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Newsstand price: $8.00 Jan - F eb 2007 Volume 2, Issue 2

IDEAGEMS ® PUBLICATIONS

IIn nside this Issue A MONTHLY PUBLICATION OF SERIAL FICTION AND FACT-BASED ADVENTURE TALES PRINTED WITH EARTH-FRIENDLY RECYCLED MATERIALS

”F” is for… Flights of fancy, fearsome fiendishness, and fabulous fantasy galore! It’s also for frustration, fluster, and fudged-up computers. Fighting failing hard drives and faulty floppies, we fearlessly (and incredibly, tearlessly) tackled the problems to produce this issue full of fascinating feminine fun with a fair amount of fine masculine attributes to boot. (Hey, can’t have yin without yang - ☯ - it’s what makes the cosmos spin!) We open with a blast of Flash Fiction, with Margaret Damele Elam’s “Teacher of the Year,” followed by a quick script with a wicked twist, “The Small Room,” by Elizabeth Bishop. Dive in with a splash with our new column, “Book Look,” featuring the novel, Benny, by activist for the homeless, Harris Cooley. “Poetry & Painting” is making a brief transition to “Poetry & Poets” where the poets and their fine literary efforts are presented in a montage of poems and portraits. Feature articles run the gamut from false perceptions of being fat in “They Just Don’t Get It,” by Yvonne Brunot to dealing with a “Lack of Desire,” by our resident sex columnist, Racheal Doyle. Travel to the wonderful world of Rolfing® then read a heartfelt caveat about Internet wooers and scammers as researched and written by our Managing Editor, the unsinkable Laurie Notch, who is always poking her story-sniffing nose into informative affairs. By a miraculous feat, we are beyond privileged to bring you, “A Chilling Discovery,” a murder mystery set in the frozen wastelands of the South Pole, as told by former Antarctica resident, Tom Lohr. How cool is that? Farfetching adventure further abounds with a preview chapter of AJ Ensor’s Return of the Darkside, from his Luke Carter series – where American girls and boys explore the world of magic. (Harry Potter, eat your every-flavor-beanloving heart out!) One St. Louis interviewer exclaims, “…it is full of family values which many have found preferable, and just like America, it is also about diversity which means that the majority of lead characters are not white.” Now don’t get all huffy and snort, “Well, those stories are written by men! I thought this was a collection of adventure stories for and by women!” Indeed, our focus is on women, but what woman doesn’t enjoy reading about some dashing hero in spectacles or spandex (or not)? The point is: our published materials are hand-picked for your pleasure – no matter the gender of the authors. For some fearsome feminine fare, cringe to a heroine’s horrific encounter with some creepy freaks in “Rum Run Road” by Linda Brobst. Then for a humorous take on real-life adventure, hie to Genita Hill’s account of her career as a mail carrier in “Don’t Make Me Go Postal!” Fantasy abounds with fairy-tale flare in Margaret Damele Elam’s “The Gift,” a story that begs the question: Can a human-elf marriage work? On the darker side of love, we see its rude awakening in a short story by Anthony Damonse. Illuminating our pages is the artwork of Linda Kent and Im Sook Kim whose weird renderings are featured in “Phantom of Antique.”

“F” is for…

1

Fantom Scrivner

2

Contests

3

About Us

3

The Art of Rolfing

4

Book Look

5

Flash Fiction

6

Poetry & Poets

7

Between the Lines

10

They Just Don’t Get It

11

Hearts & Scammers

12

Headache for Valentine

13

Lack of Desire

16

A Chilling Discovery

18

The Love of Travel

21

Don’t Make Me Go Postal

22

Return of the Darkside

23

Rum Run Road

32

Awakening to Love

35

The Gift

37

Phantom of Antique

53

So there you have it, some fantasy fluff, some funny stuff, and tales rough and tough — all that you can read in the buff (or not) which should be enough until our next titillating page-turner. -- Cytheria Howell, Author, Editor-in-Chief, and Incurable Romantic

Volume 2, Issue 2

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S

eeking your own adventure

but too bogged down to go out and live one? Let us write one for you using your name and specific details of your life. Just send a letter or email with the adventure tale you’ve chosen from our repertoire. Your personal “novelette” will be creatively printed and bound with your portrait on the cover. Illustrations are optional and cost extra. Prices start at $150 for basic nameinsert in vanilla cover and vary depending on amount of personal detail you wish to include in the story. We also write memoirs (see book cover and illustration below) with digitally-enhanced family photos. For more information, please contact Fantom Scrivner at ideagems@aol.com or call (202) -746 - 5160.

Illustration from “Boundary Waters” © 2005

BOILERPLATE SPECIALS for your personal novelette: Magic Quest - Wizards and dragons are not just for children. You too can fly across leagues and conjure spells in order to solve the mystery of a lost child who harbors a powerful secret. Fantasy Cruise - you’ve won a fantasy cruise with the movie hunk of your dreams. The adventure begins when you are shipwrecked in a storm on the jungle coast of a war-torn banana republic. Only you can save the day and lead the way to safety. Willing Spirits - you live in a haunted house and seek the help of professional paranormal investigators. What will you do with all the ghosts and the sexy ghost hunter hired to chase them?

Let us know any special requests for stories — even “saucy” ones. We’re not shy! Contact Fantom Scrivner at ideagems@aol.com or mail in your request to: IDEAGEMS P.O. Box 4748 Portland, ME 04112-4748

IDEAGEMS ® PUBLICATIONS

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Makes for a fantastic, romantic gift for that special someone!

Adventures for the Average Woman


TELL US YOUR REAL-LIFE ADVENTURES! Are you a woman or a man who likes to write about a woman (in the present or the past) who has experienced a rip-roaring, jaw-clenching, nail-biting, reallife adventure? Well, write it up, send it in to get it featured in our book version of Adventures for the Average Woman, and possibly win a cash prize to boot! Well, you’ll be happy to know that we have extended our entry dates. Sound good? To see our rules and guidelines, go to www.ideagems.com or send us a written request with SASE and we will send them.

A WORD WITH YOU It’s been a while since we’ve had a word to our readers; so, here’s a reminder for those of you who know us and an introduction to those of you who are new to our pages. Who we are is a group of devoted artists and writers contributing artwork, photography, articles, stories, time and yes, even MONEY in support of this publication. We further salute and thank the many talented writers and artists who have so generously donated their work to make this dream of a women’s adventure magazine come true! What we do is hunt for gems of publishing ideas (hence the name, “IdeaGems® “). We are building a platform for struggling writers – especially women writers -- to showcase their treasure-troves of talent. Our mission is to open up hidden veins deep beneath the strata of mainstream, commercial publishing and seek glimmering creativity. We will take most any literary gem – no matter how rough-hewn — shine it up and put it on display in our ‘zine and on our site (www.ideagems.com).

Brilliant When Engaged by Linda Kent

Fill out and send in the insert with your check for $24 for a full year of issues and enjoy the eclectic selection of woman-centered adventure stories, real and surreal.

Volume 2, Issue 2

Why we do it is simple: We are sick and tired of seeing talent neglected and gone to waste – including our own. We grow weary of the same old fare of chick lit and women’s ‘zines that focus on shopping, beauty aids, fashion, and diet fads. Instead, we produce a periodical that promotes women as go-get-‘em adventurers, world travelers, crime fighters, vampire killers (and lovers), or die-hard survivors of breast cancer, domestic abuse, job discrimination, and lost love – all because we know how every woman — no matter how average — has an adventure to tell — the raison d’etre of “Adventures for the Average Woman.” We hope you enjoy this issue and encourage you to subscribe, send a submission, and lend your support. — Laurie Notch, Managing Editor

MEET OUR VOLUNTEER STAFF Hell, we can’t pay anyone, but at least we can put heir names in glitzy print: Super Managing Editor, faster than a speeding deadline, more powerful than crashing hard drives, and who can leap tall production orders with a single bound!

Ethereal Editor-in-chief, Incurable Romantic, and ultimate alter-ego Melchizedek Priestess, spiritual guide and creative consultant from the City of Old Souls, New Orleans Bostonian artist, writer, and contributing editor with a wickedly sharp political wit Asian art coordinator, photo-essayist, and persistent promoter of AFTAW Writer, international publisher, and microfinancier of women’s programs in India Music-review maven and percussive publications expert from the “beat” streets of DC

Our born-and-raised “Maine-iac” copywriter and assistant editor torn between media and politics

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®

By Laurie Notch, Managing Editor It’s weird how connections are made. While working on a fundraising online auction for a local community concern, I got a call from a woman wanting to donate a service to put up for bid. When I asked her what the service was, she answered, “a Rolfing ® session.” “Rolfing? What’s that?” I queried not letting on what the word actually suggested in my mind. She began to explain it as corrective massage that works the myofascial tissues in the joints and muscles. Immediately after obtaining her name, Christina McChristian, and contact information, I set about to digging up all I could about Rolfing ® (including how to spell “myofascial”) and learned how Ida P. Rolf (1896-1979) invented the practice designed to correct skeletomuscular imbalances by separating layers of tissue that “stick” to muscles that have been pulled out of position by strain or injury), a biochemist turned physical therapist. Of course, just reading about it was not enough. I called Christina and told her I was a writer and publisher always on the hunt for interesting women’s stories. She invited me over to her office for a free Rolfing ® session, and I surely got more of a tale than I could have ever bargained for. Lo and behold, Christina is not only a licensed, world-class Rolfer, she is a real world traveler and adventurer! Here is how the interview went (as I got royally Rolfed):

Christina in her office

How long have you been doing Rolfing ®? Since 1999. I was working in Maine 2 ½ years ago. And then I went sailing. I thought I’d go to the South Pacific for several years but only managed 2 years out of Maine down in the Caribbean and up the Atlantic.

Did you learn to sail here in Maine? No. I’m originally from Billingham, Washington. I grew up on the west coast and was supposed to take a trip down to South America. Then I went to San Diego and paid to work on my first sail boat. I cruised around Panama. I knew nothing. I was by myself. I think the guy liked to get you to pay for his expenses. We traveled up the eastern coast of Central America where we got chased by gun boats in Nicaragua. We had one big storm in a 33-foot Irwin. We ended up out of water, downed engines, in this big storm. We contacted a cargo ship, full of Asian mariners. They threw us a line but our boat couldn’t take the haul. They sent over their lifeboat which was as big as our boat! Then they helped us out, and we made it to Florida. Did you go anywhere else besides Central America? We went up the Nile in uncharted waters. We were the only out-of-the-ordinary boat on those waters at that time. I spent years sailing but got out of it due to health problems. But in my travels, I met lots of wonderful natural medicine doctors. I never expected to heal the way I did. What was your health problem? I had health issues that scared me due to an autoimmune disorder. I was used to being unhealthy since birth. No natural immunities. Once I went homeopathic everything changed. I did acupuncture and Chinese medicine among other treatments to get my body back in harmony. Once back on track, the body healed and it was amazing. In ‘92 – ‘93 I didn’t know anyone doing the kinds of therapies I do now. I studied massage before learning Rolfing. What is Rolfing ®? What Rolfing does is work with the fascial tissue that grows around the bones and connects muscle to sinew to organ. You feel it, but ideally you want to reach a point not to feel the pain. It’s about changing habits and outlook. After doing Rolfing, my scoliosis cleared up. I had unbelievable changes in my body, but I didn’t know how to approach it. Once I left the party scene, my change came from the inside with proper diet and therapy. At this time, I was in a void. My 18-year marriage ended and my lifestyle was gone. I supplicated to the universe to give me guidance. Then I saw an ad for a healing arts program in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In spite of the people telling me it was expensive, no housing, etc., I landed in Santa Fe and found a house 3 blocks from school. Talk about the synchronicity of how things fall into place! There I studied polarity therapy and massage. What is polarity therapy? Created by Randolph Stone, it’s energy work of Ayurvedic and Asian techniques. It’s about moving the energy to achieve balance -- a combo of a lot of different modalities. How did you come to be in Maine? I was hired as a property manager for a Texas Billionaire who had places in Maine. I thought, “What will I do up there?” but as it turned out, I met the most amazing people: granite carvers, inventors, creative folk who led simple lives but possessed interesting talents. I wound up setting my own massage and Rolfing® practice and met with great success. Needles to say, I was much more intrigued by Christina’s stories of fighting 30-foot waves off of Bermuda and riding barn-sour mules in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt than what her skilled hands were doing to my poor body wracked and knotted by endless hours hunkered over a computer keyboard. As I lay face-down on the massage table I felt the burn of the Rolfing® technique. Christina worked the stiff muscles in my neck, shoulders, back, and legs -- quite the penetrating massage! I’ve been returning faithfully every week for more much-needed corrective massage and a dose of thrilling storytelling. If you live in or visit the Portland, Maine area, schedule your massage or Rolfing session by calling: (207) 710-3000.

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Adventures for the Average Woman


We’re introducing a new page to AFTAW: BOOK LOOK, where we feature new literary releases in the hopes the authors get the attention they so righteously deserve. Check out this marvelous novel, Benny, written by African-American author, Harris Cooley. I had the great fortune of meeting Harris to learn that this story of a young boy, Benny, who struggles to endure and overcome the trauma of poverty, illiteracy, child abuse, and homelessness, is based on a true story. What is interesting to me is the role of women in Benny’s life. The prevailing view of womanhood as overwhelmed and powerless in a world of brutish men resonates the stark and tormented tone of Franz Kafka. Even though the mission of AFTAW is to show women in a proactive dynamic light, I feel it is equally important to recognize where women fail in their roles as nurturers and protectors out of their own ignorance and fear. Perhaps it takes a young boy like Benny to remind us that many women need help, support, and education if not for their own sake then for the sake of their children.

A GREAT PICK FOR YOUR NEXT BOOK CLUB GATHERING!

EXCERPT: Curtis was Benny's brother. He was only a year older than Benny, but was much larger. Curtis was also a bully, and he bullied Benny unmercifully. There was no relief for Benny, because the parents were gone from the house for long periods of time. At those times, Zen was left in charge. Zen could not stop Curtis from bullying Benny. As the day would wear on Benny knew he was at the mercy of Curtis’ impulses. He would sometimes hide in the big woods behind the big farmhouse. At times he would even fall asleep on the ground in the woods, hoping that by the time that he woke up his mother and father would be back home. But when his mother and father returned, Benny had to trade one terror for another. The children were all terrified of Reverend McFadden, and he was never kind to them. He quarreled with Mrs. McFadden, their mother, violently, and was extremely abusive to the children, physically and emotionally. He put them down everyday, and told them he didn’t like them. Benny got the worst of his abuse. The Reverend McFadden hated his son, Benny, and never talked to him unless it was an order or a threat. Mrs. McFadden, Benny’s mother, was not a strong woman at all, so she never came to Benny’s aid when the Reverend was abusing him. She never really stood up to the Reverend.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Harris Cooley is one of those rare, renaissance individuals, who is a truly amazing artist. He has made Maine his home for the past fifteen years. This year he has played in a professional band, acted in two plays, and completed a novel. He is now working on his next novel, and rehearsing for future theatrical projects. Harris is also active in the community, and has spent many hours volunteering at homeless shelters, food pantries, and other agencies dedicated to helping those in need. For the past six years, he has advocated for housing for the homeless in the state of Maine, even taking several trips to Capitol Hill, to talk directly to the representatives. TO ORDER THIS BOOK, GO TO: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail~bookid~34821.aspx

THIS ISSUE PROUDLY BROUGHT TO YOU BY THESE FINE SPONSORS

Linda Kent, Artist Personally designed, handmade Tarot cards. (781) 335-4335

pghosh@remax.net

Volume 2, Issue 2

www.1110bonifant.com

http://unclescam.org/lindabio.html

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Teacher of the Year by Margaret Damele Elam

Margaret Damele Elam is a writer of imaginary places. Read more about her on page 37.

Packed with sweaty well-wishers, the air in the auditorium smelled stale. Principal Franklin stood at the podium. His fat face glistened with sweat and looked like someone had switched on a light bulb inside his mouth. My clothes felt uncomfortable, bra straps digging into my shoulders, and I wanted to trade my heels for a pair of cross-trainers. So damnably hot in here… Endure I thought, just endure. “Miss Dodd is devoted to our students, our school, and our faculty. She works ceaselessly perfecting her craft. Her classroom is a showplace. Miss Dodd arrives early and is at her desk long after the rest of the teachers leave for the day. She is extremely dedicated, a credit to education.” * * * Mr. Franklin closed and locked my classroom door, pulled a student chair into the aisle between the rows of desks and sat down, his fat ass rolling over the sides. I reached for my tenure contract, ready to sign, but he put it back into the pocket of his suit coat, patted his lap, and loosened his belt. “Completely naked tonight, Miss Dodd, except for your medal.” “My contract?” “Later, my dear, a little later.” Endure I thought, just endure.

The Small Room by Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop, from Ringgold, GA. juggles careers as a VP of MRK, Corp. and a freelance writer, while raising two small boys, and still having time for the occasional date with her husband. She has been published in The Muse Marquee and Spotlight on Recovery. Send your comments to Elizabeth at: green_eyes329@hotmail.com

Within the small, shadowed room, I sat on an unfamiliar plush couch. I observed a man standing with his back to me. He held my wedding picture encased in a glass frame. I felt fear and anxiety while staring at him. He exuded anger, and I felt his hatred for me down to my bones. Sweat poured down my back. The couch seemed to have grown steel bars to keep me in place. Or maybe it was the terror of being noticed that kept me there. Observing my surroundings, there was the luxurious, red couch, but no other furniture graced the room. Four unpainted concrete walls made the room seem like a tomb. A small, square window near the ceiling brought in what little light there was from outside. Where was I? Who was this man? Why was he holding my wedding picture? The man threw the frame against the concrete wall without saying a word. Shattered glass flew about the room. I escaped the confines of the sofa, but shards of glass embedded in my arms as I protected my face. Rivers of blood flowed from the gashes. Insane laughter echoed in the sparse room. I covered my ears trying to block out the sound. Screams tore through my throat. "Wake up. You are having a bad dream," my husband grumbled as he shook me awake. We sat for a long time in silence. My whole being felt encased with heat. Sensing my spouse was asleep, I decided to get a glass of water to quench my thirst. Trudging toward the kitchen, I shook my head to try to shake the nightmare from it. Rounding the corner of the living room, I saw the plush couch from my dream. Looking around, the same concrete walls enveloped me with no way to escape. Remnants of my wedding picture lay at my feet. Blood dripped from my arms. "No! This was just a bad dream! My husband woke me! I was on my way to the kitchen!" I screamed at the walls. "You dreamt about your husband. You never left the room." An unrecognizable voice penetrated the silence. I turned to see the madman standing a few feet from me. He sounded lucid and coherent, but his eyes still portrayed the insanity that lurked inside of him. After a bow and a glance around the room, he continued speaking. "Welcome to your Hell. If you remember, the last words you said before you died were, 'These concrete walls are boxing me in. I feel trapped with a madman who hates me.'" Evilness laced the madman's voice as his maniacal laughter reverberated through the small room once again. Page 6

Adventures for the Average Woman


We usually call this section “Poetry & Painting,” where we feature poems and artwork. This issue, we thought it would be nice to show you the poets themselves in their words and pictures. Not enough attention is ever paid to these creative people.

Lost by Yvonne Mikell

Two poems with the same title? Hey, it happens. Given the fact it is the “F” month when hearts triumphantly throb and tragically break, we thought they both ought to be showcased, like a pair of pearl earrings.

A woman was holding a piece of paper in her hand, rather tightly, she opened her hand slightly, and away it went with the wind, traveling from street to street, city to city, state to state, going where the breeze takes it.

You By Trisha Bartle Yearning for your touch, Only hunger can wait there Underneath my skin.

Gray clouds swim swiftly, carrying the weightless paper in flight, above the earth with small crevasses, exposed withered roots, rain-starved, wondering when, if at all, it will be her turn to be nurtured.

Author’s comments: “I have been writing seriously for several years, winning short story contests at my college and spending time honing my writing craft. As much as I am a writer, I'm also a strong woman who sees out her goals. I feel qualified to write stories and articles for your magazine as I can relate to the overall message. I mainly write short stories but also try my hand at nonfiction and poetry. I have enclosed a poem that you may want to publish. "‘You’ is both a haiku and an acrostic poem that expresses the yearning for another's touch. I attached it as well as added it to the end of this email for whichever method suits you.”

A barren tree with extending arms shivering from the cold, the piece of paper floating in the wind, lands upon her skin like a camisole, briefly, just long enough to appease. The piece of paper once again takes flight, Leaving all who dared to care for it, the excuse given is that the wind is pulling, and he doesn't have the strength to resist, bullshit! On an internal journey only he knows, carefully concealing his woes, hiding a secret that he has yet to understand, but can comprehend. He guards with his heart refusing to show a part, a slither of emotion, for fear of devotion. Like the choppy seas, dark and restless, constantly churning, is your soul, oh piece of paper caught in the crosswinds of life, lost, are you sure this is what you want? Yvonne Mikell is a divorced mother of one who resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A dabbler in all genres, this is her first published piece. Send comments to: yjessey@netzero.com

Volume 2, Issue 2

Send your comments to the poet at: trisha@trishabartle.com

You by Mariah Dunne The towel hangs there silently on the rack where you put it yesterday. It makes no motion to remind me of you. The teapot steams angrily incessantly calling me to answer it. I rise from my trance, I was thinking of you. I pass by the window. The new-fallen snow covers your footprints of yesterday. Did you really have to go? The clothes in our closet hang mutely. Clustered together in silent friendship. Why am I always left out? The mantle clock chimes again. Steadily taking away my time. I spend it waiting for you.

Where is my Mind? by Linda Kent

Author’s comments: “I do not have a recent picture at this time… I’m excited about working with you!” Send your comments to: info@mariahdunne.com

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Beauty’s Messenger

Vampiric Fluff

By Milena Albert

by Rhonda Parrish

Beyond the sea of stars, Embraced by the Universe, sleeps Armor-clad knight, a new guard of the rose. Unkempt rests his mane on Top of quick sword. Yet brightly within him, Shines love for penned word.

It was a dark and stormy night when Dracula came for a bite. In clothes of black, all lined with red he stalked his prey, and left them dead.

T

His teeth grew long before my eyes, and shock, it left me paralyzed. "I vant to suck your blood," said he. "You'll be mine for eternity."

Message from Beauty he gave to the rose, Essence of which he deciphered from prose. Selfless by virtue and Selfish by trade, he Eagerly asked, if she would take his name. "No" was the answer. She didn't need one, Gift of her presence was plenty for some. Enchanted, the knight chose to stay by her side. So Rest was in order, if need comes to fight.

"Oh no you don't," I shook my head. "No way you're getting me in bed -I may be kinky, but you see, we share the same dark fam'ly tree." Then I smiled, and showed a fang he frowned and started to harangue. He ranted -- mad at being tricked, as though it's my fault he's so thick.

HIS ROSE Happiness opened the gate of his heart. Inspired she entered this lonely abode, a Soft, fragrant beauty – divine work of art.

I thought my coffin was a clue, or that my eyes are black, not blue. I guess it shows that blind desire can often have results quite dire.

Resting her petals on the palm of her knight, Oneness she felt in the midst of dark night. Softly caressing her leaves with his touch, Eternity spent with her wouldn't suffice. HER KNIGHT His presence brought her more than peace, as Emptiness was sealed with mist. Still Reticent, she shed her thorns. His Kindness would she thank him for. Night never ends in his realm and Innocence is rarely found. The rose embodied Gentle past of when the sun lit His abode. The Beauty’s message bore result. Together they would change the world.

'Twas lucky that I was awake to stop him 'fore he did partake. For who could guess at the effect if vampire drink from vampire neck? Author’s comments: “I’ve always loved writing, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer when I grew up. All through school I was ‘the girl who could write’. My friends, classmates and teachers were all incredibly supportive of my writing and nurtured whatever talent they saw in it.”

Knight of Pentacles by Linda Kent

Milena Albert (Empress2k) is a true Renaissance woman. She is a writer (in all forms), civil servant, community leader, photographer, and director. But first and foremost she is a wife and a mother to four beautiful children.

For more on Rhonda and her work, go to: http://www.rhondaparrish.com/

Brought to you by these fine services.

For more on Milena and her work, go to: http://www.fanstory.com/selectprofilebio.jsp?userid=158270

CORRECTION: In our last issue’s print of the poem TORMENT OF TANTALUS by Simone A. Angelin, The “My” in the line “My core trembles in its meditation…” should not have been italicized. Order your copy of LOVE POEMS LIFE DANCE of TANTALUS by Simone A. Angelin, from Xlibris at www.Xlibris.com or by calling 1-888-795-4274. COMING IN SPRING 2007. Page 8

www.pluginamp.com mesnikd@juno.com

Adventures for the Average Woman


Together by Lorraine Jeffrey They are interested in food. She exercises and reads nutrition magazines. He grills and reads recipe books. They share leisure time. She reads the classics. He watches TV. They like to travel. She to Hawaii. He to Las Vegas. They like to drink. He, Jack Daniels. She, pink lemonade. They collect. She, Disney figurines. He, computer parts. www.porcupinesmith.com

They want to payoff the mortgage. She refinances He buys lottery tickets.

The 10 Point Quiz to Determine If you’re a Poet Answer True or False To Each Question

Togetherness is everything. Lorraine Jeffrery is a librarian employed as a manager at the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library System. She has won first and second prizes at the Ohio Day Poetry Contest. Send your comments to: ELjeffery1@aol.com

1.

You’re having financial problems.

2.

You’re having relationship trouble.

3.

You’re not as healthy… as you could be.

4.

You’re having financial problems.

5.

You eat a lot of sugary kid's breakfast cereal and you read the box and dig through the cereal when it’s still full to get the free prize inside, thinking that it’s going to have some special redeeming value, but it rarely does.

6.

You’re having relationship problems; primarily as a result of your digging through the cereal box, women don’t like it when you disturb their Crunch berries, actually they just resent that you were more enterprising than they, to importune on the prize.

7.

You read a lot, but you also watch a lot of late night television effectively nullifying any intelligence you may have gained by reading.

8.

You think of a lot of weird crap and write it down in iambic pentameter or anapestic, actually your writing has no formal structure whatsoever, but you know the terms, just in case you meet someone that you really need to impress.

9. Old Love by Linda Kent

You’re having financial problems.

10. You’re having relationship trouble.

If you responded true to all 10 statements, then you are most certainly; a Poet © Porcupine Smith 2001

http://unclescam.org Volume 2, Issue 2

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Linda Kent is an artist and writer living in the Boston area. She is known for her hand-drawn Tarot cards and her stick puppets used by the performers of the Blue Puppet Theater at Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To learn more about Linda and her artwork at http://unclescam.org/lindabio.html

Teeth of baleen

Nice neckline…Pearls?

Hola, beeg boy!

Whose mind is it? Hello, my friend

Skewed views

De Devil makes a face

Artist with drawing, In sneers are

Mother’s little helper Lady Luck smiles Page 10

I’m still my own person

daggers to the heart

Adventures for the Average Woman


Inspired by language, archaeology, writing, psychology, myth, religion and color, Yvonne Brunot has her entire life been involved in the arts in some manner. Drawing and writing came as early pastimes (she wrote her first illustrated story when she was 4), but also discovered the worlds of ceramics, dance, and glasswork. Yvonne has always had a special interest in the relationship between color and art. She feels that pigment and color selections enhance mood, meaning, symbolism and tone. Send your comments to: moonpanther@hotmail.com

I’m really tired of women who have wrists the same size around as a bicycle handle telling me that they’re fat. I am not surprised by this, but I keep thinking that surely we have something better to talk about. Fat women feel alienated and alone and it annoys me that thin women think that they can become alienated by association. Or is this some way of assuring their position at the top of the fashion food chain? Observations of their weight problem always include the fact that they are not solid muscle (few people are), that they are bad (presumably because they feel the need to eat at all), or that they wish that they were really thin (I don’t know what this means; I guess they want to attain some type of sylph-like transparency). I’m never really sure how to respond to these observations. Sometimes, I feel insulted. Some Tiny Bird Woman is whining about her weight because she thinks I want to whine, too. Sometimes I feel trapped. The next Mannequin wants me to tell her she’s “bad” because she ate a brownie (all by herself!). Another Pixie Woman (that’s what I call the ones I like) can’t take any compliment I give her, no matter whether it’s related to appearance or not. I often wonder what they would talk about if they could find something to enjoy. When I was little, my parents used to make fun of me because I was fat. My mother did it because she was thin, and she thought it was funny. My father did it because he was fat, and he needed someone to bully. My brother was thin and did whatever my father did because he’d be praised for behaving like my father. I wasn’t constantly angry, but I did get sick of the inordinate amount of time spent on the way I looked. I couldn’t really understand why, if it was so damn important, my parents didn’t do something besides bitch, laugh up their sleeves and make nasty comments in front of me to guests. I did really well in school, because it seemed much easier (and more important) than trying to disappear. For the record, I’m not fat or thin. I’m 5’10” and am beginning to accept that I’ll probably weigh about 150 lbs. for the rest of my life. I’m not going to say something stupid like, “I think I have the perfect body.” It’s just that this body ran a marathon for Aids research in 2002, and I think that’s damn good. One day, back in 2002, I was taking a private dance lesson with a teacher with whom I’d studied for several years. She is one of those uninhibited, vivacious people who always makes you feel welcome and encourages you to try new things. Consequently, I typically felt pretty comfortable around her. The lesson had been going pretty well, when I started to tell her that I’d decided to run the Aids Marathon in Washington, DC. This is a big event, since it takes place during the Marine Corps Marathon. Suddenly, she started yelling at me that if I wanted to change my thighs, I’d have to get liposuction. She’d known all these people who kept telling her they were doing all this work, and they weren’t losing any weight. I wouldn’t either; so I’d better have surgery. I remember thinking that she was off her meds, and I let it pass. Approximately a year later I was talking about living a healthy lifestyle and she started shrieking about liposuction again. This time, as if to make her point, she finished with, “You’re never going to lose any weight without it (i.e., liposuction), but if you’re happy with that, that’s your life.” She wasn’t even looking me in the eye. She was staring at my thighs as if they were going to leap at her and strangle her silly neck. This time, I didn’t let it pass. After I had about 48 hours to digest the experience, I wrote her a detailed letter (via e-mail) asking her why my thighs were more important than my dancing. As my dance teacher, the former was my personal concern, and only the latter was actually part of our working relationship. It bothered me that, since she’d written several articles about women’s health, that she’d basically told me twice that my body was hopeless without a dangerous, expensive surgical

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procedure. Perhaps she could explain her priorities? Not long after, I got a 4-page, rambling, weepy rant about how she hadn’t meant it, and she was sorry, and she had worked for health spas where the management lied to their clients, and she knew they were lying, and she couldn’t possibly run a marathon, she only wanted to keep me from hurting myself, etc., etc. It was then that I knew that I’d nailed her. Her “I-gotta-project-my-insecurities-on-you” thinking suddenly became clear. Between our two discussions, my teacher (at 5’0”, and about 120 lbs.) had gotten liposuction. I went to a wedding recently and saw a woman I’ve been acquainted with for several years. She’s always been physically active, and she’s very concerned about her weight. She’s barely 5’4”. I saw her arrive at the pre-wedding cocktail party. I didn’t think she could have gotten thinner than she had been. Wearing a pained, haggard expression as she entered, it wasn’t really clear to me how being that thin was making her happier. It really bothers me that my mother wants to talk to me about her weight problems. Just think about that for a second. I’m 40 and she’s nearly 70, and from her entire life of experiences, she wants to belabor the topic that I’d figure wouldn’t matter once she realized my father was dead and she could now, perhaps, live the life she wants. People often choose cages rather than freedom. Several years ago, when I was in my twenties, I had some female friends of mine over for my birthday. It was sort of an all-girlfriends’ sleep-over. We stayed up watching movies late, eating pizza, and so forth. Of course, we were going to have to organize what foods to have. My roommate thought I shouldn’t have to cook for my birthday. (This made me uncomfortable. Most of the people I knew thought food was chicken from Popeye’s; however, learning to let go and enjoy would be a good lesson for me.) So we organized a potluck. Someone bought the aforementioned pizza. One friend bought a delicious lemon meringue pie from a chic bakery. When we called one of the Pixie Women to ask what she was bringing, she simply said, “Something decadent and chocolate.” Pixie Chick said she’d be late, so not to wait for her to start. When Pixie Chick arrived, we were in the middle of the Joy Luck Club. I stopped the movie, and the five of us who’d been watching asked what the new arrival had brought in the freezer bag she was carrying. She’d brought, for a party for six adults, one pint of low-fat chocolate frozen yogurt. I didn’t want to know what austerity was in her world.

Laurie Notch is the Managing Editor at IdeaGems® Publications. When she’s not writing wild and woolly fiction about cyber-terrorists, shamans, and civil wars in the South Pacific, she’s sousing out intriguing individuals to interview. Much of her research involves being online which in turn opens up channels for all sorts of characters to communicate through. Recent instances of Instant Messages have prompted her to script this caveat for online encounters.

How many of you lovely single ladies out there have been working on line, checking email, zapping off family pix, or downloading tax forms, when a message such as this pops up on your screen: am_i_4_u: Hi. I really like your profile? Now, it is up to you to reply, ignore, block, or just shut off your machine, but knowing us to be curious creatures, you might respond with thanx or U think so? Or even with something more flirtatious in the hopes this mysterious admirer might just be that special someone. Online courtship is cyber-snowballing, and even if it doesn’t turn out to be more than a casual acquaintanceship, meeting people from all over the planet at the speed of light is very exciting. Beware the scammers out to capture your heart and your hard-earned cash. It’s bad enough women get taken by the in-the-flesh men in their lives; it’s worse when the lonely heart falls for an online paramour who coos her into compliance by typing sweet nothings in an online chat then cons her out of her money. Some cues to avoid the “online woos blues”: First, if his picture looks like a Chippendale’s dancer, you know he’s not what he seems. People that look that good don’t need to hustle dates online – only modeling jobs! Second, if he starts using sickeningly sweet epithets like, “babe,” “sweetie,” “hun,” you know he’s after something more than e-friendship. Third, pay attention to where he says he’s from. Ask questions about U.S. landmarks, parks, hot spots in his town, all the while gauging his use of language (often you’ll see consistent grammatical goofs, improper verb usage, and so forth). More than likely, the online Lothario is sitting in Lagos or Karachi. For instance: In the past 6 months, I have been cyber-approached by half a dozen would-be suitors. They all tell me they are from Portland (as Listed in my profile). When I probe for details, they inform me they are currently working abroad. The exchange continues with them doing their damnedest to pluck at my lovelorn heartstrings. I string them along to the point where they are convinced that I am so desperate for a man that I will do anything. Then come the wind up and the pitch: hey, babe, I gots [sic] a great investment opportunity dat [sic] can make you rich. Right there, internal alarm bells should be giving you, me, and Molly MacGee a migraine! You should tell the fool to “phish” elsewhere then block the IM from that user. Unfortunately, for the hundreds of women who do know better, there is at least one who falls for the con. My caveat to those seeking love online: watch for the signs and the first mention of money from you, terminate the conversation and report the sender as a spammer through your Internet Service Provider. Better to have loved and lost than to lose all you have!

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Adventures of the Average Woman


Married 46 years, with 3 children, and 6 grandchildren, Dorothy Baughman has worked as a telephone operator, EKG Technician, veterinary assistant, resident home attendant, and former editor of The Eclectic Observer. She has been a freelance writer for over 25 years and is currently a columnist with The Observer owned by Wetumpka Herald in Alabama. Her publications include: THE GHOST OF ARONOV POINT (Avalon 1980); GHOST OF ARONOV POINT (available as an e-book at www.Writerscloset.com , 2003); THE SECRET OF MONTOYA MISSION (Avalon 1981); ICY TERROR (Avalon 1984); SECRET WISHES, SECRET FEARS (Avalon 1987). Please send your commentaries to: DorothyB@eezznet.com

"Oh, no, I thought. "Here it comes again." I had started having severe headaches lately and always on the weekends, it seemed. I had taken every conceivable drug on the market and nothing helped, not after one got started. I managed to phone my sister to take me to the ER. Nothing would help now except a knockout shot. I lay on the hard gurney holding my head and groaning, trying my best not to be a wimp about it. "Well, now, we have to stop meeting like this," said a voice above me. "I know it. Looks like I end up here every other weekend," I said in a muffled voice. The male LPN started taking my pulse, blood pressure, etc. It would have made my heart flutter, if I were not so near dead. I knew his nice brown eyes were looking at me with sympathy. I had seen him the last three times. "You must work all the time," I managed to say to him. "Seems I'm here when you are, doesn't it? And to quote a tired saying, what's a good looking girl like you doing in this busy ER? And so close to Valentine’s Day, too.” "I don't feel good-looking right now," I said and groaned. "Easy, we'll get you fixed up quickly, but I really think you should be checked out, Deidre. This is the fourth time in less than two months you've been in here." "How do you know? You weren't here all the time." "Chart is here in front of me," he answered, and handed the chart to the ER doctor. He mused over the chart, asked me some questions, then stuck his head out the door. "David, get Miss Martin ready to be admitted. I think she needs some tests. Too many headaches lately." I just groaned. More time out of work, someone would have to feed my cat.... "You must be David," I said to the tall nurse as he whirled into the room. "Yep, David Hutchens to your rescue, and I mean to your rescue. Here's your shot, then we get to go upstairs and sleep this one off.” He raised my gown sleeve, popped my arm and rolled the gurney toward the elevator. "You must be a jack of all trades around here,” I said, my speech beginning to blur with the medicine taking effect. He just laughed, but I thought I heard him say he would see me tomorrow.

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I woke the next morning, no headache, but sluggish and droopy. "Well, good morning, sunshine, feel better?� David came marching into the room with a breakfast tray. "You really are a jack of all trades. Who's running the ER today? He frowned. "Don't know what they'll do without me, but the floor needed help worse today." I raised up in the bed, trying to adjust the skimpy gown. I felt about as dowdy as could be and ran my hands through my hair. I must really look a fright. "You look fine, especially for a hospital patient," David said with a smile. He put the tray down just as a lab technician flew in the room. "Hold it," she said. "Dr. Benson just ordered some more fasting tests! David looked heavenward, moved the tray, shook his head and walked out. "I'll be back in a few minutes, Deidre." The tech grinned. "David and Dr. Benson have this running disagreement about procedures." After she got through sticking me, she too whizzed out, telling me that I could eat breakfast now. I picked at the food, not really hungry, but more empty. I always lost everything when one of these headaches put me to bed. David was good as his word. He came back with clean sheets, bath water, etc. My eyebrows went up, he laughed. "No, I'm not going to bathe you. You have an aid assigned for that, but I am your nurse for today and probably tomorrow. We usually try to keep the same patients, less confusion for them and us." My sister had brought some things from home, and I managed to get to the bathroom and try to do something with the ratty hair, put a little makeup on, etc. "Well, aren't we looking pretty," David said, as he brought her dinner. "Trying to," I muttered. "I thought you might be different, but you use the 'we' thing just like all other nurses." I grinned at him. He sort of blushed. "Just a bad habit, I guess." He placed the tray on the table. "Not much to brag on, but edible, I think. Dr. Benson has ordered a scan for this afternoon, so be prepared for that. Not much to it, just some x-rays to make sure you don't have something really wrong up there. Most of these kinds of headaches are usually caused from stress or so I've noticed. People live too fast and furious nowadays or worry themselves into a tizzy." "Might be my trouble, but mine tend to come on the weekends so much." "What do you do on the weekends? Some kind of secret life you're trying to hide or something?" I laughed. "Not hardly. I don't do anything on the weekends, just kind of vegetate on the sofa." "Vegetate? No boyfriend, fiancÊe, nothing? "Nothing and no boyfriend or fiancÊe. That ended weeks ago." David shook his head. He was certainly a good-looking man and even the scrubs looked good on him. Very nice, clean neat, pressed and professional looking. "Now that could be your problem. You need to un-vegetate sometime, get out and about." "I guess that's good advice from someone who has an interesting job, is good at it and keeps busy,' I said. David frowned. "I suppose, but no job is a substitute for a social life." I stayed two more days and nothing was found, so I supposed maybe David was right. I would have to find some kind of life. Easy for a good looking nurse

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like David. I bet he had all kinds of nurses and techs and other girls running after him. I was being discharged and David came to take me out to my sister's car. "I can walk, good grief, no need for a wheelchair, David." "Company policy, all patients are wheeled out. What they do from there is their business," he laughed. As we rolled across the lobby, we met the little blonde lab tech. "Hey, David, we on for this weekend?" "Sure, he answered. My treat." My heart sunk. He did have a girlfriend. I might have known it was the blond lab tech. She was cute, in his field and with him all the time, or so it seemed. I thanked him for everything, got in the car, and watched him roll the chair back in the hospital. "Take care of yourself, Deidre, and get off that couch." "Special nurse? My sister asked. I sighed. "I wish." I went back to work, dragged through a few days, and here it was the weekend again and on top of that, Valentines Day. No valentines for me. I had no one to care whether it was Valentines Day or not. I touched my head gently and hoped to goodness another headache would not put me back in the ER, even if it meant seeing David again. I knew he worked the weekends most of the time in the ER. Saturday was usually cleanup day, but I sat around and brooded most of the day, feeling generally sorry for myself. I had just stepped out of the shower when the doorbell rung. I snatched it open expecting my sister or my Mom. It was my ER angel as I had begun to think of him. "Ah, I see you are not dead or even sick," he said, as he came in with a pizza box, a big bouquet of flowers and a heart shaped candy box. "David! What......I thought you had a date this weekend with the blond tech." "Ginger? Oh, please, the girl is so married and has three kids. We just alternate bringing food to work!” "But, why are you here and how did you know where I live and ........." "Shush, woman, and put this pizza in the oven and finish doing whatever women do when they get out of the shower." I took the pizza, put it away, put the flowers in a vase, finished dressing, and just pushed my short hair back, and found David lounging on my couch. "Okay, now, what are you doing here and how did you know where I live? "I got your address from the phone book, and I took a chance you had done nothing about your weekends, so I decided I would see if you were following doctor’s, er, nurse’s orders. And since it was Valentine’s Day, I brought Valentine goodies. Do you like candy or does chocolate make your headaches worse?” I just looked at him and laughed. How could I be this lucky? A good-looking man in my living room and on Valentine’s Day to boot. Was I dreaming? I blinked my eyes; no, he was still there and talking ninety miles an hour! "And I see you are most certainly not doing anything tonight, so I also rented a movie and he snatched it out of his scrub pocket. "But you were supposed to work and......." "And what? I got lucky, too many were scheduled for tonight. And I am starting to take my own advice; too much work and no play makes David a dull nurse!"

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"Well, I am sure glad to see you. I was beginning to feel very sorry for myself and didn't know how to...." David motioned for me to sit down and when I did, he put his arm around me. "Now, we are going to do something about the headaches. If your head is too full of, let's see, a male nurse named David, there will be no room for headaches, right?” "Right," I answered as he gathered me up in a very Valentine kiss. By the next Valentine’s Day, we were married and expecting a little David and I haven’t had a headache since. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Racheal Doyle is our new feminist sexologist here at AFTAW. She lives in South Portland and is currently engaged in cultural studies with an interest in deviance. She spends much of her time writing about social issues and sexuality to further an informative and healthy pro-sex attitude. You can reach Racheal with your comments at: rdoyle1@maine.rr.com

Lack of sexual desire is an issue that many women will have to deal with at some point in their lives for a variety of reasons. How is it that sexual desire wanes? Where does it go? And why does this occur? Medications, menopause, or other physical bodily changes (such as childbirth and gaining weight), conflict and/or inequality in our interpersonal relationships, a painful ending to a monogamous relationship, work and family responsibilities, not having enough time, and just being plain tired are a few of the common reasons. While there are medical reasons for lack of sexual desire (such as illness and the use of certain medications), attempting to “fix” a woman’s low sex drive by using a medical model for anything other than actual medical issues is problematic and downright inappropriate. While desire manifests in your physical, sexual being, how we conceptualize desire and the meanings we create around it are social constructions dependent on cultural norms and expectations concerning sexual activity. Understanding how we construct sexual desire may very well be key to understanding why desire wanes, and how we can do something about it. There is not one simple explanation for lack of desire. There are usually a variety of intersecting variables that contribute to one’s waning desire, and therefore approaching the situation may need to be done from various perspectives to determine what aspects of your reality contribute to this situation. Lack of sexual desire in otherwise healthy women often stems directly from the emotional impact and physical exhaustion of daily life responsibilities and interpersonal conflict. Wanting to give and receive pleasure with a partner can be directly related to how well you are treated by your partner and how much quality time you make for one another outside of all of your other roles and responsibilities. The absence of a sexual appetite, often manifesting as low levels of desire for women and sometimes coupled with unhealthy and unsatisfying sexual behaviors, is not sexual dysfunction, as we are often made to feel about it, but rather a social dysfunction imbedded in normal life struggles, which women do not receive adequate or appropriate methods for resolving because of prescribed gender role expectations. Society often expects women to suck it up and be wonder woman, fulfilling numerous roles, taking on many responsibilities that require both emotional and time-consuming work, and to do so with a smile on your face, without complaint, and without being overwhelmed by or unable to effectively cope with reality. Equally important is how the ability to enjoy our sexuality is often intertwined with ideas about the importance of intimacy with a partner, and when that intimacy has been neglected or violated, it messes with the meanings we have created about sex for ourselves. As liberated as we often believe ourselves to be, the social conditioning women receive in our culture concerning our sexuality is predicated on normative heterosexist ideals, which often require that women experience pleasurable sexual activities within the confines of a monogamous relationship. Regardless of how limiting and unrealistic an expectation that is, it is seen as almost compulsory for sex to have socially approved meaning for women, rather than just being a pleasurable activity in general, as is suitable for men. Otherwise your character is delineated with some unsavory and deviant epithets: slut, whore, trollop, tramp, tart, strumpet, wench, hussy, harlot, Jezebel. That’s right – if you don’t conform to the monogamous ideal at some point for engaging your sexual pleasure, then you’re a loose woman, in violation of what is supposed to be “natural” behavior for you. Of course, we know that this is a load of bull, a sexist double standard that privileges men’s sexuality and experiences while prescribing a particular role for women within the male dominant framework, but knowing that does not make the consequences any less real. How a woman defines her sexuality with relation to her partner has very real consequences for her, regardless of whether or not she views these definitions as potentially limiting the ways in which she can experience sexual pleasure and fulfillment. When having a long-term, caring relationship, desire often seems to drop over time. That lustful, hungry desire felt in the beginning eventually moves into the realm of intimacy, where sexual desire is necessarily linked to deeper feelings of love, contentment, and the reciprocity of affection, attachment, and devotion. Women who do not have the space or energy to make room for the requisite intimacy, or have a partner who doesn’t sympathize all that well with Page 16

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their daily reality may find themselves disinterested in sexual activity. The woman experiencing abandonment and pain at the end of a monogamous relationship may turn to casual sex to vent her anger, jealousy, and pain from the experience, finding that it isn’t particularly cathartic or satisfying because her sexual identity is still realistically confined to her importance to a partner. But there is also something else that occurs over time for women that contributes to their lack of desire, particularly that deliciously carnal desire that we feel at the beginning of a new relationship. Because sex becomes intimately linked with feelings of caring, love, and attachment, women have a difficult time separating sex from those meanings and allowing it to be purely about the pleasure of sexual activity with a partner. When love is involved, women often forget how to effectively objectify their partner, to view their partner as an object of their sexual desire. It can become difficult to do that to someone we love because we feel it is an inappropriate way to view a person we care about and respect. You see, women do not compartmentalize their lives in the way that men often do – we see the big picture, everything is connected, and we have a difficult time viewing one aspect of a relationship as distinct. We do not view sexual activity as separate from all of the other meanings we have created concerning our relationship – it is a part of the whole, and therefore its meanings are dependent upon the way we conceptualize the whole formation of the relationship. If we truly love and respect our partner, sexual objectification feels wrong because it appears disrespectful, seems to cheapen the rest of the relationship because the meanings we create bleed into all of those other areas, and is something we therefore shy away from doing lest it damage the foundation of the relationship and the overall way in which we view and value our partner. But the truth is that sexual objectification within the confines of sexual activity between consenting adults who love and respect each other in every other way is not wrong. It may actually be necessary to retaining the lust you feel toward your partner and maintaining satisfying (if not fantastic) levels of sexual desire for each other. Learning how to compartmentalize that one part of your relationship, to allow your bedroom action to be purely about the activities and pleasures you derive from it, and to rediscover your ability to view your partner as a sexy, naughty, and delightful object of your sexual desire takes practice. If you find your sex life is being affected by lack of desire, you will need to give yourself the time and space necessary to recover your desire in a healthy manner. It isn’t going to happen overnight, and sometimes just the idea of having one more thing to do makes it that less desirable, even though it is important. YES, it is important, so please don’t pretend that you are okay going without sexual satisfaction if you’ve previously had a healthy appetite. You shouldn’t be settling for a mediocre or nonexistent sex life, and doing so may very well cause other problems in your relationship, such as ongoing resentment, a growing dislike of your partner, and infidelity. What should you do in the meantime? How are you going to become hungry again and get your sexiness back? If you are deriving no pleasure from sex and are not even enjoying masturbation, then you need to stop having sex until you can get your groove back. I am NOT an advocate of abstinence as a general rule, am very much in the pro-sex camp, and this is the only time that I will ever tell anyone to not have sex. Don’t engage sexual activities that you do not enjoy, particularly if doing so is only making your situation worse by confusing and frustrating you. You could be hurting yourself by piling on more sexuality and intimacy issues, which you will eventually need to work out in addition to the ones you already have; don’t give yourself even more work to do. If sex isn’t enjoyable, you need to take the time to figure out why, give yourself a break, and concentrate on finding your way back to a place where you can enjoy yourself again. The first (and often most important) thing that women need to do in order to reclaim their desire and sexual appetites is to spend some time thinking about sex. Men think about sex all the time, which is one of the reasons they are so preoccupied with it, why they appear to want it more than women do. So ladies, spend some time thinking about getting naked and sweaty. We’re very cerebral when it comes to sex, our imaginations are a fantastic place to dwell, and thinking about sex more often can be very stimulating. Think about what would really make you hot, indulge in some fantasies fashioned out of whomever or whatever you need. Do it often. Nobody has to know what you’re thinking about or when you’re doing it, and I suggest you indulge in it every day. Being able to think about sex in a way that makes you want it is crucial, and may also be the most important thing you can do that will allow you to view your partner as an object of your sexuality again by allowing you to project your desire onto them in the most harmless way possible: through fantasizing. Don’t be afraid to think about new things, including things that you might never actually do but excite you anyway. Be a pervert in your own mind - they’re your fantasies, so they should be about whatever arouses you. You don’t even have to indulge your arousal – sometimes just hanging out with it for a few days allows it to simmer just below the surface enough so that when you do take the time to have sex or masturbate, you are hungry for it and have a rocking-good orgasmic time. Getting some exercise, from a simple, leisurely walk to a hardcore workout routine (or anything in between) will also make you feel better, healthier and more attractive, less stressed, and will give you the additional energy you need to pursue sexual activities, whether it is simply having the energy to masturbate or having the stamina to have sex with a partner. Getting to the point where you are enjoying masturbation again is also crucial. If you can’t pleasure yourself, how can you expect anyone else to do it for you? I suggest you splurge and buy yourself a new toy while you are thinking about getting your groove back. A vibrator is your friend, and the only thing it requires of you is some batteries and that you use it. When you are finally interested in sexual pleasure again, it will be nice to have something new to play with and to mark the transition with – out with the old, in with the new. The one thing to remember is that sex is about physical pleasure regardless of whatever other meanings we have created around it, and experiencing this pleasure is important for your overall well-being. You should be enjoying yourself (whether doing it alone or with someone else), you deserve to be enjoying yourself, and the pleasure we receive from sexual gratification alleviates the other stress in our lives, makes it easier to cope with daily struggles, gives you something to look forward to or anticipate, and cements intimacy through the mutual enjoyment of both giving and receiving pleasure. Figuring out what you need to do for yourself to get back to that point is important, and it can’t be rushed; you might miss something crucial along the way if you do. Once you have created some ways that allow you to locate and embellish your desire, you may find that the more sex you have, the more you’ll be thinking about it, and then, the more you will want it. Want to read more of Racheal’s racy column? Then you’ll just have to subscribe. Send in your order coupon and check today! Volume 2, Issue 2

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Tom Lohr spent 13 bone-chilling months at the bottom of the world as part of the United States Antarctic Program. A West Virginia native and 24-year Navy veteran, he currently lives in Houston Texas where the temperature seldom dips below freezing. Author’s comments: “I was inspired to write this story by my surroundings, as I have lived at the geographic South….The story is factual in relation to station layout, and our station manager is a woman. Fortunately no murders [occurred].” Send your comments to: lohrtom@hotmail.com Bob was in a hurry, scurrying through the ice tunnels quicker than usual. The tunnels, 10 feet wide by 10 feet tall, were dug out of the two-mile thick ice sheet covering the geographic South Pole. One thing Bob could always count on when entering the tunnels was the structure's consistency. While summers at the Pole could occasionally reach temperatures above zero, and winters witness the mercury plunging below -100F, the tunnels remained a constant -57F. Bob always considered it odd that -57 could either be considered warm or cold, depending on the temperature at the surface. As a utilities man at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, he had the unglamorous job of checking the piping strewn through the kilometers of tunnels several times each day. A leak or burst pipe at the most remote spot in the world would spell trouble for the entire station. While unspectacular, it was an important job and one he took seriously. An upstate New Yorker and a man of larger girth than most, Bob always moved quickly in the tunnels; at -57° everyone moved quickly. Today he was especially swift; in fifteen minutes the station manager was to make an announcement that would "astound the scientific world." Moving deftly along the white tunnel wall, one shoulder scraping against the ice to avoid bumping into the snaking pipes illuminated by dim, energy saving lights, Bob, eyeing the next gauge on an endless list of meters to be checked, was suddenly face down on the snowy floor. Knowing he had stumbled over something, he inspected the poorly illuminated surface immediately to his rear. Lying face down, not unlike Bob had landed, was someone in a red parka. He knew immediately it was a scientist. South Pole Station support personnel sported green parkas, and the maintenance crew, like Bob, wore heavy duty brown extreme weather clothing. Red parkas were reserved for scientists, the reason the station existed. He instantly knew the man in the Red parka was dead. Dead people have a stillness about them that no one alive can mimic. There was a slight ripping sound as Bob rolled the scientist onto his back, breaking the frozen bond between a small pool of blood had seeped out of the dead man's parka and the ice. Once the difficult maneuver was completed, Bob recognized the man as Ian Dixon, an astrophysicist that was spending his fourth winter at the South Pole. Ian was a secretive man who had become even more reclusive as rumor spread during the year that his previous work was finally leading up to a finding of extreme importance in the field of astronomy. "I hope he made his big discovery," Bob thought, "'cause there won't be a fifth winter for Ian." He pushed the talk button on his radio to report the grisly find and was greeted by an annoying beeping signal indicating a dead battery. Batteries didn't last long in -57. Bob began a slow and cautious trot back towards the station. * * * Lisa Snowden sat, visibly distraught, in her office. She had been minutes away from announcing one of the most significant astronomical findings in the last half-century when Bob came huffing and puffing into the station galley. He discreetly whispered the details of Ian's fate in the ice tunnels. She mumbled a vague apology and dismissed the crew that had gathered to hear the "big announcement." The station doctor was dispatched to confirm what Bob already knew, and now she, Bob, and Dennis Barkley, the South Pole Science Representative, conferred in Lisa's tiny office. "How could this have happened?" Lisa wondered out loud. As the station manager, she would be expected to explain the circumstances surrounding Ian's death, and right now she had few answers. "Especially now, we were on the verge of announcing his discovery to the world, something that would provide a huge boost for polar astronomy," she added. Bob's job consisted of keeping ancillary station support equipment operating, and had little involvement with the scientific element of polar business. "What exactly was this big discovery that Ian was keeping under wraps?" Dennis Barkley, a thin man with wiry hair, answered Bob's question. "You might as well know. Ian has been working on a theory for years that a ringed planet, much like Saturn, exists in orbit around Canopus. Astronomers confirmed years ago that planets exists outside our own solar system, but a ringed planet orbiting another star has yet to be discovered. Until now Ian was able to zero in on the Canopus system, and using our sub-millimeter telescope proved beyond a doubt that a ringed planet does indeed exist in that system." "And that's big news?" Bob inquired. "Very big. It proves that other solar systems formed very similar to our own, adding to the theory that life likely evolved in those systems as well. It's a huge step toward proving the existence of life on other worlds." "That's what Ian has been doing for the past four winters at the South Pole?" "Not only," Dennis clarified, "he was working on several projects, but this was the most high-profile. As he got closer to proving his theory we also Page 18

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assigned an assistant to his project to speed things along. We needed a breathtaking discovery like Ian's to keep our funding level stable." "And that's what Vicki did?" Bob asked, referring to Vicki Lawson, a petite and beautiful junior scientist that had been assigned as Ian's aide-de-camp. Somewhat aloof and preferring to spend after hours in the lab instead of socializing with the rest of the crew, Vicki had a reputation of a loner, but also as a promising astronomer. "That was supposed to be her assignment," Lisa chimed in, looking even more frazzled, "but she and Ian didn't get along very well. She was inquisitive, and Ian secretive. He was always afraid someone was going to steal his research." "He's dead alright," the doc announced, returning from the ice tunnels, "a stab to the chest likely punctured his heart. Probably with this." The doc displayed a long screwdriver with what appeared to be streaks of blood frozen to the tool. "I found it a few meters from Ian's body, underneath some of the pipes." "My God! You mean he was murdered?" Lisa was running the scenario through her head. The South Pole Station was abuzz with over 200 scientists and support personnel during the austral summer that ran from October to March. During the summer large Air Force ski-planes kept supplies and people coming with several flights per day. But when the last plane left in early March, temperatures cold enough to freeze hydraulic lines prohibited aircraft from returning until the following October. The winter crew that was left behind to maintain the station and conduct experiments was basically marooned on the bottom of the earth for seven months. No one could come or go, even in the direst circumstances. It had been that way since 1957 when the United States began a permanent presence at the South Pole. But none of the previous crews had to face Lisa's dilemma; 64 people were stranded at the ends of the earth in July, three months before re-establishing a link with civilization, with a murderer in their midst. "Well, he didn't fall on that screwdriver," the doc, who had seen plenty of gruesomeness in Vietnam and Grenada, answered. "Was it murder? That I can't answer, but it is my professional opinion someone planted a tool in his chest, and then either that person or Ian pulled it out and tossed it just before Ian collapsed." "I guess it's up to me to break the news to the crew. The immediate question is what do we do with Ian's body until flights resume in October?" Lisa asked, staring out of her small office window at the moonlit semi-circle of 12 flags around a small staff that was the international marker denoting the exact location of the geographic South Pole. * * * Most of the members at the Amundsen-Scott Station either took the news of Ian's demise well, or were just too shocked to display emotion. Months without sunlight can make a person slightly detached from reality, but then again, Ian was not well liked in Antarctica. A man very possessive of the data he collected and the conclusions drawn from it, he had spent the better part of his life chasing the one startling discovery that would place him among the ranks of Halley or Keck. Finding a ringed planet in the Canopus system would validate all that he had strived for. "Unfortunately," Lisa thought, "he will not be around to enjoy the accolades of his life's work." Lisa had run through nearly every scenario she could think of as to why someone would kill Ian. Vicki was little help. She burst into tears upon learning of Ian's death, and she had been sobbing ever since; a strong display of emotion for a man that didn't want her assistance or even around. Lisa dismissed Vicki's uncontrollable outbursts as a woman unable to manage her emotions. Weak women were not a group Lisa admired. Bob, who Lisa had summoned, arrived at her door. "I got the mess cleaned up in the ice tunnels Lisa. Not too difficult, just chipped up the frozen blood." "Bob, why do you think Ian was in the ice tunnels to begin with? That's your territory isn't it?" "I passed him nearly every day. He took the tunnels regularly to the end and the exited via the emergency escape trunk. It's nearly 100 below out there now, almost 150 below with the wind chill. By taking the tunnel, he could get within 50 meters of the observatory. Otherwise it's a long walk when that wind is ripping at your skin." "So slogging through the tunnels was part of his routine?" Lisa said to herself, staring at the barren walls of her office. "Bob, I want you to do something, and I want you to do it very discreetly and when you are finished report only to me." "Sure, does it have something to do with Ian's murder?" "Maybe. Start with your own tools, and then other toolboxes throughout the station. Check if there is an obvious screwdriver missing." Lisa picked up the phone and punched the "Information Technology Department" speed dial button as Bob left, acknowledging his tasking with a wave. * * * Lisa spent most of the night going over her roster of scientists and station support personnel, wondering which one had plunged the metal spike into Ian's heart. She tried to recall the frozen expression on his face as she examined the body. Perhaps if it had been one of surprise or shock it might have shed some light on the situation, but a small grimace, one that, due to the temperature of Ian's body could not be changed, was his final and permanent death mask. Now, ice crunched under her feet as she trod the same final steps, stopping at the spot where the scientist met his fate. Bob had done a decent job of chipping away the blood-stained ice. Under the beam of her flashlight she made out a few missed spots, but considering the usual dim lighting in the tunnels no one would notice. Lisa walked briskly to the very end of the tunnel, about a kilometer away from the main station. From the frost that was worn away from the wooden Volume 2, Issue 2

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ladder leading up the escape trunk it was evident it was used frequently. It was supposed to be used strictly for emergency egress in the event of a cavein, but with outside temperatures hovering near -100, anything one could do to avoid the wind was understandable. Topping the ladder and swinging open the trunk hatch, Lisa emerged about 50 meters from the massive telescope that the station's astronomers used to spy on the cosmos. The size of the telescope, coupled with the extreme cold and dry air of the South Pole, gave stargazers a view of the heavens unmatched anywhere on earth. The clarity of visual, infrared and sub-millimeter wavelengths made this particular station, despite its remoteness, the most sought after posting for astronomers around the world. Covering any exposed skin, Lisa ran more than walked to the astronomy building. The edifice was huge for a stand-alone structure. It was located far from the main station to shield the experiments and observations from light and electromagnetic pollution. With its own power generator and comfortable lounge, one could easily live in the building, returning to the main complex only to eat or catch a few hours of sleep; and many did just that. Lisa entered and kicked the icy snow off of her boots and made a bee-line for Ian's office. She knew the scientific community could not be kept at bay forever, someone had to collect and collate the data on Ian's historic find, and as station manager she had an obligation to ensure that data was delivered to the proper authorities. Ian was not the tidiest of scientists, that much was certain as Lisa searched his cluttered metal desk for whatever file he kept on his major project. After about 20 minutes of sifting through old documents, magazines, half-finished papers, candy wrappers and used tissues, she finally spotted it. Looking quite inconspicuous in the darkest corner of his office was a filing cabinet with one drawer labeled "Canopus Project." Unzipping the large orange emergency gear bag she had brought to lug the files back to the station, Lisa opened the drawer to transfer its contents. Inside she found‌nothing. * * * Lisa was ninety percent certain she had fingered the perpetrator of Ian's death. Besides the dead scientist, only one other person possessed a key to the cabinet holding the valuable Canopus Project data. It was unlocked when she found it, meaning either Ian took the files, and since they were not found on or near his body or in his room that was unlikely, or the man now sitting across from her in the only other chair in her office; Chief Scientist Dennis Barkley. Vicki Lawson had also been summoned and was waiting outside of the closed door. Lisa wanted to question her regarding Dennis' probable involvement in the crime. "Dennis, there were only two keys to the Canopus Project filing cabinet. And there were no signs of forcing the lock. My guess is that someone looking to bask in the glory of Ian's work took those files to claim the Canopus discovery as their own." Lisa shot the lead scientist a condemning glare. "While you hold a prestigious job, Dennis, laying claim to Ian's work would get you something you cannot buy and never achieve from your projects." "And that would be?" Dennis didn't appreciate Lisa's accusatory tone. "Fame. To have an observatory or university department named after you for a discovery of this magnitude. It's something every astronomer wants and strives for. Your projects have no such potential. They make noteworthy contributions to science, but nothing that you will be remembered for." "And you think I killed Ian for that?" "You were the only other person that had a key to his files." "Had is correct, Ms. Snow. Vicki Lawson asked for my key three days ago. She said that Ian had misplaced his. She has yet to return it. I am not in possession of a key to the Canopus Project files." "Is that so?" Lisa didn't believe such a convenient alibi. "Vicki is right outside, why don’t we ask her?" She watched for signs that Dennis was sweating. "Yes, let's do." Dennis didn't flinch. Lisa opened the door expecting to find Vicki Lawson waiting timidly, but instead was met by Patrick McDonald, the station IT manager, and Bob. "Where's Vicki?" she wanted to know. "She took off running down the hallway, muttering something. She seemed to get upset when I talked about her file transfer on the intranet." Patrick answered. "What file transfer?" "You called yesterday and asked to notify you if anyone accessed Ian's electronic files. Well, early this morning Vicki transferred all of the electronic data Ian had on something called Canopus to her computer. I asked her about it while we were waiting for you to finish in your office, and that's when she split." "How long ago was that?" "'bout 10 minutes?" Patrick glanced at Bob for confirmation. "Oh, no. We have to find and stop her." It was now apparent in Lisa's mind that she owed Dennis one hell of an apology. "She'll destroy the Canopus data. Plus after what she did to Ian it's hard to tell what she is capable of." Lisa was still finding it hard to believe that such a small and quiet woman did Page 20

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Ian in. "We'll split up and begin looking for her…" "Isn't that her there?" Bob interrupted pointing out of the window. In the Antarctic, the light of a nearly full moon reflecting off of the snow and ice made for twilight-like conditions. Through the window in Lisa's office, the occupants could clearly see a woman, her unzipped parka flapping, clutching a stack of files to her chest as she ran towards the endless white horizon. "My God, where does she think she's going? It's minus ninety out there." Lisa wondered out loud. Bob, took note that Vicki had only her parka and none of the other gear required for survival in the harsh Antarctic winter. A slight smile crossed Bob's face as Vicki ran across the geographic South Pole marker, where they had temporarily laid Ian to rest until the first flight could transport his body. He did the math in his head. "About 2 miles, or 30 minutes, whichever comes first," Bob calculated. He was glad he had already eaten. Digging another hole at the Pole marker in minus ninety was going to be hard work.

Joan Dawson has been working as an editor of high-school ESL books in Seoul, South Korea for two years. Her savings have helped pay off a student loan for her master's degree in health! She worked for a scientific journal back at home in the US. In the future, she'd like to be a human rights journalist and continue to travel the world. Send your comments to: joanied@hotmail.com

I’m on a bus heading to the airport. It’s still early evening, the sun is just setting, and my mind is wandering. I’m thinking, Will I ever go on a honeymoon? Funny, I’m not thinking, Will I ever get married (like I used to). No, I’m thinking about whether I will go on a honeymoon some day. I think I’m skipping a step here, I tell myself. Maybe it’s a strange thought. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I’ve traveled to just over 30 countries. I’ve lived in four. I love travel. I can’t get enough. Whenever I have spare money (is there such a thing as spare money?), I spend it on travel. Will I ever register for china? And my mind goes immediately to the trip ahead of me: Beijing, China. Communication is my main concern. I’m a little anxious about not knowing a single word of the language. I try to reassure myself. I’ve survived in Korea for two years on about 20 words and plenty of nonverbal communication. Surely I can get by in another country. Will I ever settle down….in one country? I’ve gone from the arms of one country to the arms of the next. In terms of my relationships with countries, I get around, honey. Some are short term. I had a six-week fling in Ecuador. I had an intense, passionate week in Jordan. Oh, and then there was Russia. They were a beautiful two weeks. Some are long term, I’m happy to report. I had a loving and stable relationship with the Dominican Republic. That lasted 27 months. In a close race, I’ve been in Korea now for 26 months. I’ve cheated on Korea several times. I had a glorious weekend fling in Hong Kong. I was quite enamored with the markets there. I fell head over heels in love with Thailand. I couldn’t get enough. I went back for more. And then there was Japan: clean, predictable and calm Japan. Maybe I’ll see your wild side in Tokyo some day. At 40, I am still single and still swinging from country to country. I’ve gotten over the major hurdles of most relationships: money and communication. Don’t ask me about my biological clock. It must be digital because I can’t hear it. And don’t ask me about marriage. I’ve always said, I don’t fall in love with men; I fall in love with countries. Perhaps I’ll never go on a honeymoon, but then again, who needs to?

Live your own adventure abroad by teaching! There are many Web sites you can visit that list opportunities. Just “google” ESL teaching jobs and find out how to make the world your oyster!

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Genita Hill resides in North Carolina. She is currently working on her 20th year as a rural carrier with the Postal Service. She loves being outdoors and talking with her customers. She is fulfilling her dreams of writing, something she has done since she was 11 years old. She has written a children's story on being mentally challenged and poetry on various subjects. Author’s comments: “Like many of you, I played ‘Post Office’ when I was a young child. No, not that kind! I actually rode my tricycle throughout the house and pretended to pick up and deliver mail. I was the ‘pretend mail carrier’ in our house. I, like you, thought delivering mail was simply going to the Post Office, getting the mail and hitting the streets to deliver it. “Now that I have obtained that goal and became a ‘real mail carrier’ I want to be the first to admit that I was wrong -- there is a lot more to just hitting the streets with the mail. Sometimes you want to hit more than the streets. Sometimes you want to hit whatever may be in that next mailbox or that next yard; especially if you are a scary mail carrier like me. Be kind to your mail carrier. Your mailbox may be the last one he/she may ever service.” Send your comments to: jlhill16@yahoo.com WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? Of all the animals that God created, dogs are the only ones that I am NOT afraid of. Let me elaborate more. The cute, dainty ones and the very friendly ones are the ones that I am not afraid of. Usually when I pull up to an unfamiliar home, I blow the horn and wait a few minutes before I exit the car. This will allow the dog of the house to come and greet me. If the dog comes and he seems happy to see me, the customer gets the package and the dog gets a doggie treat. If the dog doesn't seem to be very friendly, the package is taken back to the Post Office. After years of dealing with dogs, I have learned to always respect the dog. The space that you are entering is theirs and you need their permission. At the beginning of my career, I learned to leap in a car in a single bound, grin even though the dog's teeth had broken skin and were still in my leg, and also how to zap a dog with ammonia water even though the owner was looking. One of the greatest lessons I ever learned concerning dogs was never to let them catch you off guard. I was delivering a package to a home; it was hot and it was close to the end of my route. I was almost to the porch, when suddenly from the opposite side of the porch a Rottweiler stepped out to greet me. From the way he was grinning at me, he was very happy to see me. I decided I needed to try to make it to a car — mine, the customer’s, or any passing by would do. I did remember in that split second not to turn my back. It was very hard to do while trying to run 90 miles per hour. The first car in my path was the customer's convertible. Why people let the tops up on those cars on a pretty day, I will never know — especially when an alarm will go off as soon as you touch it. Needless to say, after the alarm got everyone's attention, the package was delivered. It didn't have a scratch on it. Too bad I can't say that about the customer's convertible. If anyone on my route is expecting a package, and they have an unfriendly dog, cat, rooster, or bull; they need to put it up or plan to come to the Post Office to get their package. Another type of dog that I deal with on my route is a ''tire runner." These are the dogs that try to eat the tires off of your car you are driving. You try to be extra careful and not run over the dog, but at the same time you don't want to give them the privilege of eating your tires. If you go slow, you can hear them sink their teeth in your tires. Therefore, you speed up and then you accidentally run over their mouth. The next day when they chase after you (lesson not learned) their bark is more like a Furr! Furr! So you have to run over their mouth again to straighten it out so they can go back to barking Ruff! Ruff! Whenever the owners are outside and they see their dog chasing you, they always say, "Oh, just run over them. They will learn to move.” Then when you accidentally hit the dog, they haul you into court. Did they not tell me to run over the dog? The most interesting thing that I learned is that some dogs can read. I know you are wondering where I got an idea like that. Let me explain. Being a rural mail carrier, I have to drive my own vehicle. On the weekends after I clean my truck up, dogs chase my vehicle. Mind you, I don't live in the same city that I deliver mail in. Therefore, the dogs are not familiar with me. Sometimes I pull up to a store and a dog may be in a vehicle waiting on its owner and will start barking at my truck, too. I have decided that dogs can read the U.S. Mail sign on my truck. Next to the animal control vehicle, I have decided that mail vehicles are the second most hated vehicle of dogs. The most important thing that I learned about dogs is that they are very protective. Once when I was delivering a package to a customer, the dog stood between the owner and myself and never barked or growled. However, when I reached to give the customer the package the dog bit me. I was later told that the dog was just protecting its owner. So now when I have a package and the customer comes to meet me with the dog in tow, I toss the package and beat a path to my car while the dog is trying to figure out where the package is going to land.

This is but one of Genita’s many humorous adventure stories from her illustrious career! More to come in future issues… we promise!

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A.J. Ensor is an Emmy-winning broadcast journalist in Richmond, Virginia where he works as a producer, writer and director of commercials for a local ABC-TV affiliate station. Feeling that Potter books excluded Americans, he took it upon himself to create a rival to Potter, in the form of Luke Carter, and has sold slightly under ten-thousand books so far. Author’s comments: “Luke Carter is an American Competitor for the Harry Potter Market... while the story centers on a 12-year-old boy... the book is dominated by more strong female roles than since the publication of, ‘Little Women’... Claire is but one example... Her sister is an even bigger trip than her... The girls that surround Luke are each strong personalities... and they all kick ass.....” To learn more about the Luke Carter series, go to: www.LukeCarter.com ON THE MOVE

Send your comments to: ajensr@aol.com

Along a northern American mountain pass a very special train moves along a track at a slow pace through a heavy rainstorm. While there were many other tracks through the mountain passes with many other trains, this train had its own that no others could ride on. Five times a week the Griffin Express moves between New York City and the Griffin Valley and never has there ever been a problem. The trip was always swift and the train was always on time. For reasons unknown, this night things were different. For the very first time the Griffin Express would not meet its schedule. Talk of explosions and fire on the track ahead had been heard across the engineer’s radio. He was not sure what to make of it. No other train was allowed on his track! The communications were garbled. The engineer was uncertain if the radio noise was about his track or some other. He called for information but received no instructions from the dispatchers, so he continued, slowly and cautiously. The Man was very upset. For the first time ever his train would not be on time. The passengers had more than noticed the slow pace of the train. They kept up their complaints to the conductor. Many doubted they would make it to the valley by morning. A few harassed the conductor. Most passengers just stared out into the heavy falling rain and were amazed by the reflection of the lightening off of the sides of the mountains. Into the train car entered a lovely young woman carrying a long cloak. She glanced at the other passengers staring out the widows as she found her seat. Her hair was red; her eyes were ice and blue and sparkled in the flashes of lightening that filled the car. She sat down and just like everyone else began to gaze out the window. To anyone who noticed she was obviously worried. The woman whispered complaints to herself about how slow the train was. She also remembered the rumors she had heard. In all fairness, they were just rumors — nothing anyone would have taken seriously. The woman’s name is Claire. Claire Cohan is the wife of Harry Cohan. A few times a year Harry lectured at the Citadel University in upstate New York. It was the place that Claire first met Harry and she was now returning for the first time in years. She had in fact received word of a possible accident at the university. While serious, there was nothing in the message that made her worry and remained unconcerned until she lost contact with Harry. As the train rolled on, Claire had a terrible feeling and it showed on her face. Before leaving the city individuals on the platform spread gossip of large explosions and insisted that fires could be seen burning in the Griffin Valley. “How strange — fires burning in this kind of weather,” Claire thought. All roads were blocked by mudslides and the only way in was by train. Suddenly, and so abruptly that Claire had to hold on tightly the train attempted to screech into an emergency stop! There was a brilliant flash of light and then a tremendous explosion! The train began to roll over on its side. Screams were coming from every direction! Claire screamed! The sounds of metal being crushed surrounded her. Then a moment of stillness and Claire found herself lying on what used to be the ceiling of the car and was now its floor. People were moaning and crying. There were calls for help. Claire couldn’t see anything — it was too dark. She struggled onto her knees. She felt her arms and legs. “I’m not hurt,” she thought. There was mass confusion around her. She felt along the floor and searched for a direction to move in. Accidentally she laid her hand on what had been one of the cars’ ceiling lights. She looked around her as best she could and then bent over close to the lamp. With her lips nearly touching the light, she whispered, “Solas!” The lights in the car came on. People could see one another as they began to stand up. The car began to turn again from the motion of people inside. Soon, it rolled onto its side. Passengers screamed as the car came to rest on the next set of rail tracks. Now, the ceiling was a set of windows, the lights were part of one wall, and the seats made up the other wall. Men tried to open the car doors but they were bent. Claire looked around for her cloak. If she could find it she could help but she had to hide as best she could what she was up to, and she needed the cloak to do that. She spotted it hanging from one of the seats and quickly put it on. Everyone was trapped and something drastic had to be done. Claire pulled the hood of the cloak over her then turned to face the wall. There was a flash of light that scared everyone. No one knew what had happened or where the flash had come from. When Claire turned back she had a long broad sword in her hand that hummed with a slight glow. The sword shimmered and was stunning to look at. It almost seemed as if it was made of light. When she raised it up, a woman began screaming out of fear.

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“Oh, shut up you,” Claire shouted at her with a distinct sound of Ireland in her voice! She jumped upward and swung the sword at the emergency releases on the windows above. The window, still inside its frame, came crashing down as Claire jumped out of the way. She sliced the supports off of one of the car seats, and with a wave of her hand braced it under the now open window. Once again she turned toward the wall and placed the sword under her cloak. Another flash and when she turned back the sword was gone. “Get on with it now!” Claire shouted desperately as she used the seat and climbed to the top of the rail car and out the window. The rain poured down, and the lightening flashed as she knelt and helped one person after another climb out. From a distance, there was a noise—then it repeated itself. Claire looked up in the direction of a whistle noise. “Oh, my God!” Claire said out loud with fear. There was another train coming along the secondary track. It was heading right at them! “Move! Move! Move!” Claire screamed at the passengers. The men helping yelled the same. There was an old couple walking along the bottom of the car and gathering their personal belongings. “There’s another train coming!” Claire screamed at them. “Get up! Get out! Now!” The men helping Claire stood-up and ran in panic. “We’re coming!” the old woman shouted back, but she didn’t try to climb up. She was too busy shouting at the old man. The train was now so close its head light was blinding. “Come on,” she shouted desperately! It was too late! Claire stood, ran, and jumped off of the far side of the car leaping into the air as the trains collided. A tremendous explosion and a stupendous fireball followed Claire as she bounced down the side of the mountain and onto an access road. There were several loud explosions as the new train was pushed off of one track and onto the other. She rolled over behind a large bolder as fire and large pieces of train parts came raining down around her! Claire braced beneath the rock and prayed! Then everything stopped as time seemed to stand still. There was nothing crashing down anymore. A strange calm began as Claire lay on the ground. At first she didn’t move. Her back and legs were in pain. As she looked up it was clear she had been cut. Rain washed away the blood as fast as it appeared on her face. The rest of her couldn’t be seen from behind the cloak. Shaking, Claire pushed herself up onto her knees and then rolled over with her back against the rock. As she looked up there lay the engine from one of the trains. Had she chosen the other side of the road to seek cover she would have been crushed. With rain still heavy Claire stared in wondrous terror at the wreckage for quite a while before she finally remembered to blink. She looked down the railway access road. There were utility lights once every 50 yards or so. The road back to the city was blocked by train wreckage. Claire sat there for a moment with her head on her knees and tried to think of what to do next. She felt pain but decided to try standing. Bracing against the rock she lifted herself onto her feet. Standing for a moment in the rain, she took a step then another. The pain continued as she moved. Though still shaking, Claire had survived with only minor cuts and bruises. She took a few steps toward the other side of the road. With the light from the burning wreckage she could see up the side of the mountain. She was amazed to have survived the fall but the climb was too steep to return. Pausing for a moment to look around, she didn’t see many options. So with the rain coming down so hard that Claire could barely see the utility lights, she turned north and began to walk. At first she limped a bit and then slowly the pain seemed to subside. The rain did not penetrate her cloak. In fact, the cloak dried her clothing beneath it. After walking for a time, Claire began to notice voices coming from above her on the main tracks. There were calls for help and some seemed to be moaning. Others shouted for everyone to keep moving. Claire assumed it was survivors from the train wreck. After a mile or so more, a railway supply shack appeared. It was surrounded by wire fencing. A sign on top was marked “Chattanooga Pass Supply Substation 1.” Everything was locked. Claire looked around for a moment carefully that no one was watching. Raising her right hand there was a flash of light and her sword appeared. With a few swings Claire made short work of both the fence and the locked door. Inside hope of calling for help faded. There was no phone. There were several hand lights. Claire borrowed one. Staring out the door and into the rain Claire kept wondering how she had managed to get into this mess. The situation presented few options. Still shaking a bit, Claire kept reminding herself about Harry. There was a really nice train station at the entrance to the Griffin Valley. It couldn’t be far now. Once there she could call for help and if not, the tunnel entrance to the Valley was but a short walk. The rainfall was mind-boggling. It was coming down so hard that raindrops bounced off of the ground. As hard as her night had been so far Claire was still sick with worry about her husband. A nightmare of him lying somewhere, calling for help, and no one answering his call haunted her — odd thinking for someone who was nearly in that very same position. Walking again she came upon an access trail that wound itself up the side of the mountain. The borrowed light was quite powerful and cast a long and

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brilliant blue and white beam. There was no problem finding her way. Claire was not prepared for what she found at the top. There was a long line of people moving out of the north and heading toward the train wreck. Many of the passersby were limping and others were being carried. People’s clothes were dirty, torn, and stained with blood. Everyone was soaking wet. Many were crying and others were covered with dirt and all were near the point of exhaustion. “My God,” Claire thought. “What has happened?” Fear and alarm now replaced reason. “Where is Harry?” she muttered to herself in distress. If he were in the same condition he would need her right now! Claire began to move along the edge of the tracks against the flow of people. It was so dark that only the light she carried illuminated anything. Endless questions possessed her, but each time she approached someone he or she moved away. Claire was desperate and needed to make her way into the valley. She shouted at the crowd of people walking, “There’s a train wreck ahead! You can’t go this way!” The rain was so intense she doubted many had heard her. One man walking by looked at her. She could barely see his face in the dark. He said in a broken voice, “There’s nothing but death in the other direction.” The tide of people seemed endless. By their clothing Claire knew they had come out of the Griffin Valley. She just didn’t understand why no one was willing to volunteer a few answers. Some were dressed in school uniforms and others were members of the staff. Clearly, they were gripped by fear but they were also outside the Realm. All of these people including Claire were members of a society that was distinct and apart from the rest of the world. This society had its own rules, places, and government. Among themselves their world was known simply as “the Realm.” The valley, the university, and its prep school were all part of it. All the people on the tracks were members. Claire had not been to this place for years so she was a stranger. There were rules against talking to strangers. But there was something else — something so bad it inflicted so much fear there was no way of reasoning with anyone. Some of the passing people were moaning. Claire truly wanted to help. Indeed, she wanted to stop and help all of them but fear had her too. She had to find Harry! Nothing was going to distract her from that objective. Claire had walked five miles before she spotted the lights of the Chattanooga Pass Station. The station itself was gone but some lights remained. The station had been burned to the ground. The tracks that ran in front had been torn apart by an explosion. Turning to follow the flow of people back toward a tunnel in the mountain, she found the entrance scorched by fire. The signs that hung over the entrance were still burning. They were burning while it was raining? It all seemed very strange. Claire began to make her way through the tunnel. One old man grabbed her by the arms and Claire screamed. “Don’t go back there!” he shouted. “Leave here while you can! The Darkside is on the move!” Claire shoved the man away from her. She said nothing as he stumbled. He had startled her, and she stood for a moment to catch her breath. People walking passed her in a mindless daze. Claire knew she had to stay focused. Continuing onward after a mile she entered the northernmost edge of the Valley of the Griffin. Things seemed very out of place. The tunnel was only mile long, but at the other end there was no rain falling. As Claire moved out of the tunnel the sound of rushing water could be heard. At the extreme northern edge was the waterfall that fed the valley. In the dark she could not see the towering mass of water, but the area was heavy with mist from the water crashing onto the rocks. The sound it made was deafening but beautiful and seemed out of place given the horrors around her. The river it fed flowed into the valley and past the university. A human tide of people covered the trail leading out. The path was too narrow, and the volume of people was too much for Claire to try to walk against. Near the river shore were small abandoned boats. Climbing aboard one she threw off the anchor line and floated downstream. Sitting in the rear of the boat Claire used a small wooden rudder to steer. She watched as people onshore struggled to keep moving. Some were calling for help. Others were helping, but most just ignored the pleas. Claire was completely baffled by this behavior. The people of the valley were good and caring individuals. She did not know what to think of what she was witnessing. Fear kept her mind focused on the nightmare of her husband lying dead somewhere. It was a horror unlike anything she had ever experienced, and it was now reinforced by the smell of death that seemed to come from every direction. On the horizon, things looked even grimmer if that was possible. Light from an enormous fire reflected on the clouds above and fanned out in every direction. The woodland around the university was burning in a firestorm. Her small boat floated past the trees on shore and into a clearing. “Oh, my God!” Claire gasped. The scene on shore was one of mass destruction. She stood on her small boat in total shock wanting to cry. This valley had been the most beautiful place she had ever lived and now it was in ruins. She had spent 11 years there as a schoolgirl. The valley’s beauty was so possessing its images often filled her dreams. Now … now it was scorched earth in every direction! Sorrow turned to anger as Claire filled with rage at those who had destroyed her schoolgirl

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home. Suddenly, there was an enormous explosion whose shock wave sent Claire crashing onto the deck of the boat! She was knocked unconscious and as she awoke she found herself face down against the wood of the boat. Some time had passed for on the horizon the slightest hint of sunlight could be detected. She struggled to her knees. Claire knelt there for a moment before she noticed the sound of steel breaking against itself. When she turned in the direction of the noise, the look on her face turned from pain to shock and then fear. In the blue-gray murky reflection of dawn’s first light, the Citadel could be seen in the distance. Its massive stone walls gave way to a large field. Beyond the field was woodland consumed by a firestorm and on the field university students were in full battle against creatures dressed in blood-red cloaks. The sight was hideous and the students were not winning. They were obviously too tired to fight. They would cross swords run and then turn and fight some more. Each time the creatures would pursue. There were no firearms in the valley. Unless enchanted somehow simple guns, pistols, and rifles were useless against members of the Realm. Each time the students stopped to fight, one or more fell by the sword of their attackers. These creatures were the Army of the Darkside the old man in the tunnel had warned against. All of a sudden, a loud and penetrating roar could be heard. It seemed to come from the sky. In the next moment, lions with wings flew in and landed behind the Darksiders on the field. These creatures stood five times the height of a man — nearly as tall as the trees. They had enormous claws or talismans. Their roar, or their scream, or whatever the sound they made was painful to hear. Claire was forced to cover her ears. Even with her ears covered the sound of the creatures sent pain up and down her spine. In the 11 years she lived in the valley, Claire had never laid eyes on a real Griffin. Clearly, they were real and infuriated! They had left their sanctuary and were seeking revenge on those who had wreaked destruction inside their valley! The scream of the Griffins had the same impact on the Darksiders as it did on Claire. The ones who had been fighting with the students now turned to face them. Their leader was a Teilusfar. He pulled off his cloak revealing a head that was half-man, half-goat. Its antlers protruded outward and into a circle moving along the side of its face and coming out in front to a point. Its body was muscular but in place of arms protruded the tentacles of an octopus. Waving swords in two of its tentacles, the Teilusfar ordered the Griffins to withdraw. The Griffins roared again and the Teilusfar and his army held their ears bending in pain. Then they raised their swords at the Griffins and bolts of energy flew at the creatures! It was a desperate move. Throwing high levels of raw power from a sword would weaken the bearer very quickly — particularly after battling all night. The Griffins were thrown into the air and crashed down on their backs. The Matriarch of the Griffins recovered, and rolling quickly, she jumped up. This time she went after the Darksiders bent forward and kept her head low to the ground. When the Darksiders sent bolts of energy at her she roared in pain but did not stop her forward attack. When she was close enough to strike the other Griffins roared forcing the Darksiders to hold their ears rather than their swords. The Matriarch reached out with her talismans and began to cut the Darksiders in two starting with the Teilusfar. Again and again she swung! With each swipe dozens of Darksiders were vanquished. The students who had run now came back in force. They attacked the Darksiders while trying to protect the Griffins from counterattacks. Without warning a new wave of Darksiders came running out from the burning forests lead by yet another Teilusfar. They blasted the closest Griffin off of its feet and closing quickly they overwhelmed the students that were protecting it and drove their swords into the Griffin! The Griffin screamed in agony and was instantly reduced to ash. With just two mighty leaps the Matriarch crossed the battlefield and faced the new column of Darksiders. She roared so powerfully that the fire in the forest behind the Darksiders rose high into the air. The Darksiders were forced to their knees in pain. Then she inhaled again, stretching her body wide, and when she exhaled fire flew from her mouth and everything in front of her, including all of the Darksiders, were reduced to dust! Now very weak, the Matriarch collapsed onto the ground. Unleashing her fire had used up her remaining strength. Using energy always makes members of the Realm weak. Using too much could kill any creature, man or beast. Three Griffins came and surrounded her. Two others spotted Claire floating on the river. They made a loud noise but didn’t roar. They ran to the river edge to see who was on the boat. They stood high over Claire with teeth exposed. Claire stood as high on the small boat as she could. She removed her cloak so that the Griffins would see who she was—just a girl dressed in a brown sweater and jeans. She wasn’t a threat. In a gesture of respect she bowed to the Griffins and they relaxed. They made sounds to each other and then turned away. Soon Claire floated up to the river dock near the entrance to the Citadel. Since the American Revolution thousands of members of the Realm had come to this place. Here they did not have to live in fear of being discovered. They could practice their art without being threatened. They could learn to make a contribution to society without being isolated by it. Here lifelong friendships were made, and some even fell in love. Now the enormous 300-year-old doors that marked its great entrance lay crushed and burning. The Darksiders had planned well. It made Claire suspect that they had help. The high stone walls had gapping holes. Everywhere people lay about but no one was moving. Darksiders lay face down next to the students who had vanquished them. Brilliant lives with everything to live for were cut short for reasons that went beyond comprehension. Claire felt ill. She had a lump on her head from where she hit the boat. Cuts and bruises covered her. She had traveled all night and was now having trouble breathing. Tears filled her eyes as she stepped over one person after another as she made her way into the commons. The sight of what evil could do overwhelmed her. These evil creatures are the dark side of the Realm. This is how they got their name, “Darksiders.” “The train,” Claire remembered. There was a flash before the accident just like the one that knocked her out on the boat. The Darksiders had launched an attack outside of the Realm. Claire was just now realizing all of this. “Oh, my God!” she thought. “If the mundane world felt threatened by the Realm they would send in their military!” Soon Claire was walking through what was left of the door to the main castle. The great halls and classrooms were empty. Smoke still rose from the ashes. The stench of death was everywhere. The sun began to rise as Claire walked across the breezeway that connected the castle to the main living quarters.

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She entered the main hall and moved with caution. Something else was wrong. It was close and it felt very cold. Claire reached out with her mind becoming very alert. As she moved past one of the rooms, a creature in a red cloak lurked from behind the door. Claire didn’t see it but she could sense it. The thing crept out of the room and began to stalk her. She went from room to room and searched for anyone. She walked past another room not noticing a pair of eyes watching. Again, Claire couldn’t hear or see anyone but she knew. Three creatures now guardedly stalked her from behind. Each time Claire looked around they hid themselves. They wanted her, but they were afraid of her. The one thing Claire could not feel was Harry. At such a close distance if Harry were anywhere to be found she would have been able to sense him. His essence was gone. Someone must have vanquished him. That’s how powerful a practitioner Harry was. No one could have taken him by the sword alone. Claire would be lucky if she could locate his ashes. Neither could anyone have taken Harry’s brother Philo, or his wife Sara. Philo was High Chancellor and the single most powerful individual magical force on the planet, a person referred to simply as the White Robin. Sara, like Claire was an Alfa-Omega witch of the first order. No one could have taken her by the sword either. Claire could not sense either one of them. In the case of Philo, this was simply impossible. The only thing that could have terminated his existence was old age. Something very new or very ancient had stepped into the Realm. There was no logic to what had happened. What Claire can sense are the children. She walked halfway through the next hallway to the point where it connected with another corridor. Each time she moved forward the creatures in the red cloaks got closer and closer. They were like wolves afraid their prey might run off. At the far end of the adjoining corridor appeared three Darksiders who stood in their blood-red cloaks and stared at Claire. Their dark deformed faces were slightly illuminated by the rising sun. Claire just moved on. She thought it odd these creatures would show themselves. In small numbers they were no match for a full Practitioner of the Realm. They knew that, she knew that, and their daring and sudden appearance changed nothing. Claire ignored them. Her soul felt empty knowing Harry was gone. She would have come sooner had she any hint of the danger. As for the survivors, she still sensed the children. “I need to find them,” she thought. As she walked, three more Darksiders entered the hall and blocked her path. Then the ones who had been stalking appeared from behind. Claire was trapped or so they thought! At the sight of the first three Darksiders, fear had left Claire and was replaced by anger. Claire’s fears were for the family she loved. She wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything — least of all nine evil worthless dark creatures arrogant enough to think they could take on an Alfa Practitioner! The three in the adjoining corridor pulled swords and charged. They yelled words Claire had never heard before. She gave an evil glare of her own but made no move. Then the three behind her drew their swords and charged, followed by the three in front who drew and charged. When the first three got close enough, Claire pulled the hood from the top of her head, raised her left hand at them, and shouted, “I steach I An Fear Aer!” The three went flying into the air backward across the entire length of the corridor crashing hard on the doors at the far end. Claire quickly raised her right hand inverted, and with a flash of light her sword appeared. She pointed it at the three charging her from the front and shouted, “Cumhacht!” A bolt of power flew from the end of the sword and struck the three reducing them to ashes. In the next moment Claire spun backward at the three who attacked from behind. She shattered their swords like toys an instant before they would have killed her. Claire’s fury knew no mercy. She swung her sword with startling speed cutting the dark one to her right in half he turned to dust. She spun around at the middle one and lopped its head off. It burst into ashes. The remaining one she ran the sword through, was also reduced to ash. The three at the far end of the adjoining corridor had made it back to their feet. Once again they charged. “One would have thought they would have learned their lesson,” Claire thought. “Cumhacht!” Claire shouted. The remaining three were reduced to a dusty memory. Bitter anger raged from Claire as she screamed in pain! “I am the light, says the Lord. Those who believe in me will fear no evil and cannot die!” Claire screamed and cried “cannot die” at the top of her lungs furiously as her eyes filled with tears. Claire is so emotionally hurt and angry! She stood for a moment in the hallway. She felt the effect of tossing raw power from her sword but she is a very powerful Practitioner. It would take dozens of strikes before it had any real effect on her. Responding to the sound of her furious scream, a boy and girl came rushing in through the far doorway. Claire immediately took a defensive posture. Then she realized they were wearing student uniforms. They looked terrified. Their clothing was torn and covered with blood and dirt. She relaxed her posture. The two walked up to her. “I am Jason Fesserack,” the boy said. “I’m Lisa Barns,” the girl told her. “I am Mrs. Harry Cohan. I came to search for my husband, Professor Cohan. What happened to you two? What happened in this place? What is this blood on you?” “We’ve been fighting since sunset,” Lisa told her. “Many of us are gone. The blood was splattered when they fell.” The girl seemed distant and she didn’t blink much. She stared never looking at anyone and kept looking around expecting another attack. “I know your husband, Lady Cohan,” Jason responded. Volume 2, Issue 2

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“Can you tell me where I might find him?” Claire inquired with a hopeless sound. “No, my Lady,” Jason responded. “After the first wave of attacks the first Lady sent him off to seek out the Alfa male of the Griffin pride to warn him that Darksiders had entered his valley.” “What happened to the Lord White Robin?” she replied. “He went off with the members of the Board and the Robin’s cauldron to perform the equinox visual. Then the group would have fasted until sunset, when the Robin would perform the passion,” Lisa told her. “Were did they go?” Claire asked. “No one knows, my Lady,” Lisa responded. “The ceremony is performed in a cave that is lit only at sunrise on the morning of the equinox. Because of the passion the location is always kept secret.” Claire leaned against the wall. Emotion was replacing reasoning again. Her chest tightened and she was having trouble breathing. The situation was so desperate. Claire turned and rolled against the cold stone wall. “No one survived?” Claire asked. “Three made it back,” Jason answered. “One of the members of the Robin’s cauldron was carried by two others. The one they carried was mortally wounded. The other two stood and fought with us. They vanquished hundreds of Darksiders before they were worn down by the numbers.” “They said,” Lisa added, “that a dark lord using a wand and wizard’s craft attacked them by surprise, that he trapped the White Robin in a Merlin’s Cave! Do you know what a Merlin’s Cave is, my Lady?” Claire shook her head no. “I know who Merlin is, of course but I never heard of such a cave. A dark lord wielding a wand and using wizard’s craft,” she thought out loud. “That’s a warlock! A warlock in America, how did this happen?” She looked up at Lisa and Jason. “What of the first Lady Sara and the children?” Claire asked. Jason answered her with pain in his voice as Lisa began to cry. “Lady Sara led the student attack against the Darksiders when they breached the main gate. She and the student senior class fought them to a standstill and blocked them from invading the commons. But they breached the walls, and she and all of the rest of us were overwhelmed!” Jason bowed his head and began to cry. Claire looked at them. “She led the charge, did she?” Claire asserted. “You’re bloody damned right she did!” Claire spoke loud with pain and pride in her voice as tears came to her eyes. “What about the children?” Lisa looked up. “They are trapped inside the Robin’s quarters. There are nearly three dozen Darksiders outside there trying to get past the Robin’s barrier.” “The barrier is holding?” Claire asked quickly. “Yes, my Lady,” Lisa replied. “Do you not know what that means?” Claire told them as both looked up at her. “That means that wherever he is, the White Robin must still be alive! Thank God for that!” Claire looked across to the window on the opposite side of the corridor. She stood upright and walked across. After waving her hand the window abruptly opened. Then she shouted out, “Cara, Cara duinn An seo mo Glaoigh An seo mo guth Tabhair aird uirthi mo Amhran!” Claire pulled a pen and paper from her robe and began to write. Cohan, There has been a battle. Many dead from Darksider attack including most of staff and many students. Harry and Sara lost. Philo is missing. Board and cauldron wiped out. A dark lord using a wand and wizard’s craft is thought responsible. —Claire As she finished writing a large bald eagle appeared at the window. It screeched an eagle noise at them. Claire rolled up the note and handed it to the bird. “Take this to Lord Cohan,” she told the eagle. With the note, the creature leaped into the air and disappeared into the sky. “I have to go and help the children,” Claire said. Page 28

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“You can’t!” Jason asserted. “It’s impossible!” Lisa said, agreeing with him. “A large group of Darksiders has been outside the apartment all night. They are still there! There are dozens of them pooling their powers and trying to get through the magic protecting the children!” Jason was trying to make certain Claire understood the situation was hopeless. “Dozens you say?” Claire asserted with anger in her voice. “Well, then — good!” Claire’s face began to turn red. “’Tis about time for some payback I’m thinking!” Claire walked past the students and headed for the children. But before she went through the door, she turned back at them and said, “Off with you both now. I’m telling you to leave!” Then Claire kicked the door open and began to make her way into the next tower. She waved her hand and opened the next door and walked in at which point Lisa and Jason caught up to her. “My Lady! It is too dangerous! There are too many!” Lisa insisted that Claire come with them. She stopped and turned. “Listen carefully you two,” Claire said sternly. “I am ordering you both out!” Lisa, clearly very uncomfortable with having to stand up to Claire said in a reluctant weak voice, “No! I’m staying!” “I’m staying too!” Jason added. Claire looked at them as if they were fools. “Alright then, stay behind me, listen to what I tell you, follow my lead, and don’t help me unless I ask!” She was frustrated. “Do you understand?” The two nodded their heads and Claire walked off. “Bloody damn students have a death wish,” Claire thought. The sun had risen and began to strongly illuminate the hallways. She approached the adjoining corridor and paused before reaching it. Slowly and careful she let her right eye peer around it. Sure enough, at the end of the corridor were several dozen Darksiders. Their swords were drawn taking turns directing bolts of energy toward a doorway. Their power kept hitting an invisible barrier that was made discernible only when their energy bounced off. She backed away from the corner for a moment and looked at the two students. She whispered, “Last chance! It’s about to get nasty and you’ve both had enough already! You could sit this one out?” They both insisted on staying. “Fine,” Claire whispered as if they had made a big mistake. “Stay behind me! Watch my back!” Once again, she peered around the corner. “Let’s get this over with!” mumbled to her self. Claire summoned her sword and walking out into the middle of the corridor shouted, “good morning, dark and evil members of the underworld! Can you not see the sun has risen?” She raised her sword and pointed at the windows. “'Tis time for your wake-up call!” The entire back row of the Darksiders began to turn and raise their swords at her. Before they had a chance to do anything, Claire launched a bolt of power at them. Eleven or so of them were instantly reduced to dust. Jason and Lisa were stunned by the display of firepower. They also could throw bolts of power. They were only able to knock Darksiders to the ground with them. Now half of the remaining Darksiders turned their attention to Claire as the rest continued to try to break through the barrier. They launched bolts of power at her and the students. To Jason and Lisa’s amazement Claire’s sword was able to absorb their attacks. Claire moved her sword in an arch from side to side absorbing everything. The Darksiders were bewildered by her abilities. One by one, more turned from the barrier to attack. Finally, Claire looked at the students and said, “Turn away!” This time they listened to her, and with that she raised her left hand inverted toward the ceiling and said, “Laith roid Cara duinn Solas!” Volume 2, Issue 2

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A bright ball of light appeared in Claire’s one hand as she continued to defend herself with the other. She threw it at the Darksiders then turned away. The ball of light exploded blinding the Darksiders and sent so much pain into their heads they dropped their swords. The brilliant flash overcame even the ones who were looking away. Claire turned back and screamed as she charged, swinging her sword again and again! The students charged too. Whatever the students cut apart fell to the ground and died. Whatever Claire cut into was reduced to dust! Lisa and Jason had never seen anything like Lady Claire before. She fought like an avenging angel. All of the Darksiders were done in! They never had a chance. Claire approached the barrier and with only a slight spark of light she passed right through it. When the two students approached it they were stung and stopped. It hurt! Claire turned around and with a wave of her hand she said, “Lig Teama Teigh thar!” With that, Lisa and Jason followed Claire into the home of the White Robin. Claire opened the door very slowly and peered ahead as best she could. Carefully, she moved from room to room. She could feel the children near. Then, she heard a baby crying. She opened the door to the baby’s room, and a sword flew at her! She blocked it and blocked again! “Laura!” Claire shouted. But the 12-year-old blonde girl didn’t hear her. The girl was deaf from fear. If one of the students had come in first and tried to block her with their swords she would have cut them in two. Laura struck again and spun and swung again and again. It was as if she was avoiding counterattacks, but no one was attacking her! It was eerie to observe, but Claire now understood why Sara hadn’t survived the battle. Obviously, she had given her charmed sword to Laura to protect the baby. Claire continued to shout Laura’s name, but the little girl was just scared out of her wits! Finally, Claire grabbed her by the wrist of her sword hand. The girl struggled to get away, but Claire shook her as hard as she could. “Laura!” Claire shouted. “’Tis me, Aunt Claire!” Laura stood silent for a moment. She began to focus. She whispered slightly, “Aunt Claire?” “Yes, dear, ‘tis me!” Claire responded with a sweet, affectionate voice. Laura wrapped her arms around her and began to cry. Then, she whispered in a panicked voice, “We have to be careful! The Darksiders are attacking!” With a flash, Claire’s sword vanished and she responded by pushing the girl’s hair back across her head. “Aye, lassie, they are gone now!” Claire held her head and looked deep into her eyes. Laura looked back at Claire and in a voice so cold Claire could not believe it came from a child’s mouth, Laura said, “Mama is gone. The Darksiders took her!” Claire picked her up and hugged her tightly. All Claire could do was cry and hug the little girl. Lisa came in and took her from Claire’s arms. Claire moved to the crib where the baby lay crying and lifted him up. She gently held the baby boy as she walked about trying to calm him. She walked out of the bedroom and into the main living room. Peering out the main picture window it became obvious that the hallway wasn’t the only way the Darksiders had tried to break in. It looked as though they had tried to blast their way though the wall. Laura came out of the bedroom followed by Lisa. She walked up to the great picture window and peered out of it. “That is where Uncle Harry died!” she pointed and told Claire as she stared at the courtyard below. Claire walked up to view where she was pointing. There was only scorched earth below. “He tried to protect a great cat with wings.” Laura said coldly. “The animal fought the dark ones as fire burned around them! I yelled at Uncle Harry to run, but he couldn’t hear me.” “The Alfa male of the griffin pride,” Jason said, thinking out loud. “Aye,” Claire said in sad agreement as she stared at the courtyard below. “No wonder the Matriarch Griffin fought as though she were possessed. They killed her mate.” Claire could not talk about Harry. She could not even say his name. She wasn’t sure they were safe and couldn’t handle the emotions she knew would flood her mind if she thought about him. The hope that had filled her heart and had driven her into the valley in search of Harry was replaced by an empty space.

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Unexpectedly, the window began to open on its own. Everyone in the room backed away not knowing what to expect. “Laura, get behind me!” Claire said as she handed her the baby to hold as she prepared for an attack. Then, the screech of a bird could be heard loudly as a great bald eagle landed on the windowsill. It was carrying a note. “It’s all right everyone,” Claire said. “Lisa, take the baby from Laura,” she instructed as she moved forward to greet the large bird. Claire took the note from the bird. It jumped back into the air, and the window closed. Claire sat down on the couch and read, Claire, Bring the boy back with you. I’ve appointed Phineenous Dickelbee as acting chancellor. He should arrive there by noon. Laura is to stay with him. He will hold the post until a new board can be appointed. Send out a search party for Philo and retrieve Harry and Sara’s swords! —Cohan “Bloody hell, Cohan!” Claire shouted with anger. “You’re a bloody coward!” she thought. “Your baby brother and sister-in-law are dead, your other brother is missing, and all you can do is write a note!’ “Bastard!” she said out loud. “What’s wrong? What has happened?” Laura asked. As she walked up to Claire. Claire wrapped up the note and placed it in her pocket. Then, she looked at Laura. “Lord Cohan has appointed a good man by the name of Doctor Phineenous Dickelbee as acting chancellor,” Claire told the little girl. “He will be here by noon. He has ordered you to stay with him—” Then she paused. “—and to protect him.” “How am I supposed to do that?” the girl asked with a bewildered look on her face. “You’ll do as your mother taught you—the same way you protected your wee brother!” Claire looked into her eye. “We’re all very proud of you Laura. Lord Cohan is very proud of you!” Laura stared at her for a moment and then responded with a sincere voice of respect. “Yes, my Lady, I will do my best. Tell His Grace that no harm will come to the chancellor. Tell him I swear this!” She paused for just a moment and then asked, “Can we go and look for Daddy?” Then she cried. The little girl was a mess and yet so brave. “No wonder she had survived the night,” Claire thought as she looked back at her very sadly and said, “I will see about your dad and tend to your Mom and Uncle Harry.” The two hugged. Claire stared out from behind the girl. She knew this wasn’t the end of the battle; it was just the beginning – for the first time in centuries the Darkside is on the move.

Salvation Blowing Nowhere by Im Sook Kim © 1993 Volume 2, Issue 2

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Linda Brobst is a medical management administrator, and an active mountain and road biker, averaging rides 3 to 4 times a week. Linda writes short stories, observing life and creating fiction, almost daily. She is well-known within an ever-widening circle for her creative and entertaining stories. Send your comments to: lindabrobst@charter.net

Headlights off, motor now at rest, a once blue van coasted soundlessly into place on a slight hill overlooking White Beach Bay. With rusted fenders, bent gas cap, and unpleasant to look at, its occupants, in contrast, made the dilapidated van, in a sense, preferable. Through the driver's window, well-worn binoculars focused on a small cottage facing the bay. Squinting into each eyepiece, a horrendous hag, who had once been a normal woman, grunted in satisfaction when a light appeared in the window of the cottage. As she turned her mutilated face, moonlight served to accentuate her smashed nose where two nostrils floated in a mash of flesh. Wrinkles covered her pancake flat face and four yellow, rotted teeth protruded between lips loosely formed and sagging into a permanent sadness. Lifting her arm to point at the cottage, her baggy and hanging underarm, flapped like a blanket blowing in the wind. What was once a tattoo on her bicep, now shimmied and boogied, black letters no longer identifiable. "She's awake!" The hag's voice wheezed, sounding as if it were being forced outward by overworked fireplace billows. In the passenger seat, another form moved, leaning toward the windshield. A large ear, with a once gold earring now discolored and green, swung in a stretched out lobe. Attached to that ear was a man whose head defied normal dimensions, ample beyond description, round and disappearing into shoulders without benefit, it appeared, of a neck. His mouth too included rotten teeth, but his were as square as if a mason had cut them from stone. When he spoke, a sizeable, liver colored tongue darted out, moistening swollen, cracked lips, "Yeaaap! We should head out to the ferry landing and wait 'til her shift. The time is now and she's our ticket out, by God!" A gnarled, almost deformed right hand reached for the ignition, the engine only sputtering the van to life after rolling down the small incline overlooking the quaint cabin. Spark plugs working overtime, the van bucked forward and disappeared into the night. Inside that softly lit cabin, Ahna, now fully awake, spoke out loud, "No sleep again! A human needs good old fashioned rest once in a damn while." Ahna was convinced if she didn't get some, and soon, she would become an "unexplained" death when she just dropped dead one day. The Surgeon General could recommend 8 hours of shut eye all he wanted to, she wasn't gettin' it and hadn't for months now. "Rum Run Road, Rum Run Road, Rum Run Road" that voice repeated, over and over, night after night, urgently, pleading for an unknown from her: Ahna Flice. There was never more, never less, but emphatically, repeating this name; a constant loop of "Rum Run Road" until she thought she would go completely loony. Bedcovers thrown back, sitting on the edge of her bed, Ahna heard gently rolling ocean waves slapping musically, soothingly in the still night. It was dark, very dark outside. Pulling the curtain back, very faintly, the top of each wave shone briefly before disappearing into swelling blackness. Barefooted, she crossed the small bedroom and flipped on a bathroom light. God, she needed sleep! When all of this had started, she had supposed a onetime nightmare had been at play. Now, though she knew better. Over the weeks and following months, the intensity of whatever this message was had increased, nightly. "You look hideous", she pronounced to herself, leaning into the mirror to get a closer look. Dark, blue-black half moons beneath each eye, both red-rimmed, hazy, and drained looking, pale skin, and a face pinched with strain, returned her look. "Who the frick are you?" What Ahna would have seen in her reflection three or four months ago was a person who used to sleep. But the somewhat attractive, athletic, self-assured Ahna, a happy and well-adjusted Ahna had been replaced with 'no sleep Ahna.' Her clothes, lately, had started to look almost too big, meaning she had, she supposed, lost weight from her already small frame. Ahna turned on cold tap water, cupping her hands to drink, then splashing droplets on her face, and pulling her mid-length dark brown hair into a wad of a ponytail. She grabbed a tissue and blew her nose, as if expecting to purge herself of whatever the blazes "Rum Run Road" was. Work loomed in a few hours, and as always, she would drag herself to her job and make the best of whatever this bad situation was. If only she knew, if only by the fIre that burned in hell, she knew... Ahna Flice was a homegrown island girl, born and bred. Her parents and younger brother lived near Rosario Resort on Orcas Island, Washington. Ahna was 28 and until recently, had rented her old bedroom from her parents. She worked for the Washington State Ferries. Right now, she had a small cottage on White Beach Bay, facing West Sound, still on Orcas Island. She had moved here to care take a vacation home, owned by her Uncle Ace. He had recently Page 32

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remarried and Ahna had enthusiastically taken the offer to live rent-free, in the small one bedroom cottage. Orcas Village Ferry Dock awakened early with ferries running all day long. Ahna's shift started with the 7:40 AM ferry. Tourists with bicycles, walk-ons, cars, trucks, motorcycles, and local commuters were motioned onto the ferry and Ahna directed traffic to parking locations. A beat-up, tattered van, at that moment no more caught her attention than any other vehicle. The occupants of that rusted, rattling van did not fail to notice Ahna, however, they had been waiting for her. What was also overlooked was that the occupants of this van never left the vehicle, and really, in truth, hunkered down into the decaying seats, attempting to disappear. Not one soul saw the two repugnant inhabitants now lost in the shadows of the Washington State Ferry as it chugged into dock at Lopez Island. Call it a mistake, or call it fate, whatever the label, Ahna had not gone topside this morning and was standing within feet of what she now noticed was the ugliest damn van she had ever seen. Even the tires were vile. That rust! Only upon careful examination did she see the faintest of blue fighting to stand out in a sea of corrosion. The ferry bumped against the landing at Lopez Island and as she had done so many times before, Ahna walked forward, intending to direct traffic. The Wheel of Fortune spun against her that day, and a pair of solid, colossal hands reached out and pulled a now struggling Ahna into the back of that same rust bucket of a van. The sliding cargo door slammed shut, very soundly. Her head covered in what smelled like burlap, her hands and ankles competently bound, Ahna recoiled at the stink wafting into her nose. This smell was putrid, rancid, and unidentifiable. She knew it stunk, but of what and why she didn't know. She did know, however, she could not give in and even with her feet bound, managed to land a kick or two into the flesh of whoever it was that now rolled her into a waiting piece of thin, dirty carpet. The Stink Machine moved forward, and Ahna wondered who was directing traffic and why other employees weren't looking for her. She heard other cars starting and moving and soon, the Stink Machine sounded like it was on an open road. Again, providence struck a negative blow. Due to confusion on a hastily posted employee schedule in the employee lounge, Ahna's name had been placed on the line, which read: "Employee Break." It wasn't until much later that Ahna was missed, and by then cars had moved, people had come and gone, and evidence was in short, short supply. "Think! You have to think! There has to be a way out of this! Calm down and think, damn it, think!" Ahna was sure she would vomit from the disgusting odor. With each bump the ancient Stink Machine, shocks long worn and now useless, bounced rigidly. Her right hip landed solidly along with her elbow, against an unforgiving floor. What now shocked her sensibilities was the sound of a female, rasping words, repulsive sounding and more ghastly than the stench of the vehicle, "We want to stop to shut the gate?" A male voice, high-pitched and wretched sounding, pathetic if truth be told; his voice echoing against the steel of the inhospitable, bare van stirred anger, more than fear within Ahna when he spoke, "No! We want to get her home and get started! You know what we have to do!" Lurching forward the Stink Machine persistently lurched onward, finally coming to a sudden, uncomfortable stop. Roughly, the man with beefy hands carried Ahna and without much more thought than delivering a roll of carpet, she was dumped onto the ground. Two sets of feet approached her and together, they started unrolling her. She wanted to see her kidnappers, but instinct told her she might want to forgo that pleasure. With a final roll of the carpet she was dumped onto hardened sand and the burlap sack yanked from her head. She now knew she would have preferred to have stayed rolled up in a dirty carpet. Before her were two of the most abominable, vile-looking, questionable human lumps of flesh she could have ever imagined. The woman had no nose! Her face was like a Frisbee with two holes, nostrils she supposed. They were loosely moving with each labored breath. Her hair, knotted and long, ending in gray, greasy ropes topped off a withered, malformed, hunched-over sea hag. Behind her stood an enormous man; head so gigantic, it was of circus freak show quality. This head rested directly on wide shoulders sloping too long, muscle knotted arms and hands so huge even on this oversized man, they looked out of place. His face was of granite, offering no emotion and large ears hung below the norm, flapping lobes almost touching his shoulders. Shockingly, from the waist down, this giant with black squared off teeth and such an imposing start, ended with pencil thin, stunted legs and tiny, elf-like feet. Behind these mutually filthy appearing individuals was a leaning barn, long ago abandoned, moss covering most of the roof, berry vines threatening to soon overtake the structure, and a sign, faint, half-clinging to what was left of graying, warped weatherworn planks: "Rum Run Road Pottery." The lettering of the sign could have, at first glance, said "Kiss My Ass" so juvenile, stick-like in form, the letters barely visible, but still in all, "Rum Run Road Pottery" was there. And there it was, spelled out and in front of her, the root of her nightmares, and she surveyed her other surroundings. The dirt road, which came to an end at the ramshackle barn seemed unused, eager plant life partially obliterating what remained of two thin tire tracks. Another sign, even more pathetic than the pottery sign, bent pole, entwined in berry vines, stained and only just readable confirmed "Rum Run Road." A rock fireplace stood alone in the sand about 100 feet from the barn. Where once a house majestically overlooked the ocean, now only those rocks, mortared together, watched the sea fully exposed beyond this rock sentinel. Deep within, Ahna was frightened, but she was also livid. There wasn't much she could physically do with her arms and feet still bound, so she decided to ask, directly what these two ass-bags standing in front of her wanted. She looked unswervingly, (and it was very hard to do this) at the sea hag, "What do Volume 2, Issue 2

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you two assholes want with me? I don't have any money, you know!" In unison, these miscreations stepped forward grabbing her feet and hands, lifting her a few inches off the ground. Not speaking, ignoring her question, they carried her through the door of that ridiculous barn. Somehow, she knew, or sensed, she would not be killed or physically harmed. Her impression was that these freaks of nature wanted something from her. Taking in the decor, if you want to call it that, the interior of the barn was quite tragic and peculiar at the same time. Stacks of wooden barrels marked "Rum" lined one side of the dilapidated structure. This stockpile of rum didn't surprise her, but the charred displayed remnants of someone's life did. Photo frames blackened with soot, photographs barely visible through smoke smeared glass, stood upon a table burnt, ash covered and also black, the color of coal. Fire had crisply and efficiently burned a stove, chairs, a baby cradle, and other household items. Hanging on a rack were rotting, half burnt clothes. The smell of a fiery, furious blaze draped the interior of the barn. The hag removed Ahna's restraints. Within seconds of her hands becoming free, Ahna slammed a solid punch into a gelatinous stomach. Taking a step backward, the hag's misshapen mouth formed an outlandish, malformed circle, explosively expelling very old, long ago inhaled smoke. Puffing billows escaped the hag's mouth, adding more stale and stinking evidence of a fire doused to extinction... when? "You shouldn't a' hit me like that! We aren't gonna kill you or nothin'; we just need your help, you being blood relatives and all. Alls we need is a drop or two of your blood!" Ahna snapped her head in the direction of the Jolly Green Giant, taking in his dreadful appearance and then facing the hag again, "We are not related! You two creeps kidnapped me! Why in the hell would I want to help you? Relatives, my ass!" In her anger, Ahna had stepped towards that charred table of half melted photo frames blistered around smoke-damaged photographs. She stopped short, viewing one frame with a now grunge covered, faded, almost wiped out photo behind cracked, filthy glass. An old-fashioned bride and groom, only just discernable within that frame in some way seemed familiar. The Jolly Green Giant stepped hurriedly between her and the photo, his atrocious, discolored tongue licking a set of lips, which now looked to her as if they weren't just dry but had been seared by fire. "You're our kin! There's no gettin' around it! We found you fair and square and this business we have would have been finished if you hadn't a' moved! We had to find you again, calling out to you, starting over, and now is our time!" Indignant to the core, Ahna sized up these two decomposing figures who stood before her expectant, and in a small way, barely readable, fearful. Fearful of what? Her? "What the hell happened to the two of you? My guess is you were burned in a fire, the way you look and smell! Was that the house out there where that chimney is? If you need medical attention or a place to live, there's agencies that do that stuff, you know! You don't need me!" What the hag said next was a thought Ahna had already brought to the surface, but she had contained that thought, refusing to come to terms with what it might mean. Out of breath, the hag panted like a worn out accordion, "We died many years back, in a fire hotter than the center of hell! It was 1850 and me an' Porter was rumrunners. They was those that wanted us gone and snuck up one night to do it. By rights, we should be in the other world. Porter there, he almost made it from this world to the next. That's what happened to his legs and feet, they was halfway gone to the other world but he fought to come back after me and the baby. They stole our baby, you see, and that's where you come in. You came into this world on the blood of our son and only you can release us..." "You have got to be out of your damn minds! So, how'd you learn to drive and where did that Stink Machine you call a car come from? Uh, people didn't drive in 1850! You, what? You are going to kill me for my blood? You're dead, oh right! This is priceless; my blood will release a couple of, what? Walking dead weirdoes into the afterworld? I am NOT, let me repeat, NOT related to you and you can't have any of my friggin' blood! Got that? No plasma juice!!" Porter (the Giant had a name) touched Ahna's shoulder and she moved one step backwards to deflect further repulsive contact. His dismal voice filled the silence, "We've been here in this spot a long time. You learn things when the world moves ahead and you're stuck like we are! We stole the van and learned to drive. So what? Now, you look at us! Look at Callipe, do you think she got that face from an accident? Only fire could do that! Now, your Ma, did she tell you your Dad ain't your Dad? You were fathered by the last of our bloodline, only everyone now, except you, is dead! Your Mom, she knows, she hides it, but she knows!" His rotted, masonry block teeth glistened with stank spittle, running to froth at each comer of his mouth. Ahna swiftly planted a kick to his crotch and realized upon impact something was missing. That sensitive part must have gone on to the other world with the other half of his legs and feet. Her voice filled with exasperation, Ahna glared at these two miserable humans, or whatever the shit they were. "So, you're telling me you're going to hold me down and take blood? Why didn't you do that when you had me rolled up in that grubby carpet? What if I just leave? You going to stop me, or what?" She moved to the barn door to make her escape, but, at that moment Callipe, the rotting, smoke burping hag began to woefully cry, building to a heartbreaking, living dead howl. Her nostrils sunk into her flat Frisbee face, snorting turbid moisture onto her repositioning wrinkles. "Youuuu can't leave! You can't, you're now trapped here same as us! You have to give us each a drop of blood willingly, and then you can go! Pleaaase!" Porter stood still, his colossal head tilted with a look of expectation and such wretchedness that Ahna felt a pang of pity. That hag had gotten to her too and Page 34

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she did feel, deep in her gut that these two would not kill her. Insane? Undoubtedly so. Crap, they even believed what they were telling her, she could see that. She needed to contemplate what her options were. She could run, she jogged, she was in shape, but she had seen that freak Porter in action; he moved fast for such a big redwood of a man. She could punch, kick and fight and try by physical force to free herself. Perhaps searchers were near already, moving into place to save her. She had not heard a search helicopter though and that bothered her. Lastly, she could give these two preposterous, surely insane folks a drop of blood each and they could all be on their way. What if they were lying and despite what she had thought, would kill her? In the end, Ahna didn't have to do much. All she had to do was run like hell. Those two stinking, rotting, decaying whatever the shit they were, situated themselves close together and both were slammed in the head with a rum keg. A protruding nail on the keg had wounded Ahna's finger when she swung the keg and several drops of blood landed on those two gloomy freaks. "You miserable, ugly pieces of scum, there's some blood! Get some counseling, will you?" She ran, her years of jogging paying off. When she reached the "Rum Run Road" sign something, a force or perhaps heaviness in the air, momentarily held her in mid-stride. Before she had time to panic, that energy relinquished her and she ran, at full speed. She didn't look back, even when she thought she heard the hag happily laughing and the Giant releasing a joyful shout, followed by creepy silence. They did not pursue her and she ran until she saw, "Deadman Island," and turned onto Shark Reef Road. Elated rescue workers, who had been searching for hours now, saw her jogging frame when she crested a small hill. Within a few minutes she was transported to the local Sheriffs office. She looked like hell. Her hair was matted, she was filthy, ashes and soot sticking to her moist skin, and irritated, red tape marks encircled her arms and legs. The island was combed, searched in sections and done again. No one had ever heard of a "Rum Run Road" and no rock chimney, standing alone in front of a dilapidated barn, was revealed during an encompassing coastline search. Ahna couldn't retrace her steps to the barn, the rum, or to any Rum Run Road Pottery. No one questioned her much about "Rum Run Road" and what had happened to her. After all she had been rolled up in a carpet, blindfolded, her arms and legs taped. It was generally accepted that she had been somewhere, but there was no "Rum Run Road" on any of the San Juan Islands. She was well liked, a "little pistol of a woman" by just about everyone. They believed her and that was it. A complete study of the history of rum running in the 1800's was found in the Lopez Island Library. A small reference was made to the on-going feud between several rumrunners, resulting in the burning death of one Porter Stockural, his wife Callipe, including their young infant son, whose body was never found. No reference was made to the location of this unfortunate event and there was no further investigation. There were no fingerprints, no abandoned van and no suspects. Within a couple of days, Ahna was back to work, her usual, smiling, self-confident nature shining through. She never asked her Mom if her Dad was really her Dad, she didn't give a damn. She did catch her Mom looking questioningly at her once or twice though. Occasionally, when she was alone, she would pull a once silver-gilded, now smoke damaged, photo frame out and look at the two figures smiling in the faded photograph. She had tucked that frame into the top of her jeans before leaving a decaying, rum filled barn. Somewhere between the normal looking people forever captured there and the two gruesome whatever the shit they had been freaks she'd spent an entire day with, she saw a conspicuous resemblance to that 'ole sea hag and The Jolly Green Giant. Down deep she knew she had defeated something malicious and baffling. Her gut told her she had escaped from a time and place that only she, Ahna Flice had visited and no one could ever return to.

Originally from New Westminster, British Columbia, Anthony Damonse is an award-winning writer of short stories, but not so much for his poetry. While studying photojournalism at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, he is also working on his first novel, but what he really wants to do is direct. You can read his more current writing at his blog: anthonydamonse.blogspot.com or go to his badly-in-need-of-updating website, www.anthonydamonse.com, if you have absolutely nothing to do with your time.

The rain finally stopped. The clouds moved east influenced by the wind. To the west, blue sky could be seen turning red as the sun began to sink below the horizon. The fire of the sun reflected off the retreating clouds, giving all beneath a warm, rosy glow in the surreal light of sunset. Even the trees, with their leaves long since gone, looked living and warm. Volume 2, Issue 2

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These last rays of the day's sun reflected off the windows of the school. The day was over, the grounds; noisy, muddy, violent, joyful, lay silent now, waiting patiently for their true owners. The trees waited to be climbed, and hidden amongst; the gravel field waited for its next battle of sport; the slide waited for the next adventurers to travel down its shiny metal to the places they only knew. The building itself waited for the return of its progeny, its halls no longer echoed the squeals of a girl's laughter or the yell of a boy's exuberance. This was not the silence of day with classes full to brimming, teacher's voice explaining complicated fractions; with potential energy locked up behind desks, remembering to put up its hand before speaking; with little feet scurrying to the washroom, because they could no longer wait. This was the silence of evening with voices speaking in hushed tones so as not to disturb the serenity or break the spell of the silence. Down the hall a telephone rang, shattering the spell with its electronic warble. It was answered, and the spell resumed. Across from the office where the phone rang, a child sat, coat on, bag in hand, legs swinging rhythmically under her chair waiting for the arrival of Mum. She was happy; she had a boyfriend. Actually, she now had eight boyfriends. Her newest boyfriend, though, was the best. He was really in love with her, all her other boyfriends faded in comparison. This was the boy for her; she was going to marry him. In another part of the school a door slammed; then foot falls were heard coming up the stairs. After a moment the girl's mother appeared at the end of the hall, she walked self consciously to the girl. “Hi, are you okay?” she asked as she inspected her child. The girl nodded. Satisfied her child was not hurt she went to the counter of the school office. “Hello?” she called into the empty office. “Hello, I'll be out in just a minute,'” a voice replied from another room. A man emerged. “Thanks for coming, we like to keep the parents informed when their children have been in fights.” “Is she okay?” “Oh yes, she's fine. She just got into a fight with one of the boys in her class. It was stopped almost immediately. Neither of the boy's parents was able to pick him up, but we did talk on the phone just before I called you.” “Tommy loves me,” the girl interrupted. “We're talking,” the mother admonished absentmindedly. “Is the boy okay?” “Yes, he's fine too. I've told them both if they can't get along they will be moved to different desks. They said they understood,” the man added, mostly to the girl. “Thank you for calling me. I'll be sure to tell my husband.” “Okay. It was nice to see you. if you have any questions don't hesitate to call.” “Thank you again.” The man walked back into his office. The woman took her daughter's hand and walked to the stairwell. She remembered the school from her own youth when it had seemed so much larger and foreboding. As they walked down the halls she looked into the classrooms and found it hard to imagine she had ever been able to fit in the tiny desks and chairs. They made their way out to the car. The woman put the girl in the back seat, and then got into the driver's seat. “Tommy loves me,” the girl said when the car was under way. “How do you know?” The woman asked looking at her daughter's reflection in the rear view mirror. “He punched me the same way daddy punches you.”

The Rev. Juliet Nightingale covers new ground, discussing topics that up until recently have been nearly taboo. Audiences leave with the tools necessary for change, with information relative to their own lives, on both personal and professional levels. With compassion and the utmost respect for various religious beliefs, Nightingale inspires her audiences to go out into the world and make a difference. Catch broadcasts of Toward The Light, on www.BBSRadio.com focusing primarily on Near-Death and similar Spiritually Transformative Experiences. The programme airs live from 5 - 6P ET (-5:00 GMT) every Sunday. She features a stellar roster of special guests on a range of topics from living inter-dimensionally, being multi-sensory to intuition and telepathy with call-in opportunities so people can ask questions.

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Margaret Damele Elam was born in Michigan. A Magna Cum Laude graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, she has spent the past seventeen years teaching. When she was a little girl her family was always moving, across the country, across the state, across town. In each setting she found secret friends who lived in a closet, under a porch, in the hollow of a tree, or beneath the cut bank of a woodland creek. She wrote stories about the pretend worlds she created. The strongest influence in her life was her mother, Dororthy Ann Darragh Damele, a writer and a fine journalist, who always encouraged Margaret to follow her heart and never give up on the best things in life. For both of them, writing tops that list. Margaret loves good friends, animals, nature, and fantasy tales. She lives with her husband, two cats and a demanding little Pug named Li Chan, in a small Southwestern Ohio village she likes to refer to as Mayberry because of its quaint atmosphere. Today she writes, building fantasy worlds filled with adventure, romance, magic, and wondrous creatures. She is currently at work on a novel, entitled , “Daughter of Ascalla.” You can learn more about Margaret and her work at: http://www.wolfetales.com/ EVAN Evangileen Wolf rinsed the last of the soap from her washing and squeezed as much water from the soft cloth as she could before hanging Laurel's nappies up to dry. Soon there would be no more nappies to scrub clean and hang in the sweet-smelling, sun-washed air of late fall. “My last baby,” whispered Evan. She stood gazing across the Fairy Pool to the falls beyond and imagined a younger version of herself slicing through the sparkling water. She remembered shared laughter and a tender embrace as two bodies slipped below the surface of the water. She remembered how they held each other, touched lips, and kissed until the need to breathe drove them to the surface once more. Thinking of those early days when love was fresh between them, the feel of the water against her skin and the urgency of whispered passion made a smile curve her still full lips and she thought of Timber. Gods, she loved him, their sweet babies, and this place in the forest. The cottage, built by his strong hand and nestled beneath the protective cover of the giant old trees, was home to her like no other place in the world. The cheerful sound of the water tumbling over the falls beckoned, and she walked down to the Fairy Pool, unlaced the leather thongs that bound her sandals, and discarded them in the soft sand. She gathered up her long skirt, tucked it into her waistband, and waded out, knee-deep. Cool water swirled around her legs and lapped high across her thighs. She felt refreshed and the day seemed brighter until the ripples calmed, and she saw her reflection in the clear water. “Magic water, you heal so much what is in my heart, yet you cannot take the years from me.” She could see small wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, and a heaviness marked her eyelids that was not there even a year ago. Thin glints of silver streaked her temples, and she imagined each strand as a signpost that reminded her she was aging quickly compared with Timber and the children. She would not live to see her children grown. After all, they were half-elven, like Timber. Timber, how she adored him. She wished for a thousand years to share his love, a million, forever, but she knew it could not be, and she did not want him to be alone when she was gone. They both understood the way of it. They knew that her human lifetime was but a fraction of his elven years. They knew what that meant. Still when they fell in love, all of that seemed so far away. Evan raised a hand to her temple and covered the ominous, gray strands. If she could not see them or the small creases at the corners of her eyes, she could, for a time, pretend it was not so. But pretending grew more and more difficult. Last night proved an incredible exercise in pain for all of them. The talk had turned long and serious when she and Timber tried to find a gentle way to tell the children that their mother would age and die before them, but no words could soften that kind of news. Galen stood stoic and silent, so like his father. Hope ran into the forest and refused to listen. Timber found her and brought her back, but she would not talk to either of them. Galen could only shake his head and hold onto his mother's hands. And then, only hours ago, Evan had packed them for the trip to school. Every moment she wished Hope would come to her. She wanted to hold her, comfort her, but instead Hope joined her father outside, and Galen alone sought her embrace. “Take care of your sister and do well, my son.” “Mother, there must be a way.” “Do not think about it now. Concentrate on your studies, and I’ll see you when the winter snows melt and the year is new.” “But...” “Hush, I am fine and healthy, Galen. It is only that I am human, and you, Hope, and your father inherit the long years of elves. I am happy that you will know so many days to make the world a better place.” She would not let him speak more of it. Instead, she kissed him tenderly and sent him into the yard where Timber waited with Hope beside the horses. Volume 2, Issue 2

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Evan stood alone on the porch watching them and waiting until they were ready. When Timber came to embrace her, his kiss was deep and sensual. “I will return swiftly to thee, my lovely lady Wolf.” “I'll be waiting.” She smiled, lost in his eyes, as she always was when he looked at her. “Ready?” “Ready, Love. I'll be home soon.” When all three of them sat mounted, she reached for a black pearl that rested on a chain against her throat, held it between her palms, and concentrated on a space across the way near the tree line at the edge of the forest. As she slipped deeper into concentration, the pearl developed an amber glow. She thought of the land beyond this place, the one she once called home. She thought of the school and the scholars who would give their time and effort to Hope and Galen. She thought of the wizard of the mountain who would secretly protect them from harm. The pearl began to glow with a golden light that washed over her hands. Finally, a wrinkle opened in space. The opening grew ever wider until they could see through to the far side where the sparkle of virgin snow, crisp and clean, washed the forest path. Evan held the portal wide and watched as Timber turned his horse toward the opening and disappeared beyond. Hope followed and then Galen. “Remember, Love, you need only wish and the portal will open for you to come home to me.” She projected the thought into his head and felt the smile on his lips. The wrinkle closed without a sign that the opening ever existed, and she let go of the pearl. The chain settled back to rest against her throat, and the pearl, turned dark and calm once more. Now she stood alone, wading in the Fairy Pool and wishing for things she could not have while the rest of the chores waited. Evan sighed and moved back toward the shore. She sat for a bit on a log bench until her feet and legs dried in the sun and then slipped into her sandals and laced them high on the calf of her leg. She stood, settled her skirt back around her, and walked toward the cottage to finish her chores before Laurel woke up. TIMBER Timber moved through the silent forest alone. The children, safely installed once more at school, gave no thought to the fees he and Evan struggled so hard to earn that paid for their education. He wasn’t sorry for the effort. Hope and Galen would read, write, and cipher as Evan did, and knowing that made him happy. He did not want them ever to know ignorance or the prejudice that came of it. They could hide their mixed elven heritage if they chose, but they could not hide the inability to read. Forest sounds embraced him. He did not mind being alone. In fact, he spent most of his life alone among the old trees. They, and not the world of men, served him as friends. One could learn much from the trees. They peered down upon the world from lofty heights and recorded the passage of events in such a noble way. He learned to read their talk just by placing his hands against their rough bark. They spoke slowly. So slowly, that most did not realize the creaks and groans they heard were parts of words. But Timber, raised in the forest among the wolves, was sensitive to all natural things, and the trees were, oh, so much more to him than shade and shelter. They were the people of the forest, and he loved them as much as he loved privacy. He could not remember ever thinking of anything but a solitary life. It was his way, his manner, his calling, and outsiders turned away from him. He was half-elven and, by law, charged to carry the title as part of his name. Dirty Blood, they called him, and ridiculed a code of honor beyond their comprehension. To Timber, what the world thought of him stopped mattering a long time past. No one pierced his hardened shell to touch the man. They feared his aloof manner and recoiled from his strange indifference to their insults. Dignity and honor were the best part of him, a part they could not take. And so it had been for so many years he could not remember until he met Evangileen. He watched her for a long time. He knew she spent her days and evenings working at a pub in the village. No matter the toil she carried out, he recognized her nobility and wondered what path brought her to serve ale to the loud, sometimes vulgar louts who frequented the place. He observed her going about her daily tasks and saw in her the same code of honor that was strong in his heart. From time to time, he spoke to her, and she answered in kindly fashion, with never a slur about his obvious heritage. Still, nothing seemed to move from her eyes to his to let him think she would want to pass more than a word with a half-elven ranger. They met one night quite by accident a few months later. She seemed so lonely that he asked her to join him for talk and a glass of wine. Never did he suspect that she would agree but, to his surprise, she did agree to meet him. Cloistered in a shadowy corner of the deserted pub, they talked long, and the friendly fire burning on the hearth warmed his heart to her. He remembered listening to her speak in soft tones. He remembered concentrating on the firelight across the ever-changing shape of her lips as she spoke. He remembered leaning close to her, moving slowly. He remembered turning his head sideways ever so slightly. He remembered that at some point she stopped speaking and seemed drawn to him as well. And then his lips touched hers, and he drew her into an embrace kissing her with tender longing. In that moment, he fell deeply and completely in love with a human woman. That she agreed to marry a half-elven man was inconceivable. But she had. Though he talked to her about the taboos associated with mixing of the races, of the cruel bigotry she might face, she tossed it all aside and assured him that nothing mattered to her except their love. After more than a year, they found someone to marry them. She tried to keep working in the village, but the same cold prejudice he faced was even worse for her. Finally, he took her away, into the deep forest where he built the cottage. The trees sheltered them and the forest made them welcome. Timber embraced a happiness he did not know existed. He was no longer alone, and, for a while, Evan was correct, nothing mattered except their love. But Timber knew something did matter, and it was happening now. One thing did matter very much between them. Evan would grow old and leave him. The children would still be children, and he would be alone once more. Timber slammed his fist against the pummel of his saddle, and his horse sidestepped. He had to do something. 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Galen? “I'll find a way, son. Don't worry. I'll find a way.” But right now, the only way he could think of was to join her in death when the time came because he surely could not and would not live without her. He wasn't ready to go home yet. He couldn't go back to her this way. What would she think of him? He dismounted and let the horse forage a bit for tender grass while he sat on the ground leaning against one of the old trees. After a while, he realized the tree was speaking to him, and he began to listen to the slow syllables. He turned and placed his hands on the rough bark. Touch seemed to help him concentrate and make words of the long, low sounds. The tree repeated one word over and over again. “Benderglee.” Of course, Benderglee would help them. The wise old wizard of the mountain, Evan's trusted teacher would find a way. Who knew more of such things? In that instant, Timber knew he had to get Evan to Benderglee. Convincing her to go now, with winter nearly upon them, was the problem. In the mountains, the snow was already deep. He did not want to admit that he hoped the wizard could keep her from aging so quickly. Saying it felt harsh and miserable upon his tongue. Besides, what if Benderglee refused or could do nothing. Timber did not want to instill false hope and break her heart. He wanted to do this thing for her because he loved her. He wanted to find the way to make it happen and not bother her with the details. He sat trying to work out a plan and come up with a plausible excuse for visiting Benderglee. The old tree whispered to him again and nearly bounced him to his feet. It spoke only one word more, but that one word was enough. Timber could not believe it took the tree to make it clear to him. Sometimes he felt so oafishly thick. Of course, Laurel, Laurel would get Evan to the wizard. She was nearly two years old and Benderglee had not yet blessed her. Yes, Evan would go to take Laurel before the wizard. With the plan forming in his head, he was on his feet. He placed his fingers in his mouth and whistled for the horse. She came to him, and he patted her neck as he pulled himself into the saddle. At a quickened pace, they moved through the forest to the spot where Timber could cast his thought for home. He was even able to smile to himself about the first time he returned to Evan this way and was not in the exact spot they agreed upon when he wished for home. It was fortunate that he was not on horseback that trip. Yes, fortunate indeed since the instant he thought of home he found himself in the center of the Fairy Pool trail leathers and all. The picture of Evan rushing out to find him was clear in his eye. He remembered her standing on the shore laughing as he splashed in the water. He remembered how she left her skirt on the pebbled shore and dove into the water to join him. He remembered how they swam beneath the falls and slipped into the cavern beyond. He remembered the color of the day, golden and warm in the Valley of the Dragons when they emerged on the other side. He remembered the soft feathery grass all around them and the warmth of her lips. He remembered how completely he loved her. He would not lose her. The wizard would show him the way. He closed his eyes and wished to be at home. TWO SMALL DECEITS FOR LOVE Timber slipped the saddle from the horses back and placed an oat-filled feeding bag over her head. She settled contentedly munching large mouthfuls as he curried her and pulled a few burrs from her tail. She sidestepped a little, crowding him as he made ready her stall with fresh clean straw. He stroked her ears and patted her neck before moving on to Evan’s horse. He noticed Evan had fed her, the hayrack was bulging, and the trough held fresh water. At last, satisfied, he removed the feeding bag and turned his horse into her stall. He walked out into the darkness and closed the stable door. Soft light glowed from the cottage windows and created a path across the yard from the stable. He crossed the distance and stepped up on the porch. Funny, he thought. Evan had not come to meet him. She usually sensed him telepathically right away. Uneasiness washed across him. He entered the cottage, found nothing amiss, and walked down the hallway to look in on Laurel. He gathered the soft blanket around her and bent to kiss her baby-soft cheek. She grumbled a bit in her sleep and curled a tiny fist under her chin. Timber smiled. Black Sky lay curled in her usual place by the door. Timber patted his thigh and the huge wolf came to him. He stroked her fondly. Since Laurel’s birth, the wolf was never far from her. Timber joked that she saw Laurel as her pup. Funny though, Black Sky did not behave the same way with Hope or Galen when they were small, only Laurel received such constant watchfulness. Timber left his sleeping daughter with her bodyguard and approached the room at the end of the hallway. The door stood ajar and he knew Evan was inside. Still, she had not sensed his approach. He closed his eyes tightly, concentrating. His body began to twist and shrink, reforming again and again until, in the space where a full-grown half-elf stood only minutes before, a small mouse sat washing its paws. Seldom did he use his shape changing ability, and not until long after they were married did he draw courage enough to reveal it to Evan. The experience awed her the first time it happened. In fact, the whole thing was quite by accident. Timber did not even realize he changed until everything was over. When it happened, they were in danger, and the strength of a Grand Kodiak was far superior to his elven presence. Afterward, when his temper eased once more and he resumed his elven form, he feared her reaction. He should not have worried. She was amazed, true enough, but never did she think the act was unnatural. He remembered her exact words. “It is only a part of your magic, Timber, a part of you, and I love all that you are.” Now he was using that magic to observe her without her knowledge. Stealth did not sit right with him, but he had to understand what was happening to her, how she felt, what she was thinking. Silently, he slipped into the room and watched Evan from a secluded corner. Her attention focused on turning a pestle against the substance in a mortar on her dressing table. The smell told Timber the substance was the red root women sometimes used to dye clothes. Even worked the pestle a bit longer and then added a tiny bit of water to the material in the mortar. When she was satisfied, she took a little on her fingertips and looked into the mirror on the dressing table. She pulled her hair back to reveal the silver strands and moved to apply the dye to her hair. Timber could see there were tears in her eyes, and his heart swelled with the hurt of watching her try to hide this small thing from him. He wondered how long she had managed to do so. Vanity was not at work here. She was far too humble in her thinking to be vain. She was trying to save his feelings. Volume 2, Issue 2

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He slipped from the room and resumed his original form. He did not want her to know he was spying on her. Still he must stop her, make her know it didn't matter to him, a few gray hairs. Before she could apply the dye to her hair, he pushed the door open and strode into the room. “No, Evan. No,” he whispered. It was enough. He took her into his arms and held her tightly against his chest rocking gently back and forth. For a while, she rested against him and took comfort from his embrace. Then she reached to wipe the red dye from her fingers. He looked at her, smiled, and kissed the one lingering tear from her cheek. “I love you as you are, and you are beautiful.” He kissed the end of her nose and she smiled. “Promise me... No more of this.” Timber indicated the pot of dye on the dressing table. “I promise,” she whispered. “I just did not want you or the children to see and worry.” “I know. But we love all that you are, as you are. You never need hide anything from us.” * * * Evan prepared a feast of sliced cheese, dried fruit, and small slivers of smoked ham for them to share. While she readied the light meal, Timber went to the cellar below the cottage and brought back a bottle of golden wine. He dusted the bottle, removed the wax seal, and eased the cork from the bottle with his thumbs. The resounding pop broke the silence as it jumped free of the opening. He poured two glassfuls and followed Evan into the living room. The fire burned with a friendly glow, and she set the tray with different cheeses, ham and small slices of hearth bread on the floor nearby. She sat down on the warm bear hide and Timber sat beside her. They sipped the wine and ate in silence for a while. Finally, Timber took her hand. “I have an idea,” he said. “It would be good for both of us to get away. What say we take Laurel and go to visit Benderglee? He hasn't seen her yet, and I know you want his blessing for her.” “You mean now? Tomorrow?” “Yes, that’s what I mean. Just you and me and Laurel, would you like that?” “Well, yes, I would, but it is winter in the mountains, Timber.” “What's a little snow? You will be safe with me. It will be beautiful there now.” “I don't know, Timber. You have not been to the Mountains of the Moon in winter. They are treacherous, deadly to one who does not know the trails well.” “But, Evan, I have you, and you do know the trails. Besides that, many’s the time I have walked a foreign path. We will have Black along as well.” “If it were only you and I, I would not worry a bit, but there is Laurel. She is so small and winter in those mountains is fierce.” “Now, Evan. Do you think I would let anything happen to my two beautiful women?” Timber smiled. The idea of a trip away did so appeal to her just now, and Timber was excellent when it came to difficult journeys and rough ground. Benderglee, she longed to see his kindly old face. Thinking of him made her smile. He tried to look so fierce and always she played the game with him. True, never had he laid eyes on Laurel, and he might be genuinely fierce about that. Suddenly, her smile lit the room. Something lay beneath Timber's idea of a trip, she knew, but he held it well guarded. His own power of telepathy was growing stronger, or perhaps it was just that right now, with so much filling her head, she was simply too distracted to read him. Whatever his reason, the trip appealed to her, and she knew he would keep them safe on the mountain trail. “Yes, Timber, let’s go. I would love to.” And so it was set. They would leave in the morning. Timber did not know if she sensed more to his idea than just wanting to go away. He only knew that she agreed, and he would have his chance to save her, and in saving her, he would save the world they had built together. ON THE MOUNTAIN Evan awoke early the next morning. She stretched next to Timber, her arm across his chest, and took in the sweet smell of him as he slept. She watched the gentle flutter of his lashes as a dream filtered through his mind and saw his lips curve into a soft smile. Gently, she touched the turn of his lips with the tip of her finger and leaned up on one elbow to kiss him. She traced the curve of his ear along the outer edge up to the soft point. She smiled thinking how she loved his elven ears. Finally, she slipped from bed and pulled a warm robe around her. They would be on the trail at first light, and she wanted time to pack before Laurel woke. She gathered their warmest clothing and folded everything with care before slipping the items into their packs. There was no room for a horse on the narrow mountain trails, so they would have to carry all they needed. Black Sky came to her and then pawed insistently at the door. Evan turned to let her out. “I'll do it, Love. Come on, Black,” Timber called. “Not too far girl. We will leave soon.” While Evan packed essential items and clothing, Timber went outside to the storage hut and gathered the trail items they would need. A length of strong rope, a small ax, several large pieces of smooth waterproof leather, and numerous stakes, all went into the large pack he would carry. Occasionally he Page 40

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hefted the pack and discarded one item in favor of another. He thought of the mountain snow and included several soft fur hides. They would need them before the trip was finished. At last, he was ready. Inside the cottage, Laurel was awake and following Evan from room to room. Evan sent her to fetch clean nappies. She was eager to help, though by the time the nappies reached Evan they resembled a wadded bunch of rags. Nevertheless, Evan thanked her profusely, hugged her tight, and kissed her baby cheeks. “Daddy is?” “You are a Daddy's girl, my little love. Go and find him. I think I heard him come in just now.” She released Laurel and watched her toddle off looking for Timber. When she was out of sight, Evan folded the disarrayed nappies and packed them neatly. Babies are wonderful people, she thought, and mine are sweeter than most. Half an hour later, they were ready to go. A warm breakfast of oats that would carry them through the long morning on the trail and guard against the cold lay in their bellies. Outside Timber stood in his fur parka and hood. He wore fur-lined boots, and the huge pack he carried on his back made him appear to be anything but elven. In fact, when Laurel first saw him she hid behind Evan, but his reassuring voice soon had her clamoring for him to pick her up. “No, Laurel, Daddy has too much to carry now,” said Evan. She shouldered her own pack. “Mommy can carry you.” “Nay, Love,” said Timber swinging Laurel into his arms. “She is light as a feather. I will carry her. But that pack looks a bit much for you.” “I'm fine. It only looks bulky.” Timber opened his parka and wrapped it around Laurel. She was already swathed in her own warm furs. Now, settled against his chest, the mountain cold would never reach her. He tied a leather thong tight around them to support her and keep her safe on the narrow trail. “How close can you get us to the opening, Evan?” “Two day's journey. The trail is too narrow to risk anything closer.” “Two days in the snow with my beautiful ladies? I can think of nothing more wonderful.” Evan smiled and reached for the black pearl. Amber colored light grew from its center as she thought of the Mountains of the Moon. She closed her eyes to block all other thought and concentrate on a flat wide space she knew at the base of the trail to Benderglee’s cavern. The rest of the climb, even the place they would rest for the night was much too narrow. Because of the slight distortion of time and space, what appeared to be an exact location could actually be ten or fifteen feet in any given direction. She chose a safe spot that would allow solid footing. Anything else was too risky. Just as a wrinkle opened, her concentration failed, and she had to start over. Finally, the golden light flooded the space around her hands and the pearl. She whispered a tender prayer of thanks as a new wrinkle appeared across the yard. The opening grew wider, and they could see a snowy expanse ahead. “Wonderful, Evan, it looks like the perfect place.” Timber smiled at her and, with Laurel in his arms, stepped through the opening. Evan followed. Black was not too certain if she thought this plan was a good idea and whined. “She doesn't want us to go, Timber,” said Evan. “Maybe we should not.” “Nonsense, she is a worse worrier than you.” He turned to Black and whistled softly. I need you now girl. I need you to help me with this, he thought. He knew the wolf understood. He knew she also understood his plan. Still, Black Sky paused on the other side of the portal. Her agitated pacing exhibited fear, but Timber sensed no danger to Evan or Laurel. He whistled softly once again and she bounded through the opening knocking him backwards into the snow. Timber’s arms came up to shield Laurel, and he clambered to his feet laughing. “All right, my sly one. A little tussle is it?” He removed the safety straps and stood Laurel on her feet in the snow. Black charged once more and knocked him down. She knew he was no match for her with the heavy pack and stood over him licking his face while he struggled to get away. Black would have none of it. Each time he tried to rise, she hit him again and knocked him back to the ground. When she had tired him to the point of breathing hard from the exertion, she turned her back to him, and kicked her hind feet to cover him with snow. The picture was so merry Evan could not help but laugh. Black was enjoying herself. She pranced around Timber making the guttural, growling sounds Evan called wolf talk. Even Laurel took advantage of the circumstance and plowed through the deep snow to land on top of Timber as well. When Black refused to let him stand up after the third attempt, he looked to Evan, his face the picture of mock surrender. “I could use a little help here, Evan.” “Oh,” laughed Evan, “Really?” “Yes, my sweet Lady Wolf, I admit it. A two-year-old and a half-crazed she wolf have won the day, and I must plead rescue by my beautiful wife.” Volume 2, Issue 2

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“I suppose I could call at least one of them off.” She snapped her fingers. “Here, Black Sky. Come here, girl.” The great wolf moved to her, nuzzling her outstretched hand. “But I am afraid you will have to deal with Laurel alone.” “Let Daddy up, baby girl.” Timber put his arms around Laurel and moved to his knees. “It's time we move along. Daddy has a special place for you to ride, Laurel.” “Daddy carry.” “Absolutely, Daddy will carry you but in a special place to keep you warm and safe.” Laurel's tiny arms came around his neck and Timber tickled her. She giggled and pushed against him once more knocking him back into the deep snow. “Seems I still have a problem here.” Evan watched her heart swelling with love for them. A picture of Galen, so like his father, came into her head. She wondered what his children would be like. She longed to hold his babies in her arms. The thought triggered a fresh memory of the recent talk with the children about her aging process, and she turned away blinking. “Give me just a moment.” Her voice was no more than a whisper. Timber sensed the difference in her mood, set Laurel on her feet, and glanced at Black, a signal to watch the child and keep her safe. “Evan, what is it?” He took both of her hands in his own and turned her to face him. “Nothing is wrong. I just got to thinking, and I… I love you is all.” She didn't want him to know that she was thinking of Galen and Hope. Foolish, she supposed, since neither of them had thought of anything else since they told the children two nights ago. She felt wretched for taking the joy out of the morning and wished he would let the moment pass. “I love you, too.” Timber kissed her forehead and smiled. He did not need telepathy to know her thoughts or his own reason for being on the mountain in the snow. Black Sky came to rub against them, offering comfort. Never mind girl, thought Timber. We will save her. We will because we must. The wolf remained touching both of them, as though her tremendous strength could protect them in spirit as well as body. Finally, Laurel pushed between them and Evan bent down to pick her up. “I love you both so much,” she said. “I want Daddy,” said Laurel squirming. “And he is yours, my little love. He is yours.” She looked up at Timber. “Your daughter calls.” “I think I have a better place for you to ride, little one,” said Timber. He swung the huge pack down from his back, tucked Laurel in among the fur robes, secured a leather thong around her so that she could not fall out, and lifted the pack back into place. “How is that?” There was no reply. “She is fighting sleep, Timber. The cold has made her drowsy. She will be safe and warm tucked among the furs,” said Evan. “You better lead the way, Evan. Black, go ahead of her to be sure the path is solid.” “I'll be fine, Darling. I have walked this path hundreds of times.” “Go now, Black. Find the trail and be careful with Evan. She is the only wife I have.” He was silent a moment thinking of a talk they had once when Evan wanted him to promise he would not be alone when she was gone. “The only wife I want,” he whispered. Evan did let Black go ahead of her, and soon they were climbing through the drifts of snow. Black, her nose down, tested each step. She stopped now and then and looked back waiting to go on until they were safely across a particularly difficult area. The deep snowdrifts struck Evan mid thigh, and Black plunged through them, breaking trail. The going was a bit easier for Timber because of his height, but it was not long before Evan's skirt clung to her legs in a sodden mass that weighted her down more than the pack she carried. Finally, she stopped and unfastened the skirt, stepped out of it, and stood in leather leggings. She shook the heavy snow from the skirt, folded it, and stuffed it away inside her pack. Without the added weight of the long skirt, Evan's movement was easier, and she climbed steadily up the narrow trail. Ahead of them, Black Sky broke the virgin snow and tested the trail carefully. The exertion of the climb made talking difficult, and they settled into a silent, steady pace. Evan could hear her own breathing and the sound of her step in the deep snow, but the howling of the frigid wind blotted out anything else. From time to time, she looked back at Timber to be certain he was safe. Page 42

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“You all right up there, Love?” he shouted. “Yes, I am fine. Be careful now. The trail will narrow again.” The higher they climbed, the more the cold seemed to settle over them. Beneath the deep snow, the rocky surface of the mountain path lay coated in several inches of ice. Evan found no sure footing and twice saw Black Sky slip sideways and struggle to recover her step. The trail was worse than Evan remembered from past years. Was it worse really, she wondered, or was she more cautious? She did not know, but Timber and Laurel were with her. They must remain safe. “Stay close to the mountain wall,” she called. Evan explored each step before planting her foot on the ice. Then suddenly her foot did slip, and she thrust backward against the rocky wall. “Evan?” Timber called. “I'm fine, but be careful here. There are loose stones on the path.” Timber moved Laurel from his back and strapped her tightly to his chest so that he could put his back against the rocky surface of the mountain. He knew he could shift his form and carry them forward with ease, as a dragon or a griffin but not in front of Laurel. None of the children new he was a shape shifter, another of the stories he and Evan decided could wait. He gathered the parka more securely around her and looked into her sleeping face. Good that she could sleep and not know the peril of the trail. BLACK SKY “Timber, the worst spot is ahead. The trail is only a few inches wide. You will have to hug the mountain, no room for the pack.” “We can take care of the packs. Don't worry. We can transfer them across with a rope. Just be careful.” Evan and Black reached the narrow ledge where the trail made a hard turn around a rocky outcropping. Once she and Black were on the other side, they would no longer be able to see Timber. She did not like the idea of him cut off from her, but there was nothing for it. This was the only path. They must move ahead. “I’m leaving my pack here,” she called and shrugged it from her back. “All right, we will move the packs before I round the path.” Timber prepared the rope to make a pulley like sling with a slipknot and handed the loop end to Evan. “Here, Love, when you have safe footing, I will pass you the packs.” Evan nodded and slipped the loop over her shoulder. She looked back at Timber and smiled, then turned her concentration to the trail. “Let's go Black. Be careful girl.” Now that the pack was on the trail behind her, Evan could feel the rough surface of the mountain wall against her back. She leaned firmly against the rock and inched along. They were almost to the curve that would take them out of sight from Timber and Laurel when Black Sky lost her footing. Evan's breath caught in her throat, and she could not keep from crying out as the strong body, always beside them, protecting them, began to slip over the edge of the narrow path into deep chasm hundreds of feet below. Black's strong claws dug into the icy surface seeking a hold where none existed. The scratching, scrabbling sound continued and her head slipped lower. “Black!” Timber's anguished voice called out before he could stop. He bit into his lip to keep silent. He must not distract her. By the lost gods of earth, I should not have brought any of them, he thought to himself. I should have come alone. Helpless to act, he watched as Black clawed at the edge and, at last, found a precarious hold. Evan eased her body down until she sat on the narrow ledge. Jagged rock dug into the soft flesh of her back, but it did not matter. She knew it would be difficult to stand again, but that did not matter either. She could see that Black's hold was not secure enough to scramble back up over the edge. She removed the fur-lined mittens that kept her hands warm, grasped the thick hide on Black's neck, and began to pull the heavy animal back to the relative safety of the ledge. She strained as hard as she could but did not have the strength to lift Black clear of the chasm. Behind them on the trail, Timber watched, powerless. He saw that the effort was moving Evan closer to the edge. “Evan, gods... If you have to... If you have to, Love, let her go.” It wrenched his heart like nothing else to say those words, but he had to make her know he could not lose her. Evan looked into Black’s warm, brown eyes, so full of love and trust, and knew that she could never let go, anymore than she could let go of Laurel or Volume 2, Issue 2

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Timber. She knew that Timber would never do so. Worse things, she thought, I have been through worse things. Determined, she bent her knees and planted her feet on the slippery ice of the ledge. She closed her eyes and began to pull harder than ever. In her mind, she concentrated on the image of Black Sky moving toward her. Around her neck, the black pearl began to glow amber and then the golden light surrounded her. It drifted slowly down her arms and covered Black Sky. Timber watched and knew he was witness to something Evan had never done before. She was calling on the magic of the pearl without holding it in her hands. He wasn't sure she even realized she was using the magic, but he could see it flow over them. Evan seemed to grow stronger and lift Black to her as easily as one would lift a kitten. When the wolf cleared the edge and Evan leaned back exhausted. Black Sky sank down across her and whined, licking her face and hands. Timber watched as Evan buried her face in the deep soft fur, crying with relief. Thank the gods, he thought. Thank the gods. Somehow, Evan managed to stand again. She and Black moved gingerly around the ledge and out of sight. For long minutes, Timber heard only the howling of the wind. Then above the frigid blast, she called to him. “We are safe, Timber. We are safe, and we love you. Send me the first pack.” Timber attached Evan's pack to the looped rope and tugged softly. Hand over hand they passed it between them. Evan fumbled a moment with the slipknot and then set the pack behind her on the path. “Ready for mine now?” he called. “Yes, all ready.” After the struggle to save Black Sky, moving the packs seemed a simple task. Once completed, Timber slackened the rope and Evan coiled it up on her side. She could not see Timber, and waiting for him to reach her with Laurel was difficult. Black sensed concern and nuzzled her hand. She knew they would be here in just a minute, the danger past. “I love you, Timber,” she called. She didn't really expect an answer. She knew he would be concentrating on keeping Laurel safe and making his way along the ledge. Timber took his heavy sword from the scabbard and twisted the hilt. The weapon split in two and, in place of the magnificent elf-crafted broadsword, he held two gleaming daggers. He secured them at his waist and checked to be certain the leather straps that held Laurel were safe. When he was satisfied, he took a dagger in each hand and turned to face the mountain. With a mighty blow, he struck the dagger in his left hand against the mountain wall. The blade cut through the rocky surface like a knife through soft butter. He tested it and found it held firm. Timber struck again with the other hand and that dagger held firm as well. He moved along the path pausing every few feet to remove the daggers and strike them home again. Finally, he was standing next to Evan, and her arms opened wide. For a long time they held each other. Laurel slept between them. Black Sky pushed against their legs and Timber bent to pet her. Neither spoke. They moved on then. Not because they wanted to, for the wind, the cold, and the stress of the trail took a toll. Timber was tired. He knew Evan must be exhausted, and they were still some distance from the stopping point. He was sure her strength was going. Twice he saw her steps falter and reached out a hand to steady her. “This is too hard for you, Evan. Open a portal home. We can come another time.” “Not much farther, honey. Besides, the worst is behind us. I'm fine.” But she wasn't and Timber could see it. She needed rest and food and to be warm. When he heard her relieved sigh, he knew they had reached a recognized landmark. “It's just ahead now, Timber, a place we can rest, just around the next outcropping. We can build a fire there. Rule of the trail is to leave kindling for the next person. Let’s hope the last person across the mountain did not let us down.” Half an hour later, they came to the place Evan told him about. Timber eased the pack from his back and opened his parka. Laurel was still asleep. While Evan tended her, he constructed a lean-to from the poles that formed the frame for his pack. He built it against the mountain wall so that one side was the mountain and the opening faced away from the wind. When the light framework was ready, he covered it with hides secured with leather thongs. Inside he dug a hollow in the snow and spread more hides there. Finally, he was finished. The snug shelter was just large enough room for them to crawl inside and make a bed in the fur-lined hollow. Evan found the promised kindling, buried in the snow, but Timber chose to use what he carried from home. In front of the lean-to opening, he built a small fire. “Here, Evan. Come lie here and get warm,” he said. She handed Laurel to him, too tired to speak. Her trail leathers, which reached from her ankles to her waist, while wet on the outside were mostly dry and warm on the inside. “Better let me have them, Love. They will dry by the fire.” Page 44

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Evan stepped out of the leggings, handed them to Timber, and crawled into the shelter. She turned, took Laurel from Timber, and nestled down among the furs. “Honey, aren't you coming?” “I thought I would brew up a little trail soup first. You need a bit to eat.” She nodded watching him through the small opening as he moved around the fire. She could only see his high boots and his knees, but still she watched until her lids grew heavy. Laurel stirred in her arms and tugged at the fabric of her blouse. She opened the buttons, and the little girl found her breast and began to nurse. “Don't bite, Mommy, Laurel,” she whispered. Finally, curled warm there among the furs, with her daughter, in her arms she slept. Timber secured the camp and simmered a rich broth from dried meat. When it was ready, he bent down to offer some to Evan. She was asleep, and he did not wake her. Exhaustion washed over him as well. He placed the cooking kettle near the fire, searched through his pack until he found a bag of barley, scooped out a good handful, and added it to the meaty broth. Barley stew would be waiting in the morning. At last, he put on a little more wood from his pack, and banked the fire. He shed his own damp trail leathers, hung them near Evan's, and crawled into the lean-to beside them. He slid his arm under Evan and pulled her closer. She stirred slightly but did not come awake. He brushed his fingers across the swell of her breast and pulled the furs more snugly around the three of them. “Sleep, Love. All will be well. I promise you.” He kissed her softly and drifted into a light sleep. Soon after, Black Sky came to lie at his back. THE CAVE OF JEWELS Evan woke up first, opened her eyes, and for a moment could not understand the odd surroundings. Then the journey came flooding back and she snuggled low beneath fur hides. Laurel slept warm against her, and she felt Timber's arm around her. She heard their gentle breathing. Something was different on the mountain. The sound of the wind calling and crying, as it moved through the craggy peaks and dipped into the deep chasms was gone. The air was cold and still. The rest of the climb would be easier without the incessant wind to make them even colder. She turned Laurel toward Timber and slipped from beneath the fur robes. The cold air made her shiver, and she hurried to retrieve her trail leathers. She found them where Timber draped them by the fire. They were warm and dry. She put a bit more wood on the fire and soon had quite a little blaze. She lifted the lid on the cooking kettle and tasted the barley stew. “To your liking, Love?” said Timber. He stood behind her. “I’m starved,” she said. “Have some with me.” An hour later, they were on the trail. The last part of the climb was much easier. The altitude made the air a little thin, but there was less snow so high-up and the path seemed clear of ice in the dry air. Black trotted ahead of them, and Timber agreed to let Laurel walk a bit but tied the rope around her waist to keep her safe. She followed her mother, toddling along. From time to time, Timber picked her up and closed the distance behind Evan. She could not keep up with the longer stride or the pace her mother set for the steep climb. He made a game of scooping her into his arms and catching up with Evan to kiss them each soundly. Laurel chortled with laughter and Evan smiled, happy to watch him with her. Black Sky left them now and then to move ahead on the trail. When she returned she sought Timber, and her soft whimper told him the path ahead was safe. Finally, Evan stopped. She turned to Timber. Some time back Laurel had agreed to ride on his shoulders. She was there now. Her arms were clasped around him, and her fat baby legs extended over each shoulder. Evan could see how special she was to him. From the beginning, the bond between them was instant. Perhaps it was because he attended her birth and aided in the delivery. He adored Hope and Galen, Evan knew, but Laurel was precious to him. “Well, my darlings. In a moment, we will be inside the mountain. The portal entrance is right here.” “You have brought us safely here, Evan. Milady, my wife.” She took the black pearl in her hands. “Evan, wait.” “What is it? Are you all right?” “Fine. Just... back there, yesterday on the trail, when we almost lost Black and you pulled her back onto the ledge, you used the magic.” “What?” “You used magic to pull her back. The golden light was all around you.” Volume 2, Issue 2

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“No, Timber. I didn't use the pearl.” “I know. Both of your hands held Black, but the light surrounded you. You used the magic.” “Oh, no, it must have been some trick of the light. I could not use the magic without the pearl, and I could not touch the pearl without letting go of Black.” “No, Evan. I don't think it was that. I think your mind used the magic. Try it now. Open the portal without the pearl.” “Timber?” “Just try it.” Evan let the pearl fall back against her skin and closed her eyes. She thought hard about the doorway to the cavern that lay beyond the rocky wall and struggled to see the space open before them. Once a wrinkle did seem to appear for a second, but then it disappeared. “I can't do it without the pearl, Timber.” She turned to him. “I know I am disappointing you, but I can't do it.” “You…” He took her chin in his hand and turned her face up to him, “my sweet lady, Wolf,” he kissed her softly, “could never disappoint me. You must be right. It was a trick of the light, and I am a foolish half-elf.” “Daddy, kiss me,” Laurel complained from her perch on his shoulders. She wrapped her arms around his forehead and tried to pull his head back from her mother. “Kiss me.” Evan and Timber laughed. Timber swung Laurel down into his arms and kissed her with a loud smacking noise that sent her into gales of baby giggles. “I love that sound,” said Evan. “Guess I can see who rules here, though. Shall we see if she can conquer the heart of Benderglee?” “Yes, Love,” said Timber. He was glad that the moment was over. Evan did not believe she could use the magic without the pearl. Still he was certain she had done so to save Black Sky, used it well, too. Long he had thought that the magic was in Evan. If it was not inside her freely given by the gods, how was it that, not so long ago, they gifted him as well? Evan did not believe that the magic he used was remotely the same as what she could manage with the black pearl, but they seemed the same to him. Granted his use was far different, healing a wounded deer, saving a fallen bird, cleansing a fouled stream. He was a ranger and his use of magic reflected his calling. He watched Evan now as she held the pearl and concentrated to open a portal for them. With seeming ease, it happened, not as before when she tried without the pearl. Now the portal fell wide open. The edges were clearly defined, and the golden light was everywhere about them. “Timber?” she called to him again. Suddenly he realized Evan was talking to him. “Yes, Evan. I'm sorry. I was daydreaming. Just a little tired I guess from the trail. Let’s go. We can rest inside.” Quickly he stepped through the opening holding Laurel. Black Sky followed Timber and then Evan stepped into the mountain behind them. She relaxed her concentration. The rock wall rippled like brook water and snapped closed behind them. As soon as the portal closed, they were plunged into darkness. Black Sky started to whine and paw at the spot where the portal closed. Timber and Evan stood still, waiting. A soft light began to shine around them. There was no apparent source for the light, but Timber remembered it from the time when they brought Hope and Tanis for Benderglee’s blessing. He knew the light would follow them as they journeyed into the mountain. Black, still alarmed, paced, and continued to look for the opening to the outside. Timber set Laurel down and whistled softly. “Here, Black. It’s all right. It will open again.” She came to him and nuzzled his hand. Timber ruffled her fur and patted her reassuringly. He stood once more, pushed the hood of his parka back, loosed the heavy pack from his shoulders, and took out the daggers. With a few deft movements, he reassembled the elven blade and returned the sword to the scabbard. The temperature inside the mountain was warm like a summer day, and he removed his parka and put it with the pack. Evan looked at him, so handsome in his trail leathers and soft linen shirt. She could see his shoulder muscles move under the tawny fabric. She would never tire of just watching him. Before he caught her gaze, she removed her own pack parka and tackled Laurel, which was no easy undertaking, to tidy her soiled nappy. “You smell sweet and fresh again.” “You tink," said Laurel and ran to Timber.” Page 46

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“Laurel.” His voice was stern. “Where did you get that?” “Mommy tink.” “I don't think so,” he said. “It is not Mommy who soils the nappies.” Her eyes grew big and teary. “I think she got it from Hope. Hope told her she had a bad smell and used that word when she changed her. Then when Laurel cried, she was sorry and told her everybody made stinky smells when they wore nappies. Now she says that whenever her nappy is changed.” Timber looked down at his daughter. “We don't say that word, Laurel. And we never say that word about Mommy. Promise, Daddy.” “Promise,” she replied sniffling a little. Timber scooped her into his arms and all was well in her baby world. “Mommy not tink.” “Laurel?” “Daddy not tink.” “Laurel Wolf?” “Black tink,” she giggled. “Laurel Wolf will think stink if I hear that word from her mouth again,” said Timber, but he was lost since she could already see his smile. “Let’s go before this gets worse. For Mommy, Laurel, do not say that word again today,” said Evan and moved off through the mountain cavern. They walked along in silence. The light seemed to follow illuminating the passage ahead as steadily as the blackness closed behind them. Laurel tired once more and Timber cradled her in his arms. “She is asleep again,” he whispered. “It was too hard for her. I guess we shouldn't have brought her.” “But I know he will want to see her, Timber. We are overdue to bring her to him.” He did not answer and the silence was suddenly heavy with emotion. “What’s wrong?” Evan whispered. “I shouldn't have brought any of you. I risked you all.” Evan moved close to him. She brushed his cheek with her cool fingers. “Forgive my recklessness,” said Timber, leaning his head into her touch. “Timber, I have walked that trail in worse times than the snow. Now, will you stop, please? We are safe and all is well,” she said. “But I should never have insisted on the journey.” “No entrance to Benderglee’s sanctuary exists. The portal is the only way through the rock. How would you have come without me?” She moved on ahead of him through a passage too narrow to walk abreast. “And why in the world would you want to come without us?” Evan paused to look back at Timber once more. She could sense his anxiety. She felt it had to do with her and knew he was still thinking of the aging process. She didn’t want it to come between them, separate them. Still, she thought he accepted what was happening even though she knew it hurt him deeply. Often when they talked about it, she thought it seemed more that she sought comfort from him. When they decided it was time to tell the children, he seemed so resigned to it, nodding and agreeing and then going off into the forest. She thought it part of his normal routine. But now... now he was different. Selfish, she thought, I am selfish. He aches, and I have only thought of my own loss. I must make it up to him in some way. But instead, she could only smile at him. “All is well,” she said. "We are together.” Volume 2, Issue 2

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Before they could go very far, the mountain seemed to rumble all around them with a deep vibrating voice. Timber was never certain if he actually heard the voice or if the sound was merely suggested inside his head. Still it did not fail to give him a start that made him reach for his sword. Evan's gentle touch reminded him that the voluminous sound was from the very one they sought today, the one he hoped would help him. “Who enters here? Who dares tread upon ground forbidden to all but the chosen? Who comes uninvited to my domain?” “I come before thee. I, Timber Wolf, and my wife Evan Wolf.” “Silence. Let me hear the one of my teaching if she is with you.” Evan could almost feel Timber's recoil at the abrupt dismissal of his greeting. She prayed he would not be angry or insulted. The whole thing was a game between teacher and student. She caught his eye before she answered and found him smiling. Yes, he did know. Reassured she spoke at last. “Tis I, milord, your humble student, Evangileen.” “And why,” came the voice laced with mock severity, “why dost thee disturb my rest with thy presence? I seek thee not. I have not sent messenger or called for thee.” “I come before thee with my sweet husband, Timber Wolf. We bring our baby daughter, Laurel for thy blessing. Our friend Black Sky comes as well to aid us in our travel and keep us safe.” Evan smiled. The old wizard would know they came with Laurel from the moment they touched the mountain yesterday. Timber stood by, rigid. He could sense no fear in Evan and knew she thought all well. Still, he was uneasy. “And daughter of the mountain was thy journey difficult?” He would know that too, she thought. “Indeed, wise one. The journey was difficult, but the reward of an audience with thee carried us through.” “Come then, student of the magic. Come forth Evangileen and do not keep me waiting. Bring the child to me. I would see the daughter of your union and speak once again with the half-elf you call husband.” Timber winced and grew more uneasy with the reference. Evan sensed his discomfort now and projected a thought to him alone. “Look at him closely when you meet this time, and notice the curve of his ears.” Timber stood firmly in place, holding Laurel, and wondered what Evan meant. Ahead of them, the passageway grew brighter. “When you look at them you may see why he has long remained locked inside the mountain.” Timber nodded. Once more Evan started to walk along the passage beside Timber. “Bring forth the child. I grow impatient with your dawdling.” The voice seemed to rock the very walls of the mountain, but Timber realized something. Distracted and uneasy, he had not noticed the sound was merely in his head. The words were thoughts projected to both of them. Laurel slept soundly in his arms. No booming voice frightened her or jolted her from sleep. The old wizard communicated telepathically with them and was cautious not to frighten Laurel. He knew Evan used mindspeak as well, though her voice was bright and clear in his head as though she spoke aloud. The realization made him feel more relaxed and less fearful of some hidden danger to Evan and Laurel. Evan continued down the long passage until they were just outside a huge cavern. Ahead, Timber could see soft light in pale warm hues that seemed to glow from the rock walls. It was different from the light of the passage that gave no radiance of color and was more like the glow of phosphorus. Here the colors painted the walls in soft rose and violet, deep emerald, blood red of garnet, cool aquamarine, and the smoky glow of onyx. “This is not the same cavern we visited the last time, Evan,” whispered Timber. “No, this is the Cave of Jewels. It is beautiful, isn't it? The light comes from the life within each jewel embedded in the rock. The magic of the wizard is focused on the heart of each jewel and that reflects its life.” Evan's words still came as thoughts. “Should I speak in thoughts only?” he asked. Page 48

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“No, Love,” she said aloud. “Now that we share conversation with the wizard, we will speak normally. My words were for you alone.” “She means, if she wants to tell you something I am not privy to, she but blocks me from her thoughts and fills your head instead.” The voice originated from the dais across the cavern and was far less forbidding than the one that filled Timbers head on their arrival. “Rude, to say the least, since you request my company, but then such is the way with lovers I have heard.” The old man laughed. “Come, come. Bring thy baby daughter here that I may see her.” His old voice sounded warm and welcoming. Timber followed Evan to the foot of the platform. At the top of the steps, sitting in an ornately carved chair that was decorated in rich gilt and upholstered with delicate tapestry, was an old man. He wore a conical shaped hat with a wide brim that cast a deep shadow over his eyes and a flowing robe that reached his feet. His white beard was long and looked as though it could use a good trim. All around the hat tufts of white hair protruded at unruly angles. He held a golden staff in one hand and, as they approached, he tapped it firmly against the cavern floor. “Right to me now,” he called. “Bring the babe right to me.” Timber looked at Evan. “It’s all right. Take her to him.” “Yes, bring her. I am not some ogre who dines upon the tender flesh of babes. Bring her to me, half-elf.” Timber winced but climbed the steps to the chair and stood before the old wizard. Evan watched in silence. The old man set the golden staff aside and put out his arms to take Laurel. Though still reluctant, Timber let him take her sleeping little body onto his lap. Laurel stirred but did not wake. The wizard looked down into her face. He touched her cheek gently and pushed the tawny curls back from her ears. His finger traced the shape to the soft point. “She bears elven ears.” “Yes, milord.” “Keep her safe, Timber Wolf. She is the child of my beloved student.” “None will harm my babe, milord.” “She is a creature of beauty. You have done well,” he smiled. He whispered a prayer and traced his finger across Laurel's forehead. “She is blessed with the spirit of the mountain, Timber Wolf. Long will she seek the beauty and peace of nature.” “Thank you, milord.” Laurel began to stir. She stretched her arms and opened her eyes. Timber was afraid she would be frightened looking into the craggy, wrinkled old face of Benderglee but instead, she extended her arms and tangled her fingers in his beard. He looked down at her, smiling. “Mommy no tink,” said Laurel. “What's that, little one?” He said. “Mommy no tink. You tink?” “Evangileen, what is this you have taught this small wonder?” Evan quickly climbed the steps and knelt before the wizard. “I am sorry, my teacher. ‘Tis but the innocence of a child.” “Yes, my dear. Of course it is,” he laughed again. And then he noticed silver strands mixed among the dark auburn hair at her temples. How quickly age was taking her. Shut inside the mountain, he had forgotten how quickly humans aged. He hid the thought deep in his old heart and handed Laurel down to Evan. “She is a child of wonder and in her I see you. Teach her well, Evangileen.” “Thank you, milord. I will do my best.” “Is there more you would ask of me?” “No, milord, only your blessing for Laurel,” Evan answered. Before he could dismiss them, Timber blurted out. “Aye, I seek private audience with thee, noble one.” Volume 2, Issue 2

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“Timber?” Evan looked at him. “Private audience?” “Yes, I would speak with your teacher in private.” Evan stood holding Laurel's hand, uncertain what to say or do. The unexpected request made her feel left out. She could not imagine what Timber was thinking, a private audience. “I grant thee audience, Timber Wolf,” said the wizard. “Evangileen, take thy daughter and wait in the ante chamber. We shall call to thee when finished.” Just like that, he dismissed her without a word. She nodded and bent to pick up Laurel. She started to call Black Sky but noticed how the great wolf leaned close to Timber's legs and thought better of it. Perhaps he needed her comfort just then. Evan descended the dais steps and walked with Laurel across the cavern to a narrow passage that led to a smaller chamber. Bewildered by the abrupt nature of Timber’s request she did not know what to think but called upon her faith in Timber. He must have planned this all along. She knew it had something to do with her, and she suspected recent events as the cause. But what he hoped to accomplish, she could not fathom. A GIFT OF LOVE Timber watched her disappear, his hand stroking Black's soft fur. When she was gone, he turned once more to the sound of Benderglee's voice. “What is it you wish, Timber Wolf?” Suddenly, Timber dropped to his knees. His voice was nearly a whisper. “I have come seeking your help. Not for myself... No. Wait... It is for me, for me and our children.” He fell silent suddenly, overcome with the emotion. “You have come because Evangileen is growing older.” “Yes. She ages before us, and I am helpless to stop time from taking her from me.” Timber felt strong hands on his shoulders bidding him to rise. He looked up and saw not the forbidding countenance of a great wizard but the peaceful features of a kindly old man. “I have seen the signs as well, and they pain my heart.” “Then can you help me? Take years from me and give them to her, but do not let time steal her from me.” “I would not do that even if I could, my son. She would never permit such a thing. She loves you too deeply and too well to steal your life.” “I would give them gladly to keep her with me. My life is nothing without her. What then? Are you saying there is no hope?” Benderglee stepped down from the dais to the cavern floor. He called to Black Sky. She moved away from Timber without hesitation. When she was beside him, he stroked her soft fur and she whined softly. “Do you trust me, Timber Wolf?” “Trust you? I know Evan trusts you. I know she loves you as a father.” “And I love her as a daughter, but that is not what I asked. Do you trust me? Seek your heart for the answer. Look within and do not answer rashly.” Timber did think then. He was not certain what answer was correct to give, but it was not a correct answer the Wizard sought. Instead, he knew it was the true answer. What was the truth? Timber did trust Evan. And Evan did tell him over and over that her teacher was a great and honorable man. Today, when Benderglee held Laurel, it was with gentle, loving hands. Yes, he could say with out reservation that he trusted the wizard. “I do trust you.” “Then watch and take great care not to interfere.” He lowered to one knee and placed a hand firmly on Black’s muzzle. The other he held over her chest where he could feel her heart. “You have the power within you to make the thing you desire most reality. It comes from your deep love for Evangileen. Now, have faith in me. What I do demands your trust.” As Timber watched, Black Sky's rich dark fur began to fade and gray. The healthy glow disappeared and her coat dulled. Her body lost muscle tone, and her massive chest grew thinner. A milky haze clouded her eyes, and Timber knew she was blind. When the old man took his hands away, she slumped forward and lay still on the cavern floor. “What have you done? Is she gone?” Page 50

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“Nay, my son, she is merely very old now.” “Why?” Timber looked at Benderglee confused. The sight of Black Sky made tears stream down his cheeks. “Why did you do this to her? Will it help Evan?” “No, Timber. Nothing has changed for Evangileen. But you are about to turn time back for Black Sky with your own hands. Do you love her? If you do, you can take the years from her. Time does not exist, Timber. It is simply a tool, contrived by man, to measure events.” “Tell me how, quickly. Her breathing grows more shallow.” “Will you believe in my words?” “Gods, yes! Anything... Tell me now, quickly.” “Put your hands on her as you saw me do. Concentrate on her alone. Do not falter. Think of your love for her and that which you want to happen. If your heart is true she will come back to you.” Timber placed one hand around Black's muzzle and found the faint heartbeat in her chest with the other. He closed his eyes and thought of her. He saw only Black and their years together. A golden glow grew from the palms of his hands and spread across Black Sky's body. Timber’s concentration intensified. He remembered ranging the forest with Black beside him, remembered her loyalty. He remembered her with pups. Deeper into his mind now, he saw her young and strong and healthy. He felt her heart against his hand, a weak flutter at first, and then the beat grew stronger. He felt the muscle mass increase across her chest. When something pushed him to the ground and broke his concentration, he opened his eyes, startled. Black stood over him licking his face with wild abandon. The wizard called and she stood away allowing him to rise. “She is young and healthy once more, Timber Wolf, and the beauty of her life comes from your love for her.” Timber looked at Black. “I did this?” Benderglee nodded. “You acted with the love in your heart. You can use that same love to help Evangileen. But there is danger in what you do. If you falter in your concentration, you can send her plummeting into oblivion. Your love must flow to her without end through the golden light you hold in your heart. If you doubt for even a second, she is lost.” “But I am only an elf, milord, an elf of the forest. How can I risk her?” “You risk nothing if you love her. Nothing... Only an elf you say? Look at me, Timber Wolf, and tell me what you see.” Timber’s steady gaze focused upon the intense, dark eyes of Evan’s teacher. He saw beyond the surface to the heart of the man. Finally, he knew what Evan hinted about. He knew Benderglee was half-elven. “But what will I do for Evan, this way?” “She will stop aging as she does now and, year for year, her age will match yours. She will have an elf’s longevity. She will see your children grown and remain beside you.” “Will it change her? Will she still be human?” “What is human? What is elf? One day the world will grow and learn that life and sharing are the riches, the gifts. One race will not take issue with another. Evangileen will remain all that she is to you, Timber. You take nothing from her. You give everything to her.” “Will she live as long as I do?” “I cannot say her days will pass to the day as yours, but she will age at the same rate you do. Hence forth her years will be as elven years.” “Then I am ready.” Timber looked at Black Sky. “Send Evan to me, girl, and stay with Laurel.” Black loped off down the passage to find Evan, and Timber turned once again to Benderglee. “How may I repay you?” “No payment, Timber, only a favor. When Laurel grows a bit, I wish to teach her as I have Evangileen. Bring her to me that I may show her the ways of the earth. The magic of the world which lies in the trees and the water, the earth, the wind, the fire, I would have her know all of them as does Evangileen.”

Volume 2, Issue 2

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“I will let her choose to come to you if she wishes. My children must walk the path they wish. If she desires the way you offer, I will bring her to you myself.” “The words of a devoted father, I respect them and would have thought less of you had you answered any other way. Now seek Evangileen and remember, do not let your concentration falter.” The wizard raised his arm and a portal opened behind him. He stepped through and Timber was alone in the cavern. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Evan, he thought, I will not fail you. He felt a soft touch on his shoulder and turned to find her beside him. “What is it,Timber?” An ancient fever caught him as he removed his sword and scabbard and placed them on the cavern floor. He shrugged off his wristbands and dropped them beside the scabbard. He stood now in short sleeves and his trail leathers. A holey stone, formed by eons of rushing water directed toward its center until the force pierced the rock and polished the surface, smooth as glass, hung at his throat. He thought of the night his children presented him with the relic. The weight of the stone reminded him of them, a distraction he could not afford. He slipped the stone from his neck and put it on the floor as well. “What are you doing, Timber? What's wrong? Where is Benderglee?” “Nothing is wrong, Evan.” “Have you finished your audience?” “Yes, I have.” “Timber, what is it? You look a bit flushed. Are you? Do you feel all right?” “I am fine, Love.” He smiled to reassure her but knew she saw through the false face. “Timber, what is it? You are blocking me. I can't see what's wrong.” “I love you, Evan.” He is so nervous and I can't see why, she thought. How can he block me so completely? His concentration is tremendous just now. “I love you, Timber.” Timber leaned down to kiss her closing his eyes. “Please, Timber, what is it?” “Shhhh, just close your eyes and kiss me.” He put a hand on each side of her face turning it up to meet his. Slowly he lowered his lips to hers and kissed her softly. I will love you forever, he thought. Golden light spread through his fingers and washed over her cheeks. He squeezed his eyes tighter together concentrating hard. You are my life his mind told her. Be with me always and ever. Be with me until life ends and beyond. Be with me through eternity. When we are but spirits on the wind, be with me. Carry me as I carry you, endlessly and forever in my heart. A strange sensation rushed through her as the kiss deepened, and she melted against him. She could feel warmth grow from Timber's hands and spread through her body. Images of the children and the cottage danced in her mind, pictures of them together in the forest, alone beneath the canopy of the great trees, bathed in flickering sunlight. She felt washed in Timber's love, surrounded by it, protected by it. She saw their children, Laurel grown, a young man beside her, and a babe in her arms. She knew the babe was her own grandchild. And always beside her, in every image, was Timber. Timber felt sweet life course through him into Evan and witnessed the reflection of their past and future together as she imagined each part. He held her close in his embrace kissing her and lowered his hand from her cheek to cover her breast over her heart. He felt her weaken and knew that the light was at its peak. She was his forever now. Nothing would ever take them from each other. They were one, more truly than in past years, and the joy of holding her in his arms, loving her, and spending all of his life with her was now complete. He gathered her closer against him while her body renewed, bathed in the magic light that was his love for her. “I saw our grandchild, Laurel's baby.” “Yes,” Timber whispered, “and you will.” “But that is so many years away.”

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Adventures for the Average Woman


“I asked Benderglee to help you live longer.” “And he told you a way?” “I wanted to give some of my years to you, but he showed me another way.” “Oh, my darling, I would never take your life as my own. Don't you know that?” “I know, Evan, and it did not happen. He showed me another way.” “You swear to me you have not given up life to me? I could not live with that, Timber.” He drew her close once more. “I swear it. It was the magic, the gift. He showed me how to use the golden light. I understand it now. The gift of magic is the faith and love we share. Evan, Evan.” He grabbed her suddenly up in his arms swinging her around. “You will see your grandchildren, all of them.” “I love you, Timber. I will always love you.” “Let's go home,” he whispered. “Let's go home.”

If you’ve been reading our humble periodical over the past year, you may have wondered about the eerie and alluring paintings inserted alongside the headers of our strange and awesome stories. Meet the creative mind behind the Boschian landscapes with their haunting human figures – Im Sook Kim. She was born in 1952 Busan, South Korea and graduated from the Department of Fine Arts, Busan Women's University in 1977. After that she completed her MA at the Graduate School of Kemyung University, Taegu. Her work has been shown all over the world.

Im Sook Kim in Kyung-ju, South Korea

Feel Blue

30.5 x 23 cm oil on canvas board

Volume 2, Issue 2

Phantom of Antique

composite photograph

Page 53


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Adventures for the Average Woman


Adventures for the Average Woman  

Valentine's Day romance, fantastic fiction for women, poetry and painting, amazing artwork and illustrations!

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