that.” “Sorry,” blew sweetly in her ear. “What’s the flower for?” she queried while wiping down the counter. “The flower’s for you in apology for not calling. Judging from the empty wine bottle, you must have been distressed.” Gina blinked. Was she imagining it, or had his dialect changed? “What happened to your accent?” “What do you mean?” Clive puzzled. “The past few nights you sounded like one of those Queer Eye guys from Queens, and now you’re talking like King James.” “Well, I did serve in his court before coming over to the colonies. Don’t tell me I used the ‘thou’ word.” A faint flush rose to his bone-china cheeks. “No, you just pronounced your ‘As’ as ‘Ahs’ and drop your ‘Rs’ completely.” “I worry that I lapse into archaisms when I’m tired -- a dead giveaway to my age. No, this is my natural dialect, albeit updated,” he confirmed. “So you’re British, not American,” she concluded. “Quite. But don’t tell Immigration.” He hovered close to her ear and whispered. “I’m here illegally, you know. I stowed away in a crate on a frigate.” Gina tucked her chin down to her shoulder to shoo away the tickle of his breath. She blushed and jumped conversational tracks. “How come I don’t see many Asian vampires?” “Probably because they cremate their dead.” He segued with a non sequitur, “When were you born?” Gina stopped wiping. “Huh?” “Your date of birth, when was it?” (continued on page 11)
Adventures for the Average Woman
Neomodern Nosferatu (continued from page 10)
She resumed rubbing down the Formica. “Is this your tactful way of finding out how old I am?” . He zeroed in. “Uh-huh.” “January 19, 1973,” Gina flatly claimed with a toss of the dishrag into the sink. She skirted past him to fluff up the sofa cushions for no other reason than to remain a moving target. “That makes you 24 and a Capricorn,” he concluded as he followed. “Wow, great deduction, Sherlock,” she grunted to the pounding of pillows. “And what about you?” “Hmm?” he responded. “When were you born?” She set to shoving the cushions back into place. “Oh, uh, July 17 in ’66.” “So, you’re forty and a Cancer.” “As in 1566,” Clive clarified. “God, next week I’ll hit the big 5-4-0. The centuries fly by so fast.” Gina stopped her cushion pushing. “You’re joking, right?” He encroached to intone. “I’m a vampire, remember.” “Oh, yes, the immortal undead.” She headed back to the kitchen. Clive tailed behind. “You Os and your quaint notions. Actually, we vampires do age and eventually pass on, just at a greatly decelerated rate. It has to do with the enzymes that transform us into the nocturnal blood feeders that we are.” He caught up with her at the fridge where she was foraging for leftover lentils and rice. “One bite and I can make you immortal too, if you like -well, nearly so in a relative sense of the term.” Tupperware in hand, Gina ducked under his arm that stretched across the open door. “And drink blood the rest of my unnatural life? No thanks.” He looked over his shoulder and closed the refrigerator door. “It’s not so bad once you acquire the taste.” She popped the plastic container into the microwave and punched on the heat. “Yeah, well, I’m vegetarian.” The timer dinged and Gina took out the steaming meatless meal. She drew a fork from a drawer, leaned with her back to the counter, and chowed down. She raised her eyes with a question. “How come you don’t have puncture marks in
Volume 1, Issue 3
“He drank deep drafts of my blood and filled me with terror, pleasure, loathing, and desire. It was a disturbingly exquisite experience.”
Your neck? I mean, someone had to bite you to make you into a vampire, right?” Clive arched his left eyebrow. “Did you ever see or read any portrayal of Dracula with puncture marks on his neck?” “Yeah. How is that? But everyone he bit had them,” she garbled through a mouthful of rice. “That’s because he had a neck fetish, and it’s a good thing too. Otherwise those vamp-hunting goons would be strip searching and probing us like they did witches in the seventeenth century. Oooo, those were nasty times.” Clive crossed his arms across his breast and shivered. Gina swirled her fork in the air at him. “Where are your marks then?” Clive leaned cockily against the fridge door. “On the tender loin of my left inner thigh.” “Who bit you there?” she asked between savory bites. “My lover and mentor, Lord Harwick. He’s the one who taught me the pleasures of blood and men.” “How?” Clive set his stare into space then launched into the narration of his afterlife story. “I was a navigator aboard a Spanish Galleon. My name was JuanCarlos de Castillo. We foundered on the rocky coast of an island the southwest coast of England and I washed ashore. I found I had been carried to a castle overlooking the isle. There I met Sir Jacob Harwick, Lord of the Isle. He nursed me back to health and shared his lonely estate. Although I served the enemy fleet, I spoke fluent English for my mother having been a Briton. Perhaps that kept his suspicions at bay over my being a spy. After several weeks of mending, I pleaded with his lordship to allow me safe passage back to my family. He failed to assure me completely. Then one night, I determined to make my escape. At supper that evening I fell under the spell of his hypnotic stare and the opiates in my food. I awoke hours later to find Harwick hovering over me with his bared fangs dripping with my blood. He’d been lightly sampling me to deter-
mine whether I was something worth savoring, as well as to weaken me to point of no resistance.” “Then what happened?” she asked. He stepped toward her and pressed, “Do you really want to know the sordid details?” Gina swallowed hard before answering, “Yes.” “I was not unduly stricken with terror,” he said in soft tones. He reached up to stroke Gina’s unruly mane. “He soothed my apprehension by gently caressing my hair, my arms, legs, thighs, and buttocks.” His hands fell to her shoulders. “He kissed me softly and full on the lips then fondled me for hours. Bereft of strength and helpless under his spell, I could do no more than weep.” Clive leaned over her shoulder and blew his low baritone into her left ear, “Then His Lordship of the Unholy Undead fastened his mouth to my inner thigh where he drank deep drafts of my blood and filled me with terror, pleasure, loathing, and desire. It was a disturbingly exquisite experience.” “My God.” Gina looked away and set her empty container in the sink. She gently turned to rinse it with water. She craned her head to address him. “Where else do people get bit?” “Why do you want to know?” His breath caught in a tangle of the thick kinks of her hair Her heart pounded in her chest. “So that I can take precautionary measures,” she said in a quiet, quivering alto. Clive cupped his hands around her smooth slender neck. “That’s funny given the fact that if one really wanted to bite you--” Gina bucked against his hold, but he firmly held his reign.
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Mystery of the Majestic, Part III “Just what do you think you’re doin’?” Arna squealed and squirmed. Marque held painfully fast to her wrist. “I’m exercising my legal rights.” “What legal rights?” She fought for her arm. “Hey, Leggo, you varmint!” “For breaching a classified area, I have the right to detain you until the proper authorities have been contacted.” Marque was in mid-air grabbing for a metaphorical trapeze bar that would swing him over to a solid and believable fib. Arna played tug of war to win her wrist back. “Beached a what? Classified area? What are you talkin’ ‘bout? This is just my dear departed uncle’s old rundown theater.” He pulled her closer to him, widened his eyes for dramatic flare, and said in a sinister tone, “You have seen the Apparatus.” “What apparatus? That ol’ hangman’s gibbet?” Arna quizzed. “No, the Apparatus, which is registered under a top secret patent, sort of like,” he paused and snapped his fingers to conjure up an analogy, “patriot missile technology,” he reached. Arna glowered at him suspiciously, “Whose sheep eyes you tryin’ to pull the wool over here? I don’t recall seein’ no weapon for the national dee-fense.” Her arm continued to stiffen in his vice. Marque moved on to test her knowledge of illusionists in the popular culture. “Do you know who David Copperfield is?” “Yeah, he’s the guy who walked through that old stone wall in China. I may be a rube, but I ain’t that uninformed,” she asserted. “Do you know that he has security around his equipment as tight as that around the patriot missile for fear one of his competitors will steal his technology?” He saw this explanation working its magic on her. “If I let you go, you’ll blab about what you saw, and some ambitious entrepreneur, like let’s say, Bryce Mendelssohn, would eventually approach you offering a tidy sum to describe what you saw, and that my dear, would be leaking classified information which is considered a crime in Stillwater County. The result could Page 12
“If I let you go, you’ll blab about what you saw, and some ambitious entrepreneur... would eventually approach you offering a tidy sum to describe what you saw, and that my dear, would be leaking classified information which is considered a crime in Stillwater County.”
mean financial ruin for me and my company, which I don’t intend to see happen.” “Take a breath, why don’t ya?” she yapped. He squeezed her arm hard in retaliation for her sass. “Hey, I swear, I didn’t see nothin’ short of a woman in chains with a noose ‘round her neck hung from a gibbet.” “I can’t take any chances.” A rap sounded at the door. There stood a thin young woman in stark black and white. She had the color of a corpse with eyes ringed in black. Black curls framed her gaunt face. A long black dress clad her skeletal frame. From her neck was strung a cell phone on a chain. In her right hand she held a clipboard and a pen. “Cindy, glad you could make it.” Without averting his fixed gaze on Arna, Marque commanded the girl, “Please take Ms. Yutter’s purse and find her car keys.” Arna broke from his spitting cobra stare and swiped with her free arm at the wraith leaning over to grab the tan leather bag. “Hey, you cain’t--” Marque held tight with his left hand and put the long fingers of his right up to her face while his assistant fished for the keys. “Good girl, now go downstairs and tell Manny to get the lady’s things from her car. In fact, have him park the car in the alleyway and lock the gate. Also, tell the crew they are under strict orders to keep our wayward guest away from the Apparatus at all cost.” His dark eyes flared at Arna. The girl turned for the door. “Oh, and Cindy?” She hovered like a dark cloud over the threshold. “Please bring us some refreshments. I’m sure Ms. Yutter here is hungry after her long trip.” “Yes, Mr. Sade.” Her meek voice belied a tender spirit in the guise of a gothic chimera. She floated out the door. Marque continued to hold Arna’s arm with a vice grip. He pushed her back into the chair. “Please, have a seat.” He picked up the phone and slammed it down. “Damn, I forgot. I’ll have to call by
cell.” He pointed a stern finger at her and admonished, “You stay put.” He walked over to the door and poked his head out to see if Cindy might still be within earshot. Seeing no one he stepped back in, closed and locked the office door with a definitive click of the deadbolt. “If you thaink you’re gonna keep me here agin’ my will, you got another thaink comin’.” Arna hectored. She rubbed her sore arm. Marque retaliated, “I have my devices,” and made his way toward her. “We’ll wait until Manny gets back with your stuff, then I’ll see how to deal with you.” “You are one torqued-up a-hole, you know that?” she back-talked Marque drew the towel draped around his neck, wrapped its ends around his fists and snapped it tight between his hands. He came around the desk and leaned over Arna. He brought the band of cloth to within an inch of her face. “I’d watch my language if I were you.” Arna tried not to look scared, but a gasp gave her away. Marque took the towel, wiped the sweat his face then draped it over his left shoulder. He sat his firm rump on the edge of the desk, wedging Arna between the desk and the bookshelf. He served up no banter. “So, you thaink holdin’ me prisoner and makin’ threats an’ all is gonna change my mind about sellin’ the Majestic? You don’t know how stubborn I can be, mister. I can sit here all night and all day. I figger eventually someone’ll come lookin’ for me.” Braggadocio blanketed her apprehension. “Someone like who? Bryce Mendelssohn?” “He does come to mind.” Arna pictured the tall man in the expensive pressed suit with his trim blonde hair and manicured fingernails. His sweet musk had tickled Arna’s nose at the funeral home. Marque’s fierce energy glommed onto her. “Bryce Mendelssohn doesn’t work that way. He is no shining knight (continued on page 16) Adventures for the Average Woman
Boundary Waters (continued from page 5)
vegetables while watching her dissect the dead rabbit. “You hunt?” He was fishing for information about a possible firearm on the premises. From the corner of her eye, she caught him wincing at the sight of its raw flesh. “I set traps.” She pushed the pelt to the side and shaved off slivers of reddish-brown meat. “Out here, you can’t be squeamish about this sort of thing.” The bloody knife fell into the sink with a clatter. She scooped the meat onto a platter and brought it to the wood-burning stove at the side of the kitchen. A black iron cauldron sent up a plume of steam. She dumped the meat into the boiling water and sprinkled in salt, oregano, sage, and thyme then added flour for thickening. She flinched to find him standing right behind her wielding the knife and a plate of chopped vegetables. He methodically added them to the stew. “It’s going to be a good half hour. Why don’t we have a seat?” She tipped her head toward the table and chairs. “Here, I’ll take that.” She coolly pried the knife from his hand and walked back to the sink where she tossed it. Then she opened a cupboard, pulled out a longnecked bottle with two stemware glasses, and brought them to the table where her uninvited guest was already seated. Using her teeth, she pulled out the stopper. A rich red liquid gurgled from the bottle to fill each glass. She slid the drink over to him and raised hers. “Lachaim.” His nose crinkled at its tangy bouquet. “What is it?” “Blackberry balloon wine.” Over the rim of her glass she saw him hesitate. “It’s perfectly safe.” “I’ll stick to water if you don’t mind.” He got up, poured it down the sink and filled the glass from the tap. “You could’ve taken another glass instead of wasting it like that,” she lamented and ladled up the stew. He drank down the water and looked around the room. “Where are my newspapers?” She took a sip of wine and wiped her
Volume 1, Issue 3
Holding a potential weapon instilled a sense of control. He set to cutting up the vegetables while watching her dissect the dead rabbit.
mouth. “In the car that’s still stuck in the snow bank down the road, I imagine.” “Where’s your TV? I want to watch the news.” “Don’t have one. And even if I did, we couldn’t use it. Power’s out, remember?” “No radio. No television. How do you keep up with what’s going on the world?” He filled his glass with more water and relished the fresh crispness that can only come from a deep well. “I don’t,” she replied. “Why not?” he blew in the glass before taking another draft. She motioned to the heavy-laden bookshelves lining the walls of her house, “This is world enough for me.” He looked into the large living room and the disturbing statuary. “You do some spectacular work.” His Adam’s apple bobbed on a gulp. “I saw on your business card that you’re a doctor.” Claire brought a bowl of piping hot stew. “I’m a doctor of philosophy, not an M.D.” “What field?” “Physiological Engineering.” “Ah,” he affirmed. With his curiosity and thirst sated, set the stemware atop the white tile counter with a delicate click. “I specialize in anatomical illustrations and models.” She motioned him to take
his place at the table. “Let me get you a spoon.” She pulled two from a drawer under the counter and handed one to him before getting a bowl for herself. She set out a loaf of homebaked bread and carved off thick hunks with a serrated knife. She sat down and watched him shake with hunger as he chomped the bread and slurped down the meaty potage. “Delicious,” he mumbled through greedy mouthfuls. Claire ate hers slowly with savor and studied him. He cleared his throat of the thick scalding stew that made his nose run. “I want to thank you, Claire,” he said. “Do you mind if I call you Claire?” He sopped up the dregs from his bowl with the butt of his bread. She swallowed before replying. “Only if you tell me what I should call you.” He smirked, “You’re kidding, right?” Mouth puckered around a steamy piece of rabbit meat, Claire shook her head. He set his spoon down. “Don’t tell me you don’t know who I am?” (continued on page 14)
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Boundary Waters (continued from page 13)
“I checked your pockets for some ID but couldn’t find a wallet or anything.” Claire stood up. “More?” She took his bowl to serve up another batch and brought it back to him. “I’m afraid I don’t have the slightest,” she said returning to her seat across from him. His fingers searched the tangle of his dark locks for a memory. “I must have dropped my wallet when I switched clothes.” “Switched clothes?” she quizzed. He crossed his arms and leaned forward on his elbows. “I’m Erik Lang.” Claire smiled vacantly and sipped the sauce from her bowl. “You know, ‘Waiting for Godette.’” “Don’t you mean ‘Waiting for Godot’ where down-and-out Estragon and Vladimir hope in vain to get hired by a rumored employer?” she quizzically clarified. “No, ‘Godette’ where horny frat boys Bob and Fred hope in vain to get laid by a hot babe.” Her eyes blinked blankly at his reference. “How about ‘Restless Love’ then? That was a biggie.” “‘Through rain, through snow,’” she recited, “‘Through tempest go! 'Mongst streaming caves, O'er misty waves, On, on! Still on! Peace, rest have flown!’” “Huh?” he grunted thickly. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1789.” “No, Matt Greenblatt, 1999. Don’t you go to the movies?” “The nearest cinema is fifty miles from here.” Her eyes dropped to her empty bowl. The hair curled on the back of his neck with the notion of her ignorance. “I’m a fairly prominent film actor.” He reassured himself of his reality. “A film actor who kidnaps women at gunpoint,” she reminded him of her reality. “What I want to know is why you did it and what do you plan to do.” Her spoon clunked to the bottom of her bowl. “Look, I’m sorry about all this, but I needed to get as far away from L.A. as
“I just hope you’re not one of those mad artists who lures people in and turns them into statues by pouring wax over them,” he chuckled nervously and released her.
quickly as possible and make my way to the Canadian border. At first I headed south to throw off police. I stowed away on freight cars and caught a lift outside of San Diego with some Mexican who liked my Genarra jacket and Varvatos black denims. I swapped clothes with him before climbing out at the truck stop where I saw your Durango sporting Minnesota tags. I figured you were going my way; so, I crashed your ride. It was solely an act of desperation.” Claire silently cleared the table. She stood at the sink with her back to him then turned with arms crossed. Outside, the wind whipped the snow with blind fury. “And the gun and the handcuffs? Seems pretty planned to me.” He stood up with the blanket draped over his shoulders. “I got those off a female cop who I blindsided behind a building.” She hesitated before venturing, “You killed her?” “No, I didn’t kill her. I just knocked her out and grabbed her cuffs and gun in the event I’d need them, you know.” “No, I don’t know.” Claire slowly lowered her arms to the counter. She shot a quick glance at the knives in the sink. Seeing her intent, he lunged and caught her by the wrists. “Don’t,” he warned. “Now, tell me: is there a gun in the house?” His grip tightened to force an answer. “What? No. None,” she yawped. “What about the rabbit? How did you kill it?” “I told you. I trapped him. Please don’t hurt me,” she pleaded. “I saved your life.” He pushed her out of the kitchen, into the living room and onto the sofa. He sat down beside her and assured, “Don’t you think if I meant to hurt you I would’ve done it by now? I mean, considering the circumstances,” he eyeballed the creepy body parts in suspension, “maybe I’m the one who should be worried.” “What do you mean?” She tried
pulling free from his grasp. “I just hope you’re not one of those mad artists who lures people in and turns them into statues by pouring wax over them,” he chuckled nervously and released her. “Where on earth would you get such a demented notion?” she protested. “Probably from watching too many movies.” He rubbed the fatigue from his callow face, stood up and seized her.
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Adventures for the Average Woman
The Adventures of Katie Madigan: Katie and the Errant Knight
Fed up with work and a lackluster life, Katie longs to escape. In a series of graphic stories, she descends into one grueling adventure after another. Katie, be careful what you wish for.
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Mystery of the Majestic (continued from page 12)
to damsels in distress. He’d just assume they’d get eaten by dragons so he could buy up their castles at estate auctions. He doesn’t need your signature to get this property, although it would make things easier for him. If he doesn’t hear from you, he’ll just think you don’t care about this pile of rubble, that you don’t have the time and resources to deal with it. He’ll figure you decided to go back to Ploughmuck, Texas and let this place to go into forfeiture with the bank. Worst of all, he’ll know that you are too simpleminded to understand the true value of your inheritance.” Marque came nose-tonose with Arna. “That’s Tuckers Corner, Texas to you,” she growled. The intensity was dispelled by another rap at the door. Marque lifted off his perch and walked over to unlock it. Cindy entered. She held a large round tray bearing two humps covered with cloth. She gingerly placed it on the smoky glass top of the coffee table that stood between the sofa and armchairs. “Cindy, I need your cell.” With alabaster hands, she lifted the black wafer on the chain from around her long neck and handed it to him. Wordlessly, she turned for the door. “You know I’m bein’ held agin’ my will here. Will y’all have the decency to call the authorities?” Arna tried calling to the woman’s attention. Cindy looked at Arna with zombie eyes then closed the door behind her. Arna saw herself playing ball all alone against a team of freaks. Marque wrapped the chain around the paper-thin phone and slipped it into the stretch of his waistband along his tightly muscled abdomen. “Shall we?” He relocked the door and invited her over to the sofa. When she dallied, he made a false lunge with claws extended. She jumped up, quickly sidled past him, and took her place on the black leather divan. Marque pulled up one of the armchairs to the end of the table and sat down. With a flick of his wrist he jerked the yellow cloth from one of the trays. Arna was wary of what lay displayed on the tray. The little curly white and green objects didn’t strike her as appetizing or edible. The fish looked very uncooked, and there were no forks or spoons, only silver wands. Marque had already popped one of Page 16
Arna was wary of what lay displayed on the tray. The little curly white and green objects didn’t strike her as appetizing or edible. The fish looked very uncooked, and there were no forks or spoons, only silver wands.
the small rolls into his mouth before he noticed Arna’s expression of bemusement. “What?” He chewed and swallowed. “You don’t care for sushi?” “Looks more like squishy to me. What the hell is it and how in the hell do you eat it?” “Well, let’s see what platter number two holds? Ta-da!” We ripped away the second cloth with a prestidigitator’s flourish. There appeared consumables more suitable to Arna’s palate: diagonally sliced ham and cheese sandwiches. Arna snatched up a half of a sandwich and stuffed it into her chow hole. “Tea?” Marque held up the pot to pour her a cup. “I could really gofera cold frosty one but if’n that’s all you got....” “You should really try eating more healthily.” He twirled his chopsticks over the rolls of raw tuna, salmon, and sticky rice banded with nori. Arna patted the slight bulge around her gut. “Hell, I been eatin’ junk for so long I don’t thaink my body could take a dose of what’s good for it without goin’ completely into shock..” Her remark brought smiles to both their smacking lips. With the sustenance would come renewed strength to fight. Drowsiness would douse any such urge. Arna hadn’t had more than a handful of winks since she left her shack in Tuckers Corner to make the twenty-hour drive up to Blue Earth, Montana. Now this lunatic, Marque D. Sade, was keeping her up to discuss the fate of the theater and the need for secrecy about the ominous Apparatus. It was going on midnight, and she could tell by the funk permeating the room how badly they both needed showers. “Look, I can hardly see let alone thaink right now. Cain’t we leave this ‘til mornin’?” Marque brought his hand to his mouth in a pensive pose and studied her. He considered the possibility of facing kidnapping charges, but opted all the same to keep her contained. “Very well, but I am locking this door with Manny posted outside, so don’t try to--” “Escape?” Arna gave a goose cackle and snorted. “Considerin’ I got no place to stay and no money to boot, bein’ cooped up in this here office is fine and dandy with me. She lay back and crossed her legs, propped her boots on
the sofa arm and tipped her Stetson over her eyes. Marque winced at seeing her footwear defiling furniture. “Do you mind?” She replied with the steady breathing of sleep. He shut off the lights, locked the door, and left Arna to a fitful slumber. Images of Marque de Sade in slithering chains, barking Carl the Choreographer with his runny Chihuahua snout and sad yellow pop-eyes, the hanging escape artist, Lily Q., with legal documents coming out of her rawboned ass mixed and mashed with the faces of her own deceased son, mother, and beloved Ed. The faceless ghost of Uncle Armand appeared and disappeared among the oneiric shadows, tantalizing her to seek where he hid. She strolled through the mist calling his name. A bright light appeared and grew closer and closer. Arna tried to run from its path but her feet would not move. Someone was holding them and trying to pull off her boots. She awoke to see the wispy figure of a man donning the overalls and floppy hat from bygone days. He raised his head to reveal a timeravaged face covered in ratty whiskers. The moment his deep-set eyes locked onto Arna’s mystified gaze, he vanished. Sweat streamed down Arna’s blanched face. She was in sore need of light and a smoke. With all her strength, she pried free from Fear’s vice and flew for the wall switch. Fluorescence flooded the room and washed away the shadows. She dug through her purse for her cigarettes and matches, pulled one out, and lit up. The notion that smoking in this building might be restricted was quickly shoved out of her line of thought by her neurotic craving. One by one, the terrible visions of the night went up in each and every puff of smoke rising from her lips. Is Arna trapped in a world of smoke, mirrors, and ruthless conmen? Find out in our upcoming issues. Subscribe today!
Adventures for the Average Woman
MOONLESS SKIES The squawk of a lone macaw knifes through the dense jungle air that weighs down the night along the banks of the Rio Marapi. Nocturnal noises endemic to the river and surrounding forest chirp and chortle their Amazonian lullaby. Mosquito whines build in high-pitch crescendo as they approach the ear. Thwack! Plap! The tympani of human palms slapping cheeks, flanks, bellies, lends its irregular rhythm to the nighttime chorus. According to conventional measure of time, it is January 1993. The flow of the Amazon runs by a different clock not measured in numbers but in shades and hues of blues, greens, yellows and browns, in shallowness and depth, in the bounty of the crops and the hunt. A woman not native to this land of golden lion marmosets, giant anaconda, and the Tumucumaque Indians sleeps soundly. Wearing a crew neck extra-long navy blue “SUNY” t-shirt and a pair of black cotton panties, she sweats out the stifling jungle heat on a piasaba mat that covers the earthen floor of the maloca. A refreshing breeze wisps through the weaves of the six-foot high thatch wall that separates her end of the hut. She stirs, sensing a presence. It is the hour when preternatural beings commonly pay visits upon the semi-conscious. Her eyelids flutter open and she peers into the pitch. Above her hovers a form, dark and ominous, but she does not recoil in fear, for in this surreal realm of the Brazilian rain forest, she has experienced many visions and visitations that have appeared to her in all forms, dimensions, and intensities. She has learned to take for granted what some would deem as the natural hallucinations produced by dream state, others as alien encounters, and most as a sign of a stressed-out mind on the brink of insanity.
Volume 1, Issue 3
The Judo chokehold deprives her of oxygen. Her view screen of the world shrinks down to a tiny central pinpoint that is engulfed by nothingness.
She wonders who this creature could be and stretches out her hand to the black-on-black silhouette. To her horror, it is solid, human not spirit. Before her brain transmits the neurons to trigger the contraction of the diaphragm and force air into the throat past wildly vibrating vocal cords and out of her widening mouth to sound her alarm, a crackling flash of neon blue sparks the air. Muscles seize, lungs heave, beating heart freezes. The black form takes her up and cradles her in its steely arms. There is no time to acknowledge her moans of distress. Yanking up her limp body and slinging it over his left shoulder, he steals out of the maloca and bolts for the magnioc fields. Her body jogs violently up and down with his frantic canter. A spark of movement occurs in her fingers and spreads up her arms. She is coming out of paralysis. She tilts her head up to behold a buffeting view of the sleeping village receding into the distance. Her abductor is huffing hard under his burden as he makes a 200-meter dash for the river’s edge. The man lunges for the embankment, spilling with his load into a soggy section of field. She lands on her back with him face-forward on top of her. He is wearing what appears to be cumbersome eye gear. He raises himself on all fours and shakes his head, slightly disoriented from the tumble. Seeing her chance, she delivers a fierce kick. Her heel lands in between the vastus intermedius and the adductor longus of his right thigh. He momentarily reels from the blow, as she attempts to scramble away on all fours. In panther style, he pounces on his downed prey, grappling her in a jujitsu hell strangle. One leg and one hand wrap across her throat; his other leg and hand pin down her arms. She tries twisting around to confront her attacker but she is helpless. The Judo chokehold deprives her of oxygen. Her view screen of the world shrinks down to a tiny central pinpoint that is engulfed by nothingness. Gurgle of running water. Cool splash on her face. Eyes blink furtively, trying
to open. World moves upside down. Impossible to move. Painful to breathe. Blond strands point earthward from her down-turned head. Arms dangle. Legs are braced together in a brawny grip. Hands and feet scrape the surface of water. She hangs helpless as the man wades thigh-high in the slow-flowing Rio Marapi. Save for the murmurings of the wild and the rushing wake of water, the night is dead still as the man and his burden push through the eddies. He comes to a boat hidden under riverine overgrowth. He places her prone on her back on the bottom of the boat. She begins to stir. The faceless figure covered in black flips a switch on a motor. The swift stealth craft zips silently across the smooth onyx surface of the river that blends seamlessly with the moonless sky. A brilliant white-amber flash lights up the night, instantaneously revealing daytime colors of jungle green, river brown, hibiscus red, and thatch tan. Loud booms pummel the air. The woman bolts up. Her lungs expand to full capacity then gush forth a guttural shriek of protest, “Nooooo!” The blast of heat and pressure travel at the speed of sound beyond the explosion’s epicenter, grazing the stealth craft as it whisks her off into the darkness. The woman’s dream-memory dissipates on the thrumming wings of a great shadowy bird startled from its roost in the canopy. She springs up from her recline with a soul wrenching keen. A chill sweat streams down her face and body in the tropical night. Lucidity sets in. This is not the Amazon. She’s no longer in Brazil. She’s in the South Pacific seven years later. Yet she’s reliving that terrible night when she saw the village destroyed. Her agonizing moan is subsumed by silent sobbing. She realizes how yet one more of the planet’s few remaining fragile rainforest environments is in deep peril. To be continued in our upcoming issues. Subscribe today! Page 17
Cinderella Breakdown, NEW! Part II By Jack B. Nimble for “Pageboy News” Recently, I was working on a story about Fairyland’s down-and-out lurking underneath the infamous Troll Bridge on the outskirts of town. There, society’s undesirables dwell deep within the dank recesses of the bridge and the embankment. While exploring the seamy underbelly of the kingdom, I encountered terrible trolls, foul ogres, and nefarious gnomes -- the ugliest, nastiest, and lowliest in all the land. To my utter surprise, I learned that among the detritus survives one of the fairest ever known who now calls this squalid hellhole her home. I found her nestled within one of the buttresses. Her aging flesh hung limply from her bones – signs of sudden severe weight-loss. Her once-spectacular gown was now in tatters. A battered tiara sat askew atop her matted blonde hair. In her right hand she held a bent wand with a glitter-less star at its top end. She still wore her famous glass slippers now chipped and cracked. She had fallen a long way from the silk banner-draped turrets of her palace to the filthy hollows under Troll Bridge. Maidens and Knights, below lies the retelling of the tale of Cinderella transcribed from the recorded conversation she most graciously held with this humble reporter. JBN: Greetings, Your Majesty. I’m Jack Nimble from “Pageboy News.” I was wondering if you could spare a few minutes and answer a few questions for our magazine. Cinderella: Hello, Fair Jack. Won’t you have a seat on this stone? It’s quite flat and covered with a fine soft cushion of cold, damp moss. JBN: You are very gracious indeed, Your Majesty. Cinderella: Oh, I don’t go by that title anymore. Not since the divorce. I prithee, address me simply as Cinderella. Would you care for a stale crumpet? Karl the Porcine over there ruts them out from the discarded baked goods on Drury Lane every evening. JBN: I most humbly decline, for I just had my repast. Tell me, milady, how did it come to this? Cinderella: Well, Jack, that’s a question I’ve been pondering for eons now. To think that I once had nothing and then I had it all – a handsome prince, a castle Page 18
“You try being starved throughout your childhood then moving into a palace with enough food to feed the entire kingdom.”
in the country, a gilded coach with velvet interior and ten horses up front, a never-ending wardrobe, a beauteous daughter and a strapping son -- only to lose it all and wind up back with nothing. It’s a puzzler. JBN: Let’s start with the first time you met the Prince. Cinderella: At the ball. Ah, it was love at first sight, but I knew I wasn’t high enough for his rank. Besides, I was a total dork. I lost my frickin’ fancy shoe and then nearly blew my midnight curfew. I thought Fairy Godmother would turn me into a ball of yarn for the cat to mercilessly bat around. I was totally floored when the Prince actually scoured the kingdom for the only foot that would fit that confounded glass slipper – mine. Can you believe it? You should have seen the looks on my wicked step-sisters’ faces. What a lark! Ha! JBN: It wasn’t long after that that you married. What a spectacular wedding it was. It aired on all the broadcast networks in the kingdom, along with your romantic honeymoon cruise on the royal yacht in the Mediterranean. Cinderella: Well, it didn’t take long for the honeymoon to be over, I can tell you. As soon as we got back to the palace, the magic began to fade. To think my fair prince had once been so utterly charming. JBN: What happened? Cinderella: For starters, I developed an eating disorder. JBN: Yes, the tabloids targeted your weight gain with a vengeance. Cinderella: You try being starved throughout your childhood then moving into a palace with enough food to feed the entire kingdom. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t resist raiding the pantries. As a result, my willowy figure widened to the width of a baobab. I’d binge; I’d purge. I still got fat. During my pregnancies, I totally pigged out. After the birth of my second child, I weighed a whopping 13 stone! That’s 182 pounds in today’s system of measure – and I’m but five-foot one in stature. My towering six-foot tall son doesn’t weigh that much. JBN: How did that affect your marriage? Cinderella: Well, it killed our sex life. JBN: The Prince was no longer
intimate, you mean. Cinderella: He wouldn’t come near me with a seven-foot lance. He’d go off on long quests, saying it was important princely business. I’m sure there were quite a few damsels in distress he kept in remote towers on the side. Of course, the more he went away, the more I ate to cope with the loneliness and neglect. JBN: Didn’t raising the royal children fill the void? Cinderella: Are you joking? Right after each was born, I suffered profound postpartum depression. Thank God for wet nurses and nannies. I’d hate to imagine what I would have done without them. JBN: Do you think you would have hurt the children? Cinderella: In my delusional state-ofmind, I would have fed them to the dragons. I think I actually tried forcing my daughter’s hand into the flames of the candelabra once. I told her it was pretty yellow butterfly that she should set upon her finger. The psychotropic medications, not to mention the all the psychedelic drugs I’ve taken over the years, have sort of fogged my memory. JBN: Did you seek help for your problem then? Cinderella: Not willingly. My husband’s family more or less forced me into treatment. They threatened to lock me in the tower and take custody of my kids. That was a wakeup call. JBN: And how did you respond? Cinderella: It was tough going. I was put through a battery of tests followed by therapy sessions. It seemed as though I swallowed the entire apothecary everyday what with all the powders and potions mixed for my melancholy and weight problem. Over time, I grew more placid and compliant but quite addicted to a variety of chemical substances. In Part II of this in-depth interview in the February issue of AFTAW, Cinderella talks about her battle with addiction and postpartum depression.
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Adventures for the Average Woman